It’s a given that our war-loving leaders and their enablers do not care about American mass society. But how do they treat their warriors? As a nation we faced the shame of soldiers sent to a war zone without armor or with defective armor, and with a mission that changed with each season. We were revolted by the neglect of Walter Reed and other military hospitals that outsource the care of injured soldiers to profit-making companies. It’s common knowledge that many soldiers are choosing suicide (99 in 2006, 88 in 2005). Some asked for help for PTSD and depression but were denied. Anywhere from 200,000 to 400,000 veterans are homeless. And those serving in Iraq face another obstacle. The number of military contractors in Iraq who operate outside the rules of the military, and often at cross-purposes, has quietly surpassed the number of soldiers serving there.
And yet, our representatives cannot see a viable alternative to rubber stamping another $141.7 billion “supplemental” to further cripple Iraq and sacrifice the minds and bodies of our exhausted soldiers, many of whom are on their fourth or fifth deployments. Continuing the occupation is insurance that our home infrastructure will continue to collapse, cave, buckle, rust and rot well into the future. If Congress agrees, it will bring the total appropriation for mindless destruction of Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 to $746 billion.
Surprisingly, some elected leaders insist they aren’t hearing much opposition to the war. It’s been easy for senators and representatives to dodge dissenters and embrace flag and ribbon wavers who must anticipate a share in the spoils of war. They frequently travel internationally during recesses, don’t meet with constituents or attend public forums where they’d be forced to face questions from an angry public.
When Senator Norm Coleman told the Star Tribune editorial board earlier this month that he wasn’t hearing from many Minnesotans against the war because the issue is “complex” and “people aren’t sure,” Barry Riesch, a Veterans for Peace member in St. Paul, took umbrage. He fired back a letter to the Star Tribune:
NORM COLEMAN AND IRAQ
Look outside, Senator I had to laugh when I read the Sept. 5 Q&A with Sen. Norm Coleman. In spite of the fact that his neighbors have surrounded his house with red "Support The Troops -- End the War" signs, folks have had numerous vigils at his office, and he was invited to a Town Hall meeting on his behalf Aug. 28 (which he chose not to attend), he claims he hasn't heard much from Minnesotans. Could it be that he really doesn't want to know what people are saying about Iraq?
-- BARRY RIESCH, ST. PAUL
Coleman’s claim that he wasn’t hearing from opponents of the war was still on Riesch’s mind through Saturday. At the rally he invited others to join him in making sure Coleman heard us for once and so we paid the senator a visit at his St. Paul home.
Can you hear us now?
After back-up from the St. Paul Police Department was in place, Norm Coleman came outside to talk with about 25 peace activists who gathered in front of his home in St. Paul September 15 to make it irrefutable that Coleman got the message.
During a mostly civil exchange where Coleman answered questions, the senator maintained that should the U.S. withdraw from Iraq, Al Quaeda would take over, called the missing $9 billion in Iraq reconstruction money a messy accounting error, and would not rule out attacking Iran, calling it a terrorist state.