The commander-in-chief insults fallen
Commentary by Pat Murphy
On his master calendar of staged events
for George Bush’s re-election, White House political mastermind Karl Rove
presumably will add a date for the president to attend funerals for fallen GIs
to show he cares about the dead returning home from Iraq.
Criticism of the AWOL president is
increasing. Damage control is inevitable before Election Day.
Meanwhile, however, White House insults to
military fatalities continue with cold indifference.
The latest affront: even as his aides
insist Bush lacks time to attend public funerals, but can only meet in private
with next of kin, he found time for a hurried photo-op with 175 oldsters at the
Los Olivos Senior Center in Phoenix Tuesday to glad-hand old folks and boast of
his Medicare legislation.
Thereafter, he also had time for a
$2,000-per-ticket fundraiser at the glittering Arizona Biltmore Hotel for 600
boosters before hopping on Air Force One ($40,000-per-hour to operate) for a
stop in Las Vegas to scoop up more cash, then onward to heaven knows where.
The Bush-Cheney scrounge is vulgar.
They’ve banked more than $200 million for the ’04 campaign at more than 60
fund-raisers. Phoenix Republicans coughed up another $1 million-plus.
But still no time for GI funerals.
How come the usually voluble American
Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled American Veterans—usually so quick
to demand patriotic treatment of service personnel—have been struck dumb and
By their silence, they seem to also
condone the ban on photos of flag-draped coffins being sneaked into the country
from Iraq without public tribute or public homage?
This smells like the 2003 version of the
rude welcome for vets returning from the Korean and Vietnam wars.
Bush’s aloof conduct, however, is too much
for John B. Roberts II, a onetime aide to Bush Jr.’s idol, President Ronald
Writing in The New York Times ("Mourning
in America," Nov. 19), Roberts told President Bush he "is wrong to bask publicly
in glory on the deck of an aircraft carrier unless you are also willing to
grieve openly for fallen soldiers. You can’t wrap yourself in the flag while
avoiding flag-draped coffins."
Bush drones on in prepared speeches about
GI courage. But the commander-in-chief—on advice of insufferably apathetic
political handlers—shrinks from showing up at funerals out of fright that photos
of him honoring GIs killed in Iraq would remind voters of the costs of the Iraq
(Political fears aren’t confined to
funerals: Bush signed an executive order last week forbidding the U.S. Inspector
General in Iraq from auditing how $87 billion in Iraq reconstruction is being
spent because of—you guessed it!— "national security." Audits would’ve covered
big political donors who received no-bid contracts.)
The president’s managers are tireless in
scheduling photo-ops of Bush surrounded by live, applauding troops at their
GIs who’ve given their lives to a war the
president started get his snub in return.