Guest blogged by Jon Ponder, Pensito Review
When you hear the sound bites from George W. Bush's speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars today in which he compares his botched war in Iraq to the Vietnam war, think about what he was doing while thousands of U.S. soldiers were wounded and killed in the mud of Southeast Asia.
As is well known, rather than serving in Vietnam, George W. Bush spent the war years in a cushy assignment to the "Champagne Unit" of the Texas Air National Guard. There are witnesses from that era who say Bush's main preoccupations then were doing drugs, chasing women and driving drunk. There are also rumors he seriously damaged a fighter jet while taxiing it on a runway.
Conversely, no witnesses have ever been found who can verify that he completed his service with honor --- and there is circumstantial evidence that he did not. Around the time he was in the TNG, the Pentagon began requiring drug testing of all military pilots. The record indicates that Bush never submitted to a physical after the drug testing was required — and thus was never honorably discharged.
Today, in what may be his most astoundingly outrageous speech to date, Bush had the temerity to lecture the American people about lessons the country should have learned from Vietnam:
Just when you think there is nowhere lower Bush can go to try to fool people into supporting his illegal and misbegotten war, he finds a way to make us even more disgusted with him, the people who work for him and their rank incompetence --- as well as with our leaders who insist on allowing him to remain in office.
Update: Flip-flop alert: In 2004, Bush bristled at comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam: "I think the analogy is false. I also happen to think that analogy sends the wrong message to our troops, and sends the wrong message to the enemy."
Update 2: The complete text of Bush's speech is here. The excerpt about Vietnam follows below the fold:
In 1972, one antiwar senator put it this way: “What earthly difference does it make to nomadic tribes or uneducated subsistence farmers in Vietnam or Cambodia or Laos, whether they have a military dictator, a royal prince or a socialist commissar in some distant capital that they’ve never seen and may never heard of?” A columnist for The New York Times wrote in a similar vein in 1975, just as Cambodia and Vietnam were falling to the communists: “It’s difficult to imagine,” he said, “how their lives could be anything but better with the Americans gone.” A headline on that story, date Phnom Penh, summed up the argument: “Indochina without Americans: For Most a Better Life.”
The world would learn just how costly these misimpressions would be. In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge began a murderous rule in which hundreds of thousands of Cambodians died by starvation and torture and execution. In Vietnam, former allies of the United States and government workers and intellectuals and businessmen were sent off to prison camps, where tens of thousands perished. Hundreds of thousands more fled the country on rickety boats, many of them going to their graves in the South China Sea.
Three decades later, there is a legitimate debate about how we got into the Vietnam War and how we left. There’s no debate in my mind that the veterans from Vietnam deserve the high praise of the United States of America. (Applause.) Whatever your position is on that debate, one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America’s withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like “boat people,” “re-education camps,” and “killing fields.”
There was another price to our withdrawal from Vietnam, and we can hear it in the words of the enemy we face in today’s struggle — those who came to our soil and killed thousands of citizens on September the 11th, 2001. In an interview with a Pakistani newspaper after the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden declared that “the American people had risen against their government’s war in Vietnam. And they must do the same today.”
Cross-posted at Pensito Review.