Max Cleland, former Senator from Georgia, has fired off the latest salvo, making very explicit comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq. Moreover, Cleland — a vet who lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam — argues that the current administration did not learn the lessons of Vietnam… and he’s not shy about his reasons why.
Unfortunately, the people who drove the engine to get into the war in Iraq never served in Vietnam. Not the president. Not the vice president. Not the secretary of defense. Not the deputy secretary of defense. Too bad. They could have learned some lessons….
This is the latest of the "chicken hawk" arguments against the Bush Administrator, and this one resonates pretty strongly. How is it that all these men are so quick to send America soldiers to war, yet of Cheney, Bush, Perle, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld, only Rumsfeld served in the armed forces?
Cleland goes a step further than merely accusing this administration of hypocracy, he argues that their lack of experience in any kind of modern war has led to several errors. To wit, he argues that the administration seems doomed not to learn from the past and, therefore, repeat it.
Now… before anyone suggest that Clinton’s Oxford deferment was no better than Bush’s National Guard "service," let me suggest that Clinton wasn’t rushing us into war. That creates a tangible difference.
And the thing is, I don’t fault anyone who didn’t want to fight in Vietnam. I wouldn’t have. I’m glad my father failed his physical. It was a quagmire that damaged our nation’s psyche for years afterwards. But Bush managed to dodge in a way that took advantage of every privilege available to him and then has the audacity to both fake his way into a war and then pass himself off as a war pilot. That’s where his actions cross the line into truly reprehensible. (Moreover, the GOP claims for the patriotic high-ground really fall apart when you compare the list of GOP veterans to the Democratic list.)
So where does this leave us? It leaves me asking more and more questions about what we’re doing in this war. It leaves me wondering why the media savaged Clinton for his Oxford deferment, yet does not want to ask Bush about his military record — worse, allows him to use our military for a PR shot. And it leaves, I’d imagine, Max Cleland angry. In fact, I’ll let him have the last word:
Welcome to Vietnam, Mr. President. Sorry you didn’t go when you had the chance.