For the fifth week in a row, my toon deals with the war in Iraq. While I don’t want to become a one-topic cartoonist, I feel it’s important to keep hammering on the Iraq issue during this election season. While the candidates, media, and much of the nation have decided the economy is the top campaign issue, the war continues to take a huge toll in lives, limbs and treasure.
This latest cartoon deals with “The Numbers Game” that some play with U.S. casualty reports. Yes, the 4,000-plus dead in Iraq is a small number compared to previous wars. But nearly 30,000 more have been wounded, and many of these warriors would not have survived during previous conflicts.
According to Atul Gawande of Harvard University, 30 percent of U.S. troops wounded in World War II died from their injuries; that number has dropped to about 10 percent in Iraq, as body armor and faster and better medical care keep troops alive. But these warriors are dealing with life-long injuries that include loss of limbs, brain damage and blindness. To get a real sense of the human toll this war is taking on U.S. forces, the number of wounded needs to be a major consideration.
So I say again … President Bush and leaders in Congress: Support our troops by getting them the hell out of harm’s way.
I’m sending out my cartoon a day early this week to commemorate another grim milestone in the war in Iraq. Late Sunday, U.S. military fatalities in Iraq hit 4,000. That news barely made a ripple with the media, which seems to have again lost its way when it comes to watch-dogging this fiasco.
President Bush and leaders in Congress: Support our troops by getting them the hell out of harm’s way.
Weeks ago, as I stood my post in support of peace, our soldiers, and all civilians worldwide, a young fellow stopped and asked me how could I do as I did. The fellow declared my actions treasonous, disrespectful of the troops. I replied. I have family who served, and one about to enter the fray. The man, visibly irritated, yelled as he pointed to other protesters. “What about them?” he said. I began to explain how one of the women has a son stationed in Iraq, another . . . my voice trailed off as he waved in disgust. Then, the inquisitive chap left.
It seems that many who advocate global harmony know not what to say when they are told to protest against the war is to dishonor those that serve our country. Peace people could explain as Drew Westen, Psychology Professor, at Emery University has. Doctor Westen offers, when George W. Bush declares we must continue to fight, and fund a futile battle built on false assumptions, Americans who care must respond . . .
Mr. President, do you want to know what it means to support our troops?
1. Don’t make the families take up a collection for their body armor.
2. Armor their Humvees so they don’t lose their lives or their limbs when they don’t need to.
3. Don’t send them into someone else’s civil war.
4. Don’t send them to war unless you would send your own children.
5. When they come home damaged . . .when they come home with their bodies frayed from that war, don’t you dare warehouse them with cockroaches in Walter Reed Hospital.
6. When they come back to the shores that they will never see again after having given their life for this country, don’t wisk their bodies in the middle of the night because it’s good PR for people not to see their bodies. You proudly display their flag-draped coffins like every American president has done in American history before you.
7. Don’t you ever, ever write a letter to their parents, to their spouses, to their children — when they lost their lives for this country — with a mechanical pen. You write it your own hand so you feel what it means when they lost their lives for this country.
Do you really want to know what it feels like to support our troops?
Bring them home.
~ Drew Westen, Professor, Emory University, November 7, 2007
I thank you for the thought, for the guidance, for the wisdom you share, Professor Westen. I hope all Americans will embrace the essence of your words. It is time we truly show our support for soldiers, for the principles we hold dear. Stop the killing. End the madness. Exit Iraq; not possibly in the next five years, if then, but now.
Many of you may feel as I do. I wonder why does the war in Iraq, in Afghanistan continue. I feel hopeless, even now with a Democratic majority in Congress. In truth, I did not celebrate the Democratic win in November 2006. For me, until actions are taken, and policies put into practice, I feel no reason to rejoice. Currently, the Democratic majority is not doing much better than the Republicans did. Conservatives are not inclined to impinge on the power of the President. Centrists are concerned; dare they be thought too Left or Right. The anti-war contingent is anxious. Might they regret moving too far or too fast.
Each day while Congress patiently convenes, Americans sit comfortably in their cozy homes, apathetic or pounding away at the keys at their electrically powered computers, actively protesting the wars. Meanwhile, civilians, children, and soldiers are dying in Afghanistan and Iraq. As citizens in this country ponder the blood spilled and scream, ‘We want justice,’ life [or death,] in the Persian Gulf goes on as it has for years.
Bombs fall; bullets blaze, and bodies plummet to their death. What were once daily rituals are doomed. Citizens in the Middle East cannot find calm. They may pretend to go about their day-to-day doings as they did in the past; however, they cannot. In recent years, normal is avoiding sniper fire, finding shelter from shootings, scrupulously searching for suicide bombers, chatting while walking in a combat zone, or awaiting a home invasion. Peace is merely a postulate.
