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August 14, 2003

Army of one
Posted by Teresa at 01:00 PM *

Army of One is a flash animation from Take Back the Media.

This is an announcement: I never, ever want to hear again about how mainstream/centrist and liberal Americans “aren’t supporting our troops,” when what the speaker really means is that we aren’t bending over for Bush, Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, and the rest of that crew.

Money walks, bullshit talks. Bush & Co. talk big about our military. They use it for photo ops at the same time that they’re reneging on promises of support, just like they did with the New York firefighters. The administration may say that the war is over, but the fighting’s still going on. And while our guys are out there putting it on the line, getting shot up, or killed, or dying in their sleep from dehydration and heat exhaustion, Bush & Co. are slashing funding for basic support programs for those troops and their families—programs that weren’t all that cushy to start.

Dammit, “support” means support, and Bush isn’t doing it. The only support he reliably cares about is support for George W. Bush. Don’t kid yourself that that has anything to do with our troops in Iraq. (via The Daily Kos)

Addendum: I’m not responsible for other bloggers’ take on links they pick up from me.

Comments on Army of one:
#1 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2003, 04:04 PM:

You're battling major league DoubleThink Teresa. To use a colorful Navy term I heard from my Dad, "shoveling shit against the tide."

Bush has the phony sincerity thing down cold, and while we may groan in disbelief there's a lot of folks out there who just love the boy for waddling around in that flight suit.

Military families *are* starting to complain, particularly about the extended tours, but the spin engines have already labeled them as a small minority of whiners.

I think it will take years of major league abuse and suffering before people realize that the Administration cares about the Troops in much the same way it cares about the Environment.

#2 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2003, 04:17 PM:

They’re also proposing to slash the troops’ combat pay. (As if it wasn’t low enough already.)

#3 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2003, 05:17 PM:

It didn't take me very long to realize that the government saw the military as a tool, not as a group of people protecting and serving their country at the whim of the government. And I was the dependent of an officer in the Air Force. I can't imagine what it must be like to be the child of an enlisted Marine. My one comfort is that someone who's actually thinking in Washington will think about the kind of flak they'd get if they did cut combat pay.

#4 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2003, 05:20 PM:

We've been here before -- I recall when a career 2nd class petty officer on his second tour, with a wife and two kids, was eligible for food stamps. I recall when soldiers were living in their cars or sleeping under bridges. We had a saying -- "Nothing's too good for our boys in uniform, but Congress hasn't figured out how to give us less than nothing yet."

On the ad itself -- they need to superimpose the lines that are appearing along the bottom of the screen across the middle of the picture field. I missed some of them. You can't divide the information like that.

It needs to be broken up into several shorter spots. One ad, one message.

There's been a purge among the highest ranking generals, y'know.

=======

Support 0ur Troops -- Fire Rumsfeld

#5 ::: aphrael ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2003, 05:37 PM:

The howls of outrage from Congress and the families of the troops have caused them to backpedal on that; they're no longer going to let the combat pay increase lapse.

It was still a dishonorable thing to try to do, though.

#6 ::: Barb Nielsen ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2003, 05:58 PM:

5:40 p.m., 8/14/03...I just talked to Patrick and Teresa as they strolled through Chinatown on their way home to Brooklyn. They lamented that they could not be online blogging the situation, were jubilant over their having pinpointed the cause of the outage as I repeated the list of cities from CNN, and asked that I go to their web page and post this announcement under Open Thread. I can't find OT, so I'll complete my assignment at this site.

#7 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2003, 06:29 PM:

Open Thread is way down the page. About three weeks old.

I'm glad you posted here.

#8 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2003, 06:52 PM:

I was a commanding officer for most of the 1980s and part of the 1990s. I had people under my command on food stamps. I had even less favorable situations in overseas locations, because the food stamp program doesn't extend overseas.

Military pay is set thusly:

Figure out the comparable civilian pay scale for a high-school graduate.
Cut that by 15% because employment is "guaranteed" and the "employees" don't have to buy work clothes (actually, they do, but...)
Now cut that by one third for the privilege of having one's ass shot at.

When I entered active duty, I made less than did my girlfriend/wife-to-be did teaching in a Catholic elementary school, and I was charged with helping manage parts of the nuclear battle plan. As an officer, I had it a lot better than did the enlisted men and women.

As a modest proposal, I suggest putting Congress on military pay for two years. We'll even let them be officers, and put them on the pay scale as if they had been promoted at the normal rate for years of service. Then we might see some changes. (No, I haven't been smoking anything interesting--just taking lots of muscle relaxants due to throwing my back out.)

