Saturday, November 24, 2007

When all else fails, change the talking points!

From the department of moving goalposts:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 24 — With American military successes outpacing political gains in Iraq, the Bush administration has lowered its expectation of quickly achieving major steps toward unifying the country, including passage of a long-stymied plan to share oil revenues and holding regional elections.

Instead, administration officials say they are focusing their immediate efforts on several more limited but achievable goals in the hope of convincing Iraqis, foreign governments and Americans that progress is being made toward the political breakthroughs that the military campaign of the past 10 months was supposed to promote.
Now, the focus has shifted to smaller, short-term goals - like authorizing a budget for the nation. (But the Iraqis are already in the process of doing that anyway.)

And of course, the Bush maladministration is all hot and bothered to get the U.N. mandate that authorizes the presence of the American occupiers renewed. (They do this routinely because it's a puppet government that would not exist for more than thirty days if the Americans weren't propping them up.)

And de-de-baathification, so members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party can reenter government service. (That's merely pro forma - former Baathists have been rehired on the q.t. for some time, because they are the ones who actually know how to, you know, do the jobs.)

[Keep reading...I'm not even warmed up yet...]

The administration insists that they have not given up on their larger goals, averring that they will be met *eventually.* But damnit, they have to figure out a way to make lemonade, and do it pronto.

They sold the AEI's Surge™ scheme by packaging it as a necessity, needed to give the political process "breathing space" to achieve reconciliation. Tours were extended, leaving soldiers in combat for 15 months with only 12 months dwell-time. They sacrificed American lives like they meant nothing. And the Iraqi parliament went on vacation the entire month of August.
Tony "Karma's a Bitch" Snow excused the fecklessness of the Iraqi politicians with a blasé "It's 130 degrees in Baghdad in August," conveniently forgetting that his war-criminal boss sent American fighting forces into that hellhole, and they didn't even get the benefit of operating in an air conditioned Green Zone when it was 130 degrees.

But reconciliation didn't happen

In fact, Maliki and Hashemi snipe at one another like two bleached-blond teenage girls vying for head cheerleader in a one-high-school Texas football town.

Instead of sucking it up and admitting that things didn't work as planned, they are insisting that modest steps such as these - if taken soon - could, maybe, perhaps, if they cross their fingers and say the right magic words in just the right order and cadence, perhaps while hopping on one foot and chanting "I believe" - set the stage for "more progress." You know - like the Surge™ set the stage for the arming of the Sunni thugs who in the past were the insurgents who were killing Americans. (Well, give 'em guns and money and you can rent some temporary loyalty...)

But not to fear! aWol is "applying pressure" on the Iraqi government to produce some sort of political progress. “If we can show progress outside of the security sector alone, that will go a long way to demonstrate that we are in fact on a sustainable path to stability in Iraq,” said one senior official, speaking on condition of anonymity. On Saturday, [U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan] Crocker said the military had created opportunities for progress, and added that there were "indications" that Iraqis wanted to move forward on the local and national levels. But he quickly dialed back the expectations and cautioned against expecting quick results on the core issues.

“We are seeing encouraging signs of movement. This is going to be a long, hard slog,” he said, apparently channeling Rumsfeld, "It is going to be one thing at a time, maybe two things at a time, we hope with increasing momentum,” he said. “It is a long-term process.”

Although violence has ticked downward in recent months, the administration has not touted this development, because if they did, scrutiny would surely follow, and that they certainly don't want.

Furthermore, there are clear signs that any influence Americans have over Iraqi politicians is dwindling. In the absence of religious and ethnic reconciliation, the expectation has been dialed back to "accommodation." An American official, again speaking on condition of anonymity, said “We can’t pass their legislation. We can’t make them like each other. We can’t even make them talk to each other."

Crocker at least realizes that “The political stuff does not lend itself to sending out a couple of battalions to help the Iraqi’s pass legislation.” Still, he insisted that there are some positive signs that Iraqis are interested in making their own headway. For example, he pointed to Provincial governors, who are pressing for a law to define their powers. “We are past the point where it is an American agenda,” the ambassador said. “It is what needs to be done in Iraqi terms.” (In plain English - this is how warlords are made.)

Officials in both Baghdad and Washington are both realistic about the fact that military gains are not enough to overcome the deep divides that separate Iraqi factions. But in both capitals there are leaders who still engage in magical thinking. “We need a grand bargain among all the groups,” said a member of the Iraqi government - speaking - you guessed it - anonymously.

The most disturbing part of the whole thing is the repeated references to "long hard slogs" and the allusions to extended, multi-year commitments of American forces, like it's no big deal. But it is a big deal. Maybe not to these worthless, faithless and feckless jackals who have nothing to lose. But to the rest of us, it sure as hell is.

And if you agree, vote Democratic. Give the congress a Democratic president, and just as importantly the votes to end the obstruction of the Republican wingnuts who have no qualms about obstructing progress at the expense of American lives.

George aWol Bush has made the biggest mess the world has ever seen, and intends to keep the fucking up going apace and leave a mess so dire that the next president won't be able to extract us from.

Don't let him get away with it. Congress holds the pursestrings. Not one dime without strings attached. Not one dime.

There's more: "When all else fails, change the talking points!" >>

The Shafting Of Our Patriots In Military Service - Part IV

(Time for me to put my money where my mouth is, dive in with me, the water is fine. Cross posted from BFD Blog!)

As I discussed in my last postilng I had reached a point of outrage over the fact that the Army Medical Corps is systematically mis-diagnosing PTSD war casualties as having a Personality Disorder, which then requires that these solders be given Chapter 5-13 discharges, which in turn disqualifies them from receiving any military medical or retirement benefits and which places them outside of the umbrella of Veterans Administration services.

Well it is time to put my money where my mouth is. It gives me no great pleasure in the fact that this has to be done, but it does give me some pleasure in the fact that I have figured out a way that I, and all of you can do something to help re mediate the dire situation faced by our disabled patriots. I have launched a new web site and an advocacy campaign for active duty military personnel and veterans who are PTSD casualties.

Please visit my new web site FIGHT-PTSD.ORG.

Please pass this link along to family, friends, fellow bloggers, colleagues and acquaintances. Please join me in my Army Campaign which has two immediate goals:

1. To lobby Congress to pass two bills which would temporarily freeze all Chapter 5-13 discharges.

2. Through a grass roots campaign, pressure the Surgeon General of the Army and the Army as an institution to cease the misdiagnosing and railroading of PTSD casualties.

There's more: "The Shafting Of Our Patriots In Military Service - Part IV" >>

Friday, November 23, 2007

Well! Ain't THIS a "Corker"?

Freshman Senator Bob Corker (R - Tennessee) stunned more than a few folks with his relatively honest assessment of aWol's acumen re: Iraq...

"I was in the White House a number of times to talk about the issue, and I may rankle some in the room saying this, but I was very underwhelmed with what discussions took place at the White House," Corker said.
Bob - if you continue down this path, we are going to have to show you the secret handshake known only to members of the "Reality Based Community."

[That's all, folks...]

There's more: "Well! Ain't THIS a "Corker"?" >>

Creating the War OF Terror

Larisa at-Largely reports:

Well, apparently (and again) we find out that the majority of the "terrorists" we are fighting "over there" are actually a our own allies, or as the terrorists call themselves, Our Allies in Iraq (OAI):

"Saudi Arabia and Libya, both considered allies by the United States in its fight against terrorism, were the source of about 60 percent of the foreign fighters who came to Iraq in the past year to serve as suicide bombers or to facilitate other attacks, according to senior American military officials.

The data come largely from a trove of documents and computers discovered in September, when American forces raided a tent camp in the desert near Sinjar, close to the Syrian border. The raid's target was an insurgent cell believed to be responsible for smuggling the vast majority of foreign fighters into Iraq.
The most significant discovery was a collection of biographical sketches that listed hometowns and other details for more than 700 fighters brought into Iraq since August 2006."

Ah, the House of Saud, with an ally such as this, who needs any enemies? They are, after all, our number one arms client, and so what if they dabble in murdering Americans, when multi-billion dollar contracts are on the table (where apparently impeachment [and Iraq occupation defunding] is not).

(italicized addition mine)

You've gotta feel for George Bush. Not enough people are buying his WOT fantasy, so as with any other BS product, he simply creates the problem to help him sell his solution.

And lives? Big deal. Lot's more where they came from...

Thanks a lot, George.

