Friday, February 18, 2005

What's IN and OUT

Guide to What's IN and OUT
American Family Voices
It's time for another edition of The Daily Reality Check's Guide to What's IN and OUT.
IN (the hot seat): Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld appeared before the House Armed Services Committee yesterday, and delivered a classic performance: terse, dismissive and haughty. In short, it was vintage Rumsfeld. What, you were expecting a little civility after Abu Ghraib and all those misleading war predictions? You thought perhaps Rumsfeld should act penitent? Dream on.
Instead, Rumsfeld cut the meeting short by announcing he'd be leaving at 1:00 pm, and not returning, forcing committee chair Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) to apologize for his surly behavior. Of course, it's not like he was forthcoming during the time he did spend in front of the committee: He offered no timetable for the war, no thoughts on the number of insurgents, no comments on any agreements in Iraq, and no knowledge of budget cuts for veterans.
In fact, Rumsfeld claimed that he was "not familiar" with the cuts in veterans benefits mentioned by the committee. But he wouldn't even have to read the budget to know about it – all it would take is a quick scan of the news, and he would have come across headlines like this one from yesterday's New York Times: "Senators Question Adequacy of Bush Budget for Veterans."
Five veterans groups, including the American Legion, have complained about provisions in the new budget that force veterans to pay twice as much for prescription drugs, and force some to pay an additional fee of $250. Eligibility for nursing home care would also be restricted.
While Rumsfeld might not be "familiar" with the cuts, the multitudes of veterans now staring down increased costs and fees most certainly are. Read more here and here.
OUT (of support): Budget issues aside for the moment, the Bush White House has made another astounding decision with regards to veterans. A group of 17 American pilots who were captured and abused by Iraqis at Abu Ghraib during the 1991 Gulf War have been awarded nearly $1 billion in torture compensation by a federal judge – but this administration is standing in the way by arguing that the money belongs to the new Iraq.
"These resources are required for the urgent national security needs of rebuilding Iraq," said White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan.
The irony levels in this case are compounded by the fact that last year, when backpedaling from the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld argued that the victims deserve compensation from the US.
Apparently the line is drawn when it comes to our own soldiers.
"Our government is on the wrong side of this issue. A lot of Americans would scratch their heads and ask why is our government taking the side of Iraq against our POWs," said Jeffrey Addicott, a former Army lawyer.
IN (need of a few good men and women): And the bad news on the recruiting front continues: five of the six military reserve units have failed to meet their recruiting goals for the first four months of the fiscal year. The Army Reserve and the National Guard were hit the hardest, largely due to the higher numbers of active duty soldiers who weren't permitted to retire to the reserve.
The Army said it plans to boost the number of recruiters, and increase bonuses for recruits.
Changing the Bush administration policy of waging war on false pretenses apparently wasn't one of the solutions discussed. Read more here.
OUT (of reasons): Remember all that talk of "draining the swamp" of terrorists by waging war in Iraq? It hasn't been around much lately, and yesterday, top US national security officials told Congress why.
"Islamic extremists are exploiting the Iraqi conflict to recruit new anti-US jihadists. These jihadists who survive will leave Iraq experienced and focused on acts of urban terrorism," said CIA Director Porter Goss.
"Our policies in the Middle East fuel Islamic resentment," said Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
In other words, instead of draining the swamp, we turned on a hose.
IN (need of a dictionary): Perhaps President Bush needs to brush up on the real meaning of "bipartisanship." After making perfunctory overtures following his second inauguration, he's completely abandoned any sense of reaching across the aisle. Case in point: Bush recently renominated extreme conservative William Pryor to hold a seat on the US Court of Appeals, even though the Senate didn't confirm him last term, and Bush used a back-door recess appointment to temporarily put Pryor on the bench.
"The Bush administration has again chosen confrontation over cooperation and ideology over moderation. The president's words about wanting to reach across the aisle to work with Democrats are ringing a little hollow at this point," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT).