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May 14, 2004

Bush ReLost Vietnam

Why is the prison torture scandal do devastating for Bush's Iraq policy? Even if responsibility isn't proved at the highest levels, he's still lost. The collective shame and embarassment has undermined the fundamental goal of the neoconservatives-- getting America to be proud of US military power in a way they have never been since Vietnam.

Some on the Right have that obvious cowboy arrogance of asserting US power because we can, but many liberals and moderates initially supported the war because of the promise that this war, this war, would redeem America, fight a Bad Guy, stop Weapons of Mass Destruction, and Bring Democracy to Iraq. And most of all, we'd be welcomed as the Good Guys, putting to rest the shame of Vietnam.

Well, we beat the Bad Guy, but the rest...No weapons of mass destruction-- a lie by the administration. Democracy in Iraq-- seemingly a mirage amidst warring factions and insurgencies. And no flowers for our soldiers, just road sign bombs.

And then the prison torture pictures-- Mai Lai all over again. Suddenly, we are right back in Vietnam, ashamed of our soldiers and ashamed of our political leaders who put those soldiers in such terrible places that they'd do such terrible things.

Maybe the abuses are isolated-- although evidence indicates it was not. Or maybe mistakes, not deliberate policies, led to conditions that made these problems chronic.

It doesn't matter.

We can slog along now in Iraq, but it now stinks of lies and shame. We won't be able to collectively think of Iraq without seeing those images of hooded prisoners and smirking soldiers. Which means we won't want to think about it a lot. Kind of like Vietnam.

The neoconservatives lost.

Many liberals jumped off their train just before the war started as our allies denounced our unilateralism. Most of the rest jumped off when it became clear we had no serious plan for reconstruction and allowed looting and power outages to dominate the post-Saddam "liberation."

And moderates began exiting the station as lies about "yellowcake" uranimum and WMDs became obvious.

But the shame of Abu Ghraib leaves many "paleocon" or just decent conservatives denouncing their neocon allies for taking the US into one more shameful adventure.

Bush ReLost Vietnam. The American people can forgive many things, but making us ashamed of ourselves-- that they won't forgive.

Posted by Nathan at May 14, 2004 07:36 AM