The Tet offensive by the Viet Cong and the NVA in january 1968 was the flip-over point of US involvement in the Vietnam conflict, exposing the hollowness of Pentagon claims that America was in control of the war and precipitating American withdrawal seven years later.

When ABC’s George Stephanopolous asked George Bush to comment on Tom Friedman’s column comparing the dreadful events of the past week in Iraq with those in South-East Asia 38 years ago, the Commander in Chief replied: “He may be right…” before moving on quickly to firmer ground concerning al-Qaeda’s determination to see the coalition quit.

There are indeed similarities. Both conflicts, for example, are characterised by a huge civilian death toll and a deepening public sense that America is trapped in an unwinnable situation. There are, however, huge differences, as the BBC’s Matt Frei points out.

“At this stage in the Vietnam war, America had lost about 20,000 men. Iraq has cost the US 2,772 troops at the last count. But no war, including this one, can be measured solely by the number of casualties. The key equation is the sacrifice of casualties measured against the perceived benefits of the conflict. Is it worth it?”

He concludes that public opnion will not force an exit strategy any time soon, pointing out that whilst the war is patently unpopular levels of protest are nowhere near those precipitated by the Tet offensive.

“This is the world post 9/11. We are fighting a “global war on terror”. Polls show that most Americans believe the stakes of abandoning Iraq are too high, that the US has a responsibility to try to fix the problem -“we broke it, we own it!” – and that abandoning it could fuel a regional war with even more dire consequences. So the pain threshold in Iraq is surprisingly high, especially if it’s not your child getting killed”.

Number Of Iraqi Civilians Slaughtered In America’s War? As Many As 655,000

Number of U.S. Military Personnel Sacrificed (Officially acknowledged) In America’s War? 2785

Cost of America’s War in Iraq? $335,445,839,575