Sgt. Pepper and Sgt. Botta: The Twisted Treatment of Soldiers:
Soldiers have always been just stiff plastic players on the foosball game of politics. Which is why it's not even remotely surprising that Karl Rove is in any way, shape, or globular form involved in a decision on whether or not to withdraw troops from Iraq. As a few Republican senators up for re-election make noise like they actually have the 'nads to oppose the White House, Rove is telling Bush, as ever, to play like he's got the only bucket in the sandbox: you wanna build any castles, you gotta do it on his terms. Meanwhile, Iraqi civilians are killed by the score in the civil war that's supposedly not yet a civil war, despite calls for citizens to arm themselves because their cobbled-together military can't do shit against all the different opportunistic groups that have risen up or ventured into Iraq like it's the day after Thanksgiving at the Dothan, Alabama Wal-Mart. And the fucked-up part is, of course, that it's all our American fault.

But it ain't the fault of the soldiers, whose burdens we ought to be bearing with greater magnanimity and greater selfishness.

The greater magnanimity would be in the much-discussed treatment of the injured soldiers. Beyond your Walter Reed, there's the myriad bureaucratic fucktardery that the wounded have to negotiate. The Rude Pundit's favorite story from the past couple of weeks involves Sergeant Pepper. Army Staff Sgt. Jason Pepper lost his eyes - literally - in an attack in Karbala, Iraq in 2004. So Sgt. Pepper was left "blind, with shrapnel in his brain, a shattered right arm and a surgically reconstructed left hand." When he settled down with his wife in a house south of Nashville, Tennessee, Sgt. Pepper sought a "Specially Adapted Housing" grant for $50,000 to make his house more accessible because he was rendered, you know, fucking blind because of his service to his country. But all he qualified for, because of rules set up by Congress, in the years before surgery could save his arm, is $10,000. If he'd've lost the arm or had some other limb or limb part amputated, he'd've gotten the full amount. But his eyes are apparently worth a fifth of one leg. Frankly, it seems it'd be hard to take a normal piss either way.

Hey, congressional Democrats, you want a quick pro-military bill? How about a half-percent sales tax or some such shit where the funds go to support vets? Call it the "Patriot Fund," and dare Republicans to vote against it.

Greater selfishness means that we need troops at home, so we need the fuckin' National Guard, the goddamn Reserves, which have been broken like a bear that rides a bike in a Russian circus. For instance, a presumptive weekend warrior in Florida, in the seventh year of an eight-year Army Reserve stint, has been told to get ready for his fifth tour of duty, having already done one rotation in Afghanistan and three in Iraq. This is a reservist, Sergeant Erik Botta, who is proud of his service and deployed readily the last four times. This time, he risks not only his life and body parts, but his house, his job, his education. Let's get this right: he has been deployed four other times. The army struck down his appeal, and now Botta is suing the Army to stay his deployment. Sure, sure, you can say that Botta signed the contract, he's even using the GI Bill to go to college, so fuck him. But even prisoners get time off for good behavior. At what point does Botta get to say he's regular Army so he can get the benefits that come from that? At what point do we as a nation get to say to our leaders that this man has done more than any of them to "defend" the country?

So when Karl Rove inserts his putrescent pudgy puss into any discussion about whether or not the timing on troop withdrawal is politically expedient, someone from the military ought to walk in the Oval Office and beat him down like the rabid cur he is.

(Tip o' the rude hat to reader Mike for the Sgt. Pepper story.)