Tag Archives: Troops

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Military Service is for Suckers

Monday was Memorial Day, when Americans are supposed to remember military veterans, particularly those who made sacrifices — lives, limbs, sanity — fighting our wars.

As usual, rhetoric was abundant. People hung flags. Some placed flowers on military graves. There were parades, including one in which a reporter got hit by a drone. President Obama added an oddly pacifist twist to his annual speech, noting that it was “the first Memorial Day in 14 years that the United States is not engaged in a major ground war.”

Excuse me while I puke.

Talk is nice, but veterans need action. Disgusting but true: when it comes to actual help —spending enough money to make sure they can live with dignity — talk is all the U.S. has to offer.

It isn’t just last year’s scandal at the Veterans Administration, which made vets wait for ages to see a doctor, then faked the books to make itself look responsive — and where a whopping three employees lost their jobs as a result. The Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that more than 57,000 homeless veterans, some just poor, others suffering from mental illness, sleep on the street on any given night.

The Pentagon can easily afford to solve these problems. But vets aren’t a spending priority. New wars are. For example, we’re fighting a $40 billion-a-year air campaign against ISIS, although the Islamic State can’t attack the U.S. $40 billion is enough to buy every homeless veteran a $700,000 house.

What you might not know is that this isn’t new.

The U.S. has consistently and ruthlessly screwed vets since the beginning. At this point, army recruiters should thank the heavens that American schools don’t teach history; if they did, no one would enlist.

During the Revolutionary War, officers had been promised a pension and half pay for life. After the British were defeated in 1783, however, Congress reneged on its pledge and issued checks for five years pay, period. “If officers felt cheated, enlisted men felt absolutely betrayed…the common soldier got a pat on the back and a shove out the door,” wrote the historian Andrew C. Lannen. “Some soldiers were given land warrants, but it took many years before they became redeemable. “Impoverished veterans in dire need of cash sold them for pennies on the dollar to investors who could afford to wait several years to collect at full value.”

For more than half a century after beating the British, veterans of the War of 1812 got nothing. Finally, as part of a payout to vets of the Mexican War of 1846-1848 — who themselves were made to wait 23 years — the 1812 vets received service pensions in 1871. By then, many had died of their injuries or old age.

Union troops won the Civil War, but that didn’t stop the government from cheating them out of their benefits too. By the end of 1862, the military was only making good on 7% of claims filed by widows and orphans of the fallen. At least 360,000 Union soldiers were killed, leaving close to a million survivors. But 20 years after the war, the pension office only acknowledged receiving 46,000 applications — less than 5% of those eligible.

Though fading from historical memory, the “Bonus Army” was perhaps the most famous example of the American government’s poor treatment of its war heroes.

Repeating the Revolutionary War policy of “I will gladly pay you a thousand Tuesdays from now for your cannon-fodder corpse today,” Congress awarded veterans of World War I service certificates redeemable for pay plus interest — in 1945, more than two decades later. The Great Depression prompted impoverished vets to form a proto-Occupy movement, the Bonus Expeditionary Force.

In 1932, 43,000 Bonus Army members, their families and supporters camped out in Washington to demand that Congress issue immediate payment in cash. Two generals who’d later become notorious hardasses during World War II, Douglas MacArthur and George Patton, led troops to clear out the camps, shooting, burning and injuring hundreds of vets, whom MacArthur smeared as “communists.” Eighteen years after the end of World War I, in 1936, Congress overrode FDR’s veto and paid out the Bonus.

Even those who served in the so-called “good war” got cheated. “According to a VA estimate, only one in seven of the survivors of the nation’s deceased soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who likely could qualify for the pension actually get the monthly checks,” reported The Charlotte Observer in 2005. These nearly two million survivors include those whose spouses and parents served in World War II, as well as Korea and Vietnam.

Remember this the next time you hear some politician or their media allies claim to “support our troops.”

