To all our fighting men and women, who've served in wars present and past, in combat and not ... thank you for your service and heroism, and my God bless you and your families.
Whether or not you agree with the Iraq war, and I believe it should not have been waged, there is no disagreement that our armed forces are populated by heroes, whose bravery is unchecked by danger, or by politics. They are the best of what this country has, and we should honor them, not just today, but every day.
U.S. Army soldiers conducting a joint patrol with Iraqi Army soldiers in a predominantly Sunni neighbourhood in southern Baghdad, Iraq, March 23, 2007. David Furst—AFP/Getty Images
They continue to believe, even after giving more than they should have been required to, and they continue to fight, even after the suits have lost the war, not because they don't know any better, but because they do it for each other.
There's a certain romantacism that develops in the civilian population about war, when in fact, war is brutal, and ugly, and disastrous, for the population living with it, and for the troops who fight it. The troops don't have the luxury of romanticism.
As for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are on so many minds today, it is clear that in ways large and small, their leaders, and their country, have failed the military men and women of this country -- by not providing proper equipment, by giving them inadequate medical and other assistance when they come home (not to mention by sending them on a questionable mission in Iraq.) Those are some of the deficits that must be fixed over the next few years. And while we cannot change the past, the least we can do is not fail to give them a little bit of gratitude, and respect.
The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) is out with its 2008 Congressional Report Card, and the news for our most prominent veteran at the moment, John Sydney McCain III, isn't good. McCain gets a "D" from the IAVA. That would be the letter immediately after the letter "C," which, incidently, is what Mac's fellow Arizona Sen. John Kyl got.
The scoring was based on the Senators' votes on a number of bills important to veterans, including:
A 2007 bill funding veterans' healthcare
A March 2007 bill funding so-called MRAPS ("mine resistent ambush protected" vehicles for use in Iraq and Afghanistan
A 2008 vets' healthcare funding bill
October 2007 legislation added to the National Defense Authorization Act that expanded veterans' opportunities to seek VA healthcare and for Guardsmen and Reservists to keep education benefits after separating from the military.
An April 2008 bill to improve so-called "adaptive housing" for disabled veterans
A move in may of this year to stop the second rate G.I. bill being pushed by Miss Lindsey Graham to try and kill Jim Webb's stronger benefits bill
The "Post 9/11 G.I. Bill" improving veterans' education benefits
The second vote on the G.I. Bill that passed with an emergency supplemental for Iraq war funding in June of this year
And the final phase of passage of the 21st Century G.I. Bill (Webb version, which McCain opposed.)
McCain declined to become a co-sponsor of the Webb G.I. Bill, despite entreaties from friends of his in the Senate including Chuck Hagel. His low score also stems from the fact that he was absent for 6 of the 9 votes. (Kyle was there every time, but he voted against veterans benefits four out of nine times, including against the enhanced G.I. Bill).
As for Barack Obama? He receied a "B" from the IAVA. The Illinois Senator signed on as a co-sponsor of the G.I. Bill, and voted with veterans all but the four times he was absent from the chamber.
Not only is John McCain running the most negative, divisive and dishonorable campaign since the Republican primary in 2000 (or the swiftboating of John Kerry in 2004, or hell, the Willie Horton ads against Michael Dukakis ... hang on, it seems Republicans always run dishonorable campaigns...) he is also running the most blatantly dishonest.
In 2000, the only real lie that Bush's team told about McCain was that he had a black love-child. (In fact, the McCain's adopted a Bangladeshi orphan.) Other than that, Bush was essentially right in portraying McCain as a former POW who abandoned veterans as a Senator, who traded on his media celebrity to get away with gaffes Dubya could never have, and who was a phony the right couldn't really depend on. Those things, it turns out, were true. (See McCain's voting record on veterans benefits here, here and here.) McCain has simply covered them up and coopted the Bushies who now worship him just as they did George W. Bush before the fall.
