Veterans for Dean
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PLEASE DO NOT HIT THE EMAIL LINK FOR THIS BLOG. YOU WILL NOT GET AN ANSWER HERE! This Blog has now transitioned to "Voice of a Veteran" Please click here to continue reading this Vet's blog and please change your links. There is an email link at this new website.

Friday, February 20, 2004
A Shorter Kept Promise Than a Las Vegas Wedding Vow...

Nine days after assuring us that more than 2.6 million jobs would be created this year, the president had to eat crow for breakfast. Not to be outdone after Mr. Bush's confident promise of job creation, his chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, N. Gregory Mankiw (see Monday Feb 16th blog below) said the president was even understating the figure, which in Mankiw's estimate would be closer to 3.5 million new jobs. Crow tastes better when eating with a friend...

The White House backed away Wednesday from its own prediction that the economy will add 2.6 million new jobs before the end of this year, saying the forecast was the work of number-crunchers and that President Bush was not a statistician.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan, asked repeatedly about the forecast, declined to embrace the prediction which was contained in the annual economic report of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

Unemployment and the slow pace of job creation are political liabilities for Bush as he heads into a battle for re-election. Despite strong economic growth, the nation has lost about 2.2 million jobs since he became president.

The jobs forecast was the second economic flap in recent days for the White House. Last week, Bush was forced to distance himself from White House economist N. Gregory Mankiw's assertion that the loss of U.S. jobs overseas has long-term benefits for the U.S. economy.

Asked about the 2.6 million jobs forecast, McClellan said, "The president is interested in actual jobs being created rather than economic modeling."

He quoted Bush as saying, "I'm not a statistician. I'm not a predictor."

Well, you don't read the papers either Mr. President, but that doesn't excuse your lack of leadership. Must have been another "intelligence failure" that caused this problem too - in this case from your CHIEF ECONOMIC ADVISOR. Oh, don't bother saying it, we know his job is not in jeopardy either. Congratulations, you have just given 8 million people searching for work right now another reason not to vote for you.

And by the way, we know you have trouble reading or remembering numbers - but try remembering these, will you? ... more than 535 dead and more than 14,000 battlefield casualty evacuations. That shouldn't be too taxing for you.

Thursday, February 19, 2004
Modern Day Cult of the Disappearing Dead - Only It Resides in the White House

How the news about casualties is being managed by the administration. Here is the summary, but read the whole thing - and don't have any sharp objects nearby when you do:

During the course of the Afghan and Iraqi conflicts the US Department of Defense (DoD) conducted "perception management" campaigns that obstructed the public's appreciation of the wars' human toll. The casualty issue was not alone in suffering such treatment during the prologue to the Iraq conflict. Distortion and miscalculation affected the official discourse on many of the key issues surrounding the war, including: the nature, magnitude, and immediacy of the threat; the likely financial cost of the war; the troop requirement for both the combat and post-war phases of the operation; and the difficulty and expense of post-war reconstruction and stabilization efforts.

The casualty issue is one of strategic import. In addition to US and allied losses, approximately 18,000 Afghan and Iraqi combatants and non-combatants were killed during the main combat phases of the two wars. (About one-third of the total were non-combatants.) This toll bears directly on (1) the threat environments in post-war Iraq and Afghanistan; (2) the regional and global reactions to US operations, (3) the prospects for building multinational security cooperation on Iraq, Afghanistan, and terrorism; and, (4) the appeal, influence, and growth of terrorist organizations and extremist movements.

Official efforts to shape the public's appreciation of the issue may have included the pre-war placement of suspect stories meant to cast doubt on subsequent casualty reports. During the wars, perception management included efforts to "spin"or frame casualty incidents and stories in ways that minimized their significance, cast doubt on their reliability, or shirked responsibility for the occurrence of casualties. DoD and armed services officials often (but inconsistently) refused to divulge casualty estimates, although relevant intelligence was available at every level ranging from the Office of the Secretary of Defense down to field units.

