What Will Bush Tell the Troops?
The country's largest organization for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, IAVA, released the following list of points Bush should make in tonight's State of the Union address. We all know what he'll say: "We need to stay the course," "We will find the enemy," "We are liberating the Iraqi people." I doubt he'll say, "Bring 'em on," but you know that's what he'll be thinking.
1) This Nation's Veterans are a Priority: This past year has been a discouraging one for Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In August, the VA revealed that it had underestimated its budget needs for 2005 by more than $1-billion, with a further shortfall of nearly $1.5-billion expected in 2006. Congress passed an emergency spending bill to bridge the gap, but the incident was yet another disheartening example of the VA's inability to handle this influx of new Veterans. Current services for Veterans continue to be woefully inadequate, as was revealed in one recent study that found only one-in-five calls to the VA helpline is answered correctly. The President must present a plan for fixing this broken system.
2) The Current Problem of Military Overextension Will End in 2006: A recent Pentagon report found that the current pace of military operations in Iraq is unsustainable. This is something that our Troops and Veterans have known for years. If the President is serious about Homeland Security, he'll offer concrete solutions to this dangerous problem. The current rate of deployment is a serious deterrent to new enlistment; a problem that the Defense Department has chosen to address by lowering recruiting standards. If the American military is to remain a strong and vital force, this trend must be reversed.
3) Here are the Benchmarks for Success in Iraq: For nearly three years, the President's outlook on the war in Iraq can be summed up in three inadequate words: "Stay the Course." This has never been an acceptable plan of action for the men and women who have lived this war firsthand, many of whom still face the prospect of second or third tour in Iraq. If we are to continue sending our Troops into harm's way, then we must give them basic guidelines to gauge their progress on a tangible course to success. The President must tell our Troops what he plans to do differently in guiding the future of the American military presence in Iraq.
4) Never Again Will our Troops be Sent to War Without Proper Equipment: Early this year it was revealed that hundreds of Troops might have been saved if they'd been wearing the latest body armor. Three years too late, the Pentagon has finally ordered more than 200,000 sets of this additional armor. It will still take another year for that armor to reach the Troops in the field. From un-armored humvees, to shortages of water, to Soldiers forced to buy their own body armor, this war has been an exercise in bad preparation. The President must commit the full resources of this government to an investigation of what went wrong and what needs to be done to prevent similar problems in the future.