Musharref Resignation: Bush’s GWOT Just Got More Interesting

The world that the next president of the United States inherits is going to look very different than the current model. Global geopolitics are changing fast – Russia / Georgia, and now Pakistan’s Pervez Musharref resigns. Instability within the membership of the global nuclear club isn’t a good thing.

Commentary By: Richard Blair

I’m going to go out on a limb and make a prediction:

Before the next president takes office on 1/20/2009, the world is going to be a much different place. It’s almost starting to seem like the Bush regime is going out of their way to scorch them some earth, and leave a huge pile of crap for the next administration to sort through.

First, we have Russia and Georgia, a situation which isn’t going away anytime soon. The instability in the region will remain, and all parties will be nervously fingering a cocked trigger. But at least Condi Rice finally decided to leave the Feragamo store, quit vacation early, and head for the region. Bush himself delayed his two week vacay a day or two to “monitor developments”, but he’s now busy with brush clearing in Crawford.

Today comes word that BushCo / Cheney LLC’s lapdog, Pervez Musharref, has ended months of speculation and is resigning as president of Pakistan. There’s not much that I can add to this piece of news, other than what this means is even more instability in an already unstable member of the global nuclear club.

Georgia has nukes and ground forces. Russia has nukes and ground forces. The U.S. has nukes and essentially no uncommitted ground forces. Pakistan has nukes and ground forces, and a military which is not (apparently) answerable to the country’s civilian leadership.

The world that the next POTUS inherits just five short months from now will be very different than that which the Bush regime has operated with relative impunity. I’m not smart enough to know what that world might look like, but unfortunately, I am tuned into what’s happening just enough to be ve

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011 by Richard Blair |

Taliban Advances in Pakistan

The ham-handed, post-9/11 foreign policy moves of the Bush administration have actually led the world much closer to the possibility nuclear terrorism. In the near term, President Obama is left with very few (if any) realistic options to deal with the deteriorating political situation in Pakistan.

Commentary By: Richard Blair

Taliban in PakistanIn the immediate aftermath of the events of 9/1//2001, the Bush administration made a strategic foreign policy blunder that is still reverberating with negative consequences: embracing the government of Pakistan, then controlled by military strongman Pervez Musharraf, as a full partner in the administration’s horribly misguided “global war on terror”.

The thing is, the Musharraf regime was never more than an unwilling accomplice to BushCo’s wet dreams of U.S. dominion in the Middle East. Terrorist training camps within Pakistan continued to operate unfettered even as U.S. forces stormed into neighboring Afghanistan. Operations conducted by Pakistan’s military have been mostly staged for “show” purposes, and have been only marginally effective. Since Musharraf’s resignation as President, extremist elements in the country have made significant inroads, up to and including the government acceding to Taliban demands earlier this year that Shari’a law be implemented in a major Pakistani province.

And now, it appears as if Taliban militias are within striking distance of toppling the Pakistani government. Militia forces have advanced to within mere miles of Islamabad:

Residents streaming from Buner, home to nearly a million people, told local newspapers that armed militants are patrolling the streets. Pakistani television stations aired footage of Taliban soldiers looting government offices and capturing vehicles belonging to aid organizations and development projects. The police, say residents, are nowhere to be seen…

…Maulana Fazlur Rehman, head of one of the country’s Islamic political parties, warned in Parliament Wednesday [that] the Margalla Hills, a small mountain range north of the capital that separates it from Buner, appears to be “the only hurdle in their march toward the federal capital,” The only solution, he said, was for the entire nation to accept Shari’a law in order to deprive the Taliban of their principal cause.

The Bush administration left office with the full knowledge that they were leaving behind a fetid, smoking pile of foreign policy manure. Without a doubt, the instability in nuclear armed Pakistan is fast becoming the number one priority for Team Obama.

It’s interesting that the handwringers on the right were so worried about extremist Islamic elements getting their hands on nuclear weaponry from Saddam in the aftermath of 9/11. Many of us on the left also harbored the same concerns – except that the geographic source of the concern was much different – Pakistan, a nation that already possessed the weapons of mass destruction.

