Veterans Day 2014 was an unusual day for George W, Bush to publish a biography of his father, George H.W. Bush. The father, our 41st president, was a war hero fighter pilot in WWII. The son, our 43rd president, avoided having to fight in any war and later became known as a "Chicken Hawk" for sending younger warriors to their deaths to carry out his willful destruction of Iraq starting in 2003.
The world -- not just the United States -- would have been better off had George W. Bush stuck to his brushes instead of other peoples' guns. At least his father, who did invade Panama and then Kuwait, knew how horrible war could be and thus limited his invasions in both scope and objectives. The son, who swaggered around Washington brandishing Saddam's gun, did neither.
The first time Americans noticeably chanted "USA! USA! USA!" was in Los Angeles at the 1984 Olympics that Russia did not attend. Those chants persist to this very day, again heard loud and clear on the Washington Mall at "The Concert for Valor" -- spurred on once by Jamie Foxx and then by Metallica -- on the evening that Bush's ode to his father hit the bookstores.
We have painfully learned that George W. Bush often said the opposite of what he meant. He said he was "a uniter, not a divider" before dividing the country more than it had been since the Vietnam War. Now he's done it again, lionizing his father whom he grew up hating and fearing, and under whose enormous shadow he could never escape.
In doing research for my best-selling book Bush on the Couch, I discovered the following:
His father was absent during much of George W's childhood, mostly concerned with developing his oil business in Texas. Bush Jr. yearned for his father, for more contact with him. At the same time, however, he was intimidated both at Andover (the prep school they both attended) and Yale where his father had been a hero. At Yale there was even a photo of his father shaking hands with Yankee Hero Lou Gehrig. George Sr. was a star first baseman at Yale -- tall and powerful. George Jr. was a cheerleader -- short and sarcastic.
George Jr eventually became a cheerleader for war, for bombing Baghdad and for insisting that Saddam Hussein had close ties to Osama bin Laden and thus was in part responsible for 9/11. A real army hero, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, warned only yesterday of the dangers of re-writing history -- something that Bush has done yet again with his new book.
At the massive Vietnam Memorial Wall, on Veterans Day 2014 -- after lauding the "uncommon valor of Americans" who were the "quiet heroes" of our time -- Mr. Hagel said:
"The Wall reminds us to be honest in our telling of history. There is nothing to be gained by glossing over the darker portions of a war, the Vietnam War that bitterly divided America. We must openly acknowledge past mistakes, and we must learn from past mistakes, because that is how we avoid repeating past mistakes."
Perhaps the day after Veterans Day we might do well to remember this proverb about war: "A 'great' war leaves the country with three armies -- an army of cripples, an army of mourners, and an army of thieves." We would be remiss to let George W Bush now rob us of still more painful facts.