Bush's War on Veterans
November 9, 2005
By Mary Shaw
On Friday, November 11, Americans will observe Veteran's Day.
This is a day set aside to honor our war veterans. I cannot think
of a more worthy purpose for a holiday.
Now let me guess: this Veteran's Day, George W. Bush will strut
his way into a specially choreographed photo opportunity and smirk
and say some carefully crafted yet predictable and hollow-sounding
words about how the American people appreciate the sacrifices that
our veterans have made in the noble quest to defend freedom and
And he will be right. We the people do appreciate the sacrifices
that our veterans have made.
After all, our brave veterans made those sacrifices while Dubya's
congressman dad pulled enough strings to get his boy out of harm's
way and into the elite Texas Air National Guard to avoid Vietnam.
Our brave veterans made those sacrifices while Dick Cheney arranged
for five separate deferrals because he had "other priorities."
Our brave veterans made those sacrifices while Congressman Tom
DeLay managed to draw a high draft number and then orchestrate some
convenient deferrals, while stating that he really wanted to serve,
but that all the slots were taken by blacks and Hispanics.
Our brave veterans made those sacrifices while House Speaker Dennis
Hastert avoided duty due to bad knees - the same knees that didn't
stop his college wrestling career.
And so on.
Okay, so these guys don't have what it takes to earn the title
of veteran. But they do seem to have what it takes to be hypocrites
and punish those veterans who actually had the nerve to serve, while
at the same time praising them for their selfless sacrifices.
Yes, these self-proclaimed "compassionate conservatives" are punishing
Earlier this year, Republican leaders in Congress blocked $2 billion
in emergency funding for veterans' health care from the $82 billion
supplemental funding bill. They felt that the money would be better
spent in Iraq and Afghanistan, where we're producing more and more
injured soldiers for whom we cannot afford adequate medical care.
Then the Bush administration requested a mere 2.7 percent increase
in Veterans Affairs (VA) spending, even though the VA's under-secretary
testified last year that the VA health care system needs a 13 to
14 percent increase annually to maintain their current level of
Thousands of veterans of the first Gulf War are suffering the
effects of exposure to depleted uranium, or have died from that
exposure, yet the U.S. government denies the effects and continues
to ship depleted uranium munitions for use in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Some wounded U.S. soldiers have returned home from the current
war in Iraq only to learn that they are being referred to credit
agencies who want the soldiers to pay for equipment they lost when
they were injured; or for charges for military housing.
And about one-fourth of all homeless Americans are veterans. According
to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, nearly 200,000
veterans are homeless on any given night. Two percent of them are
female. Most of these cases are attributed to lingering effects
of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and substance abuse, compounded
by a lack of family and social support networks.
This is how our government treats those who have so bravely fought
for their country. It's no wonder that the military recruiters are
finding it so difficult to meet their quotas, even in the "red states."
The Bush administration would be wise to consider the words of
George Washington, our first Commander-in-Chief, who said: "The
willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any
war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to
how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and
appreciated by their nation."
Happy Veteran's Day.
Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist. She
currently serves as Philadelphia Area Coordinator for Amnesty International,
and her views on politics, human rights, and social justice issues
have appeared in numerous online forums and in newspapers and magazines
worldwide. Note that the ideas expressed in this article are the
author's own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Amnesty
or any other organization with which she may be associated. E-mail