An email from an active-duty Marine suggests the phony press conference staged by the Federal Emergency Management Agency during the California wildfires last week wasn’t the only skullduggery pulled by the Bush administration during that state’s emergency.
The Marine, home between deployments in Iraq, says he was sent to California to help in rescue and relief efforts but was ordered to not wear his USMC basic utilities but instead was given a uniform of the Army National Guard.
The uniform switch, he feels, was part of a deliberate effort to conceal the fact that California lacks enough available National Guardsmen and Reservists who respond to the emergency because they are overseas fighting in President George W. Bush’s Iraq war.
“I am a Marine,” he said in his email. “I am proud to be a Marine. I am not proud of my country when they ask me to wear the uniform of another branch of service in order to deceive the very citizens I am sworn to serve.”
At his request, I am not using his name, although he did provide enough information to verify that he is, in fact, a member of the Corps. I cannot confirm that his story is true but, given the history of the Bush administration when it comes to lies and other public deceptions, I have no reason to doubt the veracity of his claim.
Governors, both Democratic and Republican, have expressed concern over the depletion of National Guard and Reserve units to fight in Bush’s unpopular war. Gulf Coast states dodged a bullet this year when the hurricane season did not produce any Katrina-level storms. When the wildfires began to approach disaster proportions, the Bush administration panicked, sensing another public relations debacle.
We saw the level of that panic last week when FEMA staged a press conference with their own staff members posing as reporters. We saw Bush hustled aboard Air Force One for one of his photo op flyovers of the fire area out West. And we most likely saw the Pentagon try to pass off active duty personnel from other branches of the armed forces as National Guard members and reservists.
We truly have reached a low point in this nation when it is too easy to believe that our government is lying to us. Public opinion polls give Bush the lowest job approval rating of any President in modern times. The same polls show most Americans believe the President routinely lies. Another poll out Friday says 75 percent of Americans believe Congress is “doing a lousy job.”
Other polls suggest an increasing number of us no longer feel pride in being an American. I saw this recently at lunch with an old friend, a Vietnam veteran who said he will no longer participate in our local Veteran’s Day festivities.
“The country I fought for no longer exists,” he said. “I cannot feel pride in the America that exists today. I am ashamed of my country. I never thought that would happen.”
Neither did I, old friend. Neither did I.