Bush's Place in Vietnam
By Jack Balkwill
rode a tank in the generals' rank
when the blitzkrieg raged
and the bodies stank"
Mick Jagger, "Sympathy for the Devil"
Bush is a coward. I am the one who took his place in Vietnam,
so I should know.
Corporate media have convinced the masses of a fictitious
warrior Bush, who is a hero. This has been effective, as a
neighbor recently told me that “If Gore had been elected,
he wouldn’t have had the guts to attack Iraq.” My heart sank
when I heard that, as I cannot fathom how it “takes guts”
to order bombs to be dropped on children. Only cowards can
do such things. Cowards who desert from war themselves while
insisting that the working class bleed and die for the excesses
of their national security state.
I have marched for peace many times with friends who are
war veterans, and others who are long veterans of the peace
movement. I opposed all of the Bush wars-- the invasion of
Panama, Afghanistan, the various Iraqi Wars. I opposed Daddy
Bush’s arming Saddam and protecting him politically for so
long. Daddy Bush was the pilot who bailed out on his crew,
leaving them to crash and die in WW2. Cowardice runs deep
in the Bush family.
During the Vietnam War, when Bush deserted from the Texas
National Guard, the National Security State found itself to
be one short on cannon fodder, so they sent me. A member of
the peasant class, I was expendable. Bush loved the war up
to the point of actually risking his own “investment class”
ass, to employ a favorite term of his father. He supported
the war mind you-- has always enjoyed killing, setting the
all-time execution record for governors, though brother Jeb
has competed well in Florida.
I was at Fort Meade, Maryland for three months prior to being
sent to Vietnam. My military bosses assured me they had friends
in the Pentagon who could keep me from going to war. A lieutenant
was dispatched to the Pentagon with a full-time job of wandering
the halls in pursuit of this. The friends proved to be less
powerful than believed, and I became an advisor to combat
units for US Army Vietnam and Military Assistance Command,
traveling all over the country to daily witness the hatred,
greed and delusion of war, the lowest activity of my species.
I was an ignorant kid who knew nothing about what was happening.
Nothing in my life had prepared me for understanding. My working
class father voted Republican, because Eisenhower was a Republican
and like him, a World War Two vet. I didn’t even know there
was a peace movement, as I was sent before it surged, in 1966.
The Stars and Stripes newspaper in Vietnam was so full of
propaganda that by comparison the Wall Street Journal is objective
on national security matters. I didn’t know that the South
Vietnam government was a corrupt cesspool hated by its people
and forced down their throats by old fashioned imperialism.
Most of us went in order to avoid prison (we also had the
choice of suicide, taken by more than 60,000 vets of that
My heroes are those who oppose war, which is the only sane
approach to it. Those who stand up to the warmongers have
suffered greatly, often beaten and jailed, and sometimes murdered
for that position. Martin Luther King, Jr. appeared to know
where it would get him when he said “I may not get there with
you.” He had called the United States “the greatest purveyor
of violence in the world today” not long before the bullet
tore into his flesh. But the cowardly Bush can’t get enough
I have been under fire for days at a time, with such fear
beyond fear that it really requires a new word. Those who
order wars never see the bleeding or hear the screams. I have
seen rivers of blood and have given thanks for the insane
roar of battle when it hid the screams of my comrades, to
keep me from going entirely mad. But Bush can order a war
casually, just before his golf game.
In a nightmare I faced Bush and said “You cowardly son of
a bitch, I took your place in Vietnam.” I could see in his
glazed, alcoholic eyes the denial which kept him from understanding.
His handlers convinced him that if he put on a flight jacket
and flew to an aircraft carrier, he must be a hero (even if
it cost $800,000 as it underscored the hypocrisy of his “fiscal
conservative” claim, habitually unnoticed by corporate media
as the national debt soars).
On 9/11, when the nation needed leadership, Bush hid at an
Air Force Base. The most protected person on the planet went
into hiding, not because he was in danger, but because he
is a coward. I cannot imagine another president who would
have hid like that. Even the spineless Nixon would have seen
it is the job of a president to go to the White House and
assure the masses that everything is under control.
The Democrats seem unable to locate an issue with which to
oppose Bush. May I suggest the truth? The single image Bush
has promoted is flag-waving hero of the Republic. The evidence
proves he is a coward.
Jack Balkwill is a Vietnam veteran who has won national writing
awards for poetry, fiction and nonfiction. Mr. Balkwill owns
the web site Liberty
Underground of Virginia (LUV). Mr. Balkwill encourages
your comments and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.