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Tag: votevets

Father Of Fallen Soldier Warns Against Trusting Trump With Troops’ Lives

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Being a Gold Star family member in our country is a high honor. It is also a very tragic honor to receive as it requires the sacrifice of a child or parent in the service of our country. One of the conservative movement's great coups has been to convince people that liberal ideology, with its focus on peaceful solutions over violent ones, is somehow anti-military personnel. The fascist jingoism that the Republican Party has employed in their propaganda for the past few decades requires this incorrect assessment of history and reality.

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Veterans Outraged By Trump Plan To Pardon War Crimes

Many veterans are outraged by reports that Trump may pardon military service members who were accused or convicted of war crimes, and argue that Trump’s actions are an insult to those who have served honorably.

On Saturday, the New York Times revealed that Trump may be planning pardons on or around Memorial Day for several military service members who were accused or convicted of cold-blooded murder and other crimes.

“With the exception of actually pissing on graves at Arlington, pardoning war criminals on Memorial Day is as insulting to America’s war dead as you could possibly get,” Brandon Friedman, a writer and entrepreneur who won two bronze stars for his service in Iraq and Afghanistan, said on Saturday.

Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher was accused by his fellow Navy SEALs of using his sniper rifle to kill an unarmed girl in a flower-print hijab, as well as firing a machine gun into civilian neighborhoods with no enemy targets. Army Major Matthew Golsteyn is accused of killing an Afghan man who was already a prisoner, and then working with others to burn the body.

Trump demanded pardon papers for Gallagher, Golsteyn,and other suspected or convicted war criminals to be rushed to him before Memorial Day, according to the Times.

VoteVets, a group dedicated to supporting and electing veterans, said Trump’s actions are “a win for ISIS and our enemies.” 

Veterans serving in Congress were also appalled Trump would consider pardoning war criminals.

“We who’ve served know that killing civilian children, women & seniors makes it harder to secure the peace & is a great recruiting tool for terrorists,” tweeted Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), who served as a JAG officer before becoming a member of Congress.

“I’ll speak loudly and clearly: absolutely no pardons for war crimes,” Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), a former Marine, said on Sunday.

A combat veteran contacted CNN’s Jake Tapper and called Trump’s possible pardons of war criminals “a slap in the face to everyone who fought honorably.”

In reading the statement given to Tapper, Amy McGrath, a veteran who narrowly lost a House election in 2018, added: “Can’t think of anyone I’ve served with who doesn’t feel this way.”

“Our military personnel are brave, patriotic & smart. I’ve tried multiple cases before military juries,” Lieu also said. “They take into account a Member’s service record and demand evidence beyond a reasonable doubt before convicting. I trust military members.”

If Trump pardons war criminals, he is sending a clear message that he doesn’t trust U.S. troops and doesn’t care if atrocities are committed in their names.

Published with permission of The American Independent. 

Veterans Advocacy Groups Pump Millions Into Midterm Election Campaigns

By Eliza Newlin Carney, CQ Roll Call

WASHINGTON — Veterans organizations with overtly partisan messages and agendas have spent millions of dollars promoting candidates in tight Senate races this year, prompting criticism from veterans and established vet groups on both sides of the political divide.

Concerned Veterans for America, a conservative advocacy group with ties to the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, has spent more than $2 million blasting Democratic Senate candidates, Center for Responsive Politics data show, largely for failing to fix problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The veterans group has both stoked and capitalized on outrage over the VA scandal involving long waiting times for medical care and the agency’s cover-up of those delays.

On the liberal side, VoteVets.org has set out to spend about $7 million to help Democrats in the midterm elections, according to its organizers. The VoteVets political action committee has delivered more than $1 million to candidates both in direct donations and in bundled contributions since its founding in 2006.

The explosion in veteran-focused campaign spending alarms some veterans and longtime veterans organizations. Membership-focused veterans associations, such as the American Legion, have long had special tax protections coupled with strict limits on their political activities. Some vets associated with the “old guard” worry that politics will swallow the best interests of veterans.

“Most mainstream veterans groups are required to be nonpartisan, and it concerns me that we do have groups on both extremes that are very partisan in their approach and very calculating in what they want to accomplish,” said Joe Violante, national legislative director of Disabled American Veterans, established in 1920 and congressionally chartered in 1932.

Violante voiced particular concern over attacks by Concerned Veterans for America against the VA. The conservative group has challenged VA funding increases and supports partially privatizing health care for veterans. Such steps could make fewer veterans eligible for more limited services, Violante said.

Concerned Veterans of America is run by and champions veterans, said Dan Caldwell, the group’s issues and campaign manager, a veteran himself. The group fills a void in the veterans’ community, he said, by advocating VA changes, deficit reduction and national security.

Caldwell acknowledged that the VA scandal “changed the whole dynamic of our organization,” but denied that the group’s big-money dollar attacks on such Democrats as North Carolina incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan and Rep. Bruce Braley of Iowa are political.

“These ads we consider issue advocacy,” Caldwell said. “They are based out of our VA reform efforts. We are not just a fly-by-night 501(c)(4) trying to use the VA scandal as an election-year issue. We have a long history on these issues. We have a real agenda on VA reform.”

But Concerned Veterans for America’s frequent attacks on the Affordable Care Act align it squarely with other Koch-affiliated groups. Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, a trade association at the heart of the Koch donor network, gave $5.2 million to Concerned Veterans for America, 2012 tax records show.

Freedom Partners also purchased extensive airtime in Iowa and North Carolina earlier this summer, according to the Sunlight Foundation — valuable spots that were eventually used by Concerned Veterans for America. Caldwell said his group paid for the spots, and Freedom Partners had canceled its reservations, which freed up ad time.

VoteVets Chairman Jon Soltz rejected any comparison between Concerned Veterans for America and his organization, which claims 450,000 members and was founded in 2006.

“I’m hesitant to say they’re anywhere equivalent to what we’ve built over eight years,” Soltz said. But VoteVets.org has also taken heat for its campaign advertising, recently drawing public criticism from a prominent Kentucky veteran over an ad assailing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for not supporting a bill that would have boosted VA funding by $21 billion. The ad was part of a $600,000 ad campaign against McConnell by VoteVets, which operates both a PAC and a social welfare arm known as VoteVets Action Fund.

McConnell “has been a vocal advocate about the urgent need for reform at the VA and was instrumental in helping ensure Senate passage of the important bipartisan veterans bill that was signed into law last month,” Karl Kaelin, vice chairman of a Kentucky committee of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said in a statement released by the McConnell campaign.

McConnell’s camp also dismissed VoteVets as a front “funded by environmental activists.” The VoteVets Action Fund has received more than $6 million in grants from a long list of environmental, labor and other progressive groups since 2010, according to the CRP. The group has also made grants to such Democrat-friendly allies as the American Bridge 21st Century Foundation and America Votes, an umbrella group for progressive activists, according to IRS records.

“We’re progressive, period,” Soltz said. “There are a lot of veterans out there who don’t feel veterans organizations represent them.”

Veterans’ issues have always resonated powerfully with voters, and that is particularly true in this election. The number of veteran-themed ads, by both outside organizations and candidates themselves, hit 34,000 nationwide as of the end of August, according to Kantar Media Ad Intelligence.

“Veterans are great messengers, because they don’t look political,” Soltz said. “And these are mom-and-apple pie issues: taking care of our veterans.”

 

Screenshot: votevets/YouTube