Morning Report 8/28/05A Gratuitous War’s ‘Death Gratuity’


Buried news: Pay hike for dead soldiers — and yet more word games

In George W. Bush‘s deadly version of no-limit Texas Hold ‘Em, bullshit talks and money walks.

On July 1, Don Rumsfeld‘s Pentagon announced an immediate pay hike for dead soldiers, an increase in what’s been known as the “Death Gratuity” from $12,420 to $100,000. That’s the “immediate cash payment,” the Pentagon boasts, for survivors of “those whose death is as a result of hostile actions and occurred in a designated combat operation or combat zone or while training for combat or performing hazardous duty.”

Plus retroactive payments. Plus payment or reimbursement of premiums for automatically higher life insurance. What a good deal.

As notes, the Pentagon “is making an effort to ease the hardship for families in mourning.”

In all, the retroactive money and pay hikes are estimated to cost about $47 million. As I said, bullshit talks, and money walks. That total cost of the extra money is pocket change compared with the $5 billion a month we’re spending on the unjustified war in Iraq — the increasingly deadly war that Bush continues to bullshit us about as a heroic cause.

Particularly galling is the continuing public-relations spin slapped on the war — and not only by the Bush regime, which, I noted a few days ago in “Slab in the Face,” is chiseling euphemistic slogans on dead soldiers’ tombstones.

Democratic senator Ken Salazar of Colorado pushed through Congress a replacement of the term “Death Gratuity,” which has long described the financial help taxpayers give to survivors of dead soldiers, with the term “Fallen Hero Compensation.”

In a March speech to a VFW conference in D.C., Salazar said:

Hearing the term “gratuity” is a bitter pill for survivors who have just received the worst news of their lives. Not one of the widows, widowers, or children left behind think of that money as a gift.

This is a simple change, but it more properly reflects the sacrifices military survivors have made and more properly expresses the gratitude and dignity we owe these families.

Actually, what we owe them is a just war, not just war.

The best thing Salazar could do, as a member of the supposed opposition party, is not to come up with a jingoistic euphemism but to press the GOP majority into finally investigating the reasons for and conduct of the war.

The facts already revealed in the Downing Street Memo and numerous other documents indicate that, if anything, survivor benefits for Iraq war deaths could be renamed “gratuitous death gratuity.”

Salazar noted in his speech that 1,504 American soldiers had died in Iraq and 158 in Afghanistan.

Hey, Ken, those figures, as of 10 a.m. EDT on August 26, are now 1,872 killed in Iraq and 231 in Afghanistan. Do your fucking job.

Not that the money won’t help the grieving families. Presumably, the money means a better effort than the Pentagon made to ease the pain of Pat Tillman‘s family.

Under severe pressure, the Pentagon said August 22 — only in response to a San Francisco reporter’s prodding — that it’s reopening the probe of the former NFL star’s 2004 death by friendly fire in Afghanistan (and subsequent coverup for public-relations purposes) by reviewing a previous “investigation” that Tillman’s family has denounced.

“The other investigations were frauds,” Tillman’s father told Robert Collier of the San Francisco Chronicle. The football player’s mom, Mary Tillman, said, “People above should have been punished.”

As Steve Coll and others at the Washington Post have revealed, the Bush regime lied about the circumstances of Tillman’s death, saying he had been killed in combat with the Taliban, when in fact they almost immediately knew that he had been mistakenly shot to death by his own troops as he frantically yelled, “I am Pat [expletive] Tillman, damn it!”

Until the facts were finally revealed, Bush’s handlers got good p.r. mileage out of his death, lauding him, the Chronicle‘s Collier recalls the White House saying, as “an inspiration on and off the football field, as with all who made the ultimate sacrifice in the war on terror.”

As Collier noted, Tillman’s death by friendly fire — not exactly the death this heroic figure deserved — was known by Pentagon commanders, including General John Abizaid, head of Centcom. But the unheroic circumstances of his death were withheld from the public — even from his family — until after Tillman’s funeral.

When the likes of Abizaid and Rumsfeld die, do we have to call them “fallen heroes” too?

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 28, 2005

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