By Alan Bisbort
The Hartford Advocate
Thursday 21 August 2003
Troops get death and pay cuts while Bush gobbles barbecue, rakes in dough
The men who go to war and live are spared for the single purpose of spreading bad news when they return, the bad news about the way war is fought and why, and by whom for whom, and the more men who survive the war, the higher the number of men who might speak."
--Anthony Swofford, U.S. Marine sniper, from his book Jarhead.
Not since the days of Marie Antoinette, or at least Nancy Reagan, has there been such a disconnect between the ruling elite and what Marie and Nancy might call the unwashed masses. A potent symbol of this cynical detachment is provided by George W. Bush's month-long vacation, during which his only forays among the unwashed masses have been to whack his little white balls around a golf course -- and to host a "down-home" barbecue to shake down rich donors for another run at the White House. The cover charge for barbecue with the Bushes? Each of the 350 "very special guests" paid $50,000 to nibble on those Republican pig and cow carcasses.
Meanwhile, the temperature in Iraq is 30 degrees hotter than it is in Crawford, Texas, and 20 degrees hotter than what killed 3,000 French people and hundreds of other Europeans. Iraq is, in fact, so hot that official meteorological data has been blocked from the media by the Department of Defense, presumably so that Americans won't know that our troops are the human equivalent of down-home barbecue. What the DoD has also tried to keep a lid on, though foreign news services haven't been so easily bullied as the embedded American press, is that our troops are operating in this inferno without adequate water supplies, sanitation, shelter or barbecue -- actually, any type of food.
To the ruling elite -- like the Crawford pig-nibblers -- these men and women in uniform are useful members of the unwashed masses. They served their purpose as of May 1, when Bush -- who went AWOL from military service during the Vietnam War -- dolled himself up with codpiece and flight helmet for his campaign photo-op aboard the aircraft carrier. "Mission accomplished," he trumpeted, and the media played along with the charade. Since then, at least 126 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq, and thousands have been wounded, physically and psychologically.
In the midst of Bush's month-long AWOL from his duties as president during wartime (and crises like the worst blackout in U.S. history), the Department of Defense announced last week it intended to cut the pay of the 148,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and the 9,000 still in Afghanistan. These troops were to receive increases in imminent danger pay (from $150 to $225 a month) and family separation allowance (from $100 to $250). Sen. John Kerry, who did not go AWOL during the Vietnam War, sounded presidential when he told an Iowa audience: "The Bush Administration says they just can't afford it. Well if they can't afford to pay our soldiers in harm's way, and support the families they left behind, then they better get their priorities straight ... The Bush Administration questions the patriotism of those who ask questions about how you win a war, but I know no deeper violation of patriotism than dishonoring those who wear the uniform of our nation ... ."
Am I the only American citizen who remembers Bush telling one of the network news dollies: "I hug the mothers and the widows of those who may have lost their life in the name of peace and freedom"?
As of this writing, no hugs have been extended to American mothers or widows by the commander-in-chief. Maybe Bush doesn't want that kind of photo-op, though it comes with his job. Or maybe he fears that he'll be slapped in the face, literally, just as his pick for the 9/11 investigation, Henry Kissinger, was figuratively slapped in the face by the families of the World Trade Center attack (thus leading to his resignation). The families of the troops are not taking this lightly. Because they, like the families of the World Trade Center victims, have been ignored by the White House, they -- and other veterans, active duty personnel and reservists -- have taken to the Internet, via www.bringthemhomenow.org.
The spirit of their dissent is summed up in this letter from a woman in Minnesota, posted on Media Whores Online: "After watching a piece on CNN the other night about the wounded soldiers now being attended to at Walter Reed, many of whom are now minus one or two limbs, I couldn't help but wonder: Was it just me? Did I miss the coverage of the current White House resident spending some serious time visiting these young soldiers? It would have been the decent thing (not to mention the least he could do) for Junior to have spent the first day of his vacation visiting with these brave young men. Before going on to Crawford and picking up the golf clubs, how about having spent some time with the young man who will never be able to hold his newborn infant with both arms?"
Jump to TO Features for Thursday 28 August 2003