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9.26.2004

Bush's Last Stand





President Bush likes to think of himself as a "war President," who is "resolute," "steadfast," and "decisive." He also likes to compare himself to historical figures. His favorite is Winston Churchill who lead Great Britain through the horrors of World War II.

I believe a comparison to a historical figure is appropriate but I think he is much more like a famous American military leader. General George Armstrong Custer.

Like George W. Bush, George A. Custer was born to a privileged family. He used his family's political connections to get into West Point, an institution of learning he was not otherwise qualified for. While at West Point, George did not distinguish himself among his 34 classmates.

His carefree attitude and joking demeanor did not sit well with the rigid requirements of military school life. He was often punished and, at one point, received enough demerits to be expelled. Someone was watching out for young George though and his demerits were mysteriously removed from the record, allowing him to continue.

Cadet George Custer graduated from West Point 34th out of 34, last of his class. He was nearly court martialed for neglect of duties while still at West Point awaiting his commission but again, somehow, skated by without punishment. A now recurring theme in George's life.

Despite his poor grades and inability to grasp basic military requirements, George was given a plumb assignment in the military during the Civil War. The units he commanded suffered unusually high casualty rates even by the standards of the time due to George's arrogance, brazen aggression and disregard for his men's safety.

In late 1867 Custer was court-martialed and suspended from duty for a year for being absent from duty but he used his connections to, once again, skirt punishment and regain his standing in the military. General Phil Sheridan used his military power to excuse young George's youthful mistake and brought him back into a position with more power and authority.

George was a master of military politics and somehow worked his way up to Brigadier General at the age of 25, the youngest man ever to attain that rank. Gen. George was placed in command of a contingent of men to seek out "renegade" Indians who were holding up the "progress" of miners and other business venturers from gaining profit off of the unexplored lands. The Natives were portrayed as vicious savages intent on killing innocent American civilians though the majority of them just wanted to live their lives in peace in their homelands.

George's fate and historical fame were both wrapped up in an expedition to destroy the Lakota, Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians in Montana because of the wrongful association of all of the tribes in that area with the attacks by one tribe and chief, Crazy Horse. The U. S. government in all of it's wisdom, decided to round up, imprison or destroy all of the Native people in that area and they relied on their young brash arrogant commander to do it.

Riding with his men and two other brigades, the plan was to use overwhelming force to destroy the less well armed and organized Indians. Young, boastful and arrogant; George knew that this mission would ensure his fame, fortune and political future for all time and led his men into battle in spite of the intelligence he was getting from the field.

He was warned in advance by scouts that the Indians had a much larger force than was originally thought, he continued his march.

His allied units commanded by far more experienced leaders fell behind and were not with him. He pushed forward, resolute.

He split his forces into three separate units weakening them and rode ahead, confidently. He went into battle with underwhelming force but did so convinced of his ability to bring forth a glorious victory for his country and himself.

Convinced of his own superiority and leadership skills, George pushed valiantly forward into one of the greatest military blunders in U.S. history. The Indians, formerly opponents of each other, united against the vicious attacks of the U.S. military and thousands of former enemies combined their forces to attack George and his troops.

General George Armstrong Custer led all of his men, cocksure, to slaughter. Not one soldier under his command survived his confident, resolute blindingly wrong blunder.

The amazing thing is, there are still George defenders who claim he was a great leader and military mind. In spite of evidence to the contrary, he will always, in some minds, be considered a brave patriot whose confidence, resoluteness, and conviction in his decision making outweighed the ultimate result of his foolish choices.

While there are many historical similarities between the two Georges, there is one glaring difference: One led his men into battle and faced the bullets and arrows of the enemy. He donned the uniform and fought for his country in the wars our country faced, some neccessary others not. He led his men from the front and not the rear. He stood behind his choices personally and was forced to accept their fatal outcome.

The other is our President.

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