Comments: Vietnam, Iraq, and A Privileged Duty

I don't give a crap about what Bush did relative to not serving in Viet Nam (2 words). I care about what he does now. If I was Bush's age, I'm sure I would have done whatever I could have to get out of having to serve in the war, including using whatever family ties I had. Not because I think I was more deserving to survive than someone lower on the economic scale than me. But, because I think the war was WRONG. Chasing the idea of "containing communism", as if that really mattered, and then manipulating information to show the American people that we needed to continue to do so. Falsities upon lies. Not just dishonest, but immoral. Now, if you would have been recruiting people to go to Rwanda in 1994 to fight the Hutu power and stop the genocide of the 800,000 innocent Tutsis (and I had been ripe for military duty), then that is a different story. But of course, Clinton ignored the pleas for international assistance there. I realize that a potential draft recruit doesn't get to choose to fight in the battles he or she believes is "right", but I have a hard time finding many instances over the last 50 years where our military was truly providing assistance to the needy as opposed to advancing a selfish interest on our part.

I repeat, I don't give a crap about Bush in the early 70's. I care about him since 2000. And, since then, he has seized upon a weakened America because of 9/11 to promote a "war" that is not truly a war, but a strategy to advance the objectives of the hawks and crown himself a "liberator" and a "uniter", while dividing not only his own people, but those in other countries as well. He pulled Iraq out of his father's ass, and convinced a majority of Americans that to prevent another 9/11, we needed to take out Saddam, and take him out now. He has taken advantage of, and enhanced, the paranoia that "it could happen again" to cause us to throw our civil rights out the window because he realizes that millions of Americans can take the view that they'd rather "give up a few rights than be dead." As much as Bush has come out against those who would vandalize a mosque, do you think his approval rating would be so high if more Americans were accepting of all religions?

Check the line of the conservative columnists who decry Kerry's statements when he joined VVAW. "How could he SAY such things about our boys over there? Spreading lies of atrocities." Read a freakin' book providing the details of ANY war - raping of women and killing of innocents (both disturbing and extremely difficulty to comprehend) transcend the stories. And yet these war-mongers are quick to claim, "not us", our soldiers were simply "doing the best they could under the circumstances" (Mona Charen). Please. More power to the patriot who is willing to criticize the country in which he believes.

Bush: Daddy got him out of the war? Good for him. Didn't show up for work in 1972? Too bad he's getting caught 30 years later. Scoundrel since Day 1 in office, I say. If it takes dirt from yesteryear to convince the unconvinced, good. Whatever it takes.



Posted by Otis at February 17, 2004 11:45 PM

As a fishing friend of mine explains to me...

Calling up the fish literally means calling up the fish from the deep. As it is used in Texas
it generally means chumming, i.e., tossing bits of fish or grain into the water in order to attract larger game fish. (In Texas everything
short of tossing a car battery into the stream in order to shock the fish into submission is legal.) Another method used in saltwater fishing for big fish like marlin is trolling a "teaser" bait behind the boat. Teasers are usually brightly colored plastic lures
with no hook (sometimes with a hook) that skip and chug on the surface of the water as the are being dragged behind the boat. Somebody in the boat will be on the lookout for any interest by a fish and if one is spotted
they'll reel in the teaser and cast the preferred bait at the fish that was teased up. In fly fishing there is a similar technique called using an
attractor pattern. The attractor is a larger, brightly colored fly to which a smaller, more realistic fly is attached using 1-2' long piece of line. The attractor gets the fish's attention but they usually strike the trailer fly.

Of course fishing is full of lore and superstition. "Calling up the fish" could just mean that some old coot is wily in the ways of the fishes and is able to easily trick them into biting his hook...

So where's my fiver?


Posted by Jake Mackey at February 18, 2004 09:10 AM

Sorry Jake, So close but no seegar. I'll email you the details so you know I'm not skimping on you. Nice try, though. So the five-spot is still in play...

Posted by Rob at February 18, 2004 09:39 AM

While it's tempting to how about Bush's skipping out on Vietnam, you're right that in and of itself, it's a non-issue. Clinton got labeled a "draft dodger" for avoiding going into combat, and though I'd like to say "What's good for the goose is good for the gander," better to be fair about such things--if it didn't bother me about Clinton, it shouldn't bother me about Bush.

What bothers me is all the lying. This is the guy who said he was going to restore honor and dignity to the White House, but he refuses to come clean about all this. If he came out and said, "Yes, I missed some time, I was young and stupid, I apologize," I could probably live with that. Instead they release partially redacted documents, and have Scott McClellan stand up there and give bullshit evasive answers to Helen Thomas' yes/no questions. "Character Counts" my ass. It's another Republican irregular verb conjugation: I am discussing important issues of character; you are running the dirtiest campagin ever, resorting to unfounded gossip, intrusion into obviously personal affairs, and political hate speech.

These people have no honor.