This is George Walker Bush, and this is how he would like you to remember him:

This is the real legacy of George Walker Bush (portraits by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders):

Eddie Ryan

Dawn Halfacker

Dusty Hill

Crystal Davis

Jake Schick

Jay Wilkerson

John Jones

Jon Bartlett

Mike Jernigan

Dexter Pitts

Terrel Dawes

Bryan Anderson

Oyoanna Allende

Ryan, Halfacker, Hill, Davis, Schick, Wilkerson, Jones, Bartlett, Jernigan, Pitts, Dawes, Anderson and Allende are real patriots, and true American heroes. How many more heroes like these have to suffer for the folly of George Walker Bush and his legacy?

Happy Thanksgiving, Nancy.

There's more: "Creating the War OF Terror" >>

Iraq semi-withdrawal bill ‘has more holes than Swiss cheese’

That’s our Democratic Congress! Is this the best it can do?

The Democrats; flagship proposal on Iraq is aimed at bringing most troops home. Yet if enacted, the law would still allow for tens of thousands of U.S. troops to stay deployed for years to come. … For those who want troops out, “you’ve got more holes in here than Swiss cheese,” said Tom Andrews, national director of the war protest group Win Without War and a former congressman from Maine.

Loophole No. 1, of course, is this:
The proposal also sets a goal of ending combat by Dec. 15, 2008.

After that, troops remaining in Iraq would be restricted to three missions: counterterrorism, training Iraqi security forces and protecting U.S. assets, including diplomats.

With all three exceptions, you have the “hot pursuit” issue, and what if it escalates? In the last month or so before the Battle of the Bulge, when more and more of limited U.S. supplies were shifted north to the U.S. First Army, or even to the British 21st Army Group, Gen. Patton would find ways of deliberately expanding extended reconnoiterings and limited counteroffenses into actual battles.

Proof positive that’s what could happen in Iraq?
Maj. Gen. Michael Barbero, deputy chief of staff for operations in Iraq, declined to estimate how many troops might be needed under the Democrats' plan but said it would be hard to accomplish any of those missions without a significant force.

“It’s a combination of all of our resources and capabilities to be able to execute these missions the way that we are,” Barbero said in a recent phone interview from Baghdad.

For example, Barbero said that “several thousand” troops are assigned to specialized anti-terrorism units focused on capturing high profile terrorist targets. But they often rely on the logistics, security and intelligence provided by conventional troops, he said.

“When a brigade is operating in a village, meeting with locals, asking questions, collecting human intelligence on these very same (terrorist) organizations, that intelligence comes back and is merged and fed into this counterterrorism unit,” Barbero said. “So are they doing counterterrorism operations?

“It’s all linked and simultaneous,” he added. “You can’t separate it cleanly like that.”

On the training issue, what if Iraqi soldiers and security units prove as unwilling to take to training over the next 2-3 years as they have the last 2-3? Are Congressional Democrats, PLUS, the next president, should he or she be a Democrat, going to just pound more sand down that rathole?

Oh, and don’t expect attitudes to greatly change after Jan. 20, 2009. Too many Democrats are invested in the Bipartisan Foreign Policy Consensus™.

There's more: "Iraq semi-withdrawal bill ‘has more holes than Swiss cheese’" >>

With friends like these...

When over half of the foreign insurgents in Iraq are imported from Sunni countries that the Bush administration considers allies, there is only one thing to do...Blame Shiite Iran for all your troubles!
In the early morning hours of September 11, American forces surrounded an encampment in the desert near Sinjar, on the Syrian border.

The raid provided a trove of intelligence data, and highlighted just how far off the American intelligence estimates had been. For instance - military intelligence had estimated that 20% of the foreign fighters had come from Syria and Lebanon. The information seized in the Sinjar raid revealed no Lebanese and only 8% were Syrian. Conversely, prior to the Sinjar raid estimates had pegged the number of foreign insurgents from North Africa at around 10%. Information obtained in the raid revealed that over 30% of foreign Sunni jihadis are north Africans.

Of greatest significance was the number of Saudi's (41%) and Libyans (18%). Both Saudi Arabia and Libya are considered to be "allies" in the "GWOT™" and as such, are on the receiving end of American benevolence and aid.

And still - diplomats and military officials treat the Saudis with kid-gloves, taking great pains to absolve the House of Saud and the Saudi government. They draw bright lines of distinction that cast the blame onto charities and "bad imams" and other individuals.

Compare the asskissing of the Saudis to the way Iran - which supplies no combatants - is handled: A branch of the Iranian military is branded a terrorist organization.

A senior American official, speaking on condition of anonymity said he believed that Saudi citizens provide the vast majority of financing for the group calling itself al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. “They don’t want to see the Shias come to dominate in Iraq.”

[Thats all, folks...]

There's more: "With friends like these..." >>

Challenge the Pentagon Claims

The Pentagon is claiming it is about to run out of money, and that it's the Democrat's fault. As noted in a November 21 OOIBC blog entry, Congressman John Murtha has called the Pentagon's Bluff.

Murtha has taken a risk by doing this. He needs the support of his colleagues in Congress. You can help by writing your Representative.

Here's what I wrote:

Your colleague, Rep. John Murtha, has taken a strong stand and needs your support. He has challenged the truthfulness of Pentagon claims that they are soon to run out of money, and that this is putting US troops in danger. The Pentagon is blaming the Democratic Congress.

The Pentagon claims should be challenged. Please contact the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on my behalf and ask them if it is possible to substantiate the Pentagon claims. Please coordinate your CBO request with the office of Rep. John Murtha.

By asking your representative to contact the CBO, and to coordinate with Murtha's Office, you initiate action and create buzz on Capitol Hill. If we're lucky, the CBO will validate Murtha's assertion that the Pentagon is exaggerating it's claims of running out of money.


Leave a voice mail or send a FAX to Rep. John Murtha. It's vital that he knows he has support on this.

(202) 225-2065 (fill his voice mail box over the holiday weekend)
(202) 225-5709 fax

There's more: "Challenge the Pentagon Claims" >>

Thursday, November 22, 2007

So much for the success of the Surge™

When the Resident stood in front of the nation on January 10 and announced that he was going to go ahead and implement another American Enterprise Institute pipe dream the reason he gave for escalating forces was to give the nascent Iraqi government the "breathing space" to achieve political reconciliation.

So much for that grand ideal.

The sniping is incessant, the skirmishes bruising. For months, the verbal warfare between Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite Muslim, and his Sunni vice-president, Tariq al-Hashemi, has been escalating.

Now Iraqi politicians and American diplomats and analysts fear that the very public feuding between two of Iraq's most influential leaders will doom even the minimal hopes that exist for progress on a host of key benchmarks — such as holding provincial elections and equitably sharing oil revenues.

"This is not merely about personalities quarreling over something trivial," said Anthony Cordesman, an expert on the Middle East for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. "It's about control of the state. ... It's about basic interests, factional and sectarian, and survival."

In spite of a decline in violence there has been no hint of political reconciliation, and no progress on any of the benchmarks in anyones assessment; Iraqi, United Nations or United States.

In the absence of political progress, it is feared that violence will escalate once more when the "Surge™" ends and the United States begins to reduce the number of troops in Iraq.

[Keep Reading...]

The widening social chasms in Iraq go far beyond the bickering and sniping between Hashemi and Maliki, but the hostility between the two leaders illustrates clearly the failure of the Surge™ to bring Iraq's troubles to an end, in spite of the reduction in violence.

On Tuesday, Maliki accused Hashimi of abusing his position on Iraq's 3-member presidency council and blocking legislation passed by the Shiite-dominated parliament. (To become law, legislation passed by the parliament must be unanimously approved by the council.)

Maliki also ridiculed Hashemi's Iraqi Sunni political party, calling it "unrepresentative" of the country's minority Sunnis, in spite of the fact that the party is the largest Sunni bloc in the parliament.

Hashemi, a former military officer who never joined the Baath party, has taken his shots at Maliki on a few occasions as well, especially regarding security and human rights issues. He has pushed for amnesty for thousands of Sunnis who have been detained and imprisoned. He has visited overcrowded prisons with television cameras in tow to criticize Maliki and his government over the treatment of detainees, most of whom are Sunni Arabs. Maliki dismissed Hashimi's forays into the prison system as nothing more than political grandstanding.

Hashemi has accused the Maliki government of turning a blind eye to the sectarian violence that has claimed the lives of three of his siblings - and the accusation outrages Maliki.

