Monday, August 29, 2005

The Anti-Military Anti-American Right

Lovely folks:

WASHINGTON - Since the spring, long before an angry mom named Cindy Sheehan set up camp outside President Bush's Texas ranch, anti-war activists have been holding vigils outside Walter Reed Army Medical Center on Friday nights, when many soldiers and their families venture off campus for steak dinners.

They've called for better health care benefits for soldiers wounded in Iraq, protested an early policy of making some soldiers buy their own meals while in care, and accused the military of purposely flying injured troops in under cover of night to downplay the volume of casualties. And they've waved signs protesting the war and the Bush administration.

Organizers say they weren't getting much media attention - even after a pro-war group began gathering to protest the vigils - and that the coverage they did get was generally positive, including a write-up in the military newspaper Stars & Stripes.

Until last week, that is. That's when an online news service with politically conservative ties released a special report suggesting the vigils were actually protests aimed at wounded soldiers - an accusation that infuriated vigil organizers, many of them family members of troops serving in Iraq and some of them veterans themselves. The Drudge Report previewed the story, and conservative television and radio hosts seized on it.


Friday night at Walter Reed, counterprotesters outnumbered the 20 or so vigil participants by a 3-1 margin. They waved flags, yelled at anti-war activists and hoisted signs saying such things as: "Cindy Sheehan Bride of Bin Laden."


Our wounded soldiers are not barter for them to use to try to push their cause!" he said. "It's very transparent what they're doing. They don't care about soldiers' health benefits. This is déjà vu, Vietnam, Jane Fonda, John Kerry, all over again."

Laura Costas of Silver Spring, Md., one of the vigil participants, said her brother served 14 months in Iraq with the Army and was injured when an explosive device hit his unarmored Humvee.

"He feels betrayed," she said. "You sign up to defend the Constitution and you get Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo."

She described a shortage among troops of modern bullet-proof vests, boots, even helmet straps. She said her brother, now home, must navigate a complex bureaucracy to deal with his hearing loss and post-traumatic stress.

"It's patent nonsense to say a member of a military family who's out here doesn't care about the troops," she said.