Saturday :: Jun 4, 2005

Niemoller's Iraqi Lament


by pessimist

First they came for the college students,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t able to go to college.
Then they came for the youth,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t young.
Then they came for the liberals,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I was a Southern Protestant.
Then they came for me,
and by that time there was no one
left to speak up for me.

This paraphrase of the Rev. Martin Niemoller's famous observation describes the situation the American people are soon to be realizing. King George's Oil War is running low on cannon fodder, and more must be found before they are found out by their supporters to be the lying incompetents they are, and get removed from office by them, and maybe even impeached by them. Will it take until the last non-militarized citizen facing involuntary induction before this realization that Bu$hCo has to go takes root?

I hope not. It's already too late for 1670 Americans as of post date - including these two:


Guard, Reserve Monthly Death Toll at High
May was the deadliest month of the Iraq war for part-time American servicemen.

Sgt. Miguel A. Ramos, 39, of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, died May 31 in Baghdad when a rocket struck near his position. He was assigned to the Army Reserve's 807th Signal Company, 35th Signal Battalion, based at Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico.

Staff Sgt. Tommy S. Little, 47, of Aliceville, Ala., died May 2 at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, of injuries sustained on April 19 near Iskandariyah, Iraq. A roadside bomb detonated near his Humvee utility vehicle. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 114th Field Artillery Regiment of the Mississippi Army National Guard at Columbus, Miss.

The overall U.S. death toll in Iraq last month — counting active-duty as well as mobilized reserve forces — was 80. That is the highest for any month since January, when 107 died as insurgent attacks rose sharply prior to the Iraqi election. The previous worst months for Guard and Reserve deaths in Iraq were January, when 30 died, and last November, with 28. Those also happened to be among the deadliest months overall for American forces in Iraq. The National Guard and Reserve, which make up nearly half the force in Iraq, have generally had fewer than 20 deaths per month during the war, and it's not clear why their losses spiked to 31 in May.

The 80 deaths compares with a monthly average of 70 over the previous 12 months.

Fifty-two died in April and 36 in March, when it appeared the insurgency was waning.

Bu$h lies cause American people to die.

At least, up to now, these deaths are among volunteers who chose to accept the risk of death by being a military member of whatever stripe, but the pool of those so willing is dwindling rapidly:

Since it arrived in Iraq in February to become the first Army division to return for a second combat tour, the 3rd Infantry has lost 34 soldiers, Pentagon figures. During its previous tour, which lasted eight months and included the initial invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and the capture of Baghdad, the division lost 44 soldiers.

The Army Guard missed its recruiting target last year and has fallen even farther behind this year. The death toll among the Guard and Reserve underscores an important aspect of their recruiting problems: More potential recruits, citing concern about being sent to the war zone, are opting for other careers.

One way to avoid arousing the Red State Slumbering Simpvilian from its hibernation due to the imposition of a draft would be to take any warm body that walks in the recruiting office door. Reports indicate that very thing is going on:


US lowers standards in army numbers crisis

Last month the army announced that it was 6,659 soldiers short of its recruitment targets for the year so far. On Wednesday, the department of defence withheld the latest figures, a move seen by most commentators as heralding more bad news. The crisis has even led to fears - despite repeated denials by President George Bush - of a return to the draft system that conscripted 1.8 million Americans during the Vietnam war.

The US military has stopped battalion commanders from dismissing new recruits for drug abuse, alcohol, poor fitness and pregnancy in an attempt to halt the rising attrition rate in an army under growing strain as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. An internal memo sent to senior commanders said the growing dropout rate was "a matter of great concern" in an army at war. It told officers: "We need your concerted effort to reverse the negative trend. By reducing attrition 1%, we can save up to 3,000 initial-term soldiers. That's 3,000 more soldiers in our formations."

As appearances count with Bu$hCo, 3,000 slugs wearing fatigues is certain to scare the beJeebus out of those evil Syrians and Iranians! And, as an extra added bonus, MISTER Kim Jong Il will have to decide that anyone crazy enough to try such a thing has to be more clinically certifiable than even he is!