American officials are frustrated that the Iraqi leaders are not acting to resolve the impasse and Phil Reeker, an official at the U.S. embassy last week urged the two men to put their differences aside. "Leaders have to take advantage of this opportunity to continue serious work in focusing on the most important matters at hand to move the country forward. I think it's very important that the Iraqi people are looking to their leaders to provide them with progress, with security, with services, with jobs, and it is legislative activity that is going to lead to that."

Other Iraqi politicians are frustrated with the situation as well. "It's becoming more than political; it's becoming personal, and that's unfortunate. I blame both of them. I hope they can just get over it, because it's affecting the credibility of the government," said Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish member of parliament. "At this moment, they should be together now that the security situation is better. Iraq needs teamwork."

A GAO report issued last month found that the Iraqi government had failed to realize most of the 18 benchmarks established by the U.S. as signs of progress and reconciliation. Of vital importance - the GAO found that sectarianism within the government undermines the reconciliation effort. No one sees a quick solution.

Anthony Cordesman put the disputes in historical context, and put it bluntly - "There is not going to be reconciliation because of some magic agreement that will make everybody forget past grievances."

Othman, the Kurdish parliamentarian, agreed. "The lack of trust is the main issue," he said. "Maliki is not ready to have Sunnis as part of the decision-making process. There is a distrust there."

From the outset, the Bush administration has failed to consider the historic and ethnic realities of Iraq. That is why the situation is so thoroughly and utterly FUBAR, and was doomed to be from inception. Continuing the American presence only aggravates the situation. As long as American forces occupy the country, it is not going to get any better.

When faced with no good options, the least-bad option is the only intelligent choice. And right now, the least-bad option is to get the hell out of there and let the Iraqis solve their own problems. The wrong done to that country and it's citizens is of aWol's making, but we can no more solve the problems with military force than one can put out a fire with kerosene.

There's more: "So much for the success of the Surge™" >>

MeK Cons Media At Third Attempt

Crossposted from The Newshoggers

Hardline U.S. rightwing blogs are beginning this evening to pick up a story about a petition in Iraq, organised by a hitherto unknown group called either the Independent National Democratic Tribes' Gathering or the Independent National Tribal Organization depending on which report you read, which condemns Iran for fomenting violence in Iraq.

The Washington Post writes:

"The Iranians, in fact, have taken over all of south Iraq," said a senior tribal leader from the south who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared for his life. "Their influence is everywhere."

The unusually organized Iraqi rebuke illustrates the divisions that Iran has provoked among Iraq's majority Shiites. The prime minister and major political blocs are closely tied to Iran, but the petition organizers said many citizens are fiercely opposed to Iranian meddling in Iraqi affairs.

Several sheiks leading the campaign traveled to the capital from the southern province of Diwaniyah and showed The Washington Post and other news organizations an electronic file filled with images of signatures they said endorsed the petition. Their effort is being supported by the People's Mujaheddin Organization of Iran, or Mujaheddin-e Khalq, an Iranian opposition group that is listed by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization but that nonetheless enjoys U.S. military protection in Iraq.

The petition, which the organizers said was signed by 600 sheiks, calls on the United Nations to send a delegation to investigate what it termed crimes committed by Iran and its proxies in southern Iraq.

"The most painful stab in the back of the Shiites in Iraq by the Iranian regime has been its shameful abuse of Shiite religion to achieve its ominous end," the sheiks said a statement. "The only solution and hopeful prospect for Iraq, and in particular the southern provinces, is the eviction of the Iranian regime from our homeland."
Hang on, I'm sure you're thinking, why is the Sheik so unwilling to be named if, presumably, his signature is already on this very public petition? And are so many Iraqis really willing to agree with the MeK, an organisation hated throughout Iraq for being Saddam's bully-boy henchmen?

Wait, there's more.

Reuters adds some more details. They saw "two thick bundles of notes which contained original signatures", not an electronic file, which was shown to them by the sheiks. At least, they say they are sheiks and that there are 600 of them.
The statement said that besides 600 Shi'ite tribal leaders, the petition was signed by a number of lawyers, engineers, doctors and university professors.

The group of sheikhs is the same one that told Reuters last month that Shi'ite Islamist political parties were imposing strict Islamic rules in southern Iraq and using their armed wings to create a state of fear.
And CNN adds even more:
The petition has the support of 14 members of the clergy and 600 sheiks. It also was signed by 25,000 women, the release stated.

"The most painful stab on the back of the Shiites in Iraq by the Iranian regime has been its shameful abuse of Shiite religion to achieve its ominous ends," the petition states.

The petition also is backed by the People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran -- or Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) -- which seeks to overthrow the Islamic regime in Iran.

MEK has been labeled a terrorist group by the United States, Iraq and Iran -- all for different reasons -- but it continues to operate in southern Iraq under the protection of the U.S. military despite Iraqi pressure to leave the country.

The United States considers the group a source of valuable intelligence on Iran.
And yet, of over 50 MeK claims about Iran's nuclear program over the past three years since the group first exposed that program, not one has proven true upon investigation by the IAEA. Maybe not so valuable intelligence after all. As to the "different reasons" for the groups description as being terrorists - the Iraqis labelled them for complicity in Saddam's crimes and are trying to have their protected status revoked, the Iranians accuse them of attacks inside Iran which have killed both soldiers and civilians, while the U.S. State Dept calls them terrorists because they killed US citizens and supported the taking of hostages at the US embassy in Teheran in 1979. All pretty good reasons, you might think, despite such a throwaway dismissal by CNN.

Finally, the Chinese newspaper People's Daily has even more, including more numbers:
"It is widely known that the Iranians have taken over all Iraq's southern provinces," said the Independent National Democratic Tribes' Gathering in a statement obtained by Xinhua on Thursday.

The statement said that more than 300,000 Iraqi Shiite Muslims in the Iraqi southern provinces have signed a petition accusing the neighboring Iran of fomenting violence and chaos in southern the war-torn country.

Among the signatories of the petition of the Shiites in southern Iraq are 14 clergies, 600 Sheikhs, 1250 jurists, 2,200 doctors, engineers, university professors and 25,000 women, the statement added.
That's a lot, isn't it?


It isn't as many as when this story was last hawked around, back in June. Then, according to the MeK's own website, it was 450,000 members of the Iraqi tribes of Diyala who were condemning Iran's presence as part and parcel of expressing "full solidarity with the Mujahideen Khalq (MEK)"


Even that is nothing compared to the attempt before that to hawk the self-same story. Back in June 2006, the MeK's political wing - the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which FOX News expert on Iran Alireza Jafarzadeh used to be spokesman for - announced that:
Solidarity Congress of Iraqi People announced the support of 5.2 million Iraqi's to a declaration condemning Iranian regime's meddling in their country. The declaration also lends support to People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran [The MeK's other alias - C] whose presence in Iraq has acted as a major obstacle to mullahs' fundamentalist ambitions in Iraq. The announcement was made before a huge crowd of Iraqis in Ashraf City on June 17.
Ashraf City, by the by, is the MeK's own name for "Camp Ashraf" - the rather salubrious location, situated conveniently close to iraq's biggest munitions dump - where thousands of MeK members are "guarded" by a handful of US and Bulgarian troops.

Back then, the breakdown of the notable signatories to the petition was even more admirable:
121 political parties and social groups, 700,000 women, 14,000 lawyers and jurists, 19,000 physicians, 35,000 engineers, 320 clerics, 540 professors, 2,000 tribal sheikhs and 300 local officials among 5.2 million signitaries of the declaration.
Maybe it was the claim that fully a third of Iraq's population had signed something supporting such an odious terror group that lead to general disbelief and the story sinking without a trace.

So either the folk supporting the MeK against an alleged infiltration of the Iraqi government from top to bottom are changing their minds - by the millions - or the latest version is just the MeK scaling down their entirely fictitious nonsense to a more believable level.

Were it not for the fact that anti-Iranian rhetoric is currently fashionable, and is being stirred at every opportunity by U.S. neoconservatives both in and out of the White House, this latest story would have sunk without a trace too.

There's more: "MeK Cons Media At Third Attempt" >>

Iraq violence down, but shit spreads

Literally. Violence in Iraq is down; whether due to success of The Surge™ or else due to the success of ethnic cleansing or the scattering of millions of refugees is still an open question.

But, all that rebuilding of the country that Iraq’s oil money was supposed to finance still hasn’t happened. In fact, the situation there continues to get worse, something that neocons and their O’Hanlon fellow travelers of the pre-emptive war hawk world just don’t want to discuss.

