Our War President
I just learned that someone I know who is in the Ohio National Guard will be getting his orders for another tour of active duty -- his third, I believe, the last being in Bosnia. This time he goes to Iraq where, in his specific job, he will be exposed on a daily basis to RPGs (rocket propelled grenades) and IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices), which are, by and large, the weapons that are killing civilians and American forces in Iraq.
In doing this, Bush is violating a long time policy of the Department of Defense (i. e., War) not to call up National Guard units for more than one out of every five years. At some point during the Iraq war, this policy was changed to two out of every five years. There are a variety of reasons for this, the biggest two being force reductions after the end of the Cold War and a need for many more troops in Iraq than Rumsfield and Bush had thought they could get away with thanks to their total failure to understand what they were getting us and them into (recall the looting, the inability of the US led forces to protect the people and rebuild and protect the infrastructure, the totally unexpected insurgency, etc.)
What is interesting is how the Department of Defense (i. e., War) interprets the "2 out of 5 year" active duty limitation. I give you the words of Army National Guard Lt. Gen. Clyde Vaughn:
What a lot of folks don't really pay attention to is that we regenerate a certain percentage of our force every year; you know, those new recruits and folks that come in from the (other ) service and so on, and that's about 18 percent across the line. So when you start to look at that in broad terms, and if it were flat-lined over five years, you'd say, well, 90 percent of your Soldiers are almost all new in five years. That's true. So, you see, once every five years, we come real close to regenerating the whole force anyway. What ends up staying in your force over that period of time are the people that want to stay there, which are your leaders, which is the way it ought to be.
It is clear that no individual soldier is being given a "2 of 5" year limitation on active duty service. Rather, the DOD is using a statistical interpretation of that limitation. If there is a turnover of 90 percent of a given National Guard unit over five years, then, indeed, it can be called up every other year for five years and not exceed the limitation. After year one, 5/5ths will have served one tour but 1/5th will leave the Guard. After year two, spent back in the USA, the unit will lose an additional 1/5th. So, when it is recalled in year 3, only 3/5ths of the original group will still be in the Guard unit. After year 4, also spent in the USA, the unit will lose an additional 1/5th of its original size, leaving just 1/5th of the original group. When this unit is deployed in the fifth year, the only group that will be on its third tour will be the 1/5th that was there in the first year. And these, says the Good General, would be "the people that want to stay there, which are your leaders." He didn't say "officers," he said "leaders." The leaders will, of course, be the most experienced people. Unless they are total screw ups, they will all be in leadership positions of some sort. They are what college sports coaches call the "senior leadership" of their teams.
Now, the General isn't saying literally that he knows this "turnover" is going to happen in the way I have just described. He makes no such claim. He only provides a interpretation of the "2 of 5" year limitation that "sounds good." That Bush and the DOD are engaged in lying to Guard members, the parents, spouses, children, and you and me is clear enough. However, it is my understanding that when this Ohio unit is called up, it will be called up for a minimum of one year. Not a maximum. A minimum. So, the lie grows like Pinocchio's nose.
One other aspect of this that is disturbing is that Bush seems to have promised that only "volunteers" are going to be sent to Iraq. I have found no document confirming this promise. However, it is not the individual soldier who will be doing the volunteering. It is the Generals who lead them. Tell me a National Guard General who would not volunteer his troops and I'll tell you a National Guard General who doesn't want a promotion. Perhaps someone can confirm or disconfirm this alleged promise. Bush is guilty of so many errors of judgement and outright lies that we don't want to be accused of piling on by adding another lie if it isn't a "true lie."
Let me note in passing that General Vaughn should be given the 2006 George Orwell Language Award for his use of the verb "socialize." I give you
That had been socialized with the TAGsWhat in living hell does this verb mean to this man? That they had had tea parties with the TAGs and the states?
we socialized and worked with the states
What really chaps my butt is that Bush and Cheney, both of whom dodged the draft during the Vietnam War, continue to send Americans to Iraq to die in a monumentally stupid war. The irony in this context is that Bush dodged the draft by getting Daddy's help securing enlistment into the National Guard at a time when virtually no Guard members ever served in combat and enlistments were essentially frozen. In 1956, after the Korean War, the military made a terrible blunder by allowing people to enlist for an 8 year National Guard term with no active duty requirement -- not even basic training. Being naive, I, as a high school senior, was conned by a friend into joining the Oklahoma National Guard to make sure that I didn't get drafted out of college. Dumb me. White, middle-class, college-enrolled people did not get drafted in those days. But be clear about this: I was engaging in draft dodging. The difference between Bush and me is that I used the National Guard draft-dodging ploy during a time of peace, not war.