I got an email today allegedly from John Kerry — but clearly from what’s left of his “Friends of John Kerry” staff — that makes the case that Americans need to support the needs of soldiers with phone cards and other donations. Here is his letter.
While Paul Wolfowitz is pushing anthrax vaccinations which rightly or wrongly have aggravated the mistrust between soldiers and those in control of the Pentagon helm, progressives addressing this war’s shocks on soldiers and their families is the right thing to do — and good politics.
I have just returned from a trip and was surprised to find several hundred letters with checks to the Walter Reed Society, the USO, and other support organizations that are trying to address the needs of returning soldiers, particularly those who are casualties of America’s operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The support has been overwhelming in emails and the mail I have received.
One Chinese-American network generated nearly a year’s worth of phone card minutes (for a single person if talking 24 hours a day) and donated those to Walter Reed for soldier use.
I have now heard from Walter Reed Medical Center that they now have had had such a surge in phone cards sent to soldiers that they estimate that they have enough phone minutes for all of their convalescing soldiers through June 2005. This does not preclude the need for phone cards for other troops in other hospitals, but it does speak to some of the success of this effort at one of the better known military hospitals.
I am pleased to say that many people chose to financially contribute in ways that allow support organizations to acquire books, special support pillows, and provide other support to soldiers and their families. I will be listing soon the amounts donated by TWN readers that I have managed, but in my discussions with the organizations I have been dealing with, I can tell that many sent donations directly — which is terrific.
Because Walter Reed has had its phone needs met by donations, I am going to look at other options for people who have acquired phone cards and want to mail them in. John Kerry recommends the USO — but that organization seemingly wants cash to purchase the minutes rather than phone cards.
For those of you who have written about this, I will find a different set of military hospitals to send these cards to and will report back.
But I want to make a larger point here — beyond the considerable and moving level of charity by Republican and Democratic Americans for those fighting and carrying the real burden of this war.
Donald Rumsfeld & Co. made these soldiers greater victims than they already were. Out of a $450 billion defense budget, it seems outrageous to me that someone in the Pentagon hierarchy didn’t work to get the long distance block removed for those who are casualties of this conflict and recovering.
Rumsfeld’s continuing distance from the real world circumstances of people he has sent to die for this country is an embarrassment and tragedy for everyone.
Rumsfeld is now scrambling to get armor on the Humvees, promising to sign his own name on condolence letters (rather than the auto-signature), and seems to be holding steady in his job despite increasing evidence that he and Bush were both complicit in encouraging prison-interrogation techniques that amount to torture.
But he is still not doing right by these soldiers (whom I believe are in the wrong war, at the wrong time, in the wrong place) — and progressives should be rubbing his nose in this, as well as George Bush’s.
Kerry’s letter is a small step in the right direction.
— Steve Clemons