I caught a quote by William Saletan yesterday that has been replaying in my mind as we wade through the post re-election of King George. Saletan writes for the MSN online Slate Magazine. The quote was "When you support a president going to war, you don’t get your war. You get his." This comment came from the post 9/11 days when many Americans threw their full support to the commander-in-chief. This action was predicated by the belief that America had been attacked and that whoever was leading our military needed the full support of all Americans. The support was specifically for the commander-in-chief and the holder of that position was George Bush. George perceived this backing as support for him and he pursued his agenda of putting America into a war with Iraq under the guise of fighting terrorism. So King George became a war president.
Sadly, the war president was re-elected. When you factor in the leads held in both houses by Republicans and add the possibility of some Supreme Court appointments, one can easily see the country taking a hard right ideological turn. Equally disturbing is the likelihood that King George will see his re-election as a confirmation of his actions. In short, we can expect at least four more years of war thanks to the "you’re doing the right thing" mandate the American voters delivered to Bush. According to the Monday quarterbacking news analysis, however, the single issue that drove most Americans to select Bush over Kerry was moral values. I swear I’m not making this stuff up. Moral values outpaced terrorism and the economy as the top reason America extended George’s job contract.
From this analysis, can we assume that Democrats are viewed as amoral sinners, while Republicans are the good guys? This is where I have difficulty understanding this election. I am asking for help to explain the logic of the morals argument to myself and to my children as well as to my students who are all wondering how we got from point A to point W. The question is: how did America choose Bush for president under the pretext of choosing high morals?
The war that ruined my life, The Vietnam War, had very unclear goals. Few could give reasonable explanations for why we were there at the time and history has been imprecise on giving a clarification in hindsight. Most agree today that Vietnam was a BFM, or big fat mistake (though other words might fit the acronym). Anyway, America stayed in that BFM for way too long, destroying the lives of our soldiers, their family’s lives, and the lives of the Vietnamese. Today’s BFM, The Iraq War has clear goals and objectives. America is in Iraq to put money into the coffers of The Carlyle Group, Halliburton, Cheney’s war machine, and perhaps into Big Oil. I suppose that catching Saddam Hussein was in the plan as well, but those pesky Iraqi "terrorists" keep killing Americans even after his removal.
Comparing the two wars, I see the Vietnam BFM as having a confusing, hard to explain purpose. If there was a moral justification for that war, it has escaped me. The Iraq BFM has to be seen as immoral. America has gained nothing by being there. We have found no weapons of mass destruction, no nuclear warheads, and no evidence to tie Hussein with Bin Laden. We have alienated many of our allies and have lost the respect of much of the world. We are seen as bullies who could not get the real terrorists who attacked us so we started a war with a country that our president decided was just loaded with bad guys. I recently read the study that indicates the Iraq War is responsible for killing over 100,000 innocent Iraqi citizens. That’s 100,000 deaths in addition to the enemy death count. So I’m wondering where the high moral values are in a commander-in-chief who can show his smug face in public knowing his war actions have killed so many innocent lives.
Bin Laden is responsible for taking perhaps 3,000 American lives and with the exception of lives taken at The Pentagon, those were innocent, non-combatant Americans. The world hates Bin Laden and many want him dead for his actions. George Bush is responsible for taking over 100,000 innocent lives and our country re-elects him using the rationale that George represents high moral values. Seriously, I have great difficulty putting the words "high moral values" in the same sentence with George’s name. I find it much easier to put Bush’s name in sentences with words like "moron, liar, murderer, and thief."
In my estimation, George W. Bush is the worst president in modern times. For those who did not vote, or could not vote for Kerry because of whatever reason, I say that Kerry or any other reasonable candidate would have been an improvement over Bush. Donald Duck would have had my vote over Bush.
November 6, 2004
Miles Woolley is a disabled Vietnam veteran living in Miami, Florida. He served with the 9th Infantry Division in The Mekong Delta in a Ranger unit doing reconnaissance 1968–69 where he received a gunshot wound to the head leaving one side severely paralyzed. He is a father of four grown children and grandfather of seven, including a set of triplets.