November 28
by Cris Stoddard

A Different Grassy Knoll - part two of two

Rhetroic and Reality

Bush came and went. He came and went from Colorado Springs and the media barely gave the protesters at the event a nod. There was mostly pro-Bush pro-Iraq War in the coverage that I read. When I emailed a Rocky Mountain News journalist whose article was all about Bush’s glory but not a word about us, he pointed out that his page four story was balanced by a page seventeen story in that issue that did cover our protest.

When I read that article, I was still not impressed since it reduced the number of our protesters from 50 people to 35, had a photo not of us but of the lone pro-Bush supporter and indicated that Bush was not even in the motorcade that drove past us. This is not so; we who were there know what we saw and Bill Sulzman got the best look at W of all of us. He had stayed down in the triangle patch of dirt by the Fort Carson gate and got a fine close-up look at the President. This strengthens my belief that the media is not the final word on what really goes on anywhere and that we must continue to rely on other sources, such as weblogs, in order to flesh out the whole truth.

I am out of town, in Seattle, as I write this blog, spending the Thanksgiving holiday with friends. It came as a complete shock to me to wake this morning and to learn that Bush had gone to Baghdad on Thanksgiving undercover to make a surprise visit to the US troops stationed there.

This trip to Iraq was a very clandestine visit; it was even kept a secret from the Secret Service agents watching his Crawford, Texas, ranch and purportedly a secret from even his wife, Laura. This trip was nothing more than a grotesque publicity stunt for his Presidential campaign, as were last week’s trips to Colorado Springs, Las Vegas, and Scottsdale. The Colorado Springs visit was less about finally honoring the troops and more about garnering a new photograph portfolio for his upcoming election campaign. His choice of imagery, standing in front of a huge American flag and smiling, uniformed troops, is supposed to evoke the greatness and power of General Patton (or more accurately, George C. Scott portraying General Patton) and the greatness of Allied Forces during World War II. The Vegas and Scottsdale trips were campaign fundraisers that filled his coffers by some 3.5 million US dollars. The trip to Baghdad? Shameless and shameful.

This was a Shameless Visit in that once again, Bush is using this war and our troops to make himself look good in the eyes of the WalMart-ed American who gets all of their campaign 2004 information from sound bites and 3 minute news blips. “Isn’t it fantastic how our President supports our troops by visiting them at Thanksgiving time? What a morale lift that must have been for our boys and girls stationed there!

At what cost? How much money did US taxpayers spent to fund his two hour visit to our troops in Baghdad yesterday? What purpose did this visit really serve if not to simply counter recent criticism in regards to W’s media blackout on coffins returning from overseas and in regards to the rising death and injury tolls to US Troops now that the war has been over since April?

This was a Shameful Visit in that the President of the greatest power on the planet made a clandestine visit to the Middle East. Does this act of secrecy not actually give power to terrorism – “look, we have to visit Iraq cloaked in secrecy because we are so frightened of what you may do to us.” The reaction from the Arab world needs to be reviewed here because while his visit abroad may have given Americans a happy pause form gorging themselves on turkeys and football to have that warm, Disney feeling in their hearts, it certainly was not well looked upon by the Arab world. Their reactions are found in a report at AljazeeraNet. Here is a quote from this report that should give all Americans pause to ponder our President’s oh-so-heroic actions:

“Some [Iraqi people interviewed] said they would have preferred Bush to have had the courage to visit the country more openly and meet ordinary people.”

Yes, it would have been smarter from a public relations point of view to have visited the peoples of this US-conquered nation since we purportedly invaded their country to liberate them from tyranny and to give them hope for a better future. However, Iraqi citizens will not be voting in the 2004 presidential election. The average Iraqi’s well-being is not really on Bush’s agenda at all.

So Bush’s recent rendezvous with US troops and fundraising brunch dates last week are supposed to make Americans feel all cozy about how important this was on terrorism has been and we are supposed to believe that Bush cares about the United States troops.

Let’s look at some facts about Bush’s support of United States military personnel in so far as what this Administration has allowed various agencies to have funded since Bush took office. Mark Lewis put together a list of talking points on this subject. I reprint them here in full so that over the next few weeks I may flesh each of these out in full for dialogue.

As Mark informed me this morning, “The recent appropriations may have made some of these obsolete, or not. The 4.1% increase in pay they finally got, that he bragged about here, was done by congress, so it's still accurate they he tried to cap it at 2%.” It will be important for us to review what exactly Bush signed into law the other morning since he spewed a lot of rhetoric regarding the passage of that bill and the good it will do for our troops. I will make the point that it was another token effort and useless in its reach.
  • Vets health care cut $28 Billion over next 10 years
  • VA fee of $250 for new vets to enroll in medical system
  • Loss of 19,000 nurses therefore 6.6 million outpatient visits
  • 209,000 Gulf War vets filed disability claims; backlog of unprocessed: 489,297
  • Pentagon tried to reverse increase of $75/month "immanent danger pay"
  • VA estimates 500,000 vets are homeless
  • No doctors visits for reserves from Oct 14 to Nov 11
  • Charging $10 a day for a room with toilet at Ft. Stewart
  • Administration froze $959 Million settlement for 17 POWs of 1st Gulf war
  • Bush opposed repealing Disabled Veterans Tax, effecting 660,000 vets
  • Pentagon tried to reverse increase of $150/month "family separation allowance"
  • Bush refused $275 million emergency funds to cover VA shortfall
  • Bush trying to cut $2 Billion more for 2004 VA budget
  • 173,000 vets reclassified "priority 8" meaning less coverage and higher copay
  • Bush was charging the wounded $8.10 a day for meals
  • 434 killed as of 11/22, and Bush has not attended 1 funeral
  • Law to give medical exams to the 25-30% of Gulf War vets the VA says have Gulf War Syndrome have been replaced with questionnaires
  • FDA admitted that as much as 35% of those getting the Anthrax vaccine have adverse reactions and 6 deaths may be the result
  • 5 studies link Anthrax and Plague vaccines with Gulf War Syndrome
  • Only 6 Physical Therapists at Fort Stewart
  • House Republicans failed to pass $3.2 Billion in VA funding 316-109
  • In 2003, 236,000 waited 6 months or longer for first VA visit
  • Administration tried to cap pay raises at 2% for E-1, E-2, and O-1
  • $1.5 Billion construction cuts, with $41 Million next year
  • VA estimates 1.25 million will drop out of medical program due to higher fees
  • Administration tried to double the cost of drug prescription
  • Administration tried to raise outpatient copay by 33%
  • Andrews Air Force Base has to use the tennis courts and gym for wounded
  • Walter Reed’s 600 family rooms are filled and overflow sent to hotels
  • 5 times as many amputees as the first Gulf War
  • Gulf war vets have twice birth defect rate for males; 3 times for females
  • GAO says post deployment health assessments not done for 38-98%
  • 650 Reservists and National Guard on medical hold at Ft. Stewart
  • Average per patient spending has decreased from $7,000 to 4,200
  • The gist of all of these talking points is that under the George W. Bush Administration, United States veterans of military service face increased costs in terms of health care and the ability to provide for their families during their length of service and afterwards. While we have secured 87 billion US dollars to rebuild Iraq and to provide Iraqis with an infrastructure to replace the one that we destroyed, we have cut funding at home for our own military.

    This is called Supporting Our Troops?

    Missing from the above list is any discussion of the obstacles that reservists have to face in supporting themselves or their families due to the length of service they have been required to perform in Iraq. More reservists are now being called up to go to Iraq. Soldiers and personnel stationed in Iraq no longer face war threats but instead are under constant “terrorist” assault because we are in a position as peacekeepers there and there is less of a peacekeeping force there that was present during the Balkan War, another death-laden after-war spectacle.

    I am now going to go enjoy the green beauty that is Seattle. I’ll be back to discuss the ramifications of these talking points soon.

    Click here for part 1


    About the author:

    Cris Stoddard is a a co-founder of the Springs Action Alliance and has done extensive work with the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission. She is currently about to graduate the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, with a Bachelors degree in Political Science, and has been accepted into the Doctorate program for Political Science at the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana.


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