Sunday, February 25, 2007

A Memo to Democrats, February 2007

A clear strategy leading to victory in the 2008 presidential election is beginning to emerge, but it will require a certain amount of courage and relentless attacking to carry it out. This element of a winning strategy looks at the war and other elements of policy which have proven themselves to be disastrous and will, no doubt, continue and continue to cause bad results.

Recent articles in the Washington Post have shed light on the inadequacy of the medical and psychiatric care provided to retuning veterans of the war in Iraq. This work suggests that wounded soldiers who have glamorous injuries have received much publicity. Television features have emphasized the state of the art prosthetic devices that soldiers receive as well as the courage and determination of those receiving them. Particularly noteworthy, and justifiably so, have been the examples of military personnel determining to return to active duty with less then complete natural bodies.

On the other hand, people returning from Iraq suffering from various forms of mental illness are being warehoused and not helped. Soldiers suffering from PTSD, depression, and other severe mental illnesses are being denied adequate care and forced from the military. In the future these men and women will require hundreds of billions of dollars in continuing care, which they will certainly not receive under current conditions. The current Bush budget projections for veterans’ medical care, after an increase for the coming fiscal year, are flat into the foreseeable future, showing a lack of commitment to meeting the needs of those he sent into battle.

As a result of personnel shortages, people of increasingly advanced age have been sent into service in Iraq. When men and women in their forties are injured or develop problems, military physicians find pretexts in their prior medical or emotional conditions to disqualify them from VA coverage. Either these conditions were never taken into account when the administration projected its needs or it realized the costs involved and determined to hide them.

We are told that the government will provide what is needed for military families, but they are sent into battle with inadequate body armor, insufficient numbers of vehicles, and broken equipment, while their families at home receive insufficient compensation to avoid relying on food stamps. The hypocrisy of the administration, which asserts its commitment to supporting the troops while refusing to provide the kind of support which could make success possible shows both bad thinking and planning as well as a truly low level of concern for the military personnel. Supporting the troops means giving them the training at home, the equipment and leadership abroad, and the care on their return that these men and women deserve.

It appears that while focusing on Iraq, the administration has lost sight of the war on terror it declared after the attacks on September 11th. Mr. Bush galvanized the country and received full support in sending troops to Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban and capture or Kill Osama bin Laden. By committing ourselves to the war in Iraq, we have allowed the Taliban to reorganize and strengthen themselves to the extent that they are resurgent in Afghanistan and the US is virtually powerless to do anything about it.

As the pool of available and qualified candidates for induction into the armed services has grown smaller, standards have consistently been lowered. This has made training more difficult at home and discipline more difficult to maintain abroad. It has also meant that age has increased, intellectual ability decreased, and physical condition fallen. Our armed forces are less able to undertake the missions they are tasked for than ever before. Meanwhile, in the name of supporting the troops we have allowed ourselves to be silenced about this scandal.

Finally, Mr. Bush has insisted on continuing to lower taxes while spending more money, thus disguising from the American people the true fiscal costs of waging this war and the effects of his expenditures on domestic efforts. Never before has a president tried to lower taxes while engaged in warfare. When Lyndon Johnson tried to provide both guns and butter he threw the economy into a terrible recession. So far the Bush tax cuts have avoided this, but it’s only a matter of time.

If Democrats can muster the courage to focus on failures of competence, shortness of vision, and dishonesty in dealing with the American people, they can win the next election and establish a working majority that can last for some time. Only, however, if they come across as being honest and courageous will this work. So far, since regaining control of Congress, they have played softball. They need to stand up and say what they know in their hearts.