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|Our Turn to Soldier Up: Protect U.S. Troops|
|Commentary/Politics - Editorials|
|Written by Kathleen McCarthy|
|Thursday, 07 June 2012 05:37|
I am so done treading lightly for the sake of readers’ sensibilities. America is in dire need of honest, problem-solving patriots who can muster enough gumption to get civically involved and provoke action, especially on behalf of our troops.
If you truly consider yourself a supporter of our soldiers, then turn off American Idol or whatever idiotic programming you normally watch, and instead watch the following four documentaries: The Ground Truth, Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers, Rethink Afghanistan, and Severe Clear.
If you cannot trouble yourself to do at least this much, then shame on you. You don’t deserve to be an American. There is so much need-to-know information that is deliberately withheld from us by the mainstream media cartel and our derelict cadre of politicians; the least you can do is dismiss their drivel and consume something relevant, important, and helpful to the troops many of you so ardently claim to support.
Each of these documentaries addresses different aspects of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, mostly from the troops’ perspectives. These films provide essential information for every American to truly understand what we are demanding of our young men and women – our “treasure” – and how our leadership is failing them en masse.
Prepare yourself, because many of the policies and processes supporting the occupations of these countries are shattering. So it’s your turn to soldier up; you need this information going forward, especially with the looming election in November. If you decline to watch any of these films, then you are just as big a part of the problem – as big a coward and hypocrite as any war-mongering politician or Pentagon bureaucrat, and the worst kind of betrayer of the troops for ignoring their profound issues.
War-contracting is a core contributor to the disgraceful conditions our troops endure in Iraq and Afghanistan. War contractors are permitted to operate under an entirely different set of rules from our soldiers. During the Bush administration, the number of mercenaries/hired guns reached 100,000. One of Barack Obama’s primary campaign promises was to end both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in the first year. Instead, Obama has advanced the number of war contractors to 200,000 – double the number under Bush, and as the draw-down of troops slowly proceeds, the number of war contractors is increasing at an exponentially higher cost to taxpayers.
All four documentaries expose some level of dangerous undermining of our troops, whether by faulty equipment, inadequate food and water services, or incompetent linguists and interpreters – the list is long. For example, while our soldiers suffer 100-degree deserts that produce frequent debilitating sand storms and are struggling for survival with nothing but flimsy, mold-infested tents for protection, the war-contract employees are residing in luxurious Westernized comfort at 10 times the cost to taxpayers because of price-gouging and cost-plus contracting. This is a policy that encourages ever-increasing expenditures because the profit allowed is paid as a percentage of costs.
The average soldier makes $35,000, while his war-contractor counterpart makes $160,000. How is this remotely equitable? As a taxpayer, are you willing to support this kind of gross discrepancy? It is one of the most absurd hypocrisies about war-contracting. The mercenaries can afford the best possible health-care coverage, but our enlisted troops must wait for more than a year to get their disability claims processed.
Furthermore, 50 percent of our prisoner/detainee interrogators are war contractors not covered by the Uniform Military Code of Conduct. The disconnect is so shameful, but because the media cartel ignores these huge inconsistencies, Congress and bureaucrats get away with their clear dereliction of duty in protecting our enlisted military personnel, while war contractors laugh all the way to the bank.
During congressional hearings on war-contracting abuse, waste, and fraud, a commission study reported that 60 percent of the $150-billion budget for war-contracting expenditures in 2011 was either waste or fraud. Sixty percent! It is one thing to hear this figure during hearings, and quite another to see the results of this corruption via these documentaries. These films expose the systemic hardships and dangers the war contractors directly or indirectly impose on our military for the sake of profit. It is obscene by every moral standard, and largely criminal if we had willing law enforcement.
For example, in Iraq for Sale, Halliburton was contracted to supply 67 separate water-treatment operations for the troops, and the water from 63 of them was found to be toxic and unsuitable for human consumption. Regardless, Halliburton continued to provide this contaminated water, exposing our troops to pathogens that leech into the bloodstream, whether by drinking, showering, or cooking. This is unconscionable. Halliburton’s own employees testified to this inhumanity, some visibly shaking/weeping over their part in the travesty. They believed they were there to help the troops; instead they were participating in exposing them to all manner of health risks beyond combat.
There is also the endangerment of Halliburton and Blackwater employees. Employees reported being deployed in dangerous convoys of empty trucks for the sole purpose of billing the government. Recall that in 2003, four civilian drivers lost their lives in Fallujah, Iraq, in one such convoy. They were knowingly dispatched in spite of the danger, without armed trucks or the necessary complement of soldiers for protection. It was nothing less than a massacre for these civilian drivers and their families.
Meanwhile, just last month, congressional hearings revealed that it is taking an average of 394 days to process a soldier’s disability claim once he/she is discharged! That is longer than an entire year! How is this possible? The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has installed all-new IT systems, and hired an additional 1,600 employees to address this across-the-board failure, costing billions in tax dollars – all to reduce its response time by a mere 30 days to 364 days – a decidedly pathetic goal by any standard of care.
