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We’ve noticed that the people who cry “Support our Troops” the loudest seem to interpret “support” to mean “sacrifice.” Their idea of supporting our troops in Iraq is to keep a stiff upper lip as more of the troopers die. They don’t realize that working to bring the troops home alive and well from a place they should never have been sent in the first place is a higher form of support, and much easier on the troops. Nothing says “support” like saving somebody’s life.

If the “Support our Troops” cheerleaders had the troops’ best interests at heart, they’d have been rioting in the streets over congressional Republicans’ scheme to attach a controversial and irrelevant amendment to the bill providing financial support for American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, an attachment that would have put the bill itself in jeopardy. But the outrage came instead from high-minded legislators like Arkansas’s Blanche Lincoln. “Drilling rights in Alaska has been debated and defeated in this Congress for many years, and I am disappointed that Alaska senators have used our troops as pawns to try to win passage of an economic development project for their region,” Senator Lincoln said, in language remarkably restrained for the circumstances. “This extraordinary attempt to insert it into a bill that funds our troops and provides for their safety at a time of war is inappropriate.”

Both Lincoln and Arkansas’s junior senator, Mark Pryor, voted against the effort led by Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and supported by the president, to allow oil drilling in a unique natural resource, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, that belongs to all Americans. The amount of oil in the Refuge is insufficient to break the U.S. dependency on foreign oil, or even to lower gasoline costs significantly. But there’s enough to make a potful more money for Big Oil, and to assert again the right-wing rule that the private interest always takes precedence over the public interest.

Stevens’ effort failed. When private greed endangers American servicemen and women, even this Congress flinches.

A majority of the Congress did not flinch, however, at cutting spending on programs that aid Americans who most need aid — the poor, the sick, the uneducated, the very young and the very old. Vice President Dick Cheney, heart as black as the oil in ANWR, rushed home from meddling overseas to cast the 51st and decisive vote for the bill in the Senate. No one is more diligent than Cheney when it comes to denying relief to the poor in order to give more tax refunds to the rich. He deserves to be impeached for gross meanness, but, as the current joke goes, that would make George Bush president. Both Lincoln and Pryor voted against the punishment of the poor. They have consciences.


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