Army desertion rates up 80% since 2003Amazing that the military frequently doesn't bother to track down AWOL soldiers (is this because they can't blame them? Or because the military is so strapped and stretched thin that they don't even have the manpower to hunt down deserters?). And when soldiers are found, they often just get sent back to duty -- no punishment or discharge.
Soldiers strained by six years at war are deserting their posts at the highest rate since 1980, with the number of Army deserters this year showing an 80% increase since the United States invaded Iraq in 2003...and a 42% jump since last year....Military leaders — including Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey — have acknowledged that the Army has been stretched nearly to the breaking point by the combat....[T]he military does little to find those who bolt, and rarely prosecutes the ones they find. Some are allowed to simply return to their units.
I think this latter point speaks volumes about the state of our fighting forces. We've known that the military has been having a very difficult time attracting new recruits and as a result they've lowered the standards to qualify for service. Therefore it's not surprising to learn that the top brass often look the other way regarding this once unforgivable sin of AWOL.
And where are the Republicans to slam these deserters as traitors, to condemn this practice of returning these "yellow bellies" to their units with no repercussions?
Also, a primary reason for the increase in desertions is due to strain and the relentless durations of deployment -- exactly the problem Sen. Webb's bill was to address but the Republicans felt otherwise.
To have our military populated by once-deserters, doesn't this compromise the safety of other soldiers and weaken the overall morale of the units? Where are the McCains and other vocal Republicans to call this out? My guess is that there are many soldiers who haven't deserted and yet understand and empathize with those who have, and they likely quickly forgive those who took flight.
Given all of the above, the Iraq war has worked to eviscerate the strength and quality of our military. As many military leaders admit, our forces are at a breaking point and yet additional geopolitical risks loom in earnest (Iran, Pakistan, Syria, etc.). In many ways, we face more potential threats today than ever before and yet we're less prepared, less ready, less safe.
But I thought Bush/Cheney were all about making us more safe? (Or is it just more afraid?)