Thursday, May 27, 2004

Since You Didn't Ask, I'll Tell You Anyway...

A few posts down, I mentioned that Scroff at Any Which Way was looking for folks to tell him why they were going to vote for Bush. After that, I made a post regarding Senator Kerry's service record. Now I'm going to tell you why I can't understand how military folks and those related to military folks, can support George Bush. I am bou coup pissed about this, so pardon my attitude, therefore...

If you disagree, tell me why, specifically, point by point, supported with facts. If you are incapable of doing that, go away quietly and nicely.


On NBC's Meet the Press with Tim Russert, President Bush said: "Any time you commit your troops into harm's way, they must have the best equipment, the best training, and the best possible pay. That's where we owe it to their loved ones." In war it's impossible to foresee and meet all needs. But when compared to the Bush Administration's blank check policy with Pentagon contractors, how can the failings listed below be explained?

Nearly 25 Percent of U.S. Troops Weren't Issued Appropriate Body Armor Due to Pentagon Oversight, Delays. It was reported in October 2003 that nearly one-quarter of the 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq still hadn't been issued a new type of ceramic body armor strong enough to stop bullets fired from assault rifles. Delays in funding, production and shipping meant it would be December before all troops in Iraq would have the vests. The military's Interceptor vests, introduced in 1999, include removable ceramic plates in the front and back that can stop bullets such as the 7.62mm rounds fired by Kalashnikov rifles common in Iraq and Afghanistan . [ Associated Press , 10/13/03 ]

Soldiers Paying $650 Out of Their Own Pockets to Buy Body Armor. An October 2003 House Appropriations Committee report on how poorly-equipped America's soldiers were noted that "the committee has learned that some active-duty soldiers and reservists are spending as much as $650 out of pocket to buy Interceptor Body Armor vests and Small Arms Protective Insert plates to replace the Vietnam-era flak vests issued when they arrive in Iraq." [ Defense Week , 10/14/03 ]

Many Soldiers Arriving in Kuwait Hadn't Been Issued Essential Combat Gear, Paid for Equipment Themselves. As was reported in Defense Week and many other publications, many soldiers arriving in Kuwait before the start of Iraqi Freedom had not been issued essential combat gear, from desert boots and hand-held Global Positioning System locators to extra pistol magazine and Camelback-style canteens. The troops often paid for such equipment out of pocket. [ Defense Week , 10/14/03 ]

Administration Failed to Provide Funds for Portable Radio-Frequency Jammers That Could Foil Attacks. An October 2003 House Appropriations Committee report noted the lack of portable radio-frequency jammers that can foil some kinds of command-detonated explosives. Army leaders have acknowledged that "improvised explosive devices," usually artillery shells, mortars or grenades rigged to detonate on roadways, were a major threat to U.S. forces. "The capability of currently fielded portable radio jammers does not provide effective defense against remotely detonated explosives being used increasingly against American soldiers," the report said. [; Defense Week , 10/14/03 ]

Soldiers Forced to Fly Helicopters Without Basic Missile Defense Systems. "So the whistle blowers were right," said a November 2003 Peoria Journal Star editorial titled "First-Class Soldiers Deserve First-Class Protection." "A Peoria-based Illinois National Guard unit got second-class equipment to protect itself in Iraq…Accounts differ as to why six of the 14 helicopters belonging to the 106 th Aviation Battalion flew all summer without the basic missile defense systems considered standard in regular Army choppers, or the more advanced systems that represent the new standard…If the Army intends the Guard members and reservists being called to duty to be treated like first-class soldiers, then it owes them first-class protection." [ Peoria Journal Star , 11/12/03 ]


Bush Gives Veterans Administration $1.2 Billion Lees Than it Requested. In a rare move by a Cabinet member, Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi told a House Committee in February 2004 that he had sought $1.2 billion more than President Bush was willing to put in his budget. "I asked OMB for $1.2 billion more than I received," Principi said, referring to the White House Office of Management and Budget. Bush's $2.4 trillion budget sent to Congress on Monday proposes $65.3 billion for the agency, including a 1.8 percent increase in discretionary spending to $29.7 billion, which pays for veterans medical care. [ Associated Press , 2/4/04 ]

Veterans Groups Said Bush Budget Does Little for Veterans Medical Care. Veterans groups have been unhappy with the President's proposed budget for the Veterans agency, saying it provides little increase for medical care in an election year and at a time when the Afghanistan and Iraq wars have created a new generation of veterans in need of services. [ Associated Press , 2/4/04 ]

Bush Actively Opposed $1.3 Billion for Veterans Emergency Health Care Funding in FY04. In fall 2003, the Bush administration fought, unsuccessfully, in the end, a bid to add $1.3 billion in emergency health care funding for veterans in fiscal 2004. According to Steve Robertson, legislative director for the American Legion, many veterans were displeased that the administration's budget request would have raised the annual enrollment fee in veterans' medical facilities and increased their co-payments for pharmaceuticals and doctor visits. [ Charleston Daily Mail , 12/27/03 ]