Passing The Buck Private

Officially, the memo, reported in the Wall Street Journal and posted on Slate.com, ordered battalion commanders to refer cases of problem soldiers up to brigade level. Military experts warned that the move would make it more difficult to remove poor soldiers and would lower quality in the ranks. The Wall Street Journal quoted a battalion commander as saying: "It is the guys on weight control ... school no-shows, drug users, etc, who eat up my time and cause my hair to grey prematurely ... Often they have more than one of these issues simultaneously."

A commander quoted in the Wall Street Journal linked the growing attrition rate among new recruits to a slipping of standards by recruiters, who were under pressure to meet their monthly quotas. Last month it emerged that one recruiter gave advice on how to cheat a mandatory drug test to a potential would-be soldier who said he had a drug problem. In another incident in Texas, a recruiter threatened a 20-year-old man with arrest if he did not turn up to an interview. As a result all military recruiters stopped work for one day to attend retraining classes on acceptable practices.

Major General Michael Rochelle, the head of army recruitment, said this was the "toughest recruiting climate ever faced by the all-volunteer army", with the war raising concern among potential recruits and their families. "Recruiters have been given greater leeway," said Mr Pike. "By doing things to increase quantity you are also doing things to decrease quality, but they have made the judgment that that is the way to go." One recruiting standard that was about to be lowered was a rule governing tattoos in the navy and marines. "If you have excessively prominent and vulgar tattoos they will not take you right now, but that is about to change," he said.

An army spokeswoman said: "We are doing our best to decrease attrition level, but we have not and will not lower our standards for recruiting and retaining soldiers." Yet in March 17.4% of all new army recruits failed to complete training, while another 7.3% did not finish the first three years with their unit.

Instant Karma has gotten our military!

For years, they have been dumping their problems onto the civilian world, then walking away. These 'problems' don't just disappear, they affect everything around them. Maybe the military should clean up its own messes before it unleashes more of them upon us. By doing so, they could still have thousands more 'soldiers in formation' no matter how unfit for duty they would otherwise be:


Advocates see veterans of war on terror joining the ranks of the homeless

Advocates for the homeless already are seeing veterans from the war on terror living on the street, and say the government must do more to ease their transition from military to civilian life. Linda Boone, executive director of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, said about 70 homeless veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan contacted her group’s facilities in 2004, and another 125 homeless veterans from those conflicts last year petitioned the Department of Veterans Affairs for assistance. “It’s not a big wave, but it’s an indicator that we still haven’t done our job,” she said. “I think that our nation would be very embarrassed if they knew that.”

Boone said the reasons behind the veterans’ housing problems are varied: Some have emotional and mental issues from their combat experience, some have trouble finding work after leaving the military, some have health care bills which result in financial distress.

George Basher, director of the New York State Department of Veterans Affairs, said he believes guardsmen and reservists are particularly at risk because they often bypass resources like the Transition Assistance Program when they return home. “Those are the ones most likely to have private health insurance, so they’re likely to show up at an HMO looking for treatment and not a VA hospital,” he said. “There’s no central place for treatment.”

But Boone added that most veterans don’t seek help for mental and emotional problems for years after their return from combat, meaning the problem of homelessness among war on terror veterans will likely grow. “We’re still going to have homeless veterans because we haven’t tackled how to deal with the separation issue,” she said.

Veterans Affairs officials estimate that about 250,000 veterans are homeless on any given night, and another 250,000 experience homelessness at some point. Pete Dougherty, coordinator for the Veterans’ Affairs Department's homeless programs, said veterans today have more options — outpatient facilities, counselors, job training programs — than the troops returning from the Vietnam War. “Most of the folks we’re seeing now are worried about losing their homes and think they won’t be able to afford to stay in them,” he said. “Before, the vets were out there but were unseen and unnoticed. Now we can reach out and make a difference sooner.”

Think of the advantages here. These guys have already been through basic training, so they would only need a refresher. They have had experience with being in the service, so the discipline problems won't be any worse. They might also be grateful knowing that - for whatever reasons - someone cared about them again, and be passable soldiers.

Besides 'reaching out and touching someone' unwilling, others who once answered the call and are seeking to serve once again are being denied:


Should gender matter when you want to serve?

