Looks like Bush may be losing support among another traditionally Republican bloc of voters:

“He pats us on the back with his speeches and stabs us in the back with his actions,” said Charles A. Carter of Shawnee, Okla., a retired Navy senior chief petty officer. “I will vote non-Republican in a heart beat if it continues as is.”

“I feel betrayed,” said Raymond C. Oden Jr., a retired Air Force Chief Master Sergeant now living in Abilene, Texas.

Many veterans say they will not vote for Bush or any Republican in 2004 and are considering voting for a Democrat for the first time. Others say they will sit out the election, angry with Bush and Republicans but unwilling to support Democrats, whom they say are no better at keeping promises to veterans. Some say they will still support Bush and his party despite their ire.

While there are no recent polls to measure veterans’ political leanings, any significant erosion of support for Bush and Republicans could hurt in a close election. It could be particularly troublesome in states such as Florida that are politically divided and crowded with military retirees.

Registered Republican James Cook, who retired to Fort Walton Beach, Fla., after 24 years in the Air Force, said he is abandoning a party that he said abandoned him. “Bush is a liar,” he said. “The Republicans in Congress, with very few exceptions, are gutless party lapdogs who listen to what puts money in their own pockets or what will get them re-elected.”

…Since 1891, anyone retiring after a full military career has had their retirement pay reduced dollar for dollar for any Veterans Administration checks they get for a permanent service-related disability. However, a veteran who served a two-or-four-year tour does not have a similar reduction in Social Security or private pension.

A majority of members of Congress, from both parties, wants to change the law. A House proposal by Rep. Jim Marshall, D-Ga., has 345 co-sponsors.

But it would cost as much as $5 billion a year to expand payments to 670,000 disabled veterans, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld earlier this month told lawmakers that the president would veto any bill including the change.

The proposal is stuck in committee. A recent effort to bring it to the full House of Representatives failed, in part because only one Republican signed the petition.

“The cost is exorbitant. And we are dealing with a limited budget,” said Harald Stavenas, a spokesman for the House Armed Services Committee…

Good for these vets for deciding that the ones who want to deploy them for unjust and unnecessary warfare abroad and then welcome them back to the same shaft designated for every other working-class American are not on their side. The (first) Gulf War, and the official refusal to treat or even recognize the Gulf War Syndrome our soldiers suffered from exposure to our weapons, is only the most disturbing case. On a related note, one of the gratifying changes to see at the most recent round of anti-war protests was a departure from the pitfall too many on the left fell into in Vietnam: targeting the largely working class soldiers who carry out orders rather than the men who sit behind desks who send them. Looks like the latter group may be in for a comeuppance…

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