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Grinch Wins Plastic Turkey Award: Pentagon Demands Repayment of Disabled Vets’ Signing Bonuses


[courtesy of 2millionth web log]

[courtesy of 2millionth web log

Remember the Commander’s surprise Thanksgiving visit to Baghdad in 2003, when the perfectly Norman Rockwell turkey that he held on a platter turned out to be plastic (supplied by a contractor)? In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we offer a new use for that fake bird: As an award for bureaucratic idiocy + callous penny-pinching. (We thought Rumsfeld had left the Pentagon, but the following story makes us think the streamlining, privatizing CEO–SecDef is still in the bunker.)

Pittsburgh’s KDKA reports that the Defense Department is demanding that thousands of disabled U.S. soldiers return parts of their signing bonuses because they are unable to serve out their commitments. They had to go and get blown up so bad the army couldn’t patch them up well enough to push ’em back out on the streets of Baghdad as they do with other wounded soldiers. It is well known that the army has had to resort to signing bonuses of up to $30,000 to attract new soldiers to an increasingly unpopular war (though the army continues to fall short of its recruiting goals).


AP Photo

This latest twist is sure to make an impression on would-be recruits.
Step right up . . .

Naturally, Republicans will blame the ‘obstructionist Democrats’ for stiffing the troops by not passing the President’s 2008 military budget request ($481 billion for DoD + $196 billion for Iraq+Afghanistan = $677 billion.)

Stinginess is business-as-usual for the administration’s treatment of military personnel. In June 2003, about three months into Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Democratic staff of the House Appropriations Committee, reviewing Bush’s 2004 budget, pointed out that he was cutting $1.5 billion from military housing and slashing $14.6 billion over 10 years in benefits paid through the Veterans Administration. The president’s $674 billion tax cut of 2003—three-fifths of which went to the top 10% of taxpayers—neglected to extend a tax credit to nearly 200,000 low-income military personnel. The 2004 budget also cut $200 million from the program that helps fund public schools serving military bases, hitting especially hard the children of soldiers in Iraq. (And this was before the 2006 revelation of disgusting conditions at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center—squalor resulting from Bush Inc.’s privatizing of as many formerly government functions as possible: in this case, IAP Worldwide Services, Inc.)

LNW_Bush.woundedvetjogSupport the troops, indeed.

TalkingPointsMemo’s Muckraker reports that Rep. Jason Altmire (D-PA) has introduced a bill, the Veterans Guaranteed Bonus Act, that would require the Pentagon to pay bonuses to wounded vets in full within 30 days after discharge for combat-related wounds. Congressman Altmire’s Washington phone number is 202-225-2565, and his fax number is 202-226-2274. Please call to lend your support and ask how to help press the House Armed Services Committee to back Altmire’s bill.

The DoD’s statement demanding reimbursement—it looks like a printout from the IRS—gives a number phone number in case the recipient has questions. We have a few questions, too, and will be calling 1-800-967-0648. We urge our readers to do the same—and say, along with us, “WTF?! With a $500+ billion-per-year budget, DoD has the gall to demand that disabled troops give back their signing bonuses?” Then we’ll call the White House at 202-456-1414. (The bonuses, of course, come from our April 15 tax dollars.) Demand that disabled soldiers be guaranteed medical care for life—and while we’re on the subject, Mr. President, there are many more citizens who could use a checkup . . .


Since well before the Iraq War was launched, we have opposed the war these soldiers have been sent to fight, and we will keep working to end the war till the troops come home. In the meantime, in this Thanksgiving season we want all U.S. military personnel to know we at Levees Not War sincerely wish the best for them. We pray for their quick, safe return to their families. Happy Thanksgiving, with real turkey (or other authentic food), wherever in the world you may be stationed.


Uncle Sam Cheney art courtesy of Michael Ferry at 2millionth web log.


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