Saturday, April 17, 2004

Who's tragedy?

Matt Taibbi is perturbed by the bankruptcy of the debate over whether Iraq is "another Vietnam":

Thirty years after the fact, America still insists on looking at Vietnam as "our national tragedy," the tragedy apparently being 58,000 dead, a regrettable loss of public confidence in the institution of the presidency, a brief period of political turmoil on American campuses, an enduring hesitancy to use military force. Just look at our movies about Vietnam: the tragedy is always the poor Vietnam vet who comes home and suffers through a long period of monosyllabic turmoil and intermittent employment, doomed to live out his days limping around his hometown in boots and a shabby field jacket, wondering where his life went so wrong.

Right. That's the tragedy. Not the indiscriminate murder of one-sixth of Laos. Not the saturation bombing of wide swaths of rural Indochina. Not the turning of ancient cultures into moonscapes. Not the napalming of children or the dropping of mines and CBUs into civilian villages for scare value.

This process is starting all over again. With 58,000 looming in the background, we are starting a new count, which is up to about 640 as of this writing. Do we even count the number of Iraqi dead? Maybe in the daily battle reports, but you have to really look for a running total. I've seen numbers ranging from 10,000 to 15,000, but it's never anything like the concrete numbers we grimly and tearfully assign to coalition deaths. As in the past, we're content to let that other figure drift off into an estimate.

When this whole mess is over, I'm sure we can expect more of the same. With half of Mesopotamia turned to glass, we will build a sunken wall to our boys and give an Oscar to the first director with enough balls to do Saving Private Lynch. We have no shame in this country.
Bill Greider has some interesting stuff to say about the "Iraq as Vietnam" meme, too.