Opinion

George W. Bush: There's a 'divide' between American civilians and military

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Joel Gehrke,Afghanistan,Iraq,Iraq War,George W. Bush,Veterans,Mike Mullen

Former President George W. Bush highlighted a "divide" he sees between American civilians and the military, raising the subject during a rare Sunday talk show appearance.

"We've got a problem," Bush told ABC's Martha Raddatz. "Too many veterans are unemployed. And there's what we call a civilian-military divide. In other words, the returning vets think one thing, the civilian population thinks another and our aim is to get people to understand each other better for the good of the veteran community."

Bush taped the interview alongside retired U.S. Marine Jake Wood, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"How can we bring civilians and military service members together to share these stories so that there's a mutual understanding, so that as a nation, we can heal together?" Wood asked during the interview.

He has already answered his own question, though, as one of the founders of Team Rubicon. "Hundreds of U.S. military veterans, many returning home after fighting ten years of war, find a renewed sense of purpose for their skills and experiences through TR," the organization's website explains. "Is it a disaster relief organization? A veteran-focused enterprise? The truth is, it’s both. TR pioneered a new paradigm in disaster response while redefining the meaning of veteran reintegration into society."

Bush said that he has a "duty" to work with the veterans he ordered into war, both through the George W. Bush Institute (which has launched "a massive study of post-9/11 veterans" in conjunction with "Syracuse University on how to reintegrate returning veterans into the civilian world and workforce," per Raddatz) and personally.

"Jake, for example, I'll make a pitch for him," Bush said. "He does good work. Support his program."

Bush isn't the only retired official from the team who oversaw the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to talk about a cultural divide between civilians and the military.

"Our culture is a culture of 'if you're here, we love you, and if you are not, please carry on [with] whatever it is,' " retired Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Bush, said in January while discussing military families who have lost a loved one to combat.

"When you get to these wars, I worry that America has paid us very well, the compensation's good, [so the culture says] 'please go off and fight our dirty little wars and let us get on with our lives,' " Mullen added. "We need to figure a way to get America to buy into those, into them."

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