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Tuesday, February 01, 2005
Bush’s Slime-Drenched Magnanimity
or, Doing the Right Thing for Sleazy Reasons
$250,000 military death benefit proposed
In response to those of us who opposed the Iraq war in part because of the suffering certain to be visited on our armed forces, the pro-war crowd was fond of saying that soldiers had no cause to complain. They knew they could be sent to war, even an unjust war, when they signed up, and they knew what the deal would be if something happened to them. That's what they agreed to. The soldiers took their chances and lost. The government should owe them nothing. Aside from the fact that Congress never declared war on Iraq, and therefore this invasion was illegal, the argument does have some merit.
So why would the government sweeten (ugh!) the deal now? Perhaps because the soldiers had been sent to fight an war of choice under false pretenses and their deaths were unnecessary in every sense of the word, and this administration knew they would be from the beginning? Because the public has now turned against the war and they feel the need to try to limit their political exposure? Yes, on both counts.
If this is a good idea now, if this is the way to do morally right by the families of the deceased, then it should have been the right thing to do from the beginning. Making the payment retroactive does not change the fact that the policy of the U.S. military was to pay $12,420 to the families of soldiers killed in combat zones. During the first Gulf War, the payment was only $3,000, and you didn’t see politicians climbing all over themselves trying to raise it.
Are they going to try to tell us that after 1,400 Americans paid the ultimate price that something finally clicked and George saw the light? Why not after the first body bag? Why not after the 10th? The 100th? The 1,000th? As a country, we unfortunately have plenty of experience losing soldiers in wars, and yet nobody ever came up with the idea of paying families of the dead more than 10 years' worth of the average soldier's salary. I submit that it wasn't because we were stupid or immoral then. In this case, coming from those who manipulated the country into this war, it amounts to an admission of wrongdoing: you don't make restitution for something you haven't done. Paradoxically, if this were genuinely a just war, if we had really invaded Iraq to defend ourselves, increasing these payments more than twenty-fold would never have occurred to anyone.
To make an important distinction: I am not against this proposal. If I were a member of Congress, I would vote, without hesitation, to approve it, and encourage my colleagues to do likewise. I think the families of those killed in this senseless war deserve everything the government can do for them. Although this is the right thing to do, this is not a principled action; it is sheer cynical calculation of the highest order, and that stinks to high heaven. You don’t do the right thing to make people like you; you do it because it’s right. Surely the party of moral crusaders, the party of values, principles, and ideology understands that.
To reiterate, if this is the morally right thing to do--and I believe that the families of those who make the ultimate sacrifice for their country deserve more than a mere pittance from the government that put them in harm’s way--it should have been our policy from the beginning, not done subject to the whims and vagaries of public opinion. And for those who held the position that, because they signed up for whatever might happen during their terms, our soldiers deserved not the least consideration for whatever fates might await them in this adventure to turn around and offer their families this blood money as if they were somehow being magnanimous makes my blood boil.
While we’re at it, we should pay special attention to what these ghoulish bastards propose to do for the thousands who have been blinded, deafened, maimed, lost limbs, and/or sustained brain damage, who may well never be able to work or lead normal lives again. If it's right to pay blood money to the families of the dead, logic and fairness dictate that those who have been broken should get something as well.
Update: As it turns out, they probably won’t get much. Avedon Carol over at The Sideshow points me to an article at Democratic Underground (by way of Heart, Soul and Humor) entitled "Pentagon Says Veterans' Benefits "Hurtful" to National Security." With a nod to South Knox Bubba, all I can say is "Ok, then."
The slow rate of VA spending growth enforced by Bush and the congressional Republicans over the last four years won't cover growing deferred benefits, such as education, housing, retirement, health care and so on, promised to current service members or that are supposed to be available for new enlistees.
The whole article is a must-read, especially for anyone out there who thinks the Bush administration gives a rat's ass about veterans and their families.
Further Update: Keeps getting better and better. Salon's War Room reports today that not only is this a new idea for Bush, but it's one his administration had previously opposed. Beyond that, in 2003, the administration objected raising the death benefit from $6,000 to $12,000. They did not think it was a good idea, let alone necessary. Now, they'll try to use the issue to show us how moral they are, and how deeply they feel the pain of those who've lost loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan. What filthy souls they have.