Readers have emailed me (some with marvelous vehemence) to note that, in accepting a comparison between Iraq and Vietnam, the President never suggested the military situations were at all the same, instead simply implying that our enemy in Iraq, like our enemy in Vietnam, has a keen eye for the American press and public opinion.
Keegan’s analysis remains valid—and he’s right, I think, that it was a mistake for the President to concede any comparison. But our readers make an important point. Here’s what Bush actually said, as reported in The Guardian (which I quote simply because it was the first newspaper to pop up in my Google search):
The escalating violence in Iraq could be compared to the 1968 Tet offensive in Vietnam, which was a turning point in that war, the US president admitted last night.In an interview on ABC News, George Bush was asked whether he agreed with the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who wrote that the real “October surprise” was what “seems like the jihadist equivalent of the Tet offensive”.”He could be right,” Mr Bush replied. “There’s certainly a stepped-up level of violence, and we’re heading into an election….”
“My gut tells me that they have all along been trying to inflict enough damage that we’d leave,” Mr Bush told George Stephanopoulos of ABC News. “And the leaders of al-Qaida have made that very clear. They believe that if they can create enough chaos, the American people will grow sick and tired of the Iraqi effort and will cause (the) government to withdraw.”