Play It Again, Barry

I thought it might be interesting to look at two speeches, comparing President Obama’s speech on Afghanistan Friday to President Nixon’s Vietnamization speech on November 3, 1969. Comparative excerpts follow.
First, announce the New Strategy–
We have adopted a plan which we have worked out in cooperation with the South Vietnamese for the complete withdrawal of all U.S. combat ground forces, and their replacement by South Vietnamese forces on an orderly scheduled timetable. This withdrawal will be made from strength and not from weakness. As South Vietnamese forces become stronger, the rate of American withdrawal can become greater.
Today, I’m announcing a comprehensive, new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. And this marks the conclusion of a careful policy review, led by Bruce, that I ordered as soon as I took office. My administration has heard from our military commanders, as well as our diplomats. We’ve consulted with the Afghan and Pakistani governments, with our partners and our NATO allies, and with other donors and international organizations.
Then the scary part–
Fifteen years ago North Vietnam, with the logistical support of Communist China and the Soviet Union, launched a campaign to impose a Communist government on South Vietnam by instigating and supporting a revolution. But the question facing us today is: Now that we are in the war, what is the best way to end it?
The situation is increasingly perilous. It’s been more than seven years since the Taliban was removed from power, yet war rages on, and insurgents control parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Attacks against our troops, our NATO allies, and the Afghan government have risen steadily. And most painfully, 2008 was the deadliest year of the war for American forces.

There’s no schedule–
I have not and do not intend to announce the timetable for our program. And there are obvious reasons for this decision which I am sure you will understand. . . .We must retain the flexibility to base each withdrawal decision on the situation as it is at the time rather than on estimates that are no longer valid.
Going forward, we will not blindly stay the course. Instead, we will set clear metrics to measure progress and hold ourselves accountable. We’ll consistently assess our efforts to train Afghan security forces and our progress in combating insurgents. We will measure the growth of Afghanistan’s economy, and its illicit narcotics production. And we will review whether we are using the right tools and tactics to make progress towards accomplishing our goals.
We’ll get their guys to fight our war–
The Vietnamization plan was launched following Secretary Laird’s visit to Vietnam in March. Under the plan, I ordered first a substantial increase in the training and equipment of South Vietnamese forces. . . .We have adopted a plan which we have worked out in cooperation with the South Vietnamese for the complete withdrawal of all U.S. combat ground forces, and their replacement by South Vietnamese forces on an orderly scheduled timetable.
For three years, our commanders have been clear about the resources they need for training. And those resources have been denied because of the war in Iraq. Now, that will change. The additional troops that we deployed have already increased our training capacity. And later this spring we will deploy approximately 4,000 U.S. troops to train Afghan security forces. For the first time, this will truly resource our effort to train and support the Afghan army and police. Every American unit in Afghanistan will be partnered with an Afghan unit, and we will seek additional trainers from our NATO allies to ensure that every Afghan unit has a coalition partner. We will accelerate our efforts to build an Afghan army of 134,000 and a police force of 82,000 so that we can meet these goals by 2011 — and increases in Afghan forces may very well be needed as our plans to turn over security responsibility to the Afghans go forward.
It won’t be easy–
Along with this optimistic estimate, I must in all candor leave one note of caution. Tonight I do not tell you that the war in Vietnam is the war to end wars. But I do say this: I have initiated a plan which will end this war in a way that will bring us closer to that great goal to which Woodrow Wilson and every American President in our history has been dedicated the goal of a just and lasting peace.
So understand, the road ahead will be long and there will be difficult days ahead. But we will seek lasting partnerships with Afghanistan and Pakistan that promise a new day for their people. And we will use all elements of our national power to defeat al Qaeda, and to defend America, our allies, and all who seek a better future. Because the United States of America stands for peace and security, justice and opportunity. That is who we are, and that is what history calls on us to do once more.
But presidents know best about these things—-
As President I hold the responsibility for choosing the best path to that goal and then leading the Nation along it. I pledge to you tonight that I shall meet this responsibility with all of the strength and wisdom I can command in accordance with your hopes, mindful of your concerns, sustained by your prayers. Thank you and goodnight.
As President, my greatest responsibility is to protect the American people. We are not in Afghanistan to control that country or to dictate its future. We are in Afghanistan to confront a common enemy that threatens the United States, our friends and our allies, and the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan who have suffered the most at the hands of violent extremists. . .Thank you. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.
Note: George W. Bush customarily ended his speeches similarly, e.g. May God bless America. God bless. Smedley Butler: “So vicious was this war propaganda that even God was brought into it.”
The war in Vietnam went on for five and a half more years. It was expanded into Cambodia and many more hundreds of thousands of deaths resulted in that country as well as in Vietnam and Laos, and 23,000 more US soldiers would die — average age 19. Communist Vietnam is now a favored US ally.
Santana: Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.
Don Bacon is a retired army officer who founded the Smedley Butler Society several years ago because, as General Butler said, war is a racket. Other articles by Don Bacon may be found here.

