“My first wish is to see this plague of mankind, war, banished from the earth.” George Washington
“No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” James Madison.
Republicans are getting itchy again. They see the possibility of a nice juicy war developing in Ukraine, and they can hardly contain themselves. They couldn’t get President Obama to declare war on Syria or Iran and they were getting despondent. But now Russia invades Ukraine, and boy, are Republicans excited. What’s amazing is that there’s always room for Jell-O — sorry, always money for war, but no money for programs that actually help American citizens. Republicans whine that we are going broke, except when it’s a war we are buying.
Republicans claim they are the true patriots. They claim to support the troops, but that usually means sending them off to war. How about when they come home?
More than two million veterans were created during President George W. Bush’s two wars. On Feb. 27, 2014, the U.S. Senate voted on a veterans’ benefits bill. This bill would have expanded medical and dental care, education benefits for veterans and repealed the recent cost-of-living cuts to military retirees. It would have allowed the VA to open 27 new badly needed veterans’ health facilities.
This bill was supported by basically every veterans’ group in the U.S., including the American Legion and VFW. The bill died because it couldn’t get the required 60 votes. The final vote was 56-41. Every Democrat voted in favor, but only two Republicans did. I am delighted Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., was one of those votes. But it wasn’t enough. Republicans complained it cost too much. Sending troops to war, just fine. Taking care of them when they return wounded, too expensive.
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist,” President Dwight Eisenhower said in his farewell address on Jan. 17, 1961.
Eisenhower foresaw exactly what is happening today when it comes to war. During war, private contractors such as Halliburton and KBR make billions while delivering an inferior product. We all know the stories about the electrocuting showers, putrid food, and contaminated water that sickened or killed our troops. They even managed to lose $8 billion, no one knows where. These companies were paid anyway, with our tax dollars.
Republicans claim we can’t afford to help veterans, but when Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel wanted to cut the military budget, they screamed bloody murder, claiming this would leave us defenseless. Our military budget would still be as large as the next 10 countries combined. Just cutting waste would save billions of dollars and not impact our readiness.
One example of this waste is the billions of dollars of tax money wasting away at the Sierra Army Depot north of Reno in the form of 2,000 unneeded M-1 Abrams tanks. Rather than cut this program, Congress wants to build 280 more tanks, at a cost of $8 million each ($2.24 billion). Unnecessary tanks? Great. Money for veterans’ health care? Too expensive.
“Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means,” — Ronald Reagan.
Several Republican leaders and pundits have expressed admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decisive actions in Ukraine. Apparently he reminds them of Bush. How do leaders of the other western industrialized countries see Putin? After talking to Putin about the invasion, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Obama, saying that Putin was “living in another world,” wondering whether he “was still in touch with reality.”
A G8 summit was scheduled for this June in Sochi, Russia, where the Olympics were just held. The seven other world leaders are not only boycotting this summit, they are considering expelling Russia from the G8. These leaders recognize Putin for what he is — a wannabe dictator with delusions of grandeur. Yep, definitely Bush.
Rather than beating the drums for war, perhaps Republican leaders could reflect on what Reagan said. Maybe they could also ponder why there is always money for war, but not for those we send to war. Maybe real patriotism means fewer wars and not abandoning our troops when they come home. Maybe Republicans need to take these words of Eisenhower to heart: “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.” That would be a refreshing change.
Jeanette Strong is a LVN columnist.