To gain the sympathy and cooperation of the American people come election day, the robust presidential candidate McCain machine is working hard to quiet the anti-McCain fervor among "new veterans" that until recently has lurked just beneath the surface of America's watchful eyes.
Trumped only by the looming Bush/McCain-caused national economic catastrophe, the topics of war, foreign policy, and veterans issues are at the forefront of the debates.
To undermine the growing "new veteran" discontent with Senator McCain's record on Veterans' issues, a cast of 300 retired generals and admirals recently penned a very short note in support of "their candidate."
In this stratagem by "would-be Commander-in Chief" McCain, a swath of "300 Spartans" has emerged to try to persuade swing voters that POW McCain really is a "caring veteran."
The opening of the letter almost takes one to the Battle of Thermopylae -- still so fresh in the minds of our popular culture after the blockbuster film "300" was released a year ago.
'We have had the honor and privilege of serving as career officers in the United States Armed Forces, and of serving shoulder-to-shoulder with so many of the fine young men and women who are the backbone of America's Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard."
But this 230-word missive sounds more like a pathetic plea from the Spartan court than Spartans themselves. The "300 Gray-hairs" are about as Spartan-like and out of touch as your "average" golfing-American millionaire.
This cult-like following of former top brass, many of whom have engaged in rapacious war-profiteering through back-channel DOD contract favoritism, is a testament to the broken military-industrial complex that has misdirected enormous budgets and misguided foreign policy makers.
Sadly, Eisenhower's forewarning is a cancer that lives among us now:
"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist," said Eisenhower in 1961.
These days, it seems that most of our retired senior officer corps leverage their honorable public service into private-contracting fortunes. Just check to see how many have become millionaires, ultimately at taxpayer expense, since their retirement!
It is loathsome and it is a threat. No wonder the "300 Gray-hairs" support McCain, who seeks to continue the status quo which has made them rich!
As a combat-wounded, two-tour veteran of Iraq who integrated into the VA system last fall upon honorable discharge from the Army, I have never once stood 'shoulder-to-shoulder' with any Generals or Admirals at VA hospitals and medical clinics.
Moreover, when was the last time a General or Admiral had a problem with the Department of Veterans' Affairs?
The millions of veterans obtaining services at hundreds of facilities across the nation know the real status of the broken VA system. You need only look to the last eight years of this Administration and to McCain's complicity with it - his voting record - to know that he has not advocated for anything to help the ever-growing population of veterans - particularly the veterans of America's newest undeclared wars.
McCain and "his veterans" are running scared now, because the majority of these "new veterans" from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are making a heroic stand against them and the special interest groups they represent. The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans' Association (IAVA) ascribed a "D" ranking to McCain for his long history of failing America's Veterans' in legislative actions before Congress. The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) also recently made plain that McCain has far from a veteran-proponent record in Congress.
The most flagrantly anti-Veteran vote Senator McCain recently made was against the New G.I. Bill - a long-overdue bill that affords modern-day service members and veterans the actual dollars and cents needed to pay for a college degree. With that "nay" vote cast, it would seem that McCain thought that the author of it, Senator and Veteran Jim Webb, doesn't know what he's talking about with respect to our nation's armed forces, veterans, and the dilemmas facing military recruitment and retention.
McCain was wrong about opposing the new G.I. Bill. When he realized he would not prevail, he retreated into posturing that he had actually supported the bill all along.
As if all this weren't enough, a few days ago at the first presidential debate, Senator McCain stunned the veteran community when he said,
"...I know the veterans. I know them well. And I know that they know that I'll take care of them... And I love them. And I'll take care of them. And they know that I'll take care of them. And that's going to be my job."
POW McCain's legislative record strongly contradicts his perception of reality. Let us hope that whoever becomes the next President, remembers President Lincoln's immortal words, "...to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan - to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.'
Luis Carlos Montalván is a former Army captain and veteran of Iraq.
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