Among the list of lies proffered by the Bush administration for the invasion and occupation of Iraq, "Support the Troops" has been the most transparently dishonest. Yet, the Democrat-controlled Congress could not muster the votes to expose the most exposable lie of all by cutting off funds to the administration for Iraq. The Democrats, however, have been formally surrendering to President Bush on Iraq since at least October 2002. "WMD" was the first surrender. The "Iraq-Al Qaeda Connection" was the second. "Support the Troops" was the third, this time to a president with a 30 percent approval rating.
When, as USA Today recently reported, the president "challenged lawmakers to prove their support for troops in Iraq by agreeing to more war spending," the Democrats surely could have stood up to this one. It's not as if this is the first time, as my friend Paul Shoul's Vietnam-era photograph reminds us, when the White House wanted to send young Americans abroad to fight a lawless and aggressive war.
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Here is a small sample of reports that the Democrats in Congress could have cited in response to the president's request to continue war funding for "the benefit of the troops":
- In April 2007, Carole Whelan, the state coordinator of the Maine Chapter of Military Families Speak Out (MFSO), reported: "The [Iraq war] funding has most benefited the weapons industry, whose CEO income has skyrocketed to an average of over $7 million per year. The value of [Vice President] Cheney's Halliburton stock options has not merely doubled or tripled but multiplied by a factor of 32." (The Bangor Daily News, April 6, 2007)
- Also in April 2007, Ivan Goldman, an MFSO member, wrote a letter to Sen. Carl Levin (D—Mich.): "My son is in the 4th Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, at Ft. Stewart, GA, in training for his second deployment to Iraq no later than July. He did his first tour of 11 months with the 18th Airborne Corps out of Ft. Bragg. My son joined the Army to serve his country, not to be part of a moronic effort to save the ruined legacy of this blind fool in the White HouseÃ¢â‚¬Â¦. Don't let Bush kill any more of our sons. Please don't fund this madness. Stand up to him for us. When you feel yourself faltering, remember the thousands of our maimed, destroyed kids." (Military Families Speak Out, www.mfso,org)
- In November 2006, MFSO members wrote to Sen. John Kerry (D—Mass.) because "the military families were disappointed in Senator Kerry's unwillingness to show leadership and call for the troops to be brought home now." "Marge and Frank, Parents of an Army Soldier, Proud Members of MFSO," wrote to Kerry: "Those of us who remember veterans that returned from Viet Nam shattered in mind, body, and spirit, know that we need to not go another day in Iraq." "Nina and John Douglass, Parents of a Marine Corporal, JP, MA," wrote: "Senator Kerry, we know this war is based on lies. You know it, too. More brave leadership is needed here at home, not on the battlefield." "Joanne Spencer, Mother of an Army Corporal, Tyngsboro, MA," wrote to Sen. Kerry: "We are blue collar people some of us living week to week but we all live every day wondering if our loved one will come back. You say you hear our voices and you say feel my pain but you can't unless you walk in my shoes." "John and Virginia, MA," wrote: "As Iraq edges to the brink of civil war, our 21-year-old son, our only child, is training for his second deployment to Iraq as an MP in the U.S. Army."
