Wednesday, April 06, 2005

From Here to Eternity 

Via our distinguished colleague Rorschach of No Capital: Special Forces Commander Jason Cordova was one of 455,000 soldiers inoculated under the AVIP (Anthrax Vaccine Inoculation Program):
Soon after the first five of the required six injections were administered, he began experiencing excruciating physical ailments.

“There are times when I am just urinating,” says Commander Cordova with a matter-of-fact attitude, “and all of the sudden a thick fluid will come out, my testicles will be swollen, enlarged and very tender. Then the anthrax injection site in my waist becomes inflamed.”

According to Cordova, infectious disease doctors speculate that the vaccination may have entered his lymphatic system—primarily affecting nodes in his groin.

“When an episode occurs, and it does about two to three times per week, the pain becomes so unbearable I can’t even walk,” the commander told RAW STORY. “I just have to lay down with my legs spread open. It’s just awful.”

After completing nine years of active service, Cordova applied to the Veterans Administration for disability benefits in 2002. Citing his symptoms and linking them directly to the anthrax vaccine, the VA granted him a 10 percent benefit. This status means he is officially a disabled veteran.
The punchline? In June of last year Cordova was ordered to report for active duty on May 1, 2005. Despite his status as a disabled veteran, he will soon be shipping out for either Afghanistan or Iraq.

The problem, of course, is lack of manpower. Recruitment numbers are understandably plummeting, and Bush, whose approval ratings are in the low to mid-forties, is in no position to call for a draft. That's bad news for servicemen like Emiliano Santiago, who signed up for an eight-year hitch in the National Guard back when he was 18. Last summer, just two weeks before the expiration of his contract, he was informed that his ass belongs to Uncle Sam in perpetuity:
Last October, months after his contract was supposed to have ended, the Guard ordered Santiago to report to Fort Sill, Okla., for training in preparation for deployment to Afghanistan. Santiago balked. Although he reported to Fort Sill as ordered and is there still, he's fighting the government in court . . . .

The Guard's stop-loss policy has affected approximately 40,000 Army soldiers to date, according to spokesperson Lt. Col. Pamela Hart at the Pentagon. She says that the policy is needed for purposes of "unit cohesion" in battle, "so that soldiers who train together and deploy together stay together as a team. We learned our lesson from Vietnam. Having individual replacements come and go within units was extremely damaging."

But critics of the policy, including Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, consider it a "backdoor draft" used to make up for manpower shortages that the Army won't own up to. Antiwar activists have seized the issue. The local chapter of Military Families Speak Out, which seeks to bring the troops home, is planning a rally in support of Santiago outside his hearing . . . .

Making it all the stranger is that the Army presented him with a new contract that extended his service until 2031. Army spokesperson Hart says the date was arbitrary, meant to allow for "wiggle room." Says Santiago, looking at another 27 years in the Army over and above the eight he signed up for: "It's crazy."
Kevin Zeese, in "Cold Fusion: Liberals and Neocons for a Draft," notes that while the parties differ on the means by which we should boost our military manpower, neither Republicans nor Democrats seem to be "questioning the administration's policy of preemptive strikes, or the vast size of the military industrial complex or urging cuts in the wasteful, redundant defense budget which consumes half the federal budget's discretionary spending":
Both the neoconservative Project for a New American Century and the "progressive" CAP [Center for American Progress] are calling for adding 100,000 new soldiers . . . .

Both speakers see the crunch hitting at the end of 2006 but acknowledge the longer the Bush administration waits to ratchet up the size of the Army the more difficult it will be. Some might think that the Democratic Party leadership position is a tactic ­ taunting Bush to make the political error of reinstating the draft. Whether a ploy or true belief, it is obvious from this inside-the-beltway discussion that those who oppose the draft will not be able to rely on the Democrats to stop it ­ unless their spine is stiffened by the grass roots anti-war base. It is time to get organized now or risk being stampeded into the reinstatement of the draft . . . .

More importantly, as a paradigm shift in U.S. foreign policy we need to move away from a foreign policy based on the United States being the only world's superpower. Continuing to rely on our status as the world's preeminent military power and one that uses its economic power to force countries to change to our liking is an approach that will weaken us by sapping our strength ­ financial, moral and human. It is time to confront the military industrial complex, not kow-tow to it.
UPDATE (4/7): This just in, from the AP wire:
The Pentagon can resume giving anthrax vaccinations, but only to troops who volunteer for them, said a federal judge who had banned the shots amid safety questions . . . .

he ordered in a ruling yesterday that shots can be restarted on a voluntary basis under a law passed last year that allows unapproved drugs in cases of declared emergencies. In enacting the Project BioShield Act of 2004, "Congress appears to have authorized the use of unapproved drugs or the unapproved use of approved drugs" when health and defense officials declare a military emergency or the potential for a military emergency, Sullivan wrote in the ruling . . . .

In allowing partial resumption of the program, Sullivan said he was making no finding as to whether the emergency declared by defense and health officials was legal.

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