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
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
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.