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Jimmy Breslin
Bush Goal Was Dodging War


February 15, 2004

Records released by the White House show that George Bush attended some drills in the Texas Air National Guard in the four months of 1972 while the air losses in Vietnam continued.

On George Bush's last paid day in the Texas Air National Guard, on April 16, 1972, the air war in Vietnam had turned furious because Richard Nixon had ordered large strikes against North Vietnam, the first since 1968. Nixon was certain that bombing would crumble North Vietnam and give him a smashing victory in the war.

Bush was on duty for 26 days from January 1 until April 16. On that last day in Texas, April 16, 1972, the front pages around the nation, which George Bush could see because he was here, far from the shooting, had a photo of Maj. Gale Albert Despiegler, just captured after being shot down over Quang Binh, North Vietnam.

Despiegler would be in the same prison with John McCain, who spent five and a half years in a Hanoi jail and was tortured. He tried suicide twice.

On April 16, the American raids on the port of Haiphong and the capital city, Hanoi, were reported from Hanoi by Agence France-Presse:

"Anti-aircraft guns fired on a formation of American F-4 fighter bombers early Sunday as the planes swept low over the North Vietnamese capital. The Hanoi radio said that American jets struck inside and outside Hanoi seven hours after the Haiphong raid. The Associated Press also reported. The radio said that 11 American planes had been downed in the raid. A Pentagon spokesman refused to comment on the reports from Hanoi."

The United States command said that escort planes had accompanied the bombers. Anti-aircraft fire was believed to have been intense and some planes may have been shot down by surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft fire, but the command's announcement said only that all B-52's "returned safely."

After that April 16, Bush went to Alabama and that pretty much ended his fighting career although he did battle cavities in a dentist's chair at Maxwell Field, Ala.

The hack flacks in the White House and the Pekinese of the press are fighting over whether Bush actually did go to the dentist and thus was on duty, or was he missing from a real drill?

His whereabouts have nothing to do with it. What matters only is that Bush was in the National Guard in Texas because he was dodging the war in Vietnam. In those days, if you were in the Guard, you were not called for Vietnam. Some people used college, or marriage, or Conscientious Objector or moving to Canada to evade. Bush used the Guard. Anybody trying that today is in great danger. The Guard units are being called up by the day. But Bush used the Guard when it gave safety. And now, shamelessly, preposterously, he sends people to get killed in Iraq. That he has no right to do so doesn't seem to enter his mind.

In Texas, George Bush might have even had a uniform on. But he was not in Vietnam. And now, today, he is a guy who ducked the war, dodged the war, reneged on any chance to go to war, and yet without even a hint of personal shame sends young people to die in a war that his record shows that he would duck.

That Bush was not near any of this is his business. Of course he had joined the National Guard so he wouldn't have to go to Vietnam. That he barely went to any National Guard drills is also his business.

What matters to all our senses is that he is a president who struts around as a war hero, who dodged Vietnam and most of the National Guard drills and who with less shame than anybody we have had maybe ever, sends your kids to a war that he ducked as if he was allowed to do it by birth.

The picture of him playing soldier suit on an aircraft carrier, the helmet under his arm like he just got back from a run over Baghdad, marks him as exceedingly dangerous. He believes he is a warrior president. He is not. He is a war dodger. Therefore, it is preposterous for George Bush to be a commander of anything. He doesn't have the right to send people to war and yet he orders them off, and almost cheerfully.

What was he doing all day in April 16, 1972 when they raided Haiphong? It was the first attack on the port city by the eight-engine B-52's that fly slower than the speed of sound and drop enormous amounts of bomb tonnage in patterns of great length. This makes the B 52's vulnerable to ground fire, particularly surface-to-air missiles. The jet fighters, smoked lightning, must fly near the B-52's to attract the fire from the ground.

A United States communique on April 15 said that four American aircraft, a Navy jet and three Air Force fighter bombers, were downed in raids against military targets around Haiphong. The Hanoi government claimed 15 planes were shot down, including a B-52. United States army headquarters reported that all B-52's returned from Haiphong.

Another United States communique said the pilot of a Navy Corsair was rescued at sea, but the two crewmen of an Air Force Force 105 Thunderchief were missing.

Whether this was part of the communique about four planes missing or was about two more losses, is unsure.

What we are sure of is that we have a commander in chief who plays soldier with other people's lives.

Copyright 2004, Newsday, Inc.


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