Shortchanging our Nation’s Brave: Bush’s empty handshake to veterans for services rendered

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?

— Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948)

On Memorial Day, I flipped on the TV just in time to catch President George Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield bellying up to the podium to give their speeches at the beautiful and somber Arlington National Cemetery. For the first time in my life, I watched a Memorial Day service with a growing sense of anger — even outrage.

I am outraged because those who fought so bravely and paid the ultimate price of war deserve, as a minimum, a decent show of honor and respect — from decent and honorable men. How could these two warmongers stand before our revered dead and give them fleeting lip service while paying each other simpering tributes for waging a bloody war based wholly on lies? Thanks to Bush and Rumsfeld, more than 900 coalition troops — 816 of them US citizens — have fallen into the Iraqi quagmire, and more are being destroyed every day.

"It’s my honor to introduce one who has worked tirelessly and boldly to defend our freedom and to keep the lamp of liberty burning brightly for us and for the world," Rumsfeld crowed. "Thank you for your great leadership as secretary of defense for our country," Bush countered lovingly.

Yet, two days before, Rumsfeld told West Point graduates that they ain’t seen nothing yet — that the war on terror was just beginning. And, just hours before heading to the Arlington Cemetery, Bush proudly announced he was going to cut veteran’s health care funding if he is reelected. It is outrageous for these two to have been allowed to palm the microphone in the presence of those we honor. Our nation was gravely dishonored by their attendance.

It is numbing to realize that in the entire history of this country we have never borne witness to a more empirically reckless, deadly uncaring administration so out of touch with its military and civilian needs. As their lips moved with empty words and false promises, I could not help but feel sorrow for those aging veterans who attended this monumental event (perhaps their last) who so richly deserved an inspirational, impassioned, philosophical tribute to forever engrave their honored sacrifice in the pages of history. As I looked out across those neat rows of simple white crosses, I was reminded of the words of Voltaire — "To the living we owe respect, but to the dead we owe only the truth."

Our heroes, both dead and alive, deserve more than Rumsfeld’s trifling introduction of Bush — a rambling mish-mash of worthless rhetoric. They deserve more than a commander-in-chief who is little more than a village idiot swaggering up to arrogantly lecture them about courage, honor and sacrifice! Empty words spoken without substance, uttered by a foolish coward who never risked anything a single day in his entire pampered life.

Prop-time is now over and the piper is calling this war president, who is too busy with far more important things than attending a single funeral of those he pretends to mourn, back to the White House. There is much work to be done. Veterans hospitals must be closed, health care for veterans must be slashed, Section 8 housing funds must be denied which will drive many veterans into the streets…It’s back to the drawing board to make a future D.C. monument necessary for Operation Enduring Freedom!

Remember this — just like Pearl Harbor, this administration’s heartless cutss to veteran’s health care and benefits will also live in infamy. If George Bush is reelected in November, we will see budget bestiality at its worst — an act of sodomy inflicted on all veterans who served honorably — unlike Bush, who got a cushy stateside National Guard position arranged by Poppy.

Every day should be Memorial Day in rememberance of those who died so that we can be free from tyrants like those currently in control of this great nation. I choose to honor my veterans — especially those like my father who fought in World War II — by drawing public attention to the many injustices being committed against American men and women who serve in uniform. Outlined below are just a few of the many issues that need to be addressed:

As unscrupulous as it may seem, in January 2004 the Bush administration and Republican congress applied pressure on Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony J. Principi to drastically cut the budget. He maliciously obliged by "immediately cutting off their access to the VA health care system for 164,000 (or more) veterans expected to enroll in the VA system during the current fiscal year. Those with annual incomes of $30,000 to $35,000 or higher, are now considered "higher incomes," and will be categorically denied access to benefits.

And, the White House recently announced plans to roll back modest increases in monthly imminent-danger pay (from $225 to $150) and family-separation allowance (from $250 to $100) for troops getting shot at in combat zones, while they "jack up the amount military retirees and some veterans pay for prescription drugs."

As the war drum continues to beat in Iraq, the White House also continues to give no-bid contracts to Vice President Cheney’s former company Halliburton, even as the company has been admonished for over-charging for meals, charging for meals not served, and for feeding troops unsanitary food.

Adding insult to injury, Bush failed to provide soldiers with adequate body armor and reinforced Humvees. Currently, the White House has not requested funding to immediately plug serious funding gaps for armor, helmets and other protective equipment needed by military commanders. And the consequences have been severe: According to Newsweek, a new study circulating in the Army says the lack of equipment may have contributed to one out of every four American casualties in Iraq.

The White House also announced it was "formally opposing a proposal to give National Guard and Reserve members access to the Pentagon’s health insurance system" even though "a recent General Accounting Office report estimated that one out of every five Guard members has no health insurance at all.

Last year, only a month before the president sent troops into combat in Iraq, the White House proposed cutting $1.5 billion out of funding for military housing. The proposed cut came even as top conservatives on the House Armed Services Committee concluded that thousands of military families were living "in decrepit and dilapidated military housing." In response, progressive lawmakers offered an amendment to restore $1 billion in funding.

The amendment would be paid for by slightly reducing the new tax cuts the president was proposing to give to the 200,000 Americans making more than $1 million. Instead of receiving a tax cut of $88,000, these millionaires would receive a tax cut of $83,000. With White House backing, House conservatives voted the legislation down.

Bush loves to spout the he receives special instructions from the Lord on who to attack and wage war against. Perhaps Bush’s ego will be satisfied only when his self-serving war has produced more gold stars than those that just sparkled in his eyes at Arlington National Cemetery. Maybe so, but God Himself will have to build the next one for him; because after fighting World War III, there will be no one left other then Him to do so.

On Election Day, remember who did all of these things…