Mister Bush, you deserve a good reaming for your performance at the United States Military Academy graduation on Saturday. Post around to my room for some character guidance.
Come in, wackhead. Slam up against that wall! Suck up that capacious gut! Shoulders back! Pop up that puny chest! Fingers along the seams of your trousers! You want to be our big buddy, Mister? What’s that? I can’t hear you. . . . Sound off, dumbsmack! Yes, you say? Yes, what? That’s an incomplete statement, beanhead. Tack a “sir” at the end. That’s better.
So you think you can be our big buddy by spouting some cadet slang in a speech? One hour here at Hudson High, and you’re falling out, acting like an upper classman. That’s pathetic behavior, Mister Bush. This is one place where you have to earn privileges, Mister! You got that? You think all we care about up here is war? From your speech one would think so. You must love yakking about IEDs, convoy operations, and running checkpoints. There is so much more going on up here, mister, and you make us out to be cannon fodder. So run your feeble neck in another notch for that.
You must be corrected about this place, West Point. It’s not a “tin school.” That’s just a joke, and not one for either you or Rumsfeld to crack wise about. West Point is supposed to develop military leadership to provide expertise in the increasingly complex world of geopolitics. Rumsfeld’s wishful thinking and arrogance swept all that away. His (and your) tragically flawed, ego-driven ideology trumped empirical, professional judgment and leadership. Over a score of generals walked rather than bow their necks under the deceitful yoke of Rumsfeld. And then you ended up with the likes of Tommy “We Don’t Do Body Counts” Franks. But now he IS counting bodies . . . those of our own troops. “What we’re talking about is neither 2,400, 24,000 or 240,000 lives,” the dismissive Franks said at a recent NRA bash, adding paradoxically, “It [terrorism] doesn’t have anything to do with politics.” Does this make you feel proud, Mister Bush? To have people like this develop policies for the United States of America? When you get back to DC, you tell Rumsfeld to drive around to our room, and we’ll explain a few things to him too.
We pay attention to everything up here at West Point, Mister Bush. Even the fact that you told the same joke about giving cadets amnesty that you told four years ago. You should be more respectful of West Point, Mister Bush. That seems to be a pattern in your behavior, smackhead. Telling the same stories over and over. And you throw around the names of old grads like Eisenhower and Bradley, using them to somehow justify what you and your big buddies in DC have done to the world. What do you know about Eisenhower or Bradley? You might get away with that stuff in the oval office, but not up here. Not at West Point. You got that, wack? You got that loud and clear, beansmack? Good. Retain same.
The Long Gray Line spans the generations, mister. Its spirit fills the geographic, intellectual, and moral space that is West Point. The old grads are always there. Mister Bush, you want to buy this place? No? Well stop gawking! Keep those slimy eyeballs straight ahead. Pick a spot on the opposite wall and examine it! You never said anything about what those old grads said. You just got the cadets’ attention by saying the words, Eisenhower and Bradley, but then that was the idea, wasn’t it? Then you launched into how President Truman did this, that, and the other thing. You even pulled a Winston Churchill with your “never back down . . . never give in . . . never accept anything less than a complete victory” routine. It reminded many of us of that “mission accomplished” crud that you blabbed off the coast of San Diego a few years ago. Just who are you, Mister Bush? Makes cadets wonder whether there’s anything inside that fine civilian suit of yours? You read me, Mister Bush?
Do you remember what you said here at the Academy four years ago? About pre-emptive action? Do you know what Dwight Eisenhower said about that much earlier? Don’t hem and haw, Mister Bush. Here at West Point there are only three answers for smacks like you: Yes sir. No sir. No excuse sir. Remember that! And remember this! Eisenhower said, “When people speak to you about a preventive war, you tell them to go and fight it. After my experience, I have come to hate war.” And his fellow classmate from the class of 1915, the class the stars fell on, Omar Bradley was even clearer. “Wars can be prevented just as surely as they can be provoked,” he said, “and we who fail to prevent them must share the guilt for the dead.”
You feel like sharing any of that responsibility, any of that guilt, Mister Bush? Your decision, your deceit-filled decision, to attack Iraq has cost tens of thousands of lives. What do you have to say about that? It seems to us that you have to watch your language, Mister Bush. I mean you still maintain that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and that he was somehow responsible for 9/11. Your evasions and quibbling and lies have cost the world dearly. Cram your neck in, Mister Bush. And you implied as much again in your speech at West Point:
“On September the 11th, 2001, we saw that the problems originating in a failed and oppressive state 7,000 miles away could bring murder and destruction to our country.”
Which country might that have been, Mister Bush? No specification followed. Rack your neck in further for another gross deception!
Four years ago, you were introduced to the graduating class of 2002 as “a man who exemplifies the West Point motto of Duty, Honor, Country.” That now revolts some graduates of West Point. At West Point, we uphold the Cadet Honor Code . . . a cadet will not lie cheat or steal or tolerate those who do. Mister Bush, it seems to us that you and your ilk have done exactly the opposite. (Keep that chin firmly in!) And you are still, cooking up war stories, unalloyed of truth, further proving, if such were still necessary, that lying, even under your combat imaginings, jeopardizes the lives of fighting men and women. And Saturday you told the graduating cadets that “the war began on my watch but it’s going to end on yours.” Perhaps you would like to correct that statement? Perhaps consider adding what is now widely known, that the assault on Iraq began premised on lies. That it is illegal. That these lies have severely dissipated the capability, morale, and reputation of United States military forces, and the United States of America. And that the young men and women of West Point in this year’s graduating class may also be soon at risk for crimes against the Geneva Convention. And that you don’t give a damn for anything we just said. Would you like to make a statement, Mister Bush?
* “Urp” is (or was) cadet oral slang directed at first-year cadets (plebes) and stands for “RP,” an acronym for the command, “Respond promptly.”
James C. Ryan, USMA, 1962
James C. Ryan is a co-founder of West Point Graduates Against The War. He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy, class of 1962. Ryan spent five years in the army artillery with assignments in the United States and Europe. Thereafter a businessman, he subsequently became a writer. He divides his time between Istanbul, Turkey where he lives, and New York City where he teaches in the summer at Columbia University. Father of four, Jim has eight grandchildren.