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Friday, January 18, 2008

Support the Troops -- But Only While They Fight

Bill O'Reilly's been catching some deserved criticism for denying that there are many homeless veterans in America. "They may be out there, but there's not many of them out there. Okay?" the ridiculous boob said. "If you know where there's a veteran sleeping under a bridge, you call me immediately, and we will make sure that man does not do it."

It didn't take long for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America to make sure O'Reilly learned of a lot of them. O'Reilly was mocking John Edwards, who said there were 200,000 homeless vets on any given night. Of course, Edwards was right and O'Reilly was wrong. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that there are almost 200,000 homeless veterans at any given time.

O'Reilly caught some flack over the comment from a lot of sources (including me). So he addressed his self-inflicted controversy yesterday by digging himself in deeper:

Now I've said on this program that we will pay for homeless veterans to be taken to the Edwards mansion in North Carolina for shelter. Of course, that's an immature remark, I know that, but there's a reason I'm saying it.

Certainly there are homeless veterans, but it's not because of the economy. It's mostly because of addiction and mental illness, something politicians can do little about...

A point of order, here. Bill never said he'd pay to have vets taken to the "Edwards mansion" -- he said, if you find a vet sleeping under a bridge, "you call me immediately, and we will make sure that man does not do it." Turns out, with nearly 200,000 out on the street every night, keeping that promise turned out to be a little more expensive than Bill had counted on. So he tries to turn the criticism back to John Edwards.

O'Reilly also makes this astonishing comment, "Of course the rich do have advantages, but I am living proof that you can start with very little and prosper economically if you work hard and keep it honest." O'Reilly, who makes his living pulling "facts" out of his ass, wouldn't know honesty if it hit him in the forehead.

And O'Reilly is typical of the right -- he hides behind the troops abroad, while ignoring the veterans at home. Bill and any number of right wing talkers will tell you that we have to be unquestioningly supportive of war in Iraq or we "don't support the troops." Yet, when the opportunity to become an advocate for veterans comes, he tells his audience that the sort of help they need is "something politicians can do little about." He washes his hands of them. Soldiers only have worth when they're fighting -- when the fighting's over they can screw off and stop whining.

Here's another example. One year ago today, Roger Chapin of Citizens to Win the War on Terror wrote a piece for the right wing Human Events. In that article, he argued that we have to stay in Iraq -- pretty much until the end of time -- or the terrorists would win. An armchair general, Chapin offered a plan to win that included drafting "all Iraqi males of combat age" and a million more troops. Yeah, it was as stupid as it was unrealistic.

But Roger Chapin headed another organization as well. And his plan for that was as lousy as his plan for Glorious Victory in Iraq:

ABC News:

The director of a national charity for veterans has gone into hiding after defying a congressional subpoena.

Roger Chapin, head of the California-based charity, Help Hospitalized Veterans, refused to appear today before a congressional hearing chaired by Congressman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who is investigating how the charity's money was spent.

Waxman said Chapin had evaded attempts by U.S. marshals to find him for the past week to serve a warrant to compel Chapin to answer questions before Congress about his charity, which raised more than $98 million last year.

Help Hospitalized Veterans was given an "F" by American Institute of Philanthropy, a charity watchdog, with most of the money raised going into Chapin's pocket. Like O'Reilly, Chapin's idea of supporting the troops was supporting the war -- and when those troops came home, they were on their own.

Chapin finally wound up in front of that congressional committee yesterday and another player's commitment to supporting the troops was revealed:

Retired U.S. Army Gen. Tommy Franks, who led the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, was paid $100,000 to endorse a veterans charity that watchdog groups say is ripping off donors and wounded veterans by using only a small portion of the money raised for veterans services, according to testimony in Congress today.

Gen. Franks' involvement was revealed as members of Congress questioned Roger Chapin, who operates Help Hospitalized Veterans and the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes Foundation, charities that congressional investigators say spend only 25 percent of the money they raise on projects for wounded veterans.

"He helped us raise millions and millions of dollars more than we would have," Chapin told the committee. According to the report, "Chapin also revealed that his charity paid $5,000 a month for the endorsement of retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Arthur 'Chip' Diehl."

In their defense, it's entirely possible that both Diehl and Franks were scammed like the donors and veterans. But a little background check would've found that Chapin's "charities" were BS.

Finally, one last "Support Our Troops" type -- President Bush. In his last holiday message to the troops, Bush wrote:

In this season of giving, we remember our duty to others, and we see that sense of duty fulfilled in the men and women who wear our Nation's uniform. Our country owes you a debt of gratitude for your courage and resolve to serve the cause of peace. Americans are proud of your dedicated service, and I am proud to be the Commander in Chief of the greatest force for freedom in the history of the world.

Our Nation is thankful for the many sacrifices you and your families make every day. During the holidays and throughout the coming year, we ask the Almighty to bestow His protection and care on you and your loved ones. We pray for your safety and for liberty, justice, and peace on Earth.

Notice how, when it comes to their protection and safety, Bush calls on divine intervention. There's a reason for that -- he's not actually doing any of that himself. In fact, Bush is treating service members in a way that can only be described as unbelievable.

Associated Press:

Soldiers who were medically unfit or considered borderline have been sent to the Middle East to meet Army goals for "deployable strength," The Denver Post reported Thursday.

Quoting internal Army e-mails and a Fort Carson soldier, the newspaper said that more than 50 troops were deployed to Kuwait en route to Iraq while they were still getting medical treatment for various conditions. At least two have been sent home.

Capt. Scot Tebo, the surgeon for Fort Carson's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, wrote in an e-mail obtained by the newspaper that "We have been having issues reaching deployable strength, and thus have been taking along some borderline soldiers who we would otherwise have left behind for continued treatment."

Master Sgt. Denny Nelson said he was sent to Kuwait last month despite a severe foot injury. He was sent back to Fort Carson after a military doctor in Kuwait wrote that he never should have been shipped out.

How's that for supporting the troops? Our military's stretched so thin that we have to send wounded soldiers back overseas to keep up troop levels. Again, "support the troops" really means "support the war" -- the troops themselves can go choke.

Regardless of how you feel about the war, you have to admit that these examples are really lousy ways to treat our veterans and our troops. They deserve much, much better.

But it's also telling that these guys are using the troops as a totem. They aren't really all that worried about the troops themselves, just the war the troops represent. And once they get out of that war, the "Support the Troops" crowd has no more use for those people they were previously so gung ho about supporting. They don't support the troops, they support the fight. Their support is a cheerleader's support for the team, it's not a support of the players. All "support" means to them is that they want them to "win" -- whatever the hell that is at this point. And they want that win regardless of the costs paid by those troops they claim to love.

The only way these people can claim to support the troops is if they redefine "support" as "reduce to a disposable propaganda symbol."


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1 comment:

Emily said...

I never fail to have my mind boggled on a regular basis that anyone, anywhere would continue to take seriously the claims of people like O'Reilly and other warmongers who do more to hurt the troops they so claim to love than to actually support them.

Thanks for compiling all of this damning evidence. If even one more person really starts to pay attention, I guess that's progress.