Senior Army and Marine Corps leaders said yesterday that the increase of more than 30,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan has put unsustainable levels of stress on U.S. ground forces and has put their readiness to fight other conflicts at the lowest level in years.
In a stark assessment a week before Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, is to testify on the war's progress, Gen. Richard A. Cody, the Army's vice chief of staff, said that the heavy deployments are inflicting "incredible stress" on soldiers and families and that they pose "a significant risk" to the nation's all-volunteer military.
Which would seem to undercut any possible claim that the disaster in Iraq is helping American national security. It is, in fact, doing the exact opposite. And how badly damaged is military readiness, and how desperate is the military to compensate for what Bush is doing to it? Pauline Jelinek of the Associated Press explains:
It will be more than a year before the Army can end the unpopular practice of forcing soldiers to stay in the service beyond their retirement or reenlistment dates, a top official said yesterday.
Lieutenant General James D. Thurman, deputy chief of staff for operations, said he hoped that wartime demand for troops will decline enough by around the fall of next year to end "stop-loss." He said there are more than 12,000 currently serving under the practice - an action that critics have called a backdoor draft.
Thurman also said that as officials continue to increase the size of the Army, it could be possible by the fall of 2011 for troops to be home two years for every year they are deployed.
Yes, it may come as a surprise to some, but not only are many military personnel not happy about having to go to Iraq, many are actually not happy about still being in the military. They are kept there. Against their will. More than 12,000 of them! Because Bush needs them as cannon fodder. But the military is expanding its size, which should alleviate the problem, right? Well, maybe not. According to the Washington Post:
The Army admitted about one-fourth more recruits last year with a record of legal problems ranging from felony convictions and serious misdemeanors to drug crimes and traffic offenses, as pressure to increase the size of U.S. ground forces led the military to grant more waivers for criminal conduct, according to new data released yesterday.
Such "conduct waivers" for Army recruits rose from 8,129 in fiscal 2006 to 10,258 in fiscal 2007. For Marine Corps recruits, they increased from 16,969 to 17,413.
In particular, the Army accepted more than double the number of applicants with convictions for felony crimes such as burglary, grand larceny and aggravated assault, rising from 249 to 511, while the corresponding number for the Marines increased by two-thirds, from 208 to 350. The vast majority of such convictions stem from juvenile offenses. Most involved theft, but a handful involved sexual assault and terrorist threats, and there were three cases of involuntary manslaughter.
"The significant increase in the recruitment of persons with criminal records is a result of the strain put on the military by the Iraq war," said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which released the Pentagon data on felony waivers.
To many Americans, national security is a critical voting issue. And that's particularly true about many swing voters. If the Democrats play it right- which means not being afraid to tell the truth- national security should be a Democratic issue. Because Bush is destroying America's military.