I remember the evening – a date in late August of 2o00 – as the chill wind of law school entrance beckoned – well. Governor George W. Bush was delivering his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. I would not have watched such a vile event on television in any event (exaggerating, am I? Remember Pat Buchanan in 1992? Notice how the real power of the party – Armey, DeLay, Gingrich, McConnell, Boehner, Blunt, Frist, Lott – never speak at these conventions, especially since Pitchfork Pat’s bloviations?), but it just so happened that the speech was on while I was driving home from work. At least I didn’t have to look at the retarded clown’s face over the radio, when I heard the clown state the following:
“Little more than a — little more than a decade ago, the Cold War thawed, and with the leadership of President’s Reagan and Bush, that wall came down. But instead of seizing this moment, the Clinton-Gore administration has squandered it. We have seen a steady erosion of American power and an unsteady exercise of American influence. Our military is low on parts, pay and morale. If called on by the commander-in-chief today, two entire divisions of the Army would have to report: “Not ready for duty, sir.”
Funny, I thought. Wasn’t that Bush’s line during Vietnam?
The night before, Dick Cheney, scolding the Clinton Administration for the same alleged error, told the military that “help was on the way.” How grateful those who heard the message must be, especially the poor folks at Walter Reed.
Turns out that the “I will prepare the military for battle” taunt, like many of then-Governor Bush’s would-be promises of reversals of the dreaded Clinton years and its policies, has only haunted the taunter:
Today, Ann Scott Tyson reports in the Washington Post that readiness for America’s National Guard has dropped to historically low levels:
Nearly 90 percent of Army National Guard units in the United States are rated “not ready” — largely because of shortfalls in equipment worth billions of dollars — jeopardizing the Guard’s ability to respond to crises at home and abroad, according to a congressional commission that released a preliminary report today on the state of U.S. military reserve forces.The commission found that heavy deployments of the National Guard and Reserves since 2001 for the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and other anti-terrorism missions have deepened shortages, forced the military to cobble together units and hurt recruiting. The problems threaten to undermine the nation’s 830,000-strong selected reserves, the commission said.
Army National Guard units in the United States have on average about 50 percent of their authorized stock of dual-use equipment, meaning gear needed both for fighting wars and domestic missions, according to a recent Government Accountability Office report. The National Guard estimates it would require $38 billion for equipment to restore domestic Army and Air units to full readiness. The Army has budgeted $21 billion to augment guard equipment through 2011.Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the use of U.S. military reservists has sharply escalated, from about 12.7 million days of service in 2001 to an estimated 63 million in 2006. The current increase of U.S. troops in Iraq is expected to require the accelerated call-up of as many as four National Guard combat brigades beginning early next year, as part of an effort to relieve the strain on active-duty brigades, which are now spending as much time in combat as at home.Not ready for duty indeed. Much has been written about the transformation of America’s reserves since 2001. They have been reshaped from a “strategic” reserve into an “operational” reserve. Instead of waiting on the bench for “the big one” to break out, the reserves now augment and supplement the active-duty forces on a regular basis. During the Cold War, we mostly left the reserves alone, preserving them as a reserve (the term does have some meaning) for some future contingency. Today, that cupboard is bare. The National Guard, which contains most of the reserves’ combat forces, is barely making ends meet. The Army Reserve is straining too. The world is still a very dangerous place. I don’t know that we can afford to spend our reserves so prodigiously.
And yet the military still overwhemingly, in one of the grandest examples of battered-wife syndrome crossed with Stockholm Syndrome ever seen, votes Republican. THIS is why many people have a perception of some of our military as “stupid” – because some members are duped into voting against their interests, with a smile, just as so many people in the hate states have been likewise duped. These people would rather curse the imagined darkness than light the single candle. Actually, that’s not harsh enough: they’ve been so duped they wouldn’t know where to find the match.
Some folks expressed outrage several days ago that the assassination attempt against Dick Cheney was just that – an attempt. I don’t wish death on either Bush or Cheney. Their remaining alive, going down in flames, in the shame of self-immolation – whether they care matters not because life is long and hell is murky – is more essential now than ever, so that the tiniest glimmer of hope that Americans will have experienced enough of their terror to shudder at the thought of voting for like men again will remain alive.