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PAULA ZAHN NOW
Another Vietnam?; Interview With Former U.S. Senator Max Cleland
Aired March 14, 2007 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody. Glad to have you with us tonight.
As the U.S. forces begin their fifth year on duty in Iraq, a new debate is out in the open tonight. More and more people are asking the question: Is Iraq a hopeless quagmire? Is it another Vietnam?
So, during this special hour, we're going to take a hard look at that question. We have brought together some really interesting people with diverse points of view and stories you will remember.
Let's get started right now.
Obviously, Iraq and Vietnam are different countries with vastly different histories, and the United States itself is very different now than it was back in the 1960s and '70s. But, you know, there are some unsettling similarities between the wars in Iraq and Vietnam: a loss of popular support, a definition of victory that seems unclear, and a commitment of time, money and especially lives that seems unending.
It shouldn't be surprising, then, that, in a recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, a clear majority, 58 percent, said the war in Iraq has turned into a situation like Vietnam.
We asked Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr to sort out specific ways they are different and the same.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Saddam Hussein's regime fell in early April of 2003, it seemed Iraq was going according to plan. Commanders hoped American troops would be home within a year.
But, four years later, they are still not home. And the long, grinding fight against shadowy enemies evokes visions of Vietnam. But not all the lessons learned in that long-ago conflict apply in Iraq.
COLONEL THOMAS HAMMES (RET.), U.S. MARINES: Very, very different types of enemies. In Vietnam, we had a monolithic communistic insurgency. In Iraq, we have a coalition of the willing, much harder to fight, much, much more difficult.
You have got Sunni secular. You have got Sunni fundamentals. You have got Shia fundamentalists. You have got Shia nationalists. You have got criminal elements. You have got foreign fighters.
STARR: Vietnam veteran and Virginia Senator James Webb says, nobody should be surprised that all those Iraqi groups would try to benefit after the fall of Saddam.
SEN. JIM WEBB (D), VIRGINIA: A guerrilla war in Iraq was totally predictable from the beginning, and totally predicted.
STARR: While both Iraq and Vietnam can be called guerrilla conflicts, one was fought in the jungle. The other is being fought in the cities -- both wars frustrating for American troops, whose technological superiority was not enough to end either conflict.
But many of the troops in Vietnam were draftees, and there were many more of them than there are in Iraq. By 1968, there were more than half-a-million troops in Vietnam. In Iraq, at the peak, in January 2005, there were 159,000 troops -- but, in both wars, a tremendous human toll.
(on camera): It is here, at Arlington National Cemetery, that the two wars are joined in the nation's history. Just steps from the graves of men who fought and died in Vietnam, this is Section 60, where many of the young troops recently killed in Iraq are now buried. Some of these graves are still awaiting tombstones.
(voice-over): More than 58,000 died in the Vietnam conflict. Nearly 3,200 are now dead in the Iraq war -- in Vietnam, more than 150,000 wounded. In Iraq, more than 20,000 have been wounded.
Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.
ZAHN: And, after the first Gulf War, and when he was still chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell, a Vietnam veteran, came up with several questions he said should be asked before U.S. troops are ever committed to war. They became known as the Powell doctrine.
We are going to take a look at them right now. They seem like good measuring sticks for both Iraq and Vietnam: Is the mission clearly defined and unambiguous? Can force be effectively combined with diplomacy? Have all other nonviolent policies failed? Is there enough military force to achieve the objective? And have we considered and prepared for the consequences?
Clearly, there are many questions still to sort out about how we handled Vietnam, how we're handling Iraq.
And here to help us try to sort them out are CNN's military analysts, Brigadier General David Grange, who served in Vietnam, Brigadier General James "Spider" Marks, who fought in Iraq, and Major General Don Shepperd, who served in Vietnam and is the author "Bury Us Upside Down: The Misty Pilots and the Secret Battle for the Ho Chi Minh Trail."
Great to have all three of you with us tonight, gentlemen.
I am going to start with you, General Shepperd, since I introduced you last.
You were in Vietnam. How much of that experience are we reliving right now, militarily?
MAJOR GENERAL DONALD SHEPPERD (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Oh, we're reliving some of it, Paula.
Sixty-seven and '68 is when I was there, at the height of the war, during the Tet Offensive. But it was totally different from the type of combat that is going on now. We were at war against a nation state supported by two superpowers, China, and the Soviet Union at that time. We had forces in the field, armies attacking armies. It's different than the insurgency we're facing in Baghdad right now, Paula.
