On November 2nd, 16 soldiers from the Illinois-Iowa National Guard were killed when their helicopter was shot down in Iraq. The chopper was not equipped with new defensive equipment to protect it from the shoulder-fired missiles that brought it down. The Illinois-Iowa unit was so under-equipped that soldiers said it qualified for "automatic mission-abort criteria"; but instead of being kept home until they got their gear, they were sent anyway.
The scandal is this: the National Guard brass decided to order only 50% of the ALQ-158 flare-launching systems actually needed for the Guard's Chinook fleet! "A conscious decision was made not to buy as many as we need," said Lt. Gen. Roger Schultz, director of the Army National Guard. He added, "It's a decision that has some level of risk with it." No kidding. "Somebody, someday, someplace said: 'We're going to accept some risk. We'll authorize the planes but not the equipment,'" commented Maj. Gen. Walter Pudlowski.
Tom Donnelly, a conservative military expert for the American Enterprise Institute and former policy director of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, explained the obvious: "It's a budget driven deal. These guys [guardsmen and reservists] are farther down the food-chain."
Not only is this deal budget driven, the fact that about 40% of the troops in Iraq are reservists is budget-driven. The Pentagon is using part-time soldiers for the same reasons companies like Wal-Mart, Blockbuster, and Barnes and Noble prefer part-time workers: it's a lot cheaper. Part-timers get a less benefits (if any at all), get paid less, and are easier to fire and replace with new workers.
Reservists don't get the same equipment as those on active-duty, even though the Iraqi resistance doesn't discriminate between them when they attack U.S. troops. Almost 25% of GIs in Iraq, most of them reservists, STILL don't have ceramic plates for their vests - and that scandal broke in the news months ago!
While high-level officers wrack their brains over whether to under-equip their troops by 50%, 25% or 75%, soldiers are getting killed on a daily basis in Iraq with no end in sight. The important thing to realize is that not only is the troop rotation and the equipment shortages "budget-driven", the whole war itself is "budget driven." It's not about making Americans safer: Iraq had no WMD to speak of, and the only link between Iraq and Al-Qaida is between Bush's ears. It's not about bringing democracy to Iraq: the U.S. plan for a "power handover" in July will mean that hand-picked stooges (the Governing Council) get to pick other stooges (regional caucuses), who then get to pick more stooges (disguised as a "national assembly"), and the last set of appointed stooges will "invite" U.S. troops to stay in Iraq! It's not about reconstruction either: Halliburton and Bechtel are pocketing billions of tax-payer dollars and have almost no work done anywhere in Iraq to show for it.
Bottom line, this war is about the bottom line; it's about making the rich in America richer and the power-brokers in Washington, D.C. more powerful by controlling the world's second largest oil reserve and establishing permanent military bases in the Middle East. That's why we say bring all the troops home NOW.