12 thoughts on “Play It Again, Barry”

  1. Drivel is drivel no matter which tongue it trips off. And empire is empire and the people this stuff is aimed at….? Maybe change is coming, there is nothing like enforced leisure to facilitate study and thoughtful analysis.
    Great work and it burnishes General Butler’s memory.

  2. If memory serves me correctly the name is Barack H. Obama.
    Get over it.
    Cut the snarky crap.
    Helena Cobbans does not appear to be the Bigoted type so why she has allowed you to disrespect the President, I can’t imagine.
    Maybe I’ll have to re-think my opinion of Ms. Cobbans.

  3. Sammy,
    I guess you weren’t fond of Jimmy Carter’s name either. Sammy’s okay though, right?
    Actually, in Obama’s case, if he weren’t so down the line on continuing failed past policies, in the financial and military areas particularly, he might earn himself some respect, particularly since he campaigned on change. In other words Obama is being judged on his performance, every day, as he should be, and there is no bigotry involved. Do you have a problem with that?
    Now here the evidence is right in front of you. How exactly does Obama/Afghanistan differ from Nixon/Vietnam? Tell us. Address the issue, please, not the formalities.
    Regarding Ms Cobban, she puts no controls, and is not responsible in any way, for whatever I write. She respects the First Amendment as much as I do, and you should too.

  4. Sam,
    I can appreciate your remarks in response to Don Bacon’s continued “boy”-baiting disrespect for President Barack Obama. Still, I would advise against tarring Helena Cobban with either Don’s snarky style or the subliminal, dog-whistle implications of his chosen “Barry” epithet. I don’t think you want to engage in an equally unacceptable application of “guilt by association” such as would make comparisons with Richard Nixon even more eerie and ironic. Anyway, these sorts of cheap rhetorical gambits didn’t do either the Clintons or the Republicans much good over the past two years. They had no respect for Barack Obama, either.
    At any rate, I want to deal with Don’s “Vietnam/Afghaninstan” analogies later, and at some length, because they deserve a quite different analysis from what we’ve had to supply here in response to Don’s confusion over what constitutes valid criticism and what descends into the depths of mere mockery. So, more on that “evidence” stuff (taken from two speeches) later …

  5. Well, son of a gun, I guess I should have titled the piece Play It Again Barack H. Obama, and not relied upon direct comparative quotes of the two presidents? Not.
    It is surely not “mere mockery” to post an article composed almost entirely of direct quotes, now is it? No.
    The gist of the article, for the uninformed, was a takeoff on the fictitious, but well-known, Casablanca line “Play It Again, Sam,” the idea being that Obama’s Afghanistan speech was a near replay of Nixon’s Vietnamization speech, which it obviously was (see above article). I did not claim that Afghanistan is Vietnam; I did claim (and have shown) that the two speeches are first cousins, if not sisters, with the obvious (but unstated) implication that the results will be the same. (They won’t, AfPak will be an order of magnitude worse, but that is fodder for future articles.)
    Oh well, I’ll just have to be patient and wait for MM to deal with it later, I guess.
    Meanwhile I am amused by people who called President George W. Bush every rotten name they could think of but who object to an entirely respectful nick-name for President Barack H. Obama. Suddenly, in a flash of citizenship, there is an overwhelming respect for the incumbent president who, regally, must only be referred to by his full legal name. Now THAT’s bigotry.
    Horsefeathers and poppycock. Obama is basically just a high-placed politician, a servant of the people, who deserves our full scrutiny and criticism where and when it is deserved, which I intend to give him. Please stay tuned.

  6. As promised (or threatened) above, I would like to address Don Bacon’s pseudo-question:

    How exactly does Obama/Afghanistan differ from Nixon/Vietnam? Tell us. Address the issue, please, not the formalities.

