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October 30, 2009

Taking Comfort in Ignorant Hatred

As the wife of a deployed career Marine and daughter of a career Naval Officer, I've never understood the ignorant malice of the antiwar Left.

I grew up during the Vietnam era. It was a troubled - and troubling - time. The nation was rocked by protests, riots, and civil unrest. All this was understandable, even to a small child of 6 or 7. Though my father and my friends' fathers were fighting a war many Americans opposed, I could understand the pain and the passion of those who wanted us out of Vietnam. Anyone who appreciates the terrible cost of war must understand those troubled by that cost.

What was never understandable to me was the vicious spite and hatred of those who lined up outside military bases screaming epithets like, "Baby killer" to men who had been drafted. You would think we might have learned something as a nation in the nearly four decades since we abandoned the South Vietnamese to the tender mercies of a Communist-led genocide. But sadly, hate is alive and well in modern America:

This is what a president does.

US President Barack Obama has paid his respects to 18 Americans killed in Afghanistan, the first time he has honoured the fallen in this way.

NPR notes that,

The dramatic image of a president on the tarmac was a portrait not witnessed in years.


His predecessor, George W Bush, visited the families of dead troops but never received the bodies at the base, in Dover, Delaware.
Mr Bush also did not go to military funerals, telling the military newspaper Stars and Stripes three years ago that he preferred to meet families privately.

Notice how no one at Firedoglake wonders what took President Obama so long? The ban, after all, was lifted in February. Obama could have visited Dover at any time during the past 8 months - 10, if you take into account the fact that there was no need to have the press document his visit for the TV cameras. But I don't think the facts matter to these people at all. Their hatred is so strong that it blinds them to anything but simmering anger and poisonous contempt. To them, fallen warriors are nothing more than cannon fodder, conscripted against their will - even in death - to fight an obscene war against a President who is no longer in office. Consumed by hatred, they just can't let it go.

What they cannot understand is that unlike Barack Obama, who makes sure the few sops he throws to the military are well documented by the press, George Bush understood our wish not to be used as photo ops. It ought to be simple to understand why George Bush was never photographed at Dover: under George Bush, the press were not allowed at Dover. So there would be no photograph. But more importantly, President Bush understood that the families of the fallen had given enough. The last thing grieving families want is to have a camera or a microphone shoved in their faces; to have legions of Secret Service, White House aides, and other support staff invade an exquisitely private moment that ought to be reserved for those who knew and loved the deceased. Our funerals are not public spectacles, but private observances of grief. Our last President, unlike the antiwar left, understood and respected that.

To gain an idea of just how military families view having the President turn the homecoming of their loved ones into a photo op, one need only look at what happened when the families whose loved ones came in on this flight reacted to the news of Obama's visit. Of the 18 families involved, 17 declined to allow the media to photograph the return of their loved one. But more than that, 6 of the 18 (that's one third) were undecided until they learned Obama would be there. According to the article, nearly two thirds of Gold Star families have allowed the press to be present.

...11 of the 17 had already reached a decision against coverage before they were notified that Obama would be there, said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs.

The knowledge that the President of the United States planned to attend seems to have reduced the number of families willing to allow press coverage from 67% to 5%. It's hard to think of a more damning indictment of the idea that the families of the fallen want to be used as political props.

What takes more courage? To stand on a deserted tarmac in the dead of night and salute for the cameras? Or to meet with the families of the fallen - even those who don't support the war?

If the reality based community weren't afraid to venture out of their bubble, they might try talking to Rachel Ascione about whether the President grieves for our fallen warriors, whether he just brushes their grief aside lightly:

Ascione wasn't sure she could restrain herself with the president. She was feeling "raw." "I wanted him to look me in the eye and tell me why my brother was never coming back, and I wanted him to know it was his fault that my heart was broken," she recalls. The president was coming to Florida, a key swing state, in the middle of his re-election campaign. Ascione was worried that her family would be "exploited" by a "phony effort to make good with people in order to get votes."

Ascione and her family were gathered with 18 other families in a large room on the air base. The president entered with some Secret Service agents, a military entourage and a White House photographer. "I'm here for you, and I will take as much time as you need," Bush said. He began moving from family to family. Ascione watched as mothers confronted him: "How could you let this happen? Why is my son gone?" one asked. Ascione couldn't hear his answer, but soon "she began to sob, and he began crying, too. And then he just hugged her tight, and they cried together for what seemed like forever."