McCain's current line of attack against Barack Obama, so succinctly summed up by Keith Olbermann in his brilliant "grow up"special comment last night, is that you must elect him because his opponent wishes to lose the war in Iraq so that he can win the election. In other words, Obama is a traitor. Oh, and he is stained by the ambition to be president, an ambition McCain apparently doesn't share (I guess he is being compelled by the ghosts of his Vietnam captors who are even now, drawing crosses on the sands of time with their sandals, to run for president against his will.) Add to that McCain's meme since his disgraceful performance at the VFW in Florida yesterday, that while it would have been politically advantageous to support the generous G.I. Bill for the 21st Century put forward by fellow Vietnam vet Jim Webb, HE, the Courageous One, opposed the bill, holding out for something better.
What McCain fails to mention in his self-congratulatory nonsense speeches, is that he didn't even bother to vote on the G.I. Bill, which passed the Senate and was signed into law without his ever having had the courage to put his name on "yea" or "nay."
I hate to say this about an elder, let alone a veteran, but John McCain is a sleazy, desperate blowhard, and a man whose dishonor in this campaign makes him unfit to be president.
The latest veteran to slam John McCain's dishonest and dishonerable advert attacking Barack Obama for canceling a visit to Ramstein medical base in Germany in deference to the Pentagon would know what she's talking about. Per Jonathan Martin at Politico:
VoteVets, the pro-Democrat group of retired military personnel, counters McCain's Black Hawk down statement with some outrage from Col. Katherine Scheirman (Ret.), the retired Chief of Medical Operations for United States Air Force in Europe Headquarters at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany.
Dr. Katherine Scheirman, who was Chief of Medical Operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom, said in a statement:
"John McCain's new ad is dishonest and shameful, and I say that as the former Chief of Medical Operations. Senators Hagel and Reed confirmed to Bob Schieffer yesterday that Senator Obama visited the Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad as a part of their CODEL, with no media present.
"In Germany, Senator Obama made the right decision to respect wounded troops, and the doctors and nurses doing crucial and time-sensitive work, by not making a visit that was characterized as a campaign event by the Pentagon. Senator Obama should be thanked for putting our military above politics. And, I would hope that John McCain would think in those same terms, the next time he is put in a similar situation.
"Senator Obama has voted for the troops when John McCain has not, most recently on the new GI Bill. I am happy that Senator Obama puts the welfare of our troops above politics."
Dr. Katherine Scheirman, MD, MHA, CPE, FACPE, is a Senior Advisor to VoteVets.org, and has twenty years experience in the Department of Defense medical system. She retired from the Air Force in 2006 with the rank of Colonel. During her time in the military, she was assigned to a number of duties where she saw 'first hand' the shortcomings of the DOD medical system and its effect on troops. Most recently, she was at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany, which saw the majority of those injured during the war in Iraq.
Martin notes that the Obama camp doesn't plan to go up with a counter-ad, surprisingly, unless the McCain team makes a serious TV buy. For now, Camp McCain is happy to let the media and Youtube disseminate their low blow message for free.
The McCain ad has already taken a beating from another prominent veteran: Chuck Hagel, and from other veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
McCain may feel that his new strategy will stand him in better stead with the truly nasty elements of the right which he needs to energize, but he also risks exposing the fault lines between himself and many veterans, who question his commitment to their issues, including healthcare, education, and the ever festering Vietnam MIA saga. |
Cheney is booted from a speaking gig before a disabled vets group after his camp demands they be locked in room for two hours in order to hear him speak:
The veep had planned to speak to the Disabled American Veterans at 8:30 a.m. at its August convention in Las Vegas.
His staff insisted the sick vets be sequestered for two hours before Cheney's arrival and couldn't leave until he'd finished talking, officials confirmed.
"Word got back to us ... that this would be a prerequisite," said the veterans executive director, David Gorman, who noted the meeting hall doesn't have any rest rooms. "We told them it just wasn't acceptable."
When Cheney spoke to the group in 2004, his handlers imposed the same stringent security lockdown, upsetting members, officials said.
Many of the vets are elderly and left pieces of themselves on foreign battlefields since World War II, and others were crippled by recent service in Iraq and Afghanistan. For health reasons, many can't be stuck in a room for hours.
"It was a huge imposition on our delegates," added David Autry, another Disabled American Veterans official.
Autry said vets would've had to get up "at Oh-dark-30 and try to get breakfast and showered and get their prosthetics on."
