War and Conflict

The War on Terror

Why did some observers draw comparisons between the war in Iraq and the Vietnam War?

Critics of the U.S.-led war in Iraq found several similarities to American military involvement in Vietnam. Both conflicts seemed to many people to be without ample cause. Critics of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq charged that there was no compelling reason for Americans to go to war in the Middle Eastern nation; they called the operation hawkish, saying it was an unwarranted expansion of the War on Terror. These arguments were strengthened when no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq. Media images of protests against the invasion of Iraq harkened back to the antiwar demonstrations of the Vietnam era. And, like Vietnam, there seemed to be no clear exit strategy for the U.S. military from Iraq—these were extended operations, or “wars without end.” Some observers also drew comparisons between Vietnam’s My Lai Massacre and the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq: They pointed to military spokespersons who categorized the atrocities as isolated events, unrepresentative of American military policy.

The Bush administration stood by the decision to enter Iraq, ousting and capturing Saddam Hussein (1937-), saying it was a rogue state led by a despotic ruler who had the capability of aiding terrorist groups. The controversy over Iraq continued long after President George W. Bush (1946-) declared the end to major combat operations, as the casualty count climbed—the result of continued coalition fighting against pockets of resistance and attacks on U.S. installments in the unstable nation. In 2005, as U.S. officials slowly handed over security to Iraqi forces, there was not yet a timetable for U.S. withdrawal. But the newly elected interim president, Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani, vowed that his government would work to provide security so that U.S.-led coalition forces could return home.


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