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2007-03-26,12:38 PM

Support the Troops By Sending Them to War! How can the Democratic leadership say that with a straight face?

By Kevin Zeese

As the United States enters the fifth year of the quagmire of the Iraq war and occupation the Capitol Hill leadership claims: we need to continue to fund the war to support U.S. troops. Does this claim pass the straight face test? Is this what the troops want?

Do we support the troops when we send them to die and kill? Do we support the troops when we send them into a quagmire without adequate armor?

Three troops a day are killed in Iraq, each month approximately 500 are listed as casualties (ten times more are unlisted casualties who suffer physical, emotional and mental injuries from Iraq) and countless numbers of Iraqis are killed every day. So, when the Democrats call for a withdrawal by August 31, 2008 it means there will be 1,500 more U.S. troops killed, more than 8,000 officially injured and many tens of thousands of Iraqi children, women and men killed. In 2007, if the supplemental passes, Congress will have appropriated $165 billion, and in 2008 it is likely much more will be spent.


And, the loopholes in the House Democratic supplemental are large enough to ensure that even after the deadline President Bush will be able to keep as many troops as he wants in Iraq. For example, troops can stay to capture or kill members of Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups. We have approximately 140,000 troops in Iraq doing that right now. With the wording of this supplemental that will continue after the so-called withdrawal date. And, the supplemental does nothing to prevent a military attack on Iran.


This supplemental is more likely to lead to a larger war in the Middle East than it is a withdrawal from Iraq.

How does this support the troops?

On the Fourth Anniversary of the war military families, Iraq War Vets, Gold Star family members and active duty troops held a press conference with a simple message displayed behind the speakers:

“DE-FUND THE WAR TO SUPPORT THE TROOPS”

These are the members of the mere 1.6% of the U.S. citizenry who bear the daily burden of the Iraq War and occupation. The military and their families who live with this war every hour of every day understand that sending troops into a civil war, that is not supported by the American people or the Iraqi people, is no way to support the troops. They realize that inadequate funding for the Veterans Administration while at the same time flooding it with new casualties is no way to support the troops. They have lived not only with battlefield deaths and life changing injuries, but with suicide, the dysfunction of PTSD, the guilt of killing women and children, and broken families – all the result of Congress supporting the troops by sending them to war.

The claim that the only way to get Veterans benefits or armor for the troops is by supporting the supplemental is patently false. The Democrats should have said that Bush’s supplemental was dead on arrival and drafted their own – a supplemental that would have supported the troops, funded the VA, provided for the rebuilding of Iraq by Iraqis, the funding of a regional stabilization force and a diplomatic surge in the region. That would have been an appropriation that would have really supported the troops.

Some of the speakers at the military family’s press conference included Joyce and Kevin Lucey of Belchertown, MA whose son Cpl. Jeffrey Michael Lucey, a Marine Reservist, served in Iraq in 2003, and took his own life after being released and refused treatment at a VA hospital in 2004. Also speaking was Tina Richards of Salem, Missouri a mother of a Marine who is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other injuries but may be sent on a third deployment to Iraq. She recently had a chance meeting in the Halls of Congress with Rep. David Obey, the Chair of the appropriations committee, where he described war opponents as “idiot liberals” who “must be smoking something.” She has a column in the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal urging “We owe it to the troops and their families to end the war now.” Corey VanBuskirk of Greeley, PA whose husband is a Marine serving his second tour in Iraq. He was deployed 12 days after the two were married. Stacy Bannerman of Kent, Washington whose husband served for a year in Iraq with the Washington Army National Guard, received a mental health exam eight months after serving at the most attacked base in Iraq, and, almost one year from that exam was notified by the military of his diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

These speakers at the Military Families Speak Out press conference describe the real stories of soldiers in Iraq. Rep. Jack Murtha described the Iraq War as more intense combat than Vietnam or World War II citing a survey that found that 93% of soldiers had been shot at and 86% knew someone who had been shot.

The opposition to the war shown by these soldiers and their families is consistent with polls of soldiers. More than a year ago a Zogby poll showed that 73% of soldiers in Iraq believed the U.S. should come home within a year. And a poll by Military Times found that their readers, who are generally more senior and career military, found a majority opposed the war.

So, if the Democratic leadership wants to support the troops, why don’t they listen to the troops?

A group of soldiers and their families went to find out what the Democratic leadership was thinking after the press conference. Tina Richards led a delegation of 30 people to the offices of Speaker Nancy Pelosi after the press conference. Richards has been trying to see Pelosi since November 8th – as soon as the Democrats knew they had won majority control of both Houses of Congress.

Richards had worked on a Democratic congressional campaign in Missouri and had made small donations to Democrats across the country thinking that when they were in the majority they would end the war. She has telephoned, written and visited the Speaker’s office seeking to meet her. Last Friday, before she broke through to the national media with an appearance on Hardball, she received a call from the Speaker’s office saying they would set up a meeting as soon as possible with Pelosi. But since that time she has received no phone calls from the Speaker’s office and one reporter told her that the Speaker had decided not to meet with her.

So, along with other military family members, vets and active duty soldiers she went to the Speakers office to ask when she could meet with Nancy Pelosi. She did not receive an answer despite her repeated contacts. She and other members of the delegation insisted on meeting with Pelosi. TV cameras from networks and citizen news groups monitored the discussion despite a Pelosi rule that no cameras are allowed in her office (whatever happened to “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of the press!).

The receptionist told Tina and the others that someone from their press office would be coming to meet with them. Of course, a media spokesperson was more to do damage control with the media in attendance than to communicate with the vets, soldiers and their families.

Terry McCullough, the Chief of Staff for Speaker Pelosi, finally came out of her office and after urging by those in attendance suggested a meeting with her. During the meeting families, vets and active soldiers spoke about their opposition to the supplemental that extended the war, their experiences with the VA denying them basic health care, and the challenges they have coming home from the war with no jobs or housing. They spoke about the impact of depleted uranium poisoning. One couple described the suicide of their son when the VA refused to provide him treatment for post traumatic stress disorder.

Ms. McCullough could not answer for Speaker Pelosi. She did not even attempt to explain how sending troops to war – a war the Speaker says she opposes – is supporting the troops. Ms. McCullough promised to convey the messages of the delegation but wouldn’t it have been better if the Speaker would meet with this type of delegation? Listen to their experiences? Understand their reaction to the supplemental? Hear their disappointment with the lack of leadership of the Democratic majority?

President Bush refused to meet with Cindy Sheehan to explain to her for what noble cause her son was killed. Will Tina Richards and other soldiers, vets and military families have to camp out in front of Speaker Pelosi’s office to finally get to talk to her? If so what does that say about the lack of difference between Democrats and Republicans?

If the Democrats want to “support the troops” shouldn’t they at least talk to military families about their concerns regarding the continuation of this war?

For more information visit:

Tina Richards website www.GrassrootsAmerica4us.org Military Families Speak Out www.mfso.org. Iraq Veterans Against the War www.ivaw.org

Kevin Zeese is director of DemocracyRising.US and co-founder of VotersForPeace.US.

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