Once inside, they "could not leave the meeting room, and the bathrooms are outside," he said.
Cheney's office acknowledged the security requests, but insisted he is sensitive to combat veterans' needs.
Spokeswoman Megan Mitchell said the two-hour rule is "a recommendation, not a requirement," and "we always work to make sure the bathrooms are within the security perimeters."
Turns out the veep has tougher security requirements than the POTUS, who apparently has no interest in addressing disabled vets anyway:
President Bush routinely speaks at events such as large dinners where thousands of guests freely pass back and forth through Secret Service screening portals.
Gorman first invited Bush, who has never addressed the group, but the White House declined last month.
The Iraq war soldier made famous by a photograph, and by his compassion for an Iraqi child, dies back home:
The March 2003 image became one of the most iconic of the U.S. invasion of Iraq: that of a bespectacled American soldier carrying an Iraqi child to safety. The photograph of Army Pfc. Joseph Dwyer, who was raised in Mount Sinai, was used by news outlets around the world.
After being lionized by many as the human face of the U.S. effort to rebuild a troubled Iraq, Dwyer brought the battlefield home with him, often grappling violently with delusions that he was being hunted by Iraqi killers.
His internal terror got so bad that, in 2005, he shot up his El Paso, Texas, apartment and held police at bay for three hours with a 9-mm handgun, believing Iraqis were trying to get in.
Last month, on June 28, police in Pinehurst, N.C., who responded to Dwyer's home, said the 31-year-old collapsed and died after abusing a computer cleaner aerosol. Dwyer had moved to North Carolina after living in Texas.
Dwyer, who joined the Army two days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and who was assigned to a unit of the 3rd Infantry Division that one officer called "the tip of the tip of the spear" in the first days of the U.S. invasion, had since then battled depression, sleeplessness and other anxieties that military doctors eventually attributed to post-traumatic stress disorder.
The war that made him a hero at 26 haunted him to the last moments of his life.
"He loved the picture, don't get me wrong, but he just couldn't get over the war," his mother, Maureen Dwyer, said by telephone from her home in Sunset Beach, N.C. "He wasn't Joseph anymore. Joseph never came home."
Dwyer's parents said they tried to get help for their son, appealing to Army and Veterans Affairs officials. Although he was treated off and on in VA facilities, he was never able to shake his anxieties.
Dwyer can only be described as the victim of the indifference of the U.S. system to the men and women that we send into harm's way. Once they've been used up in Mr. Bush's war, they are, to coin a Bushian term, on their own. The Newsday story continues:
An April report by the Rand Corp. said serious gaps in treatment exist for the 1 in 5 U.S. troops who exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or depression following service in Iraq or Afghanistan. Half of those troops who experience the disorder sought help in the past year, the report said, and those who did often got "minimally adequate treatment."
"He went away to inpatient treatments, none of it worked," his father, Patrick Dennis Dwyer, said. "And the problem is there are not adequate resources for post-traumatic stress syndrome."
After a PTSD program in Durham, N.C., turned Dwyer away because of a lack of space, Maureen Dwyer said her son received inpatient care for six months at the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center, beginning last August. After doctors discharged him in March, she said, his anxieties returned with such intensity that Dwyer's wife, Matina, 30, took their daughter Meagan, 2, and moved out five days later.
Dwyer had taken to sleeping in a closet, arming himself with guns and knives, and inhaling aerosol to help him sleep. The most chilling quote in the piece comes from Dwyer's mom:
"Talking to him, he knew he was going to die," Maureen Dwyer said.
Read the entire piece. Every American should.
BTW, Dwyer is not alone. A 2004 Army study found that 1 in 8 returning troops suffered from PTSD. By 2007 the estimate spiked to 1 in 2.
Records show roughly 40,000 troops have been diagnosed with the illness, also known as PTSD, since 2003. Officials believe that many more are likely keeping their illness a secret.
"I don't think right now we ... have good numbers," Army Surgeon General Eric Schoomaker said...
And not only has the VA failed to provide adequate numbers, and adequate treatment, for vets suffering from PTSD, it appears they've also fudged the numbers, to undercount the number of post-deployment suicides taking place among our returning troops.
(May 6) At a hearing held by the House Veterans' Committee today, chairman Bob Filner, D-Calif., said he thought there was "criminal negligence" and "clear evidence of a bureaucratic coverup" in the VA's handling of mental health findings.
"If you have a thousand, and you said it could be more, of suicide attempts per month, we've got some real difficult issues," Filner said to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James Peake.
But most of the committee's time was spent on a report aired by CBS News last year that said the VA was under-reporting the magnitude of suicides among veterans by manipulating the data.
The Army is facing particular burdens, since it is mostly Army, Army National Guard and Reserve troops who are pulling the 2, 3 and 4 rotations to fight this war (not to leave out the Marines, but the Army is currently the more broken force.) And all of the signs point to the homefront being unequal to the task of handling hundreds of thousands of psychologically (and physically) wounded warriors coming home. Hell, Democratic vets in Congress had to fight the "commander in chief" AND fellow veterans like John McCain just to get a G.I. Bill with decent educational benefits for the troops last month, while the GOP simply fought for more incentives to keep soldiers in, and deployed, indefinitely in Iraq. (Of course, now that it has passed, members of the GOP who opposed the bill, up to and including Bush and McCain, are trying to jump on the GI Bill bandwagon...)
Shame on us for not taking better care of our soldiers when they come home, starting with the Bush administration, but ultimately, including us all.
Robert Mugabe retains power, dodges the Hague ... plus other morning news
Swiftboat veterans seek to reclaim the dignity of the name from the sleazeballs who attacked John Kerry's service in Vietnam in 2004. Meanwhile, T. Boone Pickens is a phony and a liar, just like the attack group he funded...
A group of American advisers led by a small State Department team played an integral part in drawing up contracts between the Iraqi government and five major Western oil companies to develop some of the largest fields in Iraq, American officials say.
The disclosure, coming on the eve of the contracts’ announcement, is the first confirmation of direct involvement by the Bush administration in deals to open Iraq’s oil to commercial development and is likely to stoke criticism.
In their role as advisers to the Iraqi Oil Ministry, American government lawyers and private-sector consultants provided template contracts and detailed suggestions on drafting the contracts, advisers and a senior State Department official said.
And why would they do such a thing?
Though enriched by high prices, the companies are starved for new oil fields. The United States government, too, has eagerly encouraged investment anywhere in the world that could provide new oil to alleviate the exceptionally tight global supply, which is a cause of high prices.
Iraq is particularly attractive in that light, because in addition to its vast reserves, it has the potential to bring new sources of oil onto the market relatively cheaply.
As sabotage on oil export pipelines has declined with improved security, this potential is closer to being realized. American military officials say the pipelines now have excess capacity, waiting for output to increase at the fields.
Ah yes, the oil. The oil!
“We pretend it is not a centerpiece of our motivation, yet we keep confirming that it is,” Frederick D. Barton, senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said in a telephone interview. “And we undermine our own veracity by citing issues like sovereignty, when we have our hands right in the middle of it.”
And the story wouldn't be complete without a completely contradictory comment from Condi Rice:
Criticism like that has prompted objections by the Bush administration and the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, who say the deals are purely commercial matters. Ms. Rice, speaking on Fox News this month, said: “The United States government has stayed out of the matter of awarding the Iraq oil contracts. It’s a private sector matter.”
Meanwhile, the Washington Post has a wrenching, first-person account of treating PTSD among our troops returning from the dual war zones.
The soldier from Ohio studied the wall carefully. It was amazing, he said, how much the layout of those picture frames resembled the layout of the street in Tikrit that was seared in his memory; the similarity had leapt out at him the first time he came in for a session. He traced the linear space between the frames, showing me where his Humvee had turned and traveled down the block, and where the two Iraqi men had been standing, close -- too close -- to the road.
"I knew immediately something was wrong," he said. The explosion threw him out of the vehicle, with his comrades trapped inside, screaming. Lying on the ground, he returned fire until he drove off the insurgents. His fellow soldiers survived, but nearly four years later, their screams still haunted him. "I couldn't go to them," he told me, overwhelmed with guilt and imagined failure. "I couldn't help them."