One additional problem the Guardian story mentions is that most Iraqi sewer pipes are only shallowly buried, and so are “collateral damage” from IEDs. Another way in which our continuing occupation not only isn’t helping, but is actually part of making a situation worse.

That said, there’s corruption in sewer repair contracts, on both the American/Western and Iraqi sides, as there is in other reconstruction work.

But, the worse could get worse yet. Northern Iraq has already had a cholera outbreak; if it hits densely populated Baghdad, cholera could be devastating.

And, in good news/bad news, Baghdad says Iraqi refugees are starting to return home from Syria. Good news in that it’s a sign of trust and belief in their country’s future. Bad news because it will add even more to the strain of an overburdened, unreconstructed infrastructure. (And, the return is just from Syria, not Jordan.)

There's more: "Iraq violence down, but shit spreads" >>

Insurgents = Saudi's

The NYT, tells us once again, that the main contingent of 'freedom fighters' in Iraq comes from..Wait for it.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia and Libya, both considered allies by the United States in its fight against terrorism, were the source of about 60 percent of the foreign fighters who came to Iraq in the past year to serve as suicide bombers or to facilitate other attacks, according to senior American military officials.

The data come largely from a trove of documents and computers discovered in September, when American forces raided a tent camp in the desert near Sinjar, close to the Syrian border. The raid's target was an insurgent cell believed to be responsible for smuggling the vast majority of foreign fighters into Iraq.

They also go on to point out another obvious fact: The records also underscore how the insurgency in Iraq remains both overwhelmingly Iraqi and Sunni.-How many times does it have to be printed in black and white before BushCo will quit filling our ears with bs?

Your guess is as good as mine. But I do notice that Iran isn't even 'on the map' so to speak..

Crossposted at Leftwing Nutjob

There's more: "Insurgents = Saudi's" >>

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Murtha Calling Pentagon's Bluff

US Representative John Murtha needs our support to sustain his call of the Pentagon's bluff. Bush has rejected Congress's military spending bill and is now "accus[ing] Democrats of failing to support soldiers and their families," according to the Los Angeles Times.

The White House is trotting out Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell, and even a retired Army general, Montgomery C. Meigs, who claims that bomb squads will suffer almost immediately if Congress does not relent.

Murtha says these guys are lying. We need to rally to his side so that he'll keep it up.

According to the LA Times, "Pentagon officials advanced plans to lay off 200,000 civilians because of budget shortfalls, prompting Democratic charges of fear-mongering." Murtha said,

They're scaring people. They're scaring the families of the troops.

Murtha, formerly known as a military hawk, asked reporters at a Capitol Hill news conference:

Because the Pentagon says it, you believe it? You believe what the Pentagon says? All the things that they have told us: 'Mission accomplished,' 'Al Qaeda connection,' 'weapons of mass destruction,' on and on and on. And you believe the Pentagon?

No. We don't believe the Pentagon. It's time to call their bluff. The only way to stop this war is the No Legislation Alternative; send no funding bill to Bush and there's no bill to veto.

Take Action:

Contact the LA Times authors and urge them to follow up with Representative John Murtha.

Contact Murtha
and offer support on calling the Pentagon's bluff.
(202) 225-2065 (fill his voice mail box over the holiday weekend)
(202) 225-5709 fax

Contact other Media Outlets
to indicate your support of Murtha and urge them to reflect your sentiment in their coverage.


Spiegel and Barns report, "Congress passed a separate $471-billion Defense Department budget, but that measure did not include the war costs." Compare that with Clinton and Bush 41 defense budgets:

During the 1992 Presidential campaign, Bill Clinton denounced George Bush - quite properly - for failing to recognize that the Cold War was over. But Clinton's $263 billion Defense Department budget is a mere $10 billion lower than that projected by the Bush Administration, and retains just about all of the silly or sinister weapons boondoggles from the Reagan/Bush era. [2]

Not all of that increase can be blamed on inflation. And to think that Hilary and Barak want to increase the size of our military [3].


1. Los Angeles Times, Pentagon officials move ahead on layoff plans in anticipation of funds drying up. Democrats say they're exaggerating, Peter Spiegel and Julian E. Barnes, November 21, 2007

2. The Progressive, Cold War - the sequel - Clinton Defense budget - Editorial, May 1993.

3. The Hill, ’08 hopefuls would grow the military, Roxana Tiron, May 02, 2007.

There's more: "Murtha Calling Pentagon's Bluff" >>

US dunning wounded to

pay back enlistment bonuses

This could be from the Onion, except that is absolutely not funny.

KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh reports:

Wounded Soldier: Military Wants Part Of Bonus Back

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) ― The U.S. Military is demanding that thousands of wounded service personnel give back signing bonuses because they are unable to serve out their commitments.

To get people to sign up, the military gives enlistment bonuses up to $30,000 in some cases.

Now men and women who have lost arms, legs, eyesight, hearing and can no longer serve are being ordered to pay some of that money back.

One of them is Jordan Fox, a young soldier from the South Hills.

He finds solace in the hundreds of boxes he loads onto a truck in Carnegie. In each box is a care package that will be sent to a man or woman serving in Iraq. It was in his name Operation Pittsburgh Pride was started.

Fox was seriously injured when a roadside bomb blew up his vehicle. He was knocked unconscious. His back was injured and lost all vision in his right eye.

A few months later Fox was sent home. His injuries prohibited him from fulfilling three months of his commitment. A few days ago, he received a letter from the military demanding nearly $3,000 of his signing bonus back.

"I tried to do my best and serve my country. I was unfortunately hurt in the process. Now they're telling me they want their money back," he explained.

It's a slap for Fox's mother, Susan Wardezak, who met with President Bush in Pittsburgh last May. He thanked her for starting Operation Pittsburgh Pride which has sent approximately 4,000 care packages.

He then sent her a letter expressing his concern over her son's injuries, so she cannot understand the U.S. Government's apparent lack of concern over injuries to countless U.S. Soldiers and demands that they return their bonuses.

While he's unsure of his future, Fox says he's unwavering in his commitment to his country.

"I'd do it all over again... because I'm proud of the discipline that I learned. I'm proud to have done something for my country," he said.

But Fox feels like he's already given enough. He'll never be able to pursue his dream of being a police officer because of his wounds and he can't believe he's being asked to return part of his $10,000 signing bonus.

KDKA contacted Congressman Jason Altmire on his behalf. He says he has proposed a bill that would guarantee soldiers receive full benefit of bonuses.

Apparently you can keep your bonus if you're a KIA.


There's more: "US dunning wounded to

pay back enlistment bonuses" >>

True cost of the war: Trillions

Such a deal.

The Iraq war already has cost a family of four $16,500, but you ain't seen nothin' yet.

A new report from the Congressional Joint Economic Committee says the cost per family is going to be $36,900.

And total expenditures, direct and indirect, could exceed $3.5-trillion if the U.S. stays the course and keeps even 75,000 troops in Iraq through 2017 -- hardly a rash assumption, since none of the leading presidential candidates in either party will pledge to have the troops home by 2013.

Amitabh Pal for The Progressive online:

Predictably, the analysis has the Republicans crying foul. They allege that the Democrats in charge of the committee have played with the numbers. But this is the right way to measure the cost of that unnecessary conflict. The budgetary impact, as large as it is, captures only a fraction of the economic toll on this country.

The report details the multiple ways in which the war has been detrimental to the U.S. economy. Most obviously, the turmoil in Iraq has contributed to a diminished global oil production, making all of us pay higher prices at the pump. The report estimates that the Iraq fiasco has contributed at least $5 per barrel to the increase in oil prices.

And then there are several other costs, too. The government has had to spend borrowed money for the war, diverting spending from more productive uses and paying massive interest payments on its war profligacy. Substantial sums have had to be paid for treating wounded war veterans. There have been several lifetimes of lost productivity for the injured. Considerable military equipment has been damaged. And the list goes on.
Even that dollar count, of course, doesn't count the real toll of the hundreds of thousands of lives shattered beyond repair, a cost the world will continue to bear for decades.

Pal continues:

I’m not going to do that whole guns versus butter thing and lament about all the productive expenditure this money could have been utilized for. It’s giving the Bush Administration too much credit to assume that they would have guided all that amount to more rational uses. (For those interested in such numbers, the American Friends Service Committee has some heartbreaking comparative statistics on the myriad ways the funds could have been better spent.)