#9 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2003, 07:10 PM:

When I entered active duty, I made less than did my girlfriend/wife-to-be did teaching in a Catholic elementary school

*stunned silence*

Parochial schools don't pay in money, they pay in cheese sandwiches. Jesus God Almighty. Paid teachers are competing in a "market" dominated by nuns, who have sworn a vow of poverty. The Catholic high school I attended in the Seventies had gotten so out of synch with public schools that the lay teachers actually went out on strike. I'm having a hard time expressing just exactly how little money they were making, and how dire their circumstances were, to drive them to such a radical action.

Basically, I don't know squat about military pay, but I do know about parochial schools. The comparison makes me shudder.

#10 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2003, 11:16 PM:

Lydia, the Catholic school "market" is no longer dominated by nuns because there are many fewer nuns than there used to be. Nearly all teachers are laypeople. Even principals are usually laypeople, at least where I live.

Pay scales are still low in Catholic schools though.

Pay scales for the military (and other government employees) are available online. See
http://www.dfas.mil/money/milpay/pay/

For civilian pay, see
http://www.opm.gov/oca/03tables/indexGS.asp
This is further broken down by metropolitan area because some areas are more expensive to live in than others.

#11 ::: ala ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2003, 03:17 AM:

"Strengthening the power of military " is one of the policy supported by the Bush Administration .
It seems that George W. Bush. has animosity agaist Saddam,obviously he's inherited his
father's tradition .
The war is because of oil,i.e. the benefit of
large consortiums. George W. Bush. is making a profit for himself with the blood of many young soldiers and inculpable Iraqi.

So many families of those troops has announced
they oppose the war with Iraq,but I am wondering
why Arnold Schwarzenegger is leading by 47% supporting rate in the election for Chief Executive of California.
This election is probably the prelude before the president election. Schwarzenegger ,who represents
the Republic Party ,is a superstar in Hollywood,but unnecessarily has statesmanship and definite idea.
And I deduce that if he could win ,he would be manipulated by many other things he couldn't expect.His image of hero might become a do-nothing politician.

By the way ,Teresa,you used some dirty words,but i like .
Do you think ,"Bush" and "bullshit",their pronunciations are similar?Sorry for saying it
this way.

#12 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2003, 12:16 PM:

You may have missed Senator Byrd's letter to Rumsfeld last month regarding the conditions of our soldiers in Iraq:

I have also received several reports of rationing of basic supplies and services. At a family support meeting, families were told that one unit had limited supplies of food and water rations of just 20 ounces per day. Soldiers with another National Guard unit have reported through their families that they are only allowed one 10-minute phone call home every several weeks.

In addition to these reports, the wife of one soldier has reported that, during a family readiness meeting, she was warned not to contact her representatives in Congress to seek redress of these legitimate grievances because her husband's commanding officer might take away from his troops telephone use and other privileges.

I don't even have words for how angry that makes me.

#13 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2003, 12:43 PM:

Military corporatism, really; this is exactly how large corporations typically act toward employees. (Do what you're told, all good is our doing, all bad is your fault, our marble urinal before your reliable water supply, there are no facts, just press releases...)

I wonder when the Bush regieme is going to realize that you have to take care of your tools if you want to keep using them?

#14 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2003, 06:04 PM:

Few people in the Bush administration have used tools. Those that have have blamed their tools, then thrown them out and bought new ones.

#15 ::: Glen Engel-Cox ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2003, 06:16 PM:

Actually, the whole "don't ask for the hazard pay increase" thing may be a doing of the Pentagon, in their long-running war to suck the most money out of the budget as possible. They say they can't afford the pay increase, but what did they decide to cut? Soldier pay. That's a sure fire Congressional action, and means that they don't have to cut any other programs (that might not have had such vocal support).

This war over money is one war the Pentagon is very good about fighting.

(I have to attribute this logic to my lovely wife, Jill, who was calming me down after I mentioned the story on these cuts to her. She should know--she's the policy wonk.)

#16 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2003, 08:45 PM:

Glen, those guys can use the increase. Honest.

#17 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2003, 08:49 PM:

James --

You're right, very probably.

It's still one of those things that is very wrong in part becuase it's very stupid, even by Ming the Merciless standards.

#18 ::: Rich ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2003, 10:29 PM:

Isn't it supporting our troops to say that they should have stayed back here where it's safe?

#19 ::: Glen Engel-Cox ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2003, 09:11 AM:

Teresa, I didn't mean to imply that the soldiers didn't deserve hazard pay--I certainly agree with you there. I suspect everyone in the Pentagon agrees with that, too, but they also don't want to cut any of their other programs. Cutting one of their other programs won't get everybody to call their Senators and Representatives protesting the funding cuts and prevent any funding shortfalls, though, so the one program the Pentagon pushes forward is one that is, unsurprisingly, quite popular and necessary.

