I’m going to rescue this from headlines and toss it up for general comment since it looks like people want to talk about it. Proof that Hitch remains a man of the left at heart: he’s miffed that Bush would slander the good name of his beloved Viet Cong by comparing them to the jihadist Nazis who are feasting wholesale on Iraq. Follow the link for specifics; numbers 4, 9, and 11 are especially compelling. Then the capper:
It is true that the collapse of the doomed American adventure in Indochina was followed by massive repression and reprisal, especially in Cambodia, and by the exile of huge numbers of talented Vietnamese. But even this grim total was small compared to the huge losses exacted by the war itself. In Iraq, the genocide, repression, aggression and cultural obliteration preceded the coalition’s intervention and had been condemned by a small but impressive library of UN resolutions. Thus, the argument from ‘bloodbath’, either past or future, has to be completely detached from any consideration of the Vietnamese example.
The companion piece to his column is running tonight in the Times of London. It’s by William Shawcross, like Hitch an acidic critic of U.S. intervention in Vietnam and like Hitch an avid supporter of U.S. intervention in Iraq. Where they differ is on just how small that “grim total” was in Vietnam after the last U.S. chopper flew away:
When I covered the wars in Indochina for The Sunday Times, I was opposed to the US effort. After the communists won, appalling stories of brutality began to emerge. Thousands and eventually millions of people fled the cruelty of the Vietnamese communist victors, mostly as “boat people”. In Cambodia the Khmer Rouge communist victors were far more brutal and up to 2m Cambodians were murdered or died…
Today, as in the 1970s, the press has a special responsibility. In Indochina the majority of American and European journalists (including myself) believed the war could not or should not be won. At the end one New York Times headline read: “Indochina without Americans: for most, a better life”.
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. Similarly today I think that too many pundits’ hatred (and it really is that) of Bush (and till recently Blair) dominates perceptions.
If you think Darfur is bad, he concludes, wait and see what an Iraq free of “occupation” looks like. Historians react here.