- The following is "A Letter From a Military Wife," posted by MFSO: "My husband has been in the military for four years. He joined for reasons probably very similar to the rest of the people he serves with. We were young, newly married, with a baby on the way. Every time he thought he was going to get a decent job, it ended up being a dead end. He ended up going to see an Army recruiter, conveniently located in some slum, where many people in hopeless situations may look favorably on joining the military. His recruiter told him that he could get an office job, a 9—5 job, and go to school for free. The recruiter told him he could get a nice sign on bonus, free healthcare, and if he picked the right job, he could stay stateside. The recruiter lied. My husband went to sign his contract to join the Army on March 1st, 2003. When he was at the meps station getting ready to sign they told him he was uneducated, so he was not eligible for a sign on bonus. My husband went to basic training on March 11, 2003. When my husband was done with his training, he was able to come home for two weeks. I gave birth to our first child, a son. Five days after that, my husband went to Korea, where he spent the next year. So much for staying stateside, right? When he came back, our son was a year old, and had no idea who my husband was. We tried to pull it together, and we ended up stationed in Kentucky. About a year into being at Kentucky, my husband was told that he was going to have to change his MOS, or his job, because his was not a "war time" job, and they were giving it to civilians. They forced him into being a truck driver, and within 6 months he was deployed to Iraq. He is currently serving in Iraq, and it has been almost impossible for us. I try my best to keep him close with our children, but at 2 and 3, and barely seeing their father, there isn't much of a relationship. It has been hard on my husband. Time after time he has told me that he doesn't know why he is even there, and that he doesn't think he can handle it. I have tried to keep him positive, but I am failing. When we first found out about the troop extension (thanks CNN) we were devastated. Many well meaning people will say that it's only 90 more days, but when you have already had to go through 6 or 7 or 8 months, 3 more months is a long time. I am so disgusted with this administration, and the terrible thing they have done, and the thousands of lives they have so carelessly destroyed, but I am even more disgusted by the fact that so many Americans are silent and complacent. Supporting the troops in the form of a bumper sticker is no support at all. I can only imagine the problems that my husband is going to have when he returns home, and the difficulty it will be for my children, adjusting to a father that is here one minute, gone anotherÃ¢â‚¬Â¦. Maybe one day soon more people will actually wake up and realize that they have been lied to. Maybe one day people will care more about the people who are sacrificing so much, than they do about their flat screen tvs and starbucks. I would like to hope, but what's the use in hoping?"
- According to Salon, "As the [US] military scrambles to pour more soldiers into Iraq, a unit of the Army's 3rd infantry Division at Fort Benning, Ga., is deploying troops with serious injuries and other medical problems." ("The Army Is Ordering Injured Troops To Go to Iraq," March 12, 2007)
- In September 2006, the New York Daily News reported: "Three years after returning from Iraq with persistent ailments they believe were caused by inhaling uranium dust from exploded U.S. shells, a group of New York National Guardsmen finally got their first day in court this week against the federal government. In a two-hour hearing late Wednesday before Manhattan Federal Judge John Koeltl, lawyers for the eight veterans argued that the Army caused the soldiers' illnesses when it violated its own safety protocols and exposed them to radioactive depleted-uranium dust. Army doctors also covered up information about any exposures and failed to provide the soldiers proper medical treatment, the lawyers claimedÃ¢â‚¬Â¦. A former Army specialist who transported destroyed tanks from Iraq back to Kuwait during the first months of the war, Matthew [one of the plaintiffs] returned home in September 2003 with a variety of ailments for which Army doctors could not explain the cause. They included constant migraine headaches, blurred vision, blackouts and a burning sensation when he urinated. On June 29, 2004, his wife gave birth to a baby girl, who was missing three fingers on one hand." ("Justice for G.I.s?" September 9, 2006)
- In January 2006, Bob Burnett wrote for Common Dreams: "One of the singular events of 2005 was hawkish Democratic Congressman John Murtha's announcement that he had changed his position on Iraq. Calling the occupation "a flawed policy wrapped in illusion," decorated veteran Murtha said "The United States and coalition troops have done all they can in Iraq. Our military is suffering." Unlike President Bush, John Murtha makes weekly trips to Washington-area hospitals in order to visit with soldiers wounded in Iraq. There have been 16,000 such casualties, in addition to the more than 2100 deaths. The Columbia Journalism Review called the growing number of wounded one of the top five under-reported stories of 2005. The Bush Administration prohibits pictures of coffins returning from Iraq. They've also told the Department of Veteran's Affairs to not give out the names of the wounded." ("Iraq: 'Our Military Is Suffering,'" January 13, 2006) (As of May 31, 2007, antiwar.com reported that 3,474 US soldiers had died in Iraq and 25,549 had been wounded.)
- In October 2005, Reuters reported: "Military statistics show that while 23 percent of U.S. troops wounded in combat in World War II died and 17 percent in the Vietnam War died, 9 percent of those wounded in Iraq and AfghanistanVietnam, the U.S. death toll in Iraq would be nearly double the current total. But military doctors said some troops who may have died in previous wars are surviving, but with grievous injuries such as multiple limb amputations. More than 300 troops have undergone at least one limb amputation." ("Another IraqU.S. Troops," October 23, 2005) died. Without the advances since War Legacy: Badly Wounded
- In March 2005, Norman Solomon wrote: "During the Vietnam War and the Persian Gulf War, 76 percent of American troops survived combat wounds. But in this century, the U.S. military's surgical teams 'have saved the lives of an unprecedented 90 percent of the soldiers wounded in battle,' the New England Journal of Medicine reported in December. Back in the United States, thousands of survivors are now coping with injuries that might have been fatal in an earlier war. Many have lost limbs or suffered other visible tragedies, but often the affects are not obvious. The Iraq war is causing an extraordinarily high rate of traumatic brain injury, and the damage to brain tissue is frequently permanent." ("This War Walks Among Us," Newsday, March 13, 2005)
- In February 2005, USA Today reported: "National Guardsmen and reservists who are injured on active duty face daunting and sometimes insurmountable hurdles to get medical care, soldiers and military officials told a congressional panel. The troops described an Army bureaucracy that loses track of wounded reservists, drops medical coverage before some are healed and often inflicts hardships on families." ("US Troops Say It's Hard to Get Medical Care," February 18, 2005)
- The New York Times reported in December 2004: "The nation's hard-pressed health care system for veterans is facing a potential deluge of tens of thousands of soldiers returning from Iraq with serious mental health problems brought on by the stress and carnage of war, veterans' advocates and military doctors say. An Army study shows that about one in six soldiers in Iraq report symptoms of major depression, serious anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder, a proportion that some experts believe could eventually climb to one in three, the rate ultimately found in Vietnam veterans. Because about one million American troops have served so far in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Pentagon figures, some experts predict that the number eventually requiring mental health treatment could exceed 100,000. 'There's a train coming that's packed with people who are going to need help for the next 35 years,' said Stephen L. Robinson, a 20-year Army veteran who is now the executive director of the National Gulf War Resource Center, an advocacy group. ("A Flood of Troubled Soldiers Is in the Offing, Experts Predict," December 16, 2004)
- In January 2004, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported: "U.S. soldiers in Iraq are killing themselves at a high rate despite the work of special teams sent to help troops deal with combat stress, the Pentagon's top doctor said yesterday. Meanwhile, about 2,500 soldiers who have returned from the war on terrorism are having to wait for medical care at bases in the United States, said Dr. William Winkenwerder, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. The problem of troops on 'medical extension' is likely to get worse as the Pentagon rotates hundreds of thousands of troops into and out of Iraq this spring, he said." ("Suicide Rate Is Growing for GIs in Iraq," January 15, 2004)
- In October 2003, UPI reported: "Hundreds of sick and wounded U.S. soldiers including many who served in the Iraq war are languishing in hot cement barracks here [Fort Stewart, Ga.] while they wait—sometimes for months—to see doctors. The National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers' living conditions are so substandard, and the medical care so poor, that many of them believe the Army is trying to push them out with reduced benefits for their ailments." ("Sick, Wounded U.S. Troops Held in Squalor," October 13, 2003)
One way that the US Congress can stop the war in Iraq is to pass a "Truth For the Troops Act," which would require military recruiters to stop lying to American kids who want to serve their country rather than the president's "ruined legacy," the vice-president's stock options, and the salaries of war-industry CEOs.
Howard Friel is coauthor with Richard Falk of Israel-Palestine on Record: How The New York Times Misreports Conflict in the Middle East (Verso, June 1), and with Falk of The Record of the Paper: How The New York Times Misreports US Foreign Policy (Verso, 2004).