March 16, 2004
The Dishonored Dead: Viet Combat Vet Outraged
BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
On the use of 9/11 images in President Bush's first campaign ads, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, quoted in the New York Daily News, justified them by saying, "It's part of history. He did such a good job it would almost be false advertising not to include images of 9/11."
The justification by Major Giuliani, a surrogate of the Bush Administration, is the essence of arrogance and hypocrisy. Despite the uproar about the images from some families of the victims of 9/11, especially of a Flag-draped body being retrieved from Ground Zero, the Bush campaign pressed ahead with its use of the ads. In doing this, the Bush campaign ignores the fact that President Bush attacked his opponent, Senator John McCain, in the 2000 primaries for using videotape of tombstones in Arlington National Cemetery in a campaign ad.
Citing concern for the feelings of the families of our military dead, the Bush Administration has steadfastly prohibited the photographing of Flag-draped coffins being returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. Are the feelings of the families of the dead from those countries worth more than the feelings of those who lost loved ones on 9/11? Are these recent dead young men and women of our armed forces not also a part of our history? Are these dead not also part of this president's legacy? Are our civilian dead "better" than those who served in the military and died for their country?
The use of 9/11 images in partisan political ads is distasteful. In previous campaigns candidates have used the dead for political gain. But Bush's exploitation of 9/11 presents a new low. Would Abraham Lincoln have used photographs of the dead on the fields at Gettysburg to win reelection? Would Franklin Delano Roosevelt have used images of Pearl Harbor to win reelection? Would Dwight Eisenhower have used film of D-Day to advance his presidential campaign? What President Bush has done in his 9/11 ads dishonors those who died that fateful day. His misuse of the 9/11 dead and his wilingness to ignore our military dead is an unprecedented disgrace to the American political process.
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
Richard E. (Rick) O'Dell is a former director of the Virginia Department of Veterans' Affairs; a past national officer of a major veterans organization; a Vietnam combat veteran who served in the 11th Armored Cavalry; and co-author of two prominent books on veterans' rights and benefits: The Viet Vet Survival Guide (Ballantine Books, 1985) and Veterans Benefits: The Complete Guide (HarperCollins, 1994). After more than thirty years of professional service to the veteran community, O'Dell is living in Southwest Virginia.
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