ZAHN: General Grange, very quickly, let's talk about some of the fundamental differences in the terrain between Vietnam and Iraq. Pretty obvious, isn't it?
BRIGADIER GENERAL DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, the terrain is pretty obvious, but I think that the enemy is quite adaptable to using that terrain to their advantage, whether it be jungle or urban terrain.
And you're fighting the same type of techniques, where they used the advantage of booby traps in Vietnam, same thing, really, in Iraq with IEDs and EFPs.
ZAHN: More on some of the differences now with General Marks.
What kind of an impact did it have and a difference to have the draft that we saw during the Vietnam War, something we don't have now?
BRIGADIER GENERAL JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, clearly, Paula, with the draft, the argument has been made that America contributed, and America contributed equally across the board.
We know that that's really not the case. There were so many qualifiers to those that would serve as a result of the draft.
But what you see with the soldiers in the Marines and all the service members today is that they, as volunteers, clearly have some of the finest training. This is the best military that we have ever put together. It far outshines any military that we have ever put in the field. But this enemy that we are fighting, as David has described, is extremely adaptive.
ZAHN: I want to put up some poll numbers now for all of you to analyze measuring public opinion about this poll -- about this war.
When asked what the most likely outcome for the U.S. in Iraq will be, only 27 percent of those polled think we will be victorious. Fifty percent believe there will be a stalemate, meaning we could be in this war for years to come.
Is this a winnable war, General Shepperd?
SHEPPERD: Well, it's winnable in the sense that we're going to be able to get out, and perhaps leave an Iraq and an Iraqi government that can survive, and an Iraqi military that can keep peace within its own borders. That's going to be the victory that we're looking at.
But it won't be a traditional victory, where there are parades and a clear victory on either side, Paula. So, that makes it very difficult for the public to continue support of this war, when they don't see light at end of the tunnel, when they don't see progress. That's what makes it difficult.
ZAHN: Is that how you see victory, General Grange, a government in Iraq that survives?
GRANGE: Well, survives and -- and can establish rule of law and provide protection and freedom for the -- for the people of Iraq, a very hard task.
You know, most insurgencies -- and this is an insurgency, obviously -- take at least 10 years to be successful. I'm afraid we may not have the patience for that. And, if that's the case, then we won't win.
ZAHN: Back to the Vietnam War, General Marks. Could that war have been won militarily, eventually?
MARKS: Very difficult to say. I mean, this is looking in the rearview mirror.
Many would say that there was a -- there was an element of victory, in that we have been able to normalize a relationship in Vietnam. But what it -- what you always have to remember is that conflicts like this have such an incredible personal sacrifice that's made. So, it becomes very, very difficult, with the amount of loss that we all suffered in Vietnam, to try to look at it agnostically at this point and say victory was available, victory was within our grasp.
Certainly, there are things that could have been done, if we had been able to work with the -- the government in Vietnam, and understanding that Hanoi was a government in being, and they had three decades to establish an infrastructure in the south to use to their advantage. So, certainly, it was an extremely difficult task that we put our military in back in the '60s.
ZAHN: General Marks, General Grange, General Shepperd, thank you, all. Always good to have you with us.
SHEPPERD: Thanks, Paula.
ZAHN: Moving on now to a man who lost three limbs in Vietnam, now says his vote for the Iraq war was the worst vote he ever cast, and he is haunted by it to this day. Former Senator Max Cleland, whose blood is boiling, joins me next.
And, then, a little bit later on in our special hour: veterans who served in both Vietnam and Iraq. It's a perspective you rarely ever hear, but, tonight, we will bring it out in the open.
We will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD B. CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Commentators enjoy pointing out mistakes through the perceptive power of hindsight.
But the biggest mistake of all can be seen in advance. A sudden withdrawal of our coalition would dissipate much of the effort that's gone into fighting the global war on terror, and result in chaos and mounting danger.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Welcome back to our special "Out in the Open" hour on whether the Iraq war has turned into another Vietnam.
My next guest fought in Vietnam and served on the Senate Armed Services Committee as the U.S. moved towards war with Iraq. At Khe Sanh in 1968, a grenade took Max Cleland's legs and one of his arms. In the 1970s, he was in charge of the Veterans Administration under President Carter. And he was elected to the Senate in 1996 as a Democrat from Georgia.
He voted in favor of the Iraq war, but now says it is the worst vote he ever cast.
Former Senator Max Cleland joins us tonight.
Always good to see you, sir. Welcome.
MAX CLELAND (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Thanks, Paula.
