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Monday, April 22, 2024

As we venture into 2008, the déjà vu is becoming a bit ridiculous. Or perhaps what is really ridiculous is the reality that many citizens seem blissfully oblivious or inexplicably unconcerned about how the events of recent memory have paralleled almost perfectly with some from the past.

Many have argued - logically and convincingly, I might add - that the current war in Iraq is our generation's Vietnam War. Sen. Edward Kennedy has referred to it as "Bush's Vietnam." But regardless of whose Vietnam it is, the similarities between the two foreign policy fiascos are inescapable.

This current misadventure of binge imperialism masquerading as national defense has, much like its predecessor, inflicted incalculable damage on U.S. legitimacy in the world. More importantly, it has imposed a heavy cost on the nation in terms of the copious amounts of blood and treasure thus far invested in the conflict.

But why settle for just one Vietnam repeat? Why not start a war with the country to Iraq's north? I mean, we are in the neighborhood.

Last week, the Bush administration almost received justification to do just that, as we witnessed the latest indication of history repeating itself.

An incident in the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic passage in the Persian Gulf between the U.S. Navy and Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard came perilously close to ending in armed conflict, which would have undoubtedly led the "War President" to call for full-scale military action.

Hmm, "Strait of Hormuz" kind of reminds you of "Gulf of Tonkin," doesn't it? That is, if you were paying attention in AMH2020.

For those who were too busy doing crosswords, the "incident" occurring in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964 propelled the U.S. into the Vietnam War - or at least escalated it.

It is now believed, however, that the incident probably did not occur as it was then reported, and in all likelihood, the Johnson administration provoked the skirmish to justify going to war.

Back to 2008.

The news networks feverishly replayed video footage released by the Navy that showed Iranian speedboats darting around American warships. The climax of the footage was an audio transmission, ostensibly coming from one of the speedboats, giving an ominous admonition: "I am coming to you. You will explode after a few minutes."

The President called the incident a "provocative act" that reaffirmed the threat Iran poses to not only national security, but world security.

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Fearmongers - read: neo-conservatives everywhere - seized on the incident in the Strait of Hormuz in an attempt to restart the drumbeat to war, which had been halted by the recent national intelligence estimate that indicated Iran had stopped seeking to develop nuclear weapons in 2003.

Not so fast. At the end of last week, Iran released its own video footage of the events, which rendered a very different picture. Iran claims the American footage is doctored, and even Pentagon officials say they are unsure as to whether the threatening transmission came from the speedboats or somewhere else. They say that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. It would be wise to be suspicious of the incessant saber-rattling coming from Bush.

The gravity of this episode seemed to be lost amid the horse race of the primary season of election '08, as pundits and observers paid more attention to poll numbers and the results in Iowa and New Hampshire. We must not be lulled into apathy by President Bush's lame-duck status. One year is still plenty of time to cause irreparable damage to our nation's already frayed security.

Joshua Frederickson is a political science senior. His column appears on Wednesdays.

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