OK. In the “Now _That’s_ Efficient!” category, this article from _Army Times_ points out that the Pentagon “has no plans for campaign-specific medals for the most recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the nation’s most protracted conflicts since Korea and Vietnam.”
Military duty in Antarctica, Kosovo and the 1991 Gulf War was deemed medal-worthy. _[Antarctica? — Ed.]_ But instead of specific theater ribbons, which is a military tradition going back over a century, Afghanistan and Iraq — and presumably future conflicts — will instead be folded into the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. The GWOT is expected to go on for many years, according to President Bush, meaning this may be the last combat medal some of America’s armed forces may receive.
In addition, veterans of these 21st-century wars may receive each medal only once. In theory — and in current practice — troops could spend years fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Philippines and elsewhere and end up with a single medal that doesn’t reflect their specific duty history or even the fact that they deployed multiple times in the global war on terrorism.
The Pentagon isn’t saying much about its rationale for the decision. Defense officials feel “these two medals will provide appropriate recognition for our service members participating in the Global War on Terrorism, whether that be in Afghanistan, Iraq or elsewhere,” said Air Force Maj. Sandra Burr, a Pentagon spokeswoman.
Indeed. Look, I didn’t serve, but my father, grandfather, great-grandfather, brother and best friend did, and I think a single GWOT medal is a pretty piss-poor recognition of service to one’s country. Why would they do such a thing? Some twisted sense of efficiency?
In a word, politics.
By not awarding a specific medal for Iraq, the Bush White House gets to fold that war into the GWOT and point to it as a central campaign instead of the diversion it is. If they get away with this, _any_ conflict in the future will be part of the GWOT and, thus, justified.
This is part and parcel for a White House and political party that, let’s face it, talks up the troops on one hand and tries to cut danger pay on the other. That lauds first responders such as firefighters and cops, but leaves them underfunded. Everything is politics to these guys, and it’s shameful.
The men and women who fought and died in Iraq and Afghanistan deserve better. Everyone reading this knows I oppose(d) the Iraq war, but why is it that a lefty peacenik like myself seems to get more pissed off about the treatment of the troops than groups like the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, both of whom gave warm welcomes to President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney recently?
Instead of getting the recognition they deserve for fighting the biggest wars since Vietnam (which has the Vietnam Service Medal as well as several recognized campaigns,) American troops — and aircraft carriers — are props for the current White House. They deserve better.