Americans can make a difference. Troops Out Now Coalition is calling for citizen action. Tell members of Congress to cut off the funds. Reach out to your Representatives in Washington and say, “Use the Power of the Purse!” Troops Out Now Coalition invites each of us to participate in protests in Washington District of Columbia beginning March 12, 2007.
Volunteering or contributing to the cause might make sense to you. Whatever you choose please consider, Congress continues to delay.
Currently, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is focused on Party Unity. Forget Iraq for a moment or more. It may be months before the Democratic leadership thinks to use the power of the purse to end war efforts. Pelosi claims to care, as Democrats do; however, the main mission seems to be consensus building. In the minds of many “liberals,” we must stave off the idea of cutting funds for this futile battle. The Progressives believe to appease the people they must demonstrate their unflinching support for the troops, while maintaining they are ardent in their fight against terrorism.
“She has the patience of Job and the wisdom of Solomon,” said Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, a Pelosi loyalist who as vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee is also a political realist.
Like Pelosi, herself a longtime critic of Bush’s decision to invade Iraq four years ago this month, Honda said the House has to take a step-by-step approach in what the Democratic leadership views as a showdown with the White House over the war.
“Being in the majority, we have to produce something that can pass muster not just in the House, but in the wider community. I’m impressed with her intensity in trying to achieve that,” Honda said.
So slowly, and patiently Congress perseveres. They strategize, maneuver, and engage the President with nonbinding resolutions. The Democratic House expresses their disapproval of the President’s plan, as though their disdain will affect a certain surge.
The first step in the strategy was last month’s nonbinding resolution expressing the House’s disapproval of Bush’s strategy to send more than 21,500 extra combat troops to Iraq to help quell sectarian violence in Baghdad.
The four-day House debate over that resolution, which was approved Feb. 16, was partly overshadowed by an interview given in the midst of it by Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., one of Pelosi’s closest House allies and, as chair of the military appropriations subcommittee, a key convert to the anti-war cause.
In the interview, broadcast on the Internet by the anti-war group MoveonCongress.org, Murtha said his legislation for the $96 billion special spending bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would severely limit Bush’s ability to send units to Iraq.
The reaction was not exactly what Murtha or Pelosi expected. The White House and Republican congressional leaders said Murtha was a defeatist trying to abandon Iraq to terrorists. But more important was the wary reaction among moderate to conservative House Democrats, some of whom had defeated Republican incumbents in November in districts where voters were upset over the president’s conduct of the war but were not yet ready to pull the plug.
Ah yes; we need to continue pandering to the President and his perfect plan. Spreading fear into the hearts of Americans is apt. Congress must recall, those sitting snugly and safe in their American abodes know best. Terrorism is a threatening reality, especially if you live, work, or fight in the Persian Gulf. What of those men and women; can they wait as Congress calculates. Do they want to? Perhaps exiting Iraq immediately does not mater to the House Majority Leader. Party unity is her priority.
The reaction also showed that Pelosi had to move carefully and artfully to keep the 233 Democrats together on the second step of her anti-war strategy — the spending bill to pay for the war through Sept. 30 that will come with conditions attached, if not exactly the ones Murtha originally wanted.
So began the selling job and the need to change Murtha’s proposal. Involved with Pelosi were senior Democratic leaders such as Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey of Wisconsin, Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton of Missouri, and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland.
Together they wooed the party’s factions.
Gone from the spending bill were Murtha’s ironclad conditions for sending units to Iraq. The measure was watered down to provide Bush with the ability to publicly waive the deployment rules on training, equipment and time at home.
Weakening the measures so as not to offend the President will do little to secure an exit strategy. Making resources and training less available to an already struggling military will not benefit the men or the women waiting a seemingly certain death. Time at home, well that was treasure few thought they would claim.
Also written into the legislation — to lure the strongest anti-war elements — was a withdrawal schedule tied to a set of benchmarks for the Iraqi government to attain in the next few months. The Iraqi government’s failure to meet the benchmarks would trigger an immediate start of a U.S. force withdrawal. And in no case would any U.S. forces remain in Iraq past 2008.
Sigh! Might this be a welcome sign of relief or is this too merely a mirage. Perhaps it is. the Congress seems to say we will exit Iraq, eventually, only to strengthen our surge into Afghanistan.
To show that Democrats are serious about fighting terrorism, the bill provides more money for operations in Afghanistan, which Pelosi said should be the main focus of antiterrorism operations.
And to show that House Democrats don’t want any more Bush military operations, they are considering adding language specifying that the president must return to Congress for a new authorization before any attack on Iran.
The latter might be thought of as a ray of hope; however, we all know . . .
Bush has already said he’ll veto the bill if it ever passes the House and the narrowly divided Senate and reaches him, but, if so, he runs the risk of not being able to pay for the war’s continuing operations.
