Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Toy soldiers

Cat, one of our readers who often contributes news items, sent two articles to me last night. I was appalled at the contents because they involved wounded soldiers and marines being treated as though they has failed to complete a peacetime military engagement - the contract under which US armed service personnel serve.

Unfortunately, I couldn't jump on both articles and let loose with my rage at the treatment of individuals who had given everything in the service of their country only to find a level of abandonment in dealing with wounds that would have a profound effect on them for the rest of their lives.

Luckily, Red Tory provided an observation which is completely rational and very close to the mark. Further along, Canadian Cynic made another observation, assisted by the commenters of TPM, who ably point out the continuing pattern of maltreatment returning US veterans suffer at the hands of the Bush Administration.

What are they on about? Well, this and this, and I'll quote from the second one.
The U.S. Military is demanding that thousands of wounded service personnel give back signing bonuses because they are unable to serve out their commitments.

To get people to sign up, the military gives enlistment bonuses up to $30,000 in some cases.

Now men and women who have lost arms, legs, eyesight, hearing and can no longer serve are being ordered to pay some of that money back.

Horrifying, right?

Well not as much as if these people had actually been engaged under a wartime commitment.

Red Tory is very close to being correct. What actually happened is that a financial administrative order exists regarding the payment of enlistment bonuses which requires the inductee complete the defined period of service in order to qualify. Some weenie in Washington, probably with a few bars on its shoulders, decided that that the book over-rode reality and enforced the financial administration regulations to the letter. Hell, it happens.

Except that it shouldn't have.

The day after September 11th, 2001, George W Bush and his gang of sycophants could have exercised the Selective Service legislation and re-started a draft. Honestly, there would have been almost no complaint. That would also have required any domestic tax increases to be set aside until "hostilities" were completed.

But rather than declare war on a country and then mobilize the entire union against a common enemy, Bush and crowd chose to pursue an unchanged domestic agenda and use, what they viewed as extraordinarily advanced technology and a relatively small armed forces and use that as the means to wage war. Further, there was uncertainty as to whether an opportunity would arise to attack Iraq. Having a drafted army would create problems. The people in that army and those who provided their sons and daughters would demand a full accounting as to why their offspring were off to fight a war that currently had no casus belli. Better to attack with the technologically advance armed forces that were held as peacetime retainers under peacetime regulations.

That decision reflects back on the problems that occured and which now are becoming the common thread for returning service personnel with serious and life-long wounds.

Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld had no idea as to the purpose of the US armed forces nor their sustainability over the long term. They viewed the engagements they planned on getting into as short operations - something which the volunteer armed forces could deal with without having to implement a national system of conscription.

They avoided the World War Two scenario of having troops engaged "for the duration", otherwise known as "Hostilities Only" forces.

What then was not done was the implementation of regulations which would have provided a system of secure benefits to those who had suffered debilitating wartime wounds, The US armed forces were, and still are, administered as a peacetime force with manning ceilings and financial restrictions.

The regulations under which most members of the US armed forces are administered are designed for peacetime and the contractual obligations, on both sides, view completion of contracts as a peacetime condition.

Bush and crowd had no idea what they were getting into, nor did they understand the peacetime impediments placed on the armed forces. To them, lacking even the basic understanding of the purpose of a peacetime force, a retained armed forces was able to fight whatever war the administration wanted to fight. The Bush administration failed to understand the difference between a peacetime armed forces retained as a contingency force and the need, if the administration intended to fight a full-blown war, to expand those forces for protracted military action.

Bushco thought they could walk away with Iraq in a few days without changing the conditions of service for their volunteer armed forces, beyond providing the various combat theatre allowances troops earn for being deployed.

To Bush, Cheney and Rumsfled these were little more than toy soldiers. They would go in, fight and occupy, quickly and easily. No messy draftees, no expensive "hostilities only" troops. And because they were little more than lead figures in a sandbox, there was no consideration given to the lifelong wounds of tens of thousands of wounded troops. They simply weren't supposed to happen so the regulations affecting their engagements were not changed from the peacetime application of the rules.

To Bush, Cheney and the chickenhawks who are running the show, this is nothing more than a game of Risk® engaged from their secure and comfortable desks with the occasional quick visit to a safe area for a photo op with a rubber turkey. The troops are board pieces, nameless, faceless and with no more meaning than a plastic game symbol. Something to be wasted if you loose and something to count up if you win.

So, yes, those who say this was an administrative cock-up are quite correct. But it's because the Bush administration has failed to grasp the gravity of what they have done. Had they done it properly from the start many things would have been different but certainly they would not have had a peacetime armed forces fighting a war with peacetime administrative and financial regulations which fail to meet the realistic needs of that part of the US population which has taken on the burden of the administration's poor decision making.

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