Pentagon Extends Tours of Duty to 15 Months
On Wednesday the Pentagon announced that it would be extending tours of duty for soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan from 12 months to 15 months. Longer tours of duty will reduce demand for more manpower, keep experienced personnel in the field longer, and reduce the need to use national guard and reserve forces, all of which should lead to higher levels of effectiveness. Although the reaction among the troops, who have been prepared for this move for some time, has been relatively positive, concerns have been raised that this will put more stress on families and businesses.
Immediate objections were raised by prominent Democrats, dismayed to see another ratcheting up of the war effort in the face of their efforts to promote a withdrawal from Iraq. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi commented, ''Extending the tours of all active-duty Army personnel is an unacceptable price for our troops and their families to pay." The new deployment plan addresses this by guaranteeing soldiers a year at home before they are redeployed and providing a $1000 a month bonus for any soldier deployed longer than 12 months. During the Vietnam War, tours of duty were a minimum of 18 months for soldiers who were draftees rather than volunteers. A three month increase in the length of tours of duty effectively provides the military with more than 100,000 additional deployable troops.
Al Qaeda Trainee Arrested in Ohio
On Thursday a 43 year old Ohio man was indicted on charges of supporting and assisting terrorists in planning attacks in the United States and Germany. Christopher Paul is a US citizen who allegedly travelled to Afghanistan and Pakistan to train with al Qaeda and was in contact with al Qaeda organizers and involved in training potential terrorists in various parts of the world during an 18 year career in terrorism beginning in the 1990s during which he was sometimes also known as Abdul Malek. Paul was the former roomate of confessed terrorist Lyman Faris who was involved in a plot to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge in 2003. Paul was found in possession of manuals on explosives and equipment used to forge documents so that potential terrorists could enter the United States, and most curiously a faxed list of the names and phone numbers of "key al-Qaeda leaders." Paul's indictment is on three counts related to plans to make attacks on tourist destinations in the United States and Europe.
Everybody Hates Mike Nifong
It's been overshadowed by Don Imus' comments on the Rutgers womens basketball team, but at the same time an even more dramatic story involving sports and with serious racial overtones is playing out in North Carolina. In the last few days we've seen the intense backlash resulting from the dropping of charges against three Duke Lacrosse players who were falsely accused of rape. Anger over the incident where an unreliable witness was able to persuade a politically opportunistic prosecutor to pursue a meritless case has reached a fever pitch, with public ire directed at District Attorney Mike Nifong. Nifong was running for reelection when the rape accusation was made, and rode the media attention which it generated and the racial outrage over three white boys supposedly raping an exotic dancer of color to an election victory. The only catch was that no rape ever occured and the case was transparently meritless and would never have been pursued had it not benefitted Nifong's election campaign to have a high-profile, racially charged case in the news.
The case dragged three innocent students names through the mud for a year. Now the chickens have come home to roost. North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper stepped in to bring the case to a halt, calling Nifong a "rogue prosecutor". Now the media and legal attention are focused on Nifong's abuse of power. Nifong has publicly apologized and made numerous excuses, but the public is calling for his resignation and he faces a disbarrment hearing today and likely civil suits over his role in the case. Considerable anger is also being directed at campus groups and a group of 81 professors at Duke who supported the public vilification of the accused atheletes before the facts of the case were fully known. The final nail in Nifong's coffin is expected to be hammered in this Sunday when CBS' 60 Minutes looks at the scandal.