George Bush is barracking himself ’round the coffins of Casey Sheehan and another 1800+ dead soldiers in order to break his opponents’ concentration on his abject and bloody failures in Iraq.

As Dan Froomkin observes in today’s WaPo, Bush’s speech yesterday to the national VFW convention in Salt Lake City differed little from his usual platitudinous prattle.

However, Froomkin says, the White House shapeshifters pressed the WH press corps hard yesterday “to note the extraordinary significance of the president — for the first time anyone can remember — actually acknowledging the number of soldiers who have died in Iraq.”

[Bush speaking] “We have lost 1,864 members of our Armed Forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and 223 in Operation Enduring Freedom. Each of these men and women left grieving families and loved ones back home. Each of these heroes left a legacy that will allow generations of their fellow Americans to enjoy the blessings of liberty. And each of these Americans have brought the hope of freedom to millions who have not known it.”

“[A]fter the speech,” continues Froomkin, “White House officials spun it as hugely significant evidence that — in spite of his refusal to meet with grieving mother Cindy Sheehan — the president is sensitive to the sacrifices imposed by his policies.”

Yes, Bush is so desperate, and without conscience, that he’s exploiting the number of coffins to promote the worth of his war. And, once the coffins are in the ground, the Pentagon is advertising its war on the gravestones of the Iraq war dead:

Nadia and Robert McCaffrey, whose son Patrick was killed in Iraq in June 2004, said “Operation Iraqi Freedom” ended up on his government-supplied headstone in Oceanside, Calif., without family approval.

“I was a little taken aback,” Robert McCaffrey said, describing his reaction when he first saw the operation name on Patrick’s tombstone. “They certainly didn’t ask my wife; they didn’t ask me.” He said Patrick’s widow told him she had not been asked either.

“In one way, I feel it’s taking advantage to a small degree,” McCaffrey said. “Patrick did not want to be there, that is a definite fact.” (“Troops’ Gravestones Have Pentagon Slogans,” Yahoo/AP, Aug. 23, 2005)

Former Georgia Senator Max Cleland — “who lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam and headed the Veterans Administration under President Carter” — “called the practice ‘a little bit of glorified advertising’.” MORE BELOW:
From WaPo‘s Froomkin about Bush’s references to the number of dead:

Bush’s tone was matter-of-fact. He didn’t spend a lot of time expressing his sympathy for the dead or their families. His speech included no new plans to stem the loss. In fact, Bush went on to invoke the dead soldiers as reason to stay the course in Iraq — a policy that will inevitably create many more of them.

And those gravemarkers?

Unlike earlier wars, nearly all Arlington National Cemetery gravestones for troops killed in Iraq or Afghanistan are inscribed with the slogan-like operation names the Pentagon selected to promote public support for the conflicts.

Families of fallen soldiers and Marines are being told they have the option to have the government-furnished headstones engraved with “Operation Enduring Freedom” or “Operation Iraqi Freedom” at no extra charge, whether they are buried in Arlington or elsewhere. A mock-up shown to many families includes the operation names.

The vast majority of military gravestones from other eras are inscribed with just the basic, required information: name, rank, military branch, date of death and, if applicable, the war and foreign country in which the person served.

Families are supposed to have final approval over what goes on the tombstones. That hasn’t always happened.


“I think it’s a little bit of gilding the lily,” Cleland said, while insisting that he’s not criticizing families who want that information included.

“Most of the headstones out there at Arlington and around the nation just say World War II or Korea or Vietnam, one simple statement,” he said. “It’s not, shall we say, a designated theme or a designated operation by somebody in the Pentagon. It is what it is. And I think there’s power in simplicity.” (Yahoo/AP, Aug. 23, 2005)

PHOTO: Image of veteran at VFW convention, courtesy of Kos who stole it from Atrios. And thanks to Other Lisa for sending me the sad grave marker story.

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