President George W. Bush’s plan to send an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq, primarily to Baghdad, may push our armed forces to the breaking point.
The “Army has become a ‘just in time’ organization: every combat brigade that finishes training is sent back to Iraq or Afghanistan almost immediately,” New York Times writer David Cloud said. Many are sent without vital equipment, like armored vehicles, roadside bomb jammers and night vision goggles.
The surge in troops will be accomplished by overlapping the normal rotation of incoming forces and those who have finished their tours, and increasing the length of tours.
A resolution against the troop surge passed by the New Jersey State Assembly on March 9 notes that “(the) surge will affect 159 members of the New Jersey National Guard currently in Iraq, so that instead of returning in March or April, (they) will now be returning in July or August.” More Reservists and National Guardsmen will also be sent to achieve the surge.
In 2005, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham observed that casualties among reservists in Iraq outnumbered the amount of deaths among active duty soldiers. The increasing death toll among reserve forces reflects their more prominent role in Iraq, where they make up almost half of those on the front lines.
In a memo released two years ago, Lt. Gen. James Helmly warned the Pentagon’s excessive reliance on reservists could create a “broken force.”
The Pentagon has increasingly come to rely on traditional “rearguard” troops, such as the Reserves and the National Guard, because of shortfalls in recruitment for active duty soldiers. The Army missed its goal of 80,000 troops by 8 percent in 2005 and met its target last year only after adding recruiters, bumping the age limit up twice to 42, raising enlistment bonuses and allowing recruits with tattoos on their necks and hands to join.
In its desperate efforts to get more recruits, the Army is also hiring more people with criminal records. The number of waivers granted to Army recruits with criminal backgrounds has grown about 65 percent in the last three years, increasing to 8,129 in 2006 from 4,918 in 2003.
In 2005, the Army also modified Defense Department rules to permit recruiters to sign up more high school dropouts. Under the “Army Education Plus” option, recruiters can enlist those without a GED.
Finally, the Army is also enlisting an increasing number of non-citizens. Since Sept. 11, 2001, the number of immigrants in uniform who have become U.S. citizens has increased from 750 in 2001 to almost 4,600 in 2005.
Army recruiters are willing to accept noncitizens, high-school dropouts and felons charged with aggravated assault and robbery to get more enlistees. Yet, for all their desperation, they continue to turn away perfectly good candidates simply because of their sexuality.
Under the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, openly gay men and lesbians are not permitted to join the military. The Pentagon has spent millions of taxpayers’ dollars discharging 11,000 service members under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” since 1993.
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is the only federal law that mandates firing an American because of his or her sexual orientation.
Last week, Gen. Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, told The Chicago Tribune that lesbians and gays are “immoral,” and the military is not “well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way.”
The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which represents gay men and women in the military, is lobbying for the passage of the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, HR 1246. This act would repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Research by Gary Gates at the University of California School of Law shows that repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” could raise the service rates of homosexual men by 20,000. That would be enough to secure all of the troops needed for Bush’s surge.
But, instead of permitting gays and lesbians to openly join the military, recruiters prey upon the dispossessed, drop-outs, criminals and immigrants. The Army barely managed to meet its recruitment goals last year, yet it is still turning away willing Americans because homophobic bigots like Anne Coulter and Peter Pace don’t want anything to do with “faggots.”
Information from – New York Times, AP, Boston Globe, CNN, The Chicago Tribune, North Carolina Observer, statesman.com