Veterans Need to Vote Their Interests
In last month’s article I mentioned that this month I would write about Gen. Petraeus’s “Letter to Veterans.” I’ve since found out the essay I read was not written by the General so I’m trying to get the correct source of this piece. Since this is my last opportunity before November 6 to address the importance of this election, I’ve re-arranged my priorities. The events of the past few weeks have contributed to this decision.
Today is the 11th anniversary of September, 11, 2001. In the 11 years since that horrendous event a great deal has happened.
On a global level we have fought three wars. One is over on paper and the other two are still ongoing. I still believe the Iraq war was a huge mistake and was fought based on a series of lies told to the American people and the world. But that’s my opinion—others disagree.
Our President has promised we’ll be out of Afghanistan by 2014 but the ‘War on Terror’ will continue until we win. I don’t believe that we can win the ‘War on Terror’ solely on a military basis. The ‘War on Terror’ will have to be won through a combination of diplomacy and force of arms. Good luck with that in the near future.
One of the ‘unintended consequences’ of the “Arab Spring” was the murder of our US Ambassador to Libya. The Ambassador was a strong supporter of the Libyan people’s fight against Gaddafi during that country’s revolt. Recent information seems to indicate it wasn’t a ‘spontaneous demonstration’ precipitated by a poorly made video, but more likely an orchestrated assault by an Al Qaeda-like Libyan group designed to kill Americans—particularly the Ambassador.
The GOP’s response to this tragic event was predictable, totally inappropriate and truly sad. The GOP’s nominee to lead this nation vowed that this tragedy would “never have happened” during his presidency. My question would be, “How can you possibly make that guarantee?” These are hollow words coming from a man who has never been called upon to stand in harm’s way. He, like his friend Dick Cheney, had better things to do. What would he do to ensure this didn’t happen on his watch? We currently have terrorist groups in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somali, Mali, Sudan, Libya, Pakistan and others that I can’t recall. Are we to invade all of these countries? We’ve been unable to end terrorist attacks in just one country for over a decade. In fact, the attacks in Afghanistan have escalated in recent months. I don’t see the American people supporting a dozen new invasions.
Bluntly put, the less than 0.5 percent of Americans fighting these wars are getting tired of carrying a burden that 99 percent aren’t even completely aware exists. I find in disturbing the GOP leadership desires to spend tens of billions of dollars on defense spending but makes no mention of benefits for veterans after they have served. The Ryan budget makes no mention of services for veterans, yet allocates more to the Armed Services than they are even asking for. Also, how do we increase military funding without any revenue increase? The only possible way to even come close is to further cut domestic programs like Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps.
I simply can’t even imagine the GOP nominee in the Oval Office when the phone rings at 3 am. He has no domestic policies that aren’t drawn from Bush’s or Reagan’s failed ‘trickle down’ policies and no foreign policies that don’t require a large-scale military involvement.
Just when I thought Congress couldn’t do any more harm they proved me wrong! On September 19, most of the Republicans in the Senate voted against a bill that would have provided funds for communities to hire veterans as police, firemen and other public sector employees. The rationale used for blocking this bill? It would exceed spending limits that had been set when they were threatening a government shutdown. The GOP’s hubris and arrogance knows NO bounds. I cannot see any reason for any veteran to vote for a representative who won’t support veterans.
I would suggest that to increase the speed of economic recovery we need to have a radical shuffle in the composition of the Congress. The Tea Party wave that swept into office in 2010 has repeatedly shown they have no interest in actual governance, nor any interest in actually representing those who elected them. They have shown themselves to be more in thrall to an un-elected power broker than to their Congressional Districts.
We currently have 235 Congressmen and 41 Senators in the 112th Congress who are signatories of Grover Norquist’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledge.” I contend it is way past time for Americans to have representatives who are more responsive to the voters than to one un-elected ideologue. Their names can be found online at http://tinyurl.com/6ja7yot. These people need to be called to task by voters this November. If they aren’t working for us, they are working against us. We need to ensure that ‘compromise’ is no longer a dirty word in the 113th Congress.
We have millions of unemployed Americans and tens of thousands of them are veterans of those wars we’ve fought over the past decade plus. We have a crumbling national infrastructure that Congress refuses to deal with in spite of the President’s many proposals. We need to work together to solve these problems. Compromises must be made, and as long as one side of the aisle is totally intransigent, we will have a problem.
It is more important to vote in one’s own best interest this year than any other in recent memory. Get to know all the candidates on the ballot. Look at the above website and learn who is beholden to whom. Will they really represent your interests or those of others?
Thomas Jefferson said an informed electorate is essential for democracy to survive. If our Democracy is to flourish we need to diminish the dysfunctional disconnect within the legislative process. All veterans—old and new—should take a very hard look at all the candidates and determine the ones who would best serve the interests of veterans. But the most important duty we have as veterans is to cast that vote. We have defended that right and we must exercise it.
Gil Beyer, ETC USN Ret., can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org