A Good Draft Would Blow Most Wars Away
Thomas Ricks of the Washington Post has covered the Iraq and Afghanistan wars since their inception and has always spoken truth to power. To me he is the Ernie Pyle and Bill Mauldin of these modern wars. Last week he wrote an article called “Let’s Draft Our Kids.” In the same week we read about the ever-increasing suicides in the military. The generals in charge just don’t seem to understand it.
Perhaps they should look at the fact that only one percent of the U.S. population has fought in these wars of “counter-insurgency” where there are no frontlines, where “volunteer” troops are in the kill zone 24 hours a day, seven days a week for as long as their assigned tour lasts. A young Army ranger named Kristoffer Domeij with a wife and two children presently holds the tour record for the services. The sergeant was killed during his 14th deployment to a combat zone.
With a “volunteer” service manned mostly by poor, uneducated troops gleaned from the poorest counties from the poorest states in the country, because of economics and lack of education, only one percent of our population is actually fighting our wars. Almost 50 percent of military recruits come from rural areas, with the 20 poorest counties with lower than average median incomes providing the most. Only 14 percent of recruits come from major cities. A group of retired military officers named Mission: Readiness say 75 percent of Americans ages 17-24 are physically or mentally unfit for military service. Why not a national effort to make them fit? The Ninety-Nine Percent can stay at home and forget we are in wars except when they say, “Thanks for your service!” to a veteran. A huge majority have no contact with the military. Children of the rich and influential never have to face bullets and bombs. The irony is that we have one percent of the poor protecting the wealth and homes of the One Percent who have made sure their children never have to wear a uniform. But now 33 percent of our veterans recognize that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are a complete waste.
A Statement From
A Medal of Valor
Winner Of The Iraq War
The following statement came from a decorated Iraq War veteran as he tossed his medals of valor into a bucket at the NATO Summit meeting in Chicago on May 21, 2012: “Our enemies are not 7,000 miles from home. They sit in boardrooms. They are CEOs. They are bankers. They are hedge fund managers. They do not live 7,000 miles from home. Our enemies are right here, and we look at them every day. They are not the men and women who are standing on this police line. They are the millionaires and billionaires who control this planet, and we’ve had enough of it. So they can take their medals back.” Another vet added, “Something is wrong with a nation in which the public is divorced from the reality of this long war (against terror), the prosecution of which has become as foreign to most Americans as the exotic financial instruments created on Wall Street.” Another at the mall shouted, “Don’t they know there’s a war on?”
Consider this. There is no war veteran on the U.S. Supreme Court. Fewer than one percent of Americans serve in the armed forces. Fewer veterans now serve in Congress or on the federal and state courts than at any time since WW II. But we are at war! Some of the toughest situations come out of the wars that so few experience.
Kipling: But It’s “Please
To Walk In Front, Sir”,
When There Is Trouble
In The Wind
English poet Rudyard Kipling wrote stirring poetry about England’s attempt to pacify Afghanistan in the 19th century. The One Percenters at the top of our class pyramid should memorize “Tommy.” Here is just one stanza:
We aren’t no thin red ‘eros, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An’ if sometimes our conduck isn’t all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints;
While it’s Tommy this and Tommy that, an’ “Tommy fall be’ind”,
But it’s “Please to walk in front, Sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind, O it’s “Please to walk in front , Sir,” when there is trouble in the wind.
Among the “volunteer” active-duty troops who served in Iraq since the invasion of 2003, almost 200,000 have been deployed more than once, and 53,000 have been sent back three or more times. Everyone who has been in the military knows non-commissioned officers make the military work. Army studies show that 27 percent of NCOs on their third or fourth tour are referred for post-traumatic stress disorders.
We have had 1.6 million veterans serve in Iraq and Afghanistan. Forty-five percent are now seeking compensation for service-related injuries. Some are claiming eight or nine ailments on average, newer ones 11 to 14. Vietnam vets claim fewer than four disabilities, WW II and Korea vets claim just two. Payments range from $127 a month for ten percent disability to $2,769 for 100 percent.
Minnesota Has One
Of The Highest
Last year we lost more military to suicide than we did to war. And the suicide rate is increasing. Some Army generals just don’t get it. General Dana Pittard, commander of the 1st Armored Division, wrote in his Army blog, “Suicide is an absolutely selfish act. I am personally fed up with soldiers who are choosing to take their own lives so that others can clean up their mess. Be an adult, act like an adult, and deal with your real-life problems like the rest of us.” Easy for him to say. He must be a devotee of General George Patton, who in his total ignorance once slapped around a shell-shocked soldier. Perhaps this review of troops who have asked the VA for assistance after Iraq and Afghan tours would enlighten our military and civilian leaders:
** Over 1,600 have lost at least one limb.
** 156 are blind and thousands of others have impaired vision from traumatic brain injuries.
** 177,000 have registered hearing loss and 350,000 have tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
** Thousands are disfigured with over 200 needing face transplants—when available.
** 25 percent of all battlefield wounds are to the face or jaw area.
** 400,000 vets have been treated for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
** Almost 20 percent of veterans have required orthopedic surgery consultations because of back, shoulder, and knee stress caused by 70-pound packs and body armor weighing up to 40 pounds. Four percent required expensive surgery.
What In Hell Did
The Generals In
The Pentagon Expect?
VA doctors continue to tell the Pentagon, “You just can’t keep sending people into war five, six, or seven times and expect that they’re going to come home just fine.” Although we have been in war for over ten years, Army chief of staff General George Casey admitted the Pentagon “got flat-footed” about the mental condition of troops going on tour after tour. What in hell did they expect? More marching on the parade grounds?
Remember when the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz crowd said the two wars would cost just $1 billion? That Iraqi oil would pay for the war? Maybe they forgot—or were too stupid to realize—that veterans will need care and disability payments for about five or six decades, estimated by Harvard economist Linda Bilmes to cost between $600 billion to $900 billion. It may be a low estimate. In 2011, 1.3 million veterans applied for disability claims, all from the Iraq and Afghan wars. But recent changes in regulations about the exposure of Vietnam veterans to Agent Orange have resulted in 230,000 new disability claims.
Remember the Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan wars? We won most of the battles but lost all three wars because of political and military idiocy and misjudgments. Now we are paying dearly for it. So here we are, building hundreds of F-22 fighter planes at $412 million a copy for the next war, so our exhausted troops on patrol carrying rifles and grenades can be blown up by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) buried under streets, roads, and mountains in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s beyond insanity.
Politicians Are Always
Fighting The Last War
Politicians, generals, and admirals have sent troops walking, riding, sailing, and flying into countless valleys of death for centuries, always fighting the last war. Spanish admirals sent their armada warships into the jaws of English broadsides. Napoleon walked his French squares into Russian and English cannon volleys at Waterloo and Moscow. English generals flung the Light Brigade into a Crimean death, proving that stupidity often wins over heroism. Lincoln and Jefferson Davis and their generals killed 600,000 brothers and a few sisters with rifles that could kill at 600 yards, while using tactics that only worked against smooth-bore guns at 50 yards. On July 1, 1916, British generals sent 100,000 troops out of the trenches into no-man’s-land, charging into a blizzard of bullets from that new invention, the deadly machine gun. Before the record-setting day was over, 20,000 Tommies were dead and 40,000 wounded. On Oct. 14, 1943, American Eighth Air Force generals ordered 3,000 airmen to board their B-17 Flying Fortresses and bomb German ball-bearing factories at Schweinfurt. Over 600 airmen went down in flames that day or were captured. Then the generals realized their men and bombs would last only five days at that rate—in a four-year war. In Vietnam the generals ordered companies with draftees to “Take that hill again.” Finally the troops said, “Hell, no! We ain’t goin’”—and fragged a few officers to prove it. This is why we need draftees to fight wars. How long would we have stayed in Iraq and Afghanistan if 30 percent of the force had been draftees? Not ten years!
Skin In the Game
I never liked General Stanley McCrystal, our former commander in Afghanistan who got canned for publicly criticizing President Obama. I have always thought that any general who runs five miles in the morning darkness, eats only one meal a day, sleeps only four hours, and fancies himself an aesthete is a guy who can get you killed quick. But he is the only military commander of rank who has called for reinstituting the draft: “I think a nation that goes to war, every town, every city needs to be at risk. You make that decision and everybody has skin in the game.” In America more than 99 percent have unbroken skin.
Ricks in his article claims politicians and generals would think more seriously about going to war if they had to face the sons and daughters of the One Percent in kill zones. It would have to be a “no excuses” draft if the individual qualifies physically and mentally. No more deferment marriages and babies. No more Dick Cheney record-breaking educational deferments. No more buying a sub from the poor to save your rich ass as in the Civil War and Vietnam. No more champagne flights in outfits like the Texas Air National Guard protecting the Rio Grande from the Cong. Ricks has also added an important clause for “unconscientious objectors” and persons who object to the draft: absolutely no government services such as Medicare, Social Security, Deposit Insurance, college loans, mortgage guarantees, or other services. Ricks says, “Those who want minimal government can have it.”
Every politician and military general should take a standardized test every year to test their knowledge of a speech given by Marine General Smedley Butler in 1933. A quick summary: “War is just a racket... I spent 33 years in the Marine Corps... I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. I helped make Mexico safe for American oil interests... Haiti and Cuba a decent place for National City Bank... I helped purify Nicaragua for banks... I protected Standard Oil in China... I could have given Al Capone a few hints... he operated his rackets in three Chicago districts. I operated on three continents.”