Friday, October 14, 2005

The Good Soldier 

There are some types of veterans we frankly don't have much use for. For instance . . . .

1) Deadbeat veterans who sponge off the taxpayer for years, enjoying free food, free housing, and free gear, and then piss and moan when the bill comes due:
His hand had been blown off in Iraq, his body pierced by shrapnel. He could not walk. Robert Loria was flown home for a long recovery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he tried to bear up against intense physical pain and reimagine his life's possibilities.

The last thing on his mind, he said, was whether the Army had correctly adjusted his pay rate -- downgrading it because he was out of the war zone -- or whether his combat gear had been accounted for properly: his Kevlar helmet, his suspenders, his rucksack.

But nine months after Loria was wounded, the Army garnished his wages and then, as he prepared to leave the service, hit him with a $6,200 debt. That was just before last Christmas, and several lawmakers scrambled to help. This spring, a collection agency started calling. He owed another $646 for military housing . . . .

Although Loria's problems may be striking on their own, the Army has recently identified 331 other soldiers who have been hit with military debt after being wounded at war. The new analysis comes as the United States has more wounded troops than at any time since the Vietnam War, with thousands suffering serious injury in Iraq or Afghanistan.
(Via our eminent colleague ReddHedd at Firedoglake.)

2) Veterans who come back from their tour of duty all fucked up, and turn into useless fucking dopers:
An Army veteran who fled to Canada to avoid prosecution for growing marijuana to treat his chronic pain was yanked from a hospital by Canadian authorities, driven to the border with a catheter still attached, and turned over to U.S. officials, his lawyer says.

He then went five days with no medical treatment and only ibuprofen for the pain, attorney Douglas Hiatt said.

Steven W. Tuck, 38, was still fitted with the urinary catheter when he shuffled into federal court for a detention hearing Wednesday, Hiatt said . . . .

Though Tuck has taken morphine - as prescribed by doctors - for about 16 years to help with his pain, he was given no painkiller or treatment at the jail other than ibuprofen, Hiatt said. Tuck appeared emaciated in court, and Hiatt said he had been sick from morphine withdrawal.
(Via our distinguished colleague Jeralyn Merritt of Talk Left.)

3) Loudmouthed vets with their fucking stupid opinions who try to discourage college kids from protecting their country by fighting the terrorists Over There:
As a campus police officer put Tariq Khan in a chokehold, a lunchtime crowd at George Mason University began egging the officer on. Chants of "Kick his ass! Kick his ass!" were intermingled with cries of "Punch him!" "Kick him!" and "Take him down!" Two students--one had earlier ripped a sign off Khan's chest, the other had repeatedly called him a "pussy"--and a computer-lab staff member assisted the officer in "apprehending" Khan, as university spokesperson Dan Walsch put it, by piling on top of him and twisting his body until he cried out in pain.

Khan, 27, a four-year Air Force veteran and a junior at GMU, had been walking through the Johnson Center on September 29 when he saw a Marine recruiter. He made up a sign, "Recruiters lie. Don't be deceived," and silently stood next to the recruiter's table. Less than thirty minutes later he found himself in the chokehold. Backup police dragged Khan from the building, and one of them pulled out pepper spray. "I'm being nonviolent, and this officer is going to pepper-spray me! If you have a cell phone, please take a picture," Khan says he shouted. Aimee Wells, a junior and a library staffer, says she pulled out her camera-phone and the officer put away the canister, saying, "Don't worry. Nobody's getting pepper-sprayed today."

Khan, a sociology major, was taken to the Fairfax County jail and charged with disorderly conduct and trespassing. While there, he says, one officer told him, "You people are the most dangerous people in the world." Another officer, he says, warned him that if he didn't behave, "They'll hang you up by your feet." Police photographs show a bruised and bloodied Khan. A campus investigation is under way into the actions of the police, the staff member and the students, but no charges have yet been brought.
(Via our august colleague Eli Stephens of Left I on the News.)

4) Undertrained, underequipped citizen-soldiers who never expected to fight a war, who are far more expendable than active-duty military, but who, to their credit, probably won't live long enough to become drains on society like the vets above:
The Army National Guard, Army Reserve and Marine Corps Reserve accounted for more than half of all U.S. deaths in August and in September - the first time that has happened in consecutive months. The only other month in which it even approached 50 percent was June 2004.

Casualties in Iraq have shifted toward citizen soldiers as their combat role has grown to historic levels. National Guard officials say their soldiers have been sent into combat in Iraq in numbers not previously seen in modern times - far more than were sent to Vietnam, where active-duty troops did the vast majority of the fighting.

Charles Krohn, a former Army deputy chief of public affairs, said the reservists are taking up the slack for the highly stressed active-duty Army.

"Decisions made years earlier made going to war in any significant way impossible without Guard and Reserve participation. But I can't imagine anyone postulated the situation we face today: We don't seem very anxious to bring back the draft and we can't get enough volunteers for a war that is not universally popular," Krohn said.
(Via our illustrious colleague the Fixer at Alternate Brain.)

So what kind of servicepeople do we like?

1) Props.

(And we'd like them even better if they could remember their lines.)

UPDATE (courtesy of our stouthearted colleagues at Cursor): We do not personally know Lt. Col. Todd Wood, but someone somewhere must dislike him intensely. No one would volunteer to inform Iraqi civilians that their loved ones have been popped by trigger-happy occupation troops:
"This was a terrible accident -- it was not intentional," Wood, 42, said with an army interpreter by his side. "The soldier who did this did not intend to shoot and kill a woman. I wanted to apologize on behalf of those soldiers.

"I know that explanation doesn't make anything any easier."

"She was pregnant. She died right away," Nasser said again and again.

U.S. military officials do not keep track of Iraqi civilians who have died from U.S. fire. The Brookings Institution's Iraq Index said last month that 8,347 to 14,576 Iraqis had been killed by acts of war since 2003, but the estimates were not broken down by type of incident. Other groups attempting to track civilian deaths put the number even higher. Wood estimated that since his battalion was deployed here in January, U.S. soldiers had killed about 10 Iraqi civilians in this sector of north central Iraq.

Often the deaths are the result of split-second decisions made by U.S. soldiers who have to weigh the risk of being blown up by insurgents, who use car bombs as their weapon of choice, against the possibility of killing innocent civilians. Although U.S. troops in Iraq use their weapons far more carefully than they did at the beginning of the war, innocent civilians still get killed.

No matter the reason or the circumstance, every time U.S. soldiers kill an Iraqi civilian in his sector, Wood meets with the family of the deceased to pay his respects. On Thursday, he had to do it twice.

Both victims apparently were shot by U.S. soldiers from other units passing through Beiji, where insurgents mount regular attacks on Americans, Iraqi security forces and Iraq's oil pipeline. Neither convoy stopped to help the civilians the soldiers had shot. It would be pretty much impossible to ascertain which U.S. unit was passing through the area at the time and track down those who did the shooting, Wood said. "Seems like I pick up a lot of people's pieces around here," he said. "These ... patrols that drive around and shoot people have been a thorn in everybody's side all year."

"I hate the fact that American soldiers ride around killing civilians," said Command Sgt. Major Samuel Coston, 44, from North Carolina. "All you got to say is 'I feel threatened,' 'the car was driving aggressively,' and you shoot. They have no remorse. They just keep on driving."
The standard compensation for families of innocent civilians killed by U.S. troops is $2,500.00.

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