John McCain is worried about Iraq. Well, not about the actual mission, in which he is a firm stay-the-course/surge proponent. He is worried about the media blowing it:
Republican presidential hopeful John McCain said Monday he fears an offensive by Iraqi insurgents similar to the Tet offensive by the Viet Cong that sent U.S. casualties soaring in Vietnam nearly 40 years ago.
McCain, a Vietnam war veteran who spent 5 1/2 years as a prisoner of war, said in an interview with The Associated Press that it’s not the U.S. presence in Iraq that upsets voters but rather the number of casualties and the possibility those numbers could rise.
The U.S. death toll is more than 3,100 in the nearly four-year-old war.
“By the way, a lot of us are also very concerned about the possibility of a, quote, ‘Tet Offensive.’ You know, some large-scale tact that could then switch American public opinion the way that the Tet Offensive did,” the Arizona senator said.
Where have I heard this before? Oh, that is right- every six months. President george Bush, 18 October 2006:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Tom Friedman wrote in the New York Times this morning that what we might be seeing now is the Iraqi equivalent of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam in 1968. Tony Snow this morning said, “He may be right.” Do you agree?
BUSH: He could be right. There’s certainly a stepped up level of violence, and we’re heading into an election.
Charles Khron, the WaPo, 29 December 2004:
Jan. 30 will mark Iraq’s first elections on the road to democracy, provided all goes according to plan and administration expectations. It will also mark the 37th anniversary of the turning point in another American war: the Tet offensive of 1968. That was when Americans lost confidence in official pronouncements that the war in Vietnam was winnable.
It must be coincidence that the election date was set for this anniversary. Yet those of us who have vivid recollections of what it was like in and around Hue that year have reason to keep our fingers crossed, hoping that there is indeed no parallel between the two dates.
Charles Bartley, The Opinion Journal, 3 November 2003:
Yet something more than a lost battle, a self-inflicted wound arising from an essentially dishonorable strain of American neurosis. Yes, by all means, don’t do it again in Iraq. As Gov. Dean says, the first step is to tell the truth, starting with the truth of what happened in Vietnam.
John O’Sullivan, National Review, 31 July 2003:
Remember the Tet Offensive” is the mantra I have been repeating to myself in recent days as gloomy media accounts of the deepening U.S quagmire in Iraq crowded the airwaves and news pages. For the benefit of those who remember Tet only fitfully or not at all, it was the 1968 uprising by the Communist Vietcong across Vietnam that brought guerrilla warfare to the gates of the U.S. embassy in South Vietnam. It was a dramatic escalation of the war, but it was also a severe defeat for the Vietcong that revealed the fraudulence of their claim to be a people’s army.***
Fast forward to the present. Here is a very typical mainstream-media summary, from Time magazine as it happens, of the present situation facing U.S. forces in Iraq:
… military men and women under siege, a casualty count that exceeds the toll of the first Gulf War, anti-Americanism in a land where they had been told our forces would be greeted like heroes, costs reaching a billion dollars a week and going up, some troops homesick and disillusioned, their spouses and parents having no idea when they will see their loved ones again — and no end in sight to any of it.
One could add other discouraging details — much of Baghdad is still without electricity, unemployment accounts for half the Iraqi workforce, Saddam Hussein remains at large — to this account.
Whatever the Tet Offensive may have meant to Viet Nam, it is clear what references to the Tet Offensive mean today- you, the weak-willed American voter and the media are to blame.