Clearing the Fog
in the
War of Words


  logomachy--1. A dispute about words. 2. A dispute carried on in words only; a battle of words.
logomachon--1. One who argues about words. 2. A word warrior.



Obscene equivalence

From an e-mail: Fact is, Bush ducked Vietnam, just like Danny Quayle and Bill Clinton.
The Democrats, with their usual breathtaking shamelessness, sneered at Quayle's National Guard service as tantamount to draft dodging. They are making the charge explicitly against George Bush and Dick Cheney. As with all Big Lies, this one involves focusing on one fact while ignoring everything else that was really happening, rather as the anti-anti-Communists portrayed U.S. Cold War policy as though the U.S. were a football team madly running plays on an otherwise empty field. This applies both to those who ended up in Vietnam, like Kerry, and those who didn't, like Bush.

There are two things to consider:

First, in the 1960s, Vietnam was not the only military show in town. While Vietnam got the headlines, and it was certainly the most exciting place, it was just one link in the Cold War containment of the Soviets. Put numerically, the US military had 2.5 million men on active duty; only 500,000 at most were assigned to the SE Asia theatre. In aggregate, 9 million men are "Vietnam-era" veterans, but only 2.6 million are Vietnam veterans (as we like to say amongst ourselves, "There's a difference", to which the response is "F***ing A"). Some even saw Vietnam as a strategic sideshow to the Cold War. The reason some in the officers' corps resisted adapting to the situation in Vietnam was the attitude expressed by one officer, "I'll be damned if I going to see this Army destroyed in order to win some pissant little war".

Second, obviously the choices that men had to make then regarding their military service obligation were more complex than Vietnam or not Vietnam. One could enlist for three to six years; you could reduce your chance of seeing Vietnam or combat by enlisting in a non-combat specialty or in a specialty or service that didn't see much in action in Vietnam (such as armor, or the Navy). One could be drafted (2 years active duty). One could get a student or other deferment. One could claim conscientious-objector status, which might get you exempted or assigned to a "non-combat" job like medic. One could be classified physically unfit. All of these were legal and honorable, unless one obtained a deferment or exemption, as the peace movement encouraged us to do, by various kinds of deceptions, frauds, and lies. More dishonor attaches to those who cheated than to those who simply left the country.

The upshot is that someone had to fill those 6.5 million slots outside of Vietnam--we couldn’t all be lucky. The 14 or so million men who reached draft age during that period didn't all have the same opportunities and choices, but we all had the opportunity to make a choice between honor and dishonor. Bush, Gore, Quayle, Kerry, and Cheney all made honorable choices; Clinton, of course, lied and broke the law.

Whether you put on your country’s uniform or not, went to Vietnam or not, let the why of what you did haunt your sleepless nights, if you like. Whether you played by the rules is all your fellow citizens need to consider. The suggestion that Bush's and Quayle's service in the Guard is the same as Clinton's lying and draft dodging is obscene and irrational; it is literally Clintonesque. It creates a lie about two men that traduces the dutiful actions of million of men.



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