DoD and other US officials also promoted more general concepts to frame public discussion and media coverage of the casualty issue. One of these frames -- the concept of a new low-risk "precision warfare" -- created unrealistic expectations that war would produce very low casualties on all sides. Another frame -- what might be called "casualty agnosticism" -- implied that it was impossible to derive usefully accurate estimates of casualties, despite the presence of prodigious investigative resources in the field (both governmental and non-governmental). DoD was fairly successfully in projecting these framing concepts into US media coverage of the wars and war casualties.

Polls of foreign public opinion indicate that the perception management campaigns were distinctly unsuccessful in influencing their putative primary target: foreign public opinion. They may have been more successful in influencing domestic US opinion -- insofar as a "perception gap" now separates Americans from much of the rest of the world on war-related issues. Distortion of the casualty issue can only serve to impede the sober assessment of US policy, policy options, and their consequences. It is antithetical both to well-informed public debate and to sensible policy-making.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004
What's Going to Happen?

Having been asked this question regarding Gov. Dean, I think you would agree that it's up to him what happens from here. Let's let him discuss that later this morning. Regardless of what the post-campaign looks like, the impact and innovations of his campaign have changed American politics and the Democratic party for good - and for the better.

When this blog was looking for a candidate on either side of the political spectrum to take a serious interest in what was happening to veterans - never really expecting anyone to answer - only the Dean campaign responded. As a result the HQ in Vermont formed a Veterans Coalition Outreach Group that asked for inputs from veterans concerning which issues were most important to us.

Then Gov Dean issued a series of statements at the above link, including the strongest statement yet on foreign policy by any candidate, including Mr. Bush. The campaign wanted to know what we were thinking and why - and where they could help us.

The goals of this forum remain: This is a discussion of the coming election in light of current issues that relate to defense, foreign policy and the military, and why the current administration is not addressing the needs of veterans, active military service members, and their dependents.

What this forum will look like in the near future is not clear yet, but veterans will not be forgotten by this writer, nor the many other veterans and supporters who have contributed, and continue to do so, to the replacing of an administration with one that cares about us.
Tuesday, February 17, 2004
Poor Judgment, Bad Decisions, and Just Plain Bumbling - This is Leadership?

In an all out search for anything and anybody to justify the war in Iraq, Mr. Bush, Mr Cheney and assorted advisors threw in with the wrong people. Ahmad Chalabi returned to Iraq as U.S. forces were moving into Baghdad and became a prominent member of the Iraqi Governing Council.

Vice President Dick Cheney and the administration's neoconservative cheering section have long believed that Chalabi is destined for greatness in a free Iraq.

In Jordan, however, Chalabi was destined for the slammer, having been convicted of embezzlement, misuse of funds and illegal currency speculation in the $1 billion collapse of Amman's Petra Bank in 1989. Chalabi fled to Syria rather than face charges, was convicted in absentia and drew a sentence of 22 years at hard labor.

So a liar supplies key intelligence information, and an embezzler positions himself to rule Iraq when America leaves.

This is farce overlaid with tragedy as soldiers and civilians die every day, families here and there struggle to cope with lives turned inside out and America's credibility in the world clings to life support.

And here at home we have the bumblers.

After Kay's WMD-less findings rocked Washington late last month, the administration sent national Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice out to project calm and confidence. "We will be able to take the evidence that we gather on the ground," she assured the "Today" show's Matt Lauer, "and be able to compare what we knew before the war with what we found on the ground."

That depends on what the definition of "knew" is. Swagger and bravado notwithstanding, Kay's work demonstrates that the Bush administration didn't "know" much of anything about Iraq's supposed weapons before it started a war. And a story in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal suggests the administration was long on rhetoric and short on information in other areas as well.

In his 2002 State of the Union speech, Bush stated that "Our discoveries in Afghanistan confirmed our worst fears. . . . We have found diagrams of American nuclear power plants. . . ." This week, the Journal reported, a senior White House official acknowledged that "no plant diagrams were actually found in Afghanistan."

Apparently, it's hard to let go of illusions. Cheney, for example, has continued to refer in speeches to the evidence of the mobile bioweapons labs. (See "fabrication notification" above.)

And in his deer-in-the-headlights "Meet the Press" interview with Tim Russert on Sunday, the president insisted, more than once, that weapons inspector "David Kay did report to the American people that Saddam had the capacity to make weapons."

That depends on what the definition of "capacity" is. If it means factories, production lines, working laboratories, essential equipment, supplies of raw material or anything remotely resembling the necessary infrastructure to produce such weapons, Kay's findings show that the president was wrong. Again.

So let's see: Liars, embezzlers and bumblers. Wrong about nuclear plant diagrams. Wrong about WMD. Wrong about postwar Iraq. Wrong about the cost of the prescription-drug bill. Wrong about the effects of tax cuts, the size of deficits and the creation of jobs.

Does this bunch even come close to knowing what it's doing?

No - net then, not now, and not for the future of this country.

Monday, February 16, 2004
Economics 101 - Why Many Veterans (and Others) are Out of a Job

Another Advisor to the President Learns Something About Politics, the Hard Way

Economics, as an academic field of study, is known as the "Dismal Science" and most of us probably believe we have better things to do with our time than care about it. It's time you cared about it if you can't find employment, veterans, because like so many other aspects of the Bush administration, this president is not a strategic thinker. He prefers big picture actions that appear to solve things in the short run (the war, budget deficits) - not coincidentally those that will get your vote. But the long run, overriding, negative effects of his actions, will happen after he is out of office.

The President campaigning in Pennsylvania, tried to repair damage today from a politically awkward remark recently uttered by one of his advisers about American jobs going overseas.

Mr. Bush's emphasis on not losing jobs to foreign employers was, at least in part, an effort to spackle over the political damage done on Monday, when the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, N. Gregory Mankiw, commented on the practice of American companies' farming out production and services to low-wage countries like China and Mexico.

"Outsourcing is a growing phenomenon, but it's something that we should realize is probably a plus for the economy in the long run," Mr. Mankiw told reporters.

The reaction to those remarks was immediate and unfavorable — and has not gone away.

Today, the House minority leader, Representative Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, pressed the attack. "There are more than eight million — more than eight million — Americans who want to be working but are not," she said in a news briefing. "Many of them have lost their jobs due to outsourcing." "I'm sure American workers are shocked by the president's embracing of outsourcing," she said a moment later.

Mankiw has since recanted, saying in a letter to the top House Republican, Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois, that "my lack of clarity left the wrong impression that I praised the loss of U.S. jobs."

Democrats sought to exploit the Mankiw flap. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., introduced legislation to require companies to give employees' three months' notice of firings if they are replaced with workers outside the country.

"Exporting jobs isn't an accident," Daschle said, "it's administration policy."


So what, you say? The 'so what' has very much to do with why you may not have been able to find work in the production sector - that includes anybody that makes things - and also why your kids and grandkids will be paying for George Bush's deficits years from now unless you vote him out of office.

Mankiw is right in one sense - he just didn't know how to use the politically correct language to say so. There are some kinds of jobs that few Americans want to do anymore, so someone might as well do them. The problem is, as Sen Daschle points out, the administration is doing nothing to protect us from the excesses of outsourcing overseas - so, the U.S. cannot keep manufacturing plants open or compete well at all, in terms of employment, unless we take steps to better protect and grow our economy in the future.

What does this mean for the many vets out of a job now who insist that Bush is their man? It means you better start your own retraining soon or move somewhere where you might improve your chances of getting a job - something that most of us can't easily afford to do in the current Bush economy.

