Several issues struck me on Veterans Day.
I make no secret of my loathing of all Republicans. I will entertain voluntary presence with not a one.
For all the Bush administration's grotesqueness and moral corruption, nothing exceeded their deprecations when it came to how they regarded the thousands in our military that it so easily sent into the meat grinders of Iraq and Afghanistan. With the backing of the GOP in the House and the Senate, after giving treasury-busting tax breaks to billionaires, after manufacturing from tawdry rags the most bodacious pretense for invading Iraq . . .. After making the most eloquent and grandiose of rah-rah speeches to "honor our heroes," to save what in Washington-speak amounts to loose change they kicked veterans out of the VA medical system.* (See end of article)
Meander the labyrinthine red-tape maze of rat and mildew infested Walter Reed. We'll call it rehab therapy. [Heh, heh.] PTSD: What the hell is that? I can't see it, so it doesn't exist. Suicide? It's painless, ya know. Oh, George, mind passing me another helping of those cuts? No! Not the cold ones, the tax ones. Ya know, don't know who your chef is, but I gotta tell you: those cuts are terrific.
Although suspicions have been filtering out for some time, whether Obama will agree to General Stanley McChrystals' request for minimally 40,000 additional forces, or some other number, today we were given more of the specifics of the four options the president is considering; specifics which include the estimated dollar costs. While I'll not note what the options are, I will come down hard on what has not been factored in. And what has not is huge!
According to the article, the administration calculates the annual costs run $1 billion for every 1,000 troops. Nah, nah, nah. Higher. Much higher. What is not being thrown into the mix as easily as the up front calculations that house and feed and other wise support them is this one little matter: X number of soldiers and marines involved in combat get injured, wounded, and die; each one represents a different dollar cost with those perishing outright being the least expensive. The operations in Iraq, the ones that Iraqi oil revenues were figured on for covering the total outlay, will approach, and very likely -- in 2009 dollars -- exceed $4 TRILLION. That's taking into consideration the costs to care for those who have been wounded, maimed (missing limbs, or stuck with those that no longer function), whether physical or mental, until they die . . . and have been buried at government expense. It's a long-term contract, folks.
Other costs that have not been included are those to the economy as a consequence of the dislocations suffered by employers for slots that must be held open while a member of the Guard or the Reserves is on active duty. No business hires workers out of the goodness of its heart. Workers are hired because there's work the employer needs done. And very few jobs can be efficiently handled until the new-hire (or the temp) has been doing it for at least two weeks; the "learning curve." That's two weeks during which the employer is losing money! The more skill intense the job, the longer will be the learning curve. Then of course there are those jobs that cannot be temporarily filled -- police, fire, municipal or state civil engineers, etc -- because it would subject the government agency to restrictive rules pertaining to termination of the new-hire, once the deployed soldier returns from active duty, and because of budgetary restraints that currently preclude any hiring, for any reason. That represents a very real cost to the community for services that don't get rendered. I've no clue how much, on a national scale, that might sum to. But I'm willing to guess they're not insignificant.
And we have other costs that morally demand to be accounted for. The costs to the families and to the community for the statistically calculable deterioration of the family units that will take place. Squabbling that leads to spousal abuse, and thence to the civil authorities for protective orders, and their enforcement, and culminating in divorce and the effects of that on every member of the family -- especially the kids. Most especially the kids. I don't want to engage the most terrible cost of all: suicide. But as we've seen, the rates of it are off the charts.
As has the country, I've seen them: the videos of the citizens in communities like Fargo and Moorhead working tirelessly and selflessly, filling sandbag after sandbag, all in the urgent quest to hold back the rising flood waters of the Red River. In one way or another, the entire towns, as well as from others some distance removed, came forward, to do whatever each could. The enterprise was esteemed by all as being that important. Same thing with fires, earthquakes, hurricanes. The list is limited only by the number of different disasters that demand to be included in the dire emergency column labeled "that important."
