Monday, May 26, 2008

Bush: For Troops this Memorial Day, Time = Money

Fresh off Thursday’s rejection of an additional 0.5 percent pay increase for America’s active military, President George W. Bush has a better idea for how this country might honor our troops: A “moment of remembrance.”

President Bush asked Americans to pay tribute to veterans by pausing on Memorial Day for "a moment of remembrance."

Bush had several suggestions for how to honor the sacrifices of those who have fought for the United States -- place a flag at a veteran's grave, go to a battlefield or say a prayer. He said the moment of remembrance would be marked Monday at 3 p.m. local time.

"At that moment, Major League Baseball games will pause, the National Memorial Day parade will halt, Amtrak trains will blow their whistles and buglers in military cemeteries will play taps," he said in his weekly radio address.

The president said that as people "fire up the grill" and mark the unofficial beginning of summer, they need to honor the sacrifices that make freedom possible.

"No words are adequate to console those who have lost a loved one serving our nation," Bush said. "We can only offer our prayers and join in their grief."

No, Mr. Bush, sir, I believe we can offer a heck of a lot more than “our prayers.” You could start by paying the living that you and your folly have so needlessly placed in harms’ way something close to what they deserve. I don’t expect you to go so far as to pay the troops as much as you dole out to your elite mercenaries at Blackwater and the like, but surely you could spare the extra half-point approved by the Congress in the recent Defense Authorization Bill—an increase that would bring the entire raise up to a whopping 3.9 percent.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, that tiny added increase in troop pay would mean spending an extra $324 million next year—or less than the cost of one day of war in Iraq. It is 0.2 percent of the $165 billion requested by the White House for continuing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

To put it another way, that money amounts to roughly a quarter- less than four percent of what a recent pentagon audit found was paid by the Army to private contractors—and for much of what was purchased with that $8.2 billion, there is no record that anything was received.

Or, Mr. President, you could drop your opposition to the new GI Bill that just overwhelmingly passed both houses of Congress. That small expenditure would offer much deserved medical and education benefits to returning veterans.

While you’re at it, you could really fix the VA. You could de-privatize all the programs you farmed out to your cronies and political benefactors. You could clean up and repair the hospitals and clinics, you could expand mental health services, you could stop your minions from purposefully minimizing the number of PTSD diagnoses, and stop them from classifying those still hampered by mental or physical injuries as fit for combat so that they can be sent back into your meat grinder.

Or, I’ve got an even better idea still. You could start bringing the troops home—for once, for all, for good. You could admit your mistake and end the occupation that needlessly adds—each and every day—to the list of those that we must memorialize.

Do that, and I’ll make you a deal—I’ll not only forgive you your patronizing, fatuous, callous, insulting “moment of remembrance,” I’ll agree to let you go back to your golf game.

(cross-posted on guy2k, The Seminal, and Daily Kos)

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