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Chapter 5
Alternate Politics

Those Who Forget History Are Doomed To Keep Living It

by FRANCIS GRECOROMACOLLUDEN, Alternate Reality News Service National Politics Writer

On the 40th anniversary of the entrance of the United States into the Vietnam War, President George W. Bush gave an impassioned address to the American people, asking them to continue to support it.

“We have turned the corner in Vietnam,” President Bush said, “and it would be a disservice to the memory of those who have died if we cut and run when our moment of victory is so close to hand.”

President Bush argued that the latest “surge,” the third since he inherited the war when he took office, was the one that was finally going to bring victory to coalition forces. “I have given General Petraeus a plan for victory, and it would be criminal if politicians in Washington were to second-guess the plans of the military leaders on the ground.”

Reaction was swift and harsh. Democratic House Leader Harry Reid responded by questioning why this surge would work when the others did little to stem Vietcong attacks on coalition soldiers. “And, why do we even call them coalition soldiers,” he mused, “when we’re the only country left in the war effort?”

The Democrats have introduced a bill into the house that expresses their deep unhappiness with the war. It gives the White House bridge funding of $140 billion ($20 billion more than the White House had asked for), but includes a non-binding resolution suggesting the partial withdrawal of some of the troops within the next 10 years or so.

President Bush is widely expected to veto the bill. As he remarked in his address: “We cannot succumb to the seduction of artificial timetables. If we set one, the Vietcong will simply wait until we leave, and then they would take over the country and use it as a launching point to attack the homeland.”

The address came at a time when the administration’s popularity has reached new lows. Recent polls have shown that 87 per cent of the American population opposes the Vietnam War, and 84 per cent of them cannot understand why, since the United States is a democracy, the troops haven’t withdrawn in accordance with their wishes. This includes a substantial amount of the Republican base, which, although it supports the war, believes that the Bush administration’s conduct of it has been poor.

“I will admit that support for the war in Vietnam is soft,” Vice President Dick Cheney allowed in an interview on Meet the Press. “However, I would like to assure Americans that the insurgency is in its last throes, and that once we have eliminated the few dead enders, we can finally achieve victory.”

The Vice President added that the lessons of 9/11 were clear: that the free world should never give in to terror. Critics quickly pointed out that there was no credible evidence linking Vietnam to the 9/11 attacks, but that didn’t stop White House Press Secretary Tony Snow from repeating the connection the following day, and the President repeating it the following Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.

Support for the war dipped substantially when, coincidentally, the 450,000th American soldier was killed a day before the President’s address. Some time in the Reagan Presidency, the US Army stopped determining the number of Vietnamese killed in the war, but estimates suggest that it may be at least half of the population.

Another reason so many Americans now oppose it is that the Vietnam War has cost an estimated $8 trillion, making it more expensive than all other American wars combined. Hard figures are hard to come by as much of the funding for the war has come out of so-called “black budgets” with little oversight. Critics of the war have suggested that the Bush administration is dragging it out because it has been highly lucrative for such Republican Party stalwarts as Halliburton and Bechtel.

“All talk of war profiteering,” the President responded in his address, “is an unconscionable attack on the troops, a fine bunch of young men and women who are risking their lives to bring democracy to the region.”

As critics have pointed out, this is a complete reversal of the original logic of the war. The architects of the war believed in the “Domino Theory:” that if Vietnam was allowed to fall into Communist hands, its Asian neighbours would follow. The government now appears to believe in a “Reverse Domino Theory:” if Vietnam is made into a viable democracy, all of the countries around it will become democratic.

In the meantime, real threats have gone unanswered. These include Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, who is believed to have stockpiled chemical and perhaps even nuclear weapons, and North Korea’s Kim John-Il, who has actually been testing nuclear weapons.

“Not to worry,” the President assured Americans. “Once we have brought democracy to Vietnam, we can turn our attention to these other problems.”

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