The Pentagon has cut off access for soldiers to social networking websites, claiming it was taking up too much bandwidth. I railed against this decision on my show yesterday, and then received this e-mail from a listener named Mary:
I was rather put off by your comments regarding the Department of Defense limiting/eliminating soldiers’ time on sites such as MySpace or Facebook. I agree that soldiers have a very dangerous job in extremely challenging conditions, but that should not be correlated with an implied right to use their employer’s machines and bandwidth to update their personal sites. I don’t believe the government’s action should be construed as lack of support for troops. This is no different than any corporation enforcing usage policies regarding corporate equipment.
I couldn’t disagree more. Our men and women in uniform have different conditions than you and I do. We can go home at night and use our home computers to do whatever we want. The soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan have no “home” to go back to at night. They are on a military base or property at all times, have no private room to plug in and play, and I have no problem giving them a lot of slack when it comes to their down time.
This may be a generational thing. For the 18-25 year-olds who are fighting this war, those website are the primary method of communication with friends and family. Cutting off their access to it is denying them the ability to see photos of babies born while they’ve been away so long, news of their kids doing well in school or scoring a goal at a soccer game, seeing the faces of their spouse or girl/boyfriend, or just keeping in touch with friends back home.
The bandwidth costs money, but so what? Give the troops the things they need, so that after a day in hell, they have something to look forward to. There’s enough money for corrupt Iraqi politicians, overpaying private US contractors, and flying Congressmen and Senators to Baghdad so they can buy a rug at a local market. If we can do that, surely we can give our military personnel an unfettered internet connection. I’d bet that very few taxpayers would object.
This policy should be reversed immediately.