Supporting the Troops
I am struck by how Republicans have begun to criticize Obama over Afghanistan. Clint Eastwood seems to think that Obama started the war. As with bin Laden’s capture, Romney and Republicans try to find any way they can to criticize Obama for a war Republicans fumbled and Obama has finally brought to a close. And though Romney has not, like many in his party, promised war in Iran, it is implied if we are to take his statements on the issue seriously—and a war with Iran could turn out to be even longer and bloodier than the last two we have only just now begin to close the door or.
And yet, somehow, still, Republicans have the reputation for being on the side of the soldier, when nothing could be further from the truth.
The public image is reversed, but the public image is wrong. As General Wesley Clark so aptly put it in 2004, “Republicans like weapons systems; Democrats like the soldiers.”
Republicans use soldiers as tools regardless of their safety. Republicans started two massive land wars in Asia, the longest wars in U.S. history, bound to be meat grinders for the soldiery. One was made necessary by a security blunder by a Republican administration and was not only mismanaged by that administration, but was all but forgotten about by them. Bin Laden at Tora Bora. Allowing the Taliban to resurge while Bush started a wholly unnecessary war in Iraq. Soldiers were sent in without body armor or armor for their vehicles. Oil fields were protected while armories full of weapons later used against the troops were left open to looters. Conservatives’ plans for Iran show similar disregard for how many of the military will be struck down as a result. A third land war in Asia within just 15 years? I would agree that a draft would be a bad but perhaps necessary way to bring the real cost into focus for these people, except that these people have always found ways to shelter their own, draft or no; Bush was an excellent example of this.
Republicans love to use the military as backdrops to make them look strong. It seemed that every other public speech given by Bush had a wall of soldiers in the background. Bush made huge PR runs on aircraft carriers (Mission Accomplished!) and on military bases (where soldiers who were not loyal Republicans were pre-screened and locked out of the Thanksgiving dinner Bush used as a PR event; non-Bush-supporters were kept in the barracks and given MREs instead). Meanwhile, military coffins and funerals were banned from sight, out of fear that Americans would care too much for the fallen, and Bush did not even deign to sign letters to families whose loved ones had given the ultimate sacrifice.
But worst, Republicans’ greatest abuse of the soldiery is to use them as a human shield. Reagan used the valor and sacrifice of the troops he sent needlessly and uselessly into Lebanon as a shield when a reporter questioned his reasons for sending them, castigating the reporter for daring to question the honor of the troops, when the reporter was only questioning Reagan’s judgment in putting them in harm’s way. Bush used this coward’s retreat often; any attack on him was morphed into an attack on the troops; a new rule was established that you cannot criticize the president while troops are in the field, a rule conservatives abandoned the moment Obama came into office.
Meanwhile, Republicans cut benefits for the troops, mercilessly extended their tours of duty, and left their families with less and less support, spending money primarily for enticements to get more people to sign up, but then ignoring their needs once recruitment is no longer an issue. While lavish fortunes were spent on mercenaries and fortunes are sunk into often unneeded Defense contracts, relatively trifling amounts that could make big differences for soldiers are struck down by Republicans. The IAVA gives methodologically sound ratings to Congress based upon votes that affect veterans, rating in which Republicans consistently score dead last.
Democrats, on the other hand, have acted with care and caution where it has concerned the troops. Clinton’s war in the Balkans and Obama’s actions in Libya were examples of modern war by Democrats: good causes (stability and human life, not oil) in actions defined by the surgical use of force with minimal or even no loss of life among the soldiery. What funerals there were were not hidden; due homage was paid. Obama has been less than satisfactory in Afghanistan, true; but had he been in charge from the start, do you really think the war would have lasted 11 years? The only bloody military actions Democrats have presided over since Vietnam have been ones left them by presidents named “Bush.”
In the meantime, after the last Bush left, al Qaeda has all but been decimated, with bin Laden at the bottom of the ocean with a bullet in his head. For which, conservatives have only complaint, studiously avoiding any praise for Obama where they would have ordered apotheosis had a Republican been in office.
Democrats do not shy from giving speeches in front of troops, but it is not the common standard that it was for Bush and Republicans that came before. They spend more time actually doing stuff for the troops as opposed to only using them as a convenient backdrop.
Democrats do not use the troops as a human shield. You did not hear Clinton and will not hear Obama saying that an attack on the president is actually an attack on the troops.
But mostly, Democrats care about the soldiers in a contrast with conservatives which could not be deeper or more sharp. Where Republicans cut benefits for the troops, Democrats restore and even shower the troops with help.
Republicans not only disapprove, they despise this.
That’s right. I do not exaggerate. Allow me to give a definitive example.
Less than a year ago, conservatives ripped Obama for praising the troops. They created the false impression that Obama had never said anything good about the soldiers, but then suddenly started praising them for political gain; a false claim, of course.
But the worst part was that they accused Obama of actually abusing the troops, making them into “victims dependent on social-welfare and medical services.” Yep, that’s right. By giving the troops education and job assistance, by giving them good medical care upon their arrival home and paying attention to the emotional scars which have increased the suicide rate, Obama is actually, in the conservative’s view, disrespecting the troops.
Better to do it the conservative way: give them a handshake, salute them, mouth a few cheap platitudes—and then leave them to fend for themselves in a shattered economy in which your are dismantling health care.
That, apparently, is how you “support the troops.” Use them, grind them down, pose with them for a photo shoot, and then abandon them so they can learn self-reliance.
What astonishes me is that the men and women in uniform still trend conservative. Well, maybe not so much, considering the conservative cultural and religious influences built into the military infrastructure; how Fox News and radio shows like Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham are featured in military media.
No doubt the message below will be ruthlessly ripped by the conservatives. The troops are for swiftboating, not for supporting godless liberals.