Ralph Nader: A Contemptuous Indifference

By Ralph Nader

The baying pack of belligerent draft dodgers–Messrs. Bush, Cheney and Limbaugh–were out in verbal force this week against John Kerry. The Senator miscued a joke about Bush by reading without the "us" in the line, "You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq. Just ask President Bush." The missing of the "us" word gave the messianic militarists an opening to demand that Kerry apologize to the U.S. troops for his "insulting" and "shameful" remarks.

Interesting isn’t it, how a mis-reading of a word can be seen as cause for apology when thousands of illegal and destructive deeds and tortures constitute the Bush regime’s "business as usual."

There will likely be no apologies from Bush/Cheney for putting U.S. soldiers into a fabricated war-quagmire–a disastrous, costly boomeranging invasion. But to set the record straight about who should apologize, here are on the ground reasons for nine Bush/Cheney mea culpas.

1. FAILURE TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE BODY ARMOR AND TRUCK ARMOR IN A TIMELY FASHION.

A Pentagon study found that "as many as 80 percent of the marines who have been killed in Iraq from wounds to the upper body could have survived if they had had extra body armor," according to a New York Times report. Hundreds of soldiers died who could have been saved.

The Washington Post reported "that in some places in Iraq the U.S. military could provide only one Interceptor vest with protective plates for every three U.S. soldiers."

2. FAILURE TO ACCURATELY REPORT CASUALTIES.

The Bush administration has undercounted injuries to soldiers in Iraq to hold down opposition to the war. Injuries that were not incurred in the middle of battle are not part of the official casualty count by the Bush Administration. Cases of diseases, such as thousands of Sand Fly afflictions, are not even counted. This disrespects these soldiers and their families to bolster a cynical political calculation.

3. FAILURE TO PROVIDE SUFFICIENT TROOP STRENGTH IN IRAQ

The Washington Times reports that retired military leaders who served in Iraq said that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld "ignored advice for more troops, failed to make a post- invasion plan or equip troops properly and hid information from the public."

"I believe that Secretary Rumsfeld and others in the administration did not tell the American people the truth for fear of losing support for the war in Iraq," retired Army Maj. Gen. John R.S. Batiste told the panel. Mr. Batiste, a self-described Republican who has been criticizing Mr. Rumsfeld for months, said the secretary "forbade military planners from developing plans for securing a postwar Iraq" and helped create the current insurgency by ignoring the potential for one, though it was "an absolute certainty."

Retired Army Maj. General Paul D. Eaton, who criticized Mr. Rumsfeld in the New York Times last spring, said the post-invasion effort in Iraq is about 60,000 troops short of what it needs for success and that the Army "is in terrible shape," lacking proper equipment and resources.

President Bush should never have invaded Iraq, but whenever troops are deployed they should be at levels which are necessary to protect the civilian population — an obligation military occupiers are required, under international law, to fulfill. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi women, men and children have become the casualties of incompetent planning.

4. FAILURE TO PROVIDE TROOPS IN IRAQ WITH SAFE DRINKING WATER.
Former Halliburton employees and army officials have testified before Congress that Halliburton provided our troops in Iraq with very contaminated water, which the troops used to shower, wash their hands and their faces, brush their teeth, wash their clothes, and sometimes even make coffee.

5. Sending part-time soldiers from the Reserves and National Guard on dangerous missions–such as roadside mine searches–without anything resembling adequate training.

6. FAILING TO CARE FOR RETURNING TROOPS.

The Knight Ridder News Service reported that the Government Accountability Office found that the Veterans Administration "badly underestimated how many soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan might seek medical and other services, in part because of problems in getting accurate information from the Pentagon." Consequently many returning troops have had difficulty getting prompt medical attention.

7. FAILURE TO HELP VETERANS WITH POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD).

The Washington Post reports that a Government Accountability Office report concluded: "Nearly four in five service members returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who were found to be at risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were never referred by government clinicians for further help…"

8. FAILURE TO PROTECT SOLDIERS AND VETERANS FROM OFF-BASE SCAMS.

The New York Times reports that "several financial services companies or their agents are using questionable tactics on military bases to sell insurance and investments that may not fit the needs of people in uniform." USA TODAY reports that a Defense Department report said "the average borrower pays $827 on a $339 loan and called the lending predatory." A recently passed law will cap interest rates at 36 percent. The Defense Department should have cracked down on the corporate and economic predators that prey on military personnel and their families.

9. FAILURE TO ADEQUATELY PAY TROOPS WHEN ABROAD AND WHEN INJURED.

The Baltimore Sun reports that deployment in Iraq is "taking a financial toll on part-time soldiers who make up about half of the 150,000 troops there. Forty-one percent of National Guard and Reserve soldiers are losing thousands of dollars through a "pay gap" between their civilian salary and military pay…"

These inexcusable, contemptuous indifferences to the well-being of the soldiers, combined with the rush to wage an unnecessary, immoral and unconstitutional war, characterized by corrupt, wasteful contracting debacles of unprecedented proportions, should compel President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney not only to apologize, but to resign.

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