Liz Cheney being defeated in her primary in a resounding thirty-point landslide has cultivated no shortage of reactions. The vast majority of them were predictable, some were clever, some in poor taste, and some relatively indifferent. But one proverbial collective sigh of relief came from an often-overlooked community when talking politics, combat veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan, and other theaters of the “Global War on Terrorism.”
George Santayana said, “Only the dead have seen the end of war” and that has perhaps never been clearer than with the veterans of America’s wars over the years following the attacks of 9/11/2001. Compliments of advances in technology like more efficient ballistic material for the individual warfighter and the speedy ability to medevac the wounded to surgical hospitals within the ‘golden hour’, combat veterans are now surviving things that our predecessors in previous American wars would have been killed by.
Any sensible person would agree that this statistic is nothing short of miraculous and countless families are able to continue making memories with their sons and daughters for years to come after their combat tours have concluded. But ask any combat Veteran and they’ll tell you that regardless of whether it’s been one month or one decade since your boots were in the sand, the war never ends for us. We get to live on with the memories of war and we get to face the reality we were effectively pawns in a global chess game.
This has led to an anomaly that is relatively new in the history of the United States…an entire generation of educated, worldly, informed, and sometimes jaded American combat veterans. Homer said in ‘The Iliad’ that “War is young men dying and old men talking.” We were keenly aware of this even as young kids in our twenties tasked with invading a country, and it was evident in every day of being deployed. We heard the ‘big talk’ from suits on Capitol Hill, we heard the votes, and perhaps most glaringly we bore witness to the inconceivable amount of money that was being made in the form of facilities being built, civilian convoys being conducted, and a bevy of other business interests popping up all over our theater of operations.
Time after time one organization kept bubbling to the surface: Halliburton and its subsidiary KBR. Contrary to popular belief, American service members are more often than not remarkably intelligent people, but it didn’t take a genius to recognize that the chief beneficiary of these massive contracts was none other than our Vice President at the time and former Secretary of Defense (during which time he was actively serving as Halliburton CEO), Dick Cheney, Liz’s father.
This is generally where those who are unwilling to acknowledge reality will allege that “Dick Cheney wasn’t receiving an income from Halliburton while serving as Vice President due to the emoluments clause.” Well, I’ll leave you to form your own opinion on that. However, if you do believe that, as my grandfather would have said, “I have a bridge to sell you.” Even if you don’t subscribe to the belief that our elected officials enriched themselves on the blood, sweat, and tears of those of us in uniform, you can still see that political dynasties were born and wielding positions of power and influence. The Bushes, the Clintons, and perhaps most prevalent, the Cheneys. Americans fought a war for independence, so it wasn’t subject to the whims and impulses of a royal bloodline, yet we found ourselves in an all too familiar posture in the form of these family political power structures.
None have been more aware of this than those of us who have been at the business end of American foreign policy over the past twenty-one years. We’ve stood by and waited for the truth to be told to power and for things to be accounted for. We’ve waited for answers and for someone to be held accountable for having sent us under false pretenses to be killed and wounded and permanently changed. We’ve watched the rate of veteran suicide climb, we’ve watched our military grow less prepared for combat, and we’ve watched our brothers and sisters be diagnosed with cancers and other illnesses and ailments directly related to our service in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
Conversely, we’ve watched as ‘public servants’ like those in congress have become wealthy. Dick Cheney’s net worth is conservatively estimated to be upwards of eighty-six million dollars and Liz Cheney’s net worth weighs in at almost fifteen million dollars. We’ve watched the power elite arbitrarily pass the torch to their children and groomed predecessors, and the politically incestuous nature of this fact has never been clearer than with the Cheneys.
We, veterans, know that those truly responsible will ever be held responsible for their dereliction of duty, but Liz Cheney’s defeat at least gave us a moment of solace and hope. The hope is that piece by piece, people are becoming aware that the table is tilted in the favor of the house. Veterans are finding their way into the halls of congress and other elected positions at one of the highest rates of any single demographic in America. Perhaps when more sergeants and petty officers and corporals and ‘grunts’ and ‘gun bunnies’ find their way to serving in civic leadership capacities we will be able to impact real common-sense change and posturing. However, until then, if you want real perspective and insight on the consequences of globalism and monarchy-esque political power families…ask that guy in every town with a beard, long hair, and ‘USMC’ tattooed on his arm.