This past month has been the deadliest in Iraq, with 78 servicemen killed and more than 1,000 Iraqi security and civilian deaths. In addition, according to the Christian Science Monitor, “the attacks on U.S. soldiers are up 22 percent.”
With these statistics, many would expect the American people to be outraged at the government and President George W. Bush. However, the current hot topic is the scandal of former Senator Mark Foley, with many wondering what exactly went on in those instant messages Foley sent to those high-school-aged pages.
There is a disconnect between the American people and the Iraq War; it is almost as if the nation is not at war. Americans do not feel the effects of the war because of the limited media access that the citizens get from Baghdad. The government only allows reporters to be in certain areas of Iraq, in part because it too dangerous to veer outside of the “green” or safe zone.
Yet, as this war enters its fourth year, many are comparing it to Vietnam. Back then Americans saw images of death and destruction on their televisions and in their newspapers; receiving daily reminders of American boys were dying overseas. Americans witnessed their brothers, sons, and husbands brought home in caskets. For this war President Bush has denied the media the right to broadcast images of the dead in respect to the families. On the other hand, is it respectful to the families and the American people to waste countless lives and resources on a losing war?
The main difference between the Vietnam War and Iraq is the draft lottery. Every day young American men would wait to see if their number was called, and if it was, they would have to report for military duty. The shock of the draft and the possibly of going to Vietnam caused some men to flee the country. Many young men today do not understand the experience of being forced into combat. If the president were to reinstate the draft, the Iraq War would become a violent reality for many Americans.
Since the Iraq War began in March 2003, numerous journalists have labeled it as the new Vietnam for this generation. Last week, the President managed to finally draw that same comparison. According to USA Today on Wednesday, Oct. 18, in an interview with George Stephanopoulos, President Bush stated that New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman’s comparison of today’s Iraq and the Viet Cong’s 1968 Tet Offensive, “He could be right.” President Bush went on to say, “there’s certainly a stepped-up level of violence, and we’re heading into an election. The Iraq War, like the Vietnam War for former President Lyndon B. Johnson, is costing the President Bush his reputation with the American public.
There is doubt that President Bush has finally seen that Iraq has become a quagmire for the United States. According to the Associated Press, President Bush held a “strategy session” meeting with commanders and national security advisors about Iraq. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was not at the meeting, stated: “I wouldn’t read into this somehow that there is a full-scale push for a major re-evaluation.” Maybe the President has not changed his position on Iraq. According to the New York Times, the president will no longer use the term “stay the course” when discussing Iraq.
Perhaps, the president still thinks that the military are in Iraq for the right reasons: to fight the terrorists instead of fighting them on American soil, and to bring democracy to the country.
Former President Johnson considered Vietnam to be the right decision, at the time, for the American military and public. It resulted in more than fifty thousand American deaths. It is wrong to place the importance of Iraq squarely on the shoulders of President Bush. Americans must care about the war even though it is thousands of miles away from the homeland. It is all too easy to worry about the scandals of former Senator Foley. The war in Iraq is very different. Who is to blame for the loss of American lives, a man who is disillusioned into believing that he can win a losing war, or a nation that does not care about the war?