On December 28, The Christian Science Monitor published an op-ed that was misleading – so misleading it was pure Pentagon propaganda.
The CSM column by Jamie Holmes falsely claimed that, “For the first time since the establishment of all-volunteer forces in 1973, the US military has met all of its recruiting goals." Not only is this wrong, it ignores a mountain of evidence clearly available in the press showing the military remains in crisis.
The lead sentence is so far from reality that I stayed late at my office at Veterans for Common Sense on New Year’s Eve to respond with facts. We progressives need to kill the myth of “successful” military recruiting dreamed up by someone who must read military press releases and then regurgitate them whole. The national recruiting failure is so bad, and the pressure on recruiters so overwhelming, that Houston, Texas, recently saw a cluster of recruiter suicides.
In reality, the military failed to reach new enlistment goals for the past decade. The military accomplished this by manipulating, and thereby significantly lowering, the number of new recruits needed to fill the ranks. The military accomplished this voodoo bookkeeping by relying upon more than 500,000 individual National Guard and Reserve service members to fill recruiting shortages. The true number is even higher because many Guard and Reserve activated and deployed twice or more.
While Holmes claims “success” for military recruiting, the Pentagon’s top leaders actually cheated and lied with statistics by using “stop loss,” the horrible policy that forcibly kept nearly 200,000 additional service members on active duty months after their enlistment contract was over, thus temporarily inflating the number of troops in the military, and reducing the number of new recruits needed.
Furthermore, the military has spent billions of dollars on advertising and more recruiters to make the hard sell to potential recruits to go to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Billions more were spent on cash bonuses in a desperate attempt to increase enlistment and re-enlistment numbers up. In a time of the worst economic collapse in 80 years, the financial incentives (cash, health care, housing, college and citizenship) are enormous for low-income Americans as well as noncitizen residents. The military also raised the age limit and lowered standards to allow more people to quality.
Therefore, let us put a stake through the heart of the media/military myth claiming the military has met recruiting goals: the military has been short at least 700,000 new recruits the past decade, a minimum of 70,000 per year, by cooking the books just like Ken Lay (remember Enron?) and Bernie Madoff (and how he stole $50 billion?).
The bottom line failure of the two current wars is that, after nine years, our government has no plan to handle the 480,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans (out of 2.2 million deployed) who have flooded into Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals and clinics. Half of new VA patients from the two wars are diagnosed with at least one mental health condition. The deployment of 30,000 new troops and tens of thousands of contractors/mercenaries to Afghanistan will only further exacerbate the problems.
Yes, the situation is dire for our veterans. Veterans for Common Sense expects up to one million casualties, half of whom will suffer from traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder by the end of 2013. Over the next 40 years, the estimated cost to taxpayers is up to $1 trillion. As “60 Minutes” reported on Sunday, January 3, more than one million veterans are now waiting for disability benefits from VA, a clear example of how our federal government remains unable to meet the crushing demand for assistance.
Shame on the Christian Science Monitor for publishing lies peddled by Pentagon propaganda specialists – spin artists who should be fired promptly by President Obama and Secretary Gates so there is accountability. What we don’t need now is another Judith Miller. What we do need is honesty about the facts and a serious strategic casualty plan that makes sure so many of our veterans stop falling through the cracks when they return home from war.