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In The Shadow Of Henry Luce

Bush dis-inters a shattered theory to save his legacy

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, August 22, 2007.

George Bush has been physically lusting to be a war President from the git go, apparently because he likes the clothing and the pose, and the win-lose paradigm is so simple. And he is a war president, but despite his blatant attempts to be seen as Lincoln, FDR, or Washington, he’s going to be seen as most comparable to Lyndon Johnson, and even then come out the worse for that.

Today, in Kansas City, advance reports from the White House inform that President Bush will, in a public speech, compare Iraq to Vietnam, in fact blame Iraq on Vietnam, and literally beg that we not pull out of Iraq because it emboldens our enemies.

I can’t even say ‘embolden’ without flashing on The Simpsons and their own debatable heritage of their town’s founder, whose motto 'embiggens' children to mediocrity. But really, and I say this as a former English major, 'embiggens' is the more accurate word for Bush to use. It’s a fake word for a dubious premise designed for applications intended to deceive. Yes, embiggens it is. Remember America: admitting mistakes and correcting them embiggens our enemies.

For those of you who remember Vietnam, or having spawned earlier and recall Korea, and before that China, you know we were told that the world was composed of Dominoes, and that if one fell it knocked them all down, and so the need was to prevent any of them from falling before the momentum built up and it became an unstoppable force of nature. There was a great deal wrong with this analogy, so it’s shocking to see Bush disinter the corpse. There are laws against desecration of the dead, but Bush doesn’t see laws as applicable to him.

First, the assumption was that all the dominoes were ours. This was based on one man’s view of the world, Henry Luce of Time Magazine. Luce was a child of Christian mercenaries…….I’m sorry, missionaries…. in China, and he viewed the millions of Chinese as on the verge of Christianity and therefore already ‘ours.’ This, it turns out in China, was bogus on its face, and Christianity with its highly dubious merits never competed with the innate corruptions of Our Dictator Chaing Kai Chek, who pandered shamelessly and embarrassingly but quite effectively to this source of overseas cash, which he pocketed and never shared with his nation or army. Unsurprisingly, he was walloped by the Red Army, but because he and his attractive wife were notional Christians, Luce and his minions – not unlike FoxNews and todays Dittoheads – screamed that China had been lost. China had never been ours to lose, but the simplistic descriptions plus the image of Christian martyrdom had legs in America, and the conservatives who’d failed to bring down Roosevelt used a newly Red China to attack his political heirs. The Democrats had lost China, don’t you know.

Thereinafter, Dems had to appear very tough in foreign policy. This was made easier when idiotic North Korea invaded the South, and we fought the war to a standstill against, eventually, Chinese soldiers and Soviet pilots. But since there was no victory, no conquered land, Korea too was held up as a defeat of the Democrats by the Republicans.

Continuing this sparkling success in Asia, when North Vietnam continued to support guerrilla units in the very corrupt South, the US sent advisors under Kennedy and then, under Johnson, hundreds of thousands of conscripted soldiers. Because since China had fallen and Korea almost fallen, if Vietnam fell, Japan was next and then Australia and eventually ….Fiji. The horror before us.

So. This is what the President will say today. "….one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens, whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like 'boat people,' 're-education camps' and 'killing fields.'" This is either the grotesque ignorance of the President or a deliberate lie. There’s evidence for either.

When we quit Vietnam under Nixon, Asia didn't go Communist, nor did our allies abandon us. Vietnam, in fact, went to war with her Communist allies. First, it invaded Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, where the killing fields were. Then it went to war against China, which had invaded it. Religions like communism really have never sufficed to keep the peace. Islam cannot unite Iraq any more than communism united Asia, or Christianity Europe. And the question is, if we had never gone to Vietnam, what would be different today? The wars between the Cambodians and Chinese and Vietnamese, and between China and Korea, are as common in Asian history as German and French and Russian wars are in Europe.

9-11 changed everything, is the Cheney response for the administration. But 9-11 has little or nothing to do with Iraq. We repeat the same mistakes. Militant Islam, like militant communism, is presented as a monolith because bovine American Christianity can’t handle any subtlety - by which I mean reality - in its moral universe. That’s why the “with us or against us” slogan resonates in empty noggins.