Sunday, December 05, 2004

Double V Campaigns: World War 2 and the So-called "War on Terror"

Anne Hull of the Washington Post reports that "the Army estimates that almost 900 of those injured in Iraq" are "30 percent or more disabled -- paralysis or the loss of a limb or an eye," qualifying for "the Disabled Soldier Support System, or DS3" (emphasis added, "Wounded or Disabled But Still on Active Duty: In Attitude Shift, Military Aims to Retain Soldiers," Washington Post, December 1, 2004, p. A23). Moreover, "[a]mputations account for 2.4 percent of all wounded in action in the Iraq war -- twice the rate in World War I and World War II" (emphasis added, Hull, December 1, 2004).

According to Hull, though "90 percent of severely injured soldiers decide after a year to take medical retirement," the Army is trying to keep an increasing number of seriously disabled soldiers on active duty:
In a shift in military culture, the U.S. armed forces have recently announced new efforts to keep seriously wounded or disabled soldiers on active duty. Although there is no clear written policy, the sentiment is being echoed down from the White House.

"When we're talking about forced discharge, we're talking about another age and another" military, President Bush told wounded soldiers at Walter Reed last year. "This is a new age, and this is a new [military]. Today, if wounded service members want to remain in uniform and can do the job, the military tries to help them stay."

Military commanders cite advances in medical technology as the main reason for the shift. Better prosthetics -- such as [Capt. David] Rozelle's $7,000 leg -- are allowing some of the wounded to regain their fitness and continue to serve. Others say the military's new attitude toward the disabled is simply mirroring society's.

But one observer says the change is also practical. In an era of constant deployment, the Pentagon needs a more flexible and diversified workforce, said Laura Miller, a military sociologist with the Rand Corp.

"Part of this is a response to the stress on the all-volunteer forces due to the war on terror," Miller said. "And part of it is adapting to future warfare: smaller expeditionary forces that can respond to a variety of missions, including peacekeeping and humanitarian. Why throw away someone with years of training and expertise, only to re-train someone new?" (Hull, December 1, 2004)
There is nothing like a severe manpower shortage to create conditions for changed attitudes toward the oppressed and marginalized. The military's new attitude toward disabled soldiers is in keeping with the reduction of discharges of gay men and lesbians: "The number of DADT ["Don't Ask, Don't Tell"]-related discharges hit a record high of 1,273 in 2001, but declined to 906 in 2002 and 787 in 2003, according to the report" issued by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network ("'Don't Ask' Discharges Down during Wartime," Washington Blade, March 26, 2004). Liberals may encourage us to pursue a Double V campaign, calling for a victory over terrorists abroad and a victory over bigots at home, as if the so-called "war on terror" is the same thing as the war against fascism. What should be the response of leftists to liberal calls to integrate women into combat roles and end discriminations against gay men, lesbians, and the disabled within the military, all in order to "win the war on terror"?

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