Wikinews:Examples/Soldiers sue U.S. government over 'stop-loss' policy
Tuesday, December 7, 2004
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Eight United States soldiers have filed suit against United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to stop the Army from extending their tours of duty in Iraq. The soldiers claim that the Army's stop-loss policy extends their time of active duty beyond their contracted terms of service.
The eight soldiers, seven of whom filed anonymously, are represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). According to CCR's website, all eight are in Iraq or bound for it. "Five [are] stationed in Iraq, two [are] in Kuwait on their way to Iraq, and one [is] home on leave from Iraq about to be shipped back."
The U.S. Congress approved the authority for what became known as stop-loss orders after the Vietnam War, responding to military claims that the effectiveness of units had been "negatively impacted" by the loss of experienced combat veterans during the war . What it means is that soldiers will have to remain on duty even after their enlistment time runs out. It affects soldiers who are currently deployed, as well as those scheduled to be deployed in the coming months. The policy itself has no time limit, and is reviewed on "a weekly basis" .
The Pentagon claims stop-loss is a normal wartime procedure and a part of the terms of enlistment. Stop-loss orders were first issued during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and have been widely issued since September 11, 2001 . Stop-loss orders are used to overcome active-duty personnel shortages, typically drawing personnel trained in understaffed fields first.
Critics contend that the stop-loss policy amounts to a "back-door draft" which forces personnel to stay beyond their retirement date, a claim the Army strongly rejects. The stop-loss policy has also been criticized by the families of troops affected for causing hardship and inconvenience .
"What this boils down to in my opinion is a question of fairness. I served five months past my one-year obligation and I feel that it's time to let me go back to my wife," said Arkansas National Guardsman David Qualls, the only named plaintiff in the suit .
Army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Pamela Hart told the New York Times, "The bottom line of this is unit cohesion. This way, the units deploy together, train together, fight together and come home together" .
This is not the first legal challenge to the stop-loss order. On August 13, 2004 a United States Army soldier who had been prevented from leaving at the end of his enlistment contract sued to be allowed discharge. No legal challenges to the stop-loss policy have yet been resolved.
- Full text of the lawsuit (in PDF format)
- w:BBC. "US troops sue over tours in Iraq" — , December 7, 2004
- Reuters. "U.S. Soldiers Fight Iraq Enlistment Extensions" — , December 6, 2004
- Lee Hockstader. "Army Stops Many Soldiers From Quitting" — , 29 December, 2003
- Center for Constitutional Rights
- Chicago Tribune. ""Stop Loss" Continues" — , September 27, 2004
- Rod Powers. "Two Year Enlistment Program" — , August 13, 2003
- George W. Bush. "President Orders Ready Reserves of Armed Forces to Active Duty" — , September 14, 2001