CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Pollster Scott Rasmussen has found a deep partisan divide exists over the Iraq-as-Vietnam theme. A vast majority of Republicans say there is no way to compare the two wars. Democrats, however, are struck by a sense of having heard it all before -- that the string of reports coming daily from U.S. military headquarters in Baghdad reads distressingly like it could have been scripted by the U.S. headquarters in Saigon during the 1960s and 1970s.
Rasmussen contacted 1,200 likely voters across the nation by telephone August 24-26. His polling began the day after President Bush raised the Vietnam echo in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars annual convention last week. Overall, 47% of Americans say Iraq is like Vietnam; 44% say not.
"Republicans, by a 61% to 29% comparison, say Iraq is not like Vietnam. Democrats, by a 59% to 33% margin, say they are similar. Forty-seven percent (47%) of voters say that our biggest mistake in Vietnam was getting involved in the first place. Forty-tow (42%) say the mistake was using the wrong strategy to accomplish the nation's goals. The numbers are strikingly similar for Iraq. Forty-nine percent *49%) say it was a mistake for the U.S. to get involved in the first place, while 41% say the wrong strategy was used."
A question: How many Americans alive today were actually around during the Vietnam era? That war ended in 1975 with a communist offensive that brought the fall of Saigon and the collapse of a U.S.-backed but remarkably ineffective South Vietnamese government, which struggled for years to gain popular support. American soldiers lost their lives in South Vietnam in places called Hamburger Hill and the Rockpile.
Here's what Phil Caputo, an author who served as a U.S. Marine officer in Vietnam, had to say about his escape from Saigon as it fell. The words are from Caputo's memoir, A Rumor Of War:
"My mind shot back a decade, to that day we had marched into Vietnam, swaggering, confident, and full of idealism. We had believed we were there for a high moral purpose. But somehow our idealism was lost, our morals corrupted and the purpose forgotten. . .
"There was some applause as the aircraft settled on the flight deck and as we filed out, a marine slapped me on the back and said, 'Welcome home. Bet you're glad to be out of there.' I was, of course. I asked him which outfit he was from. 'Ninth MEB,' he answered. The 9th Expeditionary Brigade, the same unit with which I had landed at Danang. But the men who belonged to it now seemed a good deal more cynical than we who had belonged to it ten years before. The marine looked at the faint blue line marking the Vietnamese coast and said, 'Well, that's one country we won't have to give billions of dollars to anymore.'
The next day -- April 30, 1975 -- that war officially ended.