That is, if by "support the troops," you mean use them as backdrops for photo ops, to hide behind when he has something unpopular to say. He supports them, if by "support," you mean sending them off to Iraq and Afghanistan in longer and longer rotations. It's support if by "support," you mean using them as human sacrifices to keep a failed policy going until Bush is safely out of office. Then someone else gets to take the blame for "losing Iraq."
It's "support" only if you radically redefine the word.
It's more honest to say that Bush uses the troops to support him. They're this lame duck's crutch as he hobbles toward the end of two disastrous terms in office. Bush uses soldiers as human political shields, a way to pass the buck. This president gets to call himself a "War President," but pretends that war is entirely out of his hands. We're supposed to believe that Gen. Petraeus runs this war, that decisions are left to "commanders in the field," as if the military were a government in itself over which the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of civilian government have no legitimate control.
See, that way, when things go horribly, horribly wrong -- as they have with Abu Ghraib or at Walter Reed -- it's not Bush's fault. No, President Bush is the first president in american history to have no responsibilities. Nothing is the fault of the White House -- ever. If you were to believe what Bush says, you'd have to believe that everyone under him just does whatever the hell they want to.
So Walter Reed wasn't Bush's fault. Bush is Commander in Chief -- the military's top officer -- when it suits him and a mere bystander when being the War President is a liability. With Walter Reed, the responsibility quickly passed out of Bush's hands -- by design. If Bush accepted any responsibility for the conditions that wounded soldiers had to deal with in the Veterans' Administration system, it was only to pass that hot potato on to someone else.
In this case, that responsibility was given to former Sen. Bob Dole and former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala. Bush announced they would lead a blue ribbon panel -- the President's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors -- to investigate conditions in VA hospitals and come up with recommendations. Of Walter Reed's moldy rooms, third world level health care, and the bureaucratic nightmare troops need to navigate once wounded, Bush said, "It's unacceptable to me, it's unacceptable to you, it's unacceptable to our country, and it's not going to continue."
Yet, continue it does.
The Army has yet to fully staff the new "warrior transition units" being put together because of poor conditions at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, according to a congressional report made public Wednesday.
As of mid-September over half of these units had significant shortfalls in one or more critical position, the Government Accountability Office said in a report presented to a House hearing on treatment of wounded soldiers.
Many of the current staffers, said John Pendleton, author of the report, are borrowed, presumably temporarily, from other offices. Ultimately, hundreds more nurses, social workers and mental health specialists will be needed to handle such issues as traumatic brain injuries and post traumatic stress disorder, he said.
Keep in mind that the Dole/Shalala panel's recommendations came back in July. Nothing's happening. At that time, Donna Shalala told PBS's Judy Woodruff, "We have given them recommendations that are doable. Everything we have recommended can be done within six months to a year, most of it quicker than that. Most of our recommendations can be done by the administration."
None of the panel's recommendations have gone anywhere and nothing much has changed. Bush's support for the troops is an "out of sight, out of mind" sort of thing. For Bush, the problem was fixed the day he put together the panel. Like the 9/11 panel and the Iraq Study Group, that's as far as it went. The recommendations and findings aren't important -- the "President announces he'll fix it" headlines are all that matter.
That's why I used one of those ribbon magnets to illustrate the post. They're easy and they don't mean jack. You slap one of these on your bumper and you're done; you don't actually have to do anything for the troops or even think about them very often. You just make this empty political statement and that's all you ever have to do. Saying "I support the troops" is the same as actually supporting the troops. Never mind that some lance corporal in Iraq has no idea you've got it on your car, it's magic -- you stick this on your car and the troops' moral goes up. You don't actually have to do anything for any of them.
So it is with Bush's support of the troops. It's just something you say. If you say it, it's so and you don't have to do a damned thing to back it up.
That's the way in which Bush supports the troops.
Technorati tags: politics; war; Iraq; Afghanistan; military; veterans; Walter Reed; When Bush says, "I support the troops," it'd be nice if he didn't mean it in a BS propaganda way