Saturday, July 05, 2003


As I´ve said before, I really try hard not to emphasize every single negative aspect of this ridiculous war we´ve gotten ourselves into. But, at least from where I´m sitting right now (admittedly away from US TV news), there´s been very little attention paid to the families of the soldiers who are suffering the consequences of this disgusting situation.

Via Tom Spencer I see this article in the NYT which touches on this issue. This paragraph, which Tom highlights, jumps out in particular:

"When my husband first deployed, the people at work were so sweet, giving me days off, saying take whatever time I need," recalled Ms. Franklin, who answers telephones at a financial institution near the fort. "But it's not like that today. Now they look at me kind of funny and say: `Why do you need a day off now? Isn't the war over?' "

This reminded me of some passages in Christian Bauman´s excellent novel The Ice Beneath You. It´s much less of a "war novel" than one might think from the marketing, but some of the pivotal events take place in Somalia during a time when most Americans were unaware that we even had troops there. I imagine there´s something about being in a hell hole with your friends getting killed and wondering why it doesn´t even make the evening news.

In the runup to the war the media didn´t hesitate to bring the cameras to the bases to capture the brave-if-tearful goodbyes as our soldiers went off to Iraq. Now some of those same families have been damaged or destroyed, with parents killed or maimed. And, that doesn´t include the unimaginable (by me) psychological trauma these soldiers are experiencing or any possible "Gulf War II Syndrome" health effects.

As this Army Times editorial (which had previously disappeared, but has now returned) makes clear, the Bush administration cares nothing for what happens to these men and women once, Jeebus-willing, they make it home.

For example, the White House griped that various pay-and-benefits incentives added to the 2004 defense budget by Congress are wasteful and unnecessary — including a modest proposal to double the $6,000 gratuity paid to families of troops who die on active duty. This comes at a time when Americans continue to die in Iraq at a rate of about one a day.

Similarly, the administration announced that on Oct. 1 it wants to roll back recent modest increases in monthly imminent-danger pay (from $225 to $150) and family-separation allowance (from $250 to $100) for troops getting shot at in combat zones.

Then there’s military tax relief — or the lack thereof. As Bush and Republican leaders in Congress preach the mantra of tax cuts, they can’t seem to find time to make progress on minor tax provisions that would be a boon to military homeowners, reservists who travel long distances for training and parents deployed to combat zones, among others.

If we really had a liberal media we´d be hearing far more about the families of fallen and maimed soldiers than we do about Scott Peterson or whatever it is Larry King is talking about these days. If we really had compassionate conservatives we´d be hearing more about where to donate money to help out military families having financial hardships (and, if anyone knows of any reputable charities with low marketing overheads that deal with this kind of thing let me know). With summer here and school out one wonders how many temporarily one-parent full time military and reservists´ families are managing to pay the bills and handle child care duties (I´m sure Mickey Kaus can explain it). Extended family isn´t much of an option for military families who frequently move.

Anyway, I could rant about this more but it´s depressing me.