When it comes to honoring and acknowledging the work and the sacrifices of real American heroes – military or civilian – the Republicans talk a good game. But, as they have demonstrated over and over again, it’s nothing more than talk.
This past weekend marked fifteen years since the collapse of the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001. It offered yet another opportunity for GOP leaders to spout off rhetoric about how “America will remember not only the horror of those attacks, but also the heroism of our response” (Mitch McConnell), or how “It is impossible to forget the horrible events of that day, and the pain and grief and mourning that our country felt” (John Cornyn), or reminding all of us never to forget the events of that day. For example, Paul Ryan, who called upon those who were there that day to make certain that young people who have no conscious memory of 9/11 understand the human cost of that day.
That’s all well and good, but while we’re at it, let us also be reminded of who it was that turned their backs on those heroes when they came out of that day, sick and injured.
Case in point: the Zadroga Act, also known as H.R. 1786, the “9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act.” The law, which finally passed in December of last year, has extended health care and rehabilitation benefits for 9/11 first responders until 2090. The bill that passed was only the most recent in a number of bills that might have extended those benefits once the original September 11th Victim Compensation Fund had expired three months earlier.
The issue is that several previous bills never made it on to the floor, despite having 272 sponsors in the House and 69 in the Senate. The Zadroga Act, named for NYPD police officer James Zadroga, who died of lung injuries only five years after 9/11, passed only after numerous delays – and then, only because it was attached to an omnibus bill lifting a four-decade ban on oil exports (gotta keep Exxon-Mobil happy, after all), and giving tax breaks to the usual wealthy interests.
Here’s another dirty little secret: neither McConnell, Corwyn, nor Ryan ever signed on as sponsors of the Zadroga bill.
For months, survivors of that day, all of whom continue to deal with injuries and battle a range of toxin-related diseases, were forced to travel to Washington D.C. in order to convince their senators and representative to do the right thing. And for months, their words fell on deaf ears among the GOP. Even celebrity Jon Stewart led his presence and his voice to that of the first responders.
As Senate Majority Leader, McConnell could have easily pushed the bill through. The same goes for Ryan, Speaker of the House. Instead, they held the health and lives of surviving first responders hostage to the special interests who keep them in power.
Such behavior is beneath contempt – but especially when these lowlife cretins invoke “patriotism” on the anniversary of September 11th. These are the same “leaders” who never wore a uniform and never went into harm’s way for their country – yet those same men are ready and willing to send other people’s children off to defend corporate interests in foreign countries.
Ray Pfeifer, a former NYFD fire fighter who continues to battle asbestos-related cancer, put it best:
“They want to be patriots when it’s convenient for them.”
And it’s only convenient for the GOP when it serves the interest of their corporate and oligarch masters.