Afghanistan = Vietnam - March 11, 2002

Afghanistan = Vietnam One battle goes badly for U.S. forces and New York Times reporter Rick Berke immediately thought of Vietnam and a NPR reporter to read great meaning into a slip of he tongue by General Tommy Franks who used the word "Vietnam" instead of Afghanistan.

Friday night on PBSs Washington Week, Berke asked Gjelten: "Tom, not long ago, we were practically declaring victory. How did we suddenly end up with troops on the ground, and are we stuck there? Is this, dare I mention, Vietnam?" Gjelten responded, as transcribed by the MRCs Brad Wilmouth, by highlighting a slip of the tongue: "Well, its interesting, Rick. You can mention Vietnam because you would not be the first one to mention Vietnam. First of all, General Franks in briefing about this operation this week had a sort of a slip of the tongue and mentioned, Id like to thank all the people serving in Vietnam. But not just him, the commanding general of the 101st Airborne Division, which is the, one of the two big divisions involved in this operation, said that his troops have not been involved in as heavy and intense infantry combat since Vietnam. "So thats what makes this really notable. And, you know, we, in Kosovo, we fought from 16,000 feet. Even in the early stages of this war, we fought using mostly Special Forces and Afghan allies. But what happened, apparently, in this case is that because this was possibly a last stand, U.S. commanders wanted to make really sure that the al-Qaeda didnt get away, and in the end they trusted American soldiers more. Thats sort of the tactical thing. The symbolic thing is I think that they wanted to emphasize that for all this idea that were risk averse and were not going to let soldiers get, take heavy casualties, theyre willing to send in old-fashioned infantry troops, light infantry troops. These are guys that basically fight with the weapons they carry in. And I think there was a symbolic importance to making that stand."