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I Took Bush's Place in Vietnam
July 19, 2003
By Jack Balkwill

"I 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 war since).

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 of war.

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

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