Defense & National Security

Liberals Attacking Soldiers

Neither Hillary Clinton nor the New York Times let the facts stand in the way of their headlong rush back to the Vietnam Era when they – and many like them – were able to convince people that the military was dishonorable, the Pentagon a brainless bureaucratic desert. 

Last Tuesday, Senator Clinton was debating fellow Democrats in Las Vegas when NBC’s Tim Russert asked her a military question.  Clinton immediately launched an attack on President Bush for "negligence" and sending "mixed messages" for allowing the Pentagon to allegedly recoup bonus money from combat soldiers unable to complete their service because of wounds.

That would be a serious charge if true, but Clinton was more interested in scoring points than relating facts. For a number of years, the Pentagon has forgiven bonus debts when soldiers are unable to complete their service through no fault of their own.  That is the policy that governs.

The basis for Clinton’s broadside attack on the Pentagon was the singular case of a former army private who claimed he was seriously injured in Iraq and was discharged before his commitment was up. The army apparently demanded he repay his signing bonus.
 
The facts are, however, that the soldier was treated in Iraq but not evacuated because his wounds were not serious.  He returned home with his unit and was later discharged.  His early departure indicates a problem but neither the soldier nor the army will say what it was.  Eventually, the army caved to political pressure and the former soldier will not be required to pay back any enlistment bonuses.

Clinton, a member of the Armed Services Committee, has access to Pentagon policies and personnel records. Instead of doing due diligence, however, the wannabee president flamed the Secretary of the Army in a letter demanding the bonus recoupment policy be reversed immediately. "It shocks the conscience that the Army could demand that wounded soldiers return their enlistment bonuses," Clinton wrote.  

Zack Gaddy, director, Defense Finance Accounting Service, explains that the bonus-forgiveness policy is set-up to deal with troops medically evacuated from theater.  The forgiveness system never kicked in for Clinton’s private because in this isolated incident, the veteran was neither evacuated nor identified as an in-theater casualty. 

Now, according to Gaddy, that hole in the recoupment system has been shut.  The army is reviewing 866 cases of bonus soldiers who were discharged early after being treated rather than evacuated in war zones.  Although many were discharged for cause, all cases are now under review and where appropriate, bonuses will not be affected. 

Gaddy indicates that veterans who are notified for a possible debt collection are given plenty of due process.  The service will stop a collection if the veteran shows it is not warranted.

Clinton’s fact-free liberal parallel is the New York Times.  Last Sunday, the Times published a 6,308 word front page diatribe claiming the Pentagon is creating murderers by sending soldiers to war. 

Times reporters fanned out across America to dig for stories of battle hardened veterans who have committed murder. Their unspoken objective was to embarrass the military and the president by association. 

They found 121 murder cases over a six year period and then based their case for military malfeasance on flimsy analysis and questionable facts. The reporters used heart-wrenching anecdotal material to suggest America’s streets are more dangerous today because the Pentagon has released untold numbers of untreated, combat hardened killers. 

The article makes the claim that murders by active forces have increased 89 percent in this country since 2001 and three-quarters of those offenders were Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.

Checks with the Pentagon’s public affairs and the army’s Criminal Investigation Division failed to support the Times’ figures.  For example, 76 of the Times’ 121 murderers were allegedly from the army but official records indicate only 51 stateside murder convictions during the same period and a 15 percent decline in murder convictions since 2001.  It’s not disputed that most of these killers were among the 1.6 million servicemembers who have served at least one tour in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Even if the Times’ 76 army murderers were correct, it would be good news.  Justice Department statistics show that young Americans age 18-24 have historically the highest offending rates.  In 2005, according to their statistics, this cohort registered a murder rate of 27 per 100,000 population or 7,714 murderers. 

If the army had the same number of 18-24 year olds across each of the six years used by the Times’ study, the 76 army killers would represent an offender rate of only 2.7 per 100,000 population, a tenth of the national figure.   

The Times further suggests that the military shares blame for murders by former soldiers because it fails to diagnose and then treat psychological problems such as substance abuse and domestic violence which may be exacerbated by combat exposure. 

An inconvenient fact ignored by the Times is that the army has improved these areas during the war years.  Overall, army spouse and child abuse allegations declined between 2000 and 2006.  Criminal sexual abuse and domestic violence cases are down as well.  For example, army domestic physical abuse cases declined from 257 during the period 1996-2001 to 197 between 2002-2007. 

The army’s DUI record has also improved during the war years. The number of cases decreased from nearly 5,000 in 2002 to less than half (2250) in 2007.  Interestingly, Army drug tests find a consistent two percent of the force use illicit drugs whether in war or peace.

The Times article goes on to suggest that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among soldiers is related to crime.  That may be true and, to its credit, the Times recognizes that the military is making a concerted effort to gauge and treat the mental health needs of veterans.

Then the article suggests the military is too quick to discharge combat returnees who may have psychological or substance abuse problems.  While it is true that “Combat is inherently brutal and difficult, and it impacts humans in different ways,” according to army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey, what’s difficult to know is who needs to be retained based on unpredictable future mental health problems.

The Times agrees with a Pentagon study that claims the military mental health system is overburdened, understaffed and inadequately financed to meet the demands.  If that is true, where are the editorials calling for more military medical spending?

It’s disgraceful that liberals and their media disparage our military daily, and get away with it. The "Ready, Fire, Aim" approach to journalism injures those who,  should be defended.  And the facts make it easier to defend than attack, if you care about them.

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