ZAHN: I wanted to start off tonight by playing something Senator John McCain had to say today about the war in Iraq on the Senate floor. Let's listen together.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Iraq is not Vietnam, Mr. President.
We were able to walk away from Vietnam. If we walk away from Iraq now, we risk a failed state in the heart of the Middle East, a haven for international terrorists, an invitation to regional war in this economically vital area, and a humanitarian disaster that could involve millions of people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: So, you just heard what John McCain said: This is not the Vietnam War.
But you say this is the Vietnam War on steroids. Why?
CLELAND: Yes, it is. It is the Vietnam War on steroids.
As a matter of fact, may I just say that John McCain is my brother and my friend, and I trust my life to him, but we have a difference of opinion here. We had hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese come and be willing to die to take out Americans.
You have a guerrilla war here in Iraq that is like that. First of all, neither -- neither commander in chief, neither Lyndon Johnson nor President Bush, thought there would be significant casualties. Secondly, near secretary of defense, near McNamara nor Rumsfeld, put in enough troops initially to secure the battlefield.
And why is that important? Because you have got to isolate the guerrilla, or else, as they say in guerrilla warfare, if the guerrilla doesn't lose, he wins. So, you never isolated the battlefield in Vietnam. You're not isolating the battlefield in Iraq. And, so, therefore, the guerrilla continues to win.
And, ultimately, we will go home. We're not going to make Iraq the 51st state. We couldn't make Vietnam the 51st state. So, here's -- here's our forces out there, four years down the road, getting killed and blown up and maimed.
ZAHN: How guilty do those of you feel about authorizing this war?
CLELAND: I feel terribly guilty. This is not in the national security interests of the United States to have the American ground forces engaged in Iraq, up against 25 million Iraqis.
It's the Iraqis that are killing Americans. Al Qaeda is in there to a certain extent, but it's the Iraqi people that don't want us there. We're the foreigners, just like we were the foreigners in Vietnam.
ZAHN: So, sir, what do you think is the most powerful lesson of Vietnam that this administration hasn't learned?
CLELAND: That we should not commit American military ground forces into another country, especially to take out a regime, and expect anything other than total chaos, which is what we have created in Iraq. So, we misjudged Iraq because we did not learn the strategic lessons of Vietnam.
ZAHN: Do you think the war in Iraq can ever be won?
CLELAND: No. Western powers don't fight wars of attrition well. The United States doesn't fight wars of attrition well. We had a 10-year war in Vietnam, and, ultimately, the cost was not worth the candle. Having been through that personally, and paid a price for it, I can tell you, this is like going through Vietnam for me again.
And my fellow Vietnam veterans, they say, you know -- you know, Iraq is Vietnam without water. So, for us, it's deja vu all over again. And -- and the -- the crime is, the grief part of this is that we're making the same mistakes by not gauging the enemy, understanding what guerrillas can do for you.
When you have people that are willing to step out in front of you and die just to take you out, you're in a guerrilla war, and you can't win it. This president thought you could go in and take out Saddam Hussein, and everything would be fine.
No. Absolute chaos and hell broke loose. And that's exactly what we have got now. And we're in deep trouble. And we -- we -- we really have a disaster on our hands. And it's time to end it.
ZAHN: Senator Max Cleland, thank you for your time. Really appreciate it.
CLELAND: Thank you.
ZAHN: And we have also found some people who can easily compare Iraq with Vietnam, like the senator was just talking about. They are veterans who served in both wars. We're going to bring their stories out in the open next.
And, then, a little bit later on in our special hour, Jeff Greenfield compares America's culture of today with that of the Vietnam era.
Please stay with us.
ZAHN: We continue our "Out in the Open" special hour, "Another Vietnam?"
Those who do survive have to live with the emotional pain of war for the rest of their lives. We're about to meet some people who can tell you exactly what that is like for two wars. Their military careers included service both in Vietnam and Iraq.
Deborah Feyerick listened as they told their stories of what they faced on the ground, and then when they came home.
SERGEANT FRED MAROTTA, VIETNAM AND IRAQ VETERAN: When I went to Vietnam, I didn't even know where the hell it was. I couldn't have pointed it out to you on a map.
When we got to Iraq, we had 90 days, 100 days of training. We knew where we were going before we even left this country.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Staff Sergeant Fred Marotta knows a lot about Vietnam and Iraq. He served in both wars, in Vietnam in 1968 as a Marine fixing Phantom jets, in Iraq last year, with Virginia's National Guard, servicing Black Hawk helicopters.