There's more: "True cost of the war: Trillions" >>

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Sutras of Abu Ghraib: An Interview With Conscientious Objector Aidan Delgado

The topic below was originally posted in my blog, the Intrepid Liberal Journal, as well as the Out of Iraq Bloggers Caucus, the Independent Bloggers Alliance, Wild Wild Left and Worldwide Sawdust.

In 2001, Aidan Delgado was twenty-years old and in need of a life anchor. Delgado had primarily grown up abroad in far away places such as Cairo, Egypt, Thailand and Senegal due to his father’s career as a diplomat. While attending college in Florida, Delgado felt culturally out of place and adrift. Having led an “ivory tower” existence of academia and privilege, Delgado opted to join the United States Army Reserves for a different perspective.

By sheer coincidence he signed his enlistment contract on September 11th. Those closest to him questioned the wisdom of Delgado's choice. The terrorist attacks convinced Delgado he made the correct decision as the country underwent a surge of patriotic feeling and rallying to the flag. At the time he was proud of having decided to join the United States Reserves before September 11th. Delgado didn’t know it yet but the next three years of his life would transform his entire being.

To calm his nerves prior to reporting for basic training at the end of October 2001, Delgado read about Buddhism. He concluded that Buddhism was like “coming home” and suited his outlook on life even as he prepared for war. Initially, Delgado embraced the Samurai ethos that blended Buddhism with the warrior spirit to justify his participation.

He was trained as a mechanic and assigned to the 320th Military Police Company in 2003. Initially, Delgado served in Nasiriya, the Southern Part of Iraq for several months before being redeployed with his unit to Abu Ghraib. Since Delgado knew Arabic from his adolescent years in Cairo, he was frequently utilized as a translator on missions. On these missions he witnessed horrific abuse committed by Americans against Iraq’s civilian population. He told Bob Herbert of the New York Times in 2005 that,

“Guys in my unit, particularly the younger guys, would drive by in their Humvee and shatter bottles over the heads of Iraqi civilians passing by. They'd keep a bunch of empty Coke bottles in the Humvee to break over people's heads."
That sort of gratuitous violence was a harbinger of things to come. During this period in 2003, Delgado experienced an internal crisis. The warrior ethos was not compatible with his sensibilities as a Buddhist and he opted to apply for an honorable discharge as a conscientious objector.

The army tried to persuade Delgado to apply for non-combatant status instead and still complete his duties as a mechanic. It would’ve been the path of least resistance and Delgado rejected it. As far as Delgado was concerned, applying, as a non-combatant was a half-measure and he wanted to make a moral statement.

The path Delgado chose was a long tough road of bureaucratic struggle, taunts, bullying and peer abuse. The army hoped to provoke Delgado away from pacifism, make him feel ostracized and humiliated. Many considered Delgado a coward and a traitor as he continued to fulfill his duties while the application process went forward.

Delgado’s application for conscientious objector status had not been resolved when his unit was redeployed to Abu Ghraib in November 2003. Shortly after he arrived, a prison riot against the miserable conditions there resulted in a fatal shooting of four detainees who threw stones. Delgado told Bob Herbert how he confronted a sergeant who claimed to have fired on the detainees:
"I asked him if he was proud that he had shot unarmed men behind barbed wire for throwing stones. He didn't get mad at all. He was, like, 'Well, I saw them bloody my buddy's nose, so I knelt down. I said a prayer. I stood up, and I shot them down.'"
When Delgado initially arrived at Abu Ghraib he assumed most of the detainees were hardened insurgents and terrorists. He later learned while working as a radio operator for the Abu Ghraib headquarters brigade that most detainees were either petty civilian criminals or completely innocent. Ultimately, Delgado concluded that regardless of why they were there, American behavior could not be excused.

Delgado’s unit was dismissed after completed its duty in March 2004. He received an honorable discharge after returning to America in April 2004. Currently, he’s an antiwar activist as a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and the Buddhist Peace Alliance. Delgado captured his spiritual journey and experience in Iraq with his recently published memoir, The Sutras of Abu Ghraib: Notes From A Conscientious Objector In Iraq (Beacon Press)

It’s not fully possible to grasp what soldiers like Delgado went through and witnessed. What does it mean to read that serving in Abu Ghraib is hell or living through mortar attacks is scary? Is it really possible for mere words to convey how soldiers such as Delgado are torn between loyalty to the uniform they wear and their humanity? How can one truly understand without having lived in the shoes of someone like Delgado himself?

Those of us who haven't been in that position can't truly understand. Nevertheless, Delgado skillfully puts the reader in the front row of his year in Iraq, the friends and antagonists he interacted with, the near death experiences he endured and the torturous battle waged within his soul about right and wrong.

Delgado agreed to a podcast interview with me over the telephone about his book, experiences inside Iraq and Abu Ghraib in particular. We also discussed how racism towards Arabs and the Muslim world helped facilitate the crimes committed against Iraqis and his spiritual journey as a Buddhist and anti-war pacifist. Our conversation is approximately fifty-six minutes and took place on Sunday, November 18th. Please refer to the media player below.

This interview can also be accessed for free by searching for "Intrepid Liberal Journal" at the Itunes Store.

Please note that Aidan Delgado only had access to a cell phone for this interview. The sound quality is quite good most of the time and the passion of his convictions comes through. Also, I made a couple errors during the podcast I would like to correct. In introducing Aidan I referred to his unit as the 320th Military Police “Academy” instead of “Company.” I also listed Kuwait among the countries Aidan lived in while growing up when in fact he only visited there.

There's more: "The Sutras of Abu Ghraib: An Interview With Conscientious Objector Aidan Delgado" >>

The Shafting Of Our Patriots In Military Service - Part III

(In Part III of this series I note that the shafting of our military personnel continues unabated, I become more and more outraged thinking about how people as young as I was when I enlisted, who are just starting out in the world, are having their lives mangled and are then tossed away, like some used trash. All while the Blackwaters of the Disaster Capitalism Military/Industrial Complex commit crimes in the name of the American people and plunder our treasury. This is the first time, in the life of BFD Blog! that I take my voice from the third person (the editorial "we") and write in the first person, a turning point for me. While I cannot stand in the boots of our current military personnel, I feel such a strong affinity to them as my brothers and sisters, who proudly and courageously serve our country, and who deserve so much in return from us. -Big Fella)

I was outraged when I wrote the previous postings and my outrage continued when I read the article "Specialist Town Takes His Case to Washington" by Joshua Kors in the October 15 issue of The Nation.

To briefly recap the story about Specialist Jon Town, and the other patriots in our military services that are in the same predicament:

Soldiers who passed all of the rigorous medical and psychological screening prior to induction in to the Army, who had no previous history of any psychological problems, or what the Army would term "personality disorder", were accepted in to the United States Army, trained and deployed to the theater of war in Iraq. These soldiers subsequently become casualties, suffering traumatic injuries to their bodies, including their limbs, external musculature, internal organs and to their brains. Injuries manifest in the physical scarring, and partial physical dysfunction or disintegration of their bodies and in the Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome that they chronically suffer. They return to the safety of our home shores and to the care of the Army Medical Corps with the expectation that in exchange for their service and sacrifices that they will receive the best medical, and rehabilitative care available in the most technologically and economically advantaged nation in the world. Instead, they are mis-categorized in a seeming widespread institutional standard operating procedure, as having "personality disorder", and thus are ineligible for benefits, and are "kicked to the curb" by the United States Army, with no further medical care, no rehabilitation, no partial or total disability benefits. Just used, abused and thrown away.

That was the story earlier this year, before Kors and The Nation and the wider media at large picked it up. Subsequently Jon Town was invited to testify before Congress, and as described in Kors' most recent story, while Town himself has finally been the beneficiary of the publicity surrounding his case, as reported by Kors (and no thanks to the U.S. Army, but rather the Department of Veterans Affairs):

Strangely enough, Town's big break came not from Matthews, NBC or even Senator Bond but from Lou Wilin, a reporter at the Findlay Courier, Town's hometown paper (circulation 23,000). After reading Town's story in The Nation, Wilin wrote a profile of the soldier, which ran in the newspaper's April 16 edition. The article caught the eye of an admiral in the VA who happens to live a few miles east of Findlay. The admiral flagged Town's case, kicked it to the Cleveland VA, which passed it to the Dayton VA, where case manager Janine Wert was ready to take action. Wert received Town's case the morning of April 19 and had the soldier in her office before the end of lunch. She listened to his story and cried.