That soldier from Ohio is one of the nearly 40,000 U.S. troops diagnosed by the military with post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003 to 2007; the number of diagnoses increased nearly 50 percent in 2007 over the previous year, the military said this spring. I saw a number of soldiers with war trauma while working as a psychologist for the U.S. Army. In 2006, I went to Fort Dix as a civilian contractor to treat soldiers on their way to and return from those wars. I was drawn by the immediacy of the work and the opportunity to make a difference. What the raw numbers on war trauma can't show is what I saw every day in my office: the individual stories of men and women who have sustained emotional trauma as well as physical injury, people who are still fighting an arduous postwar battle to heal, to understand a mysterious psychological condition and re-enter civilian life. As I think about the soldiers who will be rotating back home from Iraq this summer as part of the "pause" in the "surge," as well as those who will stay behind, I remember some of the people I met on their long journey back from the war. ...
So now we know: Michelle Obama shops at Target, hates pantyhose ("painful") and made the "fist pump" cool.
And Cindy McCain does lots of under-the-radar charity work, favors Oscar de la Renta and has a credit card bill that's been somewhere between $100,000 and $250,000 this year.
But rest assured, America: With a major female presidential candidate no longer in the running, there's plenty more we'll learn about the stylistic, literary, grooming and culinary penchants of the two women who aspire to be first lady of the United States.
Three hours after John McCain’s campaign bus left General Motors’ plant in Lordstown, Ohio, workers started streaming in and out of the factory’s gates for the mid-afternoon shift change.
Only a fraction had caught a glimpse of the Republican presidential candidate when he toured the production line and still fewer attended the meeting he held in an adjacent conference room. “Management invited him,” said 38-year-old Tim Niles. “It had nothing to do with us. We’re with Obama.”
Mr Niles, a white, working-class Democrat who wears a “Bubba’s Army” T-shirt, is exactly the kind of voter Mr McCain was courting on his trip to northern Ohio on Friday. On the day Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton staged their first joint rally, Mr McCain was trying to undermine their reconciliation by wooing Mrs Clinton’s blue-collar base.
His efforts appeared wasted on many. “We’re a working-class factory,” said 49-year-old Greg George. “McCain calls himself moderate, but his party has been a disaster for working people over the past eight years.”
And the U.S. warns that Mexico's battle against powerful drug cartels is threatening to escalate into a crippling, all-out war.
Barack Obama flew back to Washington this morning to cast his "aye" vote on the G.I. Bill, which passed today as part of a $165 billion war funding bill that was, against the president's wishes, married to a domestic spending package. (Score one for Jim Webb and IAVA...)
Says the WaPo:
... The 75-22 vote surprised even the measure's advocates and showed clearly the impact of the looming November election on Republican unity. Senate Republicans who face reelection broke first on the amendment, followed by other Republicans who quickly jumped on board.
It was a clear rebuke to Bush, who has promised to veto any measure that adds domestic spending to his $108 billion request to fund the war. The White House opposed the expanded G.I. Bill, concerned that the price tag was too high and the generous benefits could entice soldiers and Marines to leave the overburdened military rather than reenlist.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, who was in Ft. Bragg, N.C. with Bush, said of the vote: "There's a long way to go in this process, and fortunately it takes two houses of Congress to send a bill to the president. Our position hasn't changed: This is the wrong way to consider domestic spending, and Congress should not go down this path."
The Senate measure extends unemployment benefits for 13 weeks, funds levee construction around New Orleans and guarantees that veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will receive education benefits equal to the tuition of the most expensive state universities.
It provides additional funds for the Food and Drug Administration, the 2010 Census, federal prisons, local law enforcement agencies, heating assistance for the poor and many other domestic priorities. It also blocks the administration from implementing regulations that would limit access to the State Children's Health Insurance Program.
Although parts of the amendment have always enjoyed bipartisan support, the measure has taken on the weight of the presidential campaign in recent weeks. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the presumptive GOP nominee, opposed the domestic spending and advocated a slimmed-down version of the G.I. Bill, adopting the administration's argument that the original version -- authored by Sens. James Webb (D-Va.) and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) -- would deplete the military.
In so doing, McCain went against virtually every veterans organization, from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion to the more partisan VoteVets.org.