I do not watch Fox News. Nor do I descend to listening to any of the info-tainers on neocon shock-talk radio. Nonetheless, via the Internet, I am alerted to clips that illustrate why thinking folk neither watch nor listen to them. On the other hand, I do devote time to the CSPAN stations, enabling me to be able to identify, by only the sound of their voices, every senator and most of the representatives. I've heard the 1-minute floor speeches in the House and those that ramble almost endlessly from the well of the Senate.
All this to suggest I have watched or heard the calls to war, almost exclusively from the conservatives, that smite the radio airwaves and the cable channels. It's been ad nauseam, with the weight on nausea.
Not to diminish John McCain's service the least, but dropping bombs from 35,000 or 40,000 feet is not the same as day-after-day-after-month-after-month-after-15-month-after-15-month-after-15-month human hunting humans who are hunting you. Suck up that fact: it just isn't even close, which "close" is what ground combat forces know through every cell. And McCain is the only current Republican senator who has actually been in a combat role.
Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, spent six years on active duty in the Air Force and is currently serving in the Air National Guard and Air force Reserves the as a Judge Advocate (aka a lawyer). Honorable -- absolutely. Equivalent to patrolling IED-laced streets and roads in Iraq or mountain passes in Afghanistan, no. The very last actual combat vet the Republicans had in the Senate was Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, and he retired, primarily out of disgust with the calls to combat those in his party were making, those who had never donned a uniform and were unwilling to urge their sons and daughters to put one on.
Including the president himself, there was only one top member of the Bush administration, Colin Powel, who had suffered to dine on the foulness that is combat. As it was with the president, none others had the courage or the decency or the time. They'd all had "other priorities."
On the other hand, among the Democrats are four senators with genuine combat experience: Danny Inouye, John Kerry, Jack Reed, and Jim Webb. And every one of them has spoken loudly and consistently in emphatic opposition to the much too casual whoop for war.
As to those who pound the television and radio studio tables -- Limbaugh, Hannity, O'Reilly, Beck, and their ilk -- and who show up on the Sunday morning panels, offering their scholarly opinions as to why US military presence here and there is essential -- William Krystol, overly corpulent Fred Kagan, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin -- not a single one . . .. Not a one.
And it prompts the most violent retching spasms . . . not a one, and yet so ready to wave the flag and to send someone else and someone else's kids.
President Obama is saddled with a real problem concerning Afghanistan: whether to send additional ground forces, how many, how soon, and for how long. Whether he decides to send 10,000 or 100,000 I'll back him all the way . . . when all the following occur:
When the president states specifically what the objective is, how all of us will know precisely when it has been accomplished, and why 'X' thousands of American men and women are necessary to the accomplishment of that objective.
When the shock-talk jocks grab their kids by the scruffs of their collars, drag them to an army or marine recruiter and tell them they can return home only after they've spent a full tour in combat.
When John Boehner and Mitch McConnell march to the House floor and to the well of the Senate and demand the Bush tax cuts that benefitted the top 2% of income earners in the country be rescinded, to pay for the military operation.
When John Boehner and Mitch McConnell each submit bills in their respective chambers calling for reinstitution of the military draft, this time with no exemptions from service except one -- an exemption the exempted will wear on his or her public record their entire lives that simply states: "By dint of cowardice, low intelligence, or a demonstrated lack of minimum integrity, Unfit for Military Service."
When Michele Bachmann and Joe Wilson and Heather Wilson and Patrick McHenry and Virginia Foxx co-author a bill that secures every Republican House member's sponsorship that raises the taxes on the American taxpayers in the upper 2% sufficient to fund local housing and lifelong counseling for every current and future homeless veteran, and which restores full VA medical care to those they and the Bush administration kicked out in 2003.*
Then we'll know that, just like filling sandbags along the Red River, when confronted by the threat of a devastating flood, it's that important, that the country send American men and women into combat. Until all of those occur . . . I'm led to believe it's just not all "that important." And until it is "that important," I will stand firm and present and as loud as I can against sending even one American. And that is how to honor our men and women in uniform, as well as all our veterans.
* In 2003, the Bush administration requested the congress pass an amendment to the war funding bill that removed from access to VA medical facilities those veterans with a family income of $29,000 and above. The measure passed.
-- Ed Tubbs