You have to admit that they're good at this, no?

#20 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2003, 10:23 AM:

If they were all that good at it, yon 2nd class petty officer on his second tour, with a wife and two kids, wouldn't have been eligible for food stamps.

You've known military families. You tell me how easy they have it.

#21 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2003, 08:54 PM:

The extra pay would come to $300 million a year -- which is so minisicule as to be invisible when you consider that we're burning through a billion dollars a week in Iraq.

While we're at it, proposed tax breaks (for active duty and reservists selling a home, allowing them to take non-itemized deductions for travel expenses, and to eliminate the tax on the $6,000 death benefit paid to families of personnel killed in action) never made it into the big tax cuts, when a lot of other larger ones, for richer people, did.

#22 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2003, 10:31 PM:

I just decided to check my math.

Imminent Danger Pay (Combat Pay) was raised from $150/month to $225/month. Family Separation Allowance (Blue Peter Pay) went from $100/month to $250/month.

There were 150,000 US troops in Iraq in July. Let's up that to 200,000 to make it a nice round number and give us an aim point. (200,000 was what GEN Shinseki thought we'd need, and it turned out he was probably right.)

So there's a $75/mo difference in Imminent Danger pay, and a $150/month difference if FSA, or $225/month/trooper. That's $45M for all the troops in one month, and $540M, give or take, in the course of a year.

#23 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2003, 11:58 PM:

One person I have been talking to thinks the Pentagon put forward these as cuts to embarrass Rumsfeld. Not that anything seems to embarrass the cabinet officials of this administration....

#24 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 01:03 AM:

Can it be true that there are troops that are receiving only a 20 oz. ration of water per day? That's not enough to survive on, surely? I feel disoriented. I find it difficult to believe that a Senator would make that kind of statement in a letter to the Secretary of Defense, publically, if he didn't think that there was a good chance that it was true. At the same time, I can't imagine that we have troops out there in 120 weather in that kind of a condition. Could they be in air conditioning, somehow? But if they're someplace with sufficient working infrastructure to run air conditioning, how likely is it that there wouldn't be sufficient water?

#25 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 01:52 AM:

Sure there can.

Remember that the way this war was supposed to go?

Well, if it had gone that way, the heavy in-theatre logistical support wouldn't be necessary.

It didn't go that way, but the logistical support isn't there. Putting it there would involve admitting that the original war plan was wrong, and that the planners involved -- from Secretary Rumsfield on down -- made a mistake.

Demonstrably, given a choice between troops dying and doing that, they're not going to do that.

You may want to consider that the ration amount says nothing about what the troops have managed to acquire by other means; it says a lot about how maimed and mangled the logistical situation is, though.

#26 ::: Josh ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 09:32 AM:

Lydia: Phil Carter of Intel Dump wrote a post about a related water ration issue, in response to a soldier quoted in a Paul Krugman column as saying that each soldier has been limited to 3 liters of bottled water a day. Basically he says that while the troops may only get a ration of 3 liters of *bottled* water a day, they have easy access to unbottled water, and that "3 liters/day would result in a lot more than 2 heat casualties in one MP company -- it would result in a dead MP company."

I'm not inclined to give the administration the benefit of the doubt on much, but this particular issues seems like a misunderstanding.

#27 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 09:58 AM:

I've heard about shortages of potable water from too many good sources to think it's just a reporting error.

#28 ::: Josh ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 11:12 AM:

Teresa: One of the points Phil Carter makes is that the unbottled water the troops get doesn't taste too good. I've been doing a bit of digging on Google News, and none of the stories I've found so far have cited any first-hand sources as saying that total water rations are limited to 3 liters/day. Most of them cite families of service members relating complaints from soldiers.

This article seems typical: "purified water made available from large portable tanks tastes very bad and sometimes has bugs floating in it and that the only potable liquid, bottled water, is rationed to two bottles of 1.5 liters each per day. [...] Operation We Care President Sheri Stephens of Ponchatoula said she shares similar concerns about the conditions in Iraq.
The soldiers have tried to use powdered Gatorade to kill the foul taste of the water, she said. "But they still taste it." "

#29 ::: Josh ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 11:19 AM:

Re-reading the quote I included, it's not entirely clear who said the first part. Here's the full paragraph: "Fearing retribution on their loved ones for speaking out, local mothers and wives had kept mostly to themselves about the things they've heard. They claim that care packages have not been finding their way to the troops, that purified water made available from large portable tanks tastes very bad and sometimes has bugs floating in it and that the only potable liquid, bottled water, is rationed to two bottles of 1.5 liters each per day."

