Military Service

by The Macleod

Much has already been said about why George W. Bush and his inner circle are so gung-ho on waging such a questionable war in such a far-off country as Iraq for such flimsy reasons. It seems obvious to most in the west that Bush’s motivations aren’t exactly altruistic. He barely cares a whit for the poor and downtrodden in his own country, so why would anyone think that he suddenly grew a heart for the Iraqi civilian population last August? The chances of that are slim at best. Unfortunately Bush seems to be reacting to a war on terrorism that isn’t quite going as smoothly as planned, and a lust for oil. The latter is a belief of which it has become increasingly difficult for Bush to dissuade us. His double standard in dealing with Iraq (not currently a nuclear threat, rich in oil) versus North Korea (an immediate threat to America and its allies, but not rich in oil) seems proof positive of that.

I am not concerned with whether or not a war against Iraq is justified. With the proper leader what looks now like an impending debacle could actually be a success purely in terms of regime change (if one looks at the toll it’s sure to exact on Iraqi civilians it really is a no-win situation.) But Bush is not that leader. He knows nothing of war, of how it affects ordinary people on the ground in a militarized area. Want proof? His military record tells a great story about how unfit he is to lead even a Girl Guide troop never mind the planet’s biggest military force in a war with nuclear implications.

Bush’s military record is questionable at best, criminal at worst. He was a member of the Texas Air National Guard after graduating from Yale in 1968. It was a much sought after assignment at the time, effectively exempting participants from duty in Vietnam. Fortunately for Bush a well timed call from his father to the Speaker of the Texas House vaulted him ahead of 500 other possible soldiers to the top of the list for acceptance into the National Guard.

Bush claimed to have served in the National Guard from 1968-73, flying F-102 fighter interceptors in both Texas and Alabama. But a feature in the Boston Globe during the 2000 Presidential election campaign cast some serious doubt on those claims. After exhaustive research through military documents and interviews with those Bush should have served with they could find no evidence that he had ever reported for duty in Alabama after requesting a transfer there 22 months into his six year term of service. But there is evidence of Bush spending his time working exclusively on the Senate campaign of Winton Blount, a friend of Bush Sr. while shirking his flying duties.

Bush was asked about this missing year in his military record during the 2000 election. His only reply was that he was “there on a temporary assignment and fulfilled my weekends at one period of time. I made up some missed weekends. I can’t remember what I did, but I wasn’t flying because they didn’t have the same airplanes [in Alabama as they did in Texas]. I fulfilled my obligations.

His explanation doesn’t exactly instill one with confidence in his military capabilities. This kind of a story had the potential to sink any presidential campaign. But as we all know, Bush prevailed, despite the fact that not even his own election team could find a shred of written evidence to support his assertion that he served his time in Alabama. He had effectively been AWOL for an entire year, an offense punishable at the very least by being reported to the local draft board and being inducted into regular service in Vietnam, or at worst being given a dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and been placed in confinement for one year under Air National Guard rules at the time.

Forget the drunken driving charge from 1976, his refusal to deny having tried any illegal drugs prior to 1974, or the talk of insider trading in the late 1980s. Bush’s military record puts them all to shame in painting a picture of an unfit and criminal president.

So what does all this have to do with a possible war in Iraq? Plenty. Thousands of Americans are trusting Bush with the lives of their brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, mothers, and fathers. They trust him not to needlessly waste the lives of their loved ones. But with such a shady military past and complete lack of any real military experience, should he be the one to risk lives in fighting an enemy he has yet to prove even poses any threat to American soil? Having not fought in any actual military conflict himself he cannot possible know how absolutely horrifying a real war can be. None of us can. Sure, he has advisors and yes-men who can attempt to convey the experience to him if they have seen battle themselves (Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice have not.) But until he actually sees torn limbs, charred corpses, and screaming, newly orphaned children amidst the rubble of a razed city, the entire idea of war to him will remain nothing more than a life-sized game of risk.

Were Bush a highly decorated and respected military veteran who had experienced the terror of a needless war firsthand (such as Colin Powell, John McCain, or John Kerrey have) I would be more easily convinced of the importance of a fight with Iraq. But I wouldn’t trust this man to feed my hamster for a weekend let alone send me or anyone else to fight his personal dirty war. He didn’t see fit to serve his country in a questionable war, so why should any of today’s youth fight for him?

This is a situation in which the world needs experienced and knowledgeable leadership. I wouldn’t expect the Detroit Red Wings to let me coach them in the Stanley Cup finals just because I’ve watched some hockey every now and then. Nor should George W. Bush be commanding a war simply because he’s listened to his dad’s war stories and seen Saving Private Ryan once or twice.

  • Military Service
  • by The Macleod
  • Published on March 1st, 2003

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