Now Playing: Stacy Bannerman
Topic: Members Speak Out
Senator Warner Misses Meeting with Military Families Speak Out
by Stacy Bannerman
October 6, 2004
Senator John Warner, VA
For shame. You deployed our husbands and children to Iraq, which will take a year or more out of their lives, if not actually costing them their lives, and you couldn’t spare fifteen minutes of yours? You sent your military legislative assistant, Cord Sterling -- anyone with a name like that is clearly not a member of the working class that’s largely responsible for providing the targets, excuse me, troops in Iraq -- to meet several dozen members of Military Families Speak Out. We came to your office on October 1st, at our own expense, with the understanding that you would be there. You were not.
Apparently listening to the concerns of the family members who actually have loved ones in Iraq, or have gotten their bodies back from there, just isn’t important to you, who is sworn to serve the public. Since you avoided us—and mind you, our group included several members from the State of Virginia, with the power to vote you out of the very office they voted you into, let me re-cap.
Although we’d called in advance to confirm our appointment, and provided your office with the size of our group, we weren’t offered a place to sit, or a private conference room. Instead, we were forced to stand in the rotunda. Now, I’m just guessing, but I’d wager that’s not the reception given to Halliburton. Incidentally, it seems that after a dispute with the government about a couple million in overcharges, Halliburton said, “We may withhold all or a portion of the payments to our subcontractors.” Let me bottom-line this one for you, Senator Warner: What that means is that the soldiers in Iraq have had, at times, to subsist on one meal a day and very low water rations, in a desert where temperatures rise to more than 130 degrees during the day. Wow, how’s that for supporting the troops?!
Since we’re on the topic of money, when I asked your assistant why some of the National Guardsmen in Iraq are getting paid about five bucks an hour, and yet government-paid private contractors are compensated to the tune of upwards of a thousand dollars a day, his first response was: “We don’t have any control over that.” Senator, you may want to give your assistant a refresher course in precisely which entity ultimately pays members of the military and the major private contractors in Iraq.
Perhaps realizing that his ignorance was showing, Cord said, “Well, I can’t speak for the Senator.” That, of course, begs the question: What was he doing there? Moving right along, then, since we had a lot to cover in a very little time, we then asked, “Why is the administration telling the American people things are getting better at the same time that our loved ones on the front line are telling us that things are getting worse?”
Perhaps it’s easy to dismiss first-hand accounts, but how about the National Intelligence Council’s report pointing to the possibility of a civil war before the end of 2005? How about the Army lowering its recruitment standards to increase the number of troops in order to put more boots on the ground? How about the fact that 1,100 U.S. soldiers were wounded in August, setting a new record, and that the 80 U.S. soldiers killed in September made it the second-deadliest month of the year? Does that get your attention?
Finally, how come the public is being told things are so much better at the same time that there are reports of plans to triple the size of the Reserve Mortuary Affairs Company by the middle of next year?
Speaking of the dead, something this administration has been loath to acknowledge, thirty members of Military Families Speak Out have buried their husbands, wives, daughters, or sons. Celeste Zappala, mother of Sherwood Baker, the first Pennsylvania National Guard soldier to be killed in action since World War II, showed a picture of her son to your assistant, as did several other grieving moms. His response? Nothing. No “I’m sorry for your loss”, no “Please accept my condolences.”
I had heard politics could strip you of your humanity, but I thought you guys had better public relations skills. Cord, I’m almost sorry for you that you were sent in the Senator’s place. Almost, not quite. However, I meant it when I said, “God be with you.” as you were retreating into your cubicle. Unlike the current administration, which still hasn’t put together an exit strategy to bring the troops home, when we realized we’d been given flawed intelligence, and that you weren’t actually there, we knew when to leave. But Senator, we will be back.