(Cross-posted at Daily Kos)

Yes, we know you’re supposed to support the troops by buying those car magnets shaped like ribbons to plaster on your SUV.  Especially if they say right on them: SUPPORT THE TROOPS, like this one does:


But maybe we should be doing more.  Or (to be frank) maybe we should be doing less of the following:  

(What not to do to Support the Troops after the fold)

You don’t do it by failing to provide troops in-country with the most up-to-date armored humvees.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 (UPI) — The Army has nearly 900 of the most advanced up-armored Humvees available but they are not being sent to Iraq immediately.

Instead, they will be delivered to Iraq with the 4th Infantry Division when that unit replaces the 3rd Infantry Division, Army officials told the House Armed Services Committee Thursday.

At issue is the M1114 Up-Armor HMMWVs, the latest version of the troop transport vehicle used daily in Iraq. The vehicle is specially built with bullet proof glass and additional armor to protect soldiers and Marines from roadside bombs, which are growing increasingly large and sophisticated.

The vehicles are slated to move over to Iraq with the 4th ID at the beginning of 2006.

“Why is a Division that is still based here in the United States, and not scheduled to complete deployment to theater until the first of next calendar year, receiving 824 new production Up-Armor Humvees while there remains an immediate need in theater for these vehicles for both the Army and the Marine Corps?” asked Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., at a hearing.

Or by the destruction of the National Guard and Reserves.

“It bought us the time we needed.”  Lieutenant-General James Lovelace, USA

It,” for General Lovelace, the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations was the deliberate decision to throw more Army National Guard and Army Reserve units into Iraq’s dirty war-cum-occupation in 2005. It has cost some communities, some states, dearly.

So why did the Army need time? In a word: “transformation.” Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is leading a Pentagon-wide reconfiguration of the way each of the four military services organizes (structures) units to make them more responsive in crises. . . .

Who covered the gap (for clearly there would have been a gap in the coalition occupation force)? In three words: “the National Guard.” In fact, according to Lieutenant-General H. Steven Blum, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, in April 2005, the Guard had eight combat brigades in Iraq–more than 50 percent of U.S. combat strength in-country. Even in World War II, the percentage of Guard combat units never exceeded 50 percent of the total fighting combat force.

 . . . And the human cost? The numbers and the causes of the fatalities are on the World Wide Web. So are the names. So are the trends. From ten percent of the fatalities during the “major combat” phase in March and April 2003, National Guard and reserve losses stand at more than 30 percent for the first 10_ months of 2005. In August, 56.5 percent of U.S. fatalities (48 of 85) were reservists. In September, 27 of 49–55.1 percent–were reservists. And at October’s midpoint, seven of the 33 U.S. dead in Iraq–21.2 percent–are from the reserves.

In an October 5, 2005 report titled “An Analysis of the U.S. Military’s Ability to Sustain an Occupation in Iraq: An Update,” the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) concluded that

“the Army National Guard combat brigades have been used at levels that cannot be sustained. Of the National Guard’s current 15 “enhanced” separate brigades, 11 have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan over the past two and a half years. In addition, the Army has deployed three brigades from National Guard divisions to Iraq at some point, there will be no National Guard brigades that can be deployed without violating DoD’s mobilization standard.”

CBO did not stress another factor hastening the day when there will be no deployable brigades: lack of people. Volunteers for military service are in short supply, especially for the Army. The 2005 recruiting results as a percentage of the established goal were: active Army, 92%; Army Reserve, 84%; Army National Guard, 80%. Two other components came up short: Navy Reserve at 88% and Air National Guard at 86%.

Or by siccing bill collectors on them for equipment lost in combat.

It’s bad enough that U.S. troops in Iraq had to find ways to provide additional armor for their vehicles and themselves. It’s even worse that the Pentagon has hired collection agencies to get combat wounded soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines to pay for equipment lost in battle.

On top of all that, the Pentagon’s computerized pay system frequently miscalculates paychecks, and, as a result, some service families have been hounded for collections. A recent audit by the Government Accountability Office, the investigating arm of Congress, found that more than 90 percent of the soldiers in some Army reserve and National Guard units have incurred payroll errors during deployment.

