The Thinker: Rich Galen


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Military Service Fantasies

Rich Galen

Monday June 10, 2019

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  • There is something about being in the Trump Administration that requires people who never served a day to make wretched comparisons to military service.

  • We know about Donald Trump's suggesting on the Howard Stern radio program that avoiding STDs during his Studio 54 days was the equivalent of living through a rotation or two in Vietnam.

  • Officially Trump was excused from service for having bone spurs.

  • Just last week, while supposedly honoring the service members who participated in D-Day, Trump repeated his justification by saying to Piers Morgan in Britain last week (via the Washington Post):
    "I thought it was a terrible war," Trump told Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain. "I thought it was very far away, and at that time nobody ever heard of the country. So many people dying, what is happening over there? So I was never a fan - like we're fighting against Nazi Germany, fighting against Hitler."

  • Yeah, well …

  • According to Wikipedia, 1968 (Trump's and my college graduation year) featured:
    - US troop numbers peaking at 549,500.

    - U.S. spending $77.4 billion (the equivalent of $ 557 billion in 2019 dollars).

    - The deadliest of the Vietnam War for America and its allies with 27,915 South Vietnamese soldiers killed and the Americans suffering 16,592 killed.

    - It was the year of the Tet offensive.

  • Vietnam was a pretty common topic of conversation in 1968, far away as it might have been.

  • Let me remind you that I didn't go to Vietnam, either. I joined first the New Jersey, then the Ohio National Guard after being thrown out of Marietta College Marietta, Ohio 45750.

  • The New Jersey Guard was a Tank Division, which was not needed in Vietnam at the time. The Ohio Guard unit was an anti-aircraft battery; also not needed.

  • According to my DD 214 (which I happen to have right here in front of me) I was on Active Duty for Training (at Ft. Bragg, NC then Ft. Lee, VA) until October of 1997, having been trained as a Unit and Organizational Supply Specialist which included being trained as a Unit Armorer.

  • Had we been called up I would have gone, but as long-time readers know I have said a number of times that my six months in Iraq was a partial payment on (what was at the time) a 35-year-old debt.

  • A rationalization, I understand, but there you are.

  • Going back to Trump's saying that Vietnam wasn't like "like we're fighting against Nazi Germany, fighting against Hitler," it seems that Donald's father, Fred Trump didn't fight in World War II.

  • Trump, the Elder was born in 1905 and was still of draft age for World War II. In his defense, Fred was married with two small children and so was pushed below many who were younger and single on the draft list.

  • Nevertheless, Fred Trump was accused - but not officially charged - with profiteering for the way he pocketed Federal money when he built rental units for returning World War II veterans.

  • The apple doesn't fall far from the high rise.

  • Ok. We know that there is not much in the Trump DNA that separates public service from making money.

  • Now comes William Barr, the current Attorney General of the United States.

  • In filling out his confirmation papers, Barr indicated he had been born in 1950 and was not required to register for the draft.

  • People with actual pocket calculators pointed out that when Barr turned 18 in that dreaded year of 1968, the government was still drafting lots of American men. Indeed, according to Reuters, it was "a time when the government was drafting roughly 300,000 people per year to serve in Vietnam."

  • Barr changed his form and said he had registered for the draft. It is possible that, given that the Vietnam war ended in 1975, Barr received educational deferments that allowed him to avoid service.

  • OK. Barr spoke at the graduation ceremony of new FBI agents last week. In his remarks he - we assume jokingly - (according to "compared his arrival at the Justice Department to the type of situation soldiers faced before D-Day."

  • Barr said:
    "As we've been watching the coverage of June 6, 1944 D-Day, I had the thought that my arrival this time felt a little bit, I think, like jumping into Sainte-Mère-Église on the morning of June 5, trying to figure out where you could land without getting shot."

  • Barr didn't make clear by which side he feared getting shot.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Wikipedia's summary of 1968 in Vietnam, Fred Trump's problems with the federal government after World War II, and William Barr's good joke about D-Day at the FBI Academy.

    The Mullfoto is of the normally placid Potomac River over the weekend.

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