Support the Troops?

Ever since the invasion of Iraq we’ve seen a bumper crop of those yellow ribbon magnets slapped on cars. You know the ones; they say “Support Our Troops.” I still haven’t figured out whether they are a proud proclamation or a command. I guess I’ll never learn the answer to that. Of course, the implication is that without one of these magnets a vehicle’s owner is unpatriotic and unsupportive of the troops. Support for the troops, claimed as theirs alone by  conservatives and Republicans, does require more than spending a dollar at 7-Eleven. I wonder how many of those who bought the magnets have contributed time or money to such groups as The Thank You Foundation or Subscriptions For Soldiers or any of dozens of others.

One lesson I learned from the days of the Viet Nam war, and I regret not comprehending it then, is that there is a clear distinction between the decision to go to war and those who are sent. Today, that distinction seems pretty clear. Even the most ardent opponents of the war are quick to clarify their opposition is to the decision and not the fighters.

Sometime after invading Iraq, then-Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said, and I paraphrase, we go to war with the army we have, not the army we want. At first, that made sense — until I realized the timing of the Iraq invasion was entirely discretionary. We could have waited 3 or 6 or 12 months to invade. Of course, we didn’t need to invade at all, as some people said at the time. Had we waited, we could have spent the time outfitting our troops and their equipment with the necessary protections such as vests for the troops and armor plating for the vehicles.

But we already know this, you and I, don’t we? And one would think a sitting senator such as John McCain would, too. Or at least one would think McCain would want to outfit the troops properly as soon as possible, and then provide the necessary care for them upon return to the States. Actually, one could assert that a sitting senator such as John McCain would have an obligation to do so. After all, what kind of support for the troops is more basic, more essential than armor plated vehicles, kevlar vests and the like?

So, let’s look at the record, or at least the part of it I could find.

1. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) introduced an amendment (S.Amdt.452) to a war funding bill (S.762) and the purpose of her amendment was to allocate $1.047 billion for procurement by the National Guard and the Reserves to purchase such things as helmets, tents, bullet-proof inserts, & tactical vests. On April 2, 2003, John McCain voted with the majority to table her amendment. John Kerry did not vote. An interesting side note is that the underlying bill was introduced by Sen. Ted Stevens on April Fool’s Day 2003 and with no co-sponsors. It was a party-line vote, Republicans nay, Democrats yea — except for Zell Miller who voted with the Republicans.

2. Sen. Chris Dodd _D-CT) introduced an amendment (S.Amdt.1817) to another war funding bill (S.1689). The purpose of this amendment was to decrease rebuilding money by  $322 million and designate that money for safety equipment for troops in Iraq. On October 2, 2003, John McCain voted with the majority to table the amendment. It was a party-line vote, Republicans nay, Democrats yea — except Zell Miller and Ben Nelson who voted with the Republicans.

3. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) introduced an amendment (S.Amdt.2745) to a Concurrent Resolution (S.Con.Res.95, a budget bill). The intent of the amendment was “To create a reserve fund to allow for an increase in Veterans’ medical care by $1.8 billion by eliminating abusive tax loopholes.” On March 10, 2004, John McCain voted with the majority to reject the amendment. It was a party-line vote, Republicans nay, Democrats yea — except Zell Miller who voted with the Republicans.

4. Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) introduced an amendment (S.Amdt.3007) to a Concurrent Resolution (S.Con.Res.83, a budget bill). This amendment would “increase Veterans medical services funding by $1.5 billion in FY 2007 to be paid for by closing corporate tax loopholes.” On March 14, 2004, John McCain voted with the majority to reject the amendment. It was a party-line vote, Republicans nay, Democrats yea — by now, Obama had been elected to the senate and Zell Miller was gone (yeay!).

5. Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) introduced an amendment (S.Amdt 3642) to an emergency supplemental appropriations bill (H.R.4939). This amendment would “povide an additional $430,000,000 for the Department of Veteran Affairs for Medical Services for outpatient care and treatment for veterans.” On April 26, 2006, the amendment passed, 84-13; Barack Obama was one of the 84 who supported the amendment; John McCain was one of the 13, all Republicans, who voted to reject it.

6. Sen. John Thune (R-SD) introduced an amendment (S.Amdt.3704) to the same emergency supplemental appropriations bill (H.R.4939) as above #5. It would “provide, with an offset, $20,000,000 for the Department of Veterans Affairs for Medical Facilities.” This is less than 5% of what the amendment in #5 had proposed. On May 4, 2006, this was also voted down, 59-39. Honestly, this one puzzles me, because Obama, like McCain, also voted to kill it.

7. Sen. James Webb (D-VA) introduced an amendment (S.Amdt.2909) to an amendment (S.Amdt.2011, a substitute for H.R.1585, (the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008) — the substitute (2011) was passed by unanimous consent). Sen. Webb’s amendment was “to specify minimum periods between deployment of units and members of the Armed Forces deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.” The amendment passed, 56-44. Obama voted for it; McCain voted to reject.

8. This last one has proven a little more difficult to track. It is the “POST-9/11 VETERANS EDUCATIONAL ASSISTANCE ACT” introduced by Sen. James Webb (D-VA) and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and signed by W on June 30, 2008. In everyday terms it is known as the GI Bill of 2008. It took some delicate parliamentary maneuvering to get it passed and its final version is as an amendment to a supplemental spending bill to fund the war. Barack Obama voted in favor of it. John McCain was opposed and see here, too. He was absent for the final vote.

Well, there we have it. John McCain who stakes his military career as a foundation of his candidacy and qualifications for becoming president has shown little favor for the people who actually go over and serve — other than to send them and pay to keep them there. I’m curious about how he justifies it. Obviously, with the GI Bill of 2008, he didn’t need it. He married money. I have no objection to that; wshould all be so lucky (or cunning?). For those who served and aren’t able to marry money, though…

So it leads me to wonder. How do the magnet toting claimants to patriotism and support for the troops justify supporting McCain?

  1 comment for “Support the Troops?

  1. August 5, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    Bill, Thanks for putting this together.
    As I’m sure you are aware there is much more.
    Let me know if want to get in touch with a local vet that has put together a list of 14 recent veterans related Senate votes. McSame voted against our troops 9 times and didn’t bother to vote on the other 5.

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