Here we go again. Walter Cronkite and David Krieger from the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation have a statement up at Common Dreams calling for immediate withdrawal titled Our Troops Must Leave Iraq. I’ll provide the first paragraph. You can read the rest, but this is all you need to know about the point of the entire exercise:
The American people no longer support the war in Iraq. The war is being carried on by a stubborn president who, like Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon during the Vietnam War, does not want to lose. But from the beginning this has been an ill-considered and poorly prosecuted war that, like the Vietnam War, has diminished respect for America. We believe Mr. Bush would like to drag the war on long enough to hand it off to another president.
If you’ve suddenly been overcome with a powerful sense of Deja Vu it’s because he said the same thing in January of 2006, naturally relying on his reputation as a decisive factor in the U.S. pullout from Vietnam. He repeated it again in February of this year. In fact, he’s been using his name and history to lobby against the Iraq War since before it began.
The story is making the rounds of the lefty blogosphere, with some wondering why it’s not getting more attention. One obvious reason is that he’s not saying anything he hasn’t said before. Another, that probably escapes the lefties who are trying to portray his statement as a defining moment or turning point, is that not everybody believes what he did in his role as CBS news anchor during Vietnam was in any way noble. Here’s Arnaud de Borchgrave at FrontPage Magazine commenting on the 2006 Cronkite Moment:
Cronkite, along with several hundred reporters from two dozen countries, focused on how the Vietcong guerrillas managed to blast their way into the U.S. Embassy compound (but didn’t make it past the Marines in the lobby). War correspondents were also impressed by the view from the cocktail bar atop the Caravelle Hotel: C-47s, equipped with three Gatling guns on one side, were strafing Vietcong pockets in Cholon, the capital’s twin city 2½ miles away.
Yet the Vietcong didn’t reach a single one of their objectives and lost most of their 45,000-strong force in their attacks against 21 cities. It was also a defeat that convinced North Vietnam’s leaders to send their regular army – the NVA – south of the 17th parallel to pick up where the Vietcong left off.
Cronkite’s verdict is what persuaded President Johnson to throw in the towel. Six weeks later, LBJ announced he would not run for a second term. “If I’ve lost Cronkite,” LBJ told one of his aides, “I’ve lost Middle America.” In fact, he had already lost most of America. Perception had become reality.
The last American soldier left Vietnam in March 1973 and Saigon finally fell to the North Vietnamese Army in April 1975. Meanwhile, the South Vietnamese army held its own against the NVA with U.S. air support, defeating the Communist “Easter Offensive” of 1972. But morale collapsed after the U.S. Congress decided to withhold further military assistance to the South Vietnamese government.
Surprised by this congressional decision, Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, the Communist supremo, said in his memoirs, he had to improvise a general offensive against Saigon whose capture he reckoned would not be possible for another two years.
Those who wish to once again hold up Walter Cronkite as the voice of middle America should consider that the days are gone in which a news anchor is trusted to give the straight story. The Cronkite example, in hindsight, is one of the prime reasons for that cynicism.
For reference, here’s the video of Cronkite’s Tet news report from 1968 in two parts: