Tuesday, February 21, 2006

American Soldiers Deserve Reparations

American Soldiers Deserve Reparations
Byron Williams

On Friday October 11, 2002, Congress passed the "Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq."

The overwhelming bipartisan vote provided the president with the authority to attack Iraq if Saddam Hussein refused to give up his country's weapons of mass destruction as required by U.N. resolutions.

The language in the resolution linking Saddam to Al Qaida, possessing weapons of mass destruction, and having some involvement in the 9/11 attacks appears to be without merit.

More than three years later, we have the benefit of selective 20/20 hindsight. We see some things clearer while others remain foggy.

According to the latest Gallup Poll, 55 percent of Americans believe the Iraq invasion was a mistake compared to just 23 percent when the war began. The Pew Research Center indicates that 38 percent approve of the president's handling of the war compared with 52 percent in 2003.

But when it comes to troop withdrawal, the country sends a different message. The same Pew poll shows that 50 percent want the troops to remain.

I have heard all of the arguments for keeping the troops in Iraq. Taking them out might lead to chaos; yet the country is already in chaos. Vietnam should serve as a more-than-adequate reminder that remaining in Iraq will only delay the inevitable.

And to suggest damage to American prestige will result from an early withdrawal, that fate was secured the moment we preemptively attacked Iraq. How long can we sustain a policy based on pride?

If we are going to keep troops in harm's way, knowing that we've made mistakes at every juncture, isn't it time for America to consider reparations for our soldiers?

If one understands reparations to be compensation for a wrong that has been committed, I can think of no worthier recipient than the men and women who have been sent to risk their lives for an unjust cause.

In addition to the bad policy that led the U.S. into this war, the troops have not had the proper resources to do the job. The failure to provide adequate body and humvee armor is a national disgrace that has been well documented.

Reserves and the National Guard have been unfairly asked to shoulder a burden based largely on the poor planning of the administration.

A large portion of military reservists and National Guard members suffers a pay cut when called to defend our nation. Many of these reservists and National Guard are professionals with families who depend upon that paycheck.

While having their tours of duty extended, the families of reservists and National Guard suffer not only from loss of income, but also, for some, loss of health benefits.

At the current rate, if the troops remain in Iraq for another 24 months, we are looking at an additional 2,000 casualties and 12,000 wounded.

The most important reason that I advocate for reparations is the shameful unpatriotic manner in which the overwhelming majority of Americans have been allowed root from the sidelines without the burden of sacrifice. If we are unwilling to say enough is enough, shouldn't we at least bear some of the responsibility?

All of the death, wounds, and psychological strain is limited to a few families. Young men and women, many under 30, will never be able to hold their children, walk on the beach, or see the stars, if they return home at all.

No amount of key chains, bumper stickers, flags, and ribbons announcing to the world support for the troops can make up for this travesty.

There should be little argument against supporting a fund that ensures permanent health care, mortgage assistance, disability payments, career training, and subsidized college education for the soldiers participating in the war in Iraq and their families.

All who have not participated directly in this war should be ready and willing to participate in a reparation tax.

Some may argue that reparations are inappropriate because this is, in theory, a volunteer Army. Volunteer status notwithstanding, no American solider should be placed in danger because of the incompetence of its government and public pride.

Reparations would be good barometer to ascertain whether or not we really do support the troops.