The ten years from 1965 to 1975 that I spent watching Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon and General William Westmoreland try to smooth talk their way though the Vietnam War prepared me well for George W. Bush's War in Iraq. I've been watching and listening carefully since Day One.
As it happened, I was visiting my mother during the first three days of the war. She wanted to watch every televised minute. So I saw many hours of cheerleading news anchors, retired military generals and Ari Fleischer.
And I have since seen many more hours.
My conclusion is that—like with Nixon, Johnson and Westmoreland—I don't believe a word they say. Westmoreland promised us light at the end of the tunnel. But it took more than ten years to shine through. By the time it did, America was forever a different place.
I didn't catch on to Nixon, et al for quite a while. But I'm older and wiser now. And Bush is more transparent.
President Bush was the candidate with no foreign policy experience. And he was the president opposed to nation building. Look at him now. For the president to call his war strategy "Shock and Awe" shows what a shallow thinker he is.
I am like most Americans on the Iraq War. May it end soon and with the fewest number of casualties. But so far, I have been right to be skeptical.
What the generals offer as news analysts is unclear. These are, I believe, the same generals who told us over a year ago during the Afghanistan War that Osama bin Laden was surrounded. Only a matter of days remained, they predicted, until he would be captured.
Did anyone—other than maybe a few FOX News types really believe that Saddam Hussein could have been killed with virtually the first shot fired? That was the talk, remember? Day One: "Saddam Hussein, if he is still alive…,"
And what about the chemical weapons plant seized during Day Two? A plant was surrounded but it didn't produce chemical weapons.
Huge numbers of Iraqi soldiers aren't laying down their arms and welcoming Americans as liberators as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney had anticipated. Did it occur to them that the Iraqis are fighting for their lives, their country and their religion?
Did President Bush really believe that Hussein would follow the rules of the Geneva Convention? I realize that Bush is trying to stir up support for his war. But Bush should remember that he has spent months telling us that Hussein gassed hundreds of thousands of his own citizens for sport. Now he's shocked that Hussein isn't playing fair?
Key Hussein aides have not deserted. And it looks certain that they are fully prepared to fight to the death.
Iraqi soldiers disguise themselves as surrendering citizens but come out shooting instead. Were we totally unprepared for this type of warfare?
Wait until the coalition forces reach Baghdad. The entire Iraqi Republican Guard may dress in civilian clothes. What will our soldiers do then? Shoot to kill? Hold back fire and be killed themselves? Or will we level Baghdad?
I'm afraid that President Bush may have underestimated Hussein. That would be his greatest mistake. Hussein promised "the mother of all battles." Was Bush listening?
Johnson, Westmoreland and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara didn't give a second thought to North Vietnamese Four-Star General Vo Nguyen Giap when he told them his soldiers would fight for 100 years. Who doubts today that the North Vietnamese would have fought as long as necessary?
As I file this column, American troops are closing in on Baghdad. Bush is now making references to a "longer" and "more difficult war." Translate that to "much longer" and "much more difficult."
Ohio Senator George V. Voinovich thinks that the war will be long, difficult and very, very expensive. Said Voinovich: "I happen to believe that we'll have troops in there for one or two years. You're going to at least probably spend $2 billion a month next year or next budget just to provide security there."
I hope I am wrong about everything. But I sense the nation's mood is closer to my profound misgivings than to Bush's hallow promises.
The country is apprehensive. And if you lived through Vietnam, then you're doubly leery.
Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.