Monday, July 26, 2004

Bush is Failing Our Troops

I will try to prove that President Bush is a failure in leading our troops, even though it's clear conservative pundits are too busy repeating Bush's false charges against critics of the war to notice or care.

Bush, and the punditry supporting him, have equated criticism of the war as criticism of the troops, a claim they know is fraudulent, and a debating device that is frankly un-American, for it suggests that Americans can only exercise freedom of speech if it's in support of government policy.

Bush and the pundits go further by tricking the public on John Kerry's vote on the $87 billion spending bill for our troops. Bush and the pundits are so desperate to confuse the public on Kerry's vote that they have stooped to "politicizing" the war -- the very charge they falsely charge the Democrats with.

But that's politics. How about Bush's policies?

Forget the war itself, and the fact that the two main reasons for going to war -- collaboration with Al Qaeda and a prevalence of weapons of mass destruction -- have been proven false. Forget that our troop deployment has done little to slow Al Qaeda, left us no safer in the war on terror, and cost us more than can be imagined in lives, credibility and (least important) the surplus lost because of this administration.

There will always be people who can rationalize the war -- the claim that the world without Saddam is a better place is true, even if the current Iraq is no better than the pre-war Iraq. But I don't want to turn this into a debate about the war. That would play right into the hands of the flag-waving conservatives. Instead, I want to discuss our unfathomable treatment of our troops by this administration.

Consider the following:

1) The Bush administration is doing everything possible to avoid a draft -- no doubt because of the political recriminations that a draft will cause.

According to the Los Angeles Times, "the Pentagon is considering extending the mobilization of National Guard soliders who will soon hit the federal limit of 24 months of active service, defense officials said Tuesday." Last month, "the Army was forced to dip into its pool of Individual Ready Reserve soldiers — troops who are not members of a specific reserve unit but have unexpired obligations to complete their military service — looking for roughly 5,600 to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan." Among those called back up was a 68-year-old Alabama doctor.

2) The Bush administration is failing to pay soldiers on time. What easier way is there to say that Bush is failing our troops? According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, 95% of soldiers at eight Army Reserve units sent to Iraq and other Middle East bases "experienced significant problems getting paid, creating stress and concern about the financial well-being of their families back home."

The Government Accountability Office reports that some soldiers, in reporting problems getting paid, said those problems lasted for over a year. Progress Report, citing one soldier who reached out to his congressman because he hadn't been paid, quoted the soldier as saying: "How can I, in a combat environment, find out if my 4-month old and my 5½-year-old kids are taken care of? I don't want to be rash, but it was like a slap in the face."

3) The lengthy troop deployments have hurt communities here in the U.S. -- something the Bush administration apparently didn't plan on, and has made no effort to offset.

According to the New York Times: "with tens of thousands of their citizen soldiers now deployed in Iraq, many of the nation's governors complained on Sunday to senior Pentagon officials that they were facing severe manpower shortages. In Arizona, officials say, more than a hundred prison guards are serving overseas, leaving their already crowded prisons badly short-staffed. In Tennessee, officials are worried about rural sheriff's and police departments, whose ranks have been depleted by the guard call-up. In Virginia, the concern is hurricanes; in Missouri, floods. And in a small town in Arkansas, Bradford, both the police chief and the mayor are now serving in Iraq, leaving their substitutes a bit overwhelmed."

4) The Bush administration has allowed unscrupulous insurance companies to offer mandatory insurance and investment advice to troops. Some of the insurers have been cited by the department of justice, and-or have been fined, and-or have been forced to pay back troops, because of deceptive practices. According to Progress Report: some soldiers have been required to attend compulsory briefings which turn out to be misleading sales pitches dressed up as personal finance and savings lectures. The New York Times explains the scam exists in part due to "the axis between Capitol Hill and K Street, where the insurance industry has easy access to Congress, lobbying power and millions of dollars in campaign contributions to generate legislative pressure." For example, "Three members of the House Armed Services Committee have received donations from at least one of the insurance organizations since 1999."

5) The Bush administration's insistence that "only a few bad seeds" were reponsible for the actions at ABu Ghraib should be more than enough proof of how little this administration cares for its troops. This claim, which fails even basic logic -- where did the troops get the whips and hoods and electrodes -- is about as disingenous as a drug dealer who stuffs a bag of pot down the pants of his underage lookout, then claims innocence.

***

The next time President Bush, or one of the empty, cynical conservative pundits says that John Kerry or other leading Democrats have politicized the war or failed to support the troops, remember the above. Those aren't talking points -- those are policies of this administration. All the flag-waving in the world won't make up for the abuse of power this administration has had with regard to our troops.

David

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