our Nation's Brave: Bush's Empty Handshake to Veterans for
By Vincent L. Guarisco
difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless,
whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism
or the holy name of liberty or democracy?"
Mahatma Gandhi (1869 - 1948)
On Memorial Day, I flipped on the TV just in time to catch
President George Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield
bellying up to the podium to give their speeches at the beautiful
and somber Arlington National Cemetery. For the first time
in my life, I watched a Memorial Day service with a growing
sense of anger - even outrage.
I am outraged because those who fought so bravely and paid
the ultimate price of war deserve, as a minimum, a decent
show of honor and respect - from decent and honorable men.
How could these two warmongers stand before our revered dead
and give them fleeting lip service while paying each other
simpering tributes for waging a bloody war based wholly on
lies? Thanks to Bush and Rumsfeld, more than 900 coalition
troops - 816 of them US citizens - have fallen into the Iraqi
quagmire, and more are being destroyed every day.
"It's my honor to introduce one who has worked tirelessly
and boldly to defend our freedom and to keep the lamp of liberty
burning brightly for us and for the world," Rumsfeld crowed.
"Thank you for your great leadership as secretary of defense
for our country," Bush countered lovingly.
Yet, two days before, Rumsfeld told West Point graduates
that they ain't seen nothing yet - that the war on terror
was just beginning. And, just hours before heading to the
Arlington Cemetery, Bush proudly announced he was going to
cut veteran's health care funding if he is reelected. It is
outrageous for these two to have been allowed to palm the
microphone in the presence of those we honor. Our nation was
gravely dishonored by their attendance.
It is numbing to realize that in the entire history of this
country we have never borne witness to a more empirically
reckless, deadly uncaring administration so out of touch with
its military and civilian needs. As their lips moved with
empty words and false promises, I could not help but feel
sorrow for those aging veterans who attended this monumental
event (perhaps their last) who so richly deserved an inspirational,
impassioned, philosophical tribute to forever engrave their
honored sacrifice in the pages of history. As I looked out
across those neat rows of simple white crosses, I was reminded
of the words of Voltaire: "To the living we owe respect, but
to the dead we owe only the truth."
Our heroes, both dead and alive, deserve more than Rumsfeld's
trifling introduction of Bush - a rambling mish-mash of worthless
rhetoric. They deserve more than a commander-in-chief who
is little more than a village idiot swaggering up to arrogantly
lecture them about courage, honor and sacrifice. Empty words
spoken without substance, uttered by a foolish coward who
never risked anything a single day in his entire pampered
Prop-time is now over and the piper is calling this war
president, who is too busy with far more important things
than attending a single funeral of those he pretends to mourn,
back to the White House. There is much work to be done. Veterans'
hospitals must be closed, health care for veterans must be
slashed, Section 8 housing funds must be denied which will
drive many veterans into the streets... It's back to the drawing
board to make a future D.C. monument necessary for Operation
Remember this - just like Pearl Harbor, this administration's
heartless cuts to veterans' health care and benefits will
also live in infamy. If George Bush is reelected in November,
we will see budget bestiality at its worst - an act of sodomy
inflicted on all veterans who served honorably - unlike Bush,
who got a cushy stateside National Guard position arranged
Every day should be Memorial Day in rememberance of those
who died so that we can be free from tyrants like those currently
in control of this great nation. I choose to honor my veterans
- especially those like my father who fought in World War
II - by drawing public attention to the many injustices being
committed against American men and women who serve in uniform.
Outlined below are just a few of the many issues that need
to be addressed:
As unscrupulous as it may seem, in January 2004 the Bush
administration and Republican congress applied pressure on
Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony J. Principi to drastically
cut the budget. He maliciously obliged by "immediately cutting
off their access to the VA health care system for 164,000
(or more) veterans expected to enroll in the VA system during
the current fiscal year. Those with annual incomes of $30,000
to $35,000 or higher, are now considered "higher incomes,"
and will be categorically denied access to benefits.
And, the White House recently announced plans to roll back
modest increases in monthly imminent-danger pay (from $225
to $150) and family-separation allowance (from $250 to $100)
for troops getting shot at in combat zones, while they "jack
up the amount military retirees and some veterans pay for
As the war drum continues to beat in Iraq, the White House
also continues to give no-bid contracts to Vice President
Cheney's former company Halliburton, even as the company has
been admonished for over-charging for meals, charging for
meals not served, and for feeding troops unsanitary food.
Adding insult to injury, Bush failed to provide soldiers
with adequate body armor and reinforced Humvees. Currently,
the White House has not requested funding to immediately plug
serious funding gaps for armor, helmets and other protective
equipment needed by military commanders. And the consequences
have been severe: According to Newsweek, a new study
circulating in the Army says the lack of equipment may have
contributed to one out of every four American casualties in
The White House also announced it was "formally opposing
a proposal to give National Guard and Reserve members access
to the Pentagon's health insurance system" even though "a
recent General Accounting Office report estimated that one
out of every five Guard members has no health insurance at
Last year, only a month before the president sent troops
into combat in Iraq, the White House proposed cutting $1.5
billion out of funding for military housing. The proposed
cut came even as top conservatives on the House Armed Services
Committee concluded that thousands of military families were
living "in decrepit and dilapidated military housing." In
response, progressive lawmakers offered an amendment to restore
$1 billion in funding. The amendment would be paid for by
slightly reducing the new tax cuts the president was proposing
to give to the 200,000 Americans making more than $1 million.
Instead of receiving a tax cut of $88,000, these millionaires
would receive a tax cut of $83,000. With White House backing,
House conservatives voted the legislation down.
Bush loves to spout the he receives special instructions
from the Lord on who to attack and wage war against. Perhaps
Bush's ego will be satisfied only when his self-serving war
has produced more gold stars than those that just sparkled
in his eyes at Arlington National Cemetery. Maybe so, but
God Himself will have to build the next one for him; because
after fighting World War III, there will be no one left other
then Him to do so.
On Election Day, remember who did all of these things.
Vincent L Guarisco is a freelance writer from Bullhead
City, Arizona, a contributing writer for many web sites, and
a lifetime member of the Alliance of Atomic Veterans. Replies
welcomed at: firstname.lastname@example.org