The ham-handed, post-9/11 foreign policy moves of the Bush administration have actually led the world much closer to the possibility nuclear terrorism. In the near term, President Obama is left with very few (if any) realistic options to deal with the deteriorating political situation in Pakistan.

But deal with it, he must. And soon.

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009 by Richard Blair |

Clueless Army Researchers Urge Giving Brain Damaged Troops the Shaft

Knowledge about traumatic brain injuries is in its infancy, but two Army researchers think that it’s a mistake to screen and treat this condition. Don’t leave the troops to fend for themselves with this issue. Believe me, their problems aren’t going to go away with a scrip for an antidepressant and xanax.

Commentary By: somegirl

This is terrible news. As someone who has suffered from a “mild” TBI for over 10 years, unable to work and severely limited in my interaction with the outside world, I have been hoping that some new treatments might be developed, finally, due to this condition in the troops.

What many people don’t understand is that mild TBI’s often don’t have any “verifiable” symptoms – MRIs may be normal and many other tests too. Symptoms may seem more severe than the objective data can find, and the medical establishment will do their best to make you feel like a hopeless failure because of that. Testing is often not sensitive enough to detect abnormalities, and so it is deemed a mental health issue. Depression is the garbage diagnosis given when the docs don’t know what to do.

Mental health issues do pile on pretty quickly when your quality of life is severely eroded and no one believes you when you tell them your symptoms.

And don’t think because I can express myself well I can have a normal life. I have terrible light sensitivity and visual processing problems, and I can’t be around fluorescent lights because of the flickering. Extreme exhaustion sets in after a few hours of any activity – my brain just quits. My main “treatment” is staying home 90% of the time as it’s the only way I can control sensory input. The smallest bonk on the head results in a full blown concussion, intensifying all the symptoms. And don’t even get me started on the behavioral problems that can result, and the hopelessness that can set in when you’re suddenly acting like a 7 year old. And because you look ok, no one understands.

Ten years ago, hardly anyone, including myself, had heard of TBIs. It took me 4 months to find out there was a name for what was happening to me, and it wasn’t from a doctor. These researchers don’t even know the definition of TBI apparently, since they reason that most concussions clear up in a couple days, there’s no reason to screen for TBI. They are right about the concussion part, but a TBI isn’t a concussion. Don’t leave the troops to fend for themselves with this issue. Believe me, their problems aren’t going to go away with a scrip for an antidepressant and xanax.

Thursday, April 16th, 2009 by somegirl |

Bryan Lentz and the Coffin Flag Controversy

Bryan Lentz is a veteran and a young Democratic member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Today the right wing Philadelphia Inquirer asked Lentz to defend the policy of nt allowing press photographs of the flag draped coffins of servicemen on their return to the US. Lentz failed logically in presenting his arguments.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Barack Obama recently said his people would be reviewing the policy of not allowing photographs of soldiers coffins, draped in American flags, to be photographed by the press as they return to Dover from wherever that soldier died. As the proud owner of the flag that draped my father’s coffin, I believe we should honor all of our soldiers, their commitment and their service, by noting, with solemnity. I just don’t see how photographing the coffins impedes that goal. But the Philadelphia Inquirer, in its neverending pursuit of defending George Bush’s policies, has brought in Bryan Lentz, a Democratic member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, to defend that policy. Lentz shows just how weak he is at structuring an argument in said defense when he discusses the notion of free speech and how it impacts the ruling.

Here’s the offending paragraph from Bryan Lentz in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

For those who say the First Amendment requires unfettered public access, I say – in this limited case – the First Amendment be damned. Free-speech protections don’t encompass yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater, and they shouldn’t include intruding on mourning military families.

There’s a world of nonsense in Lentz’s words here. First, the yelling “Fire” example is an example of one area where we may limit speech because yelling “Fire” in a crowded theater can be a major safety hazard. There is no safety hazard to taking press photos of flag draped coffins. Lentz’s analogy is simply stupid. If Lentz can find precedent where free speech is inhibited in order to spare the feelings of mourners, then he might find the proper precedent, but there’s no evidence in these cases that photographs of flaf draped coffins harms anyone’s ability to mourn. Indeed, there are no names on the coffins, and thus there is no privacy violated when photos are taken of those coffins.

