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September 30, 2014

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Where I Stand — Mike O’Callaghan: Troops need the best

IF YOU AREN'T THE RECIPIENT of a death notice from Iraq, it is likely that President George W. Bush's plea that the press isn't reporting the good things happening over there sounds reasonable. Maybe more of the progress in reconstructing Iraq should be in the news. It probably would be if it weren't for the steady car bombing and killing of American soldiers. Certainly death and destruction also interferes with reconstruction efforts.

Most Americans agree that we just can't walk away from the problems faced in Iraq. To do so would leave a world far less secure than the one that existed prior to the removal of Saddam Hussein's rule. Leaving would also weaken any efforts encouraging other dictators to ease up on suppression of their citizens. Right now the United States is the only light of hope the suppressed have of eventually being freed. Congress has little choice but to provide the funds requested by the president to complete the mission.

All of this being said still leaves me angry at our leaders in the White House and Department of Defense. Not because of what they are doing but because of what they aren't doing. Read the following excerpt from Tuesday's USA Today: "Nearly 25 percent of the 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq still haven't been issued a new type of ceramic body armor strong enough to stop bullets fired from assault rifles, the Associated Press reported. Delays in funding, production and shipping mean it will be December before all troops in Iraq have the vests, which were introduced four years ago, military officials say."

We invaded Afghanistan about two years ago and our troops are still receiving fire from Taliban guerrillas in that country. We invaded Iraq seven months ago and declared major combat to have ended there two months later. Since then our casualties have more than doubled. And 25 percent of our troops still aren't fully equipped with the latest type of body armor.

This situation not only shows inadequate planning but also is criminal. There is no acceptable excuse for this lack of ceramic body armor. The excuse makers should be held responsible and Congress shouldn't allow them to go unchallenged.

The next closing of military bases over the country won't take place for another two years. Media reports would have Americans believe it is going to happen in the next few months. Actually the list of bases scheduled for closure doesn't have to be prepared by the Department of Defense secretary until May 2005. Not until September 2005 does it have to be presented to the president.

So what is all of the fuss about in October 2003? Let me guess that the issue will be used as bargaining chips by the White House and some members of Congress during the 2004 election. The closing of military bases has always been a hot-button issue, but seldom has it seen so much play this early in the game. Already California politicians, Democrat and Republican, are expressing their concern and some are looking forward to meeting with the president as soon as possible.

The Los Angeles Times reports: "The state is well positioned in Congress to help fight base closures, with Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) as chairman of the Armed Services Committee and Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Redlands) as chairman of the appropriations subcommittee on defense ..."

California and its cities aren't alone in preparing to fight military base closures. Governors of several states, including Washington, Florida and Rhode Island, are already lining up lobbyists and political favors to protect the bases in their areas. Don't expect responsible office holders like Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to join in the fray. McCain views the unneeded bases as a financial drain on the rest of our military forces.

Closing unneeded bases can save billions for needed strengthening of our military forces. Bases do contribute to the local and state economies, but that is not the purpose of American tax dollars funding the Department of Defense.

During the coming campaign be aware of your military dollars being used for political gain and not for national defense.

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