Not a fan of warfare? Alarmed by thoughts of death or maiming? Then don’t join the army. The trouble comes when your country takes it upon itself to ask you what you can do for it by drafting you into the army – and by ‘do’ it means volunteering to sacrifice your life. It’s not exactly rocket science to want to dodge military service. Just to emphasize the point, Albert Einstein himself skipped the German army by moving to Switzerland and renouncing his citizenship. Alongside such figures as Franz (hid in a stove) Schubert and RenÃ© (‘Keep it off’) Descartes, Mr Einstein is in good company.
Even world war enthusiasts, Adolf (‘Why do you think I live in Germany?’) Hitler (‘Because I don’t want to be in the Austrian army’) and Benito (‘At least I’m not Hitler’) Mussolini, avoided military service, in their specific cases before going on to start the most devastating conflict the Earth has ever seen.
Which brings us to the worst kind of person – individuals who made the effort to escape conscription before leading their countries to war. In the Western world, the opportunities to do both have been relatively scarce in the last half century – so let’s hear it for the Americans!
6. George W Bush
To get straight to the point, Dubya had to be here. Two wars, one flood, one global financial meltdown, and no wins; George has a pretty dismal record. Afghanistan became the first (messy) test subject of the War On Terror in October 2001, only months after Osama Bin Laden had masterminded the destruction of the World Trade Centre in New York. Fifteen months later things escalated when the US invaded Iraq in March 2003. Needless to say, it did not go well, and estimates have put the total number of deaths caused by the two conflicts in the hundreds of thousands, if not the low millions. Without a shadow of a doubt Dubya would top the list but for one point; he wasn’t strictly speaking a draft dodger. Actually, GWB served in the Texas Air National Guard and the Alabama Air National Guard for five years, between 1968 and 1973. There are allegations that Bush received preferential treatment due to his father’s political status and he certainly must have known that he wouldn’t see active service in the National Guard. Despite having sent hundreds of thousands to war without having seen active service himself, he simply doesn’t tick all the boxes.
5. Joe Biden
It all comes back to Dubya; with five student draft deferments under his belt Biden is definitely more of a dodger than Bush – however, the current Vice President did inherit both of his conflicts from the National Guardsman and former president. Following his fifth deferral in 1968, he was deemed ineligible for service having had asthma as a teenager. According to him it wasn’t political though – his jackets were more of the sporting variety than the tie-dyed kind, apparently, and he was just preoccupied with becoming a lawyer and getting married. In fact, of the contestants for the presidency in 2008, only John McCain had a particularly notable military record, having served a lengthy career in the US Navy.
4. Tom DeLay
Nicknamed ‘The Hammer’ for his uncompromising enforcement of GOP party discipline, the former House Majority Leader had plenty of truck with Bush’s first administration. The Texan was known as one of the most staunch conservatives in Congress as well as being an enthusiastic supporter of Israel. More to the point he was an enthusiastic supporter of the case for the Iraq War, later blaming its failure on the unwillingness of Democrats to commit to the conflict. DeLay avoided serving himself by claiming student draft deferments until 1969, at which point he was allotted a high draft lottery number, ensuring that he wouldn’t serve. To round off the story, his career ended in ignominy in 2005 when he was charged with money laundering and criminal violations of state campaign finance laws.
3. Bill Clinton
William Jefferson Clinton certainly didn’t want to fight in the Vietnam War and as President certainly sent troops abroad. In 1972 Bill acquired temporary Reserve Officers’ Training Corps status, exempting him from being drafted – though he never actually joined the ROTC, and has since been accused of deliberately deceiving the military to avoid service. Over the course of the 1990s he sent a substantial number of peacekeeping troops to Bosnia and to Kosovo, as well as deploying missions to Rwanda and Somalia, where the ‘Black Hawk Down’ incident occurred. However, rather like Biden, it would seem churlish to call him a warmonger.
2. Karl Rove
Senior Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff to Dubya from 2001 to 2007, Mr Rove has quite a bit to answer for as far as the failings of the first Bush administration go. He was considered to be the architect of Bush’s campaign for re-election and had a key influence on the formulation of government policy. Furthermore, as the chair of the White House Iraq Group, Rove was charged with making the case for the war in Iraq and had a central position in the build-up to stage two of the War on Terror. During his time in office he also managed to involve himself in the deletion of thousands of official emails, the outing of a CIA agent to take revenge on her journalist husband and the improper dismissal of US attorneys. Naturally, he had been able to avoid the draft by attending college. Before he dropped out a year later.
1. Dick Cheney
As Bush’s Vice President, Cheney was responsible for shaping the War On Terror and remained a keen supporter of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan throughout his time in office. Prior to the Iraq War he repeatedly claimed that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction and referred to critics of the invasion as “opportunists”. He was even the target of an assassination attempt in 2007, when a suicide bomber managed to kill 23 people at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan. However, in the 1960s Cheney had received no less than five deferments in a row, due to his studies and for family reasons, before becoming too old to be conscripted in 1967. He even said in 1989, to the Washington Post: “I had other priorities in the ’60s than military service.” That didn’t put him off invading other countries, obviously.