At a wedding I recently attended, I met a couple who said that they owned a business involved in “military lending.” Not knowing what that was, I inquired further and found out what they actually meant was that they engaged in predatory payday lending that focuses on military families.
This disgusted me. Not only is payday lending a major problem that has been found by the Department of Defense to adversely impact military readiness, but it preys on people who we ask to sacrifice heavily to keep our country safe. American soldiers are already not paid well for their service – for example, the average army military police sergeant who has served for four years was paid less than $27,000 in salary in 2007, and even with the value of all benefits included was compensated only a little over $47,000 for putting his or her life at risk. And for the past seven-and-a-half years, we have asked many of our soldiers to spend months at a time away in a war zone far from their families, and then provided inadequate mental health services after they return home from battle. The last thing our troops and their families need is payday lenders targeting them.
I was reminded of the couple at the wedding and the sacrifice our troops make when President Obama announced this evening the end of combat operations in Iraq. Unfortunately, there is sometimes a time and place for war. Iraq, however, was not it. That is why I am grateful for President Obama’s announcement, which fulfills his campaign promise to end military operations in Iraq by this month. While just under 50,000 U.S. personnel remains in Iraq to ensure the most stable transition possible, that is less than 1/3 the total that were there when President Obama took office and those personnel will come home by the end of next year.
Our soldiers should be thanked for the job they did in Iraq over the past seven and a half years. They were asked to fight a war and bring stability to an inhospitable country where there was constant fear of bombings and attacks by insurgents, and they did their jobs admirably. We owe our troops immense gratitude and should support efforts to provide our troops and veterans with the level of compensation and support they deserve for putting their lives on the line.
A key way to show such gratitude and support is to only send our soldiers into battle when the mission is necessary and clear. The Iraq War did not meet those criteria, as then U.S. Senate candidate Obama consistently proclaimed beginning in October 2002. The weapons of mass destruction that many claimed were in Iraq were not there, and the evidence upon which such claims were made was largely distorted or outright fabricated. Saddam Hussein’s regime, portrayed by the war’s architects as a terrifying menace, was shown to be little more than a paper tiger.
But the cost to our country was enormous, including:
4,420 American troops killed
31,926 American troops wounded
More than $750 billion spent
Diversion from capturing or killing the 9/11 mastermind, Osama Bin Laden
With seven-and-a-half years of combat operations finally completed, it is time, as the President eloquently explained this evening, to focus our resources towards home and redouble our efforts to fix our economy and put Americans back to work.
Do you support the ending of combat operations in Iraq? If so, thank our troops here, and our President for keeping his promise by sending a message to the White House here. As always, you can also write a letter to the editor on this issue by clicking here.