Many politicians here don’t want to set a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, but the Iraqis sure do. Iraq wants a guarantee that U.S. forces will be gone no later than 2011 — a demand that threatens to stymie approval of a security pact between the countries that is needed to keep U.S. troops in Iraq beyond this year. In the meantime, an old friend of the Bush Administration is continuing to be a thorn in our side in Iraq: remember Ahmed Chalabi? And, in another symbolic referendum on administration policy in Iraq, an Iraqi mayor who President Bush once hailed as a force of sectarian peace has fled the country with his family. Najim al Jabouri left the border city of Tal Afar, where he was both mayor and police chief, last month. “There was no other choice,” he said.
With the next president likely to face a heightened risk of terrorist attack here, shouldn’t we be working to make sure our National Guard is ready and rested to protect us on the homefront? Instead, current deployment policies are exhausting our citizen-Soldier forces in Iraq. Iowa is now seeing one of its largest Guard mobilizations ever, as is Pennsylvania, among others. Our Guard should be ready to put out fires here, not battle-weary over there. They should be ready to maintain the peace here, not deployed without end over there. Unfortunately for our Guard members, their families and the rest of us who depend on the Guard being ready at home, our citizen-Soldiers are being sent repeatedly into combat and there’s no end in sight. These continuous deployments, sadly, have not left us with a more stable Middle East or brought us closer to victory against those who planned the 9/11 attacks.
The tremendous strain that is gripping our Guard, and the rest of the military, is also tearing at the ranks of the special forces like the SEALs.
Pointing out problems in the Pentagon to the Defense Department inspector general is supposed to help remedy the issues found by the rank-and-file. But a review of cases shows that the Pentagon’s internal watchdog hardly ever sides with service members, who complain that they were punished for reporting wrongdoing. The Associated Press review also found about one-third of the DoD workforce is “disaffected.”
With four days left in what seems like an eternal presidential campaign, our deployed troops say the wars and the economy are the biggest issues confronting voters — both civilian and military. Civilians tend to agree.
Military families around the country are confronting maddening delays in getting their VA benefits — including 80-year-old Betty Neikirk who is at risk of losing her home since her husband, a veteran, passed away.