President George W. Bush was accused of twisting history Wednesday after a surprising speech in which he said leaving Iraq now will only provoke the same horrendous bloodbaths that followed the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam. Bush, who’s been under intense pressure to set a timetable for pulling U.S. troops from Iraq, served notice he’s not caving. But using the Vietnam War to make his argument was stunning when so many Americans view the conflict as a tragic, unnecessary quagmire that lasted far too long and produced only humiliating defeat.
The president turned those lessons upside down in a major political gamble.
“One unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America’s withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like boat people, re-education camps and killing fields,” he told a national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Kansas City.
“Then, as now, people argued the real problem was America’s presence and that if we would just withdraw, the killing would end.”
Bush said leaving Vietnam in 1975 provided fodder for future terrorists like Osama bin Laden, the 9-11 mastermind, to cite the U.S. as losers who cut and run.
“Here at home, some can argue our withdrawal from Vietnam carried no price to American credibility, but the terrorists see it differently,” he said.
Apparently Karl Rove (“Bush’s Brain”) has left a bit early.