"His childhood, high school and military history--none of it supports a personality disorder. When you're a teenager, there are certain things that pop up that are vividly obvious, red flags for personality disorder. Those aren't present in Jon's history," says Wert, a social worker with a master's degree in mental health. Wert says Town's PTSD and TBI symptoms were obvious from their first meeting. She was struck by the absurdity of the Army's diagnosis. "I have never in my life heard of personality disorder causing deafness," says the counselor.

Wert arranged an immediate doctor's appointment for Town and scheduled an evaluation by a VA medical board. On June 11 the VA ruled that Town was in fact wounded in combat. The agency declared him 100 percent disabled.

Town's VA rating guaranteed him disability and medical benefits for the rest of his life. The VA also provided the disability pay that Town should have received in the months following his discharge. On June 25, just weeks after his family's phone had been shut off, the specialist received a check for $20,000.
There may still be as many as 22,000 other soldiers in the same predicament as Town was. Put in their predicament by the United States Army, and then swept under the carpet as outlined by Kors:
Maj. Gen. Gale Pollock, acting surgeon general of the Army, was briefed on the problems with the Army's personality disorder discharges. Instead of correcting cases like Town's, she buried them. The surgeon general released a series of memos filled with fabrications. Pollock then informed wounded soldiers that their cases had been thoroughly reviewed by an independent panel of health experts when in fact no such review was conducted...

Andrew Pogany, an investigator for the soldiers' rights group Veterans for America, has been looking into personality disorder discharges for two years. The discharge, officially known as Regulation 635-200, Chapter 5-13, is simply a loophole, he says, to dismiss wounded soldiers without providing them benefits. Pogany says Town's case is a textbook example of how Chapter 5-13 is being applied. Town had no history of psychological problems and had served seven years, winning a dozen medals, before being discharged with a personality disorder.

The investigator was so disturbed by the Army's use of 5-13 discharges that he brought his research to Pollock. In late October 2006, he and Steve Robinson, Veterans for America's director of veterans affairs, met with Pollock and presented her with a stack of personality disorder cases, including Town's. The surgeon general promised a thorough review.

On March 23, five months after her meeting with Pogany, Pollock released her findings. Her office had "thoughtfully and thoroughly" reviewed the personality disorder cases and determined that all of the soldiers, including Town, had been properly diagnosed. Pollock commended the doctors who diagnosed personality disorder for their excellent work.

Four days later the military followed up with a press release, this one signed by Lieut. Col. Bob Tallman, the Army's chief of public affairs. Tallman's memo provided further detail on Pollock's review. A panel of behavioral health experts had reviewed the personality disorder cases, Tallman wrote, and they didn't stop at the stack of cases presented to the surgeon general. They "thoroughly evaluated and reviewed" all the Chapter 5-13s from the past four years at Fort Carson, where Specialist Town had been based, and determined that all of those cases had been properly diagnosed as well.

There was a glaring problem with Pollock's review. In the five months she spent "thoughtfully and thoroughly" reviewing the cases, her office did not interview anyone, not even the soldiers whose cases they were reviewing.

Asked how he could call the surgeon general's review "thorough" when no soldiers were interviewed, Tallman said he could not. "Let me be honest with you," he said. "I know nothing about this memo and little to nothing about the review." Tallman said the memo bearing his name was actually ghostwritten by Pollock's office. The lieutenant colonel added that as far as he knew, Pollock conducted no review at all.

Pollock's office quickly admitted that it had ghostwritten the Tallman memo but assured veterans' groups that the surgeon general had indeed conducted a review. In an e-mail Pollock's chief spokeswoman, Cynthia Vaughan, explained that the surgeon general did not want to interview soldiers because she felt they had no medically valid information to share. "Calling a soldier who underwent a 5-13 Chapter in 2003 and asking him (in 2007) to recall his mental condition in 2003 does not hold medical validity," Vaughan wrote...

The surgeon general tried to quell veterans' groups by emphasizing that, as stated in the March memos, the comprehensive review was conducted by a panel of health experts and that those experts "did not provide the initial evaluations." This wasn't a case of one doctor reviewing his own work, the surgeon general said.

Both of those assurances crumbled on May 4, when Army Times reporter Kelly Kennedy revealed that in fact there was only one reviewer: Col. Steven Knorr. Knorr was a strange choice to be the sole reviewer. He was far from an objective observer. As chief of Fort Carson's Behavioral Health unit, Knorr had overseen all the original diagnoses and, in his capacity as a psychiatrist, also diagnosed several soldiers with personality disorder.

Months earlier Knorr had spoken out in defense of the Army's practice of not interviewing soldiers' family or friends before labeling their condition "pre-existing." Unlike his staff, he said, family members are not trained to recognize signs of personality disorder, so speaking to them would be of limited value. "The soldier's perception and their parents' perception is that they were fine. But maybe they didn't or weren't able to see that wasn't the case..."

In the same interview, published in The Nation, Knorr said there was a simple reason why in so many cases the lifelong condition of personality disorder isn't apparent until after troops serve in Iraq. Traumatic experiences, he said, can trigger a condition that has lain dormant for years. "[Troops] may have done fine in high school and before, but it comes out during the stress of service," he said. Knorr's assertion was a sharp break from the accepted medical understanding of personality disorder and provoked a flood of angry letters from psychiatrists and veterans' leaders.

Veterans were further agitated by a vivid profile of Knorr, by NPR's Daniel Zwerdling broadcast in late May. Zwerdling details a memo written by Knorr in which he advises his doctors that trying to save every soldier is a "mistake." "We can't fix every Soldier," the memo states. "We have to hold Soldiers accountable for their behavior. Everyone in life beyond babies, the insane, and the demented and mentally retarded have to be held accountable for what they do in life."

Knorr's memo, which he posted on his office's bulletin board, warns his doctors not to take soldiers' descriptions of their ailments at face value. "We're not naïve, and shouldn't automatically believe everything Soldiers tell us," the colonel writes. Knorr also urges his doctors to discharge troubled soldiers quickly--as he puts it, "Get rid of dead wood."

If I understand what I have read, and it is accurate, then as an institution the United States Army Medical Corps has ignored all of the pre-qualifying screening that was conducted upon military recruits prior to induction, it has ignored the anecdotal reports coming from these soldiers, ignored the symptoms displayed by those same former recruits, subsequent to their deployment and experiences in the war zone in Iraq, ignored any available pre-induction history from family and associates of the former recruits, and ignored the prevailing findings and opinions of the medical profession as a whole, so that the Army Medical Corps and the Army as a whole, can just use, abuse and then wash their hands of any further responsibility for those patriotic sons and daughters of America, and those willing non-American citizens who have all volunteered to serve the United States.

I have been stewing over this since the last article by Joshua Kors appeared in The Nation, feeling anger, and disgust with our government and its institutions, and trying to think what I and other Americans who are outraged about this situation might be able to do to help turn things around for our wounded military personnel. I recently contacted Joshua Kors, and asked him if he had seen any progress with this issue since his last article was published in The Nation a month ago. Kors told me:

Not much in the power structure has changed since my articles. Nobody has yet to be held responsible, and the pre-existing Personality Disorder discharge system is still fully in place. That goes not only for soldiers who came back with psychological wounds, like PTSD, but also physical wounds, like the deafness and leg injuries discussed in my series.
Somehow, the fact that nothing has changed between Kors' first article and the intervening time after his second article is not surprising. Maybe it should also not be surprising that the situation for our soliders may be even worse. On November 15, Jason Knobloch, reporting via the Veterans For America web site wrote:
In today’s news, a soldier who had gone AWOL from Fort Drum, NY, because he wasn’t getting adequate treatment for his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was apprehended as his lawyer was negotiating his surrender to Army authorities. According to the report, Sgt. Brad Gaskins’ mental health began to deteriorate during his second tour in Iraq after he saw an improvised explosive device (IED) slaughter a family of four, and it only got worse from there. When he returned, he was diagnosed with PTSD in an outside facility, treated, and then returned to his unit. When he got back, the trouble began again, and when Gaskin asked to receive more treatment at the same hospital, he was told more time off would jeopardize his chances of receiving a medical release, and later almost stabbed his wife, after which he went AWOL. Fort Drum’s mental health facility currently has a staff of 31, with plans to add seventeen more, to serve 17,000 soldiers.
Also on November 15, AFP (Agence France-Presse) reported:
The US military is experiencing a "suicide epidemic" with veterans killing themselves at the rate of 120 a week, according to an investigation by US television network CBS.

At least 6,256 US veterans committed suicide in 2005 -- an average of 17 a day -- the network reported, with veterans overall more than twice as likely to take their own lives as the rest of the general population.