Ascione's family was one of the last Bush approached. Ascione still planned to confront him, but Bush disarmed her in an almost uncanny way. Ascione is just over five feet; her late brother was 6 feet 7. "My whole life, he used to put his hand on the top of my head and just hold it there, and it drove me crazy," she says. When Bush saw that she was crying, he leaned over and put his hand on the top of her head and drew her to him. "It was just like my brother used to do," she says, beginning to cry at the memory.

Before Bush left the meeting, he paused in the middle of the room and said to the families, "I will never feel the same level of pain and loss you do. I didn't lose anyone close to me, a member of my family or someone that I love. But I want you to know that I didn't go into this lightly. This was a decision that I struggle with every day."

As he spoke, Ascione could see the grief rising through the president's body. His shoulder slumped and his face turned ashen. He began to cry and his voice choked. He paused, tried to regain his composure and looked around the room. "I am sorry, I'm so sorry," he said.

But this is more 'reality' than the reality based community is ready for. It conflicts with how they wish to see the world - a stark, black and white version of The Truthiness in which it becomes more comforting to believe that our leaders are callous and cold (no matter how many military families say that's untrue), that they lie (no matter that the official record says otherwise), that they are using our military (no matter that our armed forces are all volunteer and that they keep volunteering).

When hatred is so strong that its adherents fear the truth, no factual rebuttal is likely to pierce the wall of lies that surrounds the willfully ignorant. But the truth remains, regardless of their stubborn refusal to admit it.

I was lucky enough to meet the President of the United States not once, but three times during my husband's last deployment to Iraq. The third time he was slightly late.

You see, he'd been talking with a Gold Star family in the Oval Office just moments before he met with us and appeared on national TV. And just as he did when he met with Rachel Ascione, he gave them all the time they needed.

No one who has ever seen the President in the company of our armed forces or their families could doubt the genuine love and respect he felt for us. And that feeling was mutual. It mattered. It gave me comfort during those long, dark months when my husband was on the other side of the world. And that's a comfort I no longer feel from a President whose idea of supporting the troops consists of turning their homecoming into a photo op.

Posted by Cassandra at October 30, 2009 09:40 AM

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I tear up every time I see (saw) him with the troops and hear the stories. God bless a good man.

Posted by: richard654 at October 30, 2009 11:05 AM

That was written just right, Cass. Thank you for putting into words what I had been thinking.

Posted by: airforcewife at October 30, 2009 11:18 AM

Cassandra, you've hit the proverbial nail directly on it's head with this post! It was so good, and your analysis so right on, that I linked to it on my blog...but I don't know how to do the trackback-thingy; so I'll just tell you here.

Posted by: lela at October 30, 2009 11:40 AM

He was a good man, Richard. And he felt utterly comfortable with the military.

It is sad that some people are so desperate to hold onto their hate that they stick their fingers in their ears and refuse to consider the possibility that they are wrong. No amount of evidence will convince them.

But I refuse to cosign their lies.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 30, 2009 11:42 AM

First, there is something the political Left just cannot seem to get their hands on, and that happens to be class. Regardless of what your personal opinion of W might be, he had class.

Second, it has been a couple of months since the President received the recommendations for operations in Afghanistan. He sent a man who could be, arguably, the best man for the job to compile the recommendations. Now, that he has them, he wants the thoughts of other General officers. In other words, a certified expert in the field is no longer an expert in field.

Third, when you are going to cut bait and run, start using the casualties of war as an exit strategy.

We have made it pretty clear that we are not all that happy with the present government over there - shades of our early years in Viet Nam. Does anybody feel that this President, and his Party, no longer that this is the "right" war to fight? Doe this administration not realize that the boots on the ground are bright enough to figure out why they should be making sacrifices for a Commander in Chief who has no concept of just what real sacrifice is?

Posted by: RIslander at October 30, 2009 11:47 AM

Thanks Cass. Mansour's Video Clip was very poigniant, and right on the mark.

Posted by: Humbled Boquisucio at October 30, 2009 12:09 PM

One of the things I will never forget, Boq, is the memory of seeing the President of the United States drop to his knees to talk to the children of the military wife standing next to me.

That was the morning of the Va Tech massacre. He had just learned of it moments before.

None of us had any idea until we left the White House hours later and heard on the news that he had been briefed just moments before he greeted us. I remember thinking how tired he looked that morning, but I doubt it even entered his mind to cut his visit with us short.

We were only wives and children of deployed servicemen, but we were treated as though we were the most important visitors the White House had ever had. That attitude extended from the highest official to the lowest staffer.

That only comes from the top.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 30, 2009 12:18 PM

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