Michael Ware


TSR: Our Vietnam legacy

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Length: 3:37

WOLF BLITZER: Are Iraq's insurgents stepping up the violence in a move to sway the American people?

Is this wave of bloodshed a calculated move meant for a mass media audience?

And joining us now in Baghdad, our correspondent, Michael Ware. Michael, how sophisticated are these insurgents?

You're talking to some of them.

How sophisticated are they in trying to affect U.S. public opinion through the media?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're definitely seeing that stepped up, Wolf, that campaign to reach out to an American audience at this critical time. Put it this way: certainly not the rank and file, the guys carrying the RPGs and the roadside bombs. But the leadership, the upper echelons of this insurgency, is very politically attuned. They're aware how sensitive this time is back in America in terms of domestic politics.

So they're playing to that. We've seen Jihadist Web sites call for the P.R. campaigns in the West to be ramped up. And now we're hearing directly, speaking to us at CNN, one of the largest blocs within the Iraqi insurgency, the Islamic Army, directly addressing an American audience, littered with American cultural and political references, calling on people to question President Bush's record on the war -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Some commentators, Michael, have compared it to the Tet offensive during the Vietnam War, when the Vietcong went on a major military offensive against the U.S. in Vietnam, with one eye on U.S. public opinion, to try to kill as many Americans as possible, hoping that would demoralize the American public, which, in turn, would put pressure on LBJ and other administration officials to start withdrawing.

Are they sophisticated enough -- do they see a parallel to what happened in Vietnam?

WARE: Oh, absolutely, Wolf. I mean we're seeing an upsurge in violence. This is merely a part of the fourth holy month of Ramadan offensive since the war began. So it's an upsurge for this holy month. We've seen this before.

But in terms of Vietnam, I mean the backbone of the insurgency, Wolf, is not al Qaeda. That's the most spectacular pocket of the insurgency. But the backbone are the members of Saddam's former military and security apparatus, some of whom were trained by America in the '80s, most of whom were certainly American allies during the Iran-Iraq War and the beneficiaries of American satellite imagery.

Now, these fellows are behind the bulk of the day-to-day attacks against U.S. forces.

I sat with these guys back in 2003. They said to me then that they know they won't defeat the U.S. on the battlefield; they will beat the U.S., they said, "on that thing" -- and they pointed to a television. They said, "we've read Ho Chi Minh. We've read Vo Nguyen Giap," the Vietnamese general. They studied Vietnam. They said that, "we believe we can wear down American public stamina in support of this war because our endurance for the bloodletting can out-sustain that American political will."

So they're very, very closely watching the parallels -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Michael Ware reporting for us from Baghdad.

Michael, as I always say to you, be careful over there.

Thanks very much.

WARE: Thank you, Wolf.