In a sequence perhaps revealing of how George Bush has rationalized his Vietnam draft dodge to himself, today's news conference (also here) got around to the topic of Vietnam-Iraq analogies, and Bush claimed that one difference between the wars arose from the former being fought with a conscript army and the latter with a volunteer army, with the result that only the latter understood the stakes.
QUESTION: Mr. President, you mentioned the prospect that your successor would be dealing with the war. You'll be making your first trip to Vietnam in roughly a week. Some people are looking at the war as another Vietnam War. Are they wrong to do so? And, if so, why?
BUSH: I think they are. I think they are. First of all, Iraq is -- after the overthrow of the tyrant, voted on a constitution that is intended to unite the whole country. And then they had elections under that constitution where nearly 12 million people voted for this unity government.
Secondly -- which is different from Vietnam -- secondly, in terms of our troops, this is a volunteer Army. Vietnam wasn't a volunteer Army, as you know. And in this volunteer Army, people -- the troops understand the consequences of Iraq in the global war on terror.
It's quite an inversion to say that it's the less selective army was the one that didn't understand the importance of their war, not to mention Bush's apparent insinuation that the people who stayed out of Vietnam had a better view of its importance than those who went.
UPDATE: The remark is getting regrettably little attention, especially when compared to the staged uproar about John Kerry's comments. But Maureen Dowd noticed (link free this week with Philips ad).
W. also managed to bash Vietnam vets, saying that this war isn’t similar because there’s a volunteer army, so “the troops understand the consequences of Iraq in the global war on terror.” Is that why W. stayed out of Vietnam? Because he understood it?