Sunday, April 22, 2007

Apparently Irony Is Not Dead

Ian Williams should get a prize for his opening line in a column composed for the UK's Guardian:

A working definition of chutzpah: a Bush administration prosecuting deserters.

The rest of the column isn't too bad, either, as Williams examines one of the least discussed issues of the Iraq War: desertion.

It is interesting that people like the newly recess-appointed US Ambassador to Belgium, Sam Fox, spent so much time and money examining the military careers of people like Kerry, but are so uninterested in the eloquent lack of a military career for George Bush. But he won his ambassadorship the same way that Bush won his exemption - with cash and connections.

Back in the day, during the Vietnam war that he supported, young George Bush, "Googen" to his family, abused his family ties to join the Texas Air National Guard, which in those halcyon days guaranteed a free pass from the draft and deployment to Indo-China. He had to do that because President Lyndon Baines Johnson had abolished the graduate student deferment that so many other members of the Bush cabinet had already abused.

Towards the end of his five-year term, young W went missing, and failed to turn up for the occasional duties demanded. The technical term for someone absent without leave for such an extended period is desertion. But Texans are great believers in redemption - at least for sons of important political families - and the local establishment covered up his desertion.

He is now commander-in-chief of the most disastrous war since, well ... Vietnam. Things have changed. Congressmen's sons do not get protection any more. They do not need it since none of them are in the forces. National Guards are posted overseas in Iraq - over and over again. They and regular army recruits have discovered the small print in their contracts that says that they can't leave when they thought they could.

Consequently desertions are rising - as are prosecutions. In the last five years desertions trebled compared with the previous five years - and they are still rising. ...

I have one quibble: several members of Congress have sons or daughters serving in Iraq. That quibble aside, Williams' column does raise some interesting issues with respect to what this administration and the GOP which continues to kowtow to it have done to this country.

After years of bashing Clinton for his lack of military service, the GOP has done all it could (and that turned out to be a lot) to quash any examination of Bush's service (or lack thereof) in the Texas Air National Guard.* It has also smeared those who actually served in the military with honor, in Viet Nam and after, right out of elections.

What this administration and its minions have done to the military itself is even worse: they broke it. In fact, it is so broken that the Pentagon has unilaterally extended tours in Iraq to fight a war that most Americans are so disgusted by that they favor a pull-out. No wonder some soldiers refuse another tour. Being charged with a felony is considered preferable.

And all this from a man who, well, deserted.

*Ruth will have more on this part of the GOP machine in a day or two.

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