(on camera): You were 20 then. You're 60 now.
FEYERICK: The young man you saw today going out to fly these missions...
FEYERICK: ... what was similar to the kind of guy that you were at the time?
MAROTTA: They had the same bravado. They were ready to do their job.
This is -- this is my favorite picture of myself.
MAROTTA: You know, full of you-know-what and vinegar, right?
FEYERICK: I mean, you look like you own the world right there.
MAROTTA: Yes. And -- and...
FEYERICK: Did you ever question what you were doing in Vietnam? Did you ever question what war you were fighting there?
MAROTTA: No, ma'am.
FEYERICK: Did you ever question the war in Iraq...
FEYERICK (voice-over): Another Vietnam veteran in Iraq last year, 58-year-old DeWayne Browning, he was just 21 when he kissed his pregnant wife goodbye and shipped out to fly medevac helicopters and rescue wounded soldiers in Vietnam.
DEWAYNE BROWNING, VIETNAM AND IRAQ VETERAN: Iraq is not a Vietnam with sand. It's completely different.
FEYERICK: It's also a different kind of fight, says the soft- spoken California veteran.
BROWNING: In Vietnam, the enemy was concealed a lot of times by triple canopy jungle. We didn't have the -- the threat, the missile threat, like you did in -- in Iraq.
FEYERICK: In fact, small-arms fire in Vietnam was the number-one cause of death for U.S. soldiers. In Iraq, it's bomb blasts from improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.
MAROTTA: We called them booby traps. And we called it incoming in Vietnam. Now they call it improvised explosive devices, IEDs and IDF, indirect fire. Hell, it's incoming. I don't care what you call it.
FEYERICK: At the height of Vietnam, some 543,000 troops were in country, facing hundreds of thousands of Vietcong and North Vietnamese.
In Iraq, before the surge, there were 185,000 Americans facing an estimated 20,000 insurgents.
MAROTTA: The -- the problem is, you can't tell the enemy from the good guy. It could be their next-door neighbor.
FEYERICK: And that takes its toll. In Vietnam, an average of 19 Americans were killed every day for eight years. In Iraq, the average is two soldiers a day.
MAROTTA: Now, the difference now is, we have more soldiers and Marines returning that have lost limbs. In Vietnam, they would have died.
FEYERICK: In Iraq, one in four troops suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, even higher than in Vietnam.
BROWNING: One of the things we didn't learn -- and I think I touched on this before -- I really think we just -- we didn't understand the people and the culture and their willingness to -- to wage a war in Vietnam. And I think we -- I think we -- we made the same mistake initially in Iraq.
FEYERICK: Perhaps the greatest difference, say the dual war veterans, is the homecoming. When Browning returned from Vietnam:
BROWNING: It was a hollow, empty feeling, because nobody was there. There was not one person there to greet you.
FEYERICK: Forty years later:
BROWNING: The reaction of American people was so much different than it was in Vietnam, after Vietnam. A little old lady came up and just gave me a hug at the airport, and said, "Thank you for what you're doing," you know? And that -- that really kind of choked me up.
FEYERICK: History may have made that right. But one thing may not change.
BROWNING: I began my military career with an unpopular war. And I guess I'm going to -- I'm going to end it that way, too.
FEYERICK: Deborah Feyerick, CNN, Washington.
ZAHN: Ilario Pantano is a former United States Marine lieutenant who has been on the ground in Iraq, and has written a provocative bestseller called "Warlord: No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy" about his experiences there.
ILARIO PANTANO, AUTHOR, "WARLORD: NO BETTER FRIEND, NO WORSE ENEMY": Thank you so much, Paula.
ZAHN: You have heard a number of Vietnam vets, including Senator Max Cleland, describe that they feel like they are reliving their Vietnam War experience through this war in Iraq.
What are the similarities you see?
PANTANO: Oh, I -- I think that there are several in the -- the way that Iraq has become the four-letter word for Vietnam.
But I think that Senator Cleland's remarks were particularly haunting, given his sacrifice, because, on the one hand, he feels tremendous pain and empathy for what's happening. And, on the other hand, his remarks and his actions are actually fueling a lot of the political division that is weakening our effort.
ZAHN: And -- and what do you mean by that?
ZAHN: What is he doing that -- that's spurring that on?
PANTANO: I think that there are some -- some very -- and I -- and I don't mean to diminish his motivations. I think that anybody who served his country with the honor and the distinction that he has, has every right to express himself. And I think that that comes from the best of intentions.
