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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Military Morale Slips Over War

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A recent ABC News poll finds that 77% of americans believe the number of US deaths in Iraq are 'unacceptable' and 61% believe the war isn't worth the cost -- which leaves you wondering about that 16% who find the loss unacceptable, but worth it. Logical consistency isn't a big deal with some people.

Given the unpopularity of the war, it shouldn't surprise anyone that disapproval of it is rising in the military itself. In fact, it's been growing for a while. In October, Bob Burnett wrote:

How did George Bush manage to lose the backing of our armed forces, which at one time was highly supportive of his Administration?

Four factors contributed to this change: First, the occupation of Iraq was botched. Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor's recent book, Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq argues the Administration "committed five grievous errors" during the planning and execution of the invasion: "They underestimated their opponent and failed to understand the welter of ethnic groups and tribes that is Iraq." "They did not bring the right tools to the fight and put too much confidence in technology." "They failed to adapt to developments on the ground;" did not recognize the rise of the insurgency. "They presided over a system in which differing military and political perspectives were discouraged." Finally, "they turned their backs on nation-building."

In addition, "A recent poll indicated that 42 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans 'said their equipment was below the military standard of being 90 percent operational,'" Burnett tells us.

So it shouldn't surprise anyone that troops are speaking out.

The Nation:

For the first time since Vietnam, an organized, robust movement of active-duty US military personnel has publicly surfaced to oppose a war in which they are serving. Those involved plan to petition Congress to withdraw American troops from Iraq. (Note: A complete version of this report will appear next week in the print and online editions of The Nation.)

After appearing only seven weeks ago on the Internet, the Appeal for Redress, brainchild of 29-year-old Navy seaman Jonathan Hutto, has already been signed by nearly 1,000 US soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen, including dozens of officers--most of whom are on active duty. Not since 1969, when some 1,300 active-duty military personnel signed an open letter in the New York Times opposing the war in Vietnam, has there been such a dramatic barometer of rising military dissent.

"This is my second tour, and as of a few days ago it's half-over," The Nation quotes a soldier identified only as 'Sgt. Gary.' "Before I deployed with my unit for the second time I already had feelings of not wanting to go. When in late September a buddy in my platoon died from a bullet in the head, I really took a long hard look at this war, this Administration, and the reasons why.

"After months of research on the Internet, I came to the conclusion that this war was based on lies and deception. I started to break free of all the propaganda that the Bush Administration and the Army puts out on a daily basis." Others have voiced similar thinking.

Kevin Tillman, brother of NFL star and friendly-fire casualty Pat Tillman puts it this way, "Somehow American leadership, whose only credit is lying to its people and illegally invading a nation, has been allowed to steal the courage, virtue and honor of its soldiers on the ground." Kevin served as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan.

Tillman is correct. To hear the Washington war boosters talk, you'd think they were fighting these wars. Bush's idiotic "Bring 'em on" comment comes to mind. There are others who co-opt the 'courage, virtue and honor' of soldiers -- pundits who sneer at the idea of peace and throw around words like 'cowardice' and 'appeasers' as they type away in the safety of their homes or babble in cable news studios. Many of them -- 36 year old Michelle Malkin, for example -- are young enough to serve in the military themselves. Others have never served. Here's a crazy idea -- if you're young enough to serve, are a big fan of the war, haven't signed up at, and get the urge to hypocritically criticize someone else's courage, you get to STFU. Go hide in your home office and furiously type away about how the war's a good idea and don't ever complain about someone else's 'cowardice.' Until you've dealt with your own obvious lack of courage, you haven't got a leg to stand on.

Put up or shut up.