The Democratic leadership also might allow its most vehement anti-war Democrats who make up the Out of Iraq Caucus to offer an amendment to their measure saying that no military funds can be used for anything other than withdrawing U.S. troops.
They might; however, again, I have no faith in the Congress. The continue bureaucracy challenges beliefs. What I observes is a Congress that woos, wanes, and waits, while the war continues. Some say America is strong and resolute, or are they merely resigned to let George W. Bush stay the course?
I do not comprehend what moves Congress to act as they do. Iraq war veterans are against this war. Some of these soldiers were elected to office in hopes that they would find a way to stop the blood bath. Freshmen members offer words of wisdom; yet nothing changes.
“We stand together to tell this administration that we are against the escalation, and to say with one voice that Congress will no longer be a blank check to the president’s failed policies,” said freshman Rep. Patrick J. Murphy (D-Pa.), who was a captain with the 82nd Airborne Division in Baghdad. “The president’s plan to send more of our best and bravest to die refereeing a civil war in Iraq is wrong.”
We are still funding a failed war effort. The argument is that if we stop supplying the dollars we will not be supporting the troops. The troops themselves dispute this claim. However, members of the House and the Senate fear the people will not believe this is true. It seems Americans do not recall this action has been taken in the past.
Citizens did not clamor in disgust. They were pleased to bring our boys and girls home with minds and bodies intact. Might we again let our conscious be our guide? Cut Off the War Funds – End the War Now – Bring the Troops Home!!!
Please contact Troops Out Now Coalition. Join your fellow Americans during the week of March 12, 2007. Participate in a March on Washington District of Columbia or donate to the cause. Volunteer if you are able.
Do Not Let Them Get Away With It!!!
Antiwar Encampment in Front of Congress Starts on Monday, March 12, 2007
Don’t Be Fooled, the “withdrawal from Iraq” plan that Democratic Party leaders in Congress have just announced is nothing more than a cover for them to approve Bush’s request for $100 billion to fund the war and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan– in other words, to continue the war.
Cut Off the War Funds – End the War Now – Bring the Troops Home!!!
Democratic Party leaders propose to begin withdrawing troops in a year to 18 months. Over the last 18 months, more than 1,200 U.S. soldiers have been killed, and about 7 times that many wounded and maimed. Do the math: a year or 18 more months of war is a death sentence for untold numbers of soldiers and an even greater number of Iraqis.
Cut Off the War Funds – End the War Now – Bring the Troops Home!!!
The “withdrawal time tables” along with the ” goals and conditions” that Democratic leaders are proposing are not fundamentally different than the ones that Bush proposed in his “State of the Union” address. The real stink bomb hidden in this new “withdrawal” legislation is that Bush and his generals have the authority to “waive” any part of these so-called timetables and conditions, any time he wants to.
The fact is that these new proposals amount to nothing more than political posturing by Democratic leaders in order to get some of the antiwar heat off of them while they continue to fund the war. This plan is not a plan to end the war–it is just another non-binding resolution. Representative Jerry Nadler had it right when he said, “All of this is just, and excuse funding another year of war.”
Cut Off the War Funds – End the War Now – Bring the Troops Home!!! Democratic Party leaders can end the war right now if the exercise their power to simply cut off all funding for the war.
If they don’t do that, then it’s not just Bush’s war, or just the Republican Party’s war, it’s the Democratic Party’s war as well and now is the time to demand that they put up or shut up.
Cut Off the War Funds – End the War Now – Bring the Troops Home!!! On Monday, antiwar activists from around the country will began camping in front of the Capital building at 3rd St. right on the Washington DC National Mall.
We will be there with tents, banners, placards, signs, noisemakers, etc. demanding that Congress stop the BS and simply cut off the war funding, end the war now and bring the troops home. We need you to join us. We need you to march on the Pentagon on March 17. Moreover, if there was ever a time to be in the streets, blocking traffic, occupying bridges, organizing walk-outs from coast to coast to stop this criminal war. This Is The Time!
The Encampment to Stop the War will start in just a few days – Monday, March 12 – and there is an enormous amount of work to be done in a short period of time. We have an opportunity in the next few days to have a major impact, if we work together–here’s how you can help:
Your speech at the First Baptist Church in Selma, Alabama moved me. The words, as written are glorious. I cried as I listened to the sentiments; “It matters.” Yet, I am conflicted. The issues you mentioned are important. I trust you care for your countrymen and women. Those of color are no less significant to you than their white counterparts are. I believe you too work to defend the rights of the impoverished. Still, I struggle. I have done so for days. I meant to share my thoughts with you alone, for Hillary, you were the object of my renewed realization. However, finally, I recognized that I am not equating your contrary views to a personal biased bigotry. I am speaking to all Americans that think combat cures all or any ills. Thus, I publish this treatise, a letter to you, or perchance to all of us. I offer possibilities, probabilities that we all might wish to contemplate.
