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Veterans Reject Liberty Medal Award For George W. Bush

Philadelphia, PA (November 11, 2018) – Members of About Face: Veterans Against the War (formally Iraq Veterans Against the War) gave testimonies of war while participants of the Liberty Medal ceremony dined at an event that cost $1,000 per plate.

“This award is an attempt to revise George W. Bush’s place in history. He should be remembered for wars of choice that have not ended, for millions of dead civilians, for a bloated department of defense budget, for torture, for erosion of human rights, and for a high veteran suicide rate,“ said Captain Brittany Ramon DeBarros, who was deployed to Afghanistan in 2012.

A combat veteran of the Iraq war, Ben Schrader, agrees: “George W. Bush sent many veterans like me to war based on false information, with poor planning and then cut back vital military assistance and health programs, effectively abandoning us when we returned home. That he is supposed to receive an award for his “commitment to veterans” feels like betrayal to veterans.”

While the United States experiences a rise of far-right violence in this age of Trumpism, Bush is undergoing a rehabilitation campaign. Veterans reject any overtures to softening Bush’s image. 20 veterans die by suicide every day, a tragic fact the veterans feel this ceremony glosses over.

“If calculated on 20 lives each day for 17 years, that amounts to 125,000 veteran suicides since 9/11, an appalling figure, and nearly five times the amount of troops who have died due to combat. I was in a combat zone, but more military members die here at home. That’s the legacy of the Bush administration,” said Chantelle Bateman, an Iraq War Veteran.

The Bush administration had many controversial scandals, such as torture at Abu Ghraib, the creation of the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, cuts to the Veterans’ Affair hospitals and to troops benefits during the height of the Iraq War, the government’s racial profiling of muslims, and the high number of civilian war dead, which NGO agencies now calculate into the hundreds of thousands.  This history is the reason veterans demand the Center to revoke its decision to award President Bush with the Liberty Medal.

“How could anyone honor a man who sent more than 2.7 million of my fellow service members into a war with ‘insufficient protection and aging equipment,’ forcing many of us to resort to hiding behind rusty scrap metal we called hillbilly armor?”said Jake Tucker, who served in the Army as an interrogator in Iraq.

According to the National Constitution Center, “the Liberty Medal is awarded annually to men and women of courage and conviction who have strived to secure the blessings of liberty to people around the globe.” The political leaders inside of the event refused to meet with veterans who question how much liberty Bush secured, clapping for themselves amongst the shouts of veterans and escorting any veteran who didn’t agree outside.

The veterans say they want Bush’s legacy to be the words that Thomas Young wrote in his last letter before he died. Young was a disabled veteran who criticized the Iraq War until his death in 2014: “You may evade justice but in our eyes, you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans — my fellow veterans — whose future you stole.”

About our organization About Face: Veterans Against the War

We are Post-9/11 service members and veterans organizing to end a foreign policy of permanent war and the use of military weapons, tactics, and values in communities across the country. As people intimately familiar with the inner workings of the world’s most powerful military, we use our knowledge and experiences to expose the truth about these conflicts overseas and the growing militarization of our communities here at home. Learn more at: AboutFaceVeterans.org

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