But let's also talk about why your kids and grandkids will pay for your vote for Mr. Bush. Mankiw, in his college textbook Principles of Economics, 3rd Ed. (which you don't have time to read unless you love this stuff), says this: Almost 85% of economists agree that "a large federal deficit has an adverse effect on the economy" (p 32). When you get that many economists agreeing on anything, it's a miracle. Curious that Mankiw is helping to preside over the biggest budget deficit in history.

Bottom line: if you want to improve your chances for yourself and your family, you need another president in 2004.

Congratulations: you have just graduated from Economics 101 - it doesn't have to be dismal for you personally - 260 days from now...
Saturday, February 14, 2004
Best Line of the Weekend..

From Michael Feldman on NPR's "Whad'ya Know", who opened his show in a very somber tone and asked: "30 years from now, will George Bush be able to prove he was President of the United States - or will we only have the dental records?"
"What's the Big Deal About Conflict of Interest on Your Blog...Find Something Else 'of Interest'"...

Sorry, I don't have time for important stuff like Super Bowl halftime shows.

See Jack Ohman today (Feb 14), entitled Justice is Duck Blind

Friday, February 13, 2004
Rumsfeld Sings: Off You Go into the Wild Blue Yonder…

The transformation of the Reserve components under Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld’s “bold initiative” has begun in earnest.

Mr. Rumsfeld, like his boss, once more, with vigor, is biting the hands of those that helped deliver Mr. Bush’s pre-emptive war in Iraq.

But even the administration’s harshest war critics are numb with amazement. None of them can figure out the apparent disconnect between the Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive, regime-change wars, and Mr. Rumsfeld’s mission to dismantle the Reserve forces, including the National Guard - especially after the incredibly professional job they have done (and are still doing) in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr. Bush would not have been able to invade two countries this last year had Mr. Rumsfeld’s “vision” for the future been in the process of being carried out. His plans for the Reserves appear to be known only to himself. National Guard leaders clearly have no clue what Mr. Rumsfeld is doing, or why – apparently they are not being consulted.

So, why is it that dedicated Air National Guard troops, for example, who have sacrificed as much as their active duty counterparts, if not more, are being thrown on the scrap heap as they return home? How, you ask, could Mr. Bush extend his continuous wartime presidency indefinitely if a good chunk of it is going out the window?

We are now starting to get some clues.

Recent announcements within the Air National Guard {concerning impending} major changes have left many senior leaders and their subordinates scratching their heads and wondering what’s next.

What’s next is apparently the destruction of the Air National Guard, as we know it.

The volunteers who make up the current Air National Guard roster – the same friends, neighbors and co-workers who have selflessly given up their time to help defend the nation or support their communities and states in times of natural disasters – face a bleak, uncertain future.

Many people who have dedicated their lives to a career with the Air National Guard (ANG) will not be able to complete them. The lucky few in units scheduled for transfer elsewhere will face a Hobson’s choice of having to relinquish their ANG work or relocate their families and households to a different state. In either case, the Air Force is going to lose a significant amount of its reserve capacity.

The question remains, why is the defense secretary adamant in tearing down the ANG and other reserve component organizations?

With the military still serving in two war zones and engaged in the war against terrorism, the outcry in Washington, D.C., is to expand the U.S. military, not shred it.

It would seem that Rumsfeld, embarrassed and infuriated that so much of the Guard and Reserve was needed to fight in Iraq, has decided to undo 30 years of the post-Vietnam “Total Force” concept. This concept intentionally transferred key warfighting missions from the active force to the Guard and reserve for the express purpose of preventing military adventurism without the consent of the American people.

”Total force” was an explicit “lesson learned” from the Vietnam War, where President Lyndon Johnson knew that to activate the Guard and reserve would have cost him the popular support of the electorate… Instead, he exponentially increased the size of the draft and wound up fighting in Vietnam with a military composed in large part of unwilling conscripts.

