As documented in the new Center for American Progress report from Lawrence J. Korb and Sean Duggan, “Quality of Life in the Military,” the Bush administration is doing a remarkably poor job of helping out our veterans and their families. This treatment, combined with a war that is becoming remarkably unpopular, has turned military families sharply against the Bush administration. Consider the following data from an early December Los Angeles Times poll.
The poll asked respondents whether they approved or disapproved of “the way the Bush administration is handling the needs of active duty troops, military families, and veterans.” Overall, just 35 percent of respondents from military families approved of the way the Bush administration was handling their needs, compared to 53 percent who disapproved. And these negative feelings definitely include respondents from military families where household members have served in Iraq or Afghanistan: 42 percent of respondents from these families approved of the Bush administration’s handling of their needs, compared to 49 percent who disapproved.
Such poor treatment must seem especially vexing to military families since they are now convinced the current war in Iraq—for which they have borne such a heavy burden—was not worth fighting. In the same poll, only 36 percent of military family respondents were willing to say that the situation in Iraq was worth going to war over, while 57 percent said it wasn’t. Views among military family respondents with family that had served in Iraq or Afghanistan were just as negative: 37 percent said it was worth going to war and 60 percent said it was not worth going to war.
Military families, like most Americans, want to start bringing our troops home. In the LA Times poll, 58 percent of military family respondents wanted to either withdraw troops from Iraq right away (21 percent) or start doing so within a year (37 percent), compared with just 35 percent who wanted to keep troops there for “as long as it takes to win the war.” Pro-withdrawal sentiments were even stronger among respondents from military families where a member had served in Iraq or Afghanistan: 69 percent of these respondents wanted to either withdraw troops from Iraq right away (27 percent) or start doing so within a year (42 percent), while only 26 percent wanted to keep troops there indefinitely.
Military families were once some of the strongest supporters of the Bush administration. But no longer. These families are fed up, and it will take more than patriotic rhetoric to win them back over. It will take action and the Bush administration would be well-advised to start by putting more effort and resources into meeting the needs of our military families.