Saturday, July 01, 2006
I've mentioned the beauty and strangeness of the veterans' cemetery where my aunt and my parents are interred—and where, eventually, my uncle will join them—before. As I said, it presents an odd combination of pastoral loveliness and military efficiency. Interments there are rigorously scheduled: funeral parties arrive (hearses, acccompanied by what are sometimes veritable convoys of limousines and family cars); they are escorted to one of four open-air "committal shelters"; final goodbyes are said; funereal parties depart, leaving the casket behind (the actual interments are not public); the shelters are readied for the next funeral party, which is often already lined up and waiting. On some days, I was told, the cemetery handles more than 60 funerals. It was certainly busy there earlier this week; our hearse and limo were two of two or three dozen vehicles parked along the road by the Visitors' Center at one point, awaiting clearance from death traffic control to proceed to final departure. Stackups in veterans' cemeteries are mute testimony, I guess, that the "Greatest Generation" is, alas, vanishing before our eyes.
Speaking of veterans, you may remember that last month I puzzled for a while over a New York Times op-ed by a reserve Marine major named Owen West who is one of the founders of an organization called Vets for Freedom. The op-ed, titled "The Troops Have Moved On," was mystifying because it was relentlessly vague—nay, grandiosely vague. From what I could gather, West was trying to tell us that "the troops have moved on" from debates about whether the war in Iraq was waged on false pretenses and, indeed, from debates about whether we should fight a "war on terror" in the first place (as opposed to more sanely fighting terrorists and trying to stop terrorism)—and now, so should the rest of us. In other words, Shut Up And Get With George Bush's Program, America.
Although my instincts shouted front group! as soon as I read West's vague op-ed and started poking around the VFF website, at the time, I saw no clear sign that the organization was anything other than what it claimed to be: a group of veterans who have banded together to support "the mission," or the "the Global War on Terror," or whatever vague abstraction they champion. Silly me; I should know by now, after almost six years under the Bush-Cheney regime, that cynicism is usually justified when you're dealing with pro-Bush punditry. At the time, there was also nothing about Vets for Freedom at the invaluable SourceWatch site; over the last month, however, SourceWatch has pulled together a ton of interesting information about VFF, its leaders, and its connections:
- Their privacy notice used to say, "We may from time to time share the information our visitors provide with other Republican candidates and other like-minded organizations" (emphasis added). (I missed that, but thankfully sharp-eyed folks like John Stauber did not.)
- They have a fundraising connection to a company that piles up cash for Republicans—and which was associated with the infamous "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" (for Bush, more like).
- For a "non-partisan" organization, some of its leaders have remarkable histories as Republican operatives and propagandists.
- The VFF website is hosted by the same company that hosts the Bush-Cheney campaign website and the Republican National Committee website.
- A former Bush spokesman is now trying to embed VFF members as "reporters" in Iraq—to supply balanced, unbiased information about the war to us poor benighted media consumers, y'see.
In other news, here on the "Space Coast" we're awaiting the space shuttle Discovery's hopeful return to space later today. For those interested, a great place to monitor launch developments (for shuttles and most anything else being sent up at the Cape) is The Flame Trench blog run by Florida Today. The latest news: Discovery seems to be having trouble with a "vernier thruster heater." Between the usual last-minute technical glitches and today's iffy weather, if I were a betting man, I'd bet that Discovery will not fly today. I'll be keeping an eye on launch matters, though, and if she goes, I'll be joyfully watching from the backyard and wishing the craft and crew well.
It would be nice to have an uplifting end to this trying week, I must say.