In that vein, the Rumsfeld plan is far more perilous than even its negative impact on thousands of ANG personnel and their families. In the name of reform, the defense secretary is apparently trying to distance the U.S. military from the civilian society it is sworn to protect, and free himself and future DoD leaders to march off to war without the troublesome bother of justifying it to the American people.

This is yet another reason, veterans, why this administration must be changed in November. Why? Because they believe you won’t care so much if we keep going to war in the name of Democracy – because only active duty troops will be used in the future. Reserve and National Guard breadwinners won’t be ripped from their families and their incomes, and you won’t protest as much, if at all, by Rumsfeld’s “thinking.”

But Mr. Rumsfeld’s logic will begin to fall on its ear when, as has been said several times before on this blog, the draft “must be reinstated” in early 2005 to “help fight the war on terrorism.” For a man with supposedly a lot brains, Mr. Rumsfeld must be hoping that we won’t be able to add 2+2. On the other hand, with Mr. Bush’s “no child left behind”, maybe Rumsfeld will be right in a few years - we won't be able to figure it out until after it's happened.

Don’t forget: Rumsfeld is the same man, along with his lieutenant Paul Wolfowitz, and advisors like Richard Perle, Karl Rove, and of course Dick Cheney, who helped push us into this war, but had no idea what would happen afterwards.

We, as a country, can’t stand any more of this kind of “strategic thinking.”

And the lessons from Vietnam, a war that tore this country apart for more than a generation, will go down the drain as well.

This is no conspiracy theory or woe-is-me hand wringing. In spite of Rumsfeld’s public declarations that he has challenged the Pentagon to be more efficient and effective, his real intentions are now becoming clear.

Bush’s second term would allow pre-emptive, regime-change adventurism to continue for four more years, at the continued cost of our sons and daughters lives. Mr. Bush will say that you gave him the mandate to do so.

Vote with your feet, vets!

Thursday, February 12, 2004
Frustrated Conservatives Getting Fed Up With Their Leader - Just like the Rest of Us

(UPDATE: Criticism from Republicans and Democrats that President Bush gave a shaky performance on Sunday on "Meet the Press" did not stop his re-election campaign from incorporating digitally enhanced excerpts from it into a promotional video that it posted on its Web site on Tuesday.

The campaign said it would remove the video from the site after NBC News complained that it was unfairly using the interview to support the re-election effort. The campaign said that it had violated no laws, but that it decided to take the video off after it realized how angry NBC News was over the use.

"Out of respect to NBC and our friends at 'Meet the Press,' we are working to dismantle it," the president's campaign spokeswoman, Nicole Devenish, said.)

Did the president pick up the wrong playbook?

It's suddenly occurring to many of his no-questions-asked media supporters that Mr. Bush will do or say just about anything for votes - welcome to the other half of the country that already knew that. And the feigned wisdom from his spokesman, that they anticipated that Mr. Bush would be behind in the polls at some point, is pure baloney: Mr. Bush never expected to be behind anybody. His actions now reek of pre-emptory panic because the Democrats have a had a "free infomercial" for three months. This is almost fun to read:

For most of his presidency George Bush has counted on a chorus of conservative newspaper columnists, radio hosts and television commentators to give powerful punctuation to his initiatives, proposals and defenses.

But in recent days, there has been an uptick in criticism of Mr. Bush from those quarters, underscoring strains between him and the Republican base that has so faithfully defended him in the past.

For example, Peggy Noonan, the Reagan speechwriter, had this to say on Sunday in about Mr. Bush's "Meet the Press" interview: "The president seemed tired, unsure and often bumbling. His answers were repetitive, and when he tried to clarify them he tended to make them worse."

George Will, the conservative columnist, wrote in his syndicated column on Sunday, "It is surreal for a Republican president to submit a budget to a Republican-controlled Congress and have Republican legislators vow to remove the `waste' that he has included and that they have hitherto funded."

"It's a critical departure," said J. David Hoeveler, a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin said of the tenor of the conservative media... "It would suggest that those who would call themselves Republicans are quite possibly breaking ranks."

