We have it on very good authority (George W. himself) that, in this post 9/11 world, it is imperative to strike the first blow when we have the slightest notion someone–anyone–out there means to hurt us. Any perceived enemy is fair game; no hard evidence of imminent danger necessary. W. goes with his gut. His primary job, he declares with John Wayne sincerity, is to protect us from harm. What a fair and sensitive guy he is. Or not. Insiders say he’s got a petty mean streak a mile wide. And he smirks when he punches below the belt.
The sitting president plays host, every election cycle, to newly elected legislators. Everyone’s invited to the White House to meet and greet the Commander Guy. They all make nice–even though they’ve said some pretty awful things about each other during campaign season. The 2006 shindig was a doozey.
Senator-elect Jim Webb (D-VA) was there. He’s the ex-marine who beat Bush-buddy/wannabe George “Macaca” Allen in a tight race. Senator Webb was no supporter of Dubyah’s Iraq War and, unlike the Prez, Webb actually had a son serving his country in Iraq. He chose to avoid Bush during the White House reception. Not a bad idea when you’re no fan. It beats hissing at him. Or tossing your cookies.
But old Dubyah was having none of that. He made a beeline for Jim Webb. Here’s how it went:
Bush (smirking): “How’s your boy?”
Webb (not smirking): “We want them to come home, Mr. President.”
Bush (maybe not smirking): “I didn’t ask you that. I asked how he’s doing.”
Webb (definitely not smirking): “That’s between me and my boy.”
Conservative columnist George Will was utterly appalled. He said Senator-elect Webb was rude to the President of the United States. He said Bush was only being sensitive and Webb was a boor. Foul play.
Well, big whoop. How many parents of servicemen and -women are feeling all warm and fuzzy toward a president who misled their kids into a disaster in the Middle East and is determined to keep them there? Seems to me every family member of everyone serving multiple, extended tours of duty in Iraq has earned the right to say whatever he or she likes. They’ve earned the right–the hard way–to state their own opinions. No matter who it is they’re talking to. Jim Webb should have been praised for his self-control. He could have balled up one powerful, ex-military fist and made a pre-emptive strike of his own; to defend himself against both Dubyah’s invading his personal space and his Commander Guy “sensitivity.” Fair play and all.
War Games. That’s what it’s all about. It’s just fine to play the War Game when the “pieces”–the toy soldiers–belong to somebody else. When the same group of military families bears all the burden of The Game while the rest of America shops-for-freedom and complains about the cost of a gallon of gasoline.
There’s an answer for that. Look to games to define the rules of fair play for games. We need a draft again. Not the old one. Nothing like it. The old Selective Service was just that: Selective. There were easy deferments for those who could afford to stay in college. Lots of Vietnam era privileged guys got a sudden yen for graduate degrees. And you could avoid the draft altogether–like Dubyah, like Dan Quayle–if your daddy had power or influence. He just saw to it that you got bumped ahead of every other guy on the National Guard waiting list. Or he got you into graduate school even when your academic record put you so low on the list of applicants you left skid marks. Nope. Can’t have that. We’re going to play fair this time no matter whose keester winds up in a sling.
Let’s do a shiny new draft. Let’s do it like, say, the NBA. Like basketball. You know–first round draft picks, second round, third round and so on. No deferments. None. Here’s how it goes:
First round: The kids, the nieces, nephews and grandchildren of every member of the Executive Branch of government. The president and the vice president are the very first to see their families’ kids off to war.
Second round: Kids from Legislative Branch families. Every last one.
Third round: Department of Defense kids; the kids of war-mongering think tank policy makers.
Fourth round: Hit up big business. Defense contractors, oil company execs…take your pick.
If you love the notion of a war, if you stand to make a profit from it, your kids are fair game. They’re gone.
It’ll work. I’m absolutely sure of it. There won’t be another Vietnam or Iraq in our future–not with the sons and daughters of the powerful at risk first. You can bet we’ll see some serious talking going on; a veritable renaissance of diplomacy and intelligent, compassionate discourse in solving problems worldwide. No more dishonest, for-profit, pre-emptive rush to war. Ever again.
The cost of such a war, our leaders will tell us then, is just too damn high.