Weekly commentary by Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer.
I never thought Iraq was another Vietnam. It was a totally different situation.
But reading through some of the Face the Nation transcripts from the Vietnam era the other day, I was struck by how much what officials said then sounds like what the government has been saying lately. No matter how bad the news from Vietnam was, official after official came on Face the Nation to say progress was being made, the press just wasn't reporting it.
From the day the war turned bad in Iraq, you could take the words that were said back then and put them into the mouths of today's administration spokesmen and never notice the difference. Good things are happening if only the reporters would report it.
And then last week when the violence reached levels that could no longer be ignored, we finally began to get a story that was closer to reality. Major combat was not over, we learned, because despite previous denials, an organized, tightly controlled guerrilla force was coordinating the increasingly deadly attacks on Americans.
One general said that thousands of Saddam's forces had not quit the war, as it had appeared when the Americans rolled into Baghdad, but had fallen back, and further, were using weapons prepositioned for the kind of attacks we're now seeing.
All the talk this week has been about how the United States is speeding up giving political control over Iraq to the Iraqis. But just as important, I think, is the new candor about how the war is going militarily.
During Vietnam, three administrations tried to build support for the war by hiding the bad news and emphasizing the happy news. It didn't work then, it hasn't worked now. Maybe this new candor means the administration has finally figured that out.
By Bob Schieffer
Copyright 2003 CBS. All rights reserved.