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
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
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
5. How does the Bush administration honor fallen
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
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. She can be contacted via www.heatherwokusch.com