McCain did not interrupt his campaign schedule to vote today, but his Democratic rivals, Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), did.
"I respect Senator John McCain's service to our country," Obama said. "But I can't understand why he would line up behind the president in opposition to this G.I. Bill. I can't believe why he believes it is too generous to our veterans."
So who were the 22 Senators who voted against the bill? My money's on Traitor Joe and Miss Lindsey being in that number. Let's take a look-see:
Well I'll be damned! Lieberman surprised me this time, although his favorite little warmonger didn't even bother to show up and vote. Way to show that courage, McCain... And with the other AZ Republican Senator voting down veteran's benefits (the vote you'd have to assume McCain would have cast, had he had the cojones to show up), you've got to wonder what Arizona's veterans and active duty troops think of their present leadership. Could it be time to revive the question, Senator, "when and why did you sell your soul?"
Congress faces a crucial vote on a new G.I. Bill tomorrow. From an IAVA press release today:
On Thursday, May 8, the House of Representatives will vote on a World War II-style GI Bill for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the nation's first and largest nonpartisan organization for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, strongly endorses this critical legislation. It was originally introduced in Congress by some of the Senate's own combat veterans, including Senators Jim Webb (D-VA) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE). The bill has the extraordinary bipartisan support of more than 330 Senators and Representatives and the endorsement of every major Veterans Service Organization from IAVA to the American Legion to Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). The GI Bill is being voted on as an amendment to the war supplemental spending plan.
"Congress has a historic choice to make tomorrow. Lawmakers will go on record regarding whether they support our nation's newest generation of veterans," said Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. "The momentum for a 21st Century GI Bill has been incredible. The widespread support among lawmakers on both sides of the aisle proves that caring for our nation's veterans is not a partisan issue. Tomorrow, we urge every member of Congress to vote ‘yes' on GI Bill funding and show unanimous support for our troops."
The GI Bill being voted on tomorrow would substantially increase the educational benefits available to servicemembers who have served since September 11th, 2001. The bill would cover the cost of tuition up to the most expensive in-state public school and provide a living and book stipend, so that new veterans can focus on their educations and their readjustment to civilian life. It would also offer a more equitable benefit to National Guardsmen and Reservists than what is currently available. Furthermore, because the legislation is linked to the cost of higher education, it would keep its value over time.
"In addition to providing veterans with a brighter future, a 21st Century GI Bill would stimulate our nation's economy and serve as a tremendous boon to military recruitment," said Rieckhoff. "Passing a new GI Bill is simply the right thing to do."
The Senate version is the one NOT being supported by U.S. Navy veteran John McCain.
Support the troops? Not in the Bush administration...
The Bush administration has a long, sorry history of covering up the costs of the war in Iraq, from their "emergency appropriations" that feed the financial costs piecemeal to the Congress and the American people, to their denial of press coverage of the flag draped coffins of our veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan (or at their funerals), to, apparently, boldfaced attempts to downplay the horrors of war's aftermath for the men and women returning from service.
The latest outrage, which you might have heard on Olbermann's show last week:
WASHINGTON - Two Democratic senators have called for the chief mental health official of the Veterans Affairs Department to resign, saying he tried to cover up the rising number of veteran suicides.
Sens. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii and Patty Murray of Washington state said Tuesday that Dr. Ira Katz, the VA's mental health director, withheld crucial information on the true suicide risk among veterans.
"Dr. Katz's irresponsible actions have been a disservice to our veterans, and it is time for him to go," said Murray, a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. "The No. 1 priority of the VA should be caring for our veterans, not covering up the truth."
So what did Dr. Katz do?
A number of Democratic senators said they were appalled at e-mails showing Katz and other VA officials apparently trying to conceal the number of suicides by veterans. Ahttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifn e-mail message from Katz disclosed this week as part of a lawsuit that went to trial in San Francisco starts with "Shh!" and claims 12,000 veterans a year attempt suicide while under department treatment.
"Is this something we should (carefully) address ourselves in some sort of release before someone stumbles on it?" the e-mail asks. ...
...Another e-mail said an average of 18 war veterans kill themselves each day — and five of them are under VA care when they commit suicide.