But I think that there is a political game of schadenfreude, where they are entrenched oppositions to various policies that, sadly, often delight when the other party fails. And you saw that, certainly, in Vietnam. He lived that firsthand 30 years ago. And, in a weird twist of irony , he now is on the other end of that.
ZAHN: So, to what extent do you really think politicians have compromised what is happening militarily in Iraq?
PANTANO: I think that the -- the blame for the decay of public sentiment can be... (CROSSTALK)
ZAHN: And we should make it clear that Max Cleland is not in power now.
PANTANO: That's -- that's correct, and a very important point.
But I think that the blame for -- in fact, I think that the reason we're even having this program tonight, asking the question, is this another Vietnam, can be apportioned fairly across not just politicos and generals, but, certainly, the media bears a -- a level of responsibility, as does the American people and their ambivalence and -- and their antipathy.
We do have a professional military fighting this fight. And I think that that's allowed the large majority of the population to become bored and disengaged. And now they are no longer understanding why.
And I just want to point out, we have seen some unbelievable statistics tonight comparing Vietnam casualty rates, numbers of troops in country.
ZAHN: Chilling numbers.
PANTANO: I would agree.
But what we haven't seen is, what's so interesting is that Vietnam, geographically, was insignificant compared to Iraq. And, yet, we committed five times the resources for five times as long, with five times the casualty rate. And, here, we're talking about Iraq, which is almost the crossroads of the Middle East and the center of our energy concerns, and we're -- we're uncomfortable to do anything similar.
ZAHN: You say the American public perhaps bears part of the blame.
That is one similarity with the Vietnam War, when the public tide turned. The -- the American public today, when polled, two-thirds of them will say they are adamantly opposed this war. They are engaged. They don't like this war.
How does that affect those men and women on the ground in Iraq?
PANTANO: I have to say, Paula, I -- I am so grateful that we still have men and women that are volunteering to do the hard thing, even when it's unpopular and when it's hard.
I mean, maybe I should rephrase that: especially when it's unpopular and hard. If George Washington had listened to his generals at Valley Forge complaining of men with frozen feet, or the colonists, two-thirds of which who wanted to give up, we would probably be doing this interview on the BBC, instead of CNN.
I say we have to push. ZAHN: Always good to see you.
PANTANO: Thank you so much.
ZAHN: Thank you so much your time tonight, Ilario Pantano.
When it comes to the home front, is Iraq another Vietnam? Coming up, we're going to take you back from today's computer-connected generation to the wild days of the '60s, and look at the media's role in covering the war, something Ilario just touched upon -- more when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people, and it is unacceptable to me. Our troops in Iraq have fought bravely. They have done everything we have asked them to do. Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: And the question we are bringing out in the open tonight is whether Iraq has become another Vietnam. Judging by these polls you might say a lot of Americans think so. In 1970, 23 percent of Americans said the U.S. should get all troops out of Vietnam immediately, 25 percent said within a year. Well, last December in a CNN Opinion Research poll almost the same thing. Twenty-one percent said we should get the troops out of Iraq immediately and 33 percent (sic) said within a year, but during Vietnam the peace movement became a major political force in the U.S. Anti-war protesters filled the streets and certainly grabbed all the headlines. So why aren't we seeing that now? Here's senior analyst Jeff Greenfield.
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN ANALYST (voice-over): Two wars a generation apart. Two wars where the early promise of success faded. Two wars that dealt political wounds to the men in charge and far heavier wounds to those who did what the leaders asked of them.
(on camera): But tempting as it is, the drawing of parallels here is just too simplistic, especially when we look at how the wars played out at home. These wars were launched, fought and argued under very different circumstances with very different results.
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Don't go! Don't go! Don't go!
GREENFIELD (voice-over): When the Vietnam War escalated in 1965, there was a draft in place. For millions of young American males the expansion of the war was potentially a life-and-death issue.
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Hell no, we won't go! GREENFIELD: And in the mix of politics and self-interest helped produce massive anti-war demonstrations that were a constant presence on the American scene, far more than today.
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Stop the war!
GREENFIELD: And at times, some of these protests turned radical, confrontational. There were flags in the Viet Cong, chants of Ho Chi Minh. The protests also seemed part of a broader cultural movement against mainstream America.
GREENFIELD: In Vietnam era, for example, the anti-war message was embedded in songs like Bob Dylan's "Blowing in the Wind" and "Masters of War."
GREENFIELD: Or Phil Ochs' "I Ain't Marching Anymore." Or Country Joe and the Fish."
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT: Prevent a communist takeover.
GREENFIELD: This in turn gave President Nixon a powerful political argument that he used to rally the great silent majority. Today, no one marches in the streets with portraits of Saddam Hussein or Osama Bin Laden. Indeed in this war, some of the strongest objections have come from those such as Virginia Senator Jim Webb, a decorated Vietnam War veteran.
SEN. JIM WEBB, (D) VA: The president took us into this war recklessly.
GREENFIELD: Or Richard Clarke who once led the White House anti- terrorism effort.
RICHARD CLARKE, FORMER WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL: The White House is papering over facts.
GREENFIELD: Or conservative Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel.
SEN. CHUCK HAGEL, (R) NE: The most divisive issue in this country since Vietnam.
GREENFIELD: All of whom argue that Iraq has been a diversion from the broader effort against our adversaries.
Today a comment by the lead singer of the Dixie Chicks on a foreign tour some year back counts as a major cultural mark of musical dissent.
JON STEWART, "THE DAILY SHOW": Now, with the president away, will the Democrats stage a palace revolt? GREENFIELD: It's sources like "The Daily Show."
STEPHEN COLBERT, "COLBERT REPORT": We can't solve the rest of the world's problems until we solve all of our own.
GREENFIELD: Or "The Colbert Report" that provide the sharpest jabs.
In other words, this has been a dissent more from the center than from the left, not protests that can be identified in any way with those who wish this country ill or who regard it with disdain or contempt. But for all the differences there is this common thread.
In both cases the growing doubts about the origins, conduct and cost of the wars stem from one key source, the fact that the war simply did not go as those in charge promised.
In this sense at least nothing much has changed. Absent a clear understanding of a war's purpose and a clear sense that it's succeeding Americans are just not a patient wartime people. Jeff Greenfield, CNN, New York.
ZAHN: And I want to turn now to one of the best known peace activists from the Vietnam era, Tom Hayden was one of the Chicago Seven arrested in the protests during the Democratic Convention in 1968. He traveled to Vietnam and Cambodia during the war. He now teaches in at Pitzer College in California.
Good to see you. Welcome.
TOM HAYDEN, ANTI-WAR ACTIVIST: Thank you.
ZAHN: So it is so difficult for us to forget those polarizing images from the 1960s given that two-thirds of the American public today is opposed to this war, why haven't we seen, in your judgment, those kind of massive demonstrations unfold?
HAYDEN: Well, I've done a study of that question myself, and I think -- I was surprised by the results.
I've reported them in this little book that I've done, but the fact is that there have been eight times since the beginning of the Iraq War, Paula, when 100,000 people showed up for demonstrations. Several of those occasions, more than 300,000, maybe 600,000.
Secondly, there have been 165 city council resolutions passed against the Iraq War. Third, the Gallup Poll shows more people coming to the conclusion that Iraq was a mistake than they did in the Gallup Polls in 1960s, even though more people were dying in Vietnam.
The Internet has had something to do with it. A group like Move On can raise $20 million for anti-war activity. Howard dean got 48 percent in New Hampshire. He was the Eugene McCarthy of that year. McCarthy got 42 percent, so I think there's a major misperception going on in the media, but there is an anti-war movement, and it is a factor that politicians have had to pay some attention to.
The November 6th ...
ZAHN: Do you really think there's a misperception there, Tom ...
HAYDEN: Yeah. I do.
ZAHN: ...Or is there an anti-establishment passion more muted than what we saw in the 60s?
HAYDEN: No. Well, you have ...
ZAHN: How angry are you about this war?
HAYDEN: You have Jeff Greenfield, he was working for Bobby Kennedy. Now he's working for CNN. So the walls are down, and a lot of people are inside the system, but the fact is that election, November of last year, was the first time I know of in American history where a majority of voters voted against a war, against an incumbent president's war while the war was going on, so if you define the anti-war movement as people burning draft cards, well, there's no draft. Bloggers are not as visual as draft-card burners.
HAYDEN: But if you define it as broad public opposition including mass demonstrations, lobbying and advocacy, I think it's very comparable, and the media has something to do with this.
The first demonstration over 100,000, I need to remind you, both the "New York Times" and NPR claimed virtually that it didn't have to happen, didn't occur, didn't notice it, and they had to apologize the following week. That was in October 2002.
ZAHN: All right.
HAYDEN: I think people are uncomfortable with the idea that anybody in the streets has something to do with foreign policy, but ...
ZAHN: All right.
HAYDEN: It's happened. It's happening again.