Diane Schroer grew up in Oak Lawn, graduated from Northern Illinois University, made a career in the U.S. Army as an officer in Special Forces and now is suing the federal government for sex discrimination.

Diane was my college roommate.

Back then, we knew her as Dave.

Sorry if that brings you up short to read it that way, but that was intentional, because that's a taste of how it felt on this end when Dave let me know six weeks ago that he had become Diane. Diane tells me she is a transsexual, currently in the process of "transitioning" from male to female. This is mostly new stuff to me, but as I understand it, transsexuals are individuals who feel strongly that they are, or ought to be, the opposite sex.

It is a feeling Diane kept well hidden during a lifetime as a guy's guy -- from high school gearhead to Airborne Ranger by the time he left college to nail-spitting military commander with a key post in the war on terror. "Hey, if I'm stuck with this boy thing, I ought to do it right," Diane told me Wednesday about the philosophy that guided her through those many years when every day was confused with thoughts about being a woman.

That's the Dave I knew in 1976 when we decided to abandon the NIU dorm floor where I'd lived three years -- and him going on two -- so we could rent an apartment off-campus. I was a long-haired editor of the college paper, where I spent every waking hour when I wasn't in a bar. He was the oh-so-serious ROTC guy with a passion for constitutional law, trying to finish college in three years. I can't pinpoint why we got along, but I think it was mutual respect because we were both from middle class backgrounds and maybe more driven than others. But Dave could be fun, too.

He had a Jeep. This was maybe 20 years before anybody talked about SUVs. His was no SUV. It was a real military-issue Jeep, and Dave would take us off-roading through a creek bed near campus. It's amazing we never rolled it and broke our necks.

Dave was exceptionally self-disciplined, but he had a weakness for bad television. His compromise was to watch his shows, but do situps and pushups during commercial breaks. He did his jogging in Army boots, often carrying a rucksack. He wasn't a natural athlete and needed the extra conditioning. The summer after I graduated he went to Army Ranger school, training in swamps. The next summer they had him jumping out of airplanes. He'd made 450 jumps before he retired.

A good future general

Honestly, I always expected him to become a general, and that made me feel good to think a person as ethical as him would be calling the shots in some future war. This, after all, was right after Vietnam, and young people viewed the military with great suspicion.

We drifted apart after college, catching up with each other every decade or so. I never had a clue about his inner conflict, and looking back, still can't find any.

Torn Between Two Genders

As awkward as I feel, however, I try to keep in mind what it's like for Diane, emerging anew into the world at age 48 -- and now having been put into the position where she must do so quite publicly in order to fight for what she thinks is right.

Diane was still going by Dave when she applied for a job last August with the Congressional Research Service in Washington, D.C., as an analyst for terrorism and international crime. The research service, an agency within the Library of Congress, is the public policy research arm of Congress and well-respected for its nonpartisan reports. Dave was highly qualified for the position, having served in a variety of command and staff posts during his military career before retiring effective Jan. 1, 2004, with the rank of colonel.

In his last assignment after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Dave was assigned to create and direct a 120-person classified organization within the Special Operations Command. His unit had what his lawyers describe as "responsibility for tracking and targeting of several high threat international terrorist organizations."

When I asked Diane to explain more precisely what that means, she told me: "I'd like to, but then we'd have to cut off your head and put it in a safe." That's what I would have expected Dave to say, too.

Dave's combat experience included the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989 to extract Gen. Manuel Noriega and the 1994 occupation of Haiti that restored Jean-Bertrand Aristide to that nation's presidency after he had been ousted in a coup. Dave speaks only obliquely about other unspecified operational missions over the years in Africa, the Middle East and Central America. "I always say I did the desert before the desert was cool," Diane says, the words again sounding a lot like Dave, although voice training has helped her develop a passable woman's voice.

Offered a job

Supervisors at the Congressional Research Service must have recognized Dave's qualifications because they offered him the job, which he accepted. The problem came when Dave went back for one more meeting with the woman who was hiring him to work out final details including a start date. It was then that Dave told her about his gender change and that when he reported for work on his first day he would be coming as Diane. Diane says the woman called the next day to say that after a "long, restless night" she had decided "for the good of the service" that Diane would not be a "good fit" for the job after all.