Support? They don’t even pay them enough to let them sleep inside.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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Self-Respect

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President Obama signed a new law last week that broadens federal limits on protests at military funerals for members or former members of the Armed Forces. The changes cover services held in private places as well as military cemeteries. Apparently this excessive respect for the war dead only applies to dead Americans.

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Corpse-Urinating Kids Are Alright

More Jobs for Our Valiant Marine Heroes

“Eighteen, 19-year-old kids make stupid mistakes all too often and that’s what occurred here.”

This was the nuanced reaction of Rick Perry, governor of the supposedly important state of Texas, who has signed dozens of death warrants (at least one for an innocent man), who thinks he deserves to be president, to a video of Marines in U.S.-occupied Afghanistan peeing on dead Afghan resistance fighters.

“Golden, like a shower,” says one.

Nice.

Amazing to watch how ten years and the catastrophic American military defeats in Iraq and Afghanistan have changed our views about the shock troops of American militarism. After 9/11 our sainted soldiers could do no wrong. They were inherently noble. They were heroes. Even liberals said so.

Uneducated and ignorant, yes, but these brave young men and women deserved our gratitude for defending our freedoms against the Islamofascist hordes lest a land bridge somehow appear between the Old and New Worlds. Who cared 85 percent of U.S. troops in Iraq told a 2006 Zogby poll that their mission was “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9/11 attacks”?

They had big hearts. And small brains. The rapists of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, the murderers of Bagram, the rapist-murderers of Haditha? Just a few bad apples.

No longer. Defeat has followed defeat. Each “successful” drone strike against “enemy militants” in Afghanistan and Pakistan gets followed by a sheepish “well, yeah, they were all innocent women and children” press release. War grates on the nerves; losing wars are worse. Why, broke and jobless Americans, are we still spending $1 million a year per soldier to chase down one Al Qaeda #2 after another?

America’s glorious crusade is over. We know the U.S. mission in Afghanistan is to subjugate, terrorize and brutalize the local population. Even state-controlled media admits it.

“There is no question that the Taliban are brutal, including against their own people,” opines The New York Times editorial board. “The 1,000-man battalion lost seven men during its seven months in Helmand. But the stress of combat cannot excuse desecrating corpses—not to mention filming it.”

Love that last emphasis.

How many zillions of times have similar or worse outrages been carried out by soldiers smart enough to keep their camera cellphones in their pockets?

Not to mention the disproportionality. It sucks to lose seven people. Especially if you’re one of them. How many Afghans did that unit kill during those same seven months? They killed four—the ones they peed on—in a single day. As for Taliban brutality—well, they are Afghans. What are we doing over in their country?

Memo to U.S. forces: OK to invade foreign nation that posed no threat. OK to occupy said country for years. OK to impose a corrupt puppet government. OK to kill the locals. Probably OK to piss on them. Just don’t film it.

Of all the many stupid things Rick Perry has said during his political career his defense of the piss-and-vinegar marines rank among one of the smartest. Perry is right: they are dumb kids.

Which prompts a Big Question. We don’t trust kids to drink. Hell, you can’t even rent a car until you’re 25. So why do we outfit a bunch of dumb 18- and 19-year-old kids prone to making “stupid mistakes all too often” with high-powered automatic weapons, then unleash them with a license to kill hapless foreigners?

Thanks to Rick Perry, the answer is clear:

Plausible excusability.

War crimes is just what dumb kids does. No one’s fault. Just is.

This blame-the-brats approach has a lot of potential for America’s hapless ruling class. Like, get rid of the weird cabals of angry old country-club neo-cons. The next time we want to gin up a quagmire from thin air, let’s assign the job of choosing the target and marketing the war to a bunch of dumb 18- and 19-year-olds from West Virginia. Whatever goes wrong won’t be anyone’s actual fault.

Plausible excusability—they’re just dumb kids!—works for domestic policy too.

