Screwed and Tattooed

          
     If 1,162 U.S. soldiers were held up in broad daylight, you’d think it would be front-page news.
     When the president of the United States and the Secretary of the Army hold up 1,162 troops in broad daylight, you think it would be front-page news above the fold.
     Why, then, is the nation not screaming about the treatment handed to 1,162 members of the Minnesota Army National Guard?
     Nine Minnesota Guardsmen died in Iraq on their 22-month tour of duty: the longest tour of duty any ground combat unit has served there. Their stay was extended as part of President Bush’s “surge.”
     When the troops finally came home, 1,162 of them found that their orders had been written for 729 days – one day too short to qualify for extended benefits to help them attend college.
     This cannot have been a mistake.
     No one writes orders for one day short of two years – 1,162 times – by an oversight.
     This was a calculated, coldblooded act: to send reservists to war for two years, and if they survive, to cheat them of a measly couple of hundred bucks a month to help them through college.
     There is no excuse for this.
     Why, then, is the U.S. media treating it as though it were classified information?
     A fact sheet from the Minnesota Army National Guard is posted on the Internet, explaining what happened.
     Aside from that, and a couple of transcripts from old CNN reports, the only other information you can get on this is from bloggers.
     Try it. Google “Minnesota Army National Guard” and “729 days” and see what you come up with.
     The Minnesota Guard fact sheet explains that if troops want to get Army benefits to go to college, if they serve 730 days or more they can pay $1,200 when they come home, and receive $894 per month while they are full-time students; the offer is good for 10 years.
     If they serve only 729 days, they can get $660 per month to be a full-time student, but only while they are still enlisted. Once they are mustered out, the benefits end.
     Minnesota’s entire House and Senate delegation has asked Secretary of the Army Pete Geren for an explanation. Geren promised to get back to them by sometime in January.
     Thanks a lot, Mr. Secretary.
     I’ve got a better idea. Why doesn’t George W. Bush issue a presidential decree giving these 1,162 troops the benefits they deserve?
     Bush has no problems signing presidential decrees giving government officials the power to kidnap and torture people; to imprison people indefinitely without charges; to tap our phones and read our emails without warrants; to arrest librarians, for Pete’s sake, if they reveal that the FBI dropped by the public library and asked what books we have been reading. Bush had no problem signing hundreds of presidential decrees stating that he does not have to abide by a law he just signed.
     So why can’t he sign a simple decree giving these 1,162 veterans full educational benefits?
     Where does the buck stop when 1,162 Army veterans get screwed in broad daylight?
     Why aren’t the Democrats screaming about it and seeing that it gets onto page one and stays there until the troops get the benefits they deserve? Are the Democrats as gutless and incompetent as the U.S. media is cowed and stupid?
     President Bush could fix this with just a few hastily scribbled words.
     Where are those few words from the president?

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