So much for 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'!

Diane told me her first instinct was to just let it go. But the more she thought about it, she felt the sting of injustice, the violation of principle.

The ACLU will file suit on her behalf today. I'm taking her side in that fight, not just because I know she'd do the same for me, but also because I'm sure we owe it to her after 25 years in the service of our country -- during which she pulled duty in many of the world's hot spots.

Talk about a Killer Queen!

If there was one thing I would have told you about Dave Schroer in the days I knew him it's that he knew his own mind, and that's why I've got to believe he knows what he's doing now when he says he's really Diane. As part of her transition, Diane has been receiving hormonal therapy for 17 months and underwent facial feminization surgery. Under accepted medical guidelines, it will be the end of the year at the earliest before she is allowed to undergo sex reassignment surgery, better known to most of us as a sex change operation. By then, she'll have been "presenting" herself in public as a woman for a year. I have no doubt she will go through with it.

Dave Schroer served our country well. Diane is prepared to do the same.

But we can be sure that some over-toasted cracker will fire up his Jeebus For Dummies and find some long-reaching passage in his version of the Bible which demands that such a person with so much experience would have to be denied because of his/her status as an 'abomination'.

One thing that cannot be denied about them is that the Red Staters have a great loyalty to the military personel of this nation. One does have to wonder, however, why they would allow their pets (and I mean this in the most respectful way) to be so abused by the likes of Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN)? They come back from Iraq or Afghanistan or wherever and are left to their own devices, in large part thanks to his efforts to take away their veteran's status.

In addition, military hospitals like Walter Reed are being closed, and there are more problems facing veterans [caps in original]:

THE VA IS UNDER-FUNDED AND THERE IS NO HOPE IN SIGHT FOR A BUDGET INCREASE THAT WILL SOLVE THE PROBLEM.

THREE FULL-SERVICE VA HOSPITALS CLOSED IN THE LAST FEW MONTHS.

ESSENTIAL CARE PROGRAMS ARE BEING CUT INCLUDING VOCATIONAL REHAB AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE REHAB.

MANY CLINICS AND DOMICILIARIES HAVE BEEN CLOSED.

THE CO-PAY FOR PRESCRIPTIONS HAS GONE UP WITH ANOTHER INCREASE BEING PROPOSED.

MANY VETS NOW HAVE TO PAY TO SEE A PRIMARY CARE DOCTOR.

A PROPOSED $250/YEAR USER FEE FOR VETS WITH HIGHER INCOMES.

OVER 200,000 VETS ARE NOT EVEN ALLOWED TO REGISTER FOR BENEFITS AND THAT GROUP IS EXPECTED TO GROW BY AT LEAST 500,000.

A $910 MILLION CUT TO THE VA BUDGET HAS BEEN PROPOSED!

But instead of putting two and two together and discovering the Bu$hCo is only for the wealthy corporations, the Red Staters blindly persevere in following where no sane man would ever go. Will they care when their Bobby Joe, 'who's always been a little slow', gets sent to Baluchistan to blow up the natural gas pipeline being built by Iran, India, and Pakistan without a single employee of Halliburton or Bechtel being on the payroll? Will they care if he doesn't 'all' come back from there? Will they care if he doesn't come back 'at all'?

Thinking people know that Bu$hCo has squandered far more than our economic and diplomatic currency. They have also squandered our military might and reputation - and now even disorganized guerillas know that they can get the better of Uncle Stupid.

Thanks a lot, Yore Hindness!

'Uniter, Not A Divider' Yore Sore War Whore @$$!


Copyrighted [©] source material contained in this article is presented under the provisions of Fair Use.

FAIR USE NOTICE

This article contains copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I am making such material available in my efforts to advance understanding of democracy, economic, environmental, human rights, political, scientific, and social justice issues, among others. I believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material in this article is distributed without profit for research and educational purposes.

pessimist :: 8:02 PM :: Comments (1) :: TrackBack (0) :: Spotlight :: Digg It!