ZAHN: We, unfortunately, got to move on. Tom Hayden, thanks so much for your time tonight.
HAYDEN: Thank you.
ZAHN: Always appreciate you dropping by. Officials from President Bush on down complain that the news media only focuses on the horrors and frustrations in Iraq. Was Vietnam any different, and is the criticism on target then or now? "Out in the Open" next, the media and the message.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ZAHN: Americans watched the Vietnam War unfold on the evening news. We watch the Iraq War on 24-hour cable.
Welcome back it our special hour, "Another Vietnam". Right now, Howard Kurtz, host of CNN's RELIABLE SOURCES, who covers the media for the "Washington Post," looks at some striking similarities between coverage of the two wars and some critical differences.
LYNDON JOHNSON, FORMER PRESIDENT: On this Monday morning in Vietnam, at my direction ...
HOWARD KURTZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When President Johnson began his Vietnam escalation in 1965, the media coverage was generally supportive. There was a Cold War on, and saving South Vietnam from Ho Chi Minh's forces in the North was seen as part of the larger battle against communism.
When president bush launched the invasion of Iraq in 2003 casting it as part of a larger battle of terror after 9/11 the media generally cheered as Saddam Hussein was toppled.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But for the time Baghdad belongs to the people.
KURTZ: And when Bush landed on an aircraft carrier with a "Mission Accomplished" banner, he got positively glowing coverage.
BUSH: The United States and our allies have prevailed.
KURTZ: And few journalists questioned the camera-ready spectacle.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's great theater. The president is entitled to theater. He wins a war. Why shouldn't he have a triumphant return.
KURTZ: Did news organizations persuade millions of Americans that the wars were lost causes or simply reflect public impatience with the lack of progress?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People were moved from Viet Cong areas.
KURTZ: Vietnam was called the first living room war.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can see the tank. They opened up on the tank.
KURTZ: Though it took at least a day to fly the film out of Saigon for processing, but the close-up footage of that jungle war.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The struggle for the hearts of the people remains in doubt.
KURTZ: Seemed at odds with what General William Westmoreland claimed to see, the light at the end of the tunnel.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At home protests against the war persisted.
KURTZ: And when Walter Cronkite returned from Vietnam with a pessimistic assessment it was a turning point.
WALTER CRONKITE, FORMER NEWS ANCHOR: To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic if unsatisfactory conclusion.
KURTZ: Some critics have blamed the media for undermining the Vietnam War effort.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Viet Cong strike when they feel success is assured.
KURTZ: It's probably more accurate to say that news organizations acted as a catalyst. For a frustrated public that ultimately concluded the war was unwinnable.
With Iraq, unlike Vietnam, there was a sustained presidential campaign to sell the war before a single bomb was dropped.
BUSH: Saddam Hussein is a homicidal dictator who is addicted to weapons of mass destruction.
KURTZ: But there were no weapons of mass destruction, and many news organizations felt duped.
That undoubtedly increased journalistic skepticism when the administration claimed progress is being made in Iraq, despite the near daily pictures of car bombs and suicide attacks. And unlike in Vietnam, today's technology carries those images into our living rooms in near real-time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: American Bradleys fire at suspicious objects.
KURTZ: Indeed, much of the reporting on the war-ravaged nation is done from heavily armed compounds in Baghdad. What the reporters were able to see and able to report to the folks back home was often death and destruction and public support for the war dropped precipitously in 2006.
Still, administration officials kept charging that news organizations were painting far too negative a picture of the situation in Iraq.
DONALD RUMSFELD, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I find almost every day, I see all kinds of mythology repeated in the press, day after day of things that never happened.
That is just false. Just a minute. That is false.
BUSH: So we're deploying reinforcements of more than 20,000 additional ... KURTZ: By the time President Bush announced after the mid-term elections and Rumsfeld's resignation he was sending an additional 21,000 troops to Iraq, he acknowledged that the war plan was not working, just as journalists had long been reporting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As the battle raged, panic swept Saigon.
KURTZ: Another echo, perhaps, of Vietnam. Howard Kurtz, CNN, Washington.
ZAHN: And it is important to point out that 96 journalists have been killed covering the war in Iraq.
Throughout this hour we have seen both similarities and differences between Iraq and Vietnam, so which way does the scale finally come down? Is history repeating it self? My next guests have very different and perhaps the most provocative opinions we've heard so far. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY, (D) MA: In Vietnam, the White House grew increasingly obsessed with victory, and increasingly divorced from the will of the people and any rational policy.
