Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Little Late

I should have posted this before the election. It wouldn't have made any difference, but I wish it had been out there. My friend Paul Reikhoff will continue to assert that his IAVA is a non-partisan Veterans issues non-profit organization. This assessment, informal, but accurate reveals a different story. So here's a guest entry from Vincent Heintz:

To whom it may concern:

There is an old saying about how numbers and statistics can be manipulated: “Figures can lie and liars can figure.” Nowhere is the enduring truth of this adage more evident than in the Congressional ratings recently released by Paul Rieckhoff’s Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of American (IAVA), as described in the Army Times on November 6, 2006.

IAVA recently “rated” every member of Congress on their support for soldiers and veterans, giving each a schoolhouse letter grade generated by assigning value to various votes on “veterans issues.” IAVA used numbers and letter grades to create a patina of objectivity in assessing whom among our Congressional leaders are supporting us. Conveniently, the IAVA report card came out just a few weeks before the most hotly contested Election Day in many years.

When I first learned of the rating scheme a couple of weeks ago, I decided to see how IAVA had scored Republican Congresswoman Sue Kelly of New York. My Army National Guard infantry company deployed to Iraq in 2004. Congresswoman Kelly came to our deployment and redeployment ceremonies, provided our families with an open invitation and the means to contact her personally for any assistance they might need while we were away, closely reviewed the details of my unit’s experience in Iraq to insure that we had been equipped properly, and has consistently voted in favor of bills that support troops, vets and their families. I expected at least a B+.

I was shocked to see that IAVA had rated Kelly as a mediocre C+. And IAVA leaves no doubt about the meaning of a lousy grade. A recent IAVA e-mail to its members condemns leaders with negative grades as “being against body or Humvee armor, against health care for National Guardsmen and Reservists, and against funding for Vet Hospitals.”

As a result of the rating on Congresswoman Kelly, I did some research on IAVA’s methodology. Here is what I found out.

First, many of the votes evaluated in the IAVA survey were on “motions to recommit.” A motion to recommit seeks to return a bill from the floor to committee. Members of the minority party (i.e. Democrats) receive priority of recognition for offering motions to recommit. The votes on the motions that the IAVA singled out were offered by Democrats to grandstand wildly-inflated budget proposals that went far beyond those that even the Democrat members had agreed upon in committee. These motions yoked together outlandish, unachievable expenditures with “pro-veteran” initiatives such as expenditures for body armor in a way that required members to cast a single, up-or-down vote. Thus a vote against sending a measure back to committee to debate the quadrupling of money spent on some pork barrel issue (that no one expects to pass) can be read – or, more accurately, deliberately misread – as meaning that a member is against body armor.

These legislative stunts – which are perpetrated on both sides of the aisle -- are orchestrated to generate voting records to "prove" how the other side’s members have a bad voting history on a particular issue. The practice is beyond misleading. It is a scam.

Next, IAVA’s survey included votes not just on traditional veterans issues like funding for VA hospitals but also on foreign policy and national security matters. For example, the IAVA rated votes on the use of force against the Saddam regime, the President’s military tribunals plan, the Congressional resolution for victory in Iraq, and counter-terrorist electronic surveillance. IAVA was able to weight these votes through its unilateral determination, purportedly made on behalf of its tens of thousands of members, that any vote in favor of the Bush Administration’s foreign policy agenda is per se “anti-veteran.”

By exploiting bogus voting data and merging voting records on veterans issues with those on foreign policy (with a decided slant against the Administration), IAVA “mathematically” calculated that Democrats Nancy Pelosi, John Murtha, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry deserve high marks (Bs and As) for supporting the men and women of the Armed Forces. This is patently absurd. Each one of these leaders at some point in the recent past has categorically branded U.S. Soldiers and Marines as being either “the problem” in Iraq (Kennedy), guilty of terrorizing Iraqi women and children (Kerry, Pelosi), guilty of murdering innocent civilians (Murtha), or uneducated rubes (Kerry).

Republican leaders like Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist scored an F and a D, respectively, even though their voting records on serious, bona fide legislation concerning support for troops in the field and veterans benefits are as good as or better than those whom IAVA puts at the head of the class. Why did Hastert and Frist flunk the IAVA’s exam? Because they voted in favor of the President’s plan to try Al Qaeda operatives in military tribunals. Categorizing that stance as “anti-veteran” strays far beyond the pale of logic (unless IAVA is now counting captured Al Qaeda operatives as “veterans”).

IAVA has been very judicious in lacing its Congressional visits and web-site utterances with “bipartisan” and “non-partisan” gestures and rhetoric. Given the slant of its Congressional rating and the timing of its release, however, its political agenda is clear.

Either Paul Rieckhoff and his group should invest their energies in the laudable work of advocating on true veterans issues, or they should be honest and admit what they are -- a partisan political front.

Vincent G. Heintz


1. The views expressed herein are those of the author alone and do not reflect the policies or positions of the Department of Defense, the U.S. Army, or the New York Army National Guard.

2. Vincent G. Heintz is an Army infantry officer. He currently serves as the S-3/Operations and Training Officer in the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry, 27th BCT, New York Army National Guard. In civilian life, Heintz is a lawyer. He lives in New York City with his wife, Kathryn, his daughter, Sarah, 11, and son, Daniel, 8.

The Defense of Mario Lozano


Blogger John Byrnes said...

Defend Mario Lozano

Sat Apr 07, 04:10:00 PM 2007  

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