War-weary troops face tour extensions

As the Iraq civil war escalates into bloody chaos and President George W. Bush shows no sign of backing down from his failed troop surge, the Army will need to extend combat tours for battle-weary troops.

Reports out of Iraq say troop morale nosedives and news that many may not come home when scheduled is expected to further demoralize on-the-ground soldiers who know all too well the war is lost.

Acting Army Secretary Pete Green admitted to Congress Tuesday that the Pentagon is considering extending the combat tours of soldiers currently in Iraq and may also have to send Reserve and National Guard units back for third and fourth deployments.

Reports The Associated Press:

Most soldiers spend 15 months in combat with a guaranteed 12 months home, a rotation plan that has infuriated Democrats because it exceeds the service’s goal of giving troops equal time home as in combat. In coming weeks, the Senate will vote on a proposal by Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., that would restrict deployments.

“It’s too early to look into the next year, but for the Army we have to begin to plan,” Geren told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “We have to look into our options.”

Army spokesman Paul Boyce said, “If the future were to require such an option, it would be the last option on the list.”

Gen. David Petraeus, Iraq war commander, suggested Sunday that conditions on the ground might not be stable enough by September to justify a drop in force levels, and he predicted stabilizing Iraq could take a decade. Earlier this year, Bush ordered the deployment of some 30,000 additional troops as part of a massive U.S.-led security push around Baghdad and the western Anbar province.

There are about 156,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

When asked by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., whether maintaining the force buildup would affect soldiers’ 15-month combat schedules, Geren said he was unsure and cited “numerous options” available, including a “different utilization of the Guard and Reserve” and relying on the other services for help.

“We’re committed to filling the requirements that the combatant commander asks,” Geren said. “We have been able to do so up until now, and we will continue to do so.”

The Army assessment comes as Democrats say they are already dissatisfied with the existing policy.

“Who was talking for the well being and the health of the soldiers when this requirement was put down?” asked Webb, referring to the 15-month combat tours. After four years of combat, the strategy in Iraq cannot “justify doing this to the soldiers in the Army and the families back here,” he said.

Geren also said it “would certainly be valuable” if other departments helped more in rebuilding Iraq.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman said he was surprised during a recent trip to Iraq to see how many soldiers were tasked with “nation-building.”

“I wish every American could see what the U.S. Army and others are doing to rebuild the government, the health care system, the education system, to secure the neighborhoods,” said Lieberman, I-Conn. “But some of that, in the best of all worlds, should frankly be done by people from other departments of our government.”

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Tuesday that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had accepted a request by Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad, to “beef up the economic and political sections” of the embassy with more Arabic-language speakers and mid- to senior-level foreign service officers to supplement the existing work force.

“He says he needs these things, we’re going to get them for him,” McCormack told reporters. “We’re going to get him what he needs.”

There are currently only 10 U.S. diplomats in Baghdad, including Crocker, who are fluent in both written and spoken Arabic, the State Department says.

Geren said the decision made earlier this year to extend tours from 12 to 15 months was intended to ensure soldiers were guaranteed one year at home. Previously, soldiers deployed for 12-month cycles but were unsure when they would be sent back.

“I felt it was the best of the two tough choices to make. … That decision I believe was the right one,” Geren said.

The Senate panel is expected to approve Bush’s nomination of Geren as Army secretary, replacing Francis Harvey who was pushed out amid a scandal on deplorable conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Lawmakers said they also were concerned about the Army’s ability to care for soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome and brain injuries.

Geren said the Army is beginning an effort to educate senior military officers on how to identify symptoms. And last week, the Army contracted to hire 200 more mental health professionals, increasing such staff by more than 20 percent.

Despite the hiring push, Geren said it will still be tough to find people who specialize in treatment of the disorder, particularly in rural areas where many military bases are located.

“We have stressed a work force of the medical professionals in the mental health area that was already short and we’ve stressed it more with deployments,” Geren said.

Comments

  1. Bill Robinson

    I agree in part with Gene when he says, “This country will fall…”
    If we look back on history, particularly that of the Roman Empire, it is inevitable that the USA will die a horrible death, and possible that it may be quite soon.
    The graft, corruption, and debauchery that pervades our nation’s Capitol is unprecedented in our history. Never before has a leader been so openly corrupt (Harding came close) and so scornful of the Constitution as George W Bush and his inseparable henchman, Dick Cheney. The war profiteering that is going on under our very noses is worse than Nero’s vileness when he sacked Rome and burned it. Bush and Cheney will not slay the fatted cow, so we may be stuck with them for a lot longer than anyone believes.
    Bush can claim the title of ‘THE ONE WHO PRECIPITATED AND PANDERED TO AND PROFITED FROM THE DOWNFALL OF THE USA.” Congress , that do nothing lazy alleged representatives of the People, assisted in the downfall by their very inaction.
    When will the American People wake up and see the facts?
    Bill Robinson

