Impeach Bush; while we’re at it, impeach the whole administration!
Not too long ago I was having a conversation with a man who is close to my age, mid-fifties. He is a casual acquaintance–someone I see only two or three times a year. Our conversation turned to Bush and the war in Iraq.
As we talked, he told me that he had been drafted, and had served in Vietnam. He served one tour, rotated back to the US, and then volunteered to serve a second tour; after a short time serving his second tour, he was wounded and sent home– treated, and then discharged from the Army (while George W. Bush served–or didn’t serve–in the Texas National Guard.) He has been in a post traumatic stress group through the VA ever since then.
I don’t know exactly when he was in Vietnam, but the fall of Saigon took place at the end of April, 1975–thirty-two years ago. So this man has been dealing with what took place for a very short period of his life overall, and more than two-thirds of his life ago.
What about the people who are serving now in Iraq? Longer tours of duty, shorter rotations out, multiple tours back. Even though they are part of a volunteer military, once they are in, there is no “volunteer” to it.
It took years for the horror stories of most individuals to begin making their way to the surface after the end of the Vietnam war. Sure there were the few high profile stories–the My Lai massacre. But no one wanted to hear what the average soldier had to say. So they had to suck it up, keep it secret. I knew guys who had served, and who seemed like average people after they returned. But when you scratched the surface, these were men who were sleeping with knives, a length of pipe, a gun under their pillows. They woke up screaming and sweat- soaked. Some of them drove for hours to get to the VA to go to their meetings, so they could talk with a shrink… but mostly so that they could talk to one another, the only ones who could really understand.
And, from talking with my acquaintance not long ago, some of them are still making that drive.
So what does the future hold for those who are serving now in Iraq? One, two, three tours, some longer than a year. I went to Las Vegas a few weeks ago, and we stopped in Victorville for lunch. We weren’t far from Fort Irwin, the desert Army base where they have training for those headed for Iraq (because the terrain is so similar). The fast food place where we ate was filled with young faces, their bodies clothed in camouflage. What does the future hold for these young people? When they finally get out of the Army–IF they come home alive–will they be sleeping with guns under their pillows? Will they be “dealing with” their war-related issues all of their lives?
There is no reason for me to think otherwise.
Support our troops. Bring them home. Now.
[And if anyone from the Administration Department of Domestic Spying is paying any attention to the writings of an average American like me, I have one thing to say: Read it. And weep.]
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Gates Announces Longer Tours for Active-Duty Army Soldiers
By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 11, 2007; 5:14 PM
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced this afternoon that all active-duty Army soldiers currently deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan could serve extended tours of up to 15 months in combat, meaning more than 100,000 troops now at war probably will be kept overseas three months longer than their expected one-year deployments.
The new Pentagon policy also means that tens of thousands of Army troops headed to Iraq and Afghanistan in coming months likely will serve tours 25 percent longer than the one-year tours the Army has had in place for the two conflicts over the past five years.
Gates said the change is necessary to prevent five Army brigades from deploying to combat before they complete a desired 12-month rest period at home and to give predictability to soldiers and their families.
Marine units are still expected to have seven-month deployments followed by six-month rest periods at home.
Longer tours also will not apply to four National Guard brigade combat teams that Defense Department officials have slated to deploy to Iraq later this year or early next year, as Gates said he wants to keep to an earlier policy that would allow reserve units to mobilize for one year followed by a five-year break.
Gates said the extended tours are “a difficult but necessary interim step” toward a policy that would allow the Army to have its troops in Iraq and Afghanistan for one-year tours and then have a year off at home. He said the longer deployments also will allow President Bush’s “surge” strategy in Baghdad to last a year in case such high force levels are needed in Iraq. “We are creating the capability to keep it in place,” Gates said, adding that the surge will last only as long as commanders believe it is effective and necessary, based on conditions in Iraq.
The announcement makes official what had been an ongoing military strategy of keeping force levels up in Iraq, as commanders had sought extensions for several brigades over the past year to maintain pressure on enemy forces, especially in Baghdad. Gates and Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a Pentagon news conference today that the broad-based extensions will provide a predictable and dependable deployment schedule for troops and their families.
The extended tours are also an indication of how much strain has been placed on the Army as a result of repeated deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan for wars that have lasted far longer than expected. Two Army brigades that have already been extended will not have to stay longer as a result of the new policy, Gates said.
“Our forces are stretched, there is no question about that,” Gates said. “What we’re trying to do here is provide some long-term predictability for the soldiers and their families about how long their deployments will be and how long they will be at home.”
Asked if the extended tours in combat zones will be more difficult for soldiers who had anticipated serving a year there, Pace said: “Of course it is.”
Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said Gates’s “new policy will be an additional burden to an already overstretched Army.”
“I think this will have a chilling effect on recruiting, retention, and readiness. We also must not underestimate the enormous negative impact this will have on Army families,” Skelton said.
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said the extended tours will expose the volunteer Army to more danger.
“This Administration keeps asking our troops for more–do more without the right equipment, spend more time on deployment even as our generals say there is no military solution to the war in Iraq,” Kerry in a statement. ” . . . This is the latest sign that the Bush Administration continues to overextend our military to the breaking point.”
Staff writer Bill Brubaker contributed to this story.