Vietnam was Romney’s war and mine. Over 58,200 American men and women died there, and another 304,000 were wounded. I went and experienced firsthand the sobering reality of combat. I’m contemptuous of those who sat out Vietnam, but now find the backbone to urge U.S. military entanglements and war at the expense of others’ sons and daughters. Among these “Chickenhawks” is Mitt Romney.
Twenty-seven million were eligible for military service between 1964 and 1973; 8.4 million served on active duty, and 2.6 million served in Vietnam. 1.8 million were drafted into active Army or Marine Corps duty.
Roughly half all eligible men, including Mitt, avoided military service through college draft deferments. Many men now aged 58-71 with advanced degrees sat out the war. That they could was deemed acceptable by a horribly unfair draft law designed to disadvantage poorer Americans. What made Mitt’s draft avoidance remarkable was that he publicly picketed against anti-war protesters in May 1966, while on his first college deferment.
Three months later he was in France doing Mormon missionary work and avoiding the draft through a controversial interpretation of a “minister of religion” deferment granted only to Mormons. Mitt said his 30 months in France were rough duty, but had time to send an extraordinary Valentine in 1968, a year in which 16,592 Americans — an average of 47 per day — died.
Mitt finished college using two additional deferments, for a total of four, allowing him to avoid the most dangerous 5½ years of Vietnam. He never served a day, in keeping with an unbroken Romney family tradition spanning six generations and 171 years of, mostly continuous, U.S. residence.
Most of the 15 million who avoided military service through deferments were understandably afraid of dying or being maimed. But Mitt later attempted to convince the American electorate that he wished he had served. During his 2007 presidential run, Mitt claimed that while he was in France, “I was supportive of my country, I longed in many respects to actually be in Vietnam and be representing our country there, and in some ways it was frustrating not to feel like I was there as part of the troops that were fighting in Vietnam.” Trust me, he could have gone.
While I believe Romney’s history marks him as a hypocrite, my greatest fear is the damage he could inflict as a Chickenhawk commander-in-chief.
“Chickenhawks” avoid military service, and then later talk tough about the necessity of using military force. The truly dangerous among them are those in positions of power. Think Bush and Cheney, who, relying on “bad intelligence” invaded Iraq at a cost of 4,409 American lives and 32,000 wounded.
Romney, who has surrounded himself with Bush’s Neoconservative, draft-avoiding advisors, has said taking our troops from Iraq was “tragic” (4,409 dead Americans not enough?) and wants to leave them in Afghanistan indefinitely (2,100 Americans killed, 17,600 wounded!). He wants to be tougher than Obama with Libya, Syria, Russia and China and would outsource the decision for a U.S. attack on Iran to the Israelis. Dangerous talk by a man who ran from his war and whose five sons, he believes, “serve” by trying to get him in the White House.
Obama was 11 when we pulled out of Vietnam and had no draft or war to avoid. He ordered the gutsy mission that killed Bin Laden, eliminated most Al-Qaida leadership (our initial goal), timely removed our combat forces from Iraq, is withdrawing our over-extended forces from Afghanistan and is conservative, yet forceful in his dealings with other nations. He has been CINC for almost four years and is unlikely to engage us in warfare when negotiations will suffice. And, unlike Romney, he has no need to compensate for an ignominious past.
Twomey, a 64-year old Tallahassee lawyer, served four years on active duty, including commanding an artillery battery in Vietnam. He retired from the Army Reserves as a Lieutenant Colonel. His awards include the Bronze Star Medal with “V” Device. He has two sons in active Navy service, the elder who has served combat tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan.