From Bring 'Em On To Bring 'Em Home
by Heather Wokusch
November 11, 2003
As America honors its service men and women this Veterans' Day, we especially owe it to those struggling on the front lines in Iraq, Afghanistan - wherever fate and the Bush administration have sent them - to take a closer look.
Five Important Questions to Ask on Veterans' Day
1. Why did we invade Iraq?
With 140,000 active-duty, reserve and National Guard troops now on the ground in Iraq, almost 400 US soldiers killed since the invasion started (250 of those since Bush declared major combat over), and more troops being called up, it's important to remember why we're over there in the first place.
Claims about Hussein's nukes
* Bush, Oct 2002: "The evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program ... Iraq has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons."
* Cheney, March 2003: "We believe [Saddam] has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons."
Once the invasion was underway, the Bush administration did a U-turn:
* Cheney, September 2003: "I did misspeak. We never had evidence that [Saddam] had acquired a nuclear weapon."
* Rumsfeld, June 2003: "I don't know anybody in any government or any intelligence agency who suggested that the Iraqis had nuclear weapons."
Claims about Hussein's other WMD
* Rumsfeld, March 2003, "We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat."
* Rumsfeld, September 2003, clarifying his earlier "We know where they are" claim: "Sometimes I overstate for emphasis."
Same story, of course, with the administration's imaginary link between Hussein and 9-11.
So why again are we in Iraq? Why have our service members been put in harm's way over there?
2. Who profits from the takeover of Iraq?
Iraqi reconstruction has become a bonanza for companies connected to the Bush administration. Vice president Cheney, for one, owns 400,000 stock options in/receives large payments from Halliburton, a company whose subsidiary KBR has been soaking American taxpayers via no-bid contracts in post-war Iraq.
And of course, deep-pocket Bush supporters have reaped handsome post-war dividends. A study by the Washington-based Center for Public Integrity found that companies sharing the $8 billion spoil in contracts to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan had donated more money to the Bush presidential campaign than to any other politician over the last dozen years.
Meanwhile, the American taxpayer has forked over billions for the invasion and occupation, billions that could have been much better spent at home.
Why again are we in Iraq?
3. What's going on for our troops on the ground?
Judging by a mid-October slew of upbeat letters-to-the-editor written by soldiers in Iraq (reporting positive developments like "the quality of life and security for the citizens has been largely restored") things are going just fine over there.
Unfortunately though, it turned out the soldiers didn't write those letters after all - instead Army superiors had just given them copies to sign for propaganda purposes. That fact became obvious when 11 different newspapers ended up running the exact same letter, supposedly written by different soldiers, on the same day.
What's really going on over there?
4. How are military families holding up?
The Bush administration has dramatically lengthened deployment periods, which in turn has put pressure on military families - when both parents are sent to fight, imagine what that does to the kids left behind.
At the same time, the administration has requested cuts in combat pay, Veterans Administration per capita expenditures, life insurance benefits, and funding for school districts that host military bases.
In addition, our returning wounded vets are often denied proper treatment. In one particularly nasty example, hundreds of injured Iraq veterans have languished at a poorly-equipped base in Georgia, waiting to receive medical care.
And of course, we now know the Army and Air Force all but ignored a 1997 law requiring that soldiers sent to war zones be given extensive pre- and post-deployment medical exams, which will make it much harder for Iraq veterans to press for medical compensation in the years to come.
5. How does the Bush administration honor fallen veterans?
Many find it insulting that the President has not attended memorial services for troops, and see it as the administration's attempt to gloss over the harsh realities of war. Similarly, body bags are now being called "transfer tubes" and the media is forbidden to show coffins arriving home with U.S. casualties from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But sticking our collective head in the sand doesn't make America's problems go away, and it certainly doesn't make life better for our service members.
On this Veteran's Day, we can't just drape flags around the (unseen) coffins of our fallen soldiers and call that patriotism.
We've got to insist that our troops aren't sacrificed for the profits of politicians' favored corporations, and we've got to make a distinction between supporting our troops and supporting the Bush administration.
Because we don't help those in the trenches by handing the Bush administration more money and more power. Instead, we should fight to bring 'em home.
Heather Wokusch is a free-lance writer with a background in clinical psychology. Her work as been featured in publications and websites internationally. Heather can be contacted via her website: http://www.heatherwokusch.com