Bryan Lentz has put up some straw men arguments to defend a Bush policy that helped sanitize a war where Bush asked for no sacrifice from the American people, then tried to shield our view from the ultimate sacrifices he did require. Americans in general were impeded under the Bush Administration, through a limitation of free speech, to take part in a national mouring in a significant way. We were not required by Bush to sacrifice, and we were limited by Bush in experiencing the sacrifice of others.

I respect Bryan Lentz’s service to our country. Indeed, and in the interest of full disclosure, I have touted his campaigning in the past, for instance here, where I touted his plan to challenge Curt Weldon a few years ago. Bryan Lentz may have heartfelt reasons to want the coverage of flag draped coffins of servicemen to be stifled, and I can respect those heartfelt reasons. I just can’t respect his use of faulty logic in defense of those policies.

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009 by Steven Reynolds |

Christmas in Baghdad, Shamelessness on Fox News Sunday

Iraq is celebrating Christmas and CNN is making it out like there never was such freedom before the US invaded, forgetting, perhaps, that Saddam did not persecute Christians. This is not an excuse for the US invasion, as it will be played, nor is it an excuse for the excesses defended by Dick Cheney on Fox News Sunday.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

My first reaction to the story on CNN about the first public Christmas to be celebrated in Baghdad was quite wary. A hot air balloon supporting a huge poster of Jesus is not going to go over very well among the Muslims there, is it, no matter whether they are Sunni or Shiite. And I am not often impressed by the kumbaya nature of the depiction of the celebration, with one woman, a Muslim, explaining why she attended.

On a large stage, children dressed in costumes representing Iraq’s many ethnic and religious groups – Kurds, Turkmen, Yazidis, Christians, Arab Muslims not defined as Sunni or Shiite – hold their hands aloft and sing “We are building Iraq!” Two young boys, a mini-policeman and a mini-soldier sporting painted-on mustaches, march stiffly and salute.

Even before I can ask Interior Ministry spokesman Major-General Abdul Karim Khalaf a question, he greets me with a big smile. “All Iraqis are Christian today!” he says.

Khalaf says sectarian and ethnic violence killed thousands of Iraqis. “Now that we have crossed that hurdle and destroyed the incubators of terrorism,” he says, “and the security situation is good, we have to go back and strengthen community ties.”

In spite of his claim, the spokesman is surrounded by heavy security. Yet this celebration shows that the security situation in Baghdad is improving.

Many of the people attending the Christmas celebration appear to be Muslims, with women wearing head scarves. Suad Mahmoud, holding her 16-month-old daughter, Sara, tells me she is indeed Muslim, but she’s very happy to be here. “My mother’s birthday also is this month, so we celebrate all occasions,” she says, “especially in this lovely month of Christmas and New Year.”

I suppose this celebration of Christmas in a country wracked by violence ever since the US invasion seven years ago is going to be touted as a good thing. Heck, Dick Cheney may use this as evidence as to why it was OK to torture, spy on Americans, get hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed, etc., etc. That wouldn’t surprise me at all. But Cheney is trumped by the celebrants themselves. On display at the celebration are some dioramas made by school children, and in them you can see the kind of terror and pain Bush/Cheney’s invasion of Iraq brought (from CNN):

In the middle of the park there’s an art exhibit, the creation of 11- and 12-year-olds: six displays, each about three feet wide, constructed of cardboard and Styrofoam, filled with tiny dolls dressed like ordinary people, along with model soldiers and police. They look like model movie sets depicting everyday life in Baghdad.

Afnan, 12 years old, shows me her model called “Arresting the Terrorists.”

“These are the terrorists,” she tells me. “They were trying to blow up the school.” In the middle of the street a dead “terrorist” sprawls on the asphalt, his bloody arm torn from his body by an explosion. Afnan tells me she used red nail polish to paint the blood. A little plastic dog stands nearby. “What is he doing?” I ask. “He looks for terrorists and searches for weapons and explosives,” Afnan says.

