George W. Bush Takes Familiar, Fatal Step In Iraq
Commentary by Egbert F. Bhatty
On Thursday the Pentagon announced that it was increasing troop strength in Iraq by 12,000.
And, with that announcement, President George W. Bush took that familiar, fatal step – escalation.
Bush is not a student of history – or, for that matter, of anything much else – having been awarded a gentleman’s “C” at Yale. But, if he were, he would know that Hitler threw more troops into the Eastern Front to no avail, the Soviets threw more troops into Afghanistan to no avail, and President Lyndon B. Johnson, also, did the same, with similar results.
During his 1964 election campaign Johnson made the usual noises about keeping the world safe from Communism, just as Bush, exactly 40 years later, made noises about keeping the world safe from “terrorism.”
However, within months of winning the election, Johnson launched Operation Rolling Thunder, the sustained bombing of North Vietnam. President Bush behaved no differently. Within days of Democratic Presidential Candidate Senator John Kerry very quickly conceding the election, Bush ordered Operation Phantom Fury -- to retake Fallujah, which had been abandoned by the Marines on orders from the White House in April.
From here on the course in Iraq is predictable.
Soon after Operation Rolling Thunder got under way, and proved ineffective, as, indeed, Bush’s new assault on Fallujah is proving to be, President Johnson ordered more troops into Vietnam.
On Thursday [November 4] we saw Bush take that same fatal step.
By November 1965 Johnson had 175,000 troops in Vietnam. With the additional troops ordered into battle Bush will have 150,000 troops in Iraq.
But, escalation once started does not stop. Hubris – the desire to go down in history as a war hero -- causes Presidents, despite their honeyed words of care and compassion, to throw more and more bodies recklessly into the battle.
By 1966 Johnson had 275,000 US troops in Vietnam. By the end of his term in 1968 the number had escalated to 535,000.
It’s going to be no different for President Bush.
The Islamic insurgents in Iraq are every bit as courageous and every bit as clever as the Viet Cong. And, just as Johnson could not stop the flow of the Viet Cong from the North into the South, President Bush has had no success – via negotiations [an anathema to this President] or by the most intense and sustained bombing campaign since Vietnam – to stem the crimson Islamic tide.
As in Vietnam, American blood continues to flow in Iraq at the hands of this rag tag band of rug merchants with antiquated weapons. A total of 135 Americans were killed in November, equaling the largest number of deaths in any single month – namely, April, when, curiously enough, the Marines were trying to take -- Fallujah!
Hitler had his Guernica; Bush has his Fallujah -- a city almost flattened by relentless bombing, as was Guernica, from the air, but, in addition, laid waste by the unimpeded rampage of our Main Battle Tanks.
Despite all this, and after almost a month of operations, as well as an assist from the British Black Watch Regiment, US troops are still not in total control of Fallujah. Like the Viet Cong, the Islamic insurgents have proved to be a determined enemy.
A handful of them routed a 5,000-strong US-trained police force in Mosul.
And, this not your local weather forecast, but, it’s raining in Baghdad, as CBS Radio News so aptly put it. Raining mortar shells, that is, in the heavily fortified Green Zone that houses the US Embassy and the interim Iraqi government.
In addition, Baghdad is firebombed every day by Improvised Explosive Devices [IEDs] and suicide attacks, and rattled by incessant gunfire.
And, beyond Baghdad, oil pipelines are whacked regularly, setting up a constant cycle of tear and repair that personifies the instability gripping the Capital and the country.
Despite the rosy, and politically correct, reports issued by the military every day, the fact is that the situation in Iraq is getting worse, not better. Hence President Bush’s escalation of US troop strength in Iraq.
The soothing noises about this escalation being temporary is a tune we have heard before. In 1964 Johnson told the voters much the same thing, “We don’t want to get …tied down to a land war in Asia.”
History has proved Johnson wrong. And, since Bush doesn’t know too much about history he is, sadly, doomed to repeat it.