Iraq ‘another ‘Nam?’ Don’t make me laugh! |

Iraq ‘another ‘Nam?’ Don’t make me laugh!

Andy Stone

It has come to my attention that a number of people are saying, “Iraq’s another Vietnam.” Well, that’s just plain nonsense!

Anybody who says that just isn’t paying attention – not even a little bit.

I mean, just to start with, look at the names: First, “Iraq” – that’s short and sweet. Two syllables. Four letters. Now compare that with “Vietnam.” Much longer. Three syllables. Seven letters. How could anyone get those two confused?

Now, sure, we’ve got the whole “dehumanization of the enemy” thing going on. That’s true. You can’t tell the enemy soldiers from the innocent civilians. You never know who’s going to blow you up. Our guys get to the point where they don’t really consider the natives to be quite human. That happened in Vietnam (long country name), and it’s apparently happening again in Iraq (short, simple name).

But, on the other hand, look at the racial/ethnic slurs we use to refer to those dehumanized bad guys.

In Vietnam, we called them “gooks.” In Iraq, we’re calling them “ragheads.” Once again, no way to confuse those, is there?

Of course, now that I look at it – hey, this is cool! – we use the longer ethnic slur, “raghead,” for the people from the country with the short name … and we use the shorter slur, “gook,” for the people from the country with the long name. And if you add them up – long name (7 letters) plus short slur (4 letters) or short name (4 letters) plus longer slur (7 letters) – it comes out to 11 letters either way.

Does this mean anything? Hell, no! Averages are notoriously misleading. Think about averaging brown and yellow … you’d never come up with pink, would you?

And we’re pink, so that has to be the right answer.

Anyway, back to our Iraq-Vietnam problem. As I was saying, they have nothing in common.

In Vietnam, we were anti-domino. Remember? We were fighting in Vietnam because of the Domino Theory. No, nothing to do with pizza – the Domino Theory said that if one Southeast Asian country fell to communism, all the rest would topple, one after the other, just like – you got it! – a row of dominoes. So we propped up that teetering domino with countless thousands – well, millions – of bodies. American bodies. Vietnamese bodies. Whatever it took.

Of course, once we gave up and that domino fell, none of the others seemed to follow – except the ones we’d knocked over. But never mind that.

In Iraq, on the other hand, we’re pro-domino. We’re figuring that if we can somehow just get the Iraqi domino to “fall” to democracy, every other evil, repressive dictatorship in the region will immediately topple our way.

So, while we threw all those bodies at the Vietnam domino to stabilize it, we’re now throwing bodies – in an ever-increasing number – at the Iraq domino to knock it over.

What could possibly be more different? Here, let me go over it again for the slow learners: Vietnam – prop the domino up. Iraq – knock the domino over.

And then, of course, there’s the simple, plain-as-the-nose-on-your-face fact that the Vietnamese never attacked the United States and never had any means of threatening us. We just sort of decided we needed to beat some sense into their heads, so we did … or, at least, we tried.

Now compare that to Iraq. As we all know so well, Iraq was directly responsible for the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington. And Iraq has massive stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction and the means of using them to attack the United States.

Once again, for the slow learners: Vietnam – never hurt us. Iraq – 9/11.

And then there’s the simple matter of terminology. Vietnam was a quagmire. The people who try to compare Vietnam and Iraq keep using that word. Well, look it up in the dictionary, folks! A “quagmire” is a soft, marshy area, where things sink and get stuck. Vietnam was a tropical jungle. It actually was a quagmire. Iraq is a desert! What are you people thinking? Quagmire – wet and soft. Desert – dry and sandy. Come on!

And finally, there are the simple political facts of life. It was a Democratic president who got us into Vietnam and another Democratic president who really got us bogged down in the mess. And it was a Republican president who, by hook or by crook (no pun intended), got us out.

And Iraq? It was a Republican president who got us in there and another Republican president who now has us really deep in it.

So, I would assume, it’s going to take a Democratic president to get us out.

Nope. Nothing in common.

Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is