Republicans Attack An American War Veteran, Have They No Decency?
Republicans used to honor the men and women who serve our country. In the Trump Era, they attack them in defense of the President.
One of the more notable moments during yesterday’s hearing before the House Intelligence Committee came when Republican members of the Committee appeared to try to attack Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman, who appeared before the committee in his Army uniform:
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s military service was front and center at Tuesday’s impeachment hearing, with Democratic members of Congress trumpeting their witness’ patriotism and Republican lawmakers praising his heroic acts on the battlefield.
But the more ornamental markers of Vindman’s distinguished career in the armed forces, from his rank to his decision to wear his Army service uniform, also featured prominently in the National Security Council staffer’s testimony — occasionally becoming political lightning rods in a contentious televised session.
Appearing before the House Intelligence Committee in the same dress uniform he donned for his closed-door deposition last month, Vindman often seemed insistent on reminding lawmakers of his status as an active-duty officer.
“Ranking member, it’s Lt. Col. Vindman, please,” he corrected Rep. Devin Nunes, after the panel’s top GOP member addressed him as “Mr.”
A veteran of the Iraq War who was awarded a Purple Heart after being wounded by a roadside bomb, Vindman nevertheless has faced unfounded attacks regarding his allegiance to the U.S. by some conservative commentators in recent weeks.
Those insinuations, which were condemned by high-ranking congressional Republicans, emerged again Tuesday when the Intelligence Committee’s GOP counsel pressed Vindman on an offer by Ukraine’s government to become the Eastern European nation’s minister of defense.
Vindman, whose family fled the former Soviet Union when he was a child, said he “immediately dismissed” and “did not entertain” the overtures from Kyiv, telling lawmakers: “I’m an American.”
Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) objected to the line of questioning by Republican attorney Steve Castor as a broadside “that may have come cloaked in a Brooks Brothers suit and in parliamentary language,” but was “designed exclusively to give the right-wing media an opening to question your loyalties.”
Himes laced his critique of Castor’s inquiry with a mention of Vindman’s uniform. “It’s what you stoop to when the indefensibility of your case requires that you attack a man who is wearing a Springfield rifle on a field of blue above a Purple Heart,” the congressman said.
It’s standard practice for active-duty military officials to wear dress garb while testifying on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) also invoked Vindman’s uniform while thanking him for his service, but noted that the government employee dressed differently for his work at the NSC.
“I see you’re wearing your dress uniform. Knowing that’s not the uniform of the day, that you normally wear a suit to the White House, I think it’s a great reminder of your military service,” he said.
Stewart went on to reference Vindman’s exchange with Nunes, asking,
“Do you always insist on civilians calling you by your rank?”
“Mr. Stewart — Rep. Stewart — I’m in uniform wearing my military rank. I just thought it was appropriate to stick with that,” Vindman responded, citing “the attacks that I’ve had in the press and Twitter.”
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) appeared to slam his Republican colleague for that query later in the hearing, further detailing the various awards adorning Vindman’s coat.
“We even had a member of this committee question, and this is my favorite, question why you would wear your dress uniform today — even though that dress uniform includes a breastplate that has a combat infantryman badge on it and a Purple Heart medal ribbon,” Maloney said.
“It seems like if anybody gets to wear that uniform, it’s somebody who’s got a breastplate with those commendations on it,” he added.
Dana Milbank comments in The Washington Post:
So this is how President Trump and his apologists say “thank you for your service.”
Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman sat forward in the witness chair, festooned. On his left breast he wore the Combat Infantryman Badge, a testament to his ground combat in Iraq, and below that the Purple Heart, a souvenir of the IED that injured him while on patrol outside Fallujah. After Iraq, Vindman worked for the Joint Chiefs of Staff before the Pentagon sent him to the White House.
But because he cooperated with the impeachment inquiry, Republicans portrayed Vindman as a disloyal American. They insinuated that he had allegiance to Ukraine because a Ukrainian official had three times asked Vindman, who emigrated from Ukraine as a 3-year-old, to be the country’s defense minister.
Vindman, though he suspected the offer in jest, rejected it and reported it to his commanders and U.S. counterintelligence.
But at Tuesday’s House Intelligence Committee hearing, Republican counsel Steve Castor used the incident to insinuate disloyalty. “Do you have any reason why he asked you to do that? . . . Did you leave the door open? . . . Was he speaking in English or Ukrainian? . . . It’s rather significant. . . . Did you tell anyone? . . . Were there any other offers?”
And worst: “Did you ever think,” Castor asked, “that it might create at least a perception of a conflict?”
Thus did this decorated officer, after more than 20 years of service, have to defend his faithfulness.
“I’m an American. I came here when I was a toddler,” Vindman said. He added that he thought the Ukrainian official’s inquiry “rather comical.” (The Ukrainian said he was joking.)
For his part, Vindman appeared to anticipate the attacks that would come from the Republicans and the White House in the closing paragraphs of his opening statement:
Next month will mark 40 years since my family arrived in the United States as refugees. When my father was 47 years old he left behind his entire life and the only home he had ever known to start over in the United States so that his three sons could have better, safer lives. His courageous decision inspired a deep sense of gratitude in my brothers and myself and instilled in us a sense of duty and service. All three of us have served or are currently serving in the military. Our collective military service is a special part of our family’s story in America.
I also recognize that my simple act of appearing here today, just like the courage of my colleagues who have also truthfully testified before this Committee, would not be tolerated in many places around the world. In Russia, my act of expressing my concerns to the chain of command in an official and private channel would have severe personal and professional repercussions and offering public testimony involving the President would surely cost me my life. I am grateful for my father’s brave act of hope 40 years ago and for the privilege of being an American citizen and public servant, where I can live free of fear for mine and my family’s safety.
Dad, my sitting here today, in the US Capitol talking to our elected officials is proof that you made the right decision forty years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to the United States of America in search of a better life for our family. Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth.
At the end of the day, Vindman came out of this encounter with the Republican Trump Defense Machine the winner while Devin Nunes and his cohorts on the Republican side of the aisle came across as being even bigger fools than they have been revealing themselves to be already. On the one side of the dais, we had Lt. Col. Vindman, a combat infantry veteran of the Iraq War who earned a Purple Heart when the vehicle he was riding in during a routine patrol ni 2004 was attacked via an Improvised Explosive Device injuring him and several other people in the vehicle. He has been a member of the United States military for more than twenty years and has been awarded a number of prestigious medals and who did so voluntarily because he believes in what this country stands for.
This is the person that Republicans attack, and one can only respond to it the way Joseph Welch did when representing a witness at the Army-McCarthy hearings:
Welch dismissed Fisher’s association with the NLG as a youthful indiscretion and attacked McCarthy for naming the young man before a nationwide television audience without prior warning or previous agreement to do so:
Until this moment, Senator, I think I have never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Fred Fisher is a young man who went to the Harvard Law School and came into my firm and is starting what looks to be a brilliant career with us….Little did I dream you could be so reckless and so cruel as to do an injury to that lad. It is true he is still with Hale and Dorr. It is true that he will continue to be with Hale and Dorr. It is, I regret to say, equally true that I fear he shall always bear a scar needlessly inflicted by you. If it were in my power to forgive you for your reckless cruelty I would do so. I like to think I am a gentleman, but your forgiveness will have to come from someone other than me.
When McCarthy tried to renew his attack, Welch interrupted him:
Senator, may we not drop this? We know he belonged to the Lawyers Guild … Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?
Yesterday, the Republicans revealed that they have no sense of decency left.