Whenever the government is in the mood to shovel hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars into the coffers of giant banks while ignoring the plight of the un- and underemployed, keep the gray old men of the Fed out of it. Roll a few kegs over to the nearest frat and let the freshman and sophomore econ majors have at it. So the global economy tanks. Who cares? Just a buncha stupid kids doing stupid kid stuff.

What’s that?

Don’t blame me if this column is stupid. I took the week off.

Stupid kids.

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2012 TED RALL

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Obama’s “Mission Accomplished”

Wars and Prisons Move, Wars and Torture Never Ends

Most Americans—68 percent—oppose the war against Iraq, according to a November 2011 CNN poll. So it’s smart politics for President Obama to take credit for withdrawing U.S. troops.

As it often is, the Associated Press’ coverage was slyly subversive: “This, in essence, is Obama’s mission accomplished: Getting out of Iraq as promised under solid enough circumstances and making sure to remind voters that he did what he said.”

Obama’s 2008 campaign began by speaking out against the war in Iraq. (Aggression in Afghanistan, on the other hand, was not only desirable but ought to be expanded.) However, actions never matched his words. On vote after vote in the U.S. Senate Obama supported the war. Every time.

As president, Obama has claimed credit for a December 2011 withdrawal deadline negotiated by his predecessor George W. Bush—a timeline he wanted to protract. If the Iraqi government hadn’t refused to extend immunity from prosecution to U.S. forces, this month’s withdrawal would not have happened.

“Today I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over,” Obama bragged reporters on October 24th.

The UK Guardian noted: “But he had already announced this earlier this year, and the real significance today was in the failure of Obama, in spite of the cost to the U.S. in dollars and deaths, to persuade the Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki to allow one or more American bases to be kept in the country.”

Obama’s talk-no-walk approach to foreign policy is also on display on Guantánamo, the torture camp set up by the Bush Administration where thousands of Afghans and other Muslim men, including children, were imprisoned and tormented without evidence of wrongdoing. Only 171 prisoners remain there today, held under appalling conditions.

Yet the “war on terror” mentality remains in full force.

Obama ordered the construction and expansion of a new concentration camp at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan to house thousands of new and current inmates in the U.S. torture system. Now The New York Times has discovered that the Obama Administration has developed “the other Guantánamo, an archipelago of federal prisons that stretches across the country, hidden away on back roads” inside the United States. Hundreds of Muslim men have been imprisoned by means of the thinnest veneer of legality.

“An aggressive prosecution strategy, aimed at prevention as much as punishment, has sent away scores of people. They serve long sentences, often in restrictive, Muslim-majority units, under intensive monitoring by prison officers. Their world is spare,” announced the paper.

Aware that “his” war against Afghanistan isn’t much more popular among voters than the occupation of Iraq, Obama set a 2014 for withdrawal from the Central Asian state several years ago.

Dexter Filkins called it “the forever war”: a post-9/11 syndrome that drives the United States to shoot and bomb the citizens of Muslim nations without end. You can’t end a forever war. What if you had to sit down and get serious about taking care of the problems faced by regular, boring, American people?

And so Obama is having his ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, release trial balloons about staying past 2014…forever, in so many words.

Talking to reporters, Crocker said that the U.S. would stay longer if the Karzai regime—its handpicked puppet—asked them to. “They [the Afghans] would have to ask for it,” he said. “I could certainly see us saying, ‘Yeah, makes sense.'”

Vampires can’t come inside unless they’re invited.

The Iraq War, at least, seems to be coming to an end. According to the Pentagon, there will only be 150 U.S. troops in Iraq next year—those who guard the embassy in Baghdad.

Sort of.

Just shy of 10,000 “contractors”—the heavily-armed mercenaries who became known for randomly shooting civilians from attack helicopters—will remain in Iraq as “support personnel” for the State Department.

As they say, war is an addiction. If we wanted to, we could quit any time.

Any time. Really.

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL

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