A one-time school project gone terribly, terribly wrong.

25 April 2004

Good Evening

So what's on your mind?
That much, eh?

Well I'll tell you what's on mine. I have a sibling, whom I'll call Sib 2, being as Sib 2's younger than Sib 1. We had a discussion lately.

Sib 2's on the "anyone but Bush in 2004" ticket, and let me put right up front that I'm so down with that that it looks like up from here, y'know? I'm all over that like 100% grade A maple syrup on a model.

However, I'm not sure that as far as what my personal nation needs, Kerry is the ideal choice: Consider his views on trade: He's been advocating staunch protectionism to the rust belt. That is, he's telling the steelworkers that the US steel industry that they need more protection, even though the last set of measures created to achieve this was struck down by the WTO as unfair and contravening existing trade agreements.

By the way: Notice anything about these two World Trade Organization Web sites? (1) (2) A thoroughly dishonest way of putting your point across. Can you figure out the real one?*
I feel this very much undermines the sincerity of the "con" side. But since they're philosophically in with George Bush Jr anyway, how much moral credit do they have anyway?

Those measures were put in place by George Bush Jr. So apparently Kerry and he don't disagree on everything.

But Sib 2 and I began to discuss the military issue, and the fact that a late commander of Mr. Kerry's had been critical of the wound for which he received his first Purple Heart decoration, and of his fitness for the presidency. This led to a discussion of the draft.

It frightens me that the system's still in place. If a war has popular support it's necessary only as a system for getting everyone's boots and beans together, and if the war is unpopular, then surely the government has failed to make a case for it?
If the state of a nation is such that people have to be forced into uniform to fight for it, then surely it isn't worth fighting for?

"I don't care," said Sib 2 "I'm not a typical American. That war was wrong and stupid and I don't care about the draft--if my candidate had dodged the draft as a protest, then that's okay by me."

I found myself uncomfortable with this, and here are some of the whys:

(Damn! Phone call! Gotta take this--I'll be back in a minute.

Thanks for waiting. That was all about taxes. The big difference between death and taxes is that death has the decency to happen to you only once. And of course when you die you don't actually have to sign the cheque yourself.)

So we were talking of Sib 2's contention that the Vietnam War record of a presidential candidate (or in this case future president) doesn't matter, and that dodging the draft was a valid choice. I was uncomfortable with this.

First off, I am rigidly opposed to conscription. As an ex-military person I feel very much that I would rather have a blank file on my flank than somebody who's not invested in the conflict with all his heart and soul.

The draft was enacted in Canada in the First and Second World Wars partly to decide who had to fight, but mainly to provide an organizing structure to allow the maximum possible number of the enormous initial flood of volunteers who came forward (although in WWI it was also a response to dropping recruitment).

The draft was enacted in the US during Vietnam to decide what portion of a populace uninterested in fighting a foreign war would have to go and fight it so that the remainder could get on with their lives. Due to the way the draft was administered, one could duck the fighting for quite some number of years, if one chose.

These exceptions usually applied disproportionately to white middle-and-upper-class Americans. I once heard Vietnam described as Black men killing yellow men for the benefit of white men. A little stark but close enough to true.

What people forget is that Vietnam came about as a result of two political realities of the sixties: The Domino Theory and a negotiated agreement that America would defend its small ally, Vietnam, from Communist infiltration and aggression. This spoke to domino theory, which argued that if enough countries were "allowed" to go Communist in any given sphere, the rest would too.

We can laugh at that now, but we can neither deny the reality of the theory (alothough we can argue its truth, since historically this was what America perceived as happening behind the newly-erected Berlin Wall) nor that a nation should and must stand by its agreements. Once in, the US couldn't get out.

So the scene was set for a partially-willing army to go and fight for a semi-interested populace.

Bill Clinton dodged the draft essentially by being in university, specifically the ROTC. The exemption he got was a technical one, but what he did was done by thousands of other young men. It wasn't a protest.

George W. Bush joined the Texas Air National Guard after some finagling by pappy Bush, but apparently preferred to spend time doing other things--presumably some of those "youthful indiscretions" that he's now jailing young non-whites for.

Note: A Google search for "George W Bush in uniform" returned no results. . . I was surprised. Really.

John Kerry volunteered for the Vietnam war in order to get a better choice of seat, ie. one farthest from the fighting. That's why he was on river patrol boats. He apparently told people that he was, in fact, afraid he'd get drafted.

The important thing is that all of these guys tried to work around the draft. One ducked it, the other pre-empted it, and another tried to choose where and when he'd have to fight. But there's a significant difference in the levels of honesty involved.

Clinton wasn't making a political protest. George Bush II pretended to play the game, and Kerry went.

If I were an American male in my fifties, all of these actions would be significant. The reason that a candidate's war record is an important part of his character is that all of this demographic were at risk of being drafted, in theory.

Therefore what a candidate did when it came time to open that envelope is important as the measure of the sort of person he was. It also may give clues to how he'll govern in later life.

Clinton ducked the draft the way many other people did, on educational deferrment. It wasn't always easy if you didn't have a family member in high places but it could be done:

1) Get into a draft-deferred university program.
2) Get good grades and sign up for post-graduate work; that'd keep you out of the arena for about six years.
3) While at school, find and marry a schoolmate, preferably one whose father worked at any one of thousands of military contracting companies, and whose employees were draft-excluded.

By the time you'd had a couple of kids, you'd be out of the danger zone, age wise, and well on your way to your two-car garage, three kids and a dog. You were still working for victory, but you were "making your difference on the home front".

If you were eager and stupid, a true believer in the war, or cynical enough to think you'd get grabbed anyway, you could volunteer for service. If you got in early enough and showed a good aptitude for typing you could wind up doing clerical work stateside or in Okinawa, instead of getting your collective shot off in an unfriendly jungle.

If you had the clout, you could engineer a position in the National Guard (some people might see this a queue-jumping, or course). Of course if you took it seriously you might wind up fighting anyway, so best not to, really. Some Air Guard members flew bombers over Hanoi on weekends, then flew home to their weekday jobs. GWB doesn't seem to have done that, either.

And there lies the rub. Each of these people dodged the draft in a different way. Clinton wasn't making some sort of protest statement. Kerry sure wasn't, and Bush? Well, he seemed to be in favour of other folks fighting wars in his name.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

The reason this is a valid concern is that Clinton and Bush have both sent people to kill and die in the name of their nation, and Kerry will likely have to do it too. I mean, even Jimmy Carter had to put American asses on the fighting line.

The difference is that Clinton seems to have done it reluctantly, and in the smallest possible numbers. Bush has done it enthusiastically, nay, with abandon. If I were a US soldier I'd feel pretty ill-used. Kerry? Well at least he's seen the cost firsthand.

If I were a voter who had spent a few years of my life worried sick about a government envelope turning up at my door, I wonder which of these fine gentlemen I'd respect more?

Bush's hypocrisy shows all over the map, but nowhere more than as a "War President." Clinton was also hypocritical--but only in the way that young men are hypocrites once they hit the age of thirty and up. Like Kerry, he was no more hypocritical than many of his generation.

But neither of the last two has asked this of over 800 US soldiers.

Do the math.

* By the way, that WTO site thing? Look for the one that doesn't feature a timetable for disbanding itself...
Stupid dishonesty or dishonest stupidity? You decide.


At 3:24 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

i totally agree


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