- The Bush Administration is giving new meaning to the
phrase "support the troops."
- A few weeks back President Bush arguably placed the troops
stationed in Iraq in even greater harm's way by uttering his now infamous
"Bring them on!" comment when asked about the increasing attacks
and mounting US casualties. Shortly after his comment, Army Times posed
this question to its readers: "What do you think about the 'bring
them on' challenge President Bush issued July 2 from the White House, referring
to those who attack U.S. troops in Iraq?" Nearly sixty percent agreed
with the statement, "It was irresponsible and unnecessarily placed
the lives of U.S. troops in even greater danger." Nearly 40 percent
said that "It showed U.S. resolve and confidence in troops to finish
the job in Iraq." (Poll results as of July 23, 2003)
- On July 23rd, after experiencing a week of anger and
criticism from some of the troops in Iraq and their families at home, the
Pentagon finally announced a troop-rotation plan. The "long-awaited"
plan is aimed at relieving "the weary military personnel in Iraq with
fresh American and international troops in the coming months, with most
U.S. soldiers facing yearlong deployments," Reuters reported.
- A new Army brigade (about 5,000 troops) "built around
the high-tech 'Stryker' armored vehicle" will be sent and the plan
"also calls for activating thousands more Army National Guard soldiers,"
according to Reuters. Acting Army Chief of Staff Gen. Jack Keane told a
Pentagon briefing that the replacements are likely to face one-year deployments.
- Eight days before, thousands of soldiers from the 3rd
Infantry Division learned that they wouldn't be heading home anytime soon.
Stepped up attacks against occupation forces and the refusal by other countries
to send troops to the country caused division commander Maj. Gen. Buford
C. Blount III to revise his estimate as to when the troops would be reunited
with their families, AP reported. This reversal by Maj. Gen. Blount happened
just days after he said "he hoped the division's 1st and 2nd Brigade
Combat Teams of roughly 9,000 soldiers could return home to Fort Stewart
within the next six weeks."
- The 3rd Infantry Division Ð which spearheaded the
attack on Baghdad Ð sent 16,500 troops to Iraq and thusfar has suffered
some 36 deaths Ð more than any other unit in Iraq. "The units
have been ordered to stay 'due to the uncertainty of the situation in Iraq
and the recent increase in attacks on the coalition forces,'" Blount
informed the families of the troops in an e-mail message that had been
obtained by The Associated Press.
- The troops in Iraq are suffering "from low morale
that has in some cases hit 'rock bottom,'" the Christian Science Monitor
recently reported. And last week, several soldiers vented their frustration
to U.S. television news reporters. "If Donald Rumsfeld were here,
I'd ask him for his resignation," one disgruntled soldier told ABC's
"Good Morning America" show, Reuters reported. "It pretty
much makes me lose faith in the Army," Pfc. Jason Punyhotra of the
3rd Infantry told ABC News in Fallujah, Iraq. "I don't really believe
anything they tell me. If they told me we were leaving next week, I wouldn't
- "I've got my own 'Most Wanted' list," a sergeant
at the 2nd Battle Combat Team Headquarters referring to the Administration
deck of most wanted Iraqis, told ABC News' Jeffrey Kofman. "The aces
in my deck are Paul Bremer, Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush and Paul Wolfowitz,"
- Going public with these comments quickly became a story
within a story. In a classic attempt to kill the messenger, a White House
official allegedly passed along information to Matt Drudge, of the very
popular online Drudge Report, that reporter Kofman is not only gay, but
he is also a Canadian.
- One officer later told the San Francisco Chronicle's
Robert Collier "It was the end of the world. It went all the way up
to President Bush and back down again on top of us. At least six of us
here will lose our careers."
- While the dangerous and difficult conditions in Iraq,
combined with the unforeseen extension of their tour of duty fueled flagging
morale, a recent editorial in Army Times shed light on a series of homeland
developments that may add more fuel to that fire.
- According to Army Times, proposals that would have added
"various pay-and-benefits incentives to the 2004 defense budget"
are now considered "wasteful and unnecessary" by the Republican-controlled
- The June 30th Army Times editorial said the troops were
getting the "nickel-and-dime treatment" from the Republican-controlled
Congress. Some might call it getting the shaft.
- According to Army Times, the GOP-controlled Congress
- Canceled a "modest proposal" to increase the
benefit from $6,000 to $12,000 to families of soldiers who die on active
- "Roll[ed] back recent modest increases in monthly
imminent-danger pay (from $225 to $150) and family-separation allowance
(from $250 to $100) for troops getting shot at in combat zones";
- Refused to consider "military tax relief... that
would be a boon to military homeowners, reservists who travel long distances
for training and parents deployed to combat zones, among others";
- Passed pay raises for "some [higher] ranks,"
but "cap[ped] raises for E-1s, E-2s and O-1s at 2 percent, well below
the average raise of 4.1 percent";
- Accepted a $1.5 billion cut in the military construction
request for 2004: A proposal by Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., senior Democrat
on the House Appropriations Committee, to restore $1 billion of the $1.5
billion cut by "cover[ing] that cost by trimming recent tax cuts for
the roughly 200,000 Americans who earn more than $1 million a year... [who
would receive $83,500] instead of... $88,300," was defeated.
- Army Times: "Taken piecemeal, all these corner-cutting
moves might be viewed as mere flesh wounds. But even flesh wounds are fatal
if you suffer enough of them. It adds up to a troubling pattern that eventually
will hurt morale Ð especially if the current breakneck operations tempo
also rolls on unchecked and the tense situations in Iraq and Afghanistan
do not ease."
- The chickenhawks running the show at the White House
should be embarrassed by their support for these measures. The media needs
to ask why the troops are receiving this shabby treatment. And, with so
little financial support for their families, it's not surprising that the
death and destruction the soldiers experience on foreign soil frequently
follow them home. America's politicos are always at the head of the pack
when it comes to waving the flag, wearing the lapel pins, putting up the
yellow ribbons and mouthing empty slogans. As Army Times pointed out: "Talk
is cheap Ð and getting cheaper by the day."
- © 2003 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
Reproduction by <http://www.alternet.org/syndication.html>Syndication