Afnan was likely six years old or so when Dick Cheney and George Bush invaded Iraq on the series of false pretexts Cheney is still defending. As I understand it, Christianity was not persecuted in the days before the US invasion, so Cheney and Bush cannot lay claim to having brought freedom of religion. Afnan’s diorama of ethnic and religious violence was brought to her directly from Bush and Cheney. Indeed, in a remarkable performance for its baldfaced defense of wrongdoing, Dick Cheney appeared on Fox News Sunday and laid out a case for Bush Administration successes, a performance stunning in its tenuous grip on reality, at least the reality young Afnan sees. From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Cheney, speaking less than a month before he and President Bush leave the White House, was blunt and unapologetic about his central role in some of the most controversial issues of the last eight years, including the invasion of Iraq, warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens, and harsh interrogation tactics. Cheney also said he disagreed with Bush’s decision to remove embattled Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in 2006, saying that “the president doesn’t always take my advice.”

“I was a Rumsfeld man,” Cheney said. “I’d helped recruit him, and I thought he did a good job for us.”

The interview was the second in less than a week for the normally reclusive vice president, and it comes as part of a broad effort by Bush and his aides to focus attention on issues that they consider major accomplishments of their two terms in office. In an interview with ABC News last week, Cheney suggested the administration would have gone to war with Iraq even without erroneous intelligence showing that Saddam Hussein had developed weapons of mass destruction. Cheney also said in that interview that he approved of the administration’s use of coercive interrogation tactics, including a type of simulated drowning known as waterboarding, against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and others.

Dick Cheney seals his reputation for all time as the puppetmaster behind the throne who supported policies of spying on US citiznes, invading Iraq, supporting Rumsfeld’s failed strategies, torture, etc. Perhaps because the performance was on Fox News Cheney’s immediate viewing audience did not sit in shock at the man responsible for the disasters of the last seven years. Perhaps those viewers even cheered. The rest of us know that Cheney’s policies have mangled our constitution, have destroyed our reputation in the world, have killed hundreds of thousands of innocents, and have led to the terror in young Afnan’s art project.

Again, a Republican such as Dick Cheney proves he has no sense of shame.

Monday, December 22nd, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

One Leg Raised on the Bush–Cheney Legacy: Deconstructing the Spin and Propaganda

The Republican Party, in the person of its lame duck Chair, Mike Duncan, has already begun its campaign to vilify the supposed leftist Obama government, but the same extremist Republicans ignore their history of trampling on the constitution, of incompetence, of fearmongering, etc. The Party of Honest Abe has lost touch with honesty, opting for distortion as usual.

Commentary By: Walter Brasch

by Walter Brasch

The chairman of the Republican National Committee may have begun an irreversible descent into a future as a fear-bound paranoid victim of functional amnesia, possibly caused by a hysterical post-traumatic event such as the overwhelming victory of Democrats in the 2008 election and the nation’s repudiation of Republican policies.

In a two-page vitriol-loaded letter dated “Friday morning”–he apparently was unable to remember the exact date–Robert M. (Mike) Duncan, RNC chairman, told Americans that the Democrats plan to “impose their radical leftist agenda on America,” and that Republicans “must work vigilantly to guard our country’s freedoms from the inevitable assault [by Democrats] they will face.” He didn’t mention that not one of Barack Obama’s proposed cabinet members nor any of the members of the current Congress is a “radical leftist.”

It’s really sad that Mike forgot that fear-mongering, obstruction of justice, reduction of public information, distrust and resentment of the worker, and curtailment of civil liberties–with the complicity of millions of Americans and much of the Democratic leadership who willingly crumpled under unremitting Neocon assaults–have been the base of the Bush–Cheney Administration and a Republican-dominated Congress for most of the past eight years. Perhaps I can shock what little memory Mike may have left in the hope that some of his brain cells may once again function.

