Honoring Service Rather than Trumping Up War

Seven years ago, Dick Cheney addressed the Veterans of Foreign War national convention (George Bush was otherwise occupied in Crawford, clearing brush). In a speech he did not have vetted by the Intelligence Community (as was normal), Cheney made the claims about Iraq having nukes that served as a foundation for the Iraq War campaign rolled out just a few weeks later (remember, you don’t introduce a new product in August).

The case of Saddam Hussein, a sworn enemy of our country, requires a candid appraisal of the facts. After his defeat in the Gulf War in 1991, Saddam agreed under to U.N. Security Council Resolution 687 to cease all development of weapons of mass destruction. He agreed to end his nuclear weapons program. He agreed to destroy his chemical and his biological weapons. He further agreed to admit U.N. inspection teams into his country to ensure that he was in fact complying with these terms.

In the past decade, Saddam has systematically broken each of these agreements. The Iraqi regime has in fact been very busy enhancing its capabilities in the field of chemical and biological agents. And they continue to pursue the nuclear program they began so many years ago. These are not weapons for the purpose of defending Iraq; these are offensive weapons for the purpose of inflicting death on a massive scale, developed so that Saddam can hold the threat over the head of anyone he chooses, in his own region or beyond.

On the nuclear question, many of you will recall that Saddam’s nuclear ambitions suffered a severe setback in 1981 when the Israelis bombed the Osirak reactor. They suffered another major blow in Desert Storm and its aftermath.

But we now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Among other sources, we’ve gotten this from the firsthand testimony of defectors — including Saddam’s own son-in-law, who was subsequently murdered at Saddam’s direction. Many of us are convinced that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon.

Today, Obama is the one addressing the VFW. While he’s describing his stance in Iraq and Afghanistan, he is, at the same time, repeating his promise to America’s service men and women.

That is why I have made this pledge to our armed forces: I will only send you into harm’s way when it is absolutely necessary. When I do, it will be based on good intelligence and guided by a sound strategy.

And I will give you a clear mission, defined goals and the equipment and support you need to get the job done.

That is our second responsibility to our armed forces-giving them the resources and equipment and strategies to meet their missions. We need to keep our military the best trained, the best-led, the best-equipped fighting force in the world. That’s why-even with our current economic challenges-my budget increases defense spending.

We will ensure that we have the force structure to meet today’s missions. That is why we’ve increased the size of the Army and Marines Corps two years ahead of schedule and have approved another temporary increase in the Army. And we’ve halted personnel reductions in the Navy and Air Force. This will give our troops more time home between deployments, which means less stress on families and more training for the next mission. And it will help us put an end, once and for all, to stop-loss for those have done their duty.

We will equip our forces with the assets and technologies they need to fight and win. So my budget funds more of the Army helicopters, crews and pilots urgently needed in Afghanistan; the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance that gives our troops the advantage; the special operations forces that can deploy on a moment’s notice. And for all those serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, including our National Guard and Reserve, more of the protective gear and armored vehicles that saves lives.


Finally, we will fulfill our responsibility to those who serve by keeping our promises to our people.

We will fulfill our responsibility to our forces and families. That is why we’re increasing military pay, building better family housing and funding more childcare and counseling to help families cope with the stresses of war. And we’ve changed the rules so military spouses can better compete for federal jobs and pursue their careers.

We will fulfill our responsibility to our wounded warriors. For those still in uniform, we’re investing billions of dollars for more treatment centers, more case managers and better medical care so our troops can recover and return to where they want to be-with their units.

But for so many veterans the war rages on-the flashbacks that won’t go away, the loved ones who now seem like strangers, the heavy darkness of depression that has led too many of our troops to take their own lives. Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury are the defining injuries of today’s wars. So caring for those affected by them is a defining purpose of my budget-billions of dollars for more treatment and mental health screening to reach our troops on the frontlines and more mobile and rural clinics to reach veterans back home. We will not abandon these American heroes.

We will fulfill our responsibility to our veterans as they return to civilian life. I was proud to co-sponsor the Post-9/11 GI Bill as a senator. Thanks to VFW members across the country-and leaders like Arizona’s Harry Mitchell in Congress-it’s now the law of the land. And as President, I’m committed to seeing that it is successfully implemented.

For so many of you, like my grandfather, the original GI Bill changed your life-helping you to realize your dreams. And it transformed America-helping to build the largest middle class in history. We’re saying the same thing to today’s Post-9/11 veterans-you pick the school, we’ll help pick up the bill.

And as these veterans start showing up on campuses, I’m proud that we’re making this opportunity available to all those who have sacrificed, including reservists and National Guard members and spouses and children, including kids who’ve lost their mom or dad. In an era when so many people and institutions have acted irresponsibly, we chose to reward the responsibility and service of our forces and their families.

Whether you left the service in 2009 or 1949, we will fulfill our responsibility to deliver the benefits and care that you earned.

I’m pissed as hell at the coming cave on health care and the past ones on accountability.

But never forget that, given a chance to address the VFW, the Bush Administration used it to sell a senseless war.

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