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Sunday, September 03, 2006

Hughes For America: Supporting our troops with a knife in the back

Hand-in-hand with the Republican Party's post-September 11 fear campaign has been its goal of tying "supporting the troops" with "supporting the administration". Meaning, if you - you terrorist-loving, Hitler appeasing, hybrid-driving, latte-drinking fringe leftist - disagree with anything Dear Leader does (waging a costly, unjust war, for instance), not only do you suffer from intellectual and/or moral confusion, but you also don't support the troops. So our brave young men and women, sadly, find themselves playing the pawns for this White House, both at home and abroad. Dying to prove a point there. Serving to prop up a failing administration here.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Mission Accomplished. The Republicans, as it turns out, support the troops about as much as they've supported, let's say, the city of New Orleans. Hint: Not at all.

So, despite the constant stream of phony patriotism standing in for practical policy, once you strip away the spin, the actual, on-the-ground reality tells a far, far, far different tale. A tale that indeed paints a picture of Republicans supporting our troops. Supporting them with a knife in the back.

Listing every example of Republicans screwing the troops would fill a weighty volume, the type of volume the president would laughingly claim to have read this summer, just after those "three Shakespeares". Think about it. You've got an administration that sent the troops to Iraq based on a pack of lies, only to deny them the proper equipment, serving them spoiled food and contaminated water once they were there. You've got a president who has set the all-time record for a vacationing Commander-in-Chief, yet who still hasn't attended his first military funeral. You've got the Secretary of Defense who jokes about not providing our men and women with the proper equipment, yet can't be bothered to personally sign the condolence letters resulting directly from his and his administration's misguided foreign policy. For the ones lucky enough to return home alive, you've got Republican leadership that cuts their benefits while seeking to redefine what actually constitutes a "veteran" in order to further cut costs. To be more concise, however, I'll condense the administration's terrible record with a few memorable examples.

As I pointed out yesterday, one need look no further than this administration's skewed priorities to render ridiculous any claim that Republicans support the troops. Consider that the Pentagon is seeking a two-year, $20 million public relations deal to monitor media both at home and abroad in the hopes of conjuring something that simply isn't there in abundance - good news. Square that, however, with the fact that Congress seems poised to slash funding for the research and treatment of the traumatic brain injuries suffered by our troops. In fact, the new figure would be $7 million, down from $14 million. As I said then, let that sink in. An administration that has seems to have a better war plan for the media than it does the Middle East considers putting lipstick on a pig - positively spinning the Iraq quagmire - nearly three times as important as it does researching and treating what's considered the signature injury of this war. I wonder if the forthcoming public relations program will find a positive way to spin that reality.

When they're not looking to cut the funding earmarked for treating injured troops, some Republicans in Congress have gone on the record as supporting their torture, mutilation and murder in Iraq. In June, on the heels of a Republican-sponsored political vote, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson offered a nonbinding, "sense of the Senate" resolution that condemned the notion that the Iraqi government would ever grant amnesty to those who would have "attacked, killed, or wounded" our men and women in Iraq. One would think, naturally, that such a resolution would pass unanimously. Wrong. Nineteen senators - all of the Republican - voted against our troops. Those flag-waving senators who should be ashamed of themselves included, as I wrote then, Lindsey Graham, who considers it against U.S. interests to discuss the mistakes we've made in the war, but apparently in the U.S. interest to pardon war criminals. And Trent Lott, who's "not a fan of Secretary Rumsfeld" but apparently is a fan of those who torture Americans. Among the 19 were 11 Republicans with military service who, it appears, voted in favor of those who would have done them grievous harm. It also included John McCain. Back then, I wrote, about this stunner, "Former prisoner of war John McCain. The same John McCain whose amendment setting limits on detainee interrogation the White House vowed to ignore. And now, the same John McCain who opposes degrading treatment of our detainees but would support granting freedom to those who not only degrade American detainees, but also kill them."

Meanwhile, when push comes to shove, Republicans seem content to let someone - anyone - else do the fighting. At every turn, you'll find young right-wing warmongers talking a good game but refusing to enlist to defend the joys of freedom they seem so willing to spread across the Middle East like a face-melting fire. You know, the kind of children of privilege who were born on third base yet act as though they reached safely with a triple. The kind of young Americans to whom military service "isn't for our kind of people". Or, you'll find Republicans who consider supporting the troops slapping a Rick Santorum bumper sticker on their car. And the latest - surely not the last - example of right-wing cowardice may be the most stunning yet. Consider that Sean Hannity told his listeners that, indeed, "there are things in life worth fighting and dying for". At the top of that list? Ensuring that Nancy Pelosi not become Speaker of the House this fall. I wonder how that statement played at enlistment centers across America?

Like pretty much everything else coming from the Republican Party, the "support the troops" claims ring hollow. At every turn, those doing the administration's dirty work - and often paying the ultimate price for doing so - get nothing in return for their sacrifice. What's more, the thanks for a job well done, more often than not, instead takes the form of a stab in the back. So, yeah, if you consider the previous examples as evidence that the Republicans support the troops, then yes, I suppose they do support them.

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