Veterans scorn Bush over unfinished gulf war


When Herbert D. Greff recalls the Persian Gulf War, two emotions rattle his soul.

First, he is bitter because U.S. soldiers were restricted in their military actions against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Second, he is disgusted because the mission against Iraq was not completed -- President Hussein and his forces still control the nation.

"And I'm mad because now we might have to remotivate our soldiers to go back over there. We did a lousy job there the first time. We didn't complete our mission," said Mr. Greff, who served in Vietnam. He was among some 1,000 former servicemen attending the Jewish War Veterans of the USA convention at the Stouffer Harborplace Hotel.

The five-day convention, which began yesterday, celebrates the history of the nation's oldest active veterans organization. Its delegates have participated in the United States' conflicts dating back to World War I.

But for most of the former servicemen, the prospect of new military action against Iraq is a source of great concern. And when some recalled the Persian Gulf war, they spoke about President Bush with almost as much scorn as they had for President Hussein.

"Bush made a decision. But my position is that Saddam Hussein should have been gone when the Persian Gulf war ended," said Albert Schlossberg, who served in the Navy during World War II.

"Now we have no choice but to go back and get him," Mr. Schlossberg said. "The reality of it is that Hussein remains a threat in the Middle East, I'm not saying Iraq is a threat, I'm saying Saddam Hussein is."

Others, like Mr. Greff, said military restrictions on the coalition forces that fought against Iraq made it difficult for the servicemen to do their jobs effectively.

"When restrictions are put on soldiers, they can't fight. They just maintain strife," Mr. Greff said. "We were right there. We were ready and had a job to do but weren't able to do. Now, they have to disrupt so many lives again to do something that should have been done the first time."

Some of the conventioneers felt that the military personnel who were discharged after the Persian Gulf war have barely had time to adjust to society, and now they face the specter of possibly returning to the Middle East.

"Let them get home and get situated before they get sent off to fight. They're pawns, that's all. And all because we're the world's police officers," one veteran said.

Another former serviceman described President Bush as a "madman" if he sends troops to the Persian Gulf. "It would be one madman fighting another madman," he said.

Some veterans said the Iraqi Scud missile attacks on Israel were their most painful memory of the war. They expressed anger because the Israeli military could not retaliate because of the agreement with the coalition.

"I felt bad as hell that Israel couldn't fight back," said Meyer Sokolow, a Korean War veteran. "It wasn't the Army's or the Navy's fault. It was our good president's. They [the Israelis] have a simple philosophy: they don't want someone fighting their battles."

Despite Bush's denial, many of the veterans think the new threat of military action against Iraq is a political ploy. The veterans group yesterday was shown a videotaped message of praise from President Bush. But the president's image was not a welcome image to everyone.

"Politics, politics, politics," said one delegate.

He added: "The [Republican] convention is this week, the election in two months. War is a possibility, right? Bush was most popular after the Persian Gulf war, right? This all seems to follow a nice and neat little trail to Election Day."

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad