Why President George W. Bush is calling out the 99%

George W. Bush Presidential Center Dedication

WASHINGTON (CNN) — In a rare public appearance, President George W. Bush delivered a serious message for the 99%: Step up.

The 43rd President, who has taken to oil painting, emerged from his self-imposed, post-presidential low-profile to urge on the majority of Americans who have not had to sacrifice for — and could easily ignore – two costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“They are the 1% of America who kept the 99% safe,” Bush said of the 2.5 million military members who have served since 9/11. “While it never hurts to say thank you, that is not really the point.”

Speaking at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas and joined by second lady Jill Biden, the former President did not sugarcoat the disconnect between service members, their families and the civilian public, which he called the “civilian-military divide.”

It’s “troubling” that 84% of veterans say the public isn’t aware of the challenges they face and that 71% of Americans agree, Bush said, citing a survey by the Bush Institute and Syracuse University to be released later this year.

The toll for members of the military has been high. More than 50,000 U.S. and coalition forces have been wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq while 8,211 have died.

Unemployment dogs veterans. At the end of last year, the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans hovered at 10%, compared to just above 7% for non-vets. The suicide rate among vets is astronomical with 22 suicides committed each day, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. And more than 400,000 veterans are waiting for their disability benefits in a backlogged VA system, says the group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

“It’s an unprecedented demand that we’ve placed on such a small group,” said Paul Rieckhoff, head of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).

“After everything they do for us, we have a duty to make that transition as easy as possible,” he said, noting that higher education institutions and employers are among those not doing enough. He even said his own previous efforts, including sporting events designed to help vets, are important but aren’t “transformative enough.”

Bush announced that his Military Service initiative has launched a multi-faceted, public-private partnership aimed at helping veterans assimilate back into civilian life.

The straight-talking former President said employers need to tailor their recruiting and hiring practices to accommodate post-war employees.

“I mean you don’t see many job postings that say “Wanted: experience hunting insurgents and terrorists willing to risk their lives for co-workers,” Bush said. “I mean, what’s a veteran supposed to put down? `My last office was a Humvee?’”

Bush also said Post Traumatic Stress Disorder needs to drop the ‘D’ out of PTSD. He referred to it as an injury that can be treated, and he referred to it as PTS.

“Employers would not hesitate to hire an employee getting treated for a medical condition like diabetes or high blood pressure and they should not hesitate to hire veterans getting treated for post-traumatic stress,” he said.

Veterans groups praised Bush’s effort.

“I honestly think this is a great program,” said Verna Jones, director of veterans affairs and rehabilitation division at the American Legion, who attended the event in Dallas.

But veterans advocates say that action has to be put behind the talk.

Rieckhoff of IAVA said the elephant in the room is, “We got to figure out how to pay for it.”

And the monetary cost is great. A report released last March calculated that the cost of wars, including health care for veterans, would cost up to $6 trillion dollars. The United States has spent around $2 trillion directly on the military operations there.

The Bush Institute initiatives are working with a coalition of government, nonprofit, universities and private companies to de-stigmatize PTSD, help GI Bill recipients stay in school, and encourage employers to give veterans a chance.

“We’ll be … relentless in serving our vets,” Bush said.

19 comments

  • airjackie

    Wow it’s part of his therapy and helping his brother who wants to run for President. Talk now after 5 years of watching the suffering and saying nothing. As a Military Mom I can say this is all show and scripted. As Obama looked to withdraw from Iraq/Afghanistan and catch Bin Laden for the soldiers, Bush was in Africa forming a Health Care Program. We learned the invasion of Iraq was for the control of oil fields. Soldiers have seen all the promises made removed. Some Military people will be paid to cheer Bush but be assured their paid. When my son was stationed in Iraq the soldiers were offered 1000 dollars to take a picture with Bush because when asked there were no volunteers. We went to so many funerals of brave soldiers who did not know the Commander-in-Chief lied. Even former First Lady Laura Bush recently gave an interview saying George W. now paints skulls of animals. Evil things people do haunt them for life and they can never run away from the voices and screams.

  • Robo

    Either your man has an amazing ego or is incredibly stupid. No need to go into the lies that led to the illegal invasion of Iraq. Let us just look at what it accomplished…NOTHING.
    Thank you for giving your life or a limb (s) for NOTHING. In a year or less Afghanistan will look like Iraq, a SH that was not worth a dime.
    Yea I woud encourgage everyone to participate….

  • thharel

    What are WE (the OTHER 98%) who are in complete Support of our Troops in todays Conflicts (and Many of whom are VETERANS of other Wars ourselves) supposed to do to help out ? ———-It’s the OTHER 1% of American Businesses and Capitalists who need to “STEP IT UP” ! ————-They’ve got all the Money and Power to make a Difference and they’re just SITTING in it

  • bboo

    What an a-hole. Sent thousands to their death in
    two useless wars, never attended a single funeral
    for our fallen heros. Was not interested in Bin Laden.
    How the hell is this creep even show his face in public?
    GWB do the right thing and shoot your head off….

    • Tellmeagain

      unfortunately, no new era of international peace has been ushered in for American soldiers or citizens under Barak Obama. During his presidency, our military has sustained an estimated 70 percent of the 1,987 casualties and nearly 80 percent of the 17,519 injuries that have taken place in Afghanistan. This was Oct 2012…..seems your Prez has killed more and your Prez voted for the “countless war” as a senator so did Hillary…

  • bboo

    Now GWB is going saintly. What a crock. Sent thousands
    to their death and 100 thousand ruined physically and
    emotionally. Face the facts Beelzebub has a special
    toasty place for ole georgie boy in Hell. Hey GWB you
    will get used it, it’s only for eternity…

  • bboo

    Flashback, 9/11/01, GWB Sitting in dunce school reading my
    pet goat, how did that turn out? Should have read up on
    Govt warnings issued in Aug 2001, terrorists planning to
    use airliners to wreak destruction on US soil. GWB Response:
    ” Ah. I’ll go golfing…”

  • Vastly Amused

    Well, nice to see the usual “Blame Bush” crowd is still around. Of course, if any of you had two active brain-cells, I would be vastly surprised. It’s clear from your comments that none of you have the slightest clue as to the facts, the history, the truth of the last 13 years, nor of what lead to our involvement in Iraq. (Hint: it didn’t start in 2001- and the inaction of one of your Saints led to 9/11).
    But rant away. After all, it helps you not think of how that idiot you elected has run the country off the cliff.
    And btw- I opposed the Iraqi War, and a half-dozen of my family served in that mess- as 11B’s and 19D’s.
    And since none of you seem interested in whether the proposals would help- and indeed several of you appear to hope they fail- do the rest of us a favor: shut the **** up.

  • VKomodo

    Hopefully, some day, the American people will figure out the top.0001% are running the country and it makes NO difference whether it is an R or a D in the Oval Office. Both have been bought and sold by the multinational corporate elite since 1980.

  • Brenda French

    I just had the honor of hearing GW Bush speak at the Richmond Forum. What an awesome man. As a nurse at a Veteran’s hospital I frequently hear our servicemembers present and past say what an honor it was to serve and that is exactly what I heard from President Bush.

    • J. Martin

      Bush should be paying for every vets care out of his own pocket since he was the one that lied to get them killed and injured so he could make money off of oil. Him and Chaney should be the go to guys for any money that it takes to take care of these disabled, and unemployed. Bush created this mess and drove this country into the ground and now he wants someone else to clean it up.

      • ed

        You are indeed a true dumb a#@. Obvious that you voted for the present occupant of the WH. You sure can’t call him a President.

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