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Bush's Military Madness

May 26, 2005
By Michael Shannon

Of all the inexplicable ways in which George Bush has somehow managed to project an image in direct contradiction to his true persona, none is more harmful nor more baffling than that of an effective and capable commander-in-chief. He is in fact overseeing a downturn in the public fortunes of the American Armed Forces that is beginning to rival the days immediately following the war in Vietnam.

To the American officer corps it must seem like a lifetime ago since the heady days of triumph against the Taliban, quickly followed by the demise of Saddam Hussein's regime. Now the news is a morale-sapping grind of gloom and doom, much of it self-inflicted from a political leadership that is in completely over their heads.

Of course the worst of the news continues to pour out of Iraq. Not only has there been a marked increase in Iraqi casualties, both military and civilian, but the death toll among the American forces refuses to diminish. In the first 4 months of the current War in Iraq the United States suffered 216 deaths; in the first 4 months of 2004 the United States suffered 254 deaths; in the first four months of 2005 the United States suffered 252 deaths (www.icasualties.org). All it takes is a glance at today's headlines to see that there is scarce reason indeed to believe these numbers will be very different in the first four months of 2006.

The killing will go on in Iraq for two very basic reasons: those who vehemently oppose the US presence in Iraq will continue to do so as long as we remain, just as the armed forces of the United States have every intention to continue to occupy their country. Anyone who still believes that the American involvement in Iraq is short-term most likely also believes that presidents don't lie.

Speaking of lies, as one bloody day after another goes by the underlying purpose given by the Bush administration for the invasion of Iraq is exposed for what is was - a spurious and shameless shell game. Bush's minions and mouthpieces skillfully and relentlessly kept the pea moving from cup to cup as they bantered, badgered and blathered about a myriad of dangers that would only escalate by our inaction.

That they succeeded in convincing enough people of the merits of their arguments is more an indictment of the American electorate than it is a reaffirmation of the validity of their position. The fact is that they succeeded by harnessing the enormous persuasive influence of their high office to the hardwired reflexive action of a people motivated by fear and uncertainty. The result has been they we are now committed to a path that upon reflection would never have been chosen - a path that will not lead America to a safer and more secure future, but rather threatens to wear down the best-equipped and best-trained Army in world to a degree of markedly-diminished capabilities.

Outside of Iraq the news, while not lethal, is nonetheless far from positive. The recent announcement of base closings triggered the fully-expected posturing and positioning from affected politicians from sea to shining sea. While each is hellbent to protect the jobs of their constituency or at least to appear that way in public none seem to be able to fully grasp the idea that the vast majority of these bases can easily be consolidated within the remaining domestic military infrastructure with little or no degradation of military readiness. But even if their wails of protest go unheeded and all the proposed closings go through, how does this effect the pocketbook of Joan and Joe Taxpayer?

Obviously the $48 billion the Defense Department is claiming will be saved by these closings is a tremendous amount of money. However when one looks at it both from the context of time, and relative to military expenditures as a whole, its stature shrinks considerably. This money is projected to be saved over the course of twenty years. In that time based on current levels of expenditure with a little inflationary effect thrown in for good measure the US defense megalith will devour approximately 10 trillion dollars. Meaning this 48 billion dollars will amount to a savings of less than one half of one percent: .048 percent to be exact.

Meanwhile, the powers that be have every intention of making sure that the United States has a firm grasp on the ultimate high ground of the battlefields of tomorrow they plan to introduce space-based weapons that will increase even further the already-enormous amounts of money devoted to the armed forces. And this will be financed with money we don't have, of course.

Come to think of it, it is probably a good idea that the wave of the future is in robotic weaponry because the Army is having an increasingly hard time getting real live people to join its ranks. According to public records, the Army has missed its enlistment goals every month this year since January. The pressure on the men and women charged with finding the soldiers of tomorrow has risen to such a level that a number of them have been cutting more than a few corners - so much so that the DoD recently ordered an unprecedented one day stand-down which was used to re-indoctrinate its recruiters in the dos and don'ts of filling the ranks.

It is eminently understandable why so many young people are having second thoughts about signing on the dotted line. Can you blame them? Not only are the dangers real and ever-present, but the payoff just doesn't quite seem as worthwhile as it was just a few short years ago. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the same kind of young men and women who have always had the courage, fortitude and strength of their convictions to fight the wars of America were more than willing to put their lives on the line in defense of our homes and way of life. Now the clarion call to battle doesn't ring anywhere near as true.

It is not the wave of damning revelations against the "bad apples" of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Afghanistan, et al, that has in and of itself soured them on the military; it is more so that it is always the little guy who gets the blame and punishment. That Mr. Bush has never held either himself or any high level commander responsible for any mistake regardless of how widespread or egregious is not lost on the 18-year-olds watching the evening news.

On top of it all, the story of a real American hero, Pat Tillman, a guy who willingly walked away from a life of pampered privilege to accept the thankless job of a combat infantryman, a man who had come to symbolize what's right with the young people of the United States, has now been turned on its head. The coverup surrounding the circumstances of his death has come to represent how these young men and women are not getting the leadership they so richly deserve.

The Army and the Bush administration was so desperate to put a positive spin on Pat Tillman's death that they not only lied about the circumstances surrounding it but they lied about the fact that they lied, and would have continued to do so if members of the much-maligned free press hadn't finally blown the whistle.

Pat Tillman went to his grave, just like almost two thousand of his comrades have, doing their duty to the best of their ability in the face of incalculable sacrifice and hardship. The men who have ordered them into harm's way will eventually go to theirs without a scratch on them.

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