Bush VA Spending Failed to Grow with Health Care Costs. Despite Bush's claims, "the annual percentage increase it requested for veterans' health care is 5.4 percent, hardly a windfall considering that the consumer price index for medical care was 13 percent during the fiscal year 2002. VA officials have testified that it would take a 13 to 14 percent hike in the VA's health care budget just to maintain the status quo." [ The Hill , Rep. Evans op/ed, 9/17/03 ]

Bush Proposed Doubling Costs of Prescription Drugs for Veterans. In 2003, Bush proposed increasing prescription drug costs for veterans. The Bush plan would have included a new $250 enrollment fee and a co-pay increase from $7 to $15 for veterans earning over $24,000. On July 21, 2003 , the House Appropriations Committee agreed to a Democratic amendment to reject the Bush fee increases and recoup the $264 million in costs by reducing administrative funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs. [ Reuters , 7/14/03 ; Washington Post , 7/22/03 ]

Bush Decided to Cut Benefits for Middle-Income Veterans. On January 16, 2003 , the Bush Administration announced it would cut access to health care benefits for 160,000 middle-income veterans due to budget constraints. "On one hand, we're sending our sons and daughters out to war and possibly to die, yet on the other hand we're punishing a certain class of veterans who've made money in the lives. The government made a promise to us. What they're doing now is wrong." [ Associated Press , 1/16/03 ; The Daily Oklahoman , 1/18/03 ]


Pentagon Planned to Cut Pay of Troops Serving in Iraq and Afghanistan . In April 2003, the U.S. Senate unanimously voted to increase pay for soldiers in imminent danger areas by 50 percent. The increase was the first to imminent-danger pay since the first Gulf War, and the first to families since 1997. The increases were temporary and set to expire at the end of the current fiscal year on September 30. Bush's Defense Department effectively decided "to cut the pay of its 148,000 U.S. troops in Iraq , who are already contending with guerilla-style attacks, homesickness and 120-degree plus heat" by opposing renewal of the pay raises. After criticism, the Pentagon announced that current salaries for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan would not be cut, but such efforts may come at the expense of troops serving elsewhere. [ Knight-Ridder , 4/5/03 ; Los Angeles Times , 4/3/03 ; CQ , 4/16/03 ; San Francisco Chronicle , 8/14/03 ; Army Times , 8/13/03 ; 8/20/03 ]

Army Times Called the Pay Cuts "Maddening." The Army Times , an independent paper distributed to Army personnel, criticized Bush, saying, "The bottom line: If the Bush administration felt in April that conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan warranted increases in danger pay and family separation allowances, it cannot plausibly argue that the higher rates are not still warranted today." The Times said the Bush administration "undermined" support for the troops, and called the pay cuts "maddening." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution called the Pentagon's plan "heartless" and "simply unacceptable." [ Army Times , 8/18/03 ; San Francisco Chronicle , 8/14/03 ; Atlanta Journal-Constitution , 8/15/03 ]


Bush's FY2004 Budget Cuts Fund to Military Family Housing/Medical Facilities. Bush's FY'04 budget proposes a $1.5 billion reduction in funds to military family housing/medical facilities, amounting to a 14 percent cut. [Bush FY2004 Budget]

Army Investigating Complaints of Poor Treatment for Iraq Veterans. UPI learned that "hundreds of sick and wounded U.S. soldiers including many who served in the Iraq war are languishing in hot cement barracks while they wait, sometimes for months, to see doctors. The National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers' living conditions are so substandard, and the medical care so poor, that many of them believe the Army is trying to push them out with reduced benefits for their ailments. One document shown to UPI states that no more doctor appointments are available from Oct. 14 through Nov. 11, Veterans Day….One month after President Bush greeted soldiers at Fort Stewart…as heroes on their return from Iraq, approximately 600 sick or injured members of the Army Reserves and National Guard are warehoused in rows of spare, steamy and dark cement barracks in a sandy field, waiting for doctors to treat their wounds or illnesses." [ United Press International , 10/17/03 , 10/20/03 ]

Bush Administration Has Continued Delaying, Extending Troop Deployment Timetable. Troops were first told they'd be going home in May, then in early July, then late July, and then Rumsfeld said August. Then officials changed the story yet again, saying they could make no hard promises. Then the Pentagon announced for the first time since Vietnam , they might have to start serving back to back overseas tours of up to a year. And now the Pentagon acknowledges that the Untied States will have to provide the overwhelming majority of the occupying troops indefinitely. [ABC News, 7/16/03 ; USA Today , 8/24/03 ; New York Times , 10/27/03 ]