Tuesday, November 21, 2006

November 21


Today is the 32nd anniversary of George Walker Bush's honorable discharge from the United States Air Force Reserve, bringing his military service to a formal conclusion. He had not flown a plane in over three years and had not performed any identifiable duties since early 1972.

Twenty-seven years after his discharge from the Air Force Reserves, George Bush delivered a speech at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, where he observed that
There are still terrorists on the loose in Afghanistan, and we will find and destroy their network, piece by piece. The most difficult steps in this mission still lie ahead. Our enemies hide in sophisticated cave complexes, located in some of the most mountainous and rugged territory. These hideouts are heavily fortified and defended by fanatics who will fight to the death. Unlike efforts to liberate a town or destroy Taliban equipment, success against these cells may come more slowly. But we'll prevail. We'll prevail with a combination of good information, decisive action, and great military skill.
A year later, on 21 November 2002, Bush appeared with Tony Blair in a press conference in Prague, where the two were attending the North Atlantic Council summit. During an exchange with reporters, Bush explained that
Saddam Hussein has got a decision to make: Will he uphold the agreement that he has made? And if he chooses to do so by disarming peacefully, the world will be better off for it. If he chooses not to disarm, we will work with our close friends, the closest of which is Great Britain, and we will disarm him. But our first choice is not to use the military option. Our first choice is for Mr. Saddam Hussein to disarm. And that's where we'll be devoting a lot of our energies.
A few minutes later, a reporter asked the American president about Osama Bin Laden, who had recently released a videotape indicating that he was in fact still alive. A year to the day after promising to "prevail" over the terrorists in the mountains of Afghanistan, George W. Bush responded to the reporter's question with a brief joke, promising the journalists that he would have a "formulated answer" the next day.


On 21 November 1967, while speaking to the National Press Club, US General William Westmoreland insisted that progress of the American War in Vietnam was paying off. "We have reached an important point," he observed, "when the end begins to come into view. . . . The enemy's hopes are bankrupt. With your support, we will give you a success that will impact not only on South Vietnam but on every emerging nation in the world."

Seven years later, on the day George W. Bush received an honorable discharge from the United States Air Force Reserves, 2584 Air Force pilots had been killed in Vietnam. None, so far as we can tell, died while defending the skies of Texas.