[an estimated] 300,000 U.S. troops — about 20 percent of those deployed — are suffering from depression or post-traumatic stress from serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The saddest part is, the Bush administration (and their sycophant followers online and in talk radio, plus their acolytes like Joe Lieberman and John McCain,) are willing to feed our finest young men and women into the grinder, slogging on in a war that was long-since over, but they haven't the slightest interest in what happens to them when, or if, they come home.
Ari Fleischer has a new job! He's the spokesman for a group launching a $15 million ad campaign in support of Bush's Iraq surge. Ari appeared on "Hardball" yesterday with Mike Barnacle sitting in for Chris Matthews, and Barnacle scored two major slapshots: first, asking Ari to name the soldier featuerd in the ad (Ari couldn't recall) ... and second, after what sounded like a slathering set-up, asking "so Ari, how many Iraqis were on those planes that flew into the World Trade Center?" Watch:
As for who's funding the campaign, NBC's First Read has the rundown:
The donors who are financing the new multi-million-dollar TV ad campaign arguing against a withdrawal from Iraq include a Who's Who of former Bush Administration ambassadors (to plum assignments like France, Italy, and Malta); a least one of Bush's original Pioneers; the man ranked by Forbes (in 2006) as the third-richest American; and, of course, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.
Brad Blakeman, the president of Freedom's Watch, which is running these ads, released the following names as donors to his group. Blakeman told NBC that the rest of the donors are choosing to be anonymous. Freedom's Watch is a 501(c)4 organization, which can collect unlimited contributions and doesn't have to disclose its donors.
Why is the military going after Adam Kokesh? From RawStory:
A veteran of the Iraq war is accusing the military of trying to stifle the freedom of speech he volunteered to fight to protect.
After serving his country in Iraq, former Marine Sgt. Adam Kokesh grew disillusioned with US involvement there and became an anti-war activist. He participated in demonstrations around Washington, including Operation First Casualty, which was organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War in March.
Kokesh's anti-war activity and his correspondence with Marine investigators has rankled the military enough that it is working to revoke the veteran's "honorable discharge" designation. Kokesh will appear before a military hearing in Kansas City, Mo., Monday to fight the military's attempt to change his discharge status to "other than honorable."
As Kokesh explained on CNN last Thursday:
"This was a very unique demonstration. It was called Operation First Casualty. And it's called that because the first casualty of war is the truth. And the purpose of this was to bring a small part of the truth of the occupation of Iraq home to the American people. And we did that by simulating a combat patrol through the streets of Washington, D.C. We did it again just this past weekend in New York City. And we had civilians who were playing occupied people. ... We treat them as a combat patrol in Iraq might treat Iraqi civilians."
But the military objected to the protesters, including Kokesh, wearing their real uniforms. More on the protest here. Kokesh's blog is here.
Is it just me, or aren't we supposed to be fighting for "freedom" in Iraq, and doesn't the military defend our freedoms at home, including the right to protest? Hm???
The VFW has now weighed in on Kokesh's plight. From ThinkP:
“The nation’s largest combat veterans group on Friday urged the military to ‘exercise a little common sense’ and call off its investigation of Iraq war veterans who wore their uniforms during war protests. ‘Trying to hush up and punish fellow Americans for exercising the same democratic right we’re trying to instill in Iraq is not what we’re all about,’ said Gary Kurpius, national commander of the 2.4-million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars.”
I'm going to reach out to Kokesh this afternoon, and hopefully have him on the radio show this week. I believe there are hearings scheduled in his case today.
Washington, DC – At a Memorial Day event in an American Legion hall in Alton, N.H., yesterday, Mitt Romney lashed out at an Iraq War veteran who “complained that he hasn't been able to get adequate medical care since returning from Iraq in January 2005.” [AP, 5/29/07] When asked by the man’s wife and friend about his problem getting treatment for a broken foot, Romney “questioned the man's status, wondering why the military wouldn't help him if he is active duty.” According to news accounts, when the man’s friend began to explain by saying, "He's in the window," Romney “cut him off” and snapped "Don't give me, ‘he's in the window’…He's either active duty or not." [AP, 5/29/07] Romney’s only response: the man should call his senator. [Concord Monitor, 5/29/07]
The “window” Romney’s questioner was referring to is the gap resulting from the persistent failure to form a seamless transition between Department of Defense and Veterans Administration health care programs. Too many injured active duty personnel lose their health coverage for a time when they are transferred from military health care to the VA system. While Democrats have been working to close that gap, Romney’s insensitive response shows both a lack of understanding of the issue and a lack of sensitivity to the hardships it causes.
