NB Politicus

Veteran’s Day: "They Didn’t Give Their Lives. Their Lives Were Taken From Them."

Posted in Iraq War, veterans by nbpoliticus on November 10, 2009

New Britain’s tradition of honoring veterans of all wars occurs twice a year on Memorial Day (the real one not the Monday national holiday) and on Veteran’s Day this month.

On Wednesday there will be a full round of remembrances put on by the Parks and Recreation Commission.

With soldiers’ deaths being recorded almost daily in Afghanistan and Iraq. we are reminded that men and women are dying in service of their country. Two days a year are not enough for honoring those who served and those who died. That there is no citizen army (e.g. a draft) shows that the strains of getting in harm’s way are falling on those in uniform who are being sent and re-sent into action. And it tends to obscure the toll being taken on military families.

Whenever these days come up to remember veterans I always recall the remembrance of Andy Rooney, the rumpled CBS commentator, on 60 minutes when he said he thinks of his friends lost in war every day:

No official day to remember is adequate for something like that. It’s too formal. It gets to be just another day on the calendar. No one would know from Memorial Day that Richie M., who was shot through the forehead coming onto Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944, wore different color socks on each foot because he thought it brought him good luck.

No one would remember on Memorial Day that Eddie G. had promised to marry Julie W. the day after he got home from the war, but didn’t marry Julie because he never came home from the war. Eddie was shot dead on an un-American desert island, Iwo Jima.

For too many Americans, Memorial Day has become just another day off. There’s only so much time any of us can spend remembering those we loved who have died, but the men, boys really, who died in our wars deserve at least a few moments of reflection during which we consider what they did for us.

They died.

We use the phrase “gave their lives,” but they didn’t give their lives. Their lives were taken from them.

There is more bravery at war than in peace, and it seems wrong that we have so often saved this virtue to use for our least noble activity – war. The goal of war is to cause death to other people.

Because I was in the Army during World War II, I have more to remember on Memorial Day than most of you. I had good friends who were killed.

Charley Wood wrote poetry in high school. He was killed when his Piper Cub was shot down while he was flying as a spotter for the artillery.

Bob O’Connor went down in flames in his B-17.

Obie Slingerland and I were best friends and co-captains of our high school football team. Obie was killed on the deck of the Saratoga when a bomb that hadn?t dropped exploded as he landed.

I won’t think of them anymore tomorrow, Memorial Day, than I think of them any other day of my life.

Remembering doesn’t do the remembered any good, of course. It’s for ourselves, the living. I wish we could dedicate Memorial Day, not to the memory of those who have died at war, but to the idea of saving the lives of the young people who are going to die in the future if we don’t find some new way – some new religion maybe – that takes war out of our lives.

That would be a Memorial Day worth celebrating.

from CBS broadcast 60 Minutes, May 29, 2005 by Andy Rooney

Iraq On $330 Million A Day: Cong. Murphy Responds To Bush Plan To Stay The Course

Posted in Chris Murphy, Iraq War by nbpoliticus on September 14, 2007

NEW BRITAIN, CT (September 13) Two hours before President Bush layed out a vague, stay the course policy on Iraq from the Oval Office, Cong. Chris Murphy (D-5) made his strongest statements yet on why U.S. policy is on a disastrous course, and why he favors a “precipitous withdrawal” with a firm date.

Speaking at New Britain’s Slade Middle School to a much larger audience than at a similar forum last April held in the same school auditorium, Murphy gave a troubling report to residents, many of whom shared his opposition and frustration over the five-year old conflict.

In striking contrast to the Bush-Petraeus report this week on progress made after a January troop “surge”, Murphy said the current return on U.S. investment of $329,670,330 a day ($10 billion a month)has bought the “bloodiest summer of the war” in terms of American service men and women killed or wounded. Moreover “August may have been one of the highest months for civilian casualties.” While we are informed about more than 3,700 U.S. dead and 27,000 wounded so far, Murphy said that data on Iraqi civilian dead and wounded is classified and unreported. Murphy, in fact, speculated that the leveling off of violent attacks claimed by the administration may be because “there is almost no one left to kill.” Of so many communities destroyed in Iraq, the freshman congressman noted there is an enormous number of refugees and a humanitarian crisis that the U.S. will need to address for many years.

Speaking of the Iraqi government, Murphy said the practice of putting “cash on the ground” to buy the loyalty of sheiks and ethnic leaders would only go so far. He agrees with the conclusion of the nonpartisan General Accounting Office (GAO)that the coalition government propped up by U.S. money and soldiers is “bordering on collapse.”