Posted by Carl at February 18, 2004 01:50 PM

Another excellent piece!
Also, I thought, more accessible than the first. The personal stories you interweave are particularly powerful.
I was actually thinking about exactly what you raise: that his joining the guard had to involve some kind of privilege and was underreported, though I thought your sympathetic approach was more effective than going for a 'shame on you' type of argument.
The question that comes to mind is, what would you realistically expect him to say? "I used my family's influence to avoid going to the war."? "I wanted to go but mom didn't let me."? I'm not sure any politician good or bad would do that. He can't suddenly show regret for not serving, and I can't think of any other way that this wouldn't be political suicide.
It seems to me that this is not an issue for Bush, but rather one for the press and for Kerry. Both men came from privileged backgrounds and both likely had an opportunity to use their privilege to avoid the war. For whatever reason, one chose to go to war while the other chose to avoid it. Kerry would be well served by admitting that because of his privileged background, he had a choice that thousands of others didn't. And whatever his true reasons, because he did choose to go he can now tell a compelling story of why he did it. This would both expose the fact that Bush also had a similar choice and beg for an explanation on his end. Something I suspect he cannot offer. He can sing the praises of the guard of the 70s all he wants, but I think most people realize, at the very least, that there is a substantial difference between serving active duty in the armed forces and the national guard. But people do need to be reminded that he did have a choice, and it's fair to judge him by that choice.
Hope this makes sense!

Posted by Frederico at February 18, 2004 02:35 PM

It absolutely matters what Bush did in the 1970s because his behavior has not changed an iota since then. People talk about he's a nice guy, an honorable guy. Exactly where do they get this crap? He was a liar then. He's a liar now. He and his family have raked in millions from the public trough without a whole lot of public service. Don't PLAY the happy warrior and then send over 600 soldiers to their unnecessary death (including Afghanistan) when under the Army's own definition, you are a deserter.

Posted by Ibar at February 19, 2004 03:24 PM

George Bush on Vietnam:

"I'm saying to myself, 'What do I want to do?' I think I don't want to be an infantry guy as a private in Vietnam. What I do decide to want to do is learn to fly."
Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, 1989

"I was not prepared to shoot my eardrum out with a shotgun in order to get a deferment. Nor was I willing to go to Canada. So I chose to better myself by learning how to fly airplanes."
Dallas Morning News, Feb. 25, 1990

"I don't want to play like I was somebody out there marching when I wasn't. It was either Canada or the service. ... Somebody said the Guard was looking for pilots. All I know is, there weren't that many people trying to be pilots."
Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Nov. 29, 1998

Posted by Monkey at February 19, 2004 04:21 PM

Personally, I believe that Bush is a deserter, Orcinus has a good analysis of the issue on his blog, and I've discussed it elsewhere, but it is indisputable that the only way Bush can legally be called a deserter is if a bunch of Lts. 30 years ago sat in court martial and decided that he was. Clearly, he was AWOL for some period of time, even his pay records don't dispute this.

As to his National Guard post, it disgusts me that Bush is Commander in Chief. If you served, you served, and you know what it is like to be sent into harms way. If you didn't (like Clinton) you know you didn't, and any reasonably intelligent person goes to those who have for advice.

Bush thinks he served, but in effect, only went away to summer camp. He knew he wasn't going to be posted overseas, he knew he wasn't going to die in some miserable ditch, just as his fellow National Guardsmen did not know. So he has the confindence of one who did serve, and the ignorance of one who did not, but doesn't realize it. The more this story has legs, the better Kerry looks to me.

As for calling up the fish - my entry is - hucking sticks of dynamite into the water so that you can easily scoop their schocked little bodies up with a net. Entry #2 is similar - some sort of fish-cide to the same effect.

Posted by Tor at February 20, 2004 09:12 AM

Sorry Tor, but no. Go Fish.

That fiver is still floating around, waiting for some coon-ass to scoop it up...


Posted by Rob at February 20, 2004 12:00 PM

Hey Fish! Come up here in the boat!

Posted by Carl at February 20, 2004 02:16 PM

As for GW's antics in the 1970's, I'm offended by them, but as many have said, he's no different from a lot of people who didn't want to go to war.  My dad and two uncles went to Vietnam...though not necessarily by choice, and certainly no thanks to my family being quite poor and underrepresented...thankfully all returned without a lasting scratch. Of interest to me is John Kerry, who was from a priveleged family, but served in Vietnam anyway.  Though he was was wounded in combat, I don't know the details about his service or duties there.  And as for serving,
I, for one, did make the decision (though it was a VERY drunk decision) to try to go to Iraq in Gulf War I.  Luckily the recruiting office had regular business hours and there wasn't anyone there at 3:00am to sign me up.  And then there is today...I've made the distinct decision not to go to Iraq as a weapons inspector.  I've been asked two times in the last five years and have obviously chosen not to go.  Mainly because I didn't think it would make a difference.  GW was going to war, and I didn't want to get in the middle of it...I thought there was a good chance that I wouldn't be able to get out in time if it came down to it. Maybe a little selfish, but I'm in a different, probably more cautious, stage of my life.

Posted by Snark at February 20, 2004 06:05 PM