Thursday, March 02, 2006

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 TAGs
we socialized and worked with the states
What in living hell does this verb mean to this man? That they had had tea parties with the TAGs and 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.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

If my memory serves me correctly his honor dicky,i shot the lawyer, chaney used the perfectly good excuse for dodging the draft,I had better things to do.


10:27 AM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

That's almost exactly what he said. Everyone who needs a refresher course on the turmoil of the late '60's or who is too young to have lived through it, I strongly suggest you read, They Marched Into Sunlight : War and Peace Vietnam and America October 1967" by David Maraniss. It focuses on a very brave battalian of American soldiers and the anti-war protesters in what was a critical two days in October, 1967. Thanks to lousy intelligence and bad leadership by those not on the ground, the battalian was caught in a brutally effective trap by the N. Vietnamese. Meanwhile, the first (I believe) major university protest with marches, sit-ins, and the rest occurred at the U. of Wisconsin. It made me angry all over again about the stupidity of the Johnson administration.

11:37 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If we look back on all the wonderful republicans we have in office now or were in office we see a large number of them are pro war NOW but were not so pro war when they were of draft age.Here in Texas we had the honorable Phil Graham who when it became his time to serve in the army got another college deferment and told the draft board that it was more important for him to teach than to fight.I believe his name was Jack Kempt who ran for president along with George the I,he did not get the nomination,was given a draft deferment because his shoulder was in bad shape but he could throw a football fifty yards.Go figure.Now this guy is not an office holder but is a mouthpiece for the white house and the republican party,Rush Limbaugh was granted a draft deferment for what amounted to an ingrown hair on his butt.The list goes on and on.I have heard the talking heads on the radio talk about how many parents are telling thier kids not to join the military and they are not pleased.I don't hear them saying how they are trying to get thier kids to join the military.


12:00 PM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

Jake, was your "I shot the lawyer" a reference back to "I shot the sheriff" of Bob Marley fame?

4:33 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

first of all, i'd like to say that the so-called insurgency in iraq should have been about as unexpected as katrina leveling new orleans.

second, i have a real problem with the word insurgency. basically it just means rebellion but all dictionaries i have checked except for one include the phrase "against a constituted government" or something to the effect of indicating the government is recognized and legitimate. in the news i have found that since the beginning they have always given the impression, as well, that this insurgency is being perpetrated by foreigners sneaking across the border from syria which i always thought was ridiculous. i think the impression the media meant to give was just that the rebels were not iraqi because they of course were all for the american occupation. again ridiculous.

if someone invaded my country and proceeded to occupy it and then dictated which government my people were supposed to have im pretty sure that i would be mighty pissed off. i think any american would be equally pissed off regardless of the benevolent military force that decided to save their asses from all the ills of the american system.

lastly, i live in korea and there are quite a few american military around that like to get drunk and run their mouths about what is going on in the forces. one lifer that i had a conversation with was telling about how he was going to be stationed in iraq for his next assignment and was getting paid some absurd bonus like $20 000 for doing so. he explained that the military is extremely desperate for troops and are doing everything they can to offer incentives for people to join and stay in the armed forces.

one last thing is that just because the invading force says the war is over doesnt mean the other side has to listen.

5:06 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i tried to make a comment before but something was wrong with the server. it was kind of long so i just made it a post on my own blog here

insurgency is a stupid, manipulative word.

7:21 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i see now that my comment has magically appeared . . . so you can just delete this and the previous one, please and thank you.

7:42 PM

Blogger IbaDaiRon said...

...recall the looting, the inability of the US ... to protect the people and rebuild and protect the infrastructure, ...

There for a minute I thought you were talking about New Orleans....

2:15 AM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

idabairon, methinks you have spotted a trend in Republican government.

8:38 AM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

I've never payed much attention to wars. (I was too young during the Vietnam war). & have always made an effort to give the 'Powers that be' the benifit of the doubt.

As I get older I'm becoming more cynical, tho. Clinton helped me see that Presidents are just as low as the rest of us. & G. Bush is helping me to realize what 'Politics' is all about.

This quote by Karl Kraus, seems pertinent at the moment:
"How is the world ruled & how do wars start?
Diplomats tell lies to journalists & then believe what they read."

10:20 AM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

Yes, j_g, that is true & it never changes. & that is what mades it so sad.

12:07 PM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

J_G, I very much respect your service to the country but the fact remains that nothing I said in my blog was impacted by your claims for I was mostly talking about how the military is interpreting the idea that someone should be called up for only 2 one year tours in 5 years. The statistical interpretation the general gave is the sort of thing that verifies the appropriateness of the title of the book: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics. There are a bunch of books with titles similar to that.

The fact is that being an Active member of the Armed Forces is different from being a memeber of the Reserves and both are different from the National Guard. The expectation for the Guard is that it is used for local emergencies (a riot, Katrina, etc.) and can be mobilized by the Governor and by the President (with the approval of the Governor being required, I think). The idea of the Guard is that it should be used for combat in extreme cases. What is changing is the understanding of "extreme cases" and it is changing because Bush wants a small military and tax cuts. He can't have an a large enough active duty military to take care of his wars and tax cuts without making his deficits larger.

What is evolving is the idea that both the Reserves and the Guard should be easily integratable with the active forces should need for either be required. That's a very good idea in principle. The point of the Guard has always been that these are citizen soldiers who have jobs/careers in the "real world" and who are called up, as noted, in extreme cases. However, right now, Bush is treating the National Guard as if it were a part of our Active Duty forces no different in principle from active duty forces sitting "idle" on bases in the US. That is just wrong and it will destroy the National Guard if he persists. No one will enlist if he/she knows he/she cannot have a career in the "real world" so long as he/she is a part of the Guard.

8:13 AM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

Very interesting stuff, J_G. Somehow, it passed me by that Big Bush did this national power grab. I suspect you must be right about this action causing certain patriotic sorts to go ballistic and form the militias. I need to blog on the idea any political entity -- city, state, country, the UN -- is strongly subject to the Law of Unintended Consequences. Bush's failure to anticipate this consequence is a flaw but the ability of the military to integrate the Guard fully into the active army functionally is a very good one. However, individuals in the Guard have to be assured as to the limits of their active service not counting a World War or Korean War sort of thing. Certainly our war of aggression against Iraq doesn't count.

The effects of The Law of Unintended Consquences has destroyed his son's Presidency. I see no way he can recover from the Iraq debacle, the failure to totally eliminate the Talliban, and our run away deficit.

11:44 AM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

J_G. thanks for the heads up on this. Clearly, they have to make a large distinction between the active reserves and the guard or the guard will cease to exist. Right now, they aren't distinguishable I fear. Anyone is fodder for Bush's war machine. Except for the draft dodger himself.

Did anyone in the Bush Administration fight in Vietnam or the first Iraq War. Obviously Powell but he hardly counts. He was never really a Bush guy -- just someone Bush wanted to exploit. And when the Prez calls one answers, or so the legend goes.

3:25 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I ran across this site by accident, I am a National Guard soldier who is currently on active duty and have completed one tour in Iraq and realize I will be returning next year.

It amazes me how short sited some of the folks here are. Who cares why anyone joined the service. These people drew their pay during peacetime and now we are at war. It is time to "pay the piper".

Grow a set of gonads and do your duty and stop crying! It is embarassing for those of us who are not cowards to listen to it.


11:14 AM


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