Thursday, May 6

For George Bush, all isn't always fair in love and war. And war means never having to say you're sorry.

A sorry President spoke to Arab television yesterday, proclaiming his abhorence for the American torture of helpless Iraqi prisoners.

Deliverance-inspired occupation, however, is par for the course in any war. It's an American specialty--especially when the goal is muddled ... and frustrating.

But this wasn't supposed to happen. The parellels to muddled Vietnam were not intended to be: An amorphous, changing enemy, the inability to convince the populace of your goal, a strategic plan that doesn't hold and tactics that simply don't work.

Let's look at the strategy.

The thinking in Vietnam was America had to fight Communism somewhere. And if South Vietnam fell, there'd be a "domino" effect.

That proved false, as Vietnamese nationalism trumped Communist ideology. The Vietnamese simply wanted to break the shackles of white colonialism, and Communism was a convenient means to an end.

In Vietnam, there was also a problem with the wishes of the locals, who saw the Americans, accurately, as inheritors of French European colonialism. Not as liberators.

The same is now true with Iraq.

The strategy in Iraq was also negative: Weapons of Mass Destruction were really dangerous in the hands of an enemy. But ... no weapons. OK. No problem. Now the Iraqis are being "freed". The incidental effect was now sold as a primary reason for invasion.

But, instead of flowers, the American "liberators" were greeted with deep mistrust and anger.

The average American trooper in Iraq is now confused and angry: "Why are they not grateful that we've freed them?" U.S. troops become impatient. Who can blame them?

Some troops then ask, "If they don't want us, why are we here?"

The tactics employed now in Iraq are also an echo of Vietnam: Counter-insurgency. Can you distinguish the sympathizers from the guerillas?

The real fact is, you cannot change anyone's heart at the point of a gun. You can kill him, sure. But you can't change him. Saddam was a popular Sunni tribal leader and the devil they knew. Shiite nationalism was always a lingering American worry.

It's enough to want to make you rub Iraq's nose in it. And take a few pictures.