Slap in the face for America’s soldiers

November 23, 2007

Put your coffee down. If you’re not ready to be outraged, don’t read any farther. Go on to the next post.

To demonstrate the barbarity and brutality of communist systems, or totalitarian governments, people often point to execution practices used in Stalinist Russia or, currently, in the People’s Republic of China. When a person is executed, usually with a bullet to the head, the family of the executed person is billed for the bullet.

Insult to injury, injury on injury, it’s heartless, the critics rightly say — and evidence of the inhumanity, the complete lack of human emotion in the government.

That’s not what this post is about. Can there be something worse?

U.S. soldiers disabled in Iraq and Afghanistan so that they cannot continue their military service are being billed by the Pentagon for their recruitment bonuses. Marty Griffin at KDKA television in Pittsburgh got the story, about a local Pennsylvania soldier (I have highlighted some parts of the story):

One of them is Jordan Fox, a young soldier from the South Hills.

He finds solace in the hundreds of boxes he loads onto a truck in Carnegie. In each box is a care package that will be sent to a man or woman serving in Iraq. It was in his name Operation Pittsburgh Pride was started.

Fox was seriously injured when a roadside bomb blew up his vehicle. He was knocked unconscious. His back was injured and lost all vision in his right eye.

A few months later Fox was sent home. His injuries prohibited him from fulfilling three months of his commitment. A few days ago, he received a letter from the military demanding nearly $3,000 of his signing bonus back.

“I tried to do my best and serve my country. I was unfortunately hurt in the process. Now they’re telling me they want their money back,” he explained.

It’s a slap for Fox’s mother, Susan Wardezak, who met with President Bush in Pittsburgh last May. He thanked her for starting Operation Pittsburgh Pride which has sent approximately 4,000 care packages.

He then sent her a letter expressing his concern over her son’s injuries, so she cannot understand the U.S. Government’s apparent lack of concern over injuries to countless U.S. Soldiers and demands that they return their bonuses.

No kidding.

See the video — it’s even more compelling.

Do you agree with me that this is an outrage? Do you agree this should not happen in the United States of America?

Should we act? Wait just a moment.

This is such a clear outrage, that when the news broke, the Pentagon and Veterans Affairs Department scrambled to say it is not so bad as it looks. Talking Points Memo Muckraker tracks the story; by now the government says it’s a mistake, and soldiers shouldn’t have to pay back the bonus.

So the official answer is that not as many soldiers were billed as Griffin claimed, and the Pentagon says they excuse the debts if the soldier complains.

What if the soldier doesn’t complain, but just pays?

How could any system do this in the first place?

Can we believe an administration that has lied to get out of accountability for so many other scrapes in this war?

Keep checking for followups.

Also, if you have received one of these letters, or if you know someone who has, please tell us.

Be ready to act by noting these numbers:

Watch the news.  If this outrage is not corrected, your voice will be important.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

Unread scripture: Come, let us reason together*

November 23, 2007

The right-wing nominally Catholic journal First Things features another assault on the quest for reason in its October issue.

Pope John Paul II said evolution is a scientific understanding of creation and should be studied by people, with no claim that it conflicts with Christianity. Since his death, and since the installation of Pope Benedict, Benedict and several cardinals have been backpedaling as fast as they can. When they get called on some of their more radical statements, they claim that “radical atheists” have forced them to their public relations firms and far-right magazines. So far, Pope Benedict has not directly claimed Pope John Paul II to have been in error about evolution. He seems happy to let others make that inference explicitly, however.

I am particularly troubled by Cardinal Dulles’ citing of an article by Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, the archbishop of Vienna, published on July 7, 2005, as an op-ed in the New York Times. Schönborn’s view sounded oddly as if it squared completely with the fundamentalist Christian view espoused from the Discovery Institute in Seattle. It turns out that Schönborn had not written the piece at all, but instead was asked to sign his name to a piece written by one of the Discovery Institute’s commercial public relations groups.

It is probably not fair yet to say that Pope Benedict has been purchased by the Discovery Institute. But it would be good if Catholic officials were to stick to Catholicism and leave the petty, erroneous science politics and destructive education politics to the Discovery Institute; it would be better still if the Discovery Institute were to abandon such things, too.

Tip of the old scrub brush to a commenter at Telic Thoughts. [And, yes, this sat for a while in my draft box.]

* Isaiah 1:18

The verse is almost always cited out of context. In this verse a prophet Isaiah recites words he’s been given from God, by his account. This opens an invitation, from God, to the people of Judah, to discuss their actions. God was particularly concerned about injustices and inequities practiced by the people; for example, in the verses immediately preceding, Isaiah quotes God (CEV): “No matter how much you pray,/I won’t listen./You are too violent./Wash yourselves clean!/I am disgusted with your filthy deeds./Stop doing wrong/and learn to live right./See that justice is done./Defend widows and orphans and help those in need.” It is my view that Cardinal Dulles is missing that context here. The scriptures call us to see that justice is done, first. Slamming evolution and the rest of science is not such action.

Other sources

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