Protected by a podium, thousands of thorns in the world’s most beautiful rose garden, and a cordon of Secret Service agents, President Bush continued his retreat into a bunker mentality.
The House and Senate had just passed a $122 billion war funding bill that demanded U.S. troops begin a systematic withdrawal from Iraq. Sen. Harry Reid, majority leader, had said that Congress had finally acceded to the will of the people.
President Bush defiantly told the people that he would veto the bill and continue his war in Iraq. “Democrat leaders in Congress seem more interested in fighting political battles in Washington than in providing our troops what they need to fight the battles in Iraq,” said the President. If anyone could be accused of not providing soldiers what they need it’s the President and his Administration.
Soldiers are dying because the Administration didn’t provide adequate body armor, forcing families to privately buy the bullet-proof vests for their sons, daughters, fathers, and mothers.
The Bush–Cheney Administration also stands convicted of not providing enough armor to the thin-skinned Humvees that were forced to patrol booby-trapped roads. The resourceful soldiers had to “uparmour” their own vehicles, with their own resourcefulness. The Administration would claim that manufacturers couldn’t produce the better-protected Humvees fast enough. Several companies that specialize in providing war-resistant protection for Humvees for private use say they advised the Department of Defense about their companies’ abilities but never received contracts.
The Bush–Cheney Administration, once it decided to lie to the American people and invade Iraq, sent in too few troops. To questions of why there weren’t enough troops in Iraq to quell the rising violence and developing civil war, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld merely parroted the President’s naiveté—“The big debate about the number of troops is one of those things that’s really out of my control.” The President said he provided whatever troops the military leadership requested. Gen. Colin Powell, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the first Gulf War and secretary of state at the time of the invasion, had stated that the troop level wasn’t adequate for invasion and occupation. Denied and Humiliated. Gen. Eric Shinseki, Army chief of staff, said “several hundred thousand soldiers” would be needed. Denied; no senior Pentagon official even attended his retirement ceremony. Gen. Tommy Franks, commanding general of Central Command, learned his lesson; he suggested “only” 250,000 troops would be needed. Denied. Even the recent surge of 21,000 troops, which President Bush said was enough to solve the problem, is a lie. The Budget Office estimates 15,000 to 28,000 more troops are necessary just to support the 21,500 combat troops.
The Bush–Cheney Administration stands convicted of sending soldiers into their third tour of duty in Iraq; in what is known as “stop-loss” enlistment it doesn’t allow soldiers to leave the military at the end of their contracts.
With large numbers of military families living at or below the poverty level, the Bush–Cheney Administration stands convicted of having tried to cut a Congressionally-approved pay raise for soldiers. Bush wanted to trim a 3.7 percent raise to only 2 percent, claiming the raise was too costly. Only when it appeared the President’s refusal to increase salaries would jeopardize his political future did the President do the Texas Two-Step and spin reality as quickly as a tumbleweed rolls into Crawford. “We have a solemn responsibility to support the servicemen and women who defend us in the field of battle,” said the President. The following year, Bush tried to slice combat pay for persons in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Bush–Cheney Administration stands convicted of cutting about $1.5 billion for adequate military housing at a time when the Army Times reported that 83,000 barracks units and 129,000 family housing units were substandard.
The Bush–Cheney Administration stands convicted of reducing necessary veterans’ health care benefits by $2 billion, of trying to end health care benefits for almost 175,000 veterans, of requiring several hundred thousand veterans to wait for months to receive medical care because of the lack of funding of VA hospitals, and refusing to allow members of the National Guard to have health care; about 20 percent of all Guardsmen don’t have any health care, according to a Gannett News Service report in 2003.
Only when the “liberal media”—in this case the Washington Post—provided evidence of the conditions at Walter Reed Army Hospital did Bush allow the incoming Secretary of Defense to exercise his authority to take bold action to correct the problems faced by veterans with life-threatening and permanent combat injuries.
Had the $9 billion that was “lost” in Iraq and the billions more that had been misappropriated or wasted been applied to “supporting the troops,” not only would more soldiers have lived through IED explosions, but there would now be adequate medical care for the veterans and their families. There would be enough left over to rebuild New Orleans, give basic health care to the 47 million Americans without insurance, assist the three million homeless (about one-third of them veterans), and probably put a large dent into funds needed to find a cure for cancer.
Of course, Donald Rumsfeld justified all of this non-support for the troops by an excuse. In December 2004, 21 months after the President ordered the shock-and-awe military to invade, occupy, and eventually destroy Iraq, Rumsfeld flippantly said, “As you know, you have to go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you want.” If nothing else about the Bush–Cheney Administration matters, the war in Iraq shows that this nation does not have the president we want or need. His actions and inactions in the Iraq War alone suggest not only has he failed to support the troops, he has lied, deceived, and degraded his oath of office. A court martial for dereliction of duty is not constitutionally possible for the man who likes to be known as the “Commander-in-Chief,” as a “war president,” and as the “Decider.” His actions justify not only impeachment but also charges of treason.
[Walter Brasch, a former newspaper reporter and editor, is professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University. He is the author of 16 books, including one about the effects of the PATRIOT Act and one about the causes and consequences of federal inaction during Hurricane Katrina. His books are available at most online sources. You may contact him through his website, www.walterbrasch.com]