    OK. As a former Vietnamizer of the Vietnamese (or “Yellower of the Corpses,” as the French put it), I will happily oblige — and without the “Donnie” formality — since I’ve lived long enough to have experiened both President Nixon (far too many years) and President Obama (two whole months already) — and many other American presidents, as well. First, though, I wish to congratulate Don for his metamorphosis from “Vietnam and Iraq are completely different” (his past words) to “Vietnam and Afghanistan have such depressing similarities about them” (my words). At least Don has now started to focus on the Lunatic Leviathan instead of the distinctions without a difference among its hapless foreign victims. It took me far less than thirty years in the military to figure out the imperial-racket business. About ninety days of enlisted basic training did it for me.
    As far as the requested contrasts go, however, it should require no great perspicacity to acknowledge that President Obama at the time of his speech had inherited two wars (not to mention a collapsing domestic and world economy) and has had only two months to deal with everything. President Nixon, on the other hand, only inherited one war (along with a balanced budget left to him by his predecessor) and had — by the time of his speech — not ended his single war a year after winning election promising to do so. Obviously, then, one can easily cite some significant differences between Nixon and Obama at the time of their respective speeches without even trying very hard.
    The real question, however, involves not the timeless Orwellian bureaucracy-babble in which all presidents tend to “responsibly” speak (or “lie,” as I. F. Stone said of all governments), but how to pressure President Obama into changing any policy that he may mistakenly adopt which does not lead to complete American military withdrawal from the territory and airspace of both Iraq and Afghanistan — along with assorted other countries in the region. I understand what his political and military advisors keep telling him about what he “realistically” can and cannot do as Imperial President and fetish “commander in chief,” but I don’t agree with them and believe that he listens to such self-interested malarky at his and our peril. If he courts or takes such bad advice — as both Presidents Johnson and Nixon did before him — he will have a far less successful presidency (if not a failed one) than most of us wish him to have — for our collective benefit.
    In her classic March of Folly, the late Barara Tuchman, described the political problem that President Obama now faces — multiplied by two:

    [Nixon initially] appeared to take a realistic view. “If the war goes on six months after I become President, it will be my war. [So] … I’m going to stop that war — fast.” [but] … Once Nixon was installed in the presidency, the promised process of stopping was stood on its head to become one of prolonging it. The new President was discovered to be as unwilling as his predecessor to accept non-success of the war aim and as fixed in the belief that additional force could bring the enemy to terms. … [But most importantly] From being a fiction about the security of the United States, the point of the war had now been transformed into a test of the prestige and reputation of the United States — and, as he was bound to see it, of the President personally. Nixon, too, had no wish to preside over defeat.

    First the Clinton Partners-in-Pathos and then the maniac McCain/Palin ticket tried unsuccessfully to tar Barack Obama as one who would “lose” this ostensible American “prestige and reputation” (after seven years of Cheney and Bush squandering most of it already) in Iraq and/or Afghanistan should any withdrawal of American military forces from either or both of those dead-end debacles occur. The American people (by a comfortable 53%-47% majority) didn’t buy the hyperbolic fear-mongering.
    The American career/lifer military caste has, for its pathological part, done its damndest to flog this “withdrawal equals non-success of the war aim” bullshit, as well. President Obama either understands the array of forces lined up against him at the Pentagram or he doesn’t. After only two months, I have not seen conclusive “evidence” either way. He appears to want to co-opt them; they obviously think that they can co-opt him; but after only two months, no “evidence” seems at all conclusive to me.
    As a practical political problem, President Obama has to defuse this “withdrawal means loser” canard one quagmire occupation at a time. If he can get Iraq done and over with in two years or less, he will then have the political capital to resolve the Afghan mess as well. I suspect he intends to proceed in this cautious and deliberate manner. If he succeeds, the Democratic Party will hand the demoralized Republicans another deserved off-year ass-kicking in 2010 and President Obama will cruise to re-election in 2012. If not — and since we can never go back to Republicans again — I suppose only revolution awaits for a corrupt government that simply cannot and will not bring closure to needless wars that the people wrote off years ago.
    As we used to put it decades ago in the Nixon-Kissinger Fig Leaf Contingent: “We lost the day we started. We win the day we stop.” How to get this message through to President Obama constitutes the only true question we have to answer. In any event, I see little, if any prospect, of President Obama escalating Iraq and/or Afghaninstan to Nixonian levels. Nixon had a frustrated rage about him that Henry Kissinger stroked into a madman’s mania. Said Kissinger: “I can’t believe that some fourth-rate power like Vietnam doesn’t have a breaking point.” Said Nixon (immediately following his “peace is at hand” re-election in 1972: “I’m going to bomb the bastards like they’ve never been bombed before.” I don’t see in President Obama anything remotely like the venal and vicious cruelty of Nixon and Kissinger. So, we will probably have some OJT fumbling from President Obama in Afghanistan (and Pakistan) until he can get our Iraq occupation terminated. Then, with only one desultory “war” to resolve, he can probably end it and his presidency on a positive note — for several tragically affected countries.
    Or not. But, whatever, comparing Barack Obama to Richard Nixon (at any stage of their respective political careers) seems almost too laughable, if not ludicrous, a “comparison” for me to contemplate seriously. But let us revisit this issue next month, when, after ninety days in office, no doubt President Obama will not have cured cancer and HIV/AIDS, or solved the Global Warming crisis, either.

