by Ed Janosik
In his offering on April 30, Ryan Cooper again displays his lack of knowledge of current affairs, devoting his article to how he thinks Democrats disrespect our armed forces. There follows six examples of how the Bush administration insults our troops on a regular basis.
Isn't it an insult to covertly sneak the flag-draped caskets of soldiers killed in Iraq back into the United States? Is this a hero's welcome? What is the Defense Department ashamed of: It offers the lame excuse that it doesn't want to intrude into the grief of the families of our fallen dead. How would pictures of a planeload of anonymous caskets intrude in the final burial in some small cemetery where most of them are interred?
Many will remember the scandal at Walter Reed General Hospital a few months ago where recuperating soldiers were living in rot and roach-infested quarters while the Defense Department figured out what to do with them.
It should also be pointed out that it was not the Defense Department, it was not one of the flag-waving veterans' organizations who serve as captive audiences for George Bush and Dick Cheney who exposed such terrible living conditions; it was reporters from the liberal Washington Post who let the public know how our wounded troops are treated after their medical treatment is completed.
Then just a couple of weeks ago, the father of an 82nd Airborne Division trooper took pictures of a barracks at Fort Bragg where, among other scenes, there was one of a raw-sewage-covered bathroom floor. Are incidents of this nature evidence of how the "conservative" Bush administration honors our troops for their valiant service or are they an indication of what they think of our troops when they think nobody is looking?
When we have the DOD's "stop-loss" policy and its 15-month deployment policy. You may think the latter has been changed, but it is in effect until Aug. 1. The 4th Infantry Division will be redeployed in July, so under the Bush (and God forbid, McCain) administration, it will be in Iraq until November 2009.
Under "stop-loss," after a trooper has completed his enlistment and can leave the service, DOD can arbitrarily, depending on what skills and special ties it needs, extend the trooper's enlistment. This is nothing more than a "back-door draft," keeping a trooper in the service against his will.
If these sad examples aren't enough, the current one is the supreme insult. Sen. Jim Webb, Democrat of Virginia, with the support of Sen. John Warner, Republican of Virginia, is supporting an educational Afghan and Iraq wars veterans bill. This bill would be similar in its scope of benefits to the famous WWII G.I. Bill of Rights that educated Tom Brokaw's "Greatest Generation" after its war service.
In addition to Senator Warner, 10 other Republican senators, including Kit Bond of Missouri, have "signed on" to the bill, as have 46 other Democrats. Missing from the list of supporters is Sen. John McCain, who has bought into the White House and Pentagon argument (you won't believe this) that if the Webb bill passes, it would be so generous that it would encourage a trooper to quit the military after he qualifies for the top benefit of a four-year state university education after serving on active duty for three years. In other words, putting your life on the line for three years isn't enough for Bush, the Pentagon and 38 Republican senators, including McCain.
Can Sen. McCain possibly believe that veterans' educational benefits should be so limited and unattractive that a trooper would choose to re-enlist and be subject to "stop-loss" frequent deployments? Is treating troopers essentially as captives after they initially enlist a way of honoring them?
One hopes it isn't too much of a surprise to Ryan Cooper that almost all Democrats and a significant minority of Republican senators think "honoring" is more than wearing a lapel pin and sticking a yellow ribbon made in China on your car. It's known as putting your money where your mouth is.