Wednesday, July 09, 2008

What about Other Veterans?

Members of the United States Armed Forces who sign up for additional duty in Afghanistan or Iraq sometimes say they do so because they can't let their buddies down. They are concerned about others in the service. However one views the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, such loyalty deserves respect.

John McCain puts his experience in the Navy and as a prisoner of war to work as a major selling point in his campaign for president. This focus on his early years takes attention away from his four terms in the Senate and his present political commitments. McCain's overall legislative record has hardly been exemplary. He acted as a political maverick for a while; now he follows the lead of George W. Bush so closely that a McCain presidency can reasonably be seen as a third term for Bush.

Based on his military experience and his willingness to publicize it, many people conclude that John McCain must be a bulldog supporter of veterans. Remarkably this is not true. McCain is far from loyal to them. Unlike numerous service members past and present, he is not there for his buddies.

Consider the difference between McCain's votes and the stands taken by major veterans organizations.

American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars: Both groups strongly supported the Webb-Hagel Twenty-First Century G.I. Bill that McCain tirelessly opposed.

Disabled Veterans of America: 20% rating for McCain. Only two other senators had ratings this low.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America: Grade of D for McCain.

Vietnam Veterans of America: McCain voted against VVA in 15 key votes and voted with them for only 8.

Many people who have never worn a uniform do what they can in ways large and small to help veterans. John McCain, who campaigns as a veteran and former prisoner of war, has had the rare privilege of sitting in the United States Senate for four terms, yet he demonstrates little concern for his fellow veterans. It looks as though right wing ideology has replaced loyalty to his buddies. If this is how McCain as senator responds to those with whom he claims a special relationship, then imagine how he will treat the rest of us should he become president.

Free Trade Is Not Free

Free trade is a frequent topic in the contest for president. The term itself is misleading: people pay for our free trade policies. Plenty of stories can be told about how these policies have damaged people, families, and communities in the United States, especially in the Midwest. Plenty of stories can be told as well about the damage these policies have done to people, families, and communities in other countries.

For twenty-five years I have been supporter of the Ecumenical Refugee Council, Inc., a grassroots ministry based in Milwaukee that addresses human needs in several locations around the world. ECR is a shoe-string operation, channeling practically all its receipts to people in desperate circumstances. Its letters do not comment on politics or economics, but the latest one is an exception. Sallie Pettit, long-time ERC president, has this to say:

ERC remains deeply concerned about Columbia S.A. The information that we are receiving from our contacts there indicate that c. 80% of Columbia's population lives in grinding poverty, even though Columbia is considered a First World Country. Internal warfare continues to destroy the fabric of society there. We of ERC continue to support Sister Mercedes and her poverty programs in Bogota. Currently we of ERC are supporting all of our government and business leaders who oppose the United States-Columbia Free Trade Agreement. Many of us have seen or know first hand the adverse effects of "Free Trade" in other Latin American countries. We hope that you can find it in your hearts to join us in this opposition. There is an enormous amount of information on the net about the adverse effects of Free Trade Agreements on small farmers and small businessmen in Latin America.

The world is remarkably interconnected. Is this good news or bad news for poor and struggling people in other countries? Much of the answer depends on what we in the United States choose to do.