Here’s what makes me nuts: anyone who publicly questions the so called War on Terror or dares to characterize our involvement in Iraq as a debacle of astronomical proportions is accused by the Right of not supporting our troops. I can’t think of any gesture that is more supportive of the troops than a careful examination of the ever-worsening situation over there and a desire to make sure that the sacrifices of life, limb, and sanity these men and women are making are not in vain. But that has little to do with the yellow-ribboned “Support Our Troops” movement which has become a PR juggernaut worthy of Joseph Goebbels. Who in their right mind is going to disagree with that sentiment even if we all know that the term is not really about the troops at all but is a barely disguised euphemism for “Support the Bush Administration’s Policies That Are Putting Our Troops in Harm’s Way.” The truth is that it is not the people who oppose the war who are failing to support our troops. No, it is the very administration that many of the yellow-ribboned “support our troops” conservatives so revere that is consistently giving a big “fuck you” to our servicemen and women. We’ve seen so many examples of this over the past several years, whether it’s inadequate protective gear, shoddy mental health services, or frequently delayed furloughs, but the story that was in the news this week really takes the cake.
It is a longstanding practice of our volunteer army to offer signing bonuses to new recruits as an incentive to join up. Based on certain skills that the volunteers bring to the table, these bonuses can range from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars. Now word comes that many veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan have been asked to repay parts of their signing bonuses after severe war injuries prevented them from completing their tours of duty. Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton, among others, are calling for legislation that will guarantee that such bonuses won’t be reduced, as if common sense and common decency aren’t enough to prevent such an appalling practice. How dare you get your legs blown off over there, young man, now give us our money back!
The embarrassed military is saying that this is all a big mistake and that they won’t make these people pay up, but veterans are popping up all over the country to say this has happened to them. Earlier this month a soldier who was partially blinded by a roadside bomb in Iraq told the press that the Army asked him to repay $2,800 of his $7,500 enlistment bonus because he had only completed a year of his three-year service. The 21-year-old New Yorker received the bill in late October and a week later got a notice that he would be charged interest if he didn't make a payment within 30 days. A 20-year-old medically discharged soldier in Washington State got a threatening letter a week after she returned home. The letter warned her that if she didn’t repay $2,505.70 of her enlistment bonus, the Army would send a bill collector after her. The Department of Defense said that the amount she owed was considered the “unearned portion” of her bonus.
Are Democrats like Schumer and Clinton making political hay out of this issue? You bet they are—why shouldn’t they? Meanwhile, there's a whole new slew of "Support Our Troops" Christmas ornaments you can order online, many of them featuring snowmen and teddy bears in army fatigues. You gotta buy them, it's the only patriotic thing to do! (Did I mention most of these ornaments were made in China?) Here’s the only slogan that I’d like to see on my Christmas snowman:
SUPPORT OUR TROOPS: BRING THEM THE FUCK HOME!