Friday, October 30, 2009

Obama: Saluting for the Cameras

By Alan Caruba

Presidents engage in all kinds of ceremonial events. Every Thanksgiving, they “pardon” a turkey so it doesn’t end up on the White House menu. They make sure they are photographed with the winning teams of various sporting series. Every Easter they can be found at the White House Egg Roll accompanied, I have always suspected, by a Secret Service agent in a large bunny costume.

The other evening, shortly after midnight, President Obama made sure to be photographed standing in line with military personnel and some civilians in attendance as the dead, including three drug enforcement agents, from Afghanistan were returned home at Dover Air Force base. Our military casualties are received in a solemn ceremony few except those in attendance ever witness.

Presidents have never participated in this ceremony. The caskets are a too vivid reminder that part of their job is to send troops in harm’s way. President Bush preferred to meet with the families of fallen heroes.

When 241 U.S. military were murdered by a suicide bomber in Beirut on October 23, 1983, President Ronald Reagan attended a ceremony at Camp Lejeune to speak of his grief and anger. Three months after the bombing, he pulled out U.S. troops.

The bombing, authorized by Iran and carried out by Hezbollah, foretold of the way our troops would be attacked by an enemy that would not meet them on the field of battle, would not wear a uniform, and preferred fanatical Islamic self-sacrifice as an instrument of war. The ultimate attack was al Qaeda’s 9/11 against civilians.

President Obama wasn’t there to honor those fallen soldiers or marines. He was there to be seen saluting.

Obama was there because, during the campaign he had used the war in Afghanistan as a way to criticize former President Bush’s decision to depose Iraq’s dictator only to find himself in unforeseen and ill-considered circumstances that required years and a change of strategy to redeem.

Afghanistan, said candidate Obama, was “a war of necessity” whereas Iraq was “a war of choice.” Only now, nine months into his first term, Obama is finding it very difficult to make a choice, to determine the “necessity” of conducting the war in Afghanistan or whether to withdraw from it.

What bothered me, as someone who served in the U.S. Army, was the way Obama was using those returning dead to “send a message” that he was very serious about the decision he was about to make.

The strategy concerning Afghanistan was handed to him by the existing Bush administration in a report prepared for his assumption of the office. His hand-picked general in the field says we will lose without increasing present troop strength.

Obama’s presence that evening was about perceptions and imagery. It was his way of trying to influence public opinion about his failure to act.

Increasingly, questions are being raised about his campaign statements and presumably his commitment to pursue the Taliban and al Qaeda in a vigorous fashion. The enemy knows it and it too is doing what it can to influence public opinion; they have stepped up the killing of American troops.

Frankly, knowing that he had never worn the uniform of his nation, it bothered me that he would stand there in the dark giving a salute. The closest he ever got to wearing a uniform and saluting in his past was when he was in the Boy Scouts—the Indonesian Boy Scouts.

There is something coldly calculating about using the returning battle dead to try to bolster an image of patriotism and commitment to military action, but that is what this President is all about, the image of things, statements about things in which he does not believe and intends to “transform.”


Liberty said...

How rude. I am sorry, that is all I can say about this post. Usually, I try to maintain an open mind, but this is just too much.

You do not know that he was there merely to be 'seen saluting'. Obama may be many things, but I do not think he underestimates the sacrifice our men and women in uniform have made. He had every single right to go to that ceremony and salute if he wanted to.

I would have done the same if I were he. It is a good, respectful thing to do- saluting the men and women who have died doing their best to carry out what they were told to do. What is shameful in that?

Obama may not agree with the wars. Neither do I. But does that mean that I would not show respect to our men in uniform? Not at all.

Frankly, I find this kind of nitpicking and motive-assigning disgusting. I do not mean to be rude, but it's the truth.

Alan Caruba said...

Obama lives off of such naivety. Think about it...the same time he is being criticized for taking time to execute a military policy/strategy in Afghanistan, he suddenly decides to go to Dover Air Force Base and salute the returning war dead?

Do you not think they return weekly there? Did you forget he has had a report in hand since he took office, prepared by the out-going Bush administration for his consideration? Or that in March he announced he had a strategy?

No, this was yet another cynical effort to manipulate public opinion.

Buzzg said...


I find it strange that you use such a name and appear to be, basically, a supporter of the man whose only goal is to take liberty away from sll of us.
As I have stated before, don't pay one whit of attention to what this man says. Watch what he actually does, for there you will see the true description of what he is and stands for.
The trip to Dover was pure horsemanship and nothing more. It was a disgrace.
As Alan pointed out, he is the only President to have done such a thing and it wasn't because he was trying to be noble.
Let's see how much attention from the White House the families of the fallen get.

Red said...

"Obama’s presence that evening was about perceptions and imagery."
That's been the theme of his entire 'presidency'. Smoke and mirrors. Ignoring the 'man behind the curtain'.
This administration does bank on the naivety of Americans. It's how he got elected.

Sailingbum said...

It's your truth Liberty..
I prefer Alan's truth..
His is a historical perspective; not a "feel good" emotion..

Liberty said...

"I find it strange that you use such a name and appear to be, basically, a supporter of the man whose only goal is to take liberty away from sll of us."

I am not a 'supporter' of the President beyond the respect I give to his position. If you read my blog, you will find that I often speak out against him.

However, I find such things as putting words and emotions into his mouth/body and nitpicking him for little things is silly. Let's focus on what's important- the fact that he's about to sign away our sovereignty to the UN (more thoroughly than it has ever been done before), or the fact that the Congress is overstepping their bounds.

In the end, the fact that he saluted our fallen soldiers is not the most important thing around today.

Mr. Caruba, I do not doubt that there is probably some sort of political impetus behind this. There always is, whenever any President does anything. There was political connivance behind President Bush's trips. There always is such. But there are more important things to be worrying about than whether President Obama saluted or not.

We throw a fit because he didn't salute (the 'flag ruckus') and now we complain because he did.

Alan Caruba said...

Both his failure to salute and now his decision to be SEEN saluting are the kinds of signs that must be watched and analyzed.

Nothing a President does or does not do is trivial.

Joyful_Momma said...

Is this the only time a president has done such a thing?

If so then, yes, I'd say Obama was merely posturing.

But even so there really are bigger things to be worried about.

Accusing Liberty of being an Obama supporter is about as ridiculous as trying float a lead balloon! LOL

Alan Caruba said...

I believe this is the first time a President has gone to Dover Air Force Base and participated in the normal ceremonies involving the return of casulties of battle.

Liberty said...

So, Mr. Caruba, you are lambasting President Obama because he has merely done something that is not usually done?

Well, if we're going to make a big fuss out of that, nothing would ever get done.

Alan Caruba said...

Liberty, you are being dense. If you read the title and the commentary, you will know that I am criticizing the President for using the fallen heroes as an opportunity to show himself off to the cameras. He is doing so because he is taking a long time to make up his mind about a military policy in Afghanistan and being criticized for it. All this in the wake of having campaigned saying Afghanistan was a war of "necessity." These are critical issues and decisions, and his answer--at this point--is to be photographed saluting the caskets of dead soldiers.