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Why the War was Immoral: Parallels to Vietnam September 4, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in bush administration, iraq, military, politics.

I am not usually one to speak of politics in terms of “morality”. The word “morality” is most often times grossly subjective and has been distorted by fundamentalists and others to bring great harm to the United States. That said, I just finished a New Republic article from April 29, 1985 titled Why the War was Immoral. Written by Hendrick Hertzberg, the article argues that the war in Vietnam was both unwinnable and immoral.

As the war in Iraq rages on and a new Pentagon report paints a bleak outlook, it is impossible to read the 1985 New Republic article without noticing the tremendous similarities between Hertzberg’s view of Vietnam and the current situation in Iraq. Here are some observations from the article, with my commentary beneath:

Parellel #1:

There were always two main arguments in favor of the war: the geopolitical and the “moral.” The war’s aftermath has undermined the first argument but has seemingly strengthened the second.

Although it is difficult to keep straight the alleged “reasons” we went to war in Iraq (ie, weapons of mass destruction, 9/11, etc), it is clear that many of the reasons for invading Iraq were argued as geopolitical or “moral”. As critics of the war became more vocal, the Bush administration and other neocons told us it was our country’s moral duty to rid Iraq of its brutal dictator. Although Saddam Hussein is an awful person that killed thousands of his own people, the “moral” justification was an after-thought… the moral argument came as the original justifications proved false.

The geopolitical argument has also gained favor among the neocons. They argue that pulling out of Iraq would create instability in the entire region. This same argument was used in Vietnam, and when we pulled out, southeast Asia did not become a solid communist block.

As the war rages on, so to speak, it has become increasingly obvious that America will have to leave Iraq, not enter it, for moral reasons.

Parellel #2:

…the argument for will: we needed to go on fighting in Vietnam in order to demonstrate our resolve and reliability. This argument implicitly recognized that the fate of Vietnam was, by itself, peripheral to the national security of the United States.

Americans have listened to George W. Bush use the words “resolve” and “national security” for almost five years now. He claims leaving Iraq would harm America’s image and leave the country open to terrorist attacks. His argument fails to point out that America was safer before we entered Iraq, and that our image as both militarily strong and morally superior has faltered because of the failed foreign policy. Leaving Vietnam did not seriously diminish our security at home… the same is likely with Iraq.

Parelell #3:

…these arguments rest on the assumption that there was a point at which North Vietnam, having calculated that the actual costs of war were exceeding the prospective benefits of victory, would have stopped the fighting… [North Vietnamese] were prepared to accept limitless casualties to attain their sacred objective…

If the North Vietnamese were willing to accept limitless casualties, if they were willing to pay any price, then the war could not have been won except by the physical destruction of North Vietnam and the killing of a large portion of its people.

Bush loves to talk about “defeating the terrorists”, as if some threshold will be reached in which they lay down their arms and say “enough is enough”. We are not fighting a rational enemy or a standing army in Iraq. These people have proven they are willing to kill fellow citizens to drive America troops out of their country. Just as we continued to fight the North Vietnamese until we were disgusted by American causalities, the same is likely to happen in Iraq. Insurgents, like the North Vietnamese during Vietnam, are willing to accept limitless casualties to win its jihadist-like war. Human lives are less valuable to terrorists than to the American people (notice I did not say the American government), and public opinion has already shown that Americans will reach the final threshold before any insurgent groups do.

Parallel #4:

It wasn’t cowardice that finally impelled us to quit. It was conscience.

Republicans love to paint anti-war Democrats as weak on terrorism, unpatriotic or untrusting of American military power. Anti-war Democrats are not cowards… they have a reality-based look at Iraq and their conscience is telling them we have overstepped our bounds. Anti-war advocates want the best for Iraq and America, but do not see the continued conflict being beneficial to either countries.


In the brilliantly written New Republic article, Hendrick Hertzberg defends his criticism of the Vietnam War by saying he cares about America and its place in the world. He is not the anti-American dissenter that neocons love to portray him as. The same is true today. Vietnam war opponents and those against the war in Iraq are extremely patriotic, having to face extreme hostility to defend their belief in what is best for the country.

It is time to fight for America by stop fighting. This is patriotic. As Herzberg said: it is time “to wash the flag, not burn it.”



1. eteraz - September 4, 2006

thank you for this

im a top 10 wordpress blogger and an american muslim and trying to resolve this question in my head

do you want to exchange blogrolling? i’d like to expose my readers to thought like this

if so, please add me and leave a message here


2. eteraz - September 4, 2006


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