8/01/2007

TWO FRONTS IN THIS WAR


Who knew? Who knew? That the basic needs of our soldiers overseas are being met by...the Pentagon? The Armed Services Committee, on Capitol Hill? No? How about 'viewers like you'?

Yes, as this story from today's Fresno Bee suggests, it is charity from home, from ordinary citizens, that is bridging the gap in Iraq and Afghanistan, not the eight-figures of military expenditures. As the article mentions, "Bore Snakes join a list of other battle-related materials that citizen groups have supplied when the military did not issue them, including body armor and gloves to protect soldiers' hands from the heated barrels of their weapons."

What's a Bore Snake? Read the article, and admire the unqualified patriotism of Madera resident Jim Kochheiser and others. I mean that, in every way. I admire their patriotism, but it is unqualified: they shrink from anything that could reasonably be interpreted as criticism. "Why the Army doesn't issue them is someone else's fight," says Jim.

Well...OK...at the risk of being contentious, I think our soldiers deserve better. Unfortunately for them, and for us, the bulk of the over $100 billion spent on this adventure has not been spent on giving the troops overwhelming tactical superiority on the ground today (which would, hasten the end of the present US occupation). Rather, it has been invested in what the neo-cons fervently hope is a long-term strategic asset: the construction, on a grand scale all but unrivaled in our history, of a permanent US military presence in Iraq.

Regardless of where we sit on the political spectrum, this is an underreported story and it is this investment, more than anything else, that gives the lie to the wishful thinking of some on the left, that a Democrat in the White House will mean a quick US exit from Iraq. At best, we have a situation akin to South Korea, with an ongoing annual investment of thousands of troops and billions of dollars to maintain a US military presence in the Iraqi desert, but one that does not require constant urban deployment of American forces to prop up the national government. We hope.

On another front, the Army has finally admitted what many of us have known for all along: that the tragic death of Pat Tillman was an unfortunate case of 'friendly fire' and that members of the Army conspired to keep embarrassing details about the former NFL star's death under wraps. One wonders if, at some point, they will also salve their consciences with a public repudiation of the attempt to smear Tillman and his family for non-conforming beliefs.

2 comments:

mbatm27 said...

I'm always a little miffed when folks perpetuate this notion that the Army fails to provide for our soldiers, especially on those tactically critical items.

After spending 18 years in the Army and serving three combat tours, I have seen some problems, but none as catastrophic as the media would have you believe.

Yes, I deployed to Baghdad with a "flak vest" instead of "body armor", but that was fixed within 30 days. The Army logistics system doesn't respond overnight, but can your expect that for a system that has to supply over 100,000 personnel in Iraq alone?

Sorry for being sarcastic, but let's see the State of California provide the newest text books for 100,000 students in a few short days.

Anyway, here's how I see the Bore Snake scenario actually panning out. A typical soldier thinks his Army issued cleaning kit isn't good enough. He finds this Bore Snake thing and says, "Cool, I want that." Because all soldiers tend to want the latest greatest gizmo.

Now his buddies see it, they want it, a letter gets sent to the company stating how "the Army isn't giving cool cleaning kits" to the soldiers. The media gets hold of it and it's all blown out of proportion.

Believe me, I've seen this over and over. The Army does the best it can to support our Soldiers. I should know, I've been one for 18 years.

Scott Hatfield . . . said...

K, if you read the Bee article I've linked to you'll see that while troops preferred the Bore Snake, that there were no complaints about the standard-issue cleaning kit. And the folk in Madera profiled locally are just doing what they think is their patriotic duty, and they declined to criticize the powers that be. Well, I think it is my patriotic duty to criticize the powers that be, especially if they aren't doing everything they can to support our troops.

Presumably, in the long term, if the Bore Snake is superior, the Army will adopt it after their present contract elapses.

And besides, the bulk of my concern is that most of the budget in the Iraq adventure has been designated to build H1 and H2, which are clearly envisioned as permanent bases. It's an underreported story, not a partisan one.

Also underreported: the way military pay, especially for enlisted, has lagged behind the private sector for decades. Sure, as an Army major with nearly 20 years you're making over $60 K a year, but my 27-year-old stepson who did 6 years in the Corps is making about twice what an E-5 would make after 10 years of service (he's a police officer). No degree, either. So from where I sit there's room for improvement.