Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Call it as you like, but it is still slavery

It was reported on October 18 that the army will continue to utilize the stop-loss policy in order to provide sufficient human cannon fodder for President Bush's immoral and unnecessary wars.

The stop-loss policy is defined as a 'short-term policy that stabilizes military personnel in their current assignment by preventing them from leaving at the end of their service.'

The U.S. government is famous for its cumbersome semantics, and the so-called 'stop-loss' policy must have won some bureaucrat a major award.

It may be helpful to put this statement in common English, rather than in bureaucratic lingo: the stop-loss policy is 'the forced labor of U.S. citizens in conditions of mortal danger.'

Soldiers enlist for a wide variety of reasons, and either knowingly or unknowingly accept certain risks as a result. For example, each man or woman who joins the military knows, even in those rare periods when the U.S. is not at war, that his or her life is potentially at risk; a war could begin at any time. The soldier knows that the period of his or her enlistment will mean separation from family and friends, and possible relocation anywhere in the world.

What many soldiers don't know is that once they enlist, they cease to have the rights that other American citizens up until very recently took for granted. Their right to free speech is curtailed, as is their right to assembly, and to make the common decisions most people feel free to make.

But, one might say, the soldier has enlisted for a specific period of time, usually two years. Whatever unexpected deprivations he or she may experience will end; a contract has been signed and will expire on a specified, mutually-agreed upon date.

Not so: the stop-loss policy nullifies that expectation. In Iraq, for instance, soldiers who have been in line waiting to board a helicopter for the first leg of their trip out of Mr. Bush's hell have been pulled from the line and told that their 'tours' of duty were being extended. Family members at home - spouses, sibling, parents and children - who thought that their long nightmare was finally coming to a close, are hastily called by their tearful soldier and told not to go to the airport: he or she will not be coming home as planned and promised. The long hours of anxiety will continue, because the U.S. government is not obligated to keep its side of the enlistment contract.

One might think that if one party in a contract can freely violate it, so could the other. This, however, is not how the powerful U.S. government sees things. Soldiers who attempt to leave prior to the end of their enlistment period are arrested, prosecuted, and usually given prison sentences and less-than-honorable discharges. With the stop-loss policy the government goes even a step further: soldiers who attempt to leave the military after fulfilling their obligation as agreed upon at enlistment are also be arrested, prosecuted, and given prison sentences and less-than-honorable discharges.

It is no coincidence that 'stop-loss' has been utilized more since Mr. Bush's much-vaunted 'augmentation' (one must recall that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice explained most eloquently that the addition of 30,000 troops to the war zone was not an 'escalation,' but an 'augmentation.' Please refer to the above comment about the government's cumbersome semantics). About 9,000 soldiers have been victimized by this policy since Mr. Bush announced his 'new way forward' (cumbersome semantics, once again) in Iraq. That is an increase of about 2,000.

Lt. Gen. Michael Rochelle, deputy chief of staff for personnel said that "until there is some reduction in the demand, we're going to have to rely, unfortunately ... on stop-loss."

What, one might ask, would constitute a 'reduction in the demand?' There appear to be four possible scenarios:

1) The U.S. decides it made a huge mistake by invading Iraq, and departs. When pigs fly.

Robert Fantina
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