If we are to improve conditions for every American, then we must acknowledge the war that you, and others endorse, an escalation of troops in Afghanistan, will likely not be possible. Perchance we might ponder the purpose of war and the results reaped from all this fighting. That discussion will wait for another writing.
We cannot claim to believe in equality when we understand the means for manning the military. When war is thought to be an option, even our mission, we must consider whom we send into combat and why they are willing to go. Admittedly, I believe war is never an alternative. However, I accept that as long as others think combat is necessary, we must assess what we have created in order to fight our battles. Who are the persons we send to war and why they are willing to go into combat.
I surmise, as long as we, as a society, maintain the structure we have, sending more soldiers into hostile campaigns promotes the discrimination we claim to disdain. Please breathe deeply; I am not meaning to give rise to a defensive stance. I only wish to express what seems contradictory to me. Our beliefs are often altruistic; our actions are far less so.
Since early childhood I have wondered, why do we not send Heads-of-State to fight their own battles. Possibly, these men [and women] are thought too frail. Thus, I ask; why not send the offspring of government officials into combat, assuming the brood of such strident leaders boast as their parents do, “We must win in order to stay safe.” I await that answer.
Until then, I inquire. Hillary please help me understand. Knowing that you [many] wish to increase the troop force in Afghanistan, please tell me, where might these soldiers come from? Why would these strong souls be willing to go into battle recognizing that they are placing their lives and limbs in jeopardy? Do these soldiers not understand that they matter?
Perhaps, for them, patriotism is the guiding principle. Might their nationalism be more central than their personal sacrifice? I think at times such a construct may be valid; however, from my observations and discussions, particularly with Veterans, authentic altruism rarely involves putting ones life in danger. Internal conflicts are characteristically more crucial. Thus, I query. What motivates the young to place themselves in precarious situations?
As I assess recruitment practices and why the youth enlist, I realize the reason your sermon spoke to me. If we apply the principles that you and other warmongers state they devoutly believe, then we will have no working Army, Navy, or Marines. Ignoring the problems of the poor, the Black, and the Hispanic populations allows us to grow an infantry. Denying people their Civil Rights and Voting Rights supplies us with a an Armed Force.
Our service men and women are typically underprivileged, impoverished, and disenfranchised. Some are isolated, or in horrible life situations. They are white and persons of color. Skin color alone, can afford whites more rights. However, money maximizes all possibilities.
Many of today’s recruits are financially strapped, with nearly half coming from lower-middle-class to poor households, according to new Pentagon data based on Zip codes and census estimates of mean household income. Nearly two-thirds of Army recruits in 2004 came from counties in which median household income is below the U.S. median.
Such patterns are pronounced in such counties as Martinsville, Va., that supply the greatest number of enlistees in proportion to their youth populations. All of the Army’s top 20 counties for recruiting had lower-than-national median incomes, 12 had higher poverty rates, and 16 were non-metropolitan, according to the National Priorities Project, a nonpartisan research group that analyzed 2004 recruiting data by Zip code.
“A lot of the high recruitment rates are in areas where there is not as much economic opportunity for young people,” said Anita Dancs, research director for the NPP, based in Northampton, Mass.
As you noted Hillary, those typically denied their rights are “the poor and people of color.” Yet, you and I believe to our core, these people matter. Still, current practices negate their significance.
Granted, during peacetime the military makeup more closely mirrors the population. After an attack on our nation, when patriotic gestures are popular, the elite think to serve with the fighting troops. However, these times are few and fleeting.
Hillary, as you so powerfully proclaimed, there is reason to question what is true for the Blacks, poor, and persons of color. ‘It does matter’ or perchance not, depending on our priorities.
I think we, as a nation, must consider as long as Heads-of-State send the young and poor to fight their battles, they will continue to preserve a population that is both physically burly and profoundly in need of financial assistance. If the youth are academically deprived, all the better. With little education, and hardly any funds, adolescents have fewer options. The underprivileged are ripe for military careers. In the Armed Forces, a teenager or college age adult can secure a reasonably prosperous professional position.
Senator Clinton, as you stated, we, as a country must address the reasons Afro-Americans are deprived of their rights. We all know that people of color, are purposely prohibited from participating in elections. Discrimination today differs; nevertheless, it still exists.
Accurate and complete information is not shared with those that need it most. What is given is often sent belatedly. When pamphlets are delivered in a timely manner the facts are frequently and intentionally in error.
Hillary, I concur. Individuals are still turned away from the polls in America. That is not “right.” Afro-Americans and persons of color are more often the victims of what might be classified as a crime. Disinformation also effects poor whites. Although, disproportionately, Afro-Americans are affected.
The US civil rights commission was yesterday investigating allegations by the BBC’s Newsnight that thousands of mainly black voters in Florida were disenfranchised in the November election because of wholesale errors by a private data services company.