  2. Elmo

    A declining power.
    That’s what the USA is. In “Wealth and Democracy”, Kevin Phillips noted that:Great powers in particular have found history full of meaningful repetition, especially in broad outline. What Americans were asking themselves at the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the next was what the Dutch had asked in 1750 and many British had pondered in the decades leading up to the world war: Was their increasing national reliance on finance and services rather than physical commerce and goods production the secure and reliable evolution of a genuinely new economy-or was it a familiar and vulnerable twilight stage of a great economic power?
    The USA relies on China for manufacturing, the Persian Gulf, West Africa, and Carribean nations like Venezuela for energy. Wealth is concentrated in the hands of a relatively small aristocratic class. So we just keep on doing what we have always done — intensifying the practices which will destroy us in the long run because they benefit a powerful few in the short term.

    Will the USA decline as Gene suggested? It sure looks like we’re on that slope now and no one is doing anything to modify the trend.

  3. Bill Robinson

    The apathy in Washington is overwhelming. These “Lifers” in Congress are glued to their overpriviledged jobs and have no incentive to act in the best interest of the American People.
    I said it many times, and I’ll say it again: “One three year term for all elected officials and all in the Judiciary.” No more lifetime misrepresentation by fat cats with only their concerns in mind.
    It is time we had true Representation. The only way to get it seems to be by limiting their terms and cutting their priviledges. While we are at it, let’s get THEM on the same Social Security as all the American People. Why should they deserve such a costly and inflated retirement program, especially when most are working only 100 days a year. I am tired of my taxes going to fund an unjust war and to support a do nothing Congress.
    One three term for all elected officials and Judiciary.
    Bill Robinson

  4. gene

    Was out today and noticed all the cars and people, many speeding as though a few extra seconds would make a difference in their pathetic lives. Clueless, totally clueless americans who most probably don’t even no who their state representitives are much less the financial armagedon that is soon to happen.

    This nation (again) is bankrupt a thousand times over, just look and the numbers. It will eventualy take every tax dollar collected just to pay the dam interest on this massive (growing) national debt, what then? I guess just keep the paper and ink flowing but even that will soon crash.

    NO WAY OUT!!! of course unless you expire in the next few days.

  5. SEAL

    Wow. Lotsa gloom amd doom.

    This business of Marshal Law keeps coming up and needs to be put to rest. In the first place it isn’t physically possible. Even if more than half the army wasn’t in Iraq and Afghanistan, there simply is not enough military manpower at any time to put soldiers on the streets of the entire country. Not even if they limited it to the metopolitan areas.

    In the second place there is the military oath and the mandate of the Constitution that all officers are dedicated to. I know. I took it. We will not wage war on our own citizens. We will not obey that order because it would countermand a higher order. The only reason the US military exists is to protect and defend the citizens of the USA. That is the prime directive Mr. Spock. No military commander can give that order. Bush can declare all the Marshall law he wants and we will go in and keep order in the affected area. But we will not wage war on our own people. We can’t. Our first and last order is our responsibility to the people of the USA, not the commander in chief/current resident of The White House.

    The only way the president could establish Marshall law in the USA would be by the consent of the governed. The citizens would have to voluntarily obey it. Lotsa luck with that. Bush would be commiting political suicide if he tried it. He would be a prisoner in the White House surrounded by military barracades and the mass of mad as hell people screaming for his scalp.

    That is the reality. So lets stop suggesting that Bush will take over the government in 2009 by Marshall Law. He could declare it and on paper he would have it. But that is the only place he would have it.

  6. SEAL

    Another thing that has become tiresome is the misconception so many have that Bush is incompetent and a psycho, etc. Bush knows exactly what he is doing. Every action is deliberate. He is the front man for the Mafia style MIC/OIL/BANKING organizarion that is [the Godfather] in control. Cheney is the consiglinore[sp]. Bush has no clue what Cheney is doing half the time nor does he care. His job, now that he lost his congress, is to stonewall every attempt to stop what they are doing which is to pump all the money out of the war they can and continue the occupation until Bush has to leave office.

    The MIC family has and are creating the condition they want so that by the time the Democrats take over there will be no way in hell they can,nor will they want to, reverse the permanent occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. There will be 50,000 battle ready troops plus another 25,000 private troops permanently in Iraq alone.

    The Oil family has a contract with their puppet governments that gives them 70% of the Iraqi oil and another conract for a natural gas pipeline all the way from Russia through Afghanistan to Iraq. No administration is going to give that up.

    No. Bush may not be the brightest bulb on the shelf but he is perfect for the job he has to do. That is to appear to be incompetent, stubborn, and and all those other things you call him.

  7. LurkingFromTheLeft

    This needs to be repeated!

    “Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical,” Mr. Bush said in a brief ceremony in the East Room of the White House. He called the United States “a nation founded on the principle that all human life is sacred.”

    …oh wait – another DEMONstration by W that it is do as I say and not as I do –

    …HE gets to decided which lives are sacred and which ones are not –

    LFTL