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Contrasting the War Records of George W. Bush and John F. Kennedy

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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-02-07 12:02 PM
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Contrasting the War Records of George W. Bush and John F. Kennedy
We live in strange times. Following the worst attack on our country in its 225 year history, our unelected President who did nothing whatsoever to prevent that attack declares perpetual war, stands on a pile of rubble with his arms around a firefighter, and says a few coherent words, and he is subsequently proclaimed a resolute leader; he drags his country into an illegal and immoral war based on falsified evidence, and most Americans believe his promise that the purpose of the war is to protect them against terrorism; and he spouts tough words such as bring em on to his proclaimed enemies, while personally protected against them by thousands of miles of ocean and a myriad of armed body guards, and that further enhances his reputation among a substantial portion of the American population as a brave and resolute leader.

George W. Bush used his fathers connections in the 1960s to join the National Guard and thereby avoid service in the Vietnam War a war that he claimed to support. He then failed to fulfill his National Guard commitment.

Perhaps to compensate for his lack of military service as a youth, George Bush as president of the United States has become the most war mongering of all our previous presidents. Having led us into a disastrous, immoral, and purposeless war, he continues to push forward with no apparent concern whatsoever for the tremendous costs in human life, treasure, and international reputation. And now he appears to be leading us into another catastrophic war, based on the same non-evidence as the last one.

Now the American people and its Congress are faced with the question of what to do about this. There is no question that we have come to this sorry state of affairs largely facilitated by an irresponsible national news media that is owned by a few wealthy and powerful corporations, which are more interested in maintaining the status quo than they are in informing the American people.

Only the United States Congress can stop George Bush from leading us into another catastrophe, from which our country and the world may never recover. And even though it would very much like to stop him, many are afraid that the political price will be too high, given the tendency of our corporate news media to demonize and marginalize those who try to impede our march to war.

In this situation Americans would do well to contrast the performance of George W. Bush with the performance of John F. Kennedy with respect to their handling of war and peace issues during their presidencies. The contrast is so stark that just thinking about it should wake Americans up to the reality of how pathetic our country has become under the leadership of George W. Bush, how dangerous our current situation is, and that it is essential that George Bush be stopped preferably by removing him from office.

A brief background on John F. Kennedys first two and a half years in office

John F. Kennedy did not come to the Presidency of the United States as a noted peace advocate. Like virtually all American leaders since the onset of the Cold War, he was caught up in the fear and antipathy towards Communism and the tough hawkish rhetoric of the times. In fact, Kennedy may even have outdone Richard Nixon in that regard during the 1960 Presidential campaign.

But he grew tremendously in office, after beginning his Presidency with a bad mistake. Shortly after being sworn in as President, he came under great pressure from the CIA and the military to carry through with plans (initiated during Eisenhowers Presidency) to invade Cuba using Cuban exiles as soldiers. Kennedy acquiesced to those plans, and shortly after the U.S. invasion at the Bay of Pigs, he found himself in a lose-lose situation: He could either leave over a thousand soldiers to their fate, probably to be captured or killed, or he could intervene to save them while risking a war with the Soviet Union which carried the potential for many millions of deaths on both sides. Kennedy chose the former course, which resulted in the capture of about twelve hundred soldiers and the deaths of 68. In a speech to the American people he accepted full responsibility for the fiasco.

The first two and a half years of Kennedys Presidency was a time of great anxiety over the possibility of nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Tensions peaked with the Berlin crisis of 1961, when we appeared to be on the verge of a nuclear war. That crisis ended with the erection of the Berlin Wall, war having been avoided. So again with the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962, in which Kennedy steadfastly resisted demands from his military and other advisors to take actions that almost certainly would have resulted in a nuclear war. That crisis ended successfully, as the nuclear warheads in Cuba were dismantled in return for our dismantling of nuclear missiles in Turkey.

Kennedys courageous efforts towards peace

All that set the stage for his deciding that world peace had to be a major priority of his Presidency. His efforts in that direction first became evident in a peace speech at American University on June 10th 1963. According to James Carroll in House of War The Pentagon and the Disastrous Rise of American Power, this speech was unprecedented in its emphasis on peace by a major U.S. political figure since the onset of the Cold War. Few people knew about the speech before he gave it, and he didnt discuss it at all with his military because he knew that they would lobby against it. It is inconceivable that this speech was intended to win votes. To the contrary, it posed grave political risks. He began:

I have, therefore, chose this time and this place to discuss a topic on which ignorance too often abounds and the truth is too rarely perceived -- yet it is the most important topic on earth : world peace.

What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war I am talking about genuine peace -- the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living -- the kind that enables man and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children -- not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women -- not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.

He talked about how the presence of nuclear weapons meant that that we MUST make peace a priority:

I speak of peace because of the new face of war. Total war makes no sense in an age when great powers can maintain large and relatively invulnerable nuclear forces and refuse to surrender without resort to those forces. It makes no sense in an age when a single nuclear weapon contains almost ten times the explosive force delivered by all of the allied air forces in the Second World War. It makes no sense in an age when the deadly poisons produced by a nuclear exchange would be carried by the wind and water and soil and seed to the far corners of the globe and to generations unborn.

