Friday, March 30, 2007

If This Is Protecting the Troops, Stop Protecting Them!

Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas.
- The now-famous line uttered by Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks to the crowd at a show in London in March 2003

This morning when I read the headline that the Yankees had officially announced that Carl Pavano, he of the $40 million contract and 14-cent body, would pitch Opening Day at Yankee Stadium on Monday, I figured I had seen the most depressing headline I would read all day. But, I severely underestimated the Bush administration's ability to lie, deceive, and run a war poorly. Natalie Maines's career was greatly altered by that one line, but it seems to me that if she said it now, for most of the country, it wouldn't even rate as news. It would engender one big shrug.

Later in the day, I saw a headline on Yahoo! News that a general tried to warn Bush seven days after Pat Tillman's death in Afghanistan in April 2004 that it likely resulted from friendly fire. AP/Yahoo! Tillman Article According to the article, army officials were more concerned with their public image than getting the truth to Tillman's family.

Another Yahoo! headline was how Bush apologized to the soldiers directly for the conditions they suffered through while recovering at Walter Reed. AP/Yahoo! Walter Reed Article For one of the rare times in Bush's tenure in the White House, he admitted that his people did something wrong. But, it was not even a half-hearted mea culpa. More like a quarter-hearted one. You see, it was not people close to him that messed up. No, the soldiers were let down by "bureaucratic and administrative failures," according to the article. It is like he is saying, "It was not someone important, like Rove or Cheney, but a bunch of pencil-pushers that probably voted for Kerry anyway."

Oh, and of course, Bush also did not leave before getting a photo op of him shaking the artificial hand of one of the affected soldiers. What's wrong? Wasn't there a baby for him to hold to show how sensitive he is? Oh, wait, there was? Baby Photo My bad.

Here is what pisses me off most of all about all of this: The guy won the 2004 election by convincing Americans that he was the man to lead the war effort. That he, Joe Sorta National Guard, was a better choice than the guy who volunteered to go to Vietnam and got wounded for his efforts. Bush and his administration have, at every turn, portrayed themselves as the ones that want to help the troops, while critics of their war policies, by having the audacity not to agree with them, were hurting the troops.

Think I'm exaggerating? It was just two days ago, after the Senate rejected a move to pull a timetable for an Iraq withdrawal from a war spending bill, that Bush said, according to an AP/Yahoo! article on his veto threat, "If Congress fails to pass a bill to fund our troops on the front lines, the American people will know who to hold responsible." In the Bush view, he is looking out for the troops, but the people trying to pull them out of harm's way are not.

But, if we get away from the rhetoric, we see that Bush was and continues to be an abject failure to the troops. For him to take the position that he is looking out for soldiers shows, to use a technical term, chutzpah. Bush saying he is the protector of the troops is like Michael Jackson claiming to be a child welfare advocate. It's perverse.

Let's take a little look at the Bush record protecting the troops:

- He committed them to a war in Iraq to find weapons of mass destruction that never existed. He now claims to have been an innocent victim of bad intelligence, but how would he explain what Dick Cheney and Karl Rove did to Valerie Plame because her husband said there were no weapons of mass destruction? That's like saying you don't care who wins a baseball game, but then you drop a $1000 bet on one of the teams.

- He sent the troops into Iraq without an exit plan, banking on the fact that the Iraqis would all be happy to see the American troops, but he did not even begin to understand the long-held hostilities between the Shias and Sunnis. How come nobody ever discusses anymore that when Bush's father chose not to go after Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War, his stated reasons were that he felt that there was no stable entity to fill the power vacuum, and the street fighting in Baghdad would be costly in terms of life and was not the type of fighting the American military was trained for. Or, in other words, he wanted to avoid the exact mess we are in now.

As an aside, who articulated Bush Sr.'s point of view on the first Gulf War? None other than Dick Cheney, then the Secretary of Defense. Link to Article The hypocrisy of this administration is so delicious, you can't make this stuff up. Wait, since Cheney changed his view, does that make him a flip-flopper? And, based on the 2004 campaign, shouldn't he retroactively step down from office? After all, they accused Kerry of being a flip-flopper like changing his view was akin to murdering babies.

- Bush sent the troops into combat without enough equipment. Most notably, we have read reports of troops lacking body armor (USA Today) and waiting too long to order bomb-resistant vehicles (USA Today).

- He sent National Guard and Reserve troops back for multiple tours of duty in what has been termed a "back-door draft." CBS News Story With the military so overextended, these soldiers, who often lack the training they need, and who never envisioned such long stretches of duty, are forced into multiple tours at the expense of their jobs and families.

- He even sent injured troops back to Iraq. Article Can you protect troops and send injured troops into a war zone at the same time? That sounds like one of those "There are eight people on the side of a river ..." riddles to me.

- He has refused to recognize the quagmire he has gotten the military into in Iraq, preventing the U.S. from protecting vital interests in Afghanistan and keeping pressure on Iran. Despite the obvious call of the American people to change his policy, he has done nothing except propose sending some more troops in. That's like losing all your cash in a casino, but saying you have it under control because a loan shark is going to give you money to keep playing.

- Throw in Walter Reed, the admission that the no plan was made for the care of so many wounded soldiers with the war going on this long (AP/Yahoo! Article), and the Pat Tillman debacle, and I am left to ask: This is looking out for the troops? With that track record, I wouldn't trust Bush and his people looking after our pet bunny let alone my son or daughter if he/she was a member of the military.

It seems like a day can't go by now without some scandal or embarrassment for the executive branch hitting the news. While I'm grateful that Bush seems to be slipping in his ability to deflect his misdoings, it is a depressing state of affairs. Natalie Maines was really ahead of the curve on this one.

It's a good thing for Carl Pavano that Joe Torre is the manager of the Yankees. When Pavano inevitably falls apart on Opening Day, if Bush was the manager, he would just send him back into the game. No matter what the sold out crowd thought, and no matter how many hits Pavano had absorbed. After all, Bush would say, he is the decider. What he never mentions is that he is not a very good one.

Please note that this blog will not publish again until Thursday April 5, 2007