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 http://www.military.com/Opinions/0,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.