Thursday, March 03, 2005

The GOP Hates Our Troops

A couple of days ago, I linked to an account on Rob's blog about the shameful way in which troops who took action to up-armour their own trucks have been treated, having been imprisioned and dishonourably discharged from the Army. Those who have been reading Newshog from the very beginning will know that this isn't the first time I have made posts about how the Pentagon under it's current leadership, and this Republican administration in general, have ridden roughshod over the troops they are supposed to support.

So I have a question. Why do conservatives (and indeed, members of the military who haven't yet been shot at) continue to pursue a blind faith in the Republicans on "supporting the troops" when all the evidence is against it? Or to put it simply -

Why is there still a belief that Republicans support the troops?

Let's look at some issues. There had been cracks for some time, as anyone actually listening to the troops in combat knew. Then came the Great Rumsfield Armor Debacle when the American public first really became aware that the troops were seriously worried and the administration didn't seem to care. Half of all casualties in Iraq have been because of a lack of body armor or vehicle armor and yet the administration and Republican Senatators obviously didn't care, were offhand about it, and had to be kicked in the ass to actually go and tell the manufacturers to increase production by the 22% they had spare capacity for! The troops were being killed by Bush's administration as much as by the insurgents bombs and bullets, while the armor companies made another kind of killing, with some companies recording profits up 350% because of the sudden seller's market engineered by Republican inaction.

Next, the Republican-controlled Congress and Bush Pentagon got set to slash billions more from Veterans Administration’s programs. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal (1-25-05), Pentagon official David Chu, in a mockery of the contribution of veterans, defended a new round of cuts by ironically describing funding for programs like veterans’ education and job training, health care, pensions, VA housing and the like as "hurtful" to national security.

This callousness is leading to an increasing number of veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan ending up homeless. Psychological trauma, high housing costs, gaps in pay between civilians and the military which mean ex-servicemen cannot save for deposits and the lag in getting VA assistance all contribute to this growing problem. All are directly harmed by cuts in VA funding.

Now, adding final insult to already grevious injury, Republicans are playing even more financial games with US troops - and their families.

  • They have been borrowing from soldier's paychecks to pay for other programs.

    Already, the service has pulled forward some $11 billion in funds from the third and fourth quarters of its [fiscal year 2005] budget, a senior Army budget officer said at a briefing on Friday.
    “I think it’s early May when we run out of money,” the official said. The most money is being spent on operations and maintenance. “What we’re doing right now is taking monies from the fourth quarter and the third quarter…we’re already spending, you know, my September paycheck.”
    “We’ve pulled in about the last five and a half months to spend in the first six and a half.”


    This is just cynical manipulation of the budgeting process. After all, as Noah Schactman points out, what politician from either side of the house would commit political suicide by voting to deprive the troops of their paychecks?

  • They are now pulling exactly the same dodge with the much-trumpeted big increase in death benefits available to military families. The Pentagon never included the money for a bigger death benefit in its budget. So now, the Army has gone to Congress, asking for an extra $348 million to keep the administration's word. Let us not forget where the buck stops in military matters - with the Commander in Chief and his Sec. Def. - both of whom had to be aware of these weaseling sidesteps which must also have been done with the approval of Congressional Republicans.

  • Finally, as if to underscore the point, after playing games with the soldier's wages and their death benefits, Republicans are refusing to help them with the debts Republicans have inflicted upon them :

    U.S. Senate Republicans blocked an effort by Democrats to shield military personnel from changes to bankruptcy law that would force more debtors to repay their creditors.
    The Senate voted 58-38 today to defeat the amendment, one of dozens that Democrats said they will introduce this week to shield senior citizens, debtors with medical bills, and others from the rewrite of bankruptcy law, which is backed by credit-card companies such as JPMorgan Chase & Co. and MBNA Corp.


    Think about this for a second. It is just shabby. Take some poor bastard out of his job on civvie street and send him to Iraq as part of a National Guard unit. Pay him crap wages while he does so, nothing close to what he probably made as a civilian. Stop-loss his ass so he can't get out of the financial drain while his family wait to see if he will be injured or killed and the debts at home from the loss of income pile up. THEN refuse to protect him from what you did to him! I have to agree with David Chasteen, a veteran who said:

    If a board of directors can avoid fiscal liability for patently fraudulent behavior that costs shareholders and pensioners millions of dollars, I don't think it's too much to ask that soldiers, of whom much is asked, should not be unduly pressed upon to pony up mere thousands of dollars as a result of their unforeseen deployment or injury in service to their country. Especially when the lobbyists doing the pressing represent companies of whom essentially nothing has been asked in this war on terror.

    Now, I ask again, and I especially ask it of conservatives who parrot the meme and slavishly agree to all the administration does to denigrate it's troops.

    Why is there still a belief that Republicans support the troops?

    If you really support the troops, stop voting Republican.

    UPDATE: This is what Paul Reickhoff, director of the Iraq veterans group, Operation Truth, has to say today on their blog about the news that the Army has missed it's recruitment target by 27%:

    The US is stressing the hell out of our forces, and the troops have been telling people about it for almost two years now. But no one was listening. They said we were undermining the war. They said we should shut our mouths. They said were not supporting the troops. We ARE the friggin' troops and we know the truth and how to REALLY support them. We also know the current trend is not good for the military--or the USA.

    and he really tells it like it is -

    We might not be very loud in public, but in bars and at dinner tables, troops and vets have definitely been talking. We talk to each other, and we have been talking to our friends who are thinking about joining--and their parents. We have told them about the Armor problems. We told them about the divorce rates. They have learned about the VA being under-funded every year. They have heard us talk about Guard and Reserve families not getting taken care of. They saw Rumsfeld give a crap answer to young soldier who tried to find out why he and his buddies had to scrounge through junkyards to protect themselves from IEDs. They have read about how Stop Loss has voided contracts and locked thousands in the military after their terms have ended. They hear about Halliburton and Blackwater employees making ten times what we make. Potential recruits have heard all this. America's young people are not stupid. Yet the politicians seem to be closing their eyes and hoping this problem will go away. Well, I had a CO in Iraq who used to have a saying that they should learn: "Hope is not a course of action".

    It's worth a read.

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