Readiness is all

Initially, when we saw the fourth anniversary of the Iraq War roll around, we decided to give it a pass on the editorial page. After all, this is a community newspaper, and we generally try to pick community topics.

The death of Narrowsburg’s Anthony Kaiser was a tragic reminder that the war in Iraq is a community topic. It has changed the lives of our friends and neighbors, sons and daughters, who fight there or who have families that do, forever.

For those of us back home, one of the few things we can do for the Anthony Kaisers still out there is to keep our eyes on Washington and make sure that the legislation passed gives them the best possible chance of coming back alive. Section 1901 of the House supplemental appropriations bill for the Iraq war does that. But astonishingly, it has attracted substantial opposition.

The section says that Congress won’t give the president money to send people to fight if they haven’t been properly trained, rested and equipped to fight.

“Sec. 1901. (a) Congress finds that it is Defense Department policy that units should not be deployed for combat unless they are rated ‘fully mission capable.’ (b) None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available in this or any other Act may be used to deploy any unit of the Armed Forces to Iraq unless the chief of the military department concerned has certified in writing to the Committees on Appropriations and the Committees on Armed Services at least 15 days in advance of the deployment that the unit is fully mission capable.”

We can’t see how anyone could be against this. But most Republicans on the Hill apparently disagree with us. They voted unanimously to strip it from the bill in the House appropriations committee. They were overruled and the bill went to the floor and was passed anyway, with this language intact—but as of press time, a similar bill faces a similar battle in the Senate, and a certain presidential veto. And although other provisions in the bill—especially a target date for the withdrawal of troops—are drawing much of the fire, the concept that Congress should set minimum standards of preparedness as a condition for deployment has also been singled out for attack.

One of the most frequent charges against it is that Pennsylvania Representative Jack Murtha, who is responsible for the section, is “only proposing it because he wants to stop the war.”

This argument contains an astonishing admission. Anyone who complains that the war would have to stop if we required that troops be prepared before deployment must, by logical necessity, believe that the war in Iraq is now being fought, and should continue to be fought, with unprepared troops.

So the “Jack Murtha just wants to stop the war” argument amounts to a declaration that we are using troops who are not properly trained, rested and equipped, and that we must continue to do so.

We will concede one point. Jack Murtha does want to withdraw our troops from Iraq, and he has made no bones about it. But Jack Murtha’s wants, beliefs and state of mind are utterly irrelevant to the question as to whether our troops should be combat ready when they risk their lives on the battlefield. Surely opponents aren’t saying that it is worth sending a young man or woman into combat without, say, proper armor, so we can teach that so-and-so Jack Murtha a lesson?

Another charge is that this provision “gives hope to the enemy.” This implies that the enemy would rather fight well-rested, highly trained and armed troops than war-weary, under-equipped forces. Baloney.

Finally, some say Congress doesn’t have the authority to engage in such “micromanaging.” False. The Constitution says Congress has the power not only to declare war but to “raise and support armies” and to “make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Force.” What should those rules be about, if not ensuring readiness?

As of this writing, the fate of this bill is still in question, and given the President’s vow to veto, Section 1901 will almost certainly go down with the rest of the legislation. But it should not be allowed to get lost in the shuffle. Our representatives should be urged to get it back on the floor in another form, perhaps uncomplicated by other provisions. There are many points about the Iraq war that are open to argument, but the need to give our troops adequate rest, training and equipment is not one of them.

Also in this issue:

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Dr. Punnybone

Bad Hare Day

Letters to the Editor

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The River Reporter welcomes letters on all subjects from its readers. They must be signed and include the correspondent's phone number. The correspondent's name and town will appear at the bottom of each letter; titles and affiliations will not, unless the correspondent is writing on behalf of a group.

Letters are printed at the discretion of the editor. It is requested they be limited to 300 words; correspondents may be asked to cut longer letters. Deadline is 1:00 p.m. on Monday.

Letters can be sent by e-mail to]

River Reporter readers come through

To the editor:

Thanks to The River Reporter, I’m happy to report that all six of Grace DeFina’s cats have been placed in good homes.

After you published my article titled “Remembering Grace DeFina” in the March 15 issue, Marlena Rosnel and I both received calls from concerned cat lovers volunteering to adopt one or more of Grace’s beautiful cats. It is gratifying to acknowledge the generosity of those who responded. Now, every one of Grace’s beloved cats has a chance to live a full and happy life.

Thanks again to you and to the readers of your newspaper for creating a happy ending to Grace DeFina’s sad story.

Barbara Yeaman

Milanville, NY

Needed light on some forgotten people

To the editor: