Dead Soldiers' Families Get the Impersonal Touch

Breaking an old tradition of Secretaries of Defense past carried out during earlier wars, Rumsfeld has decided actually signing notes to families is simply not worth a moment of his time. Having just sent out holiday cards, I can vouch for the fact that a real signature takes moments to accomplish. Apparently he’ll sign them now but only because David Hackworth has publicly shamed him into doing it…

'The Pentagon has acknowledged that Donald H. Rumsfeld did not sign condolence letters to the families of soldiers killed in Iraq, but it said that from now on the embattled defense secretary would stop the use of signing machines and would pick up the pen himself.

'In a statement provided to Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper, Rumsfeld said: “I wrote and approved the now more than 1,000 letters sent to family members and next of kin of each of the servicemen and women killed in military action. While I have not individually signed each one, in the interest of ensuring expeditious contact with grieving family members, I have directed that in the future I sign each letter.”

'The controversy arose when soldier-turned-writer David H. Hackworth penned a column on Nov. 22 reporting that two Pentagon-based colonels told him that Rumsfeld “has relinquished this sacred duty to a signature device rather than signing the sad documents himself.” After checking with various families of the dead, Hackworth wrote that “one father bitterly commented that he thought it was a shame that the SecDef could keep his squash schedule but not find the time to sign his dead son’s letter.”

'Stars and Stripes quoted families of the dead saying they were insulted that Rumsfeld did not sign the letters himself. They also said they were suspicious about the signature on similar letters they received from President Bush, but a White House spokesman said Bush does put pen to paper himself. ’

For more on Hackworth’s column, see the original at,Hackworth_112304,00.html, with a brief excerpt as follows:

‘I then went to about a dozen next-of-kin of American soldiers KIA in Iraq. Most agreed with the colonels’ accusations and said they’d noticed and been insulted by the machine-driven signature. One father bitterly commented that he thought it was a shame that the SecDef could keep his squash schedule but not find the time to sign his dead son’s letter. Several also felt compelled to tell me that the letter they received from George Bush also looked as though it was not signed personally by the president.

'Dr. Ted Smith, whose son Eric was among the first 100 killed in Iraq, notes that the letter he received “from the commander in chief was signed with a thick, green marking pen. I thought it was stamped then and do even now. He had time for golf and the ranch but not enough to sign a decent signature with a pen for his beloved hero soldiers. I was going to send the letter back but did not. I am sorry I didn’t.”

'Sue Niederer, whose son Seth was also killed in Iraq, sums it up: “My son wasn’t a person to these people, he was just an entity to play their war game. But where are their children? Not one of them knows how any of us feel, and they obviously aren’t interested in finding out. None of them cares. And Rumsfeld depersonalizing his signature - it’s a slap in the face, don’t you think?” ’

Once again, the Bush administration and the GOP position themselves as the enemy of American servicemen. … 4cvlfo.asp

[quote]ON MAY 5, 2004, Peggy Buryj, got the worst news a mother can get. Her son, Jesse, had been killed in Iraq.

Six weeks later, Peggy Buryj claims that she received a phone call from a representative of John Kerry’s presidential campaign. … She never heard back from the campaign.

“They [the Kerry campaign] were inviting me because of my son,” she says. “You know, they were using me for their benefit, you know? Local hero’s mother, you know?” Buryj notes that the Kerry campaign did not invite the Rameys, parents of Staff Sft. Richard Ramey, who died in Iraq February 8, 2004. “They were Republicans,” she says. “I’m a Democrat.”

A month later [after Kerry blew her off, and two and a half months after her son died in Iraq], Buryj received a call from the Bush campaign. President Bush wanted to meet her, [color=red]in private, along with the families of two other fallen soldiers from Stark County. There would be no reporters in the room. She was not asked if she supported the president. [/color]

Bush spoke to a rally of 5,000 at the Canton Memorial Civic Center on July 31. Afterwards, he met for 20 minutes with Buryj, the Rameys and the family of Sgt. Michael Barkey, who had been killed in Iraq on July 7. Buryj says she cried when she saw Bush. “He cried on my shoulder as much as I cried on his.”[/quote]

This was discussed a few weeks ago, during the presidential campaign. Kerry and his campaign showed themselves to be shamelessly opportunistic, trying to use a dead serviceman as a campaign prop. Bush just met with the serviceman’s mother, in private, without photographers, to privately share his condolences.

Those heartless Republicans, failing to use dead soldiers as campaign props. How do they live with themselves!

“While I have not individually signed each one, in the interest of ensuring expeditious contact with grieving family members, I have directed in the future I sign each letter.” – Donald Rumsfeld

Expeditious? Well, just like all of Rumsfeld planning, he’s sure backfired. “Expeditious” requires promptness and efficiency – efficiency at its core requires reaching desired effects. Seems like he did not achieve a desired result at all by sending notes that have apparently offended the families of dead soldiers.

Does he send wilted roses to his wife? He’s sent plenty of half-assed stuff to our troops in Iraq, and he’s sending half-assed stuff to the families back home. Our nation deserves better. During the worst months of the war, we’re still only talking about 3-4 letters a day on average. During the low-casualty months he might at worst have one every couple of days. He can’t take the time to personally sign letters prepared by his staff?? Not even while he’s riding to the office in the morning? In between a couple of phone calls? In wars with much higher casualty rates, the previous Secretaries of Defense made time for it … because they had the sense to know rubber-stamping wouldn’t cut it with families.

Big GOP campaign donors get personally signed photos from the Bush administration. Why can’t Rumsfeld use his pen for just an instant to comfort those families who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the country? Oh, that’s right … once again the Bush administration shows their values – millionaire party donors are more worthy in their eyes than those who sacrifice for America.