Mr. Bush himself, the nation’s commander in chief and the biggest hawk of all. He revels in the accouterments of combat. The story was somewhat different when he was 22 years old and eligible for combat himself. He managed to get into the cushy confines of the Texas Air National Guard at the height of the Vietnam War in 1968 – a year in which more than a half-million American troops were in the war zone and more than 14,000 were killed.
The story gets murky after that. We know the future president breezed off at some point to work on a political campaign in Alabama, skipped a required flight physical in 1972 and was suspended from flying. He supported the war in Vietnam but was never in any danger of being sent there.
Vice President Dick Cheney, another fierce administration hawk. Mr. Cheney asked for and received five deferments when he was eligible for the draft. He told senators at a confirmation hearing in 1989, “I had other priorities in the 60’s than military service.” Many draft-age Americans had similar priorities – getting an education, getting married and starting a family.
Attorney General John Ashcroft. He is reported to have said, “I would have served, if asked.” But with the war raging in Vietnam, he received six student deferments and an “occupational deferment” based on the essential nature of a civilian job at Southwest Missouri State University – teaching business law to undergraduates.
Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary and a fanatical hawk on Iraq. He was not fanatical about Vietnam and escaped the draft with student deferments.
There are many others.
I would like to see at least some of these men, in keeping with their positions as leaders of a great nation, stand up and say it is wrong – just wrong – to try and reap a cheap political gain by defacing the sacrifices of individuals like John Kerry, John McCain and Max Cleland, who put themselves in mortal danger in the service of their country.