President Bush made clear his plan to extend a huge U.S. military presence beyond his Presidency and continue a strategy that seems to beget more violence as the U.S. expends $120 billion a year at current rates.

Cong. Murphy, conceding that more Republicans need to agree to a firm exit strategy to change policy, made equally clear his resolve to mobilize with other freshman to draw a line in the sand on continued funding for the war with a new $50 billion request due to come to Congress soon.

Finding a way to withdraw, Murphy said, will help to restore U.S. credibility in the world, ending a war built on lies and a bullying style of nation building that must come to an end in January 2009.

Murphy Reports On War Without End At First New Britain Forum

Posted in Chris Murphy, Iraq War by nbpoliticus on April 22, 2007


Cong. Chris Murphy (D-CT 5), just returned from a visit to Iraq and Afghanistan with a six-member Congressional Delegation (CODEL) led by Cong. Steve Lynch (D-MA 9), provided a sobering assessment of U.S.. intervention in both countries at a Slade Middle School forum on Saturday, April 21st.

Standing beside posters showing the growing costs of the war and an escalating insurgency, Murphy said the “life changing” trip reinforced his position in favor of a clear Iraq exit strategy now contained in legislation adopted by both the House and Senate.

Bush and the Congress are now at odds over the “Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Health and Iraq Accountability Act” that sets a July 1 deadline for meeting benchmarks. If benchmarks are not met, redeployment of U.S. troops would begin within 180 days. Bush vows a veto over the timetable and falsely accuses Democrats of not supporting the troops.

Murphy confessed to a rookie congressman’s awe about being part of the congressional fact-finding trip. But his command of the facts and analysis made for a compelling case against Bush and Cheney’s intransigence.

Iraq and Afghanistan pose two very different challenges, according to Murphy. The fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan is difficult. Unlike Iraq, sectarian violence is not rampant and the country possesses a greater sense of nationalism. Murphy, however, worries that the U.S. may be “under-committed” in Afghanistan where post 9/11 efforts to thwart terrorism began.

In Iraq, Murphy and his colleagues held a meeting with General David Petraeus at which the U.S. military leader candidly told lawmakers that he could not say whether the latest “troop surge” was working or would work at all. Murphy said President Bush, who met with him and CODEL members in the Oval Office following the trip, remains “unreformed” and as obstinate as ever about his war without end.

Murphy pointedly added that those who think the U.S. can now easily extract itself from the quagmire are only fooling themselves.

There was an unspoken frustration at this first Congressional forum held by Murphy in New Britain. One woman, who jeopardized her nursing education to protest the Vietnam War, said the protests a generation ago had more of an impact than the protests of today. Others pointed to the Draft and Selective Service in the 1960s that made the war toll more of a shared sacrifice and led to a more potent anti-war effort. Cong. Murphy noted that this war involves sacrifice only among the soldiers and families who are facing multiple tours of duty. He put the number of troops who have been back more than once at 170,000. Those tours are stretching Guard forces and regular troops to the limit, but are necessary to patrol the streets of Baghdad and do for the Iraqis what they are unable to do for themselves.

Much on the minds of the New Britain audience was the neglect in the delivery of services for returning veterans. Murphy, noting the well publicized deficiencies in outpatient care at military hospitals, said that it takes a minimum of 18 months for returning soldiers to obtain veteran’s benefits and services. It shouldn’t take that long, he said, pointing out that Congress’ reauthorizing bill for Iraq and Afghanistan (HR 1591) includes an additional $1.5 billion for veterans.

The Bush Administration may be penny pinchers for veterans but they have been most generous to some of their friends. Among Murphy’s “costs of the war” is $10 billion which is “the amount of Iraq reconstruction funds currently unaccounted for.” Among the companies receiving war profits has been Dick Cheney’s Halliburton. Halliburton’s engineering subsidiary, Kellogg, Brown & Root, was awarded $7 billion in no-bid contracts early in the “Iraqi Freedom” campaign, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

Murphy, a member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, indicated that Congress is uncovering “layers of contracting upon contracting” wherein no-bid contractors are skimming funds and sub-contracting actual work for Iraq projects to others.

House-approved legislation (HR 1362)known as the “Accountability In Contracting Act” would change federal acquisition law to end these “abuse-prone” contracts that have proliferated in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is opposed by the Bush administration but has gained new momentum with the takeover of Congress by the Democrats. Ironically, the measure has now gone to the Homeland Security Committee chaired by Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut for further action in the Senate.

Having gained firsthand knowledge of the Iraqi situation, Cong Murphy goes back to Capitol Hill to press for enactment of an Iraq policy that does not depend on an unending presence of U.S. troops. It is doubtful, however, that he and Democrats in Washington can succeed in the short term so long as Bush has enough allies in the Congress to maintain a status quo that fuels the insurgency, drains our resources and makes us no safer. Murphy and the Democratic majority now need Republicans to stand up to Bush and Cheney to change direction in Iraq before the President’s term ends.