While the suicide rate among the general population was 8.9 per 100,000, the level among veterans was between 18.7 and 20.8 per 100,000.

That figure rose to 22.9 to 31.9 suicides per 100,000 among veterans aged 20 to 24 -- almost four times the non-veteran average for the age group.
It seems that the Army is doing too little, and too late. It seems that a major obstacle to turning this situation around is General Pollock, the army's Acting Surgeon General, who may have forgotten her original medical training and lost any compassion she might have once had as she became a professional military bureaucrat. It seems this is what happens when a renegade administration, thinks that it can build an empire in the name of "democracy" by waging a phony war "on the cheap", when in fact, it has become quite an expensive war in terms of selling billions of dollars of U.S. Treasury securities to foreign governments (as of September 2007 mainland China held $396.7 billion in U.S. Treasury securities) and then turns around and disburses much of those borrowed funds to its partners in the private sector. Helping those private sector businesses leverage massive profits off the backs of current and future tax payers as they pursue the Bushliburton administration's Disaster Capitalism agenda (as laid out by Naomi Klein in "The Shock Doctrine-The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism").

The current treatment, or lack of appropriate treatment by the United States Army Medical Corps and the army as an institution of our government, toward the men and women in service to our people, is not acceptable to this veteran, and should not be acceptable to any veteran or any American citizens for that matter.
-Big Fella

(Coming In The Next Posting: What We All Can Do To Change This)

There's more: "The Shafting Of Our Patriots In Military Service - Part III" >>

Monday, November 19, 2007

Photo Story Monday - Whoops!

It was a week into February of 2007 and a little over a month into the surge, which began with a unit from the 82nd Airborne coming into Baghdad. Since November we had no clear goal in the capital. We were the scoundrels and tramps of the city: we went from slum to slum, clearing and securing it from Sadr's Mahdi Army and handing it over to American and Iraqi forces. We had no area of our own.

Petraeus' main focus of the surge was to get us out of the big bases and into the neighborhoods of Baghdad, rubbing elbows with the locals and giving them enough confidence to assist us in rooting out the bad guys. Given that, we had to find a building big enough for a company of both Americans and Iraqis, a parking lot able to hold many vehicles, and enough standoff from major roads to prevent someone from driving a bomb right through the gate. It was decided that an abandoned shopping mall would do.

When we arrived, all there was to prevent a full on attack was a couple strands of wire around the building. The cement walls would be going up during the night but it would take a few days. We were scheduled to be out there for nearly a week. Luckily, outhouses were being constructed outside. Unluckily, they were in plain view of passing cars and high buildings. Anyone could toss a grenade or shoot an AK out the window as they drove past. I decided to hold it in.

The outpost being built up was called Callahan, hopefully named after my favorite hard-boiled cop.

The clearing missions were routine for the most part. We walked into houses and searched them, dug through courtyards and trash piles and looked into sewage drains for any signs of weapons and bombs.

The number one cause for arthritis: backstanding

And we looked on top of houses, too.

For a few days it was going well. We were going into neighborhoods that held dangerous reputations, wondering what all the commotion was about. Patrolling through the streets and not a peep from the enemy!

One evening we were freezing our asses off inside the outpost, getting by with no heat or electricity. I had just returned to my cot after taking out the garbage when I heard a commotion coming from third platoon's area. My former squad leader was rousing everyone awake. I gathered from his hurried speech that he was walking through the parking lot when a round struck by his feet. We were under attack!

Immediately, several men threw on their gear and took positions in the windows, hoping to catch a muzzle flash or RPG streak. The 82nd guys were particularly excited, this being among their first chances of action. Machine guns opened up on a house, starting a fire. Following the tracers, everyone fired in that direction, assuming it was an enemy position. Grenades were dropping in front and in back of the house. In the parking lot, guns were firing toward the same house. All of a sudden, a fuel tanker inside the wire started to burn.

Fuzzy combat

My best Robert Capa imitation

Making a mad dash for the Strykers, I find mine in a huddle of vehicles. It's too dangerous to lower the ramp, so I open the door in the back and climb in. I caught a glimpse of David, the AFP photographer with us for the duration of our Callahan adventure, snapping shots of people running to and from cover. Our vehicle is a little close to the burning fuel tanker, making me a bit uneasy.

Burning sensations

Later we would learn that it wasn't ignited by enemy fire, but from a grenade thrown by one of our lieutenants. He didn't make it over the wire to hit the imaginary bad guy.

After everyone made it back to the Strykers, we tore off for the buildings being ravished by flames. We dismounted and started up the street, nearing the flames and feeling the heat of the fire in the February night. Across the street was a man carrying furniture from the building. He was shouting in very good English, "Thank you for your security! Thank you for your security! This is what you call security?" We had fired on this man's house as he was taking a bath.

Pressing on, we looked all around for enemy shell casings, weapons, anything. We left with a smoldering building to our backs.

Later that night we received a mission to raid a few suspected insurgent houses. Crawling through the grass, we heard the rumblings of tanks out in the distance. We got down low in the weeds so they wouldn't open fire on a group of strange men hiding in the bushes holding guns. We held our breath until they passed.

Don't shoot!

We stood up and moved toward the small collection of buildings surrounded by palm trees and knocked the door down to old man with information. About mortars that fell. A month prior. Waiting for this valuable information to filter down to the appropriate level, I leaned up against a desk in the house and dozed off. Standing in the moonlight shining through the open door, I didn't care if a tank shot me in the face. I just wanted a nap.

"The white building that's on fire right there"

The view of Callahan - from one of the buildings we shot up the day prior. We pulled .50 cal rounds out of the walls with pliers


There's more: "Photo Story Monday - Whoops!" >>

Depleted uranium IS a health hazard — is its military use a war crime?

An upstate New York town that was the location of an old uranium plant demonstrates just how hazardous it is.

The US federal government and the firm that ran the factory, National Lead (NL) Industries, have been assuring former workers and residents around the 18-acre site for decades that, although it is true that the plant used to produce unacceptable levels of radioactive pollution, it was not a serious health hazard.

Now, in a development with potentially devastating implications not only for Colonie but also for the future use of some of the West's most powerful weapon systems, that claim is being challenged. In a paper to be published in the next issue of the scientific journal Science of the Total Environment, a team led by Professor Randall Parrish of Leicester University reports the results of a three-year study of Colonie, funded by Britain's Ministry of Defence.

Parrish's team has found that DU contamination, which remains radioactive for millions of years, is in effect impossible to eradicate, not only from the environment but also from the bodies of humans. Twenty-three years after production ceased they tested the urine of five former workers. All are still contaminated with DU. So were 20 per cent of people tested who had spent at least 10 years living near the factory when it was still working.

Of course, the U.S. and U.K. defense establishments have denied repeatedly that DU-enhanced tank shells and other ordinance fired during the Gulf War was the cause of soaring Iraqi cancer rates, or Gulf War Syndrome among their own troops.

More below the fold:

This is an obvious military problem:
When DU “penetrators” — armour-piercing shells that form the standard armament of some of Britain's and America's most commonly deployed military aircraft and vehicles — strike their targets, 10 per cent or more of the heavy DU metal burns at high temperatures, producing oxide particles very similar to those at Colonie.

TV footage shot in Baghdad in 2003 shows children playing in the remains of tanks coated with thick, black DU oxide, while there have long been claims that the DU shells that destroyed Saddam Hussein's tanks in the 1991 Gulf war were responsible for high rates of cancer in places such as Basra.

Parrish's team includes David Carpenter, an environmental health expert from Albany University. “DU burns, it releases particulates that can be breathed in, and it doesn't go away,” he says. “The issue does not concern military personnel as much as civilian populations in theatres where they are used. Now we know that we can still find measurable levels of DU among the people of Colonie, we need a much bigger study to establish whether they have suffered disproportionate ill-effects such as cancers as a consequence. If they have, it would raise a serious ethical challenge to the use of these weapons. Arguably it could constitute a war crime.”

Nice lie by the governments. Would they like to try again? Or just add one more war crime to the list of W and his British lapdog?
Depleted uranium (DU) is the residue left in massive quantities when bomb-grade uranium is refined to make reactor fuel and nuclear weapons.

The densest naturally occurring metal, it is used to make armour-penetrating shells, standard armament for some of the West’s most widely deployed military aircraft and vehicles, such as Bradley armoured cars, Abrams tanks, and Jaguar A10 fighter planes.

Less intensely radioactive than bomb-grade uranium, DU emits alpha particles, known to cause cancers.