  7. That’s a wonderful quote from Barbara Tuchman. It sums up the situation perfectly in just four sentences.

  8. There’s nothing scary about the part designated “scary” by the People’s Temple of Smedley Butler. President Obama simply states what’s happened: seven years have passed, the situation has gotten worse. Don Bacon seems to think that we’ll exactly equate the Taliban with the Vietnamese communists just by putting two quoted paragraphs together.
    I don’t see how President Obama could set up a schedule at this point. The small rise in troops and, more importantly, the claim that we’ll increase investment in civilian infrastructure and combat against corruption have not been implemented. We don’t know how effective these approaches will be.
    So many people have noted that the number of troops in Afghanistan is a small fraction of the size that could realistically confront an insurgent movement. If a large troop size is needed, that should be a large Afghanistan troop size, of Afghan citizens defending their own country. A force of 134000 soldiers and 82000 police sounds very promising as an effective means of neutralizing the military threat of the Taliban and al-Qaeda: My issues are do we and Afghanistan actually have the money for it, and can this force be corruption free….I think this plan is worth trying, it’s juvenile for the Smedley Butler Personality Cult to try to get this plan instantly dismissed by sticking a “Vietnamization” label on it l-word style. The Taliban and al-Qaeda are a threat to the world: it’s not just “our war”.
    Don Bacon is unfair in berating Obama for saying that “it won’t be easy”. The GWB adminitration did us wrong by trying to pass the war agains the Taliban and al-Qaeda as easy.
    I agree with Obama: the president has a responsibility to protect U.S. residents; we have to confront the common enemy of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. He’s right, not because he happens to be president. Don Bacon is off trying to twist his words into some kind of condescension.

  9. There was nothing in my piece that berated Obama or compared him to Nixon. It was a comparison of two speeches on a similar topic, showing with quotes that the speeches were remarkably similar.
    Michael explains that the continuation of the Vietnam war was basically an attempt by Nixon to preserve his political career, to not appear weak. So the wall of shame is almost half again bigger than it otherwise would be. That is a common problem with presidents — that they are so concerned with their own reputations that they are willing to prolong wars and kill innumerable innocents. Rather than do the right thing for others, they do the right thing for themselves and it’s TS for anyone who gets in the way.
    The idea that Obama is new in the job and therefore his actions shouldn’t be analyzed is to be rejected. He asked for the job, claiming he had the necessary good judgment to make good decisions. Those decisions should be examined. Comparing his words with those of a past loser is one way to do that. They match up pretty well, don’t they.
    The US is in perilous financial times and the continued involvement in expensive military occupations, plus increasing aggression against a neighboring Muslim country with nukes, one in danger of breaking apart, are wrong. Obama’s vaunted judgment seems incapable of grasping that simple fact.
    In general, continuing Bush’s war on terrorists by military means is foolish. Terrorism is a matter for intelligence and police work, not one of destroying Asian villages and wedding parties. These tactics only increase the likelihood of terrorism — that too is a well-known simple fact.
    Finally, thank you for engaging. It is only through the give-and-take of differing views that a recognized truth will emerge.

