September 14, 2004
Privileged Son"I am angry that so many of the sons of the powerful and well-placed... managed to wangle slots in Reserve and National Guard units...Of the many tragedies of Vietnam, this raw class discrimination strikes me as the most damaging to the ideal that all Americans are created equal and owe equal allegiance to their country." -Colin Powell, My American Journey, 1995.
Bush's spotty and mysterious service in the National Guard hit the headlines once again. If you're not familiar with the details, Bill Miller of Old Hickory provided several links here and here.
Instead of investigating the substance of the issue, the press focused on the authenticity of the memos produced by 60 Minutes II. ABC News led the charge, turning into nothing more than a gossipmonger by picking up innuendo and unfounded criticisms from the blogosphere and so-called "experts".
Never mind that the meat of the forgery accusations--the supposedly non-existent font, the raised "th"---can be debunked with a simple Google search. Never mind that the questions raised about Bush's service were based not just on the memos in question but on several other documents and witnesses. Never mind that the Boston Globe and USA Today have independent sources that corroborate the CBS story. Instead, we were immersed in a discussion of typing fonts and superscripts that materially obscured the important questions about Bush's service.
These questions remain unanswered, and I quote Dan Rather:
1. Did Ben Barnes use his influence to get Bush into the Guard?
2. Did Bush refuse a direct order from his commanding officer?
3. Was he suspended for failing to perform?
4. Did he take his physical as ordered, and if not, why not?
5. And did Bush complete his commitment to the Guard?
The White House refused to answer these questions directly, repeating only that Bush received an honorable discharge.
But receiving an honorable discharge doesn't always mean that you served honorably, as pointed out by Salon:
"An honorable discharge does not indicate a flawless record," says Grant Lattin, a military law attorney in Washington and a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel who served as a judge advocate, or JAG officer. "Somebody could have missed a year's worth of Guard drills and still end up with an honorable discharge."
Some say that what happened in a war three decades ago is irrelevant. I disagree. As a citizen, I want to know if the Commander-in-Chief who can order our children to the front lines fulfilled his own military commitments and kept his word to the organization that he is supposed to lead. If it's a choice between someone who served honorably and put himself on the line as opposed to someone who pulled strings to avoid combat and pulled even more strings to get out of serving his full term, the choice is clear to me.
Yes, there are more pressing issues that deserve our attention, but the issue of Bush's service with the Guard goes beyond the matter of fulfilling his duties. The bigger issue is the Bush Administration's propensity to lie and deceive with impunity. If they lie about something as basic as Bush's military record from thirty years ago, how can we trust them to tell us the truth about the state of the nation or anything else?
When Kerry brought up his service in Vietnam, his honor and credibility was viciously attacked by the so called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The press and right-wing pundits ate it up, even though evidence after evidence supported Kerry and proved the veterans to be the liars. They say his service is fair game because he brought it up. That's ridiculous. Sure they can discuss his service, but it doesn't give them the right to lie about it.
Since they insist on throwing mud, I say it's Bush's record that is fair game. But instead of presenting evidence to support their position, right-wing operatives and pundits predictably attack the messenger instead of addressing the message. Not only do they like throwing mud, they like wallowing in it, because they know that the public tends to remember the spin instead of the truth.
One thing Kerry has on his side that his opponents didn't: the facts. So far none of the facts support Bush.
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Wonky Muse is the other Filipino American female political blogger. The sane, liberal one.
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