Ralph Nader Calls on President George W. Bush to Apologize to Troops and Their Families

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Statement of Ralph Nader
November 2, 2006

President George W. Bush has called on Senator John Kerry to apologize for saying that people unable to succeed in the U.S. educational system would likely get stuck in Iraq. Senator Kerry says he was referring to the President and his administration.

President Bush said Senator Kerry’s remarks were “insulting” and “shameful,” and called on him to apologize to U.S. troops. Senator Kerry’s office said the Senator had misread prepared remarks, which said: “It’s great to be here with college students. I can’t overstress the importance of a great education. Do you know where you end up if you don’t study, if you aren’t smart, if you’re intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq. Just ask President Bush.”

On October 31, 2006 Senator Kerry issued the following statement:

“If anyone thinks a veteran would criticize the more than 140,000 heroes serving in Iraq and not the president who got us stuck there, they’re crazy. This is the classic G.O.P. playbook. I’m sick and tired of these despicable Republican attacks that always seem to come from those who never can be found to serve in war, but love to attack those who did.

I’m not going to be lectured by a stuffed suit White House mouthpiece standing behind a podium, or doughy Rush Limbaugh, who no doubt today will take a break from belittling Michael J. Fox’s Parkinson’s disease to start lying about me just as they have lied about Iraq. It disgusts me that these Republican hacks, who have never worn the uniform of our country lie and distort so blatantly and carelessly about those who have.

The people who owe our troops an apology are George W. Bush and Dick Cheney who misled America into war and have given us a Katrina foreign policy that has betrayed our ideals, killed and maimed our soldiers, and widened the terrorist threat instead of defeating it. These Republicans are afraid to debate veterans who live and breathe the concerns of our troops, not the empty slogans of an Administration that sent our brave troops to war without body armor.

On November 1, 2006, Senator Kerry did apologize for a “botched joke” but noted that he meant no disrespect to members of the armed forces, and he insisted that President Bush and other leaders of his Republican administration are the ones who should apologize to the troops for getting them into Iraq.

President Bush, however, has a bushel basket full of reasons to apologize to the troops, their families, and the American public. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports, Congressional hearings and newspaper reports chronicle the costly brutal blunders the President and his administration have made by first getting our country into Iraq and then short-changing the troops, at home and abroad, that he claims to care about.

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. 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.

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 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. 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.”

6. 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…”

7. 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.

8. 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…” President Bush and the Defense Department need to alleviate the financial hardships that result from lengthy National Guard deployments.

These inexcusable, contemptuous indifferences to the well-being of the soldiers, combined with the rush to wage an unnecessary, immoral and illegal boomerang war characterized by corrupt, wasteful contracting and outsourcing 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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