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A Challenge to the U.S. Senate: If the troops must forego R and R, so should you.

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Last November, the American people voted for change. We were fed up. So we sent more Democrats to Washington with the expectation that we would finally see some positive change, some real efforts to reverse the direction in which this country has been led (and misled) over the past six years.

No such luck.

And now they've outdone themselves.

All along, Congress has been rubberstamping Bush's misguided Iraq war policy. They fear that if they don't, they'll be accused of not supporting our troops.

So now what do they do? They block legislation that would support our troops. Stranger than fiction.

Last week, the Senate rejected a bipartisan proposal to give our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan more leave time.

The proposal had been introduced by Senator Jim Webb, who happens to be a Viet Nam veteran. How many of the senators who voted against it have any idea of what it's like to serve in military combat? Not many, I suspect.

Our troops are overstretched. They're tired. They're stressed to the max. And they have to endure the most horrific conditions imaginable for months and months on end. They deserve a generous amount of time off. Besides, it's no secret that long, endless work shifts under stressful conditions will reduce one's performance and present safety issues. We've got laws regulating how long a trucker can drive at a single stretch, and how many hours per week a medical resident can work. And, as stressful as their jobs can be, truck drivers and doctors are not typically in danger of being shot at 24 hours a day. Don't our troops deserve better?

How would these senators feel if they were deprived of R and R?

Maybe we should see.

Since these senators feel that time off isn't so necessary, maybe they should forego their own vacations. And maybe they should live like the troops for a while, as a show of support and solidarity, and to see for themselves what it's like.

Make them work 24/7 under the most stressful conditions, with someone barking orders at them constantly. Make them sleep and shower in group facilities and eat only military chow and MREs. Make them walk the streets each day in a high-crime section of D.C. to see what it's like to have bullets flying by their heads.

Make them live like this for six months, and don't give them a single day off. No break. And they're not allowed to complain.

Make them live like this for six months, and then see if they still feel that the troops have it just fine.

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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)

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