One courageous soldier, holding vigil in Bellingham, Washington (more coverage here), is discovering that most of the people he talks to don't even know what "stop loss" is, or believe that it only refers to a certain kind of stock trade. In fact the Bush administration's indefensible and immoral use of the military's stop loss policy is a despicable mistreatment of the volunteers who comprise our armed services.
The stop loss policy allows the military to retain soldiers past the time of their contract in times of national emergency. In a real national emergency that makes sense. The only national emergency we have now is one of Bush's own creation, and it is not going to be addressed - indeed it is only being exacerbated - by forcing our volunteer soldiers to remain in the line of fire past the time of their contract. The only emergency being addressed is the political emergency of Bush vainly attempting to save face while denying the reality that his "liberation" of Iraq has been a colossal failure.
Soldiers are being called back to third and even fourth tours of duty, and kept past the time stipulated on their contracts for one simple reason. There aren't enough volunteers to support this boondoggle, and no one other than Charlie Rangel has the gumption to suggest an honest draft to supply the fresh troops that would be necessary to support keeping the former level of troops in the Middle East, much less a surge. Meanwhile Ahmadinejad laughs while we rattle our sabres, because he knows our military is now stretched too thin to provide any real threat against Iran.
When news of the stop loss program first broke, I was surprised by the lack of outrage and coverage of it. Still, outside of the military, it is a little known necessity for fueling this insane war. There are signs that it is gaining traction as an issue, though, as it erodes support for the war in the very camps where support has traditionally been strongest. In fact it has generated such a spate of lawsuits and backlash in the ranks that Defense Secretary Robert Gates is ordering that plans be made to minimize its use.
The surge and the widespread objection to it has been well reported. Some have suggested that if we really want to give the military option a chance to succeed we would need a far greater surge than the President has ordered. The elephant in the room is that we CANNOT supply such a huge surge without a real draft, and that we can only support the current levels, surge or no surge, by mistreating the very soldiers we supposedly honor.
We must demand that President Bush support our troops by bringing them home in an orderly fashion - and soon.