There's surprising support for President Bush's comparison between Iraq and Vietnam from William Shawcross, in this week's Sunday Times. Shawcross, most famous for his castigation of Nixon's and Kissinger's policy in Vietnam and Cambodia, now thinks that he and his fellow opponents of the war in Indochina were naive to claim that the region would be better off without the Americans: 'Such naivety was horribly wrong, and I have always thought that those of us who opposed the American war in Indochina should be extremely humble in the face of the appalling aftermath.'
Shawcross draws parallels between the way that ingrained opposition to the war in Vietnam prevented some commentators from facing up to the consequences of US withdrawal and the way that 'too many pundits' hatred (and it really is that) of Bush (and until recently Blair) dominates perceptions'. He goes on:
Many armchair editorialists seem to dwell more on the American abuses at Abu Ghraib (quickly stopped and punished) than on the horrific, deliberate mass murders committed by the terrorists, both Sunni and Shi'ite. Far too many Muslims have died in Iraq, and the vast majority have not been killed by American or British soldiers. They have been killed by other Muslims.
Shawcross thinks it ironic that calls for a withdrawal of troops are gathering strength at a time when America is making real progress against Al-Qaeda in the northwest of Iraq and Baghdad:
Local insurgents have been revolted by Al-Qaeda atrocities - decapitating babies, slicing off people's faces with piano wire, using chlorine gas tankers and vast car bombs as weapons of mass destruction to kill as many innocents as possible - and have rallied to the government.
Shawcross believes that the consequences of an American defeat in Iraq would be even worse than in Indochina, and would match the horrors in Darfur:
Why do the horrors inflicted by Islamic extremists in Darfur seem to appal us, more than those in Iraq? Because, I suppose, in an orgy of self-deluding hypocrisy, we prefer to blame the United States. We should grow up.
On the other hand, there's this excoriating reaction to Bush's historical comparison from Hitch. Take your pick.