Who is John Bolton? "Tough Guy," Vietnam Draft Dodger
Joining a long and illustrious list of privileged boys who start wars but never have to fight in them, it turns out John Bolton, Mister Let's Attack Iran, took an easy way when it was his turn to fight.
It is not surprising that Bolton supported the Vietnam War while at Yale and might have even debated in favor of it as a member of the Yale Political Union. But when his draft number came up 185, Johnny Boy copped to the Guard. Since the National Guard units across America were full of boys doing exactly the same thing, almost guaranteed stateside service rather than nasty ambushes in the jungle, it sometimes took some doing to get in.
Of course the most famous incarnation of this story is when when coke head party boy George W. Bush might have got the help of his congressman daddy to score a coveted spot in the Air National Guard, before his lily white ass found itself in a rice paddy, surrounded by dedicated Asian men with a desperate urge to kill Americans, and possessing the latest in automatic weapons.
Bush didn't even bother to show up for duty. A 2004 article run in the UK Guardian reported:
"...outside Houston, in Texas, a 26-year-old named George Bush, a lieutenant in the National Guard, reported for drill duty as usual at Ellington air force base...That, at any rate, is the impression given by military payroll records released by the Bush administration on Tuesday. Apparently, however, Lt Bush's superiors at Ellington didn't see it that way. In an annual evaluation of his performance...they conceded that they couldn't actually evaluate his performance, because they hadn't seen him for months."
Another famed Vietnam War hawk and National Guardsman during the Vietnam draft era is former Vice President Dan Quayle, another child of privilege from Indiana whose grandpappy was a newspaper magnate, whose properties included the Arizona Republic and the Indianapolis Star.
A 1988 Washington Post article, which ran as Quayle and President George HW Bush were running for the White House, revealed that Dan had a close wartime call:
"Sen. Dan Quayle (Ind.), the Republican vice presidential nominee, had already passed his pre-induction physical the spring of his senior year in college and was in line to be drafted when a family friend helped gain him a slot in the Indiana National Guard, according to records released yesterday."
Of interest is that while John Bolton, during his Guard service, bravely lugged briefcases and and accordion files up the Justice Department steps, as an intern for super pro-Vietnam War hawk Vice President Spiro Agnew, other boys took his place in the rice paddies. This is revealed in a 2018 Daily Beast article "The Fallen Heroes Who Went to Vietnam in John Bolton’s Place."
Drawing the same draft lottery number, 185, because his birthday was the same, November 20th, one blue collar boy, Jerry Miller, displayed the manner of men we lost to that conflict when he was wounded by a rocket, but managed to radio for assistance when he saw other of his unit more gravely wounded, and declined help when the medics arrived until the rest of the men were taken care of.
The Army tried to give Miller a Bronze Star, but he declined it, saying that he had done nothing special, that anyone else wouldn't have done. A month later Miller was killed when he hit a trip wire for one the nasty traps the Viet Cong liked to put out in the jungle.
Another boy who took Bolton's place, with the same draft number and birthday, was a Black guy named PFC Richard Lassiter, of Norfolk, Virginia, the oldest of nine children raised by a single mother. His sister, who called Lassiter the family's "protector," told the reporter:
“He was strong, not just physically strong, but strong within the family and community. We depended on him.”
The Daily Beast reported:
"The more notable bigness about him was the magnitude of his presence, which turned sparkling with what his sister calls “a 100-watt smile.” ...“He was beloved by men and women. Women loved him, the guys wanted to be him and wanted to be his friend.”"
Lassiter is also indicative of the manner of men we lost in Vietnam, and left us to be ruled by men like Bolton. Bolton, a bully, once threatened a UN official to step down by saying "We know where your kids live."
One day Lassiter put himself on "point" during a particularly dangerous part of a patrol, pulling back a working class white guy named Dan DePina. "Point" was the first in line and by far the most dangerous position on a patrol. Soon after, Lassiter was killed in an enemy ambush.
The Beast reports that DePina wrote later for a veteran's project:
“Richie was my friend. I will always remember Richie as my brother. I love you and your name is spoken by me every day.”
Now as John Bolton pushes relentlessly, with brave consistency, for more and more war during the later half of his life, the smiles of these gentle heroes tease us from the past, had this manner of men remained among us, with tantalizing visions of the country we might have been. Through war, they always take away our best.