The war grew unpopular at home as Americans watched thousands of their young men die to prop up a regime the U.S. put in place.
Despite calls to continue the fight, the administration drew down troops until there were no Americans left to battle the insurgents.
With the U.S. gone, the enemy forces quickly took control of provincial cities before advancing on the capital.
The regime begged for help from America even as its own soldiers threw down their weapons and fled.
Vietnam or Iraq?
In 2003, I predicted that once America left Iraq, Islamist militants would take over. Unlike President George W. Bush, I understood Islam wasn’t homogenous, that members of the Sunni and Shia sects in Iraq hated each other.
I wasn’t surrounded by Middle East experts like Bush, but I was enough of a student to know that the brutal dictator Saddam Hussein kept a lid on sectarian violence.
If he was toppled, the vacuum would be filled by something far worse.
It’s happening right now, a slow motion repeat of the fall of Vietnam, where America fought Communists for nearly 10 years before North Vietnamese troops defeated the South.
The Vietnam and Iraq wars were sold to Americans on false pretenses before we were promised swift, decisive victories.
Both became quagmires, neither coming anywhere close to achieving its stated goal.
The dominos we were told would fall if Communists won in Vietnam never did. Today, Vietnam is an important U.S. trading partner.
In Iraq, we took down a tin pot dictator who threatened only the unfortunate citizens of his country.
After Saddam was gone, the Bush administration pretended democracy was the original American rationale for invading Iraq and not taking away the dictator’s non-existent “mushroom cloud” weapons of mass destruction.
The human cost was appalling. Nearly 60,000 Americans died in Vietnam and 4,487 in Iraq. More than one million Vietnamese civilians perished while at least 100,000 Iraqi civilians lost their lives.
Iraq now teeters on the brink of falling to terrorists so vicious even al-Qaida disowned them. Cities where Americans died are today held by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militants.
If they’re successful, “an al-Qaida army” will control Iraq, former Deputy CIA Director Mike Morell told CBS News.
This week, ISIS posted pictures of the hundreds they’ve executed. Then they’ll hunt down any Iraqi who aided America. I shudder at their fate.
Finally the crackdown; women in burqas, boys subjected to radical Islamic brainwashing, young girls tossed out of school and into arranged marriages with old men.
A Sunni version of Iran could well emerge, another repressive, fervently anti-American, terrorism-sponsoring Islamic regime.
Ahead of the invasion, Secretary of State Colin Powell warned Bush “once you break it, you are going to own it.”
President Obama now owns Bush’s hot mess.
Meantime, chief salesman of the Iraq invasion, the discredited Dick Cheney, is re-writing history, blaming the chaos on Obama.
“Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many,” Cheney wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, without a hint of self-irony.
In 2008, Bush signed an agreement with Iraq mandating the American withdrawal from Iraq by 2011.
Obama wanted U.S. forces to stay but Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki refused unless Iraq could prosecute American soldiers accused of crimes. The president said no way.
So those who learned nothing from Vietnam or the disastrous war in Iraq now understand sanctions and diplomacy would have isolated Saddam, which is the thoughtful, low-key strategy Obama is employing in current hot spots like Iran and Ukraine.
Wrong. The same reactionaries are again demanding military action.
How many more American lives and how much more treasure should we spend, reactionaries? Be specific.
Kevin Foley is an author, writer and public relations executive who lives in Kennesaw.