Military Morale Sacrificed as Pawn in Shutdown Political Game

As everyone is now painfully aware, the cabal of braying jackasses in Washington have taken it upon themselves to once again be a government that refuses to govern. Friday at midnight, the federal government shut down, lacking funding because Congress was more interested in sowing division and stoking resentment.

In a sense, the response is “who cares.” Given the government’s replete and perpetual incompetence no matter who is running it, having it operate less might be a good thing.

But this time, in contrast with previous shutdowns, the imbeciles scripting this purpose-built debacle took special care to put the screws to active duty servicemembers. While retirees will still get their pensions and veterans drawing GI Bill benefits will still get their tuition and housing payments, the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines patrolling the frontier and keeping our nation safe will get nothing if the government doesn’t unass itself by February 1st.

It’s a deeply cynical move carrying the fingerprints of both parties along with a legion of minions and lobbyists who’d rather wage a political food fight than find a shared solution.

Looking for an example illustrating the diabolical cynicism of both sides? Check out the first few minutes of the clip linked below.

Senate Declines to Pass Last-Minute Appropriations Amendment

This is just pure theatrical rubbish. If McCaskill and her Democrat colleagues actually cared about ensuring troops would be paid and could rest securely in that knowledge, she’d have brought this Amendment forward much earlier and mounted a campaign to push it through. We’d have heard about it through a vibrant debate in the mainstream media in the days and weeks leading up to Friday. McCaskill waited until the eleventh hour because she wanted the measure to be shot down, so she could stand seemingly aghast at the monstrosity of her Republican opponents, painting them as villains.

Then again, if McConnell and his Republican colleagues really cared a whit about doing the right thing, no Amendment would have been necessary. Servicemember pay would have been taken off the shutdown table. Failing that, McConnell could have at least permitted debate on the Amendment and inserted a pay provision into legislation, as was done in 2013. McConnell pretty much admits that he’s holding on to servicemember pay as debate leverage. So servicemembers will spend the next 10 days worrying about how they will feed their families so he can have the leverage generated by accusing his opponents of protecting illegal immigration at expense of troop pay.

Looking for another example? Check out this tweet from White House Spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders:

This is a load of steaming horseshit. The shutdown of AFN is completely unnecessary. AFN is a part of the Defense Media Activity (DMA), which has an annual budget of around $200M — less than half of which funds the network’s operations. This equates to a daily operating cost of just over $200k, which is an unrecognizably tiny speck of dust atop the mountainous federal budget. There was no need for AFN to shut down … President Trump could have funded it via executive order or written a personal check to keep it going. This would have allowed deployed servicemembers access to that small but precious connection to home that, for some, makes a huge difference.

Even barring a special funding carve-out, AFN could have continued operating if DMA leadership had simply reorganized operations to leverage active duty servicemembers who are still required to show for duty rather than civil servants who were furloughed at midnight on Friday. According to one source who spoke to me about DMA operations, this would have been the desired plan. Taking the network off the air is the last resort for DMA.

This means AFN shut down because someone above DMA level ordered it to be so, and that’s because every politico involved wants this to hurt. They want the ability to tweet out examples of the pain being caused by the other side.

Never mind the immorality of letting that pain happen in the first place … they’re actually motivated to make servicemembers suffer because they all believe it will help them achieve unrelated political objectives. Machiavelli might be proud. George Washington would be nauseated.

Even the incorruptible James Mattis is getting dirty on this one. His fan club have held up his memo to the troops — shared below — as an example of his sterling leadership. They find his tone reassuring.

I have a different view. If ever there was a hill for Mattis to die on, this is it. He needs to be arguing publicly about the devastating impact on morale this is having. Beyond the relative triviality of AFN shutting down, servicemembers and families will suffer severe degradations of support Monday morning when civilians do not report to work on military posts across the world. Child care centers won’t open. On-base medical care will be short-staffed. Off-base medical care will not be reimbursed. Finance offices will not be able to cope with demand. IDs, passport applications, administrative and logistical services tied to in-stride PCS moves impacting tens of thousands of people … all will be disrupted. The Secretary of Defense is the one man powerful and articulate enough to rally enough public pressure to break this levy, and instead he’s playing the loyalist.

This memo is theater. It’s not for troops, but for potential adversaries. He wants them to know we’re not lowering our guard. Got it. But this doesn’t do jack all for the poor bastards caught in the budgetary crossfire … so while necessary, this piece of paper is not sufficient.

“Steady as she goes.” As we all ride right over the cliff of insane political clownery into a world where you can be ordered to die without even getting a fucking paycheck. Meanwhile, no one of any consequence is doing anything close to enough to protect the interests of the men and women who do our fighting for us. Not the President. Not Congress. Not the lapdog service chiefs who sit silent while people they are responsible to lead are betrayed by those they fight to protect. Not even Mattis, issuing memos like a “Maddog” who won’t even bark, much less bite. What is the mainstream media doing? Describing the water while we all drown. What they should be doing is documenting this disaster and using the evidence to hold our government accountable.

This is what dead wrong looks like. It’s a shameful moment for all. It diminishes us, and we diminish ourselves. We don’t deserve our volunteer military. However, we do deserve what will befall us if we continue taking them for granted.

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