Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Iraq and Vietnam
I'm sure many of you have already seen this, but Noam Chomsky wrote an interesting piece a while ago saying the situation in Iraq was not at all similar to the Vietnam war. There are some good points in it, but I certainly find that when ever I read about the Vietnam War it sounds like something from today's headlines. Although I think Chomsky is somewhat right in the sense that "you never step in the same river twice", history does repeat itself. And repeat itself. And repeat itself. For instance the other day I was reading an article "Vietnam and the Dynamics of Guerrilla War" written by historian Eric Hobsbawm in 1965. At this early time, well before the height of the anti-war protests, Hobsbawm predicted the US would lose the war in Vietnam because they had not learned the lessons from the French in Algeria. It's interesting reading, so I thought I'd take the trouble of typing it out. Read it and see if you can't see any parallels today.

"What remains in such a situation are illusions and terror. The rationalizations of today's Washington policy were all anticipated in Algeria. We were told by French official spokesmen that the ordinary Algerian was on the side of France, or if not actually pro-French, that he wanted only peace and quiet but was terrorized by the FLN. We were told, practically once a week, that the situation had improved, that it was now stabilized, that another month should see the forces of order regain the initiative, that all they needed was another few thousand soldiers and another few million francs. We were told that the rebellion would soon die down, once it was deprived of its foreign sanctuary and source of supplies. ... We were told that if only the great centre of Moslem subversion in Cairo could be eliminated, everything would be all right. ... In the last stages we were told that there might just conceivably be some people who really wanted to get rid of the French, but since the FLN obviously did not represent the Algerian people, but only a gang of ideological infiltrators, it would be grossly unfair to the Algerians to negotiate with them. We were told about the minorities which had to be protected against terror. ... What was the result? Algeria is today governed by the FLN."

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