It was the Republicans, not the Democrats, who systematically violated the Constitution, while screaming “The terrorists are coming! The terrorists ar

Sunday, December 21st, 2008 by Walter Brasch |

Generals Take a Stand Against Torture

Several retired Generals are taking a stand against torture, and they want Barack Obama to be public on the subject, including talking about and denouncing it in his Inaugural Address. Such sentiment would go a long way to showing the world the US has left the Cheney/Bush regime and moved in the direction of freedom, for a change.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Several Retired United States Generals are asking Barack Obama to take a stand against torture in his inaugural address. This is perhaps the biggest signal Obama could send around the world that there is real change afoot in this nation. Here’s the scoop from Reuters:

Barack Obama should act from the moment of his inauguration to restore a U.S. image battered by allegations of torturing terrorism suspects, said a group of retired military leaders planning to press their case with the president-elect’s transition team on Wednesday.

“We need to remove the stain, and the stain is on us, as well as on our reputation overseas,” said retired Vice Adm. Lee Gunn, former Navy inspector general.

Gunn and about a dozen other retired generals and admirals, who are scheduled to meet Obama’s team in Washington, said they plan to offer a list of anti-torture principles, including some that could be implemented immediately.

They include making the Army Field Manual the single standard for all U.S. interrogators. The manual requires humane treatment and forbids practices such as waterboarding – a form of simulated drowning widely condemned as torture.

Other immediate steps Obama could take are revoking presidential orders allowing the CIA to use harsh treatment, giving the International Red Cross access to all prisoners held by intelligence agencies and declaring a moratorium on taking prisoners to a third country for harsh interrogations.

“If he’d just put a couple of sentences in his inaugural address, stating the new position, then everything would flow from that,” said retired Maj. Gen. Fred Haynes, whose regiment in World War Two raised the American flag on Iwo Jima.

What we really need is for some Republicans to change their party’s stance on issues like torture and spying on Americans. I won’t be holding my breath on that one, but it would go a long way towards showing the world that we have finer principles than the Bush Administration exhibited in its War on Freedom over the last seven years.

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

The White Flag of Surrender – In Afghanistan

In the U.S., the neocon uberhawks only think in shades of black and white. No war has ever been won against non-state sponsored actors. It always – always – comes down to a negotiation process, and finishing up business in both Iraq and Afghanistan will be no different. A report this morning from the U.K. makes it clear that the Brits understand this. The PALIN / McCain ticket does not.

Commentary By: Richard Blair

In the U.S., most people don’t even discuss George Bush’s two-front “global war on terrorism” anymore. The topics of Iraq and Afghanistan have largely fallen down the memory hole and off the political radar screen in this presidential election year, regardless of the fact that both countries are still in a state of turmoil, and low-level insurgencies loom over any time horizons for withdrawal. Bush has been quietly busy rearranging the deck chairs on the Lietanic, proposing some troop withdrawals in Iraq (conditions permitting), and essentially redeploying those troops to the Afghan theater.

The change of venue hasn’t escaped the U.K. press, largely because they’re now out of Iraq, and are redeploying British units to Afghanistan. Today, the U.K. Daily Mail reports that both the U.N. envoy to Afghanistan and British military leadership agree that the ongoing war in Afghanistan “can not be can not be won militarily”.

What does this mean?

The UK’s most senior commander in Afghanistan, Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, admitted yesterday it was unrealistic to think there would be a decisive military victory.

He went on to suggest that international forces may end up striking a deal with the insurgents about security.

Brigadier Carleton-Smith, commander of the 16 Air Assault Brigade, said it was necessary to –lower our expectations’.

He added that there was likely to be –low but steady’ levels of rural insurgency once international troops eventually leave Afghanistan.

…In an interview with the Sunday Times, Brigadier Carleton-Smith said: –We’re not going to win this war. It’s about reducing it to a manageable level of insurgency that’s not a strategic threat and can be managed by the Afghan army.

–We want to change the nature of the debate from one where disputes are settled through the barrel of the gun to one where it is done through negotiations.

–If the Taliban were prepared to sit on the other side of the table and talk about a political settlement, then that’s precisely the sort of progress that concludes insurgencies like this. That shouldn’t make people uncomfortable.’

…His assessment follows the leaking of a memo from a French diplomat who claimed that Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, the British ambassador in Kabul, had told him the current strategy was –doomed to fail’.

…Last week, Gulab Mangal, the governor of Helmand, said the Taliban controlled more than half the province despite the increased presence of British forces.

