[shniad at sfu.ca: [R-G] Sliding into war: wishful thinking, once again, in Washington]
ehrbar at econ.utah.edu
Wed Feb 12 18:12:17 MST 2003
------- Start of forwarded message -------
International Herald Tribune February 12, 2003
Sliding into war: wishful thinking, once again, in Washington
by Ray McGovern
Washington -- At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial here, a mother has left a
message about her son, a veteran and war survivor: "I am 85 and don't know
how much longer I will see him suffering with his pains and nightmares."
I, too, am having nightmares. Mine can be traced to the ringside seat I had
at the crafting of U.S. policy on Vietnam and to a feeling of déjà vu that I
cannot shake as I watch U.S. policy toward Iraq unfold.
My most frustrating professional experience came in the 1960s when I served
as principal CIA analyst of Soviet policy toward Vietnam and China. As U.S.
forces sank deeper into the quagmire of Vietnam, senior officials in
Washington began to indulge a wishful thought that the Soviets could be
pressured or cajoled into "using their influence" to help the United States
find a graceful way out. Until then, the thinking went, America would be
required to "stay the course."
After pouring over the evidence, my colleagues and I concluded that the
Soviet Union had precious little influence with the Vietnamese Communists,
partly because Moscow had sold them down the river at the Geneva Conference
in 1954. That unwelcome conclusion was summarily rejected by U.S.
policymakers. The mischievous chimera that Moscow would agree to influence
the Vietnamese Communists proved resistant to all evidence to the contrary.
Recently declassified documents show that in the autumn of 1969 President
Richard Nixon put U.S. forces on worldwide nuclear alert, in what he (aptly)
called a "madman" strategy, aimed at scaring the Soviets into using their
influence to force Vietnamese Communist concessions at the peace
negotiations in Paris. Last month, the Bush administration took a leaf out
of Nixon's book when it threatened to use nuclear arms against Iraq if the
Iraqis use chemical or biological arms against American troops. All U.S.
intelligence agencies agree that Saddam Hussein probably will use chemical
and/or biological weapons if the United States invades Iraq, which is what
President George W. Bush seems determined to do. Is this new madman strategy
not the stuff of nightmares?
The U.S. slide into Vietnam was initially a creature of ignorance laced with
hubris, but deliberate deception quickly began to play a central role. In
August 1964, President Lyndon Johnson used spurious reports of a North
Vietnamese patrol boat attack on a U.S. warship in the Tonkin Gulf to muscle
Congress into giving him carte blanche to make war. Does this not have an
eerie contemporary ring?
Years later, Johnson's national security adviser, McGeorge Bundy, gave a
chilling first-hand account of how Johnson abruptly waved aside Bundy's
cautions about the Tonkin Gulf incident and dispatched him like a pageboy to
do his bidding on Capitol Hill. All the president's men went along with the
Three years after the Tonkin Gulf resolution, the U.S. commander in Vietnam,
General William Westmoreland, falsified Vietnamese Communist troop strength
in order to project an image of progress in the war (he knew there were
twice as many as he was counting). Had he told the truth, the war could have
been stopped before the disastrous Tet offensive in early 1968. And the
Vietnam Memorial would be less than half the size it is today, since there
would be 30,000 fewer names to accommodate.
Regarding Iraq, there is a flashback quality to the dissembling of top Bush
administration leaders as they contend that:
Iraq poses a more immediate danger to the United States than North Korea
The Iraqis can produce a nuclear weapon "in less than a year." The U.S.
threat to use nuclear weapons will deter Iraq from using chemical/biological
weapons. (That worked in 1991, but only because the president's father had
the good sense to halt the troops on the road to Baghdad, sparing Saddam.)
American troops have adequate protection to fight in a chemical/biological
warfare environment. (Not so, says the General Accounting Office.) Oil plays
no role in U.S. policy decisions.
Sadly, this by no means exhausts the list of disingenuous allegations that
have left most Americans frightened, but also anesthetized and resigned to
an unnecessary war that could include nuclear weapons.
Palliatives include Pentagon suggestions that leaflets will persuade Iraqi
soldiers not to fight and that Iraqi generals will remove Saddam as soon as
the first American soldier sets foot in Iraq. Would you risk the life of
your own son or daughter to test that kind of wishful thinking?
Secretary of State Colin Powell, the only top administration leader with
experience in combat, needs to lead Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney,
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul
Wolfowitz to the Vietnam Memorial to read the handwriting on the wall.
The writer served as a U.S Army infantry and intelligence officer from 1962
to 1964 and then as a CIA analyst until 1990. He is co-director of the
Servant Leadership School, an inner-city outreach ministry in Washington.
------- End of forwarded message -------
More information about the Rad-Green