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Bush Dishonors Fallen Soldiers

by Frederick Sweet Friday, Nov. 28, 2003 at 5:30 AM

The Deserter-in-Chief, not content with cutting Veteran's benefits, Combat Pay, benefits for depends of those deployed, is now putting a blackout on those who have fallen in his ill begotten War to Steal Iraqi Oil. He will not even be seen anywhere near the Flag Draped Coffins of those he has consigned to death. What a Scumbag.

The Bush Administration says it respects the killed soldiers and their families, what the Administration respects is winning the next election.

By Frederick Sweet

The Bush administration says its ban on ceremonies honoring the dead is intended to prevent invasion of the privacy of families during a time of grief. Excluding military honors is one less thing for families to worry about, it says. The administration claims that it's trying to save family members the burden of feeling obligated to attend base homecoming ceremonies.

The truth is that the White House is obsessed with not associating President George W. Bush with slain American troops so close to the 2004 presidential elections. Bush worries that it will harm the already poor image of his occupation of Iraq as a supposedly bloodless "piece of cake" for the United States.

Former combat veterans say, soldiers in the field have a lot more on their minds than whether or not the President has been photographed with a flag-draped coffin. But for vets' rights activists who have not only noticed but begun to demand answers from the Bush Administration, the President lost the benefit of their doubt by his actions over the past six months.

Veterans Outraged

"From the cuts in the VA budget, reductions in various pays for soldiers deployed . . . to the most recent things like those we've seen at Fort Stewart, where soldiers who are wounded are not being treated well, the Administration has shown a blatant disregard for the needs of the soldiers," Seth Pollack recently told the Boston Herald. Pollack is board president of Veterans for Common Sense. He was referring to 600 wounded, ill and injured soldiers at a base in Georgia who were recently reported to be suffering from terrible living conditions, poor medical treatment and bureaucratic indifference. During a recent stop at Fort Stewart, President Bush visited returning soldiers but bypassed the wounded next door.

"I was really shocked that the president wouldn't attend a funeral for a soldier he sent to die," said Pollack, an 8-year veteran who had served in the First Armored Division in both the first Gulf War and the military operation in Bosnia. "But at the same time I'm not surprised in the least. This Administration has consistently shown a great deal of hypocrisy between their talk about supporting the troops and what they've actually done.""Bush's inactio

"Bush's inaction is a national disgrace," said another Gulf War I vet, requesting anonymity. "I'm distressed at the lack of coverage – amounting to government censorship – of the funerals of returning U.S. service members."

"Bush loves to go to military bases near fundraisers," he continued. "The taxpayers pay for his trip, then he rakes in the cash. Soldiers are ordered to behave and be quiet at Bush events. What a way to get a friendly crowd! The bottom line is that if Bush attended a funeral now, it would highlight a few things: 1) There's a war going on, stupid; 2) There are bodies flying home in coffins censored by the Pentagon; and 3) Bush is insensitive to families and veterans."

"I'm appalled," said Gulf War I vet Charles Sheehan-Miles, when asked about the lack of attention paid by Bush to the dead and wounded. "The impact of the president not talking about [casualties] is huge – it goes back to the whole question of morale of the troops back in Iraq; they're fighting a war that the president says is not a war anymore but still is ... they haven't restored democracy, nor did they find any weapons – and they [the troops] are being shot at every day."

Families In Shock & Awe

Increasingly, by Bush avoiding the normal duty of a commander-in-chief to honor dead soldiers he is causing rising distress among some veterans and their families.

On September 8, Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy wrote of one D.C. family's outrage that the President had not only been unable to attend the funeral of Spec. Darryl T. Dent, 21, killed in Iraq while serving in the District of Colombia's National Guard, but hadn't even sent his condolences either.

"We haven't heard from him or the White House, not a word," Marion Bruce, Dent's aunt and family spokeswoman, told Milloy. "I don't want to speak for the whole family, but I am not pleased."

Last October, Dana Milbank reported in the Washington Post that the Pentagon was for the first time enforcing a ban on all media photographs of coffins and body bags leaving the war zone or arriving in America. One official told Milbank that only individual graveside services, open to cameras at the discretion of relatives, give "the full context" of a soldier's sacrifice: "To do it at several stops along the way doesn't tell the full story and isn't representative."

"With any military family, most of them feel very isolated and afraid to speak out," Paul Vogel, whose son Aaron is posted in Iraq, told the Barrington (IL.) Courier-Review. "It's a very frustrating thing for a military family to realize they're paying the price for a war that, at least for military families, is really hard to get all patriotic about. It seems to be unwinnable and unending, and those are the worst words anyone in a military family could hear."

Iraq Surpass Vietnam.

According to a report by Reuters dated November 13, 2003, the U.S. death toll during the first six months in Iraq has surpassed the number of American soldiers killed during the first three years of the Vietnam War. Now Bush says that the Iraq War may go on for six more years.

The Army's starting date for the Vietnam War was set by its Center of Military History as Dec. 11, 1961. That is when two helicopter companies of 32 aircraft and 400 soldiers arrived in the country. But some say the war began on Aug. 5, 1964, when Lyndon Johnson announced air strikes against North Vietnam in retaliation for a purported torpedo attack on a U.S. destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin.

Reuters' analysis of Defense Department statistics revealed that the Vietnam War produced a combined 392 fatal casualties from 1962 through 1964, when American troop levels in Indochina stood at just over 17,000. By comparison, a roadside bomb attack that killed a soldier in Baghdad on Wednesday, November 12 raised to 397 the number of Americans killed in Iraq. That day, U.S. forces numbered about 130,000 troops -- the same number reached in Vietnam by October 1965.

Nevertheless, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz bristle when anyone compares the Iraq war with the Vietnam quagmire. They assert, the catastrophic toll of American military killed and wounded in Vietnam is orders of magnitude greater than that in Iraq -- perhaps explaining why they and Bush casually ignore those who return home from Iraq in a wheelchair or coffin.

Obviously, de-emphasizing the homecoming of dead soldiers is part of Bush's larger strategy of putting the best spin on the situation in Iraq. Yet even the fiercest critics of Bush Administration policies acknowledge the sacrifices these men and women have made for their country. But Bush's de-emphasis dishonors the soldiers and the American people.

Note: Frederick Sweet is Professor of Reproductive Biology in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Posted Wednesday, November 26. 2003

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