Murphy Reports On War Without End At First New Britain Forum

Posted in Chris Murphy, Iraq War by nbpoliticus on April 22, 2007


Cong. Chris Murphy (D-CT 5), just returned from a visit to Iraq and Afghanistan with a six-member Congressional Delegation (CODEL) led by Cong. Steve Lynch (D-MA 9), provided a sobering assessment of U.S.. intervention in both countries at a Slade Middle School forum on Saturday, April 21st.

Standing beside posters showing the growing costs of the war and an escalating insurgency, Murphy said the “life changing” trip reinforced his position in favor of a clear Iraq exit strategy now contained in legislation adopted by both the House and Senate.

Bush and the Congress are now at odds over the “Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Health and Iraq Accountability Act” that sets a July 1 deadline for meeting benchmarks. If benchmarks are not met, redeployment of U.S. troops would begin within 180 days. Bush vows a veto over the timetable and falsely accuses Democrats of not supporting the troops.

Murphy confessed to a rookie congressman’s awe about being part of the congressional fact-finding trip. But his command of the facts and analysis made for a compelling case against Bush and Cheney’s intransigence.

Iraq and Afghanistan pose two very different challenges, according to Murphy. The fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan is difficult. Unlike Iraq, sectarian violence is not rampant and the country possesses a greater sense of nationalism. Murphy, however, worries that the U.S. may be “under-committed” in Afghanistan where post 9/11 efforts to thwart terrorism began.

In Iraq, Murphy and his colleagues held a meeting with General David Petraeus at which the U.S. military leader candidly told lawmakers that he could not say whether the latest “troop surge” was working or would work at all. Murphy said President Bush, who met with him and CODEL members in the Oval Office following the trip, remains “unreformed” and as obstinate as ever about his war without end.

Murphy pointedly added that those who think the U.S. can now easily extract itself from the quagmire are only fooling themselves.

There was an unspoken frustration at this first Congressional forum held by Murphy in New Britain. One woman, who jeopardized her nursing education to protest the Vietnam War, said the protests a generation ago had more of an impact than the protests of today. Others pointed to the Draft and Selective Service in the 1960s that made the war toll more of a shared sacrifice and led to a more potent anti-war effort. Cong. Murphy noted that this war involves sacrifice only among the soldiers and families who are facing multiple tours of duty. He put the number of troops who have been back more than once at 170,000. Those tours are stretching Guard forces and regular troops to the limit, but are necessary to patrol the streets of Baghdad and do for the Iraqis what they are unable to do for themselves.

Much on the minds of the New Britain audience was the neglect in the delivery of services for returning veterans. Murphy, noting the well publicized deficiencies in outpatient care at military hospitals, said that it takes a minimum of 18 months for returning soldiers to obtain veteran’s benefits and services. It shouldn’t take that long, he said, pointing out that Congress’ reauthorizing bill for Iraq and Afghanistan (HR 1591) includes an additional $1.5 billion for veterans.

The Bush Administration may be penny pinchers for veterans but they have been most generous to some of their friends. Among Murphy’s “costs of the war” is $10 billion which is “the amount of Iraq reconstruction funds currently unaccounted for.” Among the companies receiving war profits has been Dick Cheney’s Halliburton. Halliburton’s engineering subsidiary, Kellogg, Brown & Root, was awarded $7 billion in no-bid contracts early in the “Iraqi Freedom” campaign, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

Murphy, a member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, indicated that Congress is uncovering “layers of contracting upon contracting” wherein no-bid contractors are skimming funds and sub-contracting actual work for Iraq projects to others.

House-approved legislation (HR 1362)known as the “Accountability In Contracting Act” would change federal acquisition law to end these “abuse-prone” contracts that have proliferated in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is opposed by the Bush administration but has gained new momentum with the takeover of Congress by the Democrats. Ironically, the measure has now gone to the Homeland Security Committee chaired by Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut for further action in the Senate.

Having gained firsthand knowledge of the Iraqi situation, Cong Murphy goes back to Capitol Hill to press for enactment of an Iraq policy that does not depend on an unending presence of U.S. troops. It is doubtful, however, that he and Democrats in Washington can succeed in the short term so long as Bush has enough allies in the Congress to maintain a status quo that fuels the insurgency, drains our resources and makes us no safer. Murphy and the Democratic majority now need Republicans to stand up to Bush and Cheney to change direction in Iraq before the President’s term ends.