The Hollow Military

Yesterday's Tampa Tribune brought more news of tragedy from the disaster in Iraq:

Andrea Pringle had been busy planning a party. Her 22-year-old son, Antwan Walker, was coming home to celebrate his birthday after serving a year in Iraq.

"Coming home - that was all he could talk about," Pringle said.

On Thursday, Pringle got a call from her brother. He said there was a man at her house who needed to talk to her. In that moment, she knew.

Pringle said an Army representative told her that her son, an Army sergeant, had been killed the previous day by a bomb blast in Ramadi.

Walker called his family from Iraq often but didn't want to talk about war. Instead, he talked about coming home to start a career in real estate. He constantly reminded his mother to make sure his beloved Chevrolet Tahoe would be ready to drive when he returned. But mostly, Walker talked about his three children, who he had raised alone after his divorce. Walker's parents and aunts helped while Walker was overseas.

"He was such a good dad," Pringle said. "All he wanted to do was make a good life for his kids."

Pringle said telling Walker's children about their father's death has been the most difficult part of the past few days. She said Walker's 2-year-old twins, Antwan Jr., and Antwannaja, are too young to understand, but 4-year-old Antwanette knows her dad isn't coming home.

This experience, coupled with the lack of any convincing strategy for success in Iraq coming out the Pentagon, is pushing the U.S. towards what DKos and others note is the military's worst nightmare: the "hollow army," a military that is extensively deployed but losing the personnel to carry out the imperial dreams of the leaders.

As of December 2004, over 5,000 enlistees had already deserted. And yesterday's Los Angeles Times points to a growing problem in the officer corp:

With thousands of soldiers currently on their second combat deployment in Iraq or Afghanistan and some preparing for their third this fall, evidence is mounting that an exodus of young Army officers may be looming on the horizon [...]


Last year, Army lieutenants and captains left the service at an annual rate of 8.7% - the highest since 2001. Pentagon officials say they expect the attrition rate to improve slightly this year. Yet interviews with several dozen military officers revealed an undercurrent of discontent within the Army's young officer corps that the Pentagon's statistics do not yet capture.

As we've noted often before, this is an especially big issue in the South, where over 40% of our country's troops hail from, and where over 50% are based.

As Bob Herbert asks in today's New York Times, "How does Donald Rumsfeld survive as defense secretary?" And deeper than that, when will it dawn on the Washington establishment that they are deep into a crisis of their own making?