Troop Strength and Chintzy Bonuses


The desperation move by the Pentagon to try and maintain U.S. troop strength by offering soldiers a re-up bonus of $10,000 give the lie to earlier assertions that were made to me by Pentagon officials last fall when I was writing about contingency planning for a return to the draft.

At that time, Army manpower officials assured me that they were having no problem with reenlistments and recruitment.

What a difference a few hundred dead soldiers, a few downed choppers, and a few months make!

The irony of course, is that if the Bush administration had had its way, that bonus being offered to soldiers to reenlist and risk their lives for another year or more in the Iraqi desert–a bonus that works out to about $3350 a year or $280 a month–would be just about the amount they would have lost in reduced combat pay. And in fact, they may still lose that much and more next year.

As I reported in In These Times and Counterpunch last November, the Bush Administration, having blown the American budget sky high with tax giveaways to the rich, tried to cut some of its costs by eliminating $150 a month in combat pay for the 130,000 soldiers in Iraq. That adds up to about $1800 a year. They also tried to eliminate another $75 per month in family allowance money paid to troops who are separated from spouses or children. If they’d gotten their way, this would have represented a $225/month pay cut for married troops in the battle zone–about $2700 a year in lost pay.

Luckily, when Congress got wind of the pay cut for the troops doing Bush’s dirty work in the desert, they nixed the deal–for this year. But the Pentagon has promised to come back with the proposed combat pay cut plan next year.

If the Bush administration were to get its way, soldiers signing up for another tour of battle duty, after collecting their bonuses, would be netting a whopping $1950 for their three-year tour of duty–less than $55 a month to put their lives on the line.

No wonder reports from the field say the grunts are laughing at the offer–and turning it down.

Paying the workers and grunts fairly has never been a strong point with this crew in Washington. These are the same folks who recently pushed through a rule change at the Department of Labor that will strip some 8 million workers of eligibility for overtime pay when they are asked to put in more than the standard 40-hour week. The same administration that also has been offering employers tips on how to avoid having to pay overtime pay to some 1.3 million lower paid workers who the same new rules were supposed to be making eligible for overtime for the first time.

It would seem to be all of a piece. President Bush, the prep school boy who grew up in a blue blood family where servants are the norm, seems to take the view that average Americans should be glad just to have a job. They should not expect to get extra pay if they have to work long hours, or get shot at.

He’s willing to use market incentives, like the re-up bonus, to get people to work for him when he has to, but he obviously is ready to take that money back out of their pockets when they’re not looking if he gets the chance. It’s a little like that plastic turkey the Commander-in-Chief carried around during his photo-op quickie visit to the airport near Baghdad at Thanksgiving–it looks good but you can’t eat it.

I don’t know about the grunts in Iraq, but if I were over there getting close to the end of my tour, and contemplating that re-up bonus, even if I were willing to put my life on the line again for the benefit of Halliburton and Exxon/Mobil, I’d still want it in writing from the brass that they wouldn’t be turning around next year and taking away my combat pay and family separation allowance.

With this administration, you really need an enforceable contract.

DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. A collection of Lindorff’s stories can be found here: http://www.nwuphilly.org/dave.html



More articles by:

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

Weekend Edition
January 17, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: No Woman, No Cry
Kathleen Wallace
Hijacking the Struggles of Others, Elizabeth Warren Style
Robert Hunziker
The Rumbling Methane Enigma
Frank Joyce
Will the Constitution Fail Again?
Pete Dolack
Claims that the ‘NAFTA 2’ Agreement is Better are a Macabre Joke
Andrew Levine
Biden Daze
Vijay Prashad
Not an Inch: Indian Students Stand Against the Far Right
Ramzy Baroud
Sealed Off and Forgotten: What You Should Know about Israel’s ‘Firing Zones’ in the West Bank
Norman Solomon
Not Bernie, Us. Not Warren, Us. Their Clash Underscores the Need for Grassroots Wisdom
Ted Rall
America’s Long History of Meddling in Russia
David Rosen
The Irregulators vs. FCC: the Trial Begins
Jennifer Matsui
The Krown
Joseph Natoli
Resolutions and Obstacles/2020
Sarah Anderson
War Profiteering is Real
James McFadden
The Business Party Syndicate
Ajamu Baraka
Trump Prosecutors Make Move to Ensure that Embassy Protectors are Convicted
David Swanson
CNN is Trash
Rev. William Alberts
Finally a Christian Call for Trump’s Removal
Dave Lindorff
The ERA Just Got Ratified by Virginia, the Needed 38th State!
W. T. Whitney
Mexico Takes Action on Coup in Bolivia and on CELAC
Steve Early
How General Strike Rhetoric Became a Reality in Seattle 
Jessicah Pierre
Learning From King’s Last Campaign
Mark Dickman
Saint Greta and the Dragon
Jared Bernstein - Dean Baker
Reducing the Health Care Tax
Clark T. Scott
Uniting “Progressives” Instead of Democrats
Nilofar Suhrawardy
Trump & Johnson: What a Contrast, Image-wise!
Ron Jacobs
Abusing America’s Children—Free Market Policy
George Wuerthner
Mills Are Being Closed by National Economic Trends, Not Environmental Regulations
Basav Sen
Nearly All Americans Want Off of Fossil Fuels
Mark Ashwill
Playing Geopolitical Whack-a-Mole: The Viet Nam Flag Issue Revisited
Jesse Jackson
New Hope for One of America’s Poorest Communities
Binoy Kampmark
Harry and Meghan Exit: The Royal Family Propaganda Machine
Ralph Nader
Trump: Making America Dread Again!
Rob Okun
A Call to Men to join Women’s March
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
We All Need to Be Tree Huggers Now
Tom Stephens
The New York Times’ Delusions of Empire
Julian Rose
Fake-Green Zero Carbon Fraud
Louis Proyect
The Best Films of 2019
Matthew Stevenson
Across the Balkans: Into Kosovo
Colin Todhunter
Gone Fishing? No Fish but Plenty of Pesticides and a Public Health Crisis
Julian Vigo
Can New Tech Replace In-Class Learning?
Gaither Stewart
The Bench: the Life of Things
Nicky Reid
Trannies with Guns: Because Enough is Enough!
James Haught
Baby Dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark
David Yearsley
Brecht in Berlin