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Sunday, June 04, 2006


Kill or be killed

The headline isn't what you think; it isn't about soldiers in war. It's about soldiers deciding whether to go to war or not. SusanG over at Daily Kos finds this two-week-old story at the Los Angeles Times which I missed:
The first time Staff Sgt. Matthew Kruger came home from Iraq, he and his wife, Maggie, went straight into marriage counseling. The second time, she threatened to divorce him if he didn't get out of the Army. The separations were tearing them apart. So in July, to save his seven-year marriage, Kruger quit the service.

Then he looked around the job market, and it didn't take long to figure out that leaving the Army held its own perils. Nothing offered him the financial security of his military job — especially the generous health coverage for his wife and three small children.

And so, 29 years old and with no other place to turn, Kruger spent his first full day of freedom at a military processing center, signing up for four more years.

"We had nothing. We were scared," Maggie said recently, struggling to keep their rambunctious children entertained in a pizza parlor outside the Ft. Lewis military base. "We suddenly realized there was no way to take the kids to the doctor or dentist for any little reason, as we had been used to."

For Kruger, who returned to a war zone for his third tour in December, the danger of losing his family's health insurance was more real and immediate than the danger of dying in combat.

At military installations around the country, other families cling to the modest but steady wages, the guaranteed housing allowance, the solid retirement plan and the health benefits of the armed forces.

For many service members, it's a matter of balancing risk: Within the military, multiple deployments are commonplace, and more than 2,400 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq and 18,000 have been wounded. Outside the military, 46 million people in the U.S. have no health insurance, and those who do pay increasingly higher prices for it.
And it's not just the unemployed who lack health insurance:
Sixty percent of large companies offered health coverage last year, down from 69% in 2000, and the coverage that is available costs more. Traditional pensions are becoming less common.
Many people devote time to counterrecruitment activities, and I respect those efforts greatly. But I don't believe they are going to end wars; only the fight against the wars (and imperialism) themselves will do that. Why? Because the U.S. government (and other governments) are always capable of shifting resources into making the military more and more "desirable" while removing funds from other social services. Consider these facts:
Although the Army missed its recruitment goals last year, in part because of the Iraq war, retention continues at record levels. Reenlistments this year are running 20% above the Army's goal, despite the long overseas deployments. Two out of three soldiers eligible to reenlist do so.

The military has moved in the opposite direction [from the companies which are cutting health care benefits and pensions]. The $12 medical co-payment was cut to zero in 2001. Dental care is cheap. Plus, active-duty pensions are guaranteed after 20 years.

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