The Department of Defense kept assuring us that each new escalation in Vietnam would be the last. Instead, each one led only to the next.
Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam.
As with Vietnam, the only rational solution to the crisis is political, not military. Injecting more troops into a civil war is not the answer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Welcome back to our special "Out in the Open" hour, "Another Vietnam?"
We are looking at the similarities and the differences between the war America lost in Vietnam and the war some say we're losing right now in Iraq. Joining me now, Dinesh D'Souza, a former aide in the Reagan White House and the author of seven books, the eighth one probably coming out soon, including "The Enemy at Home: the Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11."
And Kenneth Walsh, White House correspondent for "U.S. News & World Report" who has covered every president since Ronald Reagan.
So Dinesh, in 2003 Senator McCain cautioned against losing popular support for the war in Iraq by alluding to what happened to what happened in the Vietnam War and let's listen to what he said.
Actually, I'm going to read it for you.
"The American press and the American public saw our leaders talk about the 'light at the end of the tunnel' that did not exist during the Vietnam War. We can win the war in Iraq but not if we lose popular support in the United States."
Well, the fact is two-thirds of the American public is against this war. Is Iraq another Vietnam?
DINESH D'SOUZA, AUTHOR, "THE ENEMY AT HOME": Well, I think as a practical matter they are very different. One of the important differences is that we really cannot afford to lose the Iraq War. When America lost the Vietnam War a generation ago, it was very bad for the people over there. It was a big bloodbath ...
ZAHN: Does popular support mean anything in this equation, though, given the fact ...
D'SOUZA: Popular support is ultimately critical to success in any war. I think the failure here in the Iraq War has been to explain the stakes involved. The radical Muslims already control Iran and they have for a generation. They are very eager to get their hands on Iraq, and they have themselves said if they do they will target Egypt and Saudi Arabia, so unlike Vietnam which was far away over there and the loss didn't matter to us ultimately that much over here, I think a loss of Iraq will make a big difference to our way of life and to our security.
ZAHN: Kenneth, how do you view this?
KENNETH WALSH, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": Well, I think that this -- what Dinesh says I think is accurate as far as the perception of the stakes from those who are arguing in favor of keeping our involvement there. But one thing I think we have to realize is with Vietnam, we had four American presidents who dealt with Vietnam, Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
Right now we're at start of the late '60s phase of where the Vietnam War was. Our American public seems to have turned very solidly against the war in Iraq, but increasingly in Washington and around the country and historians and people, reporter in the field, are using the word "quagmire" and "morass" to describe Iraq, so if you look at the Vietnam parallel, we have a long way to go before this is settled.
The nature of a quagmire is that it's very difficult to get out of it, and so I think the question now is despite all the efforts on Capitol Hill to find some solution and to try to find some way out, I think we're going to be living with this situation for years to come, and I think it will be the next president who has to deal with what the next steps will be.
ZAHN: Dinesh, we just have a short time left. Getting out of it is one thing and declaring victory is another. Is this war in Iraq winnable?
D'SOUZA: I think it is a winnable war. Unlike in Vietnam where you had a million men on the other side and the United States was trying to prop up a very unpopular puppet-type government.
Here in Iraq you have an insurgency that numbers 20,000, 25,000 and the United States is supported an elected government. The majority of the Shia people are on our side, as are the Kurds who are wildly pro-American, and then you add American wealth and American technology and military training, the dynamics on the ground are very different.
This is a winnable war, and I'm worried we're losing it not so much in Iraq as we're losing it in the American mind and in the corridors of Congress.
ZAHN: Dinesh D'Souza, Kenneth Walsh, thanks so much for your time tonight. We're going to take a short break. We'll be right back.
ZAHN: Time to take a quick "Biz Break." The Dow fought hard to finish 57 points higher, the NASDAQ gained 21, the S&P up nine.
Hewlett-Packard's former chairwoman is no longer facing charges in HP's boardroom spying scandal. Patricia Dunn is fighting breast cancer. A judge in California cited that in dismissing the charges against her today.
Some new and really scary warning labels are going on 13 popular sleep drugs including Ambien and Lunesta. The Food and Drug Administration took that step today. Some patients have reported strange, even dangerous behavior while on the drugs, including driving while asleep, cooking while asleep and eating while asleep.
That's wraps it up for all of us tonight. Thanks so much for dropping by. Tomorrow a special hour on secrets that are ruining lives. People will die rather than bring their addictions "Out in the Open." We hope you join us for "Hooked: When You Can't Stop." Thanks again for joining us tonight.
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