Information supplied by the company, Database Technologies (DBT), led to tens of thousands of Floridians being removed from the electoral roll on the grounds that they had felonies on their records.
However, a Guardian investigation in December confirmed by Newsnight found that the list was riddled with mistakes that led to thousands of voters – a disproportionate number of them black – being wrongly disenfranchised.
The scale of the errors, and their skewed effect on black, overwhelmingly Democratic voters, cost Al Gore thousands of votes in Florida in an election that George Bush won by just 537 votes. Moreover the Florida state government, where Mr Bush’s brother Jeb is governor, did nothing to correct the errors, and may have encouraged them.
This causes me to ask what I believe remains a burning question; why must we repeatedly reinstate the Voter’s Rights Act? Is there a reason that this law is periodically scheduled to sunset? I query. Why is this Bill so easily threatened? Might voters be guaranteed their rights, always?
Please tell me Hillary, or anyone; what ever happened to the idea that “all men are created equal?” As a nation, we seem to be impressed with the words, and distressed with the possibility. Senator Clinton, your own sermon calls this to mind again. I appreciate your awareness and beg for your assistance.
Senator Clinton, please realize and tell others to place this in the forefronts of their minds, people of color are not only misinformed and under-represented during election season. Daily they feel stuck. Perchance, they are.
Many live in the inner city, ghettos, and slums. Schools in these neighborhoods are lacking. Housing is poor. Transportation is terrible. Jobs close to home are nonexistent. The availability and quality of careers in these locales is depressing. Homicide is prevalent. These communities are in chaos. Too often, the streets are killing fields. Reaching out and telling them you [we] understand is not enough. They matter!
The Blacks, Hispanics, people of various colors, and the poor are significant not because they fight our battles or because they can cast a ballot for a Presidential candidate such as you. They are vital because they are people, equal to us all. I think we must show them that we care each day, not only on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday or in an election year.
Our fellow countrymen and women must recognize that the right to vote is only one issue affecting the disenfranchised. Poverty and loss of hope create an intolerable circumstance. When joining the military merely means exchanging one battlefield for another, something is terribly wrong.
Senator Clinton, I do not want those with less influence and means to feel as though they must serve the military master in order to survive. I have no desire to see people perish needlessly at home, in Iraq, or in Afghanistan. I do not think you do either.
Only recently, as the death tolls in Iraq and Afghanistan increase are the poor questioning the quality of life in the military service. With the prospect of death looming large, they too are declining to join. Perchance life matters more than a paycheck or schooling with strings attached.
I think we must be honest and ask ourselves, how long will we maintain the fallacy ‘military men and women are committed to a cause.’ Does any one really believe that war works to the benefit of those thrown into battle. Will we ever avow, most soldiers subscribe in order to survive.
Hillary, the military that you and others so actively claim to support, cannot be the only viable means of income for our poor and alienated. Yet, for many it is. These persons cannot achieve as their Caucasian counterparts can. Those with little, if any savings, need funds for a future education. They are searching for something of value, something to hold on to. The dominance of discrimination effects many decisions.
An Armed Forces filled with those of lesser means and far less opportunities causes me great distress. I do not believe we in America have a volunteer Army, Navy, or Marine Corps. We have brigades comprised of the neglected. I trust that this concerns you Missus Clinton.
These men and women realize few rights; yet, they fight for yours, his, hers, and mine. I often wonder; do the wealthy or well-off European descendents create an underclass to serve in their silly wars.
When assessing that more and more of the underclass are unwilling to go to battle, I realize I am grateful that at least they have that choice. Apparently, after witnessing what is in Afghanistan and Iraq, those that once sought solace in the military accept serving this country may not serve them well.
Hillary, as you stand before this mostly Black audience and claim to care, I wonder. Do any of us demonstrate the concern we deeply feel? Knowing what you [we] know, why would you [we] wish to escalate the troop level in Afghanistan or Iraq? Please, help us to help ourselves; do not continue to exploit the unfortunate. Let them live and vote. Do not force the disadvantaged to meet their maker. People of color need not pay for the sins of their white overseers. People with few opportunities need not be cut down in their prime. They matter!!! These beings are more than future, fighting, or fallen soldiers.
Realize those service personnel who do not die are likely to be severely injured. The chances are high that all will experience some physical, mental, or emotional impairment. Please let us all be principled in our support of our troops.
Afro-Americans, Hispanics, and the disadvantaged matter not because they are potential or past soldiers. They matter as all people do. Veterans and civilians alike, matter. Freedom and justice must prevail for all Americans.
I offer this supposition; would there be war if everyone was granted the respect they give their nation.