Bush campaign officials say the frustration stems from an eagerness among his supporters to take on the Democrats aggressively, which they say he will begin to do soon…(But) several conservative columnists and commentators said their pronouncements of disappointment resulted from growing frustration with what they saw as unbridled federal spending, Mr. Bush's mixed signals on gay marriage and his caution in meeting fierce critiques from a newly emboldened opposition.

Republicans who gave him poor grades for his performance on "Meet the Press," for instance, said they were concerned that he was not in fighting form.

In one column last week, Mr. Novak criticized Mr. Bush for giving "the most ineffective State of the Union address in recent years." And, he wrote, the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the admission that the president's plan to expand Medicare would cost more than initially estimated were "a double blow to his credibility."

Recently I received another donation request from the Republican party, which I belonged to until 6 months ago. In the "status of membership" block, it said "lapsed". I circled that word and wrote "exactly - get the picture?" Somebody better check Mr. Bush's party card - not that we want him.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004
"I Want to Lead This World"

Nuggets from the Russert Interview (compressed in some places, but language not edited). The words speak for themselves. Why more and more veterans will not be voting for Mr. Bush in 2004....

Russert: Prime Minister Blair has set up a similar commission in Great Britain.
President Bush: Yeah. Russert: His is going to report back in July. President Bush: Right.
Russert: Ours is not going to be until March of 2005, five months after the presidential election.
President Bush: Yeah.
Russert: Shouldn't the American people have the benefit of the commission before the election.
President Bush: Well, the reason why we gave it time is because we didn't want it to be hurried.

Russert: Will you testify before the commission? President Bush: This commission? You know, testify? I mean, I’d be glad to visit with them. I’d be glad to share with them knowledge. I’d be glad to make recommendations, if they ask for some…I'm interested in getting — I'm interested in making sure the intelligence gathering works well…First of all, I strongly believe the CIA is ably led by George Tenet. He comes and briefs me on a regular basis about what he and his analysts see in the world. Russert: His job is not in jeopardy?
President Bush: No, not at all, not at all. We've got people working hard in intelligence gathering around the world to get as good an information as possible.

Russert: The night you took the country to war, March 17th, you said this: "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."
President Bush: Right. Russert: That apparently is not the case. President Bush: Correct.…We knew the fact that he was paying for suicide bombers. We knew the fact he was funding terrorist groups. In other words, he was a dangerous man. And that was the intelligence I was using prior to the run up to this war. Now, let me — which is — this is a vital question —
Russert: Nothing more important.
President Bush: Vital question… And so we — I expected there to be stockpiles of weapons. But David Kay has found the capacity to produce weapons.

Russert: Mr. President, the Director of the CIA said that his briefings had qualifiers and caveats, but when you spoke to the country, you said "there is no doubt." When Vice President Cheney spoke to the country, he said "there is no doubt." Secretary Powell, "no doubt." Secretary Rumsfeld, "no doubt, we know where the weapons are." You said, quote, "The Iraqi regime is a threat of unique urgency.” “Saddam Hussein is a threat that we must deal with as quickly as possible." You gave the clear sense that this was an immediate threat that must be dealt with.
President Bush: I think, if I might remind you that in my language I called it a grave and gathering threat, but I don't want to get into word contests.
Russert: But can you launch a pre-emptive war without iron-clad, absolute intelligence that he had weapons of mass destruction?
President Bush: Let me take a step back for a second and — there is no such thing necessarily in a dictatorial regime of iron-clad absolutely solid evidence. The evidence I had was the best possible evidence that he had a weapon.
Russert: But it may have been wrong.
President Bush: Well, but what wasn't wrong was the fact that he had the ability to make a weapon. That wasn't right.

