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Blah Blah Blah

Here's a pretty old legacy post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 20 years ago, in 2004, on the World Wide Web.

[Minor update 2004-09-19: typos fixed.]

Let’s review, so I can see if I’ve got this straight.

In the early 1970s, the United States government was hellbent on pursuing an immoral and strategically disastrous war in Vietnam–a war that nobody should have fought in, let alone forced to fight in–which, before it was over, killed fifty thousand American soldiers and murdered about 4,000,000 North and South Vietnamese civilians. During the war, many of those who were fortunate enough to be able to flee and defy the draft, or to sidestep it through cushy “military” assignments far away from the fighting, did so–because they didn’t want to participate in a war they considered morally indefensible, or dangerous to their person, or both. One of those people was a young George W. Bush–who , admittedly, supported the war, but, understandably, didn’t much want to fight in it. So he used his fortunate position as the son of a wealthy aristocrat and powerful Texas politico to avoid being shipped off as a slave to fight and possibly die in Vietnam, through the technicality of joining the Texas Air National Guard. That might have made him a hypocrite then; and it certainly makes him contemptible for strutting around in his bomber jacket in Caesarian triumphs today; but it was certainly a perfectly understandable exercise of his natural human right not to be forced to fight against his will.

At some point, he requested a transfer and shipped off to the Alabama National Guard. While using a legal technicality to get out of being forced to go to war, he may–or may not–have declined to show up for some of the pro forma rituals of his pro forma position. In any case, he got away with anything that he did, and was eventually discharged without complaint from the military.

CBS thought there may have been some more direct evidence that Bush had failed to show up for some of the pro forma rituals of his pro forma position. A pro forma position he was using to get out of being forced to fight and die in a war that he didn’t want to fight and die in. Some people, though, allege that these documents may have been forged.

So what we’re arguing over is whether (A) Bush dodged the draft (as he had every moral right to do) through a cushy ANG position to fulfill red tape for avoiding military enslavement, or (B) Bush dodged the draft (as he had every moral right to do) through a cushy ANG position and then didn’t show up for some of the pointless rigamarole that his position was supposed to entail as part of the red tape for avoiding military enslavement.

And around the third anniversary of the September 11 massacre, as Pinochet prepares to face trial for his crimes, as even the CIA admits that Iraq is disintegrating and 13 civilians were murdered live on the air by American soldiers (who bombarded them with seven rockets), this is, apparently, the most important political issue in the world to argue about on your weblog (cf. Kevin Drum 2004-09-09, that other dude named Charles Johnson on 2004-09-11, No Treason! 2004-09-11 10:42am, No Treason! 2004-09-11 8:34pm, Matt Yglesias 2004-09-14 , This Modern World 2004-09-14, etc.–if you’re into that sort of thing).

Blah blah blah. Jesus. Where are all the good male political bloggers?

6 replies to Blah Blah Blah Use a feed to Follow replies to this article

  1. SameulHaque

    Well the issue is important beacause as President he shouldn’t be giving orders for US soldiers to do things he wouldn’t do himself. These countries are beind invaded on the authority of President who knows of war from Hollywood. To quote Vonnegut, “the ones who hated war the most, were the ones who’d really fought.”

  2. John Lopez

    “So what we�re arguing over is whether …”

    Not at all. My interest is in the fact that Dan Rather is a confirmed lying sack of garbage. I don’t care one iota that Kerry and Bush dodged the draft – I’d say “good for them”, if I didn’t hold them both in utter contempt. As for what “the most important political issue in the world” is, that happens to be my one-and-only life, which is affected more by the culture of willful self-deception we live in than by, say, the mess in Iraq.

  3. Sam Haque

    “I don�t care one iota that Kerry and Bush dodged the draft.”

    Mr Lopez,

    Kerry fought in Vietnam and got a bunch of medals. Bush did not technically dodge the draft, however he did not go to Vietnam and he was discharged from the Army. RTFA.

  4. John Lopez

    “Kerry fought in Vietnam and got a bunch of medals.”

    It’s pretty obvious that Kerry shopped for Purple Heart write-ups in order to take advantage of the “3 wounds and you can go home” rule. Neither he nor Bush did anything wrong though, since neither of them had any obligation whatsoever to the American government.

  5. Rad Geek

    Most of my remarks are fodder for a follow-up post. However, a couple of notes here before I move on to that:

    (1) Sam’s right that Bush’s macho Hollywood posturing, accessorized with the paraphenalia of a war he decided he didn’t want to fight in, is beneath contempt. But I can’t agree with Sam that “as President he shouldn’t be giving orders for US soldiers to do things he wouldn’t do himself”. One of the toeholds that the party of civilization has won in most of the industrialized world is the principle of civilian control over the military; to demand that someone be made part of the military machine himself or herself, before she or he can decide what is going to be doing, is a sure way to permanently entrench the power of the generals, and I would have trouble imagine a more malign influence on liberty than entrenched military power. (War is the health of the State. It’s a cliche, but no less true for it.)

    (2) Nor can I uncritically agree that Vonnegut was right to claim that “the ones who hated war the most, were the ones who�d really fought.” Of course, it’s true that many people who really fought faced terrible things and were led by their own conscience to resist warfare. (That John Kerry was one such person in the early 1970s is very much to his credit. That he apparently can’t, or won’t, connect with and live up to the moral ingenuousness of that part of his life anymore is very much to his detriment.) But it’s also true that there are plenty of people who came back from the various wars of history with nothing more than belligerent nationalism sharpened by the bonds of conflict and trained to kill. Some of the worst hawks have always been veterans–people who fought in the past but wouldn’t face the consequences of the fight they are hawking for the future. For some genuinely excellent reflections on some of the reasons that this can come about in the world of modern warfare–and even more so in today’s Nintendo wars–I’d recommend Cafe Hayek’s Little Puffs of Smoke.

    (3) A minor quibble with John Lopez. It’s may very well be true that Kerry, having arrived in Vietnam, started trying to find a way to get the hell out (as most rational people would; and more power to him, as I’m sure you would agree). But that’s not the same thing as dodging the draft. Based on Kerry’s attitudes and statements, it seems pretty clear to me that he earnestly believed in the war and volunteered because he bought the party line of liberal intellectuals. (Voluntarily enlisting in 1966, and then volunteering to serve on a Swift Boat in the Mekong Delta would be a funny way of trying to dodge the draft–one which would raise the question, “dodge it for what?”) But once he did show up in the Mekong Delta and found the moral disaster and personal danger that he was facing day in and day out, I don’t doubt that he would have wanted to leave as soon as possible. And as John and I agree, he had every right to do so–indeed, he should have been able to get on a plane and leave the next day, rather than having to shop around for enough purple hearts to get the Navy to deign to allow him to return home.

    More to come.

  6. Discussed at www.radgeek.com

    Geekery Today:

    Yadda yadda yadda

    Yesterday I offered the following commentary on the debate over the authenticity of the alleged memos on Bush’s alleged no-show for Air National Guard appointments:…

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