Sunday, March 11, 2007

Nice hat, Mr. President

President Bush likes to play with his Commander-in-Chief credentials, and in a very limited sense, I can't blame him. Some of the most fascinating and exciting technology in the world exists in our military.

Honestly, I think that's where the Republicans have their advantage over the Democrats in military matters. The Republicans are willing to look at the awe-inspiring power of our military, and enjoy it just because it's, well, neat. And it is.

The Democrats tend to be unable to divorce themselves from the reality that all of these neat things will be used to destroy propery and kill people.

The place where Democrats screw up is when they have any hesitance towards our people in the military. You see, the people aren't in the military to be able to destroy property and kill people. The kind of people who are a little too excited over destruction and killing are eased out; the military wants controlled violence.

(I feel I should note that I've heard some stories that suggest that there's a little bit too much callousness being drilled into members of the armed forces these days. If so, I hate that this is happening. Nevertheless, when our military is living up to its ideals, it is looking for warriors who are eager to get the job done, using the least amount of force necessary.)

Our military folks aren't there to destroy things and kill people; they're there to do some really hard work and make a great many sacrifices, in order to protect us. Sure, people talk about the military as a place to get training or money for college, and it can be those things as well, but if so, the trade-off is hard work and sacrifice in return for that training and college money.

I hate that the military is being used as it is in Iraq. It's not their job to be sent to do that hard work, and make those sacrifices, in a place where they aren't protecting us. We were never in danger from Iraq; they weren't sent to Iraq to protect us.

Just in case any right-wingers who repeat talking poings come here, let me make this clear: the military was sent to Iraq in hopes of changing Iraq to a nation more to our liking. I won't deny that the goal was decent; it sure would have been nice to create a peaceful, democratic Iraq, but you can't create a free nation by conquest. The minute you send in people with guns to enforce your will, you've already broken the concept of freedom in those people's minds. How can it be freedom to obey the orders of an invader? No, freedom must come from within.

But back to the main point: while I hate that the military is in Iraq, it is not the fault of the folks in the military that they're in Iraq. They're in Iraq because of policies of the Bush administration. It's important to make sure one is angry at the right people for the right things. Where the military is, and why they're there, belongs to the Bush administration. What the military should be doing in Iraq is attempting to carry out their orders in an honorable and lawful manner, regardless of how repugnant those orders might be.

The depressing thing is that the Republicans have worked very hard to conflate support of the service (following orders honorably and lawfully) with support of the mission (fighting in Iraq). Complain about the decisions of the Bush administration, and they'll insist you're complaining about the service of our military. It's a dirty trick, one that an honorable party would not engage in.

But it's a game that gives them an undeserved political advantage, as President Bush brags about his bright, shiny Commander-in-Chief credentials. He can go among the members of our armed forces and pretend to be one of them. But he's not.

Remember, the reason I think everyone should support our armed forces is that they have chosen to work hard and sacrifice greatly for us. For officers, that goes double. Officers are expected to be aware of everything that happens under their control, and to report on the things that are not under their control, to make sure the right people are aware of them. An officer can never rest while there's a problem to be fixed, and can't use "but I didn't know!" as an excuse. It's the job of officers to know, and to make sure that others know, about the problems that need fixing.

People complained about the conditions at Walter Reed before the news stories broke about them. Officers heard about the conditions. They filed the reports that they needed to file, they did their jobs. You can be assured of this.

But somehow, those reports did not come to the attention of the Commander-in-Chief, even though they weren't being fixed. This means that the kindest possibility is that President Bush didn't care if there were such terrible conditions. That's the best possibility, that he'd made sure his military advisors knew that he wasn't concerned about problems of that nature, that they weren't as critical as other issues.

The other possibility is that those conditions existed because of his orders, that he believed, to quote one of his officials, that you go to war with the army you have, not the army you wish you had. That he didn't give the military the resources they needed to make sure all of our veterans received the standard of care they deserved.

That he has acted relatively quickly - don't forget that people in his command downplayed the problems at first! - doesn't tell us that he cares about the military. It merely tells us that he realizes how damaging the story is. If he had really cared, then conditions would never have gotten that bad.

And this is why I say that, while President Bush likes to pretend that he's "one of them", just like the folks in the military, he's not. He likes to ride in the jets, and be able to take this stick for a while. He loves to look at the really cool, really powerful military hardware. He loves him some military toys, but when it comes time to do the really hard work of being in command of the military, well, he's not so interested in doing that. He's willing to let that slide, to let other people worry about that. He's willing to be surprised when it turns out that someone in his command is laying down on the job, and letting our injured vets suffer.

It must be nice, don't you think? To be able to live in luxury, and be well paid, and not have to work too hard, and still be seen as heroic, because of the actions of the military, even while he's not putting in the work that the job requires? Molly Ivins used to say that there was a phrase for men like him in Texas, people who loved the trappings of the job, and the image of the job, but didn't actually do the work. That phrase was "all hat and no cattle."

The trouble is, this time it's not cattle who suffer while Bush proudly wears his hat.

I'm only commenting because this is the first time I have come across another person from Renton on the blogosphere. WOW.

I am about 10 years older than you and I grew up in Renton. Saw you over at Pandagon.

That's all.
I'm 132 years older from you and I helped found Renton. Ok, I didn't.

Anyway, I think you're giving the democrats too much credit. They like killing people too, but recognize they need to appear a little more demure about it, so that they appear to humor their base constituencies.
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