VICTORIA, British Columbia, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- Replying to a question on a radio talk show Vice President Dick Cheney said he believes the war in Iraq is going "remarkably well." The follow up question should have been 'who is it going well for?'.
The majority of reports from Iraq overwhelmingly agree that the situation in Iraq for the United States is far from well, let alone "remarkably well."
In fact, the vice president's own boss, President George W. Bush, the same day admitted for the first time since the start of hostilities in Iraq three years ago that the increasing violence "could be" compared to the Tet offensive -- the turning point of the Vietnam War.
Tet, as its name indicates, began on the Vietnamese new year in 1968 with a series of attacks on U.S. and south Vietnamese targets, including a brazen assault on the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. Although Tet turned out to be a huge military fiasco for the communists, the psychological impact was tremendous. It brought the reality of the war into American homes, largely thanks to unlimited access the media enjoyed at that time. This was a lesson the military never forgot.
The Bush administration has until now avoided making comparisons between the war in Iraq and the Vietnam conflict. But with mounting casualties, it is hard not to make that comparison. Eleven U.S. soldiers were killed in 30 hours of fighting just a few days ago, bringing the total U.S. military casualty rate to 2,772 as of Oct. 19. And the number of Iraqis who have lost their lives -- although the figures and the methodology used to compile the data is contested -- remains obscenely high, regardless of which figure you elect to believe.
Still, Vice President Cheney during an interview Thursday on Rush Limbaugh's radio show was asked to respond to mounting frustration at how the war was progressing.
"I think there's some natural level of concern out there because in fact, you know, it wasn't over instantaneously. It's been a little over three years now since we went into Iraq, so I don't think it's surprising that people are concerned," said the vice president.
"On the other hand, this government has only been in office about five months, five or six months now. They're off to a good start. It is difficult, no question about it, but we've now got over 300,000 Iraqis trained and equipped as part of their security forces. They've had three national elections with higher turnout than we have here in the United States. If you look at the general overall situation, they're doing remarkably well."
But the vice president added: "It's still very, very difficult, very tough. Nobody should underestimate the extent to which we're engaged there with this sort of, at present, the 'major front' of the war on terror. That's what Osama bin Laden says, and he's right."
In an interview with ABC President Bush said: "The leaders of al-Qaida have made that very clear. They believe that if they can create enough chaos, the American people will grow sick and tired of the Iraqi effort and will cause (the) government to withdraw."
A short while later a White House spokesperson tried to clarify President Bush's statement, saying that the full context about the comparison to Tet had more to do with the propaganda effect of the Tet offensive.
In the televised interview, Bush said he was patient, but his patience had a limit. "I'm patient, I'm not patient forever, and I'm not patient with dawdling. But I say to the American people, 'We won't cut and run'," said Bush.
Also contradicting the vice president was Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, a military spokesman, who called the most recent escalation of violence in Iraq "disheartening." He said the month of Ramadan, traditionally a holy month when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, saw a 22 percent increase of attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces.
It is doubtful that the troops in Iraq who are coming under increasing attack from insurgents would agree with the vice president's assessment of the situation.
(Comment may be sent to Claude@upi.com.)