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Ex-Iraq General: Bush 'misunderstanding' Vietnam history
Published: Thursday August 23, 2007

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MSNBC's Alison Stewart interviews retired Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, senior adviser to VoteVets, who was in charge of training the Iraqi military in 2003 and 2004.

Alison asks Gen. Eaton his take on the accuracy of President Bush's recent statement, during his Wednesday speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, that retreating from Iraq would cause the same kind of "violent reaction" that came from the United States' pullout from Vietnam.

"It's a very unfortunate trip back into history," says Eaton. "It reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of what the Vietnam war was about. Our enemy there was the North Vietnamese Army and their proxy forces, the Viet Cong.

The issue in Iraq is a religious-based civil war with al-Qaeda thrown in there to complicate the affair."

Eaton calls Bush's analogy "unfortunate," citing "untidy parallels" between the behaviors of senior civilian leadership in Vietnam and Iraq. There is a failure on the part of the Bush Administration to devote diplomatic resources, in addition to fighting troops, to help the current situation.

On statements from Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri about the United States' pullout from Vietnam as a sign of weakness, Stewart asks if this is reason enough to "hold firm," to not give al-Qaeda "fuel for recruitment."

Eaton reiterates the need for a "diplomatic surge" to, as he puts it, "put this thing in a regional context and to unweight the American soldier."

"We can't conduct a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq. This has got to be a very gradual affair: Drawing down forces, taking them out of the direct line of fire, yet retaining forces to fight al-Qaeda, retaining forces to support the Iraqi security forces -- but all the while getting regional actors involved so that we can solve this problem, which everybody recognizes is not a purely military dilemma."

When asked of his personal feelings on Bush's invocation of Vietnam in his recent speech, Eaton responds:

"My father's name is engraved on the Vietnam War Memorial -- killed in action after missing in action for 38 years. I thought it was a bad idea to start going down this link to Vietnam during this speech. It did not serve the country well, it does not serve the American fighting man and woman in Iraq well, and it certainly doesn't serve veterans well."

The following video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast on August 22.