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Warehousing Soldiers in the Homeland

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Posted on Aug 9, 2009

By Dahr Jamail and Sarah Lazare

(Page 4)

In 2008, USA Today revealed that more than 43,000 troops listed as medically unfit had been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan anyway.

A Yardstick of Desperation

In a discussion of her group’s role in dealing with the legal holding of soldiers, MLTF co-chair Kathleen Gilberd commented:

“Fort Bragg is not an isolated situation. Placement in legal-hold [detachments] where soldiers languish for months is common to all the services. What we’re seeing is the command not making up their minds. Their indecision has severe consequences for those with open-ended medical issues because they cannot avail themselves of help until their legal situation is resolved.”

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Chuck Fager, the director of the Fayetteville Quaker House (the town of Fayetteville adjoins Fort Bragg), claims that the military is primarily focused on “making numbers” for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. “Orders from the Pentagon say you have to send X [number of] troops,” he points out. “The military does not have them and is constantly looking around for where to get them. One potential pool is the mass of soldiers gone AWOL. Eventually they either go back or get picked up… We are guessing [military officials] think they can persuade a significant number of these AWOL soldiers to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan. ”

The U.S. still maintains more than 130,000 soldiers in Iraq and, by year’s end, will have at least 68,000 in Afghanistan, a figure likely to rise in the years to come.

Think of Echo and other platoons like it as grim yardsticks for measuring the desperation in which a military under immense strain is now operating.  Looking up at that military from Echo’s airless limbo, from a world of soldiers who have fallen through the cracks of a system under great stress, you can see just how devastating America’s two ongoing wars have been for the military itself. The walking wounded, the troubled, and the broken are now being pressured to reenter the fray.

If Chuck Fager is right, the future is bleak for the members of Echo Platoon who endure deplorable conditions with little idea about whether their future involves charges, trial, deployment, or medical release. It is a painful irony that some of those who volunteered to serve and defend our nation are now left particularly defenseless and vulnerable as a direct consequence of its ill advised foreign adventures.

Dahr Jamail, an independent journalist, is the author of The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan (Haymarket Books, 2009) and Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq, (Haymarket Books, 2007). Jamail reported from occupied Iraq for nine months as well as from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Turkey over the last five years. His website is Dahrjamailiraq.com.

Sarah Lazare is the project coordinator for Courage to Resist, an organization that supports troops who refuse to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is also a freelance writer.

Bhaswati Sengupta contributed to this report.

Copyright 2009 Dahr Jamail and Sarah Lazare


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By Bart Roberts, August 12, 2009 at 11:33 am Link to this comment
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Unpopular wars of questionable import to the motherland. A dwindling economy. Both the civilian population and troops bothgrowing increasing disaffected.

Looks like a powder keg to me.

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By Jim Yell, August 12, 2009 at 5:33 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It is an old story. The rich are glad to use the lives up of the poor, but do not feel any need to compensate for the harm they do.

The reason we don’t have a draft to keep the military manned by fresh troops is that the leaders themselves know that there isn’t a good enough reason for anyone to be dying in those forsaken lands. We have no interests except the greed of corporate America. If everyone were at risk of being sent to these horrible places the rich and powerful might lose their hold upon this country.

Treason starts in high places.

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Paul_GA's avatar

By Paul_GA, August 10, 2009 at 10:53 am Link to this comment

That’s what most war is all about, Mr. Hanks.

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By John Hanks, August 9, 2009 at 9:03 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

And to think that all of this sadness and misery is due to a few imperialist adventures to make the rich even more rich.

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