Monday, March 12, 2007

The Cripple's Crusade

People had been asking, almost from the first day the "surge" was announced, where the soldiers were going to come from. After all, the U.S. Army and National Guards have been practically crippled by the constant tours in Iraq. Who would be sent? There was nobody else to send.

Now we know.

The United States is sending its wounded to battle.

As the military scrambles to pour more soldiers into Iraq, a unit of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Benning, Ga., is deploying troops with serious injuries and other medical problems, including GIs who doctors have said are medically unfit for battle. Some are too injured to wear their body armor, according to medical records.

On Feb. 15, Master Sgt. Jenkins and 74 other soldiers with medical conditions from the 3rd Division's 3rd Brigade were summoned to a meeting with the division surgeon and brigade surgeon. These are the men responsible for handling each soldier's "physical profile," an Army document that lists for commanders an injured soldier's physical limitations because of medical problems -- from being unable to fire a weapon to the inability to move and dive in three-to-five-second increments to avoid enemy fire. Jenkins and other soldiers claim that the division and brigade surgeons summarily downgraded soldiers' profiles, without even a medical exam, in order to deploy them to Iraq. It is a claim division officials deny.
Can we believe these denials of a massive "reevaluation" on Feb. 15? Well, here's one case:

One female soldier with psychiatric issues and a spine problem has been in the Army for nearly 20 years. "My [health] is deteriorating," she said over dinner at a restaurant near Fort Benning. "My spine is separating. I can't carry gear." Her medical records include the note "unable to deploy overseas." Her status was also reviewed on Feb. 15. And she has been ordered to Iraq this week.
Nothing about this is really new. Iraq has forced down recruitment standards across the board: people who were previously seen as too old, too mentally challenged, or too uneducated for service are being actively recruited. A draft is (currently) politically impossible, as is taking in minors, so this is one of the few options left to them to keep the numbers up.

Of course, as TPM points out, this could be an isolated incident. I personally doubt it, though. What it is is one more symptom of a military slowly devouring itself to fight Bush's war.

Somewhere in Pakistan, Osama just keeps on laughing.

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