The Brits are being pragmatic. They’re not waving Sarah Palin’s “white flag of surrender”, but if anyone on this side of the pond were to express the same opinions, they’d be shouted down by the few remaining adherents of the Bush Doctrine and the administration’s failed policies in the region. What the Brits are proposing is borne from hundreds of years of experience with colonial imperialism in the region. They know from where they speak.

In the U.S., though, the uberhawks only think in shades of black and white. No war has ever been won against non-state sponsored actors. It always – always – comes down to a negotiation process, and finishing up business in both Iraq and Afghanistan will be no different.

Sarah Palin and John McCain might not be too fond of a diplomatic solution for the issues in either country. Heck, Barack Obama might not find such solutions as very politically palatable, but at least he can cast whatever path he choses as a result of bad choices left to him by the most despised regime in U.S. history – that of George W. Bush.

Monday, October 6th, 2008 by Richard Blair |

Veterans For Obama Over McCain

Barack Obama is fundraising among active servicemen overseas by a 6 to 1 margin over John McCain. I cannot recall a population of servicemen so overwhelmingly supporting a Democrat. And check out the reception McCain got at the Disabled Veterans of America shindig in Vegas. He can be thankful he wasn’t openly heckled by the vets.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

So it seems, so it seems. Reports yesterday indicate that that Barack Obama has gotten more contributions from military members serving overseas, by a 6 to 1 margin. Yeah, the soldiers are supporting the candidate who wants to bring the troops home. From Open Secrets:

During World War II, soldiers crouching in foxholes penned letters assuring their sweethearts that they’d be home soon. Now, between firefights in the Iraqi desert, some infantrymen have been sending a different kind of mail stateside: two or three hundred dollars – or whatever they can spare – towards a presidential election that could very well determine just how soon they come home.

According to an analysis of campaign contributions by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, Democrat Barack Obama has received nearly six times as much money from troops deployed overseas at the time of their contributions than has Republican John McCain, and the fiercely anti-war Ron Paul, though he suspended his campaign for the Republican nomination months ago, has received more than four times McCain’s haul.

Despite McCain’s status as a decorated veteran and a historically Republican bent among the military, members of the armed services overall – whether stationed overseas or at home – are also favoring Obama with their campaign contributions in 2008, by a $55,000 margin. Although 59 percent of federal contributions by military personnel has gone to Republicans this cycle, of money from the military to the presumed presidential nominees, 57 percent has gone to Obama.

Obama ourraising McCain among servicemen serving overseas? By a 6 to 1 margin? Holy Cow! Perhaps more astonishing, is that Ron Paul is also outraising McCain among the same group, though only by a 4 to 1 margin. TPM Election Central is also on this story, and Crooks and Liars has an article about McCain’s tepid reception in Vegas at a gathering of Disabled Veterans of America. Here’s a snippet:

The Las Vegas Sun interviewed 14 veterans after McCain’s speech, only one identified himself as a certain McCain voter. Devoting most of his remarks to attacking Obama apparently didn’t help.

Retired Marine Duke Hendershot, a double amputee who served in Vietnam, supported McCain’s 2000 campaign, but is undecided now. “John just isn’t the same as he used to be. He’s not his own man,” Hendershot said. “A lot of that has to do with how he’s wanted this job so bad for so long that he’s tied himself to President Bush.” Hendershot added, “[McCain]should have been talking about veterans issues, not his opponent.”

Obama, in contrast, appeared via video, did not attack McCain, and focused exclusively on veterans’ issues.

Verterans are perhaps John McCain’s most natural constituency. He is one, after all. Disabled veterans should also be an easy group for McCain to win over. He’s suffered infjuries in service of country, after all. That McCain is doing so miserably with these groups has to be accounted for somehow. What an odd thing it is. But there are explanations, I’m sure. The military is strongly Republican most of the time, but the Bush Administration has shown disregard towards the military. McCain has supported the Bush Administration at every turn. Those disabled vets may be finding someone to blame for their injuries, and after the Walter Reed scandals a couple years ago, anyone connected to Bush might have some tough going. We might also note that McCain did not support the new GI Bill. I’m thinking a whole bunch of those soldiers have good memories about that sort of thing. I suppose the composition of the military serving overseas, with so many Guardsmen on active duty, might also account for this phenomenon, but still, it is hard to account for Obama outraising McCain among active soldiers serving overseas.

