Iraq & Vietnam: Comparison & Contrast

Topics: Iraq War, 2003 invasion of Iraq, Vietnam Pages: 5 (1514 words) Published: November 6, 2011
Iraq & Vietnam: A comparison and contrast
Kirkland Young
HUMN 410
Professor Harris

Many pundits who opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq now compare it to the invasion of Vietnam by viewing the daily attacks on U.S. soldiers as indications of repeating mistakes that were made in Vietnam. In their view, “the United States has yet again stumbled into a foreign quagmire – a protracted and indecisive political and military struggle from which they are not likely to remove themselves without considerable loss of life and currency.” (Terrill, p. 1) However, profound differences separate the domestic and international objectives of the Vietnam and Iraq wars even though there are many similarities these similarities can be misleading. The Vietnam War was over the spread of communism in the Indochina region of the world. The French and the Japanese had been thoroughly conquered by the Vietnamese led by a Ho Chi Minh who had an overwhelming amount of support from his compatriots. In 1954 the president of the U.S.A. attempted to divide the country of Vietnam into two opposing governments. Selecting a former Vietnamese official named Ngo Dinh Diem and planting him in South Vietnam to oppose the elections that would unite the country. This was done because an intelligence estimate showed that the election would be won by Ho Chi Minh and thus would give “control of the associated states (Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam) in the region – the three parts of Indochina created by the Geneva Conference to Communist government control.” (Zinn, p. 472) President Eisenhower and the U.S. Government believed that if one country became communist then the surrounding countries would also become communist and this belief became known as the Domino Theory. JFK adopted this theory and kept the policies of former presidents Eisenhower and Truman concerning the Indochina region of the world. The Iraq War was launched by President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair in March 2003 to “disarm Saddam Hussein and Iraq of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), end Iraq’s support for terrorism, and free the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. However, no WMD were ever found, no links to international terrorism were uprooted, and economic agendas have been officially denied. The enemy in Iraq operates in small independent cells that rely on improvised explosive devices and suicide-bomb attempts to inflict casualties instead of conventional organized military units. Similarities

Many Americans might consider the daily attacks on U.S. soldiers in Iraq as a sign of making some of the same mistakes that were made in Vietnam. Nothing could be farther from the truth even with both wars having many similarities the different aspects far outweigh the similar aspects in terms of profound effect on society. Both wars were launched by presidents that lied to the public using information that was considered “credibility gaps” during Vietnam and acceptable “information warfare” during Iraq. Both wars had severe cases of prisoner abuse; in Vietnam thousands of captured Vietnamese were tortured inside cells that were called tiger cages; in Iraq hundreds of Iraqis were punched or kneed, deprived of sleep, and handcuffed standing up. Both wars had illegal weapons launched/deployed; in Vietnam napalm and Agent Orange were dropped on Vietnamese civilians; in Iraq cluster bombs and Mark 77 napalm-like firebombs were dropped on Iraqis civilians. Additionally, uranium was added to the arsenal of prohibited weapons that were used in Iraq. Both wars were supposedly based on noble international goals, but an imperial drive to control resources turned out to be the actual purpose of occupying each country. The resources commandeered in Vietnam were rubber, coal, rice, manganese, and iron ore; Iraq had oil. In both wars the U.S. president claimed to be promoting democracy. During the Vietnam War elections were staged...

Cited: 1. Record, J., & Terrill, W.A., (2004, May). Iraq and Vietnam: Differences, Similarities, and Insights. Retrieved November 10, 2009, from Small Wars Web site:
2. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, (2009, November). Vietnam War Casualties. Retrieved November 19, 2009, from Web site:
3. Zinn, H. (2003). A People’s History of the United States: 1492 – Present. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
4. North, O., (2006, October). Vietnam and Iraq: Myth vs. Reality. Retrieved November 18, 2009, from Fox Web site:,2933,225911,00.html
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