#30 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2003, 12:58 PM:

Meanwhile, in Liberia ... when you discover that the recommendation by the DoD team sent to assess the situation on the ground that the US immediately send ground troops was "quashed by the Pentagon," substitute "Rumsfeld" for "the Pentagon."

Now, everyone go get a copy of Black Hawk Down, the book and the movie.

Really, do it now.

#31 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2003, 10:36 PM:

Here's more: http://www.cnn.com/2003/EDUCATION/02/07/military.schools.ap/

School officials slam Bush plan for military kids

WASHINGTON (AP) -- School officials nationwide are criticizing a proposal in President Bush's budget to stop compensating them for teaching children of military personnel who are not living on bases.

School administrators say the plan is particularly galling because Bush also is asking some parents of these kids to get ready to go to war with Iraq.


[More....]

#32 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2003, 01:02 PM:

I am now out of theater for some two-months, so my take on this is not as exact as it was. Further, I only got to see my, moderately large, piece of the war.

Water: Two bottles of water per day. Three liters. That's what is available, in bottles. There is water-buff water. It's not the best tasting stuff (the taste of chlor-floc won't settle out in less than about 48 hours), but it is potable.

Tang, and Gatorade make great care package items.

As for things like mail. We had it worse than most, because we had been chopped out of our, "zip-code," for want of a better description. The mail is addressed to the Batallion, when the shooting stopped we were divided up into smaller teams and sent out around the country (there are teams from Southern Baghdad to Kirkuk, and Mosul, with several in points between). That means the mail goes to Bn, and then Bn has to arrange for it to get moved forward to the teams.

When we got mail, it was like Christmas, but the system is/was broken. I got mail on 13 Jun, which was mailed in March. Right now people are still getting mail returned to them, because Brown and Root still haven't gotten to all the mail which was waiting to be delivered when I left in July.

Pay... It's not at bad as it seems, and it is worse than I can explain. For the Active Army, it's what they get. And they get more money for being in a Combat Zone. So what? Trust me on this one, an extra $400 a month (after the tax break and the combat pay) doesn't really make up for a diet of MREs, crappy conditions, and the odd case of being shot at (to say nothing of the nagging, and almost unoticed sense of fear/dread, anytime one goes outside the wire).

Phone time... It varies from place to place. For the first month or so after we crossed the Berm into Iraq, there was no contact with the outside world, aside from mail (and that was scattered and rare). After that, well in the first sector, we had a half-assed system, whereby one might get lucky enough to snag a line (and we were allowed 15 minutes a week, but the lines were catch as catch can, and a whole division was trying to use a bare handful).

That meant no phone.

When we got to the 1st BCT of the 101st ABN, we were allowed 10 minutes a week on a sattelite phone.

As for the commander Sen. Byrd referred to, who threatened to reduce phone time if families complained, it sounds horrid, but I don't really believe it. Yes, commands hate to have Congress get involved, it makes the commander look bad, but there is no way I can see a decent commander letting the hit to Morale which cutting contact with home would make (to say nothing of the fact that his higher-ups would hear about it, and they are the ones who set overall policy on such things).

Does it suck in Iraq... Yep.

Is it hard to be a Reserve Component troop on a deployment (esp. one like this which had promises of being short...)? Yep.

Did we sign up for it? Yep. Did we get enough notice? Not all of us (I basically got 36 hours to put my affairs in order).

Is the griping justified? Some of it. Soldiers gripe, and some of the gripes we have are less serious to us, than they seem to those back home. Mail... God, but it should be speedy (note, for those who may decide to send CARE packages, never mix any soap product with any food-stuff. It taints everything, and Ramen, a la Irish Spring is worse than I can possibly explain), but there isn't a whole lot to do about it.

Phones, and internet... we want more, but imagine, this is going to be a year or so, (for the individual troopie). He may not get to check his e-mail every day, he may not get the phone more than once a week, but his grandfather was in WW2, and he had nothing but the vagaries of letters, and that for years.

I sound hard, even to myself... and Lord knows I think this Administration has done some crappy things to the troops... but it is a volunteer army. That so many of those who have committed so many years are likely to vote with their feet (the re-enlistment numbers for my unit don't look good from this, and a lot of experience is going to walk out the door if that happens) is a sobering thing.

That (though I doubt it) may cause the Gov't to re-think how it uses the citizens who enlist. Cinncinatus will go back to his plough... for the nation's sake it might be best if he waits until the fighting is done.

For his sake, he may not.

Terry K.

#33 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2003, 01:54 PM:

TK -- this kind of post is what I really hope to see in blogs. Thank you. Real information from those actually involved. Real reactions. Wow.

Cheers,
Tom

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