AP Template: Iraq Is Vietnam, Bush Is LBJ

September 22nd, 2005 8:42 AM

It has often been noted, throughout history, that one of the problems of unsuccessful leaders is that they spend time fighting the last war, instead of the next one. The US media has been as guilty of that as any group ever in their coverage of Iraq, being determined since day 1 to fit it into the Vietnam template of unnecessary and unpopular war, led by incompetent dishonest leaders, resulting in a quagmire. Every piece of news gets run through that Vietnam filter (which is why we see quotes from the people doing the work over there saying that "if I got my news from the newspapers also I'd be pretty depressed as well!")

Well, the Associated Press is at it again (Bush's Words on Iraq Echo LBJ in 1967). And they've dropped any pretense to subtlety. Apparently concerned that all of the Vietnam talk, all of the quagmire speak for the last three years hasn't made it clear for the people to understand, the AP has decided that it's time to run a news story explaining to everyone why Iraq is Vietnam, and why Bush is LBJ, a President who became so unpopular that he failed to even run for re-election. Almost two months ago, the President made a fairly generic comment, of a sort that he's made repeatedly over the past 3 years, that "we will stay the course, we will complete the job in Iraq." Last night, someone at the AP finally discovered that, hey! Lyndon Johnson said something like that in 1967!

Bush officials bristle at the suggestion the war in Iraq might look anything like Vietnam. Yet just as today's anti-war protests recall memories of yesteryear, President Bush's own words echo those of President Johnson in 1967, a pivotal year for the U.S. in Vietnam. "America is committed to the defense of South Vietnam until an honorable peace can be negotiated," Johnson told the Tennessee Legislature on March 15, 1967. Despite the obstacles to victory, the president said, "We shall stay the course."

And, for those in the population who didn't bother to read the story, they've got "Bush" and "LBJ" in the headline, and they've included "a Nov. 17, 1967 black-and-white file photo of former President Lyndon Baines Johnson." The story does include some evidence that maybe Iraq and Vietnam aren't exactly the same, but mostly that comes in the form of quotes from administration sources. And the phraseology used ("administration officials bristle at the suggestion..." and "administration officials have blanched at comparisons with Iraq...") carries with it the implication that maybe they're engaged in denying something that's actually true.

South Vietnam, politically unstable because of internal violence and corruption, stumbled toward elections to adopt a constitution and to select officials — not unlike the process Iraq is undergoing.

South Vietnam, unlike Iraq, was facing an external foe, an enemy trying to overrun it. It was very unlike the process that Iraq is undergoing. Far more dissimilar than similar. And the piece ends with what seems a transparent admission of what they (the Democrats and the media) are trying to accomplish.

Bush remains optimistic about the outcome of the war though just four out of 10 of those polled favor his handling of it. A loss of public confidence overwhelmed Johnson. By March 1968, he had decided someone else needed to see the war to its conclusion — and startled the nation by announcing he would not seek another term.

They still don't seem to realize that George W. Bush isn't running again...

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