Christine M. Flowers: Note to pols: Show respect for our military

Posted: September 14, 2012

THERE ARE certain things that an American citizen should avoid if at all possible. One is singing the national anthem as if it were a stand-up joke, like Roseanne Barr did a few years ago in a sad and menopausal attempt to remain relevant. Another is bad-mouthing your country and your president, regardless of which party he belongs to, when you travel abroad, like the Dixie Chicks did during the Bush administration. Yet another is returning the bust of Churchill to the British even though you might have a personal grudge against the fellow and the country he hailed from.

But probably the worst thing that any American citizen could do is to exploit our military for political purposes. While the national defense is a political subject, our national defenders are not. They are bipartisan heroes who do not deserve to have their lives used to advance someone else's civilian career.

That's why I was incensed by the fallout from Mitt Romney's failure to mention the troops in Afghanistan during his acceptance speech in Tampa. While he clearly should have recognized the efforts of our brave sons and daughters serving abroad (What was he smoking? Oh, I forgot, he's a Mormon), the people who really merit daggers are the liberals who, sensing a political advantage, dove right in and accused Romney of not caring about our soldiers. Worse, they tried to parlay this into a narrative about his lack of foreign expertise, which is kind of amusing since President Obama's prior expertise (prior, that is, to allowing Seal Team 6 to take down Bin Laden) was hanging out in Indonesia as a middle-schooler.

The Democrats seem to be enjoying their moment as the "national security" experts. And that's fine, because it's been a while since the American public actually viewed them as having much to contribute to the debate, other than some cute slogans along the lines of "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids have you killed today?"

But there is a troubling tradition of Democrats who use the military for their own political purposes, starting with John Kerry back in 2004. Who can forget the sight of him striding onto the stage and saying that he was "reporting for duty"? That might have been touching from John McCain, but it seemed a bit out of place for a man who had publicly accused his comrades in arms of torture. Kerry might not have been using his Winter Soldier antics to advance his political career, but it certainly didn't hurt his cache among those anti-war types in Massachusetts. And yes, Kerry was a war hero in his own right, but he ruined his legacy by accusing American soldiers of raping women, razing villages, poisoning food stocks, cutting off the limbs of civilians and acting in many ways like the troops of Genghis Khan.

Then there was Pennsylvania's own John Murtha, a man whose honorable and heroic service in Vietnam was diminished by comments he made after U.S. Marines were accused of committing horrors in Haditha, Iraq. Without waiting for the results of an investigation to be completed, an investigation that ultimately cleared the defendants, Murtha made the following statements on a cable news show: "I'll tell you exactly what happened. One Marine was killed and the Marines just said we're going to take care . . . we don't know who the enemy is, the pressure was too much on them, so they went into houses and they actually killed civilians . . . . " When asked as a follow-up if he thought this was like the My Lai massacre, he stated "That's exactly what happened."

Amazingly enough, Murtha won re-election after making those comments, which goes to show that civilians are rather forgiving of soldiers who defame other soldiers. The fact that he had won the Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts and the Navy Distinguished Service Medal probably played a small role in that. It's doubtful, however, that his fellow Marines at Haditha ever forgot his callous decision to hang them out to dry on national television.

And then you had a Nevada delegate to the DNC, a Marine veteran, who complained, "This wasn't a mere oversight. [Romney] made a laundry list of what was important, and vets didn't make the cut . . . I don't know how Romney can call himself commander in chief when he sets his priorities like that."

Of course, the GOP nominee hasn't helped things by refusing to apologize for his gross omission. Still, there is more than a little gamesmanship in the liberal campaign to call him on it. And it reeks of disrespect for our military.

Not even Roseanne Barr looked this bad.


Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer. Email: cflowers1961@gmail.com. Blog: philly.com/flowers.

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