Friday, August 24, 2007

I'm Not the Only One Who Doesn't Like President Bush's Iraq Analogy

I'm not the only one who doesn't like President Bush's Iraq analogy. Of course Americans opposed to his policy on Iraq are overwhelmingly reacting to his comparison with Vietnam. (His supporters are, needless to say, counterattacking.) According to the Yomiuri, the Vietnamese don't like it either, if the headline, "Vietnam Foreign Ministry Expresses Displeasure at President Bush's Remarks" is to be believed. However, Reuters thinks that, "Reacting to Bush Speech, Vietnam Focuses on Present". Why the difference? Yomiuri writes

The Vietnamese MOF spokesman expressed displeasure,…… saying, "To the people, [the war] was a fight for justice."

The article closes with another quote from the spokesman:

"The people stood up for independence and freedom, and national unification. The scars of the war still remain."

According to Reuters, the spokesman's comments went like this:

"Vietnamese fought for "a righteous cause" during the U.S. war but preferred to focus on the present, a government spokesman said on Thursday in reaction to President George W. Bush's speech comparing the Iraq and Vietnam conflicts.

"The war leaves consequences that are still visible today, and so are our memories," Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Le Dung said at one of his twice-monthly media briefings.

"But as a nation with a tradition that treasures peace, we are determined to not forget the past but value the present and look forward to a better future with other countries including the United States."

As for my own crusade against the Japan-Iraq analogy, Asahi chimes in with "US President Equates Pre-War Japan with Al-Qaeda, Criticisms toward His View of History". The article gives a somewhat misleading impression that his take on Japan was a big part of the focus of the criticism. (Actually, it seems to have gone almost unnoticed in the US media in the shadows of the Vietnam analogy.) The article is harshly critical of President Bush, closing with:

Mr. Bush depends on his war against terror, but exposed his lack of understanding for the history and culture of other countries including Japan. [The speech] omits inconvenient facts and appeals to the domestic constituency with America's "idealism" and "good intentions".

Speaking of inconvenient facts, Asahi was once one of the foremost proponents of an aggressive foreign policy, going all the way back to its role in touching off the Hibiya Riots.

Yomiuri, reporting from Washington, is non-committal on that point in "US President Appeals for Continuation of Engagement in Iraq, Comparing it with 'Japan's Democratization'", the correspondent confining herself to the following:

[President Bush] introduced a distinct view of history to the effect that freedom expanded into and established itself in Japan, Korea and elsewhere in Asia through US involvement.

Note the use of the word "独自" (original; 《fml》 peculiar; of one's own; unique according to one on-line dictionary; I have translated it as "distinct") in the original text. I think that there is an understated sense of irony there, but maybe that's just me. More significantly, the first Yomiuri article out of its Bangkok bureau seems to have gone to some trouble to produce an article critical of President Bush's Iraq policy while the latter from its Washington correspondent is distinctly neutral otherwise.


kuriharu said...

If Bush's analogy to Vietnam and Japan are incorrect, then so are the liberals' attacks that Iraq is "another Vietnam".

I find it incredulous that the liberals can make as many anaolgies between Iraq and Vietnam as they want, and no one challenges them in the old media. Despite the numerous differences in each conflict, they get away with it. And why not? Since most Americans have such an unfavorable impression of Vietnam, if they can associate those memories with the current conflict then they'll link the two.

But when the shoe is on the other foot, suddenly the Bush haters cry "foul". When Bush correctly points out that the US withdrawl from Vietnam resulted in MILLIONS behind killed in Cambodia, suddenly the Bush-obsessed liberals get amnesia. It's as though the event never happened. They all hate Bush but ignore Polpot.

And of course the Vietnamese gov't is going to harp on Bush for saying this. It's a communist state.

The Japanese analogy is more appropriate, though, than the Vietnamese pullout. Japan was a nation that NEVER had any freedom or democracy in its many millenia of history. Many critics said it would never work. But look at Japan today.

The hate-filled Bush-obsessed liberals need to go on. There are more important things in life than hating a president. If this country survived Clinton, who all but ignored terrorists, then we can certainly survive this president. Get over it.

Jun Okumura said...


Thank you for writing in. There are many differences as well as similarities between Vietnam and Iraq. Partisans on both sides of the debate tend to pick and chose their debating points as befits their views, and accuse each other of doing so. Amnesia is a bipartisan ailment. This holds true for so much of political discourse, public and private. You may consider this a depressing state of affairs; I think of it as par for the course. I also find it fascinating, if sometimes a tad distressful. Here, of course, I was taking note of the different emphases on the Vietnam-Iraq analogy that various elements of the media took, since I thought it cast a light on how your president's talk was carried beyond your media.

I will not offer my thoughts on the specific issue of culpability for the Cambodian genocide since I do not have a workable understanding of the matter. I fail to see how Vietnam being a "communist state" has anything to do with its willingness to move on beyond the war. (Or, in your context, the Cambodian genocide? It is not clear from what you have written.) For the record, Vietnam has always been the state willing to move on, while the US, and more specifically the Congress, had so much difficulty doing so. In fact, as I never fail to bore people by telling them, over and over again, America is a great winner, and the poorest of losers. (I always add that Japan is a lousy winner, the best of losers, making our two nations a perfect fit during the post WW II years.)

And while we are talking about Japan, I strongly disagree with your take on pre-war Japan, I suggest that you do more reading before you make sweeping comments like "Japan was a nation that NEVER had any freedom or democracy in its many millennia of history". Incidentally, I believe that behind the views of the critics during and immediately after WW II that you refer to were very much the aftereffects of the wartime rhetoric, as well as---more importantly---the racism that drove much of it. (Feel free to fill in the "on the other hand" about Japan on the colonialist/imperialism ideology of the West that it willingly bought into.)

As for getting over President Bush, I think that you are off the mark there. President Clinton left the building six and a half years ago. He is history. President Bush still has more than sixteen months left in his term, during which he will make (or not) decisions of enormous consequences for you, as well as for the rest of the world that doesn't have a say. And given the seriousness of the most important question at hand, I am not surprised that criticism remains at the level it does. In fact, I think that the vitriol would be even worse but for the underlying likeability of your president. As for getting over Bill Clinton, though, are you sure that the animosity towards Hillary Clinton doesn't have something to do with her husband, rather than anything she has said or done? On the other hand, she would not be where she is today without her husband (and, irony of ironies, the Lewinsky affair as well), so she can't complain either.

Your comments will always be welcome, Kuriharu. Though many of your thoughts and views do not accord with mine, they are substantive, which opens the way to counterarguments and subsequent dialogue. What more can a blogger ask for than that?