  10. Alex,
    My all-time favorite quote of Barbara Tuchman’s comes from the final sentence of her book Stilwell and the American experience in China:
    “In the end, China went her own way as if the Americans had never come.”
    In the margins of my copy of that book, I’ve penciled in “Ditto for Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and …. [the open-ended list seems inexhaustible]. The entire, sorry parade of American imperial failures since the end of WWII often puts me in mind of Shelley’s poem “Ozymandias,” a cautionary vision of the fate awaiting mankind’s arrogant monuments to imagined political immortality. It inspired me once to compose a stanza of my own in tribute to a truth American governments seem congenitally incapable of grasping:
    Ozymandias’ sneering statue
    Crumpled in the desert bare:
    “Look upon my works, you mighty!”
    See their ruin, and take care
    Whenever I reflect upon these and other such lines, I can’t help but remember the run-down, deserted, overgrown-with-weeds little patch of cemetery that I would occasionally pass by on my way from Tan Son Nhut Airport on the way into Saigon (circa 1970-71). At one edge of the dismal little forgotten graveyard stood a sign worn nearly to ureadabilty which proclaimed something like: “Vietnam will never forget the sacrifices of these brave French legionaires.” Yeah, right.
    As for those brave American legionaires already dead and forgotten by the Iraqis and Afghans (who never requested their presence or “sacrifices” in the first place), I suppose Kipling’s famous epitaph will always do:
    “Here lies a fool who tried to hustle the East.”
    Oh, well. I guess I need to fire off another letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi reminding her of how a former Democratic Congress finally put an end to America’s failed War on Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos) by simply cutting off the funding, as Alexander Hamilton advised two-hundred-and-twenty years ago in the Federalist Papers. As forseen by the founders of our nation at the end of the eighteenth century: American presidents will rarely have the wisdom or fortitude necessary to bring stupid, self-destructive military quagmires to the timely and expeditious ends they deserve. We need to save President Obama from himself and his chicken-hawk imperial “advisors” by simply putting them on a restricted budgetary diet. No politician gives a damn what people think who don’t vote, but occasionally they will listen to lots of people who do and won’t stand for this national-insecurity extortion any longer. Like the jaded bar girls on Saigon’s To Do Street used to jeer at the broke and hard-up G.I.s: “No money, no honey!”
    One last thought as a positive suggestion: Why can’t President Obama just take a page from Ronald Reagan and “redeploy” our military forces from Iraq and Afghanistan while discovering a tiny island (named Grenada) with some Cuban construction workers on it to invade and “neutralize”? Surely the mainstream press will happily gin up the instantaneous hysteria regarding the “threat” and President Obama can thus prove his “liberal hawk” all-tough-and-stuff credentials to the rabid Republican rabble he so strangely seems to fear. I mean, such a transparently ludicrous gambit worked perfectly to cover President Reagan’s cutting-and-running from Lebanon after he stupidly got 241 of our Marines killed by a single suicide bomber in a truck. I don’t think President Obama yet realizes that Americans (sick and tired of meaningless wars they don’t understand and don’t want to pay for) will accept any pretense of a “victory” anywhere at all as long as they can call themselves “winners” — and at as little cost to themselves as possible. “Just declare victory and get out,” I believe a Senator from Vermont once advised Lyndon Johnson. Still good advice today for President Obama …