Russert: On Iraq, the vice president said, “we would be greeted as liberators.”
President Bush: Yeah.
Russert: It's now nearly a year, and we are in a very difficult situation. Did we miscalculate how we would be treated and received in Iraq?
President Bush: Well, I think we are welcomed in Iraq. I'm not exactly sure, because the tone of your question is, we're not. We are welcomed in Iraq.

Russert: In light of not finding the weapons of mass destruction, do you believe the war in Iraq is a war of choice or a war of necessity?
President Bush: I think that's an interesting question. Please elaborate on that a little bit. A war of choice or a war of necessity? It's a war of necessity.
Russert: Now looking back, in your mind, is it worth the loss of 530 American lives and 3,000 injuries and woundings simply to remove Saddam Hussein, even though there were no weapons of mass destruction?
President Bush: Every life is precious. Every person that is willing to sacrifice for this country deserves our praise, and yes.
Russert: Do you think .. President Bush: Let me finish. Russert: Please. President Bush: It's essential that I explain this properly to the parents of those who lost their lives…Saddam Hussein was dangerous, and I’m not gonna leave him in power and trust a madman. He's a dangerous man. He had the ability to make weapons at the very minimum…For the parents of the soldiers who have fallen who are listening, David Kay, the weapons inspector, came back and said, “In many ways Iraq was more dangerous than we thought.” It's — we’re in a war against these terrorists who will bring great harm to America, and I've asked these young ones to sacrifice for that.

Russert: Were you favor of the war in Vietnam?
President Bush: …The thing about the Vietnam War that troubles me as I look back was it was a political war. We had politicians making military decisions, and it is lessons that any president must learn, and that is to the set the goal and the objective and allow the military to come up with the plans to achieve that objective. And those are essential lessons to be learned from the Vietnam War.

Russert: Why do you think you are perceived as such a divider?
President Bush: Gosh, I don't know, because I'm working hard to unite the country. As a matter of fact, it's the hardest part of being the president. I was successful as the governor of Texas for bringing people together for the common good, and I must tell you it's tough here in Washington, and frankly it's the biggest disappointment that I've had so far of coming to Washington….See, I know exactly where I want to lead. I want to lead us — I want to lead this world toward more peace and freedom.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Veterans and anyone else interested in military information: Please check out a new link over to the right, under Veterans Links, called It is perhaps the most comprehensive website for military links of all kinds - and very professionally put together. You will be on there for awhile, guaranteed, because of all the interesting stuff available.
The New Math (Part II)

About once a week, this blog receives email from an irate Bush-supporting veteran who slams the blog with something like "How can you be a patriot and keep writing stuff critical of the administration and it's support of veterans?" Now the tune is "... didn't you know the VA budget has gone up 12% this year?" The questions to ask of course, are: "12% of what?" and "Where does that money actually go?"

So it's time to do a little summary of what this administration has done for us veterans before you make up your mind who you are going to vote for. The following article provides a good summary. It gets a little emotional at the end - and that's good. It's time to get emotional, vets. You will recognize many of the points made on this blog:

This is how Bush supports our troops
By cutting benefits and health care for those putting their lives on the line in Iraq

Do you support our troops? If so, prepare to be outraged that our commander in chief does not.

The Bush Administration's 2004 budget proposed gutting Veterans Administration (VA) services, including health care funding. Proposed cuts included: denying at least 360,000 veterans access to health care; $250 annual premiums; increased pharmacy co-payments; a 30 percent increased primary care co-payments; and increased waiting time for a first medical appointment.

Because of budgetary shortfalls, the VA suspended the enrollment of veterans not injured in service earning between $24,450 and $38,100 annually. VFW officials estimated the administration's VA budget is at least $2 billion short of meeting the demand for quality health care.

The FY 2004 budget approved by Congress calls for reducing VA funding over a 10-year period by $6.2 billion. Cuts are in the areas of veterans' health care and disability benefits.

The cuts affect VA discretionary funding, which could mean discontinuation of burial benefits for veterans or delays in the cost-of-living adjustment for disability benefits.