DU weapons that strike their targets produce clouds of tiny uranium oxide particles, which lodge in the lungs and other soft tissues such as the brain and bone marrow.

DU shells were widely used in the 1991 Gulf war; in Bosnia and Kosovo; and are being used now in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Assuming we can get an international convention to ban DU, this then affects the nuclear power industry. Without being able to dump off DU remains from U-235 production onto the military, that’s more toxic waste the nuclear industry has to get rid of.

And, with the Iraq War lasting a lot longer than the original Gulf War, and the Afghanistan operation, how long before this becomes yet more Al Qaeda propaganda?

There's more: "Depleted uranium IS a health hazard — is its military use a war crime?" >>

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Shafting Of Our Patriots In Military Service - Part II

(In the second part in this series of postings it became obvious to me that not only were members of the reserves and the National Guard getting the shaft after being yanked away from their civilian lives, but also our career military personnel, people who have dedicated their entire productive adult lives in service to our country, are being kicked to the curb, as "damaged goods", no longer of value to the Disaster Capitalism Military/Industrial Complex. This posting was originally published at BFD Blog! in March of this year. -Big Fella)

The picture painted in the previous posting about the shabby treatment by the U.S. Army of our reservists and national guard members who have been called up and deployed to Iraq, is possibly even grimmer for our career military personnel. In the current issue of The Nation, Joshua Kors tells the story of Army specialist Jon Town and how he and other career soldiers have been duped, lied to and shafted by the Army after committing their lives and their livelihood to the Army.

The nightmare began for Town while deployed in Ramadi, Iraq in 2004, as described by Kors,

"He (Town) was standing in the doorway of his battalion's headquarters when a 107-millimeter rocket struck two feet above his head. The impact punched a piano-sized hole in the concrete facade, sparked a huge fireball and tossed the 25-year-old Army specialist to the floor, where he lay blacked out among the rubble."
Kors goes on to report,
"Eventually the rocket shrapnel was removed from Town's neck and his ears stopped leaking blood. But his hearing never really recovered, and in many ways, neither has his life. A soldier honored twelve times during his seven years in uniform, Town has spent the last three struggling with deafness, memory failure and depression. By September 2006 he and the Army agreed he was no longer combat-ready."
Seems reasonable that at this point Town could not be combat ready which would logically result with an end to his military career, but what is unreasonable, what is unconscionable, what is possibly criminally frauduent is how the Army has railroaded this soldier in order to replace him with another warm body, on the cheap.

Kors' article goes on to tell readers,
"...instead of sending Town to a medical board and discharging him because of his injuries, doctors at Fort Carson, Colorado, did something strange: They claimed Town's wounds were actually caused by a "personality disorder." Town was then booted from the Army and told that under a personality disorder discharge, he would never receive disability or medical benefits."

Not only would specialist Town never receive disability or medical benefits from the Army, he would not receive any retirement benefit, and he would not be eligible for medical care provided by the Veteran's Administration because the Army doctor handling his case conned Town in to accepting what is known as a "5-13" discharge (which according to the Army seperations manual is Regulation 635-200, Chapter 5-13: "Separation Because of Personality Disorder." ). On top of everything else, the Army demanded, according to seperation rules, that Town return $3,000 of the $15,000 re-enlistment bonus he had previously received, because he was unable to fulfill his contract.

A man permanently disabled, quite possibly with brain damage, is discarded like used waste material by the Army and left to put his life back together or not, without a second thought. The article by Kors goes on to report that this seems to be a systematic and widely practiced strategy of unit commanding officers in cahoots with medical officers throughout the Army. The reason behind it, reducing monetary expenses, as apparently the Army is strapped (no surprise here, after four years of depleting the bulk of our Army resources in a war that we "won" and then subsequently lost), it has been estimated that through this 5-13 process the military will avoid $8 billion in disability pay and $4.5 billion in medical expenses, by cashiering out its wounded manpower.

Obviously distressed and depressed by how he has been mistreated, Town made a failed attempt at suicide in May of 2006, which resulted in the Army sending him to a psych ward for a short time, and then busting him down from corporal to specialist. Town's story is not unique, Kors' article describes other soldiers in other commands treated the same way, and at least one of them, Chris Mosier of Des Moines, Iowa, eventually was a successful suicide, after being railroaded out of the Army by the same doctor who discharged Jon Town. Mosier never got over the trauma of being in a convoy in Iraq when a roadside bomb blew up the truck in front of his, seeing and hearing his buddies screams as they lie dying from their wounds and being on fire; and then having to collect the miscellaneous chopped, shredded, bloody, burned body parts of his dead comrades so they could be returned home. Scenes like this are not unique in Iraq and not unique in any war, the effects on soldiers used to be called "shell shock", and for many years there was little or no treatment available to those suffering from this, except maybe the most severe cases either being warehoused in VA facilities, or left to wander the streets.

At a certain point, after the Vietnam war the medical establishment identified and began developing treatments for "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder" (PTSD), and not only military personnel, but civilians in public service roles and civilian victims of natural disasters were able to seek treatment, recognition and respect. Apparently our current military commanders prefer to put their heads down in sand in terms of accepting the reality and doing the moral, honorable thing in terms of taking care of those soliders who marched, unequivocably, upon their command. It seems that for the mid-level careerists in the military officer corps making their numbers, in terms of holding down expenses and providing warm bodies to their commander-in-chief is more important, than doing what is morally and ethically right.

Shame on these people, and shame on the American people for continuing to tolerate the lies, misrepresentation and mis-management of the current Administration.

There's more: "The Shafting Of Our Patriots In Military Service - Part II" >>

The Shafting Of Our Patriots In Military Service - Part I

(The following is the first of four related posts, and was originally posted at the BFD Blog! in March of this year, it's original title was "The Shortchanging Of Our Citizen Soldiers". Over the past few months the issue of the mistreatment of our military volunteers has not abated, but it seems to have just festered. As an American citizen I must say that continuation of this state of affairs is untenable, particularly in service to a phony war. As a veteran of the Vietnam era, this state of affairs has never been acceptable, under any circumstances, and I cannot stand by, silent, while this continues. -Big Fella)

In April of 2005, Sgt. Joe Baumann and his California National Guard unit were deployed in Bagdad when an incoming AK-47 round ripped apart his abdomen. While ricocheting around, the bullet also ignited tracer rounds that set the then 20 year old on fire. Baumann now "...walks with a cane, suffers from back problems and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder that keeps him from sleeping and holding a job", according to an article in the Los Angeles Times by Rone Tempest, he also has flashbacks, trouble with concentration and memory retention, and has anger-management problems, according to an article by Erin Allday in SFGate the online version of the San Francisco Chronicle.

There is no surprise around here that he has anger-management issues, anyone would who was transported from civilian life to the streets of Bagdad, two years after victory was declared, so he could be targeted by a sniper and suffer traumatic and debilitating injuries, and then return home and learn that the United States Army wants to kiss him off with a check for a pitiful $8,000.00, or in his words,

The Army acts like they just want you to get out the door as fast as possible at the lowest possible cost without taking into account how you are going to live for the rest of your life. Here's your $8,000; just go.
An army Physical Evlauation Board rated his disability at only 20% and in their wisdom decided 8 grand would cover his troubles, both up to this point, and for the remainder of his life. If the three officers of this board had ruled his disability at 30% or more, Baumann would be eligible for military retirement pay, family health care and PX and commissary privileges for life. Apparently the army is stretched for money, just as many units were sent in to combat not properly equipped with armor, many of our citizen solders and career military are being shortchanged in terms of medical care and just compensation when they return stateside and try to return to a more or less normal life.

What is wrong with this picture? The answer is simple: an Administration in Washington that does not use common sense or its conscience in making decisions, but which is driven solely by a political agenda, resulting in mismanagement in everything they have undertaken during the past six years. Fat cats in Washington, D.C. drunk on power and responsive only to the big business interests who profit from the war and their domestic and international policies, fat cats who have exercised a pervasive strategy of undermining our rights and freedoms and pissing on the constitution, without putting any of their own skin in the game.

It is time for the Legislative branch of the government to find some backbone and hold the Administration accountable to the American people and take back the consitutionally guaranteed freedoms that have been systematically undermined by "loyalists". The subpoening of Karl Rove and Harriet Miers in the face of President Bush's defiance is a start in the right direction, let's hope that this is just the beginning of better things.

There's more: "The Shafting Of Our Patriots In Military Service - Part I" >>