  11. Dear President Obama,
    With all due respect, I would like to share with you an important quotation from Frances Fitzgerald’s classic Fire in the Lake: the Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam (1972):
    “What had looked like an attempt to “save Vietnam from Communism” was rather an attempt to save American “prestige” around the world. But the time for that had already passed by. The leaders of other nations had already seen what a small and determined group of people could do to the United States and were in the process of drawing their conclusions. The American war effort had, then, become almost entirely solipsistic: the U.S. government was trying to save “American prestige” for Americans alone, to convince itself of American superiority.”
    As a victim/veteran of the Nixon-Kissinger Fig Leaf Contingent (Vietnam 1970-72), I can attest to the wisdom of Ms Fitzgerald’s observation. Twelve years later in 1984, historian Barbara Tuchman would make a similar comment in The March of Folly about the American government’s unwillingness to call off self-detructive military debacles out of a concern for the “prestige and reputation of the United States — and … of the President personally.” Please allow a former simple tool of President Nixon’s “Vietnamization” policy (i.e., “Yellowing the Corpses”) to rephrase and recast this solipsistic “prestige” argument in terms more blunt and unrefined but possibly more understandable to the common person.
    Put the self-imprisoning rhetoric like this: “We can’t withdraw our military forces from the trap into which we have placed them — i.e., IraqNamIstan — because to do so would cause our friends not to respect us and our enemies not to fear us.” In other words, our friends won’t respect us and our enemies won’t fear us if we suddenly wake up and stop shooting ourselves in our own faces. Do I really have to point out the absurdity of any such proposition? In the real world, our friends actually do not at all respect wooden-headed stupidity and our enemies have absolutely no fear of it — precisely the contrary. I would have thought that an otherwise intelligent person like yourself could easily figure this out. Forgive me for saying this, but recent comments of yours announcing yet another wooden-headed escalation of American military forces in Afghanistan causes me to doubt your advertised perspicacity.
    I have heard that you like to read books, and this certainly places you head and shoulders above your immediate predecessor in my estimation. But I have also heard that you don’t think much of — or about — “Vietnam-era arguments” and their lessons for American policy makers today. I consider this attitude, if genuine, a major blunder, one that if not rapidly corrected could easily and quickly lead your presidency to hell in a handbasket. See the failed presidencies of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and George W. Bush for illustrative examples.
    In your own and our country’s enlightened self interest, you should immediately read three books about America’s disastrous War on Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos), two of which books I have cited above. The third, which deals with the entrenched American political/military bureaucracy at home, goes by the ironic title of The Best and the Brightest by the late David Halberstam, an excellent journalist who did some very good field reporting from the battlegrounds of Vietnam early in his career. While reading this important book, please substitute my preferred phrase for the same sort of bureaucrats (from the previous two administrations) that you have surrounded yourself with in the area of foreign policy: “The Worst and the Dullest” (no irony intended). As my fellow Vietnam Veteran Daniel Ellsberg says of them: “They aren’t stupid. They are just clever people who have lost their minds.”
    And you, too, will have lost your clever mind if you do not forthwith — meaning in a timely and expeditious manner (like within six months) — withdraw all American military forces from the territory and airspace of Iraq and Afghaninstan — where they have no business or purpose other than causing anger at (and loathing of) America and all its works. Let me remind you that the nineteen clever hijackers (mostly Saudi Arabian) who killed 3,000 Americans in three of our buildings on 9/11/2001 did not come from either Iraq or Afghanistan. And they didn’t learn to fly American commercial jet liners in Afghanistan, either. They learned how to do that in America’s own flight simulator schools. Everything Al Qaida needed to attack America it found in America. And Timothy McViegh did not need to travel to Afghanistan in order to plot how to blow up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. He, too, found all the pick-up trucks and fertilizer he needed for his bomb right at home in America. So, again, exactly what business does America’s military have in either Iraq and Afghanistan? I do not think you have thought this matter through sufficiently.
    And as for your contiued invocation of the 3,000 Americans who died on 9/11/2001, you run the risk of sounding like a tour guide at the U.S.S. Oklahoma memorial at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Yes, we know how many Americans the Japanese killed on 12/7/1941, too. So what? But please consider that your immediate predecessor, George W. Bush, has gotten far more Americans (not to mention Iraqis and Afghans) killed and maimed in Iraq and Afghanistan than Al Qaida ever managed to kill and maim in America. (Unless, of course, you do not consider American servicemen-and-women “Americans.”) President Bush only proved on 9/11/2001 and subsequently that he couldn’t fight “them” either “at home” OR “over there.” Do you seriously want to go on adding to the needless death and dismemberment of Americans serving Iraq and Afghanistan — along with more of the same for the already bruatlized peoples of those countries? The American people, for your information long ago wrote off this endless increase in costs and casualties — for no discernible purpose other than inchoate revenge — as a rather “sour” experience, as George Orwell characterized such things. All costs and no benefits for America just doesn’t add up.
    So, “just declare victory and get out.” The American, Iraqi, and Afghan peoples will love you for your enlightened wisdom; America’s friends will regain much respect for our collective sanity (which they currently doubt); and our “enemies” will helplessly gnash their teeth at our abandonment of self-destructive stupidity. Or, you could just “stay the curse.” You still can choose to terminate two needless imperial occupations that America does not need and cannot afford. In only a few more months, though, the Bush/Cheney debacles will become yours and you will have willingly taken up the twin albatrosses with your own hands — and hung them around your own neck. Change course. Do it now. After six months in office, as President Nixon discovered, you won’t find yourself able to do so.
    Sincerly yours,
    Michael Mury
    (an ex-patriot expatriate)
    Kaohsiung, Taiwan

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