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Army grunts start to notice that boot on their neck

Over the years, President Bush has painted himself as a red, white and blue, star-spangled friend of the military. If there was one thing* that Bush learned how to do in the Texas Air National Guard, it was how to snap off a sharp salute. But despite this carefully groomed public image, Bush's actual military record** has come under question, particularly when things like, oh, actual attendance are factored in.In similar fashion, Bush's military kinship is increasingly being questioned by the uniformed grunts who get America's dirty jobs done. Sure, they cheered during the fly-in "Mission Accomplished" photo-op on the USS Lincoln a few months back. But as we now know, Bush's victory declaration was a wee bit premature, and as deployment times for troops grow longer and increasingly dangerous, many military personnel are starting to wonder what kind of pal the President actually is.

The administration's cuts in veterans' benefits, right at the time the country was sending guys to Iraq, didn't go over too well, but now the criticism has heated up. Take, for instance, a June 30 Army Times editorial which points out that the Bush White House "griped that various pay-and-benefits incentives added to the 2004 defense budget by Congress are wasteful and unnecessary -- including a modest proposal to double the $6,000 gratuity paid to families of troops who die on active duty. This comes at a time when Americans continue to die in Iraq at a rate of about one a day." These are your Bush tax-cut dollars, Supporting Our Troops.

"Similarly," the editorial continues, "the administration announced that on Oct. 1 it wants to roll back recent modest increases in monthly imminent-danger pay (from $225 to $150) and family-separation allowance (from $250 to $100) for troops getting shot at in combat zones. . .The chintz even extends to basic pay. While Bush's proposed 2004 defense budget would continue higher targeted raises for some (upper) ranks, he also proposed capping raises for (enlisted personnel) at 2 percent, well below the average raise of 4.1 percent." Well, they did promise to run the country like a business. Who knew they meant Enron?

So what will the President do about this? Rumor has it that, in an effort to appease the rank and file soldier, a more "enjoyable" country will be found for the next invasion and occupation. His first choice was said to have been Hawaii, until the CIA reminded the President that "we already own that one, sir." Second choice was reportedly Grenada because, based on "darn good intelligence," their name sounds like it could be a weapon of mass destruction.

* actual inventory pending

** intelligence reports show no Viet Cong crossed the Rio Grande under Bush's watch

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