The War in Iraq Compared to Vietnam

This is a partial transcript from On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, April 7, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.

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SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: In Vietnam there was super power support. There was arms and political support. We did not have a clear plan for victory and dare I mention that in Vietnam many times we had more casualties in a week, sometimes less than a week, than we've had in a year in Iraq.


GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Joining us with a reaction from Washington are Republican Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas and Democratic Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana. Senator Bayh, since you're the Democrat and Senator Kennedy is the one who sort of brought up this debate to which Senator John McCain now responds, is it a fair analogy? Are people beginning to talk more and more on Capitol Hill about this being similar to Vietnam or grossly unfair?

SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: You hear some discussion, Greta, about credibility issues and that sort of thing. You remember in the Vietnam era they called it a credibility gap.

But in terms of the difficulties that we face it's not nearly as grave as Vietnam, as Senator McCain was saying; however it has the potential. If we don't have the right kind of leadership and we don't act very intelligently here it could become much worse and I think that's the concern that we need to avoid.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator Brownback, tonight are you concerned that it is getting worse in Iraq?

SEN. SAM BROWNBACK (R), KANSAS: Well, I'm concerned that it's getting worse and that the situation needs to stabilize but, Greta, we've got to stay on the course that we're on. We need to hand over the governing of the country on the deadlines that have been set.

We cannot back out of this and you can see clearly what the opposition to democracy coming into Iraq is after. They are trying to get at U.S. public opinion. That's what they're really driving at here and we need to stand firm and behind our troops and behind the efforts that's taking place in Iraq.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator Brownback, you mention the handover. To who exactly on June 30th are we handing the power over to?

BROWNBACK: It's going to be to the Iraqi Governing Council or some form of structure similar to that that's been in the shadow.

VAN SUSTEREN: But you say or some form.

BROWNBACK: That's been in the shadow of operating this.

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm sorry to interrupt you, sir, but that's where I have the uncertainty. It's to the Iraqi Governing Council or some other. Is it that we're uncertain exactly who it is tonight?

BROWNBACK: Well, I think that the structure of it is in place. The people of it are not yet in place and that may be and does raise some question but we need to get this in the hands of Iraqis on this time certain.

To put that deadline off I think further raises the expectation or the thought that this is some sort of overarching occupation by America and that we don't intend to give it over on the time period we do.

We've got to stay with that structure and get Iraqis governing this country and have them wrestle with the difficulties of what democracy is, particularly at its early stages.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator Bayh, what can the Democratic Senators do to help in Iraq?

BAYH: Well, we need a strategy for success, Greta, and we need to start with looking at this June 30 deadline. It is important that we have a deadline. Sam is right about that.

VAN SUSTEREN: So what's the help though? How do you help?

BAYH: How do we help in terms of...


BAYH: Well, supporting a successful strategy for eventually transitioning to democracy. We can't cut and run but insisting upon a deadline. Look, the real problem here is that there needs to be a government in Iraq composed of Iraqis that Iraqis are willing to fight and die for in the police forces, the armed services and the intelligence agencies.

We don't have that government yet and they have yet to identify a group of individuals that on June 30 will have the kind of legitimacy with the Iraqi people that will engender the kind of support necessary to stabilize this country and get on with a successful democracy.

So, I think we can help by supporting the administration when it's appropriate, offering constructive criticism when that's appropriate but understanding, as Sam was saying, the stakes here are large.

They're large either on the upside if we're successful. They're equally large on the downside if we're not. And so what Democrats can do is to try and offer helpful suggestions and an intelligent strategy for success because failure is really not an option.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, so what helpful suggestions do you have for this very real problem that's facing the United States in Iraq, Senator Bayh?

BAYH: I'll give you one. It's been suggested that we have what's called a high commissioner to work with whatever this new Iraqi entity is to basically represent the international community, so that it wouldn't just be the United States and the coalition of the willing.

But that we could get NATO involved, all the other democracies of the world involved so that, Greta, we could really make this what it should be and that is a struggle of the forces of chaos and anarchy represented by the terrorists and the insurgents on the one hand versus the forces of order and civilization on the other hand.

It's been portrayed unfortunately as a struggle of Islam and Iraqis against the United States and the west. That's not it. It's the forces of civilization against the forces of terror and anarchy. By getting the rest of the world involved we can help them pay the bills. We can help them do the dying and we're more likely to be successful.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator Brownback, is that a good idea and do you find that the Democratic colleagues of yours in the United States Senate are helping to find solutions or is it criticism?

BROWNBACK: Well, I think it's a legitimate suggestion. I think that Paul Bremer and the people that he has on the ground are putting forward good structures and good suggestions.

Unfortunately what you have coloring the whole situation is the presidential election and a struggle here that too often it seems like is used in the shadow of Iraq one way or another to try to tilt the election.

We all must be united behind the effort of our troops to get this done. We have troops in the field and we have men and women dying for this cause and it is so critical that we introduce democracy and these notions of free and open societies into the region of the world that we're operating via Iraq.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Senators stand by.

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