Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Pentagon's biggest 'enemy'

Commentary by Pat Murphy


Pat Murphy

Everyone who's served in the U.S. military can attest to this fact: The military often is its own worst enemy.

It's especially true today and the military can blame itself.

Neocons, those far-out Republican rightwingers, pushed George W. Bush into launching war prematurely on Iraq in their dreamy-eyed odyssey to force democracy on other nations at the barrel of a gun.

"You go to war with the Army you have," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said truculently when reports of poorly equipped combat troops reached folks back home. Waiting until troops were properly equipped never dawned on neocon eggheads who push around President Bush like a college fraternity pledge.

Then public opinion cascaded against the war and President Bush. The virtually non-existent anti-war movement blossomed (more than 100,000 protestors gathered at one time in Washington) as the president's approval ratings sank.

Combat troops expecting to go home and be discharged at the end of their enlistments were notified the Pentagon reneged on the deal—they would remain because of a troop shortage and be recycled on added tours.

Little wonder recruiting goals took a bath: Potential recruits had second thoughts about joining a combat military still not fully equipped.

Now, the Pentagon's dumbest decision yet: It delayed reimbursing GIs and their families for equipment bought on their own for protection in combat—body and vehicle armor, global positioning devices, hydration gear, for example.

Congress authorized the spending in February, up to $1,000 per claim. It's now October. The Pentagon's only explanation: It's concerned about proper accounting.

Well, now. The Pentagon has shown only passing anguish about Vice President Cheney's former firm, Halliburton, sticking it to taxpayers with millions of dollars in overcharges. Still missing are several billion dollars given to Iraq political figures.

Just how much possible fraud would and could GIs in combat commit to recover their personal expenses for fighting gear?

As the Pentagon drags its feet in repaying troops, Rumsfeld asks funds for (a) a new recruiting bonus of $40,000 for each new enlistee, (b) a $2,500 "finder's fee" to soldiers who refer new enlistees, (c) a recruiting force expanded from 3,000 to 12,000 and (d) a Pentagon advertising budget boosted by another $130 million.

Hundreds of more millions for Rumsfeld to buy the Bush administration out of a mismanaged war, while acting like a deadbeat with men and women fighting a war with their own gear.

The Pentagon clearly is only giving lip service to the slogan Americans are hammered with at every turn, "Support the Troops."

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