I’d love to post this entire column by Courtland Milloy in today’s Post; but I suppose that I would run afoul of copyright law – so here are some extended excerpts. Take a few moments to read the whole thing online.
Bush’s Absence At Soldier’s Wake Insults the District
By Courtland Milloy
Monday, September 8, 2003; Page B01
In the District, President Bush serves as commander in chief of the D.C. National Guard, the way governors do in their states. So you might have expected him to show up yesterday at the funeral for Spec. Darryl T. Dent, 21, the D.C. guardsman who was killed recently in Iraq.
… Call Bush AWOL, missing in action — or just too busy fundraising. But he blew it.
“We haven’t heard from him or the White House, not a word,” said Marion Bruce, Dent’s aunt and family spokeswoman. “I don’t want to speak for the whole family, but I am not pleased.”
Several District officials attended the funeral, including Mayor Anthony A. Williams and D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton. Dent is to be buried today at Arlington National Cemetery.
… Of course, that would not have been as stylish as, say, staging a landing on an aircraft carrier. And being seen at a soldier’s funeral probably wouldn’t make it look like the war was over, as Bush declared on the flight deck of that ship.
… Perhaps Bush could not figure out a way to make political hay out of Dent’s funeral — although he does seem to have a knack for turning sorrow over the casualties of war into talk of more war.
In March, he and British Prime Minister Tony Blair held a news conference at Camp David at which they reportedly “exchanged condolences” over each other’s war dead, but then they went on to declare that they would stay the course — no matter how much blood is shed.
If Bush appears to treat the loss of human life like a lost pawn on a chess board, he has certainly created the backdrop for such perceptions. With tax cuts for those already at the peak of the nation’s economy and high unemployment for those in the pits — to say nothing of the deceptions used to justify a war that has so far produced little more than fat contracts for Bush’s fat-cat friends — Bush has demonstrated his obvious disdain for average Americans.
… Surely, there are better ways for a president to show concern for injured veterans — such as advocating for better health care benefits instead of opposing them, as the Bush administration does.
… Dent’s elected representative in Congress could not even vote on the question of going to war. Had Bush attended the funeral, he might at least have seen the contradiction in Dent’s casket — a man who died trying to bring democracy to Iraq while being disenfranchised at home.
Of all the things that the Bush administration has done to this country, I am perhaps most horrified at their attitude to the military. A man who managed to sneak his way through the National Guard and finally go AWOL still trumpets his accomplishments as if he was a top gun fly boy; he uses the military as a backdrop for his political aspirations, sends then to die in poorly planned, politically-instigated wars, but only recognizes their sacrifice when it will bring him popularity in maudlin and warmongering speeches. But behind the scenes, despite rhetoric as a candidate claiming that the previous administration had weakened the military, he has cut funding for veterans, kept a large segment of the military population at or below the poverty line, and worse – left huge numbers of our soldiers in harms way by having no plan, no strategy, no idea in Iraq.
Isn’t it time for a new commander in chief? Better treatment than this has in history led to coups.