Fortunately for candidates such as you Senator Clinton, we will not know the answer to my question any time soon. Change is exceedingly slow. Those that are deprived of their Civil and Voting Rights will still be available to fight the war so many, too many candidates endorse. Even those that do vote will not have the power they might. In a culture where ‘follow the leader’ is thought fun or fruitful, few cast a ballot conscientiously. Most follow the crowd. How sad and how true.
Senator Clinton, next time you speak of equal rights, civil rights, and voting rights, please ponder what these would truly mean to citizens of this county. If we honor civil rights for all, equally, the “military industrial complex” could not exist as it does. Please enlighten others. People, the poor, and those with plenty matter equally!
This morning I stood in the kitchen and watched the ceremony. Former President Gerald R. Ford was laid to rest. Dignitaries spoke in memorial. Of course, the current President of the United Sates was asked to address a mournful audience. His words surprised me and did not.
Days earlier, at the first official commemoration of President Ford, there were no signs of George W. Bush. Our nation’s leader was busy planning his war. Finally, he decided to fix a strategy in stone. Sadly, the plan is surge. This decision flies in the face of a Ford proposal released last week. However, that matters not. George W. Bush trusts that history will receive him well. Bush will be considered steadfast as he “stays the course” regardless of success.
Thus, the junior George could not be bothered with ritual rites of passage when Ford’s body first arrived for viewing in the Capital. For George W. Bush the thought of travel to Washington District of Colombia seemed far away. Young Bush always preferred Crawford, Texas. He longs for more time on the ranch. The death of a President is no reason to shorten a “working vacation.”
When Bush junior was asked to consider the prospect of returning to the beltway and honoring the former President fully, he likely reflected on the recently reported interviews. For two years prominent journalist, Bob Woodward met with Gerald Ford. They discussed the situation in Iraq, the Bush plan or lack there of, and Ford’s own former staff members, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. The elder statesman, now citizen Gerald R. Ford had little good to say. He disagreed with the initial strategy and from his words; we could surmise the now proposed “surge” was not a welcome coming.
It might be assumed; Gerald R. Ford was reprimanding George W. Bush; he disapproved of the attacks on Iraq. Although President Ford insisted the interviews and his opinions not be made public until after his passing, oh, the timing of his departure left much to be desired in the Wonderful World of Bush. Perchance Bush contemplated and concluded, the gall of Jerry Ford. How dare this former statesman ridicule me publicly? How could President Ford question the judgment of a man that followed his lead? George W. chose a Cabinet reminiscent of former President Ford’s. For forty-three, that demonstrated the ultimate respect for the man, Ford, and his choices.
Then there was the press, the punitive gesture from the former President.
In the tape-recorded interview, Ford was critical not only of Bush but also of Vice President Cheney — Ford’s White House chief of staff — and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who served as Ford’s chief of staff and then his Pentagon chief.
“Rumsfeld and Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq. They put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction,” Ford said. “And now, I’ve never publicly said I thought they made a mistake, but I felt very strongly it was an error in how they should justify what they were going to do.”
In a conversation that veered between the current realities of a war in the Middle East and the old complexities of the war in Vietnam whose bitter end he presided over as president, Ford took issue with the notion of the United States entering a conflict in service of the idea of spreading democracy.
“Well, I can understand the theory of wanting to free people,” Ford said, referring to Bush’s assertion that the United States has a “duty to free people.” But the former president said he was skeptical “whether you can detach that from the obligation number one, of what’s in our national interest.” He added: “And I just don’t think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security.”
The Ford interview — and a subsequent lengthy conversation in 2005 — took place for a future book project, though he said his comments could be published at any time after his death. In the sessions, Ford fondly recalled his close working relationship with key Bush advisers Cheney and Rumsfeld while expressing concern about the policies they pursued in more recent years.
“He was an excellent chief of staff. First class,” Ford said. “But I think Cheney has become much more pugnacious” as vice president. He said he agreed with former secretary of state Colin L. Powell’s assertion that Cheney developed a “fever” about the threat of terrorism and Iraq. “I think that’s probably true.”
George may have been miffed. He may not have felt revered himself; thus, he would reciprocate. He would show no reverence. For a Bush boy like George W. one rebuke deserves another. By staying in Crawford, revenge would be his.
Hummmph! Criticize my calculations, my management style, my strategy, and my men. The great George W. Bush would have none of that. The President, after much pondering might have resolved he would not attend the funeral until ultimately, by all rights and reason he had to.
There were six days of mourning; George W. Bush participated only for moments.
When George W. Bush did finally eulogize the man of character in the formal church observance, he spoke well of the Mister Ford. However, his words haunt me. The current President of the United States has never seen battle, though he sends thousands to fight and die for his cause. Our strong and strident leader, in his youth, and even now, while in office, has done all that he could to avoid the front lines. Then in memorial he says while standing in front of church audience, America, and the Ford family . . .
