September 20, 2003

White House is Ambushed by Criticism from America's Military Community

Here it is. The beginning of the end. Those seeking to
be annointed as the anti-Bush for the 2004 election
MUST begin to show the courage of Sen. Edward Kennedy
(D-Camelot) and of US soldiers like Tim Predmore...
"I once believed that I served for a cause: 'To uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States'. Now I no longer believe that," Tim Predmore, a member of the 101st Airborne Division serving near Mosul, wrote in a blistering opinion piece this week for his home newspaper, the Peoria Journal Star in Illinois. "I can no longer justify my service for what I believe to be half-truths and bold lies."


http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/0920-04.htm

Published on Saturday, September 20, 2003 by the
lndependent/UK

White House is Ambushed by Criticism from America's Military Community
by Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles

George Bush probably owes his presidency to the
absentee military voters who nudged his tally in
Florida decisively past Al Gore's. But now, with Iraq
in chaos and the reasons for going to war there mired
in controversy, an increasingly disgruntled military
poses perhaps the gravest immediate threat to his
political future, just one year before the
presidential elections.

From Vietnam veterans to fresh young recruits, from
seasoned officers to anxious mothers worried about
their sons' safety on the streets of Baghdad and
Fallujah, the military community is growing ever more
vocal in its opposition to the White House.

"I once believed that I served for a cause: 'To uphold
and defend the Constitution of the United States'. Now
I no longer believe that," Tim Predmore, a member of
the 101st Airborne Division serving near Mosul, wrote
in a blistering opinion piece this week for his home
newspaper, the Peoria Journal Star in Illinois. "I can
no longer justify my service for what I believe to be
half-truths and bold lies."

The dissenters - many of whom have risked deep
disapproval from the military establishment to voice
their opinions - have set up websites with names such
as Bring Them Home Now. They have cried foul at
administration plans to cut veterans' benefits and
scale back combat pay for troops still in Iraq. They
were furious at President Bush for reacting to
military deaths in Iraq with the phrase "bring 'em
on".

And they have given politically embarrassing
prominence to such issues as the inefficiency of
civilian contractors hired to provide shelter, water
and food - many of them contributors to the Bush
campaign coffers - and a mystery outbreak of
respiratory illnesses that many soldiers, despite
official denials, believe is related to the use of
depleted uranium munitions.

"It is time to speak out because our troops are still
dying and our government is still lying," Candace
Robison, a 27-year-old mother of two from Krum, Texas,
and a politically active serviceman's wife, told a
recent protest outside President Bush's Texas ranch.
"Morale is at an all-time low and our heroes feel like
they've been forgotten."

How deep the anti-Bush sentiment runs is not yet
clear, but there is no doubt about its breadth.
Charlie Richardson, co-founder of a group called
Military Families Speak Out, said: "Our supporters
range from pacifists to people from long military
traditions who have supported every war this country
has ever fought - until this one.

"Many people supported this war at the beginning
because they believed the threat from weapons of mass
destruction and accepted the link between Saddam
Hussein and al-Qa'ida ... Now they realize their
beliefs were built on quicksand. They are very angry
with the administration and feel they've been duped."

Most of the disgruntlement expressed in the field has
of necessity been anonymous, so Tim Predmore's
counterblast in the Peoria Journal Star felt
particularly powerful. Having been in the army for
five years, he is just finishing his tour of duty in
Iraq. He wrote that he now believes the Iraq war was
about oil, not freedom, "an act not of justice but of
hypocrisy.

"We have all faced death in Iraq without reason or
justification," he added. "How many more must die? How
many more tears must be shed before Americans awake
and demand the return of the men and women whose job
it is to protect them rather than their leader's
interest?"

Less visible, but no less passionate, has been the
ongoing voicing of grievances over the internet. A
prominent military affairs specialist, David
Hackworth, keeps a website filled with angry
reflections on conditions in Iraq for both the
military and the local civilian population, and the
government that put the troops there. "Imagine this
bastard getting away with such crap if we had a
draftee army," runs one typically scabrous anti-Bush
line from Mr Hackworth.

More considered analysis is also available online,
such as this reflection from a 23-year-old serving in
the US Air Force, who wonders what the Iraq mess is
going to do to the future of the US military: "The
powers that be are destroying our military from the
inside, especially our Army.

"How many of these people that are 'stranded' (for
lack of a better term) in Iraq are going to re-enlist?
How many that haven't deployed are going to re-enlist
... how many families are going to be destroyed?" he
asked.

One big rallying point for the critics is the
Pentagon's budget plan, which proposes cutting $1.8
billion (1.1bn) from veterans' health benefits and
reducing combat pay from the current $225 a month to
$150, which is where it stood until the Iraq war began
in the spring. The budget will not be finalized until
later this month, and the White House - embarrassed by
editorials in the Army Times and by news stories in
the mainstream press throughout America - says it
won't insist on the combat pay cutback.

Another rallying point is the lack of official
explanation for more than 100 cases of respiratory
illness in the Middle East. According to the Pentagon,
19 soldiers have required mechanical ventilation and
two have died. Military personnel believe the use of
depleted uranium may have played a part in this
mystery illness.

2003 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd

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Posted by richard at September 20, 2003 03:14 PM