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By Bill Potvin
George W. Bush's recent gaffe on Ukraine are not funny to this Vietnam veteran.
Recently, ex-president George W. Bush, who had virtually disappeared from the news for over a decade, rekindled his political presence. Bush's most recent gaffe says it all.
While speaking to the audience at the G.W. Bush Institute, he put his foot in his mouth once again. He was attempting to demonize war criminal Vladimir Putin: "the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq… I mean Ukraine." The crowd chuckled as he did, saying "Hey, I'm seventy-five." The video went viral as many people see these "faux-pas" as funny. Hardly. As a Vietnam combat veteran, I saw this clearly as the Freudian slip of the century!
In demonizing Vladimir Putin, Bush slipped and confused the terror being perpetrated on innocent civilians in Ukraine with what he and Dick Cheney had done in Iraq. Perhaps he knows this deep inside and thus the slip. Recall that the preemptive attacks on Iraq were viewed as a form of entertainment by the major media and many watched. It was called Shock and Awe. Buildings exploded like a fireworks display with very little mention of the persons inside. It was a display of US might, with the military goal of regime change and removal of the evil Saddam Hussein.
Unlike Ukraine, where suffering and destruction are highlighted, there were no sobbing women and children portrayed in our corporate media. We were told that the primary reason for attacks on Iraq was "weapons of mass destruction hidden in bunkers." There were never such weapons. Iraq was never a threat. We were lied into war against the better judgment of nearly all the countries in the world. Before the invasion, more total people protested in major cities than had ever protested before in world history. It proved useless.
We spent billions of our tax dollars while devastating the Iraqi economy and perpetrating a civil war. Over 200,000 civilians were killed and millions made refugees, while "oil-men" like Bush and CEOs like Cheney and Rumsfeld accumulated immense wealth.
It's not a pretty picture and the world has lost respect for us as a nation. Torture was sanctioned by the top leaders of our country (the name was altered to "enhanced interrogation"). Old allies were insulted. Afghanistan only added to the worldwide view, such that we are now looked upon as the most dangerous nation on the planet (from recent polling).
Anti-war veterans are very aware of our thirst for resources and continued endless wars. Very few citizens are aware that we are in over 80 countries with some form of a military base, from Okinawa to Germany to Africa. The general populations of all 80 want us out!
There have been many empires throughout history (Greek, Roman, Ottoman, Dutch, Spanish, and British come to mind) and they all have had many characteristics in common, the main one being they all hollowed out and collapsed due to militarism and overreach. They forgot their people in the perpetual need to expand in violent ways while draining the pocketbooks of taxpayer citizens.
Anti-war veterans see this and make the stands that we do. The connections between war, militarism, and violence at home are clear to us. They are intimately connected. That is why the recent "slip" of G.W. Bush is so significant.
For me, this recently affirmed that the satanic actions of Vladimir are no worse than what Bush had done in Iraq. Surely Bush knows this deep inside and thus the Freudian slip.
I suggest that we learn from history and re-examine the concept of American Exceptionalism. Rather than see veterans against wars as fringe radicals going against the conventional grain of patriotism, the reality is that anti-war veterans are the true patriots because we care enough for our country to see the dead-end direction that we are headed. We want to try to make a positive contribution, usually requiring dissent.
The great Martin Luither King, Jr. summed it up beautifully when he said in his "Beyond Vietnam" speech in 1967, "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."
Bill Potvin attended artillery O.C.S. at Fort Sill after college. He dropped out and went to Vietnam as an E-1, did one tour, and finished as a Spec. 5 demolition specialist.