Nor do you support the troop by threatening to take away benefits for post traumatic stress disorder claims.

WASHINGTON — Veterans groups and House Democrats blasted VA plans to review all post-traumatic stress disorder claims because of irregularities in their compensation system, calling it insulting to heroes who have served their country.

“To the VA, this is simply a process seeking out voids in paperwork,” said Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M, at a Thursday hearing on Capitol Hill. “But to veterans, it’s a jolting realization that their day-to-day struggles are being questioned again.”

 . . . In August, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced plans to review 72,000 cases where veterans had received a 100 percent disability rating for post-traumatic stress disorder, after an investigation of 2,100 such cases found that more than 25 percent lacked justification for those claims.

Jon Wooditch, acting inspector general for the department, said Thursday that the goal of the comprehensive review was not to cut benefits but to find reasons behind inconsistencies in the way claims are rewarded.

 . . . Udall said in one case, a veteran in his district committed suicide after hearing about plans for the review. Officials from New Mexico found the man, a Vietnam veteran, with information regarding the review beside his Purple Heart when he took his life.

“The manner in which [VA officials] have proceeded has done more harm than good,” he said.

But it’s not like they really need health care benefits for mental problems, is it?

WASHINGTON, Oct. 19 (UPI) — A Pentagon assessment of troops returning home from Iraq shows more than one in four require medical or psychiatric treatment, USA Today reported Wednesday.

The newspaper obtained the report from the Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine, which said nearly 1,700 troops returning from the war this year said they harbored thoughts of hurting themselves or that they would be better off dead. Nearly 20,000 reported nightmares or unwanted war recollections; more than 3,700 said they had concerns that they might “hurt or lose control” with someone else.

About 28 percent, or 50,000 troops this year, reported problems ranging from lingering battle wounds to suicidal thoughts or strained marriages, the report said.

But surely Bush and the GOP controlled Congress are unaware of these travesties, right?  Well, that’s not entirely true . . .

WASHINGTON — Many National Guard members return from deployment in Iraq only to face a pile of debt, an uncertain job future and lurking health concerns due to stress and physical injuries, a U.S. Senate panel was told yesterday.

“The system simply does not work well enough and has not adjusted for our up-tempo military model where our Guard and Reserve members make up 40 percent of our troops in Iraq,” Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., told the panel. “Guard and Reserve members are doing the jobs of active duty but getting few of the benefits.

Then again, maybe they didn’t want to know . . .

The hearing coincided with the release of a Government Accountability Office study on whether government agencies are doing enough to help veterans.

Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., who requested the report, said the GAO found that the departments of Defense, Labor and Justice and the Office of Special Counsel have no unified way of collecting information about service members’ complaints.

The report also said the Defense Department didn’t have employer information on nearly 40 percent of its forces, despite requirements that it track the information.

So how do Bush supporters Support the Troops?

WASHINGTON — Support for U.S. troops fighting abroad mixed with anger toward anti-war demonstrators at home as hundreds of people, far fewer than organizers had expected, rallied Sunday on the National Mall just a day after a massive protest against the war in Iraq.

“No matter what your ideals are, our sons and daughters are fighting for our freedom,” said Marilyn Faatz, who drove from New Jersey to attend the rally. “We are making a mockery out of this. And we need to stand united, but we are not.”

About 400 people gathered near a stage on an eastern segment of the mall, a large patchwork American flag serving as a backdrop. Several speakers hailed the effort to bring democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan and denounced those who protest it.

Many demonstrators focused their ire on Cindy Sheehan, whose protest near President Bush’s Texas home last month galvanized the anti-war movement. Sheehan was among the speakers at Saturday’s rally near the Washington Monument, which attracted an estimated 100,000 people.

Yes, they hate Cindy Sheehan for them here, so the troops don’t have to hate her over there.  How wonderful.  Truer patriots there could not be.  

May I suggest however, that they spend less time on their I-hate-antiwar-activists campaign, and a little more on contacting their Senators and Congressional Representatives about this administration’s failure to help our men and women in Iraq, both before, during and after their deployment?   Because support isn’t enough if it’s only a ribbon, at least not where I come from.

Hat tip to Damnit Janet for her diary here which inspired me to write this one.

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