Some veterans must pay a new $250 annual enrollment fee to join the VA healthcare system. The VA believes 1.25 million veterans nationwide, already under the VA healthcare plan, may no longer be able to participate because of the new fee.

Veterans who can remain under the VA health-care system will pay increased co-payments for physician benefits and prescription drug cost, amounting to an estimated increase in out-of-pocket expenses of $347 each year.

The Bush Administration's budget proposal would have under-funded the VA by more than $2 billion. Bush's proposal would have cut the number of employees available to process disability claims, yet veterans already wait more than six months for a review of disability applications. The Bush plan for dealing with the waiting lists at VA clinics and hospitals is to reduce the number of veterans treated by the VA.

Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), chairman of the Subcommittee on Health, disputed the credibility of Bush's budget proposal. He doubted reducing VA medical staff could meet the expanding needs at the Veterans Health Administration.

Rep. Bob Stump(R-AZ) noted the VA budget "identifies hundreds of millions of dollars needed for existing fixed costs, new advanced treatments and new initiatives to provide greater care for veterans. Unfortunately, the Administration hasn't included any new funding to address those needs."
Last March, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a budget that included a $28.8 billion 10-year reduction in funding for veterans. The Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and Disabled American Veterans began a letter-writing campaign to protest the reduction, so a House-Senate conference committee reduced the cut to $6.2 billion. President Bush complained that Congress needed fiscal restraint.

An army of veterans twice the size of that involved in Operation Iraqi Freedom has lost health insurance benefits since Bush took office. As many as half a million vets are homeless. Seven VA hospitals are being closed as part of an effort to "restructure" the Department of Veterans Affairs. Meanwhile, veterans of the Iraq campaign can fall in line with over 250,000 veterans who are already waiting at least six months to see a doctor.

The General Accounting Office estimates that 20 percent of Army Reserve and National Guard personnel have no health insurance at all. Although Bush did not hesitate to send Reservists and National Guardsmen to face death in Iraq, he has consistently opposed any attempt to extend full benefits to them.

Bush tried to cut monthly imminent-danger pay and family separation allowance, and he called a proposed increase in the sum given to families of soldiers who die on active duty "wasteful and unnec- essary."

Additionally, Bush considered how much money the country would save (and how much more could be diverted to Bechtel and Halliburton contracts) if veterans could not even find out what their benefits are.

Disabled American Veterans (DAV), an organization that since 1920 has helped U.S. combat casualties learn about the benefits they have earned and how to apply for them, has been obstructed in its efforts by Bush.

The Pentagon has been severely limiting DAV access to wounded veterans on grounds of "security" and protecting "privacy." The Pentagon protects the veterans' privacy by not allowing them to speak with DAV representatives "unmonitored."

DAV Washington Headquarters Executive Director David W. Gorman wrote to the Secretary of Defense, complaining the Pentagon has severely restricted DAV's efforts to visit with wounded patients. The Walter Reed Army Medical Center headquarters office selects the patients DAV may visit, and DAV's representatives are escorted at all times. The escort closely monitors all contact with patients.

Gorman contended these broad restrictions on patient access inhibit the ability of DAV to help ensure that wounded service members have the necessary information to obtain the medical care and bene- fits these veterans need.

Gorman warned, "The American public would be outraged if these restrictions became public knowledge."

So, are you "outraged?" Do you even care that Bush cynically pays lip service to "supporting our troops" while gutting programs created to help the troops who have made awesome sacrifices to protect America?

Does it piss you off that Bush would deny our troops information about how to get the benefits they need and have earned?

Wake up and see Bush for what he is. Bush is a liar who manipulated you into "supporting our troops" only insofar as it facilitated his agenda, but his actions prove he cares nothing about their welfare.

The Time magazine cover this week asks: Does Bush have a credibility gap? Are they the only ones that don't know? Is there ice at the North Pole? Are there freeways in L.A.? Hello?