The VHA’s abominable track record is more indicting because it comes on the heels of a programming overhaul mandated by Congress five years ago, at which time the average turnaround time for a veteran’s disability claim was at an all-time high of 360 days. (Back in 2003-4, veterans were complaining about waiting 120 days.) So instead of improving things, VHA’s leadership made the response time worse! Conclusion: In 2012 and billions of dollars later, the VHA has managed to further delay veterans’ disability benefits by increasing response time by 30 additional days to 394!
And what do you think the congressional response has been to the massive corruption that endangers our troops on a daily basis? Not to mention the theft of billions of our tax dollars every year? Nada! Not a single firing, demotion, or even a reduction in salaries for any of the incompetence, deliberate deception, or unworthy leadership.
Troops report that expensive vehicles come equipped with no spare parts – not even simple oil filters. When the vehicles fail due to engine blowouts, they are burned and the government is charged for brand-new replacements. It appears to be common practice to destroy all non-functioning equipment even though simple, inexpensive parts would keep many vehicles viable for years. The pillaging is out of control, and there is no limitation to its outrageous practice because there are no consequences for any of it. In other words, there are no cancellations of contracts – many of which are no-bid – or criminal prosecution of these defense contractors that see any war or military occupation as lucrative and endless cash cows. Nor has there been any legislation or a single amendment addressing any of these endemic problems.
Why? Because the billions funneled to the war contractors via defense budgets and appropriations come back to the entrenched career politicians’ campaign coffers in an endless loop. If you want to see this loop for yourself, look up the senators and representatives who occupy the committee seats that govern defense budgets, appropriations, procurement, and relative oversight committees. You will find that the war contractors’ contributions are given to those specific congressmen, regardless of party affiliation. Visit OpenCongress.org, GovTrack.us, VoteSmart.org, or OpenSecrets.org, to name a few nonpartisan watchdog organizations that provide detailed data on our elected officials, including comprehensive data on all legislation passed and pending.
In addition, examine the boards of directors, and often the executive management, of these war contractors, and you will see that former Pentagon employees, military brass, and congressional bureaucrats, lobbyists, and politicians abound. The conflict-of-interest tentacles and revolving doors are mind-boggling, and inherent in the dysfunction that defines the U.S. government.
The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have no front or rear lines, no sanctuaries normally available in traditional conflict theaters. War is occurring in the streets of the cities, among innocent civilians who are dying in numbers not being factually reported by the military or the media cartel. This makes these wars difficult beyond imagining for our troops. They are being pushed to unprecedented human limits – not once, not twice, but three, four, five, and even six times via countless deployments unheard of in past combat operations.
Our National Guard & Reserve is now fully operational, another unprecedented occurrence in America’s history. The amputees alone are reaching astronomical levels, compared with past wars’ injuries. Worst, however, are the emotional wounds inflicted. Many of these soldiers cannot internally resolve the killing of so many innocents, including women and children. They dutifully execute such harsh orders, then are ultimately expected to transition back into civilian life after witnessing, participating in, and surviving conditions that are despicable by Western standards. These expectations are not only unreasonable; they are unreasoning. In honoring our country, these kids and their families are forced into situations and environments that profoundly and permanently change them, and then they are generally cast off to fend for themselves.
Consider that less than 1 percent of Americans are directly involved in the military, let alone have even a clue about the troops’ real-life experiences. We are so removed, and the media cartel sanitizes all the horror and dread that characterizes these incursions. It is no longer acceptable for Americans to sit idly by and pretend to support our troops and their families when we are completely uninformed and ignorant about the huge majority of it!
In late 2011, during congressional hearings on wartime casualties, statistics showed that more troops are committing suicide than are killed in combat, because they cannot live with what they were ordered to do in these two wars. For every al-Qaeda insurgent killed, there are seven civilians killed as collateral damage! These soldiers cannot resolve the inner conflict that haunts them for following orders. They cannot forgive themselves for their part in such gruesome and unjustifiable collateral damage. It is heartbreaking, and it is up to us to stand up and start protecting them.
If these four films don’t deeply touch you, enrage you, and motivate you to action, then you most assuredly do not support our troops. You are heartless, and likely mindless. Just keep cheering at Democratic and Republican rallies and fundraisers, especially when the bragging starts over U.S. accomplishments in these God-forsaken, undeclared-by-Congress, and unconstitutional wars. But do so knowing you are largely duped by your favored politicians and the public-relations media cartel, because most of the information you think is so gloriously worth your applause is pure fiction.
Resources to Help Troops
Here is just a smattering of advocacy Web sites. Browsing the Internet will turn up dozens more.
IAVA.org (Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America)
TAPS.org (Tragedy Assistance Programs for Survivors)
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