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Monday, December 06, 2004

American Writers: Halberstam & Sheehan

American Writers: Halberstam & Sheehan

In July, 2002, Brian Lamb interviewed Neil Sheehan and David Halberstam on Vietnam. I had made an audiotape of their 3-hour conversation, converted it to an MP3 file and stored it on one of my MP3 hard disk jukeboxes. I was reviewing my index of MP3 files looking for something to listen to while working on some fences and decided this would be interesting.

It is a fascinating discussion, especially since it took place before the invasion of Iraq. Naturally, some listeners wanted to know if one could draw analogies between Vietnam and Iraq. There are many, although Halberstam was clear that the Bush administration's response was the result of an attack on American soil, whereas Vietnam posed no threat to the United States.

He did caution that one danger of invasion was that the hostility to Saddam Hussein the Iraqi people felt toward their leader could easily shift to hostility against an occupier, and that as we learned in Vietnam, it is impossible for a non-indigenous force to gain complete control of a foreign country. Terrorists and locals simply belend in too well, and ultimately they have history on their side; they know we will have to leave sometime. He also warned that intelligence is often flawed, reminding us that much as the predictions of a popular uprising against Castro did not occur during the Bay of Pigs, that we might face similar problems should the invasion of Iraq occur. Fascinating discussion.
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