Friday, November 11, 2005

A Veteran Speaks to President Bush on Veterans Day

President Bush,

As our nation celebrates the contributions and sacrifices of America's Veterans today, I thought I would take the time to let you know how one Veteran feels about your commitment to our military and your true level of patriotism. After all, the Republican party smears anyone they oppose by questioning their support of the troops and their national loyalty so that's all fair game, right?

You wear the self-provided mantle of a wartime president, love to appear before troops – even if it's a fake piece of theater with pre-screened questions and answers – and use as one of the last available devices in a failed presidency, your zeal for all things military and national security.

But there are many things a Commander-in-Chief must be to truly gain the respect and authority that such a designation merits – and you have shown none of those.

To be sure – and the CBS fiasco notwithstanding – there's not a thinking American who truly believes you served your time honorably in the Air National Guard. While the specific piece of documentation produced by CBS News may have been questionable, what is beyond dispute is the total lack of paperwork or witnesses showing that you ever truly served – period. You leapfrogged over hundreds of other qualified applicants to the National Guard because of your family connections and, despite all your crowing about service to country, dodged your main opportunity to live out that creed.

But is military service necessary to be an effective president and Commander-in-Chief? Not really. President Bill Clinton – you remember him; the person your party savaged for his lack of military service – didn't serve a day in uniform and yet was a capable and thoughtful Command-in-Chief. You never saw Bill Clinton invent intelligence and mislead the country into a disastrous war and you certainly never witnessed Clinton's people ridicule and shame highly-decorated Veterans like John Kerry and Max Cleland as your crew of Chickenhawks has so gleefully done. If Audie Murphy himself were a Democrat today, you and your party would find a way to smear his service as well.

Which brings us to the Iraq war.

This issue is now so far beyond anything that we Veterans can argue about amongst ourselves, whether we be liberal Democrats or conservative Republicans. Because it is no longer a matter of political perspective or belief. Your administration invented intelligence – I believe "fixed" is the word the British used in the Downing Street Memos – and lied to the American people.

It is now an indisputable matter of fact that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and no immediate way of attaining that capability. That didn't stop you, Vice President Cheney, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and anyone else you could get in front of a camera from lying about that contention which, at the very least, you had evidence to suggest might not be true.
But then, we saw how much you listened to Ambassador Joe Wilson when he tried to set you straight, didn't we?

There was also no link between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda and no connection between Iraq and the events of September 11, both of which you misled us about originally and continue to imply, in a despicable attempt to bolster your presidency to a nation that is now collectively seeing the truth.

As a Veteran, I resent this, I resent your administration and I most certainly resent you.

Those of us who have served in the military know the rigors of boot camp, the positive aspects of completing that introduction to true mental and physical discipline and the lifelong feeling of pride in successfully finishing those hard months. Many of us have also held a rifle, fired that weapon at another human, had bullets come at us and know what that truly means.

And no, Mr. President, it's not the toy-soldier, "bring-it-on" thrill that your protected, sheltered experience would lead you to believe. It is terrifying. You're scared to death, shoot at almost anything that moves and pray to whatever deity you worship that you see tomorrow. But you would have no way of knowing that – not even through the stories of the sycophants you are surrounded by, most of whom have never served a day in uniform in their lives.

Because of all of this, I "celebrate" Veterans Day by thinking of 2,057 Americans who, because of you, will never hug their spouses or parents again and will never see their kids grow up. I think of the 100,000 Iraqis you have killed by using the honorable intentions and service of those on active duty in such a dishonest and horrible way. I think of the 15,000 brave men and women who will exist for the rest of their lives minus a limb and those who will forever carry the mental images of war because of your personal agenda —an agenda that had nothing whatsoever to do with national security.

And, because of the budget cuts that your administration has visited on returning Veterans of the Iraq war, many of them cannot get desperately-needed treatment, which is the icing on the cake of your five-year display of bad faith toward those who have served.

It is Veterans Day and, as one of those Veterans, I am sad and I am angry.

So you want to do something to honor Veterans today, Mr. President? Stay in the White House, out of public view and at least have the decency to say nothing.

If you want to really do something noble that would truly honor those who have served, use that time to think about admitting what you have done to Veterans. And then give serious thought to doing the honorable thing – and resigning.