I woke up this morning with this expression on my mind: "an invidious comparison." It sounded exactly right for what I had to say, but when I thought further I discovered that I wasn't absolutely sure of the meaning of the word "invidious." So I went to the OED, Bush, and now I understand why it's so right. The definition reads thus: "Tending to excite odium, ill will, or envy; likely to give offense; esp. unjustly and irritatingly discriminating." Not sure about "unjustly," Bush, but otherwise it fits to a tee.
The invidious comparison in question is, of course, the one between the debacle in Vietnam and your current tragic fiasco in Iraq. It came to mind again last night as I was watching a Memorial Day documentary on the PBS's American Experience entitled "Two Days in October." Based on the book "They Marched Into Sunlight" by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Maraniss, it's the story of two very different days in October 1967, one in Vietnam and the other on the campus of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The former documents a fatally flawed "attack" by American troops on a Vietnamese position which turned out to be nothing but an ambush--and turned into a massacre. The second recreates the events of the first of many campus protests which ended up in American students being brutalized by armored, billy-club wielding cops.
I myself happen to have been one of those students who joined the protests, Bush. I was at the University of Iowa at the time, a graduate student in the writing program, and experienced some of that outrage at first hand. But the documentary struck more than that one personal chord. The senseless, ill-considered futility of the military attack, the pathetic male egos at stake in its implementation, the bloody outcome and the wanton distortion of the truth in subsequent reports were a sharp reminder of the tragic consequences of that unfortunate episode in our history. The continuation of the war for a further eight years before our eventual, long-predictable defeat was a momument to the stubborn refusal of our leaders to confront the simple truth that we had no business there and that human lives were being unconscionably wasted.
All of which brings us, of course, to that invidious comparison. We have tried to avoid it for too long. Oh no, it was said already, months ago, the situation in Iraq is quite different from Vietnam. No quagmire there. Oh, really? Again we are being fed lies and distortions to put a good face on the actions of our leaders--and you, Bush, are the leader of our leaders, the capo di tutti capi, as were your predecessors, LBJ and Nixon. Again we find ourselves caught in the middle of what is turning out to be a civil war. Again we find ourselves battling an enemy we do not know or recognize, who is indistinguishable from the civilian population at large. Again we find ourselves butchering the innocent along with the rebels. And again, bottom line, American blood is being lavished on a war that has no apparent end in sight. And this is not supposed to remind us of Vietnam?
With all genuine veneration for those who lost their lives in our wars, Bush, in acts of extraordinary bravery and selflessness, I have to say that I heard a lot of pious words on Memorial Day. I saw you laying the traditional wreath with all the usual solemn ceremony. I heard your patriotic talk about the sacrifices made and how they must now be justified by "completing the mission." To which disinegnuous rhetoric I must say, without ceremony, "Bullshit, Bush!" On the very same day, in the evening, I heard reports of more than fifty people killed by roadside bombs and car bombs in Iraq. I heard of a CBS news team killed, a reporter critically injured. The bottom line is undeniably the same as it was in Vietnam: it's senseless slaughter with no end in sight. It does, indeed, excite odium, and it frankly gives me immeasurable offense. And that's no rhetoric.