The Associate Press recently (Aug 2005) reported that Arlington National Cemetery has been inscribing the slogan-like names operation names for nearly all of the soldiers killed in the Iraq conflict. The option was extended to all military families, regardless of wherever the soldier is buried. The names like “Operation Enduring Freedom” and “Operation Iraqi Freedom” are offered free of charge. The presence of these words, along with soldier’s information, is supposed to include the permission given from the families of the deceased. That has not always been the case.
Patrick McCaffrey, a soldier who was killed in Iraq in June 2004, had his tombstone engraved without the knowledge or permission of his parents, Nadia and Robert McCaffrey. It also turns out that Patrick’s widow had no knowledge of the request for the engraving. Steve Muro, a Veterans Administration official, told the press that the engraving of the operation names were not “PR.” Their presence, according to Mr. Muro, is that they would let people know who served their country to protect our freedom.
The Associate Press article went onto explain that the idea of naming military operations began with the Pentagon in the 1980s. An Army officer who contributed to a 1995 Army War College publication, Gregory C. Sieminski, was also quoted to say that its intent was to better shape public perception by describing the actions of the efforts.
This event, by itself, could easily be written off as military bureaucracy. Working with the sheer number of people the military has, with all the shuffling papers and passing information, it’s not hard to believe it is prone to some level of error. No large workplace is exempt from that. However, a darker picture starts to form when this is considered with other events that have occurred up until, then during the Iraq conflict.
The overall refusal of the Bush Administration to critique its reasons for going to war should be a glaring indication that other agendas are afoot. Was it for oil? Was it to avenge Dad? Was it to overcome his questionable military background? Was it to give him the appearance of being tough? Did he think it would get us out of our current economy slump? Was it an attempt to make it look like we were taking steps after 9/11? Was it some dangerous way to take people’s minds of the high levels of unemployment? Was he doing it to impress chicks? The speculation will continue while we still wait for answers that aren’t likely to ever be given. Does Bush think that supporting his presidency means taking everything he says at face value? I really hope not.
Bush seems to be really eager to leave a “legacy” as president. I also think that he is trying to shift today’s reality to shape tomorrow’s history. While we have suffered the loss of nearly 2000 soldiers to this point, there have been obvious efforts by the Administration to conceal the transport of dead soldiers back into the United States. While the appeals process is still taking place, the secrecy of the prisoner status at Guantanamo Bay also continues within the very insulated legal system of the military. Even the Republican National Convention in New York segregated protesters several blocks away from the event itself, under the convenient guise of security. The same guise that allows Secret Service men to pull people wearing controversial t-shirts from the lines into where Bush is making speeches to the public. He probably just wasn’t paying attention in his Yale classes when they were going over the concept of “free speech.”….that’s assuming that he even made it to class, of course.
All of this concerns me. Here, we have a President that already carefully dispenses information through poor grammar, mispronounced words, pre-written feel-good jargon, and Scott McClellan. He doesn’t wish to hold himself accountable, but wants all the glory of leading our troops into war. He asked to be assigned to abandon military bases during his enlistment with the armed services when his peers are fighting in the war. (when he wasn’t away for several months working on someone’s campaign efforts) However, he has no problem flying around in jets, dressed as a fighter pilot, and presents speeches in front of signs that read MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. Now, he wants to package this scattered war effort into a tidy display of patriotic slogans on the tombstones of soldiers who died as a result of an Administration’s bad choices.
We can still be proud of our soldiers that have fought to protect our freedom. We should not be proud of a President that has squandered our resources, divided our country, and yet tries to spin this as a positive legacy.