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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, September 17, 2003

All the president's dolls

By David Shapiro

I thought it was a perverse joke when I saw a toy store display featuring a 12-inch action figure of George W. Bush fully decked out in a naval aviator's combat gear.

The little plastic president carried a flight helmet under his arm, just like a real flyboy. The $39.99 doll was described as part of an "Elite Force Aviator" series.

The joke was that it's a commemoration not of real military heroism, but of a cheap publicity stunt — the president's oft-ridiculed May 1 ride in a jet fighter to the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, where he prematurely declared victory in the war against Iraq.

This dubious depiction of Bush as macho warrior symbolized all of the warped realities and troubling misrepresentations surrounding his Iraqi adventure.

Our president is no action hero. He fought this war from an armchair — sometimes against the instincts of military leaders who had seen real combat and knew what a trap Iraq could become.

Real soldiers in real uniforms continue to die as the president struggles to tie up his bedeviling loose ends in Iraq.

Bush did train as a fighter pilot in the Texas National Guard, but his military service was controversial. He was grounded in his final years and was accused of skipping out on his Guard obligations when he went to Alabama to work in a political campaign.

Said Hawai'i Sen. Dan Inouye, a Medal of Honor winner for heroism in World War II, "During my service, if I missed training for two years, at the least I would have been court-martialed."

The White House didn't sanction the Bush doll, but neither have officials made much objection to the crass exploitation of the president's image.

Why should they? Its false representation of the Bush military record serves Republican political strategists well as they bulk up the president's warrior image in advance of next year's election against potential Democratic rivals with genuine military credentials.

Sadly, misrepresentation has been a Bush administration weapon of choice in justifying the war in Iraq.

The White House overstated Iraq's arsenal of deadly weapons aimed at the United States, exaggerated Saddam Hussein's connection to the 9-11 terrorism and soft-pedaled the staggering costs of the war.

Since Bush declared the end of major combat aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, more U.S. forces have died than before the fighting supposedly ended.

It makes you wonder who's winning this war on terrorism. Sometimes it seems terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden has us exactly where he wanted us when he ordered the 9-11 attacks on New York and Washington.

We've taken over two countries we don't know what to do with and are draining our national treasury to pay for occupations that have no end in sight, robbing future generations of Americans of social safety nets and economic opportunity.

Bin Laden still enjoys safe haven two years after the 9-11 terrorism and taunts us with provocative videos promising further violence against U.S. interests.

Saddam continues to elude us in Iraq as a spirited resistance is fought in his name.

Has the Bush war on terrorism made us safer? Polls say a majority of Americans fear we're in more danger than ever, and the government apparently agrees as it pursues more repressive police powers that threaten our freedoms.

The package for the Bush doll promises the plastic president is "fully poseable," which may be as close to the truth as we'll come.

If George W. Bush has a true genius, it's posing.

David Shapiro can be reached at dave@volcanicash.net.