Bush on the “Romance” of Fighting in Afghanistan

by Kevin Jon Heller

Good God:

During a videoconference with U.S. military and civilian personnel yesterday, President Bush praised the troops fighting in Afghanistan, claiming he was “a little envious” of their “romantic” fight:

“I must say, I’m a little envious,” Bush said. “If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed.”

“It must be exciting for you … in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You’re really making history, and thanks,” Bush said.

Nice to see Bush is becoming a romantic in his old age. A few decades ago, helping democracy “succeed” in Vietnam didn’t spur such amorous feelings.

http://opiniojuris.org/2008/03/14/bush-on-the-romance-of-fighting-in-afghanistan/

6 Responses

  1. Bush’s unit, the 111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, was part of the 147th Fighter Wing which actually did see service in Vietnam.

    Lt. Bush volunteered to be a fighter pilot of a plane, the F-102, that was very dangerous to fly even in peacetime. Of the 875 F-102A production models that entered service, 259 were lost in accidents that killed 70 Air Force and ANG pilots.

    He could have been a logistics officer, or something else less dangerous than a fighter pilot. But he chose to fly the F-102, which was not the clearest choice for someone taht wanted to avoid duty in Vietnam: “pilots from the 147th Fighter Interceptor Group, as it was called at the time, were actually conducting combat missions in Vietnam when Bush enlisted. Air Force F-102 squadrons had been stationed in Thailand since 1961 and South Vietnam since March 1962. It was during this time that the Kennedy administration began building up a large US military presence in the region as a deterrent against North Vietnamese invasion.” See here.

    Even the story you cite states that Bush did indeed offer to go to Vietnam:

    Bush says that toward the end of his training in 1970, he tried to volunteer for overseas duty, asking a commander to put his name on the list for a “Palace Alert” program, which dispatched qualified F-102 pilots in the Guard to the Europe and the Far East, occasionally to Vietnam, on three- to six-month assignments.

    He was turned down on the spot. “I did [ask] – and I was told, ‘You’re not going,’ ” Bush said.

    Not everyone in the military is an infantryman. Bush volunteered for military service, and for a dangerous position that claimed many lives. I guess Prof. Heller thinks Bush’s service pales in comparison to his own military exploits. I’m sure we all appreciate Prof. Heller’s newfound respect for the combat arms of the military, and his apparent encouragement of others to join, less they face his wrath in the future if they endorse the use of military force and speak highly of the high calling of those that serve. (I suppose the same sarcasm was evidenced when Pres. Clinton bombed Kosovo , even though he, unlike Bush, avoided military service; or will be evidenced if, say, a woman, gay man or disabled person advocated military force even though they would never be asked to face combat – due to his strong feelings on the subject, it looks like Prof. Heller will be supporting Sen. McCain for President due to his service in Vietnam and his son’s in Iraq).

    This type of commentary on the military demonstrates Prof. Heller’s moving too far afield from subjects on which he is knowledgeable. It recalls a snarky post a while back that was outraged that soldiers were not getting Dragon Skin body armor, and had to privately purchase it.

    However, the military actually banned personnel from using that armor even if it were privately purchased because it was not up to standard.

    Semper Fi

  2. I won’t bother to respond to nom’s argument that “Kevin didn’t serve in the military, so Kevin can’t criticize anyone else for not serving.” Its lameness speaks for itself.

    As for nom’s claim that Bush sought military service in Vietnam, readers can judge for themselves by going here, where that claim is described — and documented — as Bush Campaign Lie #1.

    The best part of nom’s comment, though, has to be “Bush’s unit, the 111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, was part of the 147th Fighter Wing which actually did see service in Vietnam.” Apparently, one can now see combat via the transitive property: Bush served in the 147th; the 147th saw combat; therefore Bush saw combat.

  3. P.S. Although most of nom’s comment is simply patently false, this sentence is completely offensive: “I’m sure we all appreciate Prof. Heller’s newfound respect for the combat arms of the military, and his apparent encouragement of others to join, less [sic] they face his wrath in the future if they endorse the use of military force and speak highly of the high calling of those that serve.”

    I dare nom or anyone else to find a single post on Opinio Juris or anywhere in which I have ever either spoken less than highly of the men and women who serve in the U.S. military or have criticized someone who has.

    The same, unfortunately, cannot be said of nom, whose blind allegiance to the cult of Bush is so thoroughgoing that he cannot even bring himself to criticize Bush for sending American soldiers into battle without the equipment they needed — and still need — to protect themselves.

  4. Well, this got off topic quickly…

    A) Most men (and possibly women) feel, at some time or another, a longing for an idealized kind of heroism and sacrifice that combat entails.

    B) Most people are quick enough to temper this with a healthy dose of realism about exactly what modern warfare is like.

    The problem arises when you open your mouth between point A and point B.

  5. Kevin, is it your position that the US presence in Afghanistan is analogous to the US presence in Vietnam? If you don’t see relevant differences between the conflicts, that tells us a fair bit about you, none of it good. If you do see relevant differences, well, perhaps you can see where you have again gone wrong.

  6. Thomas

    Do you actually have an argument to make? My post had absolutely nothing to with whether the use of military force in Afghanistan is justifiable. (For the record, though I think the Bush administration has botched Afghanistan as well as Iraq, I think it is.) I was simply pointing out the offensiveness of Bush lamenting that he is too old to be part of the “romantic” struggle for democracy in Afghanistan (a struggle that, though justified, is neither romantic nor aimed at creating democracy) when he avoided fighting in Vietnam when he was not too old, despite the fact that he and others believed that the Vietnam war was also (supposedly) about promoting democracy.

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