Senate Democrats

President Bush in Ohio

One day after the deadliest day in Baghdad since the beginning of the new security initiative, President Bush today is delivering remarks on the global war on terror at Tippecanoe High School in Tipp City, Ohio. While the President likes to call Iraq “the central front in the war on terror,” the discouraging truth is that the President’s flawed policies in Iraq have made America less secure. Ohio service men and women are bearing the brunt of Bush’s “stay the course” strategy, and Ohio’s communities are paying for Bush’s inflexible commitment to an Iraqi civil war. The President should drop his threat to veto a bill that will provide the troops the funding they need and the change of course they deserve.

Ohio communities suffer from Bush’s Iraq policy. A proposed city resolution in Tallmadge, Ohio notes that only California, Pennsylvania, and Texas have lost more residents than Ohio. The resolution states: “The costs of war expressed in dollars and cents do not measure the grief or sorrow experienced by families, friends, and the communities of these brave and honorable young men; nor do they measure the loss of future potential of these young individuals to our city, our state and our nation.” (Akron Beacon Journal, 4/18/07)

Akron paper asks: “How much more American blood must be shed waiting for Iraqis?” “U.S. Army soldiers are familiar with Pentagon orders extending their tours of duty in Iraq. On at least eight occasions, the Defense Department has pointed to security needs and informed particular units that they would be staying beyond the standard 12 months. On Wednesday, Robert Gates announced that an extended tour of 15 months would be the rule for almost all Army troops…No wonder the Army has lowered its standards for enlistment, allowing, for instance, late thirty-somethings and early forty-somethings to enter. The Army has tapped the Navy and Air Force for additional manpower. The Pentagon estimate was that 235 armored humvees would be needed. Today, there are 18,000, and the challenge of protecting troops remains formidable. Many soldiers have received truncated training to speed their arrival in Iraq…The hard question, thus, emerges with the surge and the tour extensions: How much more American blood must be shed waiting for Iraqis?” (Editorial, Akron Beacon Journal, 4/13/07)

Cleveland paper condemns President Bush’s refusal to provide troops with armor, weapons, and rest. “On Monday, the Ohio National Guard’s 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, based in Columbus, with units in Akron and Cleveland, was told to prepare for deployment to Iraq. Barely two years ago, the brigade’s 3,600 citizen-soldiers returned from service in Kosovo with the United Nations peacekeeping mission there. Some elements of the 37th have already served in Iraq, and now the entire brigade could be there by early next year.’… Doing more with less is a good idea in some walks of life and a mantra among many of the president’s fellow MBAs. But it is no way to treat the men and women who defend this country. They need the right armor and weapons, the right numbers of comrades and the right amount of rest to do the dangerous and priceless work we ask of them.” (Editorial, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 4/12/07)

Ohio Gunner killed after volunteering to work in the face of manpower shortages. “The knock on the door no military parent or spouse wants to hear came at the home of Marion native Debbie Halstead last December. ‘Please don’t tell me what I know you’re here to tell me,’ she remembers saying to the uniformed officers who were at her door. Halstead was told her son, Sgt. Nicholas Ray Gibbs, 25, was shot and killed by enemy fire in Ar Ramadi while on tower watch. ‘Part of me died along with him,’ said the 1971 Ridgedale High School graduate. ‘I will never be the same. It’s changed my whole life. He was my best friend.’ Gibbs, a gunner with the 1-137th Armored Regiment with the First Armored Division, was not scheduled to be on guard watch that night but knew they were short of manpower, so he volunteered, his mother was told. ‘He had only been getting 3-4 hours of sleep a night,’ she said. ‘It was not his night to be in the tower. He was involved in a small gun fire battle and stood too soon.'” (Marion (OH) Star, 4/12/07)

Ohio’s Governor is concerned the National Guard is being sent back to Iraq without the right equipment. “Gov. Ted Strickland yesterday criticized the White House for notifying Ohio National Guard units they may be called back to Iraq sooner than expected and expressed concern they could be walking into a war zone without proper equipment. ‘These families had a right to expect that there would not be a deployment until 2009, and now we know some will be called up as early as the end of this year,’ the Democratic governor said. ‘I think our National Guard men and women who volunteer for this kind of service did so under widely accepted expectations and practices, and now those timetables are being rather dramatically changed.’… Mr. Strickland sent a letter to President Bush yesterday, writing that he believed it would be a ‘breach of faith’ to advance the time for redeployment.” (Toledo Blade, 4/11/07)

Ohio’s small businesses suffer from added deployments to Iraq. “More than 500,000 military reservists have been called to active duty in the past five years, many of them small-business owners or key employees at small companies. During this time, however, the Small Business Administration made just 271 loans to businesses that need help when an essential worker leaves for military service… Meanwhile, more frequent and longer activations of reservists are straining employers’ support for the National Guard, says Theodore Daywalt, CEO of VetJobs, an Internet job board. ‘You can’t run a company with your employees taken out from underneath you all the time,’ he says.” (Columbus Business First, 4/9/07)

Columbus Army Captain: “I love the Army, but I hate this war.” “In the field, manpower shortages are everywhere. Captain David Eastburn’s artillery company–part of the 2nd Infantry Division–arrived for its second tour in Iraq with only 72% of its personnel slots filled. ‘It just puts extra pressure on us,’ Eastburn, 30, says of his troops during a patrol in southeastern Baghdad. ‘They have to work longer, harder to make up for the lack of personnel.’ After training to fire the artillery’s big guns at foes 15 miles away, his unit is pulling infantry duty. ‘I love the Army,’ the 12-year veteran, a native of Columbus, Ohio, says, ‘but I hate this war.'” (TIME, 4/5/07)

The Bush escalation plan is sending more Ohioans into Iraq. “A Columbus-based National Guard brigade, which wasn’t scheduled to deploy to Iraq until 2009, might ship out next year. The 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team is one of four brigades that the Department of Defense said might be sent to Iraq at least a year before it had planned… About 3,600 troops make up the 37th Infantry Brigade. About 2,400 are in Ohio-based units, and the rest are in Michigan.” (Columbus Dispatch, 2/23/07)