Lie of the Week: Trigger finger

By Joshua Micah Marshall

By Salon Staff
Published August 9, 2000 7:56PM (EDT)

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I have been affiliated with the U.S. military for the last 20 years. I have served on active duty and as a contractor. In all these years I have never seen the troops' morale and readiness at lower levels. The "you will do more with less" attitude that this administration supports is surely the reason that the services are having extremely difficult times staffing their forces. I admit that the economy has had a impact, but even the "lifers" are talking about getting out. I see troops constantly assigned for six-month tours to support efforts that have less meaning to the U.S. population than Vietnam. The citizens of the U.S. don't support the U.S. presence abroad and the troops know it.

I think that almost anyone could have made deficit reductions by cutting the military budget in half. The economy remains on auto-pilot, with occasional checks by the Fed, and the leader of the free world is without character. It's time for change!

-- John Cockerham

I am a retired Navy type and find your article totally relying on propaganda from the Pentagon and not on the DOD's own readiness information. The Navy can barely fly enough hours to get pilots minimally qualified and does not have enough spare parts to keep stateside squadrons in good readiness. The personnel problems are terrible with the Best and Brightest bailing out in droves, and yet the pay and benefits are now lagging even further behind because the Pentagon does nothing to support the retired contingent, saying there is no money to provide services that were promised and not delivered. Yet another blow to morale. So why stay? In the next conflict send Congress and the president, because this president does not understand what he has done to the military.

-- John Bartlett

I am a civilian, having been employed by the DOD for the past 19 years. After reading your article, I beg to differ with several of your statements. Your statement, "But the question of military readiness is about more than troop strength and spare parts. It's also about credibility, specifically the president's credibility" is incorrect. Military readiness IS about troop strength and morale and the fact is that both are at an all-time low. It's almost impossible to get new recruits. The Army, Navy and Air Force all missed their recruitment goals this past year.

Presidential credibility is important, and this president has none. By the way, has President Clinton told you where he gets the money to fund his "peacekeeping" missions? They are funded through a general tax on the military services. We must pay every year for these operations, with no increase in our operating budgets. The Air Force's portion last year was roughly one billion dollars.

We still have the best military in the world and can handle small contingencies, however the lack of spare parts, low morale and troop strength will show in the next large exercise. And don't think it won't happen. Every time we let our military strength degrade, some despot decides to flex his muscles and we end up sacrificing our young people.

Please take your own advice and don't "play fast and loose with the facts."

-- Richard E. Keefer

Salon Staff

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