In other news, McCain may not be male. Or so it says in this spoof on internet hoaxes.

Friday, August 15th, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

Are Those Opposed To GI Bill In Favor Of Stealth Conscription?

George Bush and John McCain oppose the expanded benefits in the GI Bill passed by the Senate yesterday. They believe it might entice service members to leave the military. Limiting benefits because they provide alternatives to military service is stealth conscription.

Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

The passage of Senator Jim Webb’s expansion of the GI Bill to provide expanded educational benefits highlights a topic most don’t want to discuss. Since abolishing the draft and making service in the military voluntary, critics have argued that an inordinate number of the ranks are filled by those who lack other opportunities…including the ability to afford a college education. In other words, they contend that the election to join the military can often be a de facto economic decision.

When critics, like New York Representative Charlie Rangel, raise concerns that an inordinate number of new enlistments come from lower income families, those opposed to reinstating the draft accuse them of insulting our service people. Essentially, they contend the criticism impugns the patriotism of those who have volunteered to serve their country. If that deflection fails, they have also argued that the criticism insults the intelligence of military personnel by suggesting that those who serve in the military are uneducated.

That brings us back to the Senate’s passage of the Webb bill. One of the redeeming benefits of the passage of time is that is frequently shines a bright light on hyperbole and hypocrisy. In what can only be seen as a reversal of logic, some of those who rejected the assertions of men like Charlie Rangel are now opposed to expanding the benefits provided by the GI Bill. Yes, they are now arguing that those expanded benefits might entice some service members to exit the military in order to take advantage of the educational benefits. In other words, given other and better opportunities, some members of the military might not want to continue serving.

Let me be clear. The patriotism of those who enlist has never been the issue and it wasn’t for those who criticized the all volunteer army. Those who contended that it attracted individuals who lacked other opportunities always believed in the patriotism of those who enlisted…just as they will continue to believe in it should some service members elect to leave the military in order to utilize their expanded educational benefits.

Those who aligned with George Bush and John McCain in opposing this bill have simply exposed their inclination to make military service a matter of necessity. Voting to deny service members the same level of educational benefits that existed when the GI Bill was first passed is evidence that they recognize the differences between conscripted service and volunteer service. Why else would they not support a bill that would give volunteer service members the same benefits that were afforded to conscripted ones?

Truth be told, those opposed to this bill don’t want to provide a plausible alternative to military service because they know that the decision to enlist is, in fact, often a decision of economic necessity because there is a lack of other opportunities for those whose families lack the means to send them to college.

Look, I don’t object to the government using carrots to entice enlistment. The military can be the means to advance one’s education that might not otherwise be possible. Regardless, choosing to deny former service members access to benefits that will reward their patriotism and service is a far more egregious act than to question the inequity of an all volunteer military.

So what is the message given by those who would deny these benefits? Well it clearly states that they favor a system that facilitates the enlistment of the economically disadvantaged and they certainly don’t want to do anything that might take away the leverage that it provides. In other words, it tells our enlisted persons that we’re happy to have them defend their country’s commitment to freedom but we’re opposed to providing them the opportunities that would grant them the opportunity to exercise that freedom.

While I’m not in favor of a draft, I am in favor of an honest discussion on the shortcomings of the existing all volunteer system. It seems entirely hypocritical for those who have attempted to ignore the contention that economic motivations may lead to the population of our military to now be speaking out against providing the very opportunities and alternatives that their adversaries have long suggested were lacking.

When Charlie Rangel suggests that a draft would make members of Congress think twice about sending American soldiers into harms way if they knew their own sons and daughters might have to serve, he’s simply pointing out the same hypocrisy. In the end, if our volunteer military results from the fact that some individual’s lack or are denied reasonable alternatives, then it is, in essence, a form of conscription.

If I didn’t know better, I might conclude that those opposed to the expansion of the GI Bill are not only in favor of stealth conscription; they may actually be endorsing de facto enslavement…with pay…of course.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Friday, May 23rd, 2008 |
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