Shame on Congress
Joe Galloway | August 17, 2006

The last guy in the first of those eight-hour London airport security lines searching for mouthwash and hair gel bombs hadn't even gotten close to the point of throwing away everything but his passport and clothing when Republican congressional campaigners were forming a conga line to celebrate a splendid opportunity.

A splendid opportunity to scare the wits out of the American public one more time and, they hope, seize a November victory from the ashes of a well-deserved defeat. They were ready to thank God, the Devil or Osama bin Laden for the chance to paint the Democrats as weak on national security and hang onto absolute control of the public trough for two more years.

If they get away with it again, then there's proof that you can fool all the people most of the time.

The happy members of Congress weren't even around when the news arrived. They had left a lot of important business -- including the new defense budget to continue financing the unnecessary war in Iraq and the forgotten war in Afghanistan -- undone while they went home to campaign for a month or so.

That was surprising not so much for the jam they leave our soldiers and Marines in as the current fiscal year budget winds down -- that's as traditional as apple pie and thieving politicians. But they also left hanging the $14.9 billion worth of pork and payoffs they have so energetically larded into the defense budget for fiscal 2007.

They really were in a hurry to get home and persuade folks of the great danger they are in, and how well the Republican administration and Congress have protected them; how much they care about our military men and women; and how much they deserve another term dipping into that river of taxpayer money.

And what have they left behind them?

They didn't provide enough money in the current budget to fight the wars, equip the military and fund the bases where those who wear the uniforms, and those who love them, live when they aren't off fighting.

So at bases like Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio the grass goes unmowed and the swimming pools aren't open and the Army in some places can't even pay the electric and water bills.

That's because the military, at such times, has to rob Peter to pay Paul. The money meant to pay for the small but important things like repairing family housing and running a recreation center for Army kids is siphoned off to pay for the wars.

There isn't nearly enough money to pay for the tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles and Humvees that have been destroyed or worn out by unceasing duty on the battlefields 24/7.

There aren't enough troops in the ranks to staff all the brigades and divisions. So Peter is robbed in those areas of the budget as well.

The consequences are clear. The units leave their equipment behind in Iraq for their replacements to use. When they get home they have to turn loose thousands of troops whose enlistments ended months before and who were press-ganged into another combat tour by what is known as "stop-loss," or involuntary service in an all-volunteer military.

Thousands of other troops are "cross-balanced" or transferred into other units headed back to Iraq or Afghanistan, filling up all those vacancies in those outfits.

All of this leaves our nation without a credible reserve force in case of emergencies elsewhere in the world, and it leaves those outfits just home from combat without either the equipment or the troops to train for their next combat tour.

That's how well this Congress and this administration have taken care of our military. They are grinding down equipment and troops and families without a care.

Shame on them for caring so little about those who give so much, including their precious lives, in defense of our country.

Shame on them for simultaneously making certain that hundreds of billions of defense dollars are diverted to the kind of high-dollar aircraft and naval vessels so beloved of the defense contracting industry who happily fuel the campaign engines of the Republicans and happily provide post-retirement jobs for retired generals and admirals and, yes, out-of-office politicians.

If the latest airline terrorist thing scares you to death, and if you think this much more dangerous world we now have to live in requires a strong, competent, ready and well-equipped military to defend you, vote against the incumbents in Congress. All of them, no matter what party.

You will be a damn sight safer without their kind of stewardship of national security and our military. A Congress full of rookies always takes a good while figuring out how to get their snouts deep in the right trough, and that's a good thing.

Throw the bastards out in 2006 and again in 2008.