Cut and Run Republicans

Saturday, June 24, 2006

My husband informs me he nearly drove his car off the road yesterday listening to Diane Rehm's news roundup. The reason for his shock and outrage? An email Rehm received from one of her listeners named Carol. The podcast is available on the WAMU website. Here is my attempt at a transcript of the pertinent portion of the broadcast:

My son is an Army PFC assigned to Military Intelligence based in Fort Hood, Texas. He's going to deploy to Iraq in early August. Last week his unit was informed that due to budget cutbacks, they would have to buy some of the equipment they'll need. He is infantry assigned to an M1 [probably Rehm's misreading of MI: Military Intelligence] unit and need ammo bags, a scope, rails, magazines for his rifle, and a holster for his issued handgun. He was told the Army will eventually issue magazines but they would be old and used and might not work properly so they should buy their own if they could. They were advised to look in pawn shops and Ebay for gear. [Emphasis added] The total for these items will be around a thousand dollars. My son brings home less than eleven hundred dollars a month.

Carol goes on to explain that she and her husband will foot the bill for their son's proper armament, but expresses concern for those families and soldiers who are not as well heeled. Why, she wonders, is Congress wasting its time on petty bickering, when we are sending our troops into battle without the proper equipment.

The bigger question is why they simultaneously look the other way while companies like Halliburton blow billions on no-bid contracts. Just this week a Republican majority tabled an amendment that would have called for oversight of the company with a notorious record of waste, mismanagement, and worse. So the message from Republicans is that taxpayers can eat losses of billions of dollars to a company which has been discovered supplying our troops with expired food products and contaminated water, and, on top of that, military families have to pay out of pocket for the basic equipment they will need to fight in an increasingly dangerous war.

One arcane detail raised by Carol's email is that her son has been issued a sidearm, which is not de rigueur for enlisted ranks, but rather for officers. Those units that are receiving them are most likely those that are being deployed to urban regions and doing some of the most dangerous fighting in Iraq. Pistols are generally used for close quarter combat. This is informed conjecture, on my part. It could just be that their supply office had a glut of pistols without holsters and are just throwing them whatever they have in lieu of what they actually need.

It seems to me that the only "cut and run" that's occurring is Republicans abandoning our troops while they are on the ground in an ill-advised war that is spiraling out of control. Hawkishness and jingoism will only take you so far and seems increasingly deficient against the backdrop of escalating bloodshed in Bagdad where a state of emergency has been called more than three years after this mission was declared accomplished. The military serves this Administration very well, providing air craft carriers to use as props for photo ops and as recipients for services that poison them while enriching White House cronies.