Brynne Kennedy: On Russian bounties, mistreatment of veterans, silence is not an option
Just over a decade ago, Americans of every political persuasion stood united to support veterans and our military.
Whatever our disagreements on foreign policy, health care, taxes or other issues, we all came together to recognize the heroism and sacrifice of the brave men and women from every generation who have answered our nation’s call — including those who bore the greatest burdens after 9/11.
This unity led to historic (though still inadequate) reforms at the Veterans Administration to address the claims backlog, shortcomings in VA health care, veterans’ homelessness, and the invisible wounds that devastate far too many veterans and military families after they come home.
As the daughter, niece, granddaughter and great-granddaughter of veterans who served in the U.S. Army at the height of the Cold War, in Vietnam and World War I, I’ve always shared this sense of national purpose and support for these heroes. I still do. And I think most Americans do.
But at the highest levels of our government, and particularly in Congress, something has changed.
Just in the past few weeks, credible reports have emerged that Russia has been arming the Taliban, the terror linked group that American soldiers have been fighting in Afghanistan since 2001 — and, astonishingly, paying bounties for the killing of American soldiers.
Worst of all, it has been alleged that top leaders in our government have known about this for months — if not years — even as they have offered concession after concession to the Kremlin: directing the CIA to provide classified intelligence to the Russian government, resisting the imposition of sanctions for attacks on America and our allies, withdrawing our troops from Germany, tearing up treaties that helped America win the Cold War, and inviting Russia to rejoin the G-7.
Equally alarming have been the attacks on distinguished and decorated veterans like Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Gen.l James Mattis, Capt. Brett Cozier, the late Sen. John McCain and even Gold Star Families who have more than earned the right to be recognized and heard.
And most recently have been the troubling reports coming out of the VA, which is caring for more than 5,000 heroes with COVID-19 and was reportedly testing unproven and unsafe treatments on elderly patients with tragic consequences.
Just a few years ago, any one of these issues would have dominated news cycles for weeks — if not months. The outrage, calls for investigation and accountability would have been bipartisan.
Yet today, too many politicians in Congress are silent. Our current representative, Tom McClintock, is a case in point. As each of these scandals have unfolded, McClintock has utterly ignored them. Instead, he calls those who disagree with his hyper-partisan fealty “anti-American” and argues for less transparency from top government officials on cable news — at the very moment we need greater accountability and transparency to protect those who serve our nation.
American veterans and military families deserve to know that their representatives and their neighbors have their backs.
While we don’t yet have all the facts, we need to demand them. The rallying cry that unites all Americans should be one that calls for bipartisan investigations, produces a thoughtful and reasoned policy response, and puts America first by holding wrongdoers accountable.
For elected officials, it’s an opportunity to bridge divides, not to deepen them. Supporting the troops is not just about what you say on holidays. It’s what you do when service members are threatened, attacked, marginalized, or mistreated. It’s what you do when our enemies cross the line, or when politicians or government bureaucrats fail to hold up their end of the bargain.
Tom McClintock’s silence is nothing short of shameful.
Not only do the tens of thousands of veterans and military families in our community deserve better.
This nation does.
Brynne Kennedy is a businesswoman and a candidate for Congress in California’s 4th District. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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