In marked contrast to the prevailing tough anti-Communist rhetoric of the day, Kennedy spoke of the need for Americans to examine their own attitudes:

Some say that it is useless to speak of world peace or world law or world disarmament -- and that it will be useless until the leaders of the Soviet Union adopt a more enlightened attitude. I hope they do. I believe we can help them do it. But I also believe that we must re-examine our own attitude -- as individuals and as a Nation -- for our attitude is as essential as theirs. And every graduate of this school, every thoughtful citizen who despairs of war and wishes to bring peace, should begin by looking inward -- by examining his own attitude toward the possibilities of peace, toward the Soviet Union, toward the course of the Cold War and toward freedom and peace here at home.

First let us examine our attitude toward peace itself. Too many of us think it is impossible. Too many of us think it is unreal. But that is dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable -- that mankind is doomed -- that we are gripped by forces we cannot control

He noted that a change in institutional arrangements would be needed to ensure a lasting peace:

Let us focus instead on a more practical, more attainable peace -- based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions -- on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the interest of all concerned.

There is no single, simple key to this peace -- no grand or magic formula to be adopted by one or two powers. Genuine peace must be the product of many nations, the sum of many acts. It must be dynamic, not static, changing to meet the challenge of each new generation. For peace is a process -- a way of solving problems.

He even sought to humanize, rather than demonize, our adversary:

Let us re-examine our attitude toward the Soviet Union It is discouraging to think that their leaders may actually believe what their propagandists write Yet it is sad to read these Soviet statements -- to realize the extent of the gulf between us. But it is also a warning -- a warning to the American people not to fall into the same trap as the Soviets, not to see only a distorted and desperate view of the other side, not to see conflict as inevitable, accommodations as impossible and communication as nothing more than an exchange of threats.

No government or social system is so evil that its people must be considered as lacking in virtue. As Americans, we find communism profoundly repugnant as a negation of personal freedom and dignity. But we can still hail the Russian people for their many achievements -- in science and space, in economic and industrial growth, in culture and in acts of courage.

Among the many traits the peoples of our two countries have in common, none is stronger than our mutual abhorrence of war And no nation in the history of battle ever suffered more than the Soviet Union suffered in the course of the Second World War. At least 20 million lost their lives. Countless millions of homes and farms were burned or sacked. A third of the nation's territory, including nearly two thirds of its industrial base, was turned into a wasteland

We are both devoting massive sums of money to weapons that could be better devoted to combating ignorance, poverty and disease. We are both caught up in a vicious and dangerous cycle in which suspicion on one side breeds suspicion on the other, and new weapons beget counter-weapons

So, let us not be blind to our differences -- but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal

He spoke of the need for international cooperation and institutions:

Meanwhile, we seek to strengthen the United Nations, to help solve its financial problems, to make it a more effective instrument of peace, to develop it into a genuine world security system -- a system capable of resolving disputes on the basis of law, of insuring the security of the large and the small, and of creating conditions under which arms can finally be abolished.

There can be no doubt that if all nations could refrain from interfering in the self-determination of others, then peace would be much more assured. This will require a new effort to achieve world law -- a new context for world discussions. It will require increased understanding between the Soviets and ourselves. And increased understanding will require increased contact and communications.

And then he came to the practical matters the topic that the hawks and arms merchants so hated detailing numerous concrete steps that he intended to take to put his peace plans into action:

We have also been talking in Geneva about other first-step measures of arms control, designed to limit the intensity of the arms race and to reduce the risks of accidental war. Our primary long-range interest in Geneva, however, is general and complete disarmament -- designed to take place by stages, permitting parallel political developments to build the new institutions of peace which would take the place of arms.

The one major area of these negotiations where the end is in sight -- yet where a fresh start is badly needed -- is in a treaty to outlaw nuclear tests. The conclusion of such a treaty -- so near and yet so far -- would check the spiraling arms race in one of its most dangerous areas. It would place the nuclear powers in a position to deal more effectively with one of the greatest hazards which man faces in 1963, the further spread of nuclear arms. It would increase our security -- it would decrease the prospects of war. I am taking this opportunity, therefore, to announce two important decisions in this regard.

The aftermath of Kennedys speech

Khrushchev declared Kennedys speech the greatest of any American President since Roosevelt. And for the first time he allowed an American Presidential speech to be rebroadcast in the Soviet Union.

Six weeks later, Kennedy announced to the American people the first nuclear test ban treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union. With an extensive public campaign and help from his Secretary of Defense and General Maxwell Taylor, the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Kennedy prevailed upon the Senate to ratify the treaty.

Kennedy then undertook secret negotiations with Fidel Castro in an attempt to come to an accommodation with him.

Then, two months following the ratification of the nuclear test ban treaty, Kennedy stated in a November 22nd campaign speech in Texas that the chances of peace are better than they have been in the past.

Our history would probably have been very different had Kennedy been able to continue his Presidency for another five years. But the next day he was killed with a bullet through the front of his head.

Concluding comments

The difference between having George W. Bush as President, compared to John F. Kennedy, is like the difference between night and day. Kennedy was our President during a very dangerous time for our country and the world. He demonstrated great courage in pushing for peace instead of war, against great pressures to do otherwise. George Bush, on the other hand, acts like an uncontrollable child in his determination to push his country into war against the wishes of the American people and its Congress, against international law, and against the desires of all the peoples of the world. Neither our country nor the world can afford this for much longer. The United States Congress needs to recognize this soon and take the appropriate action in order to prevent a world wide catastrophe.
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