Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wounded Iraq veteran rips Bush, McCain

DENVER -- Tammy Duckworth, an Army helicopter pilot who lost both legs in Iraq, told the Democratic convention Wednesday that Republican John McCain has unfailingly backed a Bush administration that "let our warriors down."

"Our troops are courageous, strong, fierce. This administration has redeployed them until they are overstretched, stressed and strained," said Duckworth, now director of the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs.

She berated McCain for backing President Bush's decision to invade Iraq, calling it a diversion from the true battle -- fighting in Afghanistan to destroy al Qaeda. And Bush has failed to give adequate care to the soldiers injured in that war, she charged.

"Too often they get bureaucracy, not benefits. They find inadequate access, inferior facilities and infuriating paperwork," Duckworth said.

She accused McCain, a Navy veteran who spent more than five years as a prisoner in Vietnam, of backing a plan that would worsen the problem.

McCain proposes enrolling veterans in a government insurance program, in addition to letting them use VA hospitals. Although veterans groups dislike the idea, McCain says it will let veterans get treatment anywhere, even when they're far from the nearest VA facility.

Duckworth said Barack Obama opposes means-testing for veterans care or forcing them to "search for medical care with nothing but a plastic card and a promise."

She also responded to any suggestion that Obama's plan to pull out of Iraq means he doesn't support the troops.

"I know Barack Obama. I met him when he visited me and other wounded troops at Walter Reed. He came without reporters," she said. "He just cared about how we were doing. He knew that wherever you stand on the war, you must love the warrior, and he does."

Duckworth was wounded in 2004 when a rocket-propelled grenade struck her helicopter in Iraq. She ran unsuccessfully for Congress and was then chosen to lead the Illinois veterans agency. She is often mentioned as a possible replacement for Obama in the U.S. Senate if he wins the presidency.

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