Sunday, May 09, 2004

Should Bush Be Shot for Desertion?

All right, I'm not really going to argue for a firing squad for Bush, but I'm getting annoyed with the question of why we should care whether he was AWOL from his required service with the Texas Air National Guard.

I have seen someone say that we shouldn't care because the Vietnam war was a mistake and many of us were actively against it, so why should we mind that Bush couldn't be bothered to fight in it or even put up a good imitation of ANG service?

Well, this isn't a question of how well he executed the defense of his country during the Vietnam war, it's a question of how well he stood up for his convictions and took responsibility for his promises. He said he supported the war - and he "supported it" by making sure he didn't have to risk anything to be in it. And then he broke the deal that kept him out of the war, without any repercussions.

So we have a guy who offers nothing more than lip-service to something he says he believes in. We have a guy who makes deals (to serve in the ANG), and then doesn't fulfill his obligations - that is, he even breaks deals with his own country. And then tries to pretend this military record makes him some sort of hot-shot flying war hero.

I've seen some people try to compare Bush with Clinton, saying that each of them evaded service in Vietnam. But there is a rather significant difference, in that Vietnam was Bush's war, not Clinton's. Clinton's war was against the war, and he actively protested it. So only one of these two men showed the courage of their alleged convictions.

Did Bush actually believe in the Vietnam war? Who knows? Bush claims a lot of beliefs that his actions appear to betray. And that's a significant part of the problem: Bush never seems to be able to back up what he says he believes in. That's a pretty important character flaw.

This one little story actually tells us quite a good deal about Bush, and could be taken as a predictor of what was to come. Bush's Vietnam "service" looks an awful lot like his "presidency" - lip-service and astonishing laziness, moral laxity at levels most of us can't even imagine, and what looks like an allergy to behaving honorably.

When light-hearted blogger Skippy refers to Bush consistently as "awol" he doesn't just mean his ANG record, but his entire performance in government. It's not just that Bush was AWOL, it's that he is AWOL, and has been since his first day in office.

Consider Bush's 2000 campaign, in which we were simultaneously told that his vast experience as governor of Texas made him eminently qualified to lead the nation, while the disastrous results of his administration of Texas were none of his doing since the governorship in Texas confers little power. Every criticism of Bush's tenure as governor was answered with the information that it's really the lieutenant governor who has the authority in Texas. So nothing is ever Bush's fault.

Bush's occupancy of the White House has been one example after another of broken promises. He arrived in Washington and, having been warned of the dangers of terrorism, promptly overturned every protection his predecessor had put in place, and then told our intelligence services they could not investigate our most likely attacker, Al Qaeda, at all.

Allied intelligence warned that an attack was imminent. Osama bin Laden himself went on the radio and said he had something big planned for the US.

And then Bush went on vacation.

It's almost as if he was daring us to realize we had been insulted. In a country where a remarkably high number of people are unemployed solely because those who still have jobs are being forced to do the work of more than one person, afraid to take what little dwindling vacation time they purportedly are still entitled to because that might put their jobs at risk, Bush was publicly sneering at the idea of diligence and service. By September 10th of 2001, his habitual shirking was already being discussed everywhere.

Even when he was supposedly doing his job, he was expressing resentment at having to do it at all, sniping at reporters when visiting other nations, and insulting foreign dignitaries - with the excuse that he was being kept up past his bedtime. He had no excuse for doing the same from the White House itself, but he did it anyway, destabilizing the situation in Korea and with China within the first months of his tenure.

The rest of his "work" has involved photo-ops in which he pretended to care about important issues like education, each of which seemed to precede the promotion of a new order or bill that would gut whatever program he claimed to be supporting.

We have been told that what Andy Card whispered into Bush's ear as he read to school children on the morning of September 11th was that the nation was under attack. And Bush just sat there and kept reading. Then he got on Airforce One and took a little tour of midwestern airspace for a few hours.

As a leader of his country, Bush has been AWOL from his very first day. He may have quit drinking (or maybe not), but he is still the same arrogant layabout he always was. It's a shame America wasn't shown that true picture of George W. Bush in 2000. After all, what is past is prologue.

[This article was originally published on 23 February 2004 at DailyNewsOnline.]