Gerald Ford showed his character in the uniform of our country. When Pearl Harbor was attacked in December 1941, Gerald Ford was an attorney fresh out of Yale Law School, but when his nation called, he did not hesitate. In early 1942 he volunteered for the Navy and, after receiving his commission, worked hard to get assigned to a ship headed into combat. Eventually his wish was granted, and Lieutenant Ford was assigned to the aircraft carrier, USS Monterey, which saw action in some of the biggest battles of the Pacific.
Yikes! As I listened, I was struck. I stood still, my mouth wide open and eyes crinkled. I thought aloud, “Did George W. Bush just say that?” Could he speak so highly of a deed he never contemplated and still think himself an honorable man.
I wondered. Was President Bush promoting an action in response to a need for more troops? Recruitment numbers are down.Families are no longer asking their sons and daughters to volunteer for service. They are not proud of what our military might has accomplished. What is, is not what the Administration promised. Many active duty troops disapprove of the President and his plans. Soldiers have suffered at the hands of poor planning, flawed facts, and formalized folly. Young men and women do not revel in the idea of going to battle. The reality of not coming home is too great. What was George W. Bush intending. What will he do next.
Surge is the suggested strategy; however, many use, there are not enough troops to carry out the proposed plan. George W. Bush, always thinking ahead. Apparently, even in remembrance he is shrewd. If he deems enlistment attractive and honorable, perhaps more young men and women will do as he never did, sacrifice their lives in battle.
Ford Wears the Uniform. Bush Sends Those in Uniform to Die . . .
Here is another interesting snippet. Please contrast the reputation of the former with the present President. pdfPresident Bush’s Eulogy for Gerald R. Ford.New York Times. January 2, 2003. Here is another interesting snippet.
Gerald Ford showed his character in public office. As a young congressman he earned a reputation for an ability to get along with others without compromising his principles. He was greatly admired by his colleagues, and they trusted him a lot. And so when President Nixon needed to replace a vice president who had resigned in scandal, he naturally turned to a man whose name was a synonym for integrity: Gerald R. Ford.
We, Americans, speak of loving our troops, supporting our soldiers and yet we demonstrate this in the oddest of ways. Recently, on April 1, 2005, I was listening to what I wish were an April “Fool’s Day” ruse. Sadly, it was not. I was tuned into On the Media, a National Public Radio program. The topic was “Wounded in Abstraction.” Radio host Brook Gladstone was interviewing Salon correspondent, Mark Benjamin. Mr. Benjamin has been covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has followed the injured soldiers, listened to their stories, and observed their stresses.
He has written much on the subject. During this discourse, he spoke of the Pentagon, its practices, policies, and the manner in which it calculates war casualties. He offered that the numbers are “deceptively low” and he explained why this is.
Reporter Benjamin shared that the Pentagon selectively defines the term “casualties.” Casualties are only persons that are “hurt directly by the bullets and the bombs of the enemy.” If an ally wounds a soldier, if s/he is injured in an automobile accident, if a combatant commits suicide, or is s/he is impaired accidentally, then s/he is not considered a casualty of war.
In “The Invisible Wounded,” a Salon.com piece published on March 8, 2005, journalist Benjamin wrote of a January 2000 warning. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Henry Shelton, while speaking to a Harvard audience, cautioned politicians. He offered that they “must weigh military actions,” and be certain that the public is “prepared for the sight of our most precious resource coming home in flag-draped caskets.” The General spoke of the "Dover test.”
You may recall that recently, in April 2004, there was a scandal; photographs of our fallen soldiers were released. Images of flag-draped caskets were revealed publicly; they were captured “illegally.” People were astonished and alarmed to see these coffins. There were so many, so many young soldiers whose lives were lost. How could this be? A year earlier, on May 1, 2003, President Bush told us that the war had ended; yet, American soldiers are arriving home in coffins.
Possibly, you know that our fallen American soldiers are regularly flown into Air Force bases such as Dover. They arrive in coffins covered with the American flag. Whether the American public can tolerate seeing this practice is the test, the Dover Test.
The Whitehouse has long known that support for Operation Enduring Freedom was fragile and the Administration feared lessening the little support that they had. Therefore, they banned the photographing of soldiers’ caskets. They feared that the American people would not support the war effort if the stark reality of our young soldiers’ deaths were so publicly displayed. The Administration has reason to believe that informed citizens protest and revolt against war. Vietnam is the evidence.
The Pentagon and persons in the Executive Office knew that if the public were to continually see photographs of what is war, if they were to witness the daily devastation, if they saw young soldier losing limbs and eyes, if they saw the badly burned bodies of their sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, then support would wane. It is for this reason that the Bush Whitehouse chose to impose the same strategy for the injured as they had for the fallen.
