Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Black eyes for the Pentagon ... and liberals, too

Commentary by Pat Murphy


Pat Murphy

"Support Our Troops," reads the decal displayed on millions of American vehicles. However, the brass in the Pentagon, of all people, seems to have opted out.

The Pentagon is drowning in roiling controversies of its own making, none even remotely designed to support troops. Instead, military brass is propping up bad command judgment, engaging in cover-ups and defending Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's manpower miscalculations for the Iraq occupation.

Remember lantern-jawed Pat Tillman, the multimillion-dollar-a-year Arizona Cardinals defensive back who joined up after 9/11? Having lied once about how Tillman died on April 22 in Afghanistan (he was killed by "friendly fire" of fellow troops) and then exposed for lying, the Pentagon finally is investigating scandalous behavior. The Pentagon, worse, is protecting officers known to have contributed to Tillman's unnecessary death with clumsy decisions.

The Pentagon also faces new lawsuits in federal court from GIs whose enlistment contracts have been abrogated by the military and their tours extended with lump-it-or-like it explanations.

Other lawsuits have been filed by Individual Ready Reserve members being reactivated despite their ages (one is in his 70s), despite their physical condition and despite questions of whether they're truly "ready." When old soldiers are called up, can a return to the draft be far away?

Other litigation is seeking a Supreme Court rehearing on the Pentagon's and Congress' ban on gays in the military at the very time there's a troop shortage.

Add to this mess the Pentagon's cozy no-bid contracts with Vice President Cheney's former company Halliburton and tens of millions of dollars in acknowledged overcharges, inadequate troop deployment in Iraq and torture scandals at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo prisons.

Finally, the Pentagon is no better than liberal college professors in acts of equal stupidity.

A federal appeals court has rejected the Pentagon plan to withhold funds for colleges whose law school professors masterminded a ban of military recruiters on campus to protest anti-gay Pentagon policies.

Professors leading this boycott against the military, claiming to be liberals, are just as arrogant and foolish as the Pentagon is with its boycott of gays.

Military service is honorable, even if some Pentagon decisions aren't. Millions of us who enlisted enjoyed important years of our lives as GIs, with lifetime skills learned and perspectives developed about war.

College campuses should invite military recruiters as they do any major employer. More college educated men and women in the military, especially lawyers, would help bring Pentagon brass down to earth and steer them toward real-world decisions that truly support troops and show more respect for the spirit of the law.

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