Powell: Iraq is not a swamp that will devour US
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who served two tours in Viet Nam, said on Thursday Iraq is not "swamp that is going to devour" the United States.
Testifying before a Senate committee, Powell bristled at comparisons of the U.S. invasion of Iraq with the Viet Nam War in which more than 58,000 U.S. troops died.
"I don't think these type of comparisons are terribly helpful. Viet Nam was another part of the world, another time in history, and we ought to see the situation for what it is today and not try to find comparisons that can then be painted in a negative light, Powell told the senators.
"This is quite different," he added. "We have an army over there that knows what it is doing. We have a people that want to be free in a democratic society. We do not have huge, state sponsors outside of Iraq, flooding the place with weaponry and manpower."
"It is not a swamp that is going to devour us," he said.
U.S.-led forces, which invaded Iraq little more than a year ago, have found themselves increasingly under fire from insurgents. American troops fought fierce battles with both Sunni and Shi'ite rebels on Thursday and a series of foreigners were kidnapped as Iraq descended into bloody chaos not seen since Saddam Hussein's fall a year ago.
At least 633 U.S. military personnel have died in Iraq since the United States launched its invasion in March 2003, the vast majority since U.S. President Bush declared major combat operations over on May 1, 2003.
Critics argue that the Bush administration went into Iraq without enough troops to maintain security and analysts have suggested the fierce recent clashes with Shi'ites and Sunnis who oppose U.S. occupation may require sending in more troops.
Powell, the former top U.S. military officer, earlier in his career coined the "Powell doctrine," whose elements include the belief that war should be a last resort; that force, when used, should be overwhelming; that there must be strong public support for it as well as a clear exit strategy.