Post-War Bush Forgets Pre-War Bush’s ‘Lessons Of Vietnam’

Prior the Iraq war, George W. Bush claimed that he had learned some powerful lessons from the Vietnam war. Among those lessons were the fact that U.S. must be “slow to engage troops.” “We can never again ask the military to fight a political war,” Bush said, adding that “the cause must be just”:

A generation shaped by Vietnam must remember the lessons of Vietnam: When America uses force in the world, the cause must be just, the goal must be clear and the victory must be overwhelming. [Bush address to RNC convention, 8/4/00]

The Republican presidential front-runner also says he learned “the lesson of Vietnam.” “Our nation should be slow to engage troops. But when we do so, we must do so with ferocity. We must not go into a conflict unless we go in committed to win. We can never again ask the military to fight a political war,” Bush wrote. [AP, 11/15/99, reporting on Bush’s biography A Charge To Keep]

Forgetting entirely the lessons that he claimed to have learned from a war in which he did not serve, Bush invaded Iraq in March 2003 hastily, without just cause, and lacking a clear goal. For years, he maintained Iraq and Vietnam had no similarities. In April 2004, he said:

QUESTION: How do you answer the Vietnam comparison?

BUSH: I think the analogy is false. I also happen to think that analogy sends the wrong message to our troops, and sends the wrong message to the enemy.

Today, in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Bush accepted the fact that Vietnam does have lessons for Iraq. But the lesson, according to Bush, is that it is a mistake to pull out of a quagmire. “[O]ne unmistakable legacy of Vietnam,” Bush said, is that “the price of America’s withdrawal” is steep and painful. Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/08/bushvietnam3.320.240.flv]

Bush’s lessons learned from Vietnam have shifted as frequently as his justifications for staying in Iraq. With the present and the future course of Iraq on a disastrous course, Bush’s only alternative is to change history.

UPDATE: The Democratic Caucus has more information on Bush’s stance against Vietnam before he was for it. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s statement is here.