It is for this reason that wounded soldiers are flown in during the dark of night. Capturing these images is forbidden. In his recent writing, Mark Benjamin notes, “Since 9/11, the Pentagon’s Transportation Command has medevaced 24,772 patients from battlefields, mostly from Iraq.” However, this is not the number released to the public. We, the people, are told that there are far less. Only half of these numbers are widely reported. Now, more than two years after the invasion of Iraq, we know little of the wounded, and thus Mr. Benjamin chose to share their story.
There are other stories as well. There are the tales of suicide. In October 2003, Gregg Zoroya, of USA TODAY wrote, “Army probes soldier suicides.” At the time, the Army arranged for a team of doctors to investigate the cause; the Navy also expressed alarm; it seems that the rate of soldier suicides in Iraq is greater than that of past wars. Why might our troops take their own lives? Might the long deployments cause depression? Might the stop-loss orders bring troops a sense of hopelessness? Could the stress of combat cause soldiers to consider suicide? Might it be all of these reasons and more? There is much concern, though little reporting. When talk of suicide does surface, it is quickly swept aside.
At times, we hear talk of recruiting. The numbers of recruits are steadily falling in everybranch of the service. During the recent Presidential campaign there was some discussion of stop loss orders, and a possible renewal of the draft; however, this too was soon quelled. This issue could also threaten the security of the war effort, and we do want to support our troops. Nonetheless, issues such as these cause anxiety; our soldiers and those that love them are concerned.
Fortunately, there are those that do wish to discuss these topics. Operation Truth is cognizant of the “Issues Facing Our Troops.” They site the plight of the National Guard and Reserve units. They state that these servicemen and women have long been considered mediocre at best. They are not trained as well as their counterparts, nor are they equally equipped. Yet, though the estimates vary, a large percentage of our active troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait are National Guardsmen and Reservists. According to the Center for American Progress there are 55,000 deployed in the Persian Gulf region, 10,000 of these have been affected by the Stop Loss policies.
Jonathon Turly of USA Today, CBS News,Military.com, and other sources refer to the lack of armor for man and machine; body shields are scarce and metal coverings for Humvees are scant. Radios and bullets are in short supply.
The tension of war, its affect on our soldiers and their families, is great. Sadly, the Pentagon does not the focus on counseling. On February 17, 2005, National Public Broadcasting presented, “Criticism on Postwar Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder [PTSD.]” This piece presented interesting information; Congressional investigators observe that the combat veterans serving in Iraq and Afghanistan may not be receiving adequate care and counseling for PTSD. The General Office of Accounting notes that the Department of Veterans Affairs does not actively consider this a priority. Many more troops are facing the plight of PTSD than ever before. Although a special panel of advisors was established to study this problem, their recommendations are being ignored.
When a soldier does admit to psychological problems and asks for assistance s/he is often shunned. While the military claims to be making “great strides in improving mental health care and lessening [the] stigma for those seeking help for combat stress” often, this is not the case. On March 31, 2005, Eric Westervelt of All Things Considered aired this story, “Soldier Says Army Ignored His Mental Health Concerns.” A soldier willing to risk the ridicule that he might receive from his fellow comrades spoke of his stress, asked for help, and then, after a short time was returned to the frontlines. His wife, “Dawn Marie Beals says her husband, Army Specialist David Beals, was sent back to Iraq before he was mentally ready.”
Our troops face much; yet, we do not speak of it. We do not see it; we rarely read of it. We say that we support our soldiers, and yet our support seems so tentative.
Post Script . . . Posthumously we praise; on April 4, 2005, President Bush awards a fallen soldier is the Medal of Honor. Sergeant first Class Paul Smith receives a formal tribute from his nation. While this occurs two years after his passing and he was no longer alive to realize his reward, this soldier was given the nation’s highest military award. He did as many servicemen and women have done, he helped his fellow troops to evacuate, and fend off an attack. In doing so, he was mortally wounded. Now, he is acknowledged in an open forum held at the Whitehouse. Photographs are taken. All of the media is encouraged to air this story, however, sadly, the badge of courage and the coverage come only long after the fact.
How do we love you? Let me count the ways. We give you “life,” love, liberty, and help you to learn. We tell you of love, of our love for you. We show our love, showering you with all that we are able. We speak of loving all, equally. We teach you to love your neighbor, love your country, and to never covet. We edify honor, a reverence for life. Then we train you to eradicate, eliminate, and to execute the enemy, our enemy, and those we say are yours. If you are hurt, we do not honor you sufficiently. We do not speak of your wounds. We do not adequately treat your injuries. Possibly, we will not even count you as a casualty. After all, you and your hurts are only “collateral damage.” We will not reward you well for your services. We may not grant you leave. We might not effectively provide for your survivors. However, we support you, for you are our troops. You deliver our triumph and we commend you, At least through our words. Our deeds? These may be our undoing. Therefore, we do these in the dark.