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LETTERS TO THE TIMES

Comparing Iraq to Vietnam

November 15, 2003

Re "Terrorism Fight Not a Vietnam," Commentary, Nov. 11: Bruce Herschensohn theorizes that the reason we keep hearing analogies between Iraq and Vietnam is simply attributable to television. I have some other ideas. How about the idea that both wars began with lies from the American leadership? Vietnam was supposed to be about stopping the spread of communism, Iraq about stopping the spread of terrorism. In neither case were we invited by the people of those countries to come in and "save" them. In both cases, we had our own agendas not nearly as pure as we were led to believe.

Herschensohn compares Iraq to World War II. I recall that we entered WWII directly as a result of being attacked on our own shores and being forced to defend ourselves. That seems worlds apart from our decision to be the attackers of a country that held no immediate threat to us. The war on terrorism was to be aimed at Osama bin Laden, the proven mastermind behind 9/11, but we just could not find him. So we picked an alternative. However, there has never been a proven link between Bin Laden and Iraq. A small inconvenience for us. We needed to attack someone, somewhere. We were angry and tough. So in the pursuit of liberty and freedom we picked a country and destroyed it, so that a few companies might realize a windfall in reconstructing it. So that the current administration would been seen as proactive, decisive, reelectable.

Michael Valente

San Clemente

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Re "Media Ideologues Are Fueling Political Discourse ... So What's New About That?" by Kevin Phillips, Commentary, Nov. 10: Hmmmm ... what's more of a threat to the fabric of American society? Brainy media-literate liberals asking the public to refer to ethnic minorities in a sensitive manner, at the same time asking for a war to stop and our troops to return home? Or conservatives supporting lies that led to a war, corporations essentially making money off the death of American troops and sweatshops that give slave wages to children? Let the American public be the judge.

Jay Kumar

Huntington Beach

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I find it shameful that Tom Palaima and John Friend ("Casting the First Stone," Commentary, Nov. 10) used history as a parable attempting to characterize as the "oppressed" those "young, poor and powerless" Iraqi boys hurling stones at an American personnel carrier. Instead of emotionally lecturing us on the history of throwing stones, the professor of classics and student of history should have focused on the battle of ideas.

Iraq was oppressed by a brutal dictator for decades, and even if that culture gave birth to only a single individual who grasped the value of freedom, we would be justified in forcibly removing that dictator and helping to create a political atmosphere where freedom is cherished. Only history will tell us if there is enough independence of mind left in that ravaged country and people to sustain the freedom that every individual deserves. But the cause of freedom is not served by blurring the distinction between justified hatred of an oppressor and ignorant reaction to a true liberator. Presenting history without ideas is like driving a car with the driver's seated backward -- perhaps you see where you have been, but not well enough to know where you are going.

Stephen Speicher

Thousand Oaks

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Re "Don't Quit as We Did in Vietnam," Opinion, Nov. 9: David Gelernter's assertion that the South Vietnamese were America's allies contradicts the fact that America's original World War II ally against the Japanese was Ho Chi Minh. America betrayed its wartime ally by allying with the French in their colonial war against Vietnam. When the French were defeated, America technically had no more ally in Vietnam.

America created an ally in the South Vietnamese and returned Vietnam to a state of war that would not end until America was expelled. If this had not happened in 1973, it would have happened later, with more cost in lives, including perhaps my own. His other assertion that America had abandoned tens of thousands of "good" Vietnamese to a horrible fate fails to recognize that America killed at least a million "bad" Vietnamese.

If Gelernter wants America not to repeat the mistakes of Vietnam, then he is too late. America has already repeated its mistake by entering a country and supposedly seeking to save people by killing their brothers and sisters.

Bao Dinh Nguyen

Los Angeles

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Perhaps if Gelernter had not been too young for Vietnam and too old for Iraq he would be more sensitive to the folly of war. Timing is everything, and he has been spared the experience of being shot at. Even if we had "won" in Vietnam, even if we spend enough in dollars and human lives to "win" in Iraq, what will we have won? The erroneous notion that war is a rational way of solving international disputes, that's all.

There has got to be a better way.

Bob Brigham

Manhattan Beach

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