“Mitt Romney’s heartless tirade shows how little he understands the challenges facing our veterans and military families,” said Democratic National Committee spokesman Damien LaVera. “Republicans in Washington have consistently shortchanged those who have served this country. They have failed to fully fund veteran’s health care programs or plan for the needs of our wounded troops, shortcomings Democrats in Congress are working to correct. Unfortunately, Mitt Romney apparently doesn’t understand that supporting our troops and veterans means more than offering empty platitudes about their service while clinging to President Bush’s failed leadership and failed strategy in Iraq.”
Read the Concord Monitor story here. And more on Romney's New Hampshire visit here.
The real estate market is in a world of hurt, as the free borrowing that fueled the supposed Bush real estate boom is looking more like the dot com bubble of old. It's being felt in the private housing market, but also in the high end real estate market, with a Nicki Hilton controversy thrown in to boot. Not a good look.
Meanwhile, the Walter Reed privatization scandal expands, as it becomes increasingly clear that the rush to privatize military veteran care nearly destroyed the jewel in the Army's crown, and even led to the kind of bribery and contract grubbing that you saw with the CIA and Department of Defense in the Dusty Foggo scandal, which of course, also involved members of Congress. From the Boston Globe:
GREENBELT, Md. --A man has pleaded guilty in federal court to participating in a kickback scheme involving contracts at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
According to the plea agreement, from June 1999 to March 2002, Krachyna and an unnamed accomplice conspired to give kickbacks to a civilian contract specialist employed by the Army Medical Command. The unnamed official was responsible for procurement for the medical center.
The official helped Krachyna and his business partner secure government contracts worth as much as $1.4 million in exchange for a 10 percent cut, according to the plea agreement. Krachyna admitted paying the public official $10,000 to $30,000, according to the document.
So the contract to IAG Worldwide, a company whose directors include former KBR executives and former Treasury Secretary John Snow, meant that cleaning and facilities maintenance went to toadies who couldn't do the job, and other contractors came running for some of the gristle from the Bush table.
Way to spur an economic boom: plunder, theft, bribery and fraud, plus irrational exuberance and questionable lending processes. Only under Republicans.
You kind of figured that a few too many die-hard fans of the show "24" have begun to mistake the fictional Fox show for "war on terror" reality, didn't you? Well, guess what? Thrown into interrogations without any rules or Geneva restrictions, guess what confused, frustrated U.S. troops turned to when trying to extract information from Iraqi and other detainees?
In the meantime, how do you keep things like bad publicity over piss poor treatment of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans from sinking the GWOT P.R. flotilla? Why, you shut up the soldiers, of course! From the Army Times:
Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Medical Hold Unit say they have been told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media.
“Some soldiers believe this is a form of punishment for the trouble soldiers caused by talking to the media,” one Medical Hold Unit soldier said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
It is unusual for soldiers to have daily inspections after Basic Training.
Soldiers say their sergeant major gathered troops at 6 p.m. Monday to tell them they must follow their chain of command when asking for help with their medical evaluation paperwork, or when they spot mold, mice or other problems in their quarters.
They were also told they would be moving out of Building 18 to Building 14 within the next couple of weeks. Building 14 is a barracks that houses the administrative offices for the Medical Hold Unit and was renovated in 2006. It’s also located on the Walter Reed Campus, where reporters must be escorted by public affairs personnel. Building 18 is located just off campus and is easy to access.
The Pentagon also clamped down on media coverage of any and all Defense Department medical facilities, to include suspending planned projects by CNN and the Discovery Channel, saying in an e-mail to spokespeople: “It will be in most cases not appropriate to engage the media while this review takes place,” referring to an investigation of the problems at Walter Reed.
Not appropriate, indeed.
Anyway, we wouldn't want the press hyping up those tens of thousands of vets who insist on darkening the doors of the VA system for those silly dental problems