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A Few Numbers and Veterans Day

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By Rozanovitch
November 10, 2003

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A Few Numbers and Veterans Day

I haven't had a rant for a while, one has been seething, can't hold it in any longer. Since we love crunching numbers around here, a few numbers that have been on my mind for sometime have to do with our beloved military serving us around the world. As we are approaching Veterans Day and we have an interest in the numbers of the market and factors that impact those figures, I am going to present some figures that may have passed your notice, italics added by me.

"Other factors weighed on the markets for the week with 20+ soldiers killed in Iraq and drawing lots of attention and negative press. A post office in Washington tested positive for Anthrax and 11 post offices were closed for further tests. Homeland Security said Al Queda was planning to use cargo planes to attack the U.S. and "specific and credible" threats prompted embassy closings for the weekend. Taking all these items into consideration it is a wonder the Dow was not down -247 instead of just -47." (Must be priced in, all this war stuff. Terrorist attacks seem to be escalating according to news reports.)

Salon notes the Pentagon's decision to include 20,000 Marines and another 43,000 National Guard and Reserve soldiers in its new troop rotation plan only underscores how thinly stretched the military has become, experts say. It also illustrates the price the administration must pay for failing to line up international backing for the occupation of Iraq.

The Pentagon's plan, announced publicly on Thursday, calls for extensive use of Marines, National Guard and Reserve troops to serve in Iraq during 2004 for at least 12 months. In total, nearly 130,000 U.S. troops are destined for Iraq. Looking ahead, the plan is for the number of U.S. troops to be cut to approximately 100,000 next May. Today Senator Chuck Hagel (R) commented on these numbers and said come on now, there is a gap, you can't continue to support the Iraqi's and pull out troops. (Sen. Hagel is a decorated veteran.)

Military experts point out that Marines have not been sent out in large numbers on a sustained peacekeeping mission in more than half a century. It's equally rare to have so many Guard soldiers and Reservists serving overseas for a year in a deadly environment, which is not a full-fledged war. The Pentagon has already had to double the deployment periods of some units, call up more reserves and extend tours of duty by a year. No need to comment on troop morale if you talk to the lower echelon but we can review a recent poll, a poll conducted found that half the soldiers in Iraq say they are "not likely" or are "very unlikely" to reenlist, a very high figure. Of course, the Pentagon eyes a much more rosy picture. Some see retention numbers holding up, others are less confident.

The decision making bodies of the government are in a bit of a box: 1) hold reservists on active duty, 2) up the pay to soldiers, 3) bribe other countries to contribute more troops, or 4) train the Iraqi's to police and protect their country, none of which hold much hope. Humanitarian resources have pulled out of Iraq. What's left?

Turning to a not wanted to talk about subject is the word conscription, e.g., draft, creating some nervousness among the politicos and surfacing this past week. This would require an act of Congress. The Pentagon tried to quietly move to fill draft board vacancies nationwide. Not since the early days of the Reagan administration in 1981 has the Defense Department made a push to fill all 10,350 draft board positions and 11,070 appeals board slots. In a new draft, college students whose lottery number was selected would only be permitted to finish their current semester; seniors could finish their final year. Almost every argument against the draft boils down to the belief that we don't really need one to defend ourselves. Re-instituting a military draft would be complex and politically disastrous, but still a possibility as we did not have a well defined exit plan for Iraq.

The SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER says, "The Defense Department fueled the debate this week when it placed a notice on its Web site asking for "men and women in the community who might be willing to serve as members of a local draft board."

"The notice, which appeared on an official Web page for the Selective Service System titled "Defend America," explained: "If a military draft becomes necessary, approximately 2,000 Local and Appeal Boards throughout America would decide which young men, who submit a claim, receive deferments, postponements or exemptions from military service, based on Federal guidelines. Positions are available in many communities across the Nation."

"The Pentagon wouldn't comment on the notice, and by yesterday it had been pulled from the Web site without explanation."

Whether or not we re-institute the draft, extend time of military service, beef up intelligence, make some alliances, due diligence tells me we have many of our military on foreign soil giving their best for us. But one more item of concern to include in our review of numbers regarding the number in our military as we look to the parades associated with Veterans Day. We don't have enough troops stateside to participate in the parades as they have in the past. "With the large number of active and reserve units called up, a lot of them that would normally be available are on duty," said Bill Smith, a spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Washington. Not all cities are having the problem; naval bases have a ready supply.

Honoring all who have served, 50th Anniversary November 11, 2003

As citizens, we have a responsibility to honor the contributions and sacrifices veterans have made throughout history on this 50th Anniversary. It is a given that we should remember those men and women who fought and are today serving in harm's way, 1.4 million people around the globe in some 120 countries, 140,000 active-duty, reserve and National Guard soldiers currently deployed in Iraq, separated from their loved ones, to preserve our freedom and the freedom of others. We have some 25 million living veterans and many men and women who died in sacrifice to their country.

As I have said before, I was fortunate enough one year to attend a laying-on of the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery. It was at the same time chilling and warming to remember those that have gone before us in serving their country. In 1921 a soldier was buried on a hillside overlooking the Potomac River, a burial site of the "unknown soldier" of World War 1, first recognized as Armistice Day. In 1954, President Eisenhower signed a bill proclaiming November 11 as Veterans Day and called upon Americans everywhere to rededicate themselves to the cause of peace. [He] wrote, "Let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us re-consecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain." Another quote from President Eisenhower that is etched in my memory, "After my experience, I have come to hate war. War settles nothing."

November 11 recall the purpose of Veterans Day, a celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

A true story
Today I had a very pleasant, tearful surprise related to a POW/MIA of the Korean war. I have the bracelet of a Captain dated 10-5-67. For those who don't know, a bracelet was issued upon request for Prisoners of War or Missing in Action military during the Korean war. Today, I found out that the man represented on my bracelet is alive and in the USA. Dear Lord, thank you.


Some references:
(Links to Salon can be reached with one day pass.)
" More war on the cheap."

"Oiling up the draft machine."

"Feeling a Draft?" 1999, Cato Institute

"Talk of a draft grows despite denials by White House", worth a read.

" Not Enough Troops for Veterans Day Parades"

A picture of a bracelet.
History of bracelets.
Available for Iraqi war.

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