Thursday, February 05, 2004

Clinton and Bush: More on Vietnam 

It's obvious that what Clinton and Bush did to avoid Vietnam was similar. (Although, Bush had influence to wield because of who his daddy was; Clinton had earned this influence through hard work and accomplishments since he was born into poverty.) The real advantage of having a military man as our nominee is that it lessens the effectiveness of the Republican lie that Democrats "loathe" the military or that we don't care about national security.

I think there's another difference between Clinton and Bush did - a possible difference, anyway. Clinton was genuinely opposed to the war in Vietnam. I have no idea if Bush was - but I have seen no evidence that he ever worked to get our country out of Vietnam.

However, a young Bill Clinton wrote this:

"I worked for two years in a very minor position on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I did it for the experience and the salary but also for the opportunity, however small, of working every day against a war I opposed and despised with a depth of feeling I had reserved solely for racism in America before Vietnam. I did not take the matter lightly but studied it carefully, and there was a time when not many people had more information about Vietnam at hand than I did. I have written and spoken and marched against the war."

And this:

"From my work I came to believe that the draft system itself is illegitimate. No government really rooted in limited, parliamentary democracy should have the power to make its citizens fight and kill and die in a war they may oppose, a war which even possibly may be wrong, a war which, in any case, does not involve immediately the peace and freedom of the nation.

The draft was justified in World War II because the life of the people collectively was at stake. Individuals had to fight, if the nation was to survive, for the lives of their countrymen and their way of life. Vietnam is no such case. Nor was Korea an example where, in my opinion, certain military action was justified but the draft was not, for the reasons stated above."

And this:

"I am writing too in the hope that my telling this one story will help you to understand more clearly how so many fine people have come to find themselves still loving their country but loathing the military, to which you and other good men have devoted years, lifetimes, of the best service you could give. To many of us, it is no longer clear what is service and what is disservice, or if it is clear, the conclusion is likely to be illegal."

(Note how he never said that he loathed the military - as noted by many before.)

The whole letter is here.

To Bill Clinton's enemies, that letter is self-serving and allowed him to justify avoiding military service and protect his future political career. But it reads to me like a man genuinely torn for so many reasons (including political ambition). Do I have any idea if Bush went through similar torment? No. Was Bush against the war in Vietnam? I don't know. But if he was for the war and if he still avoided military service - that is something worse than what Bill Clinton did. After all, that would mean that he was for the war - as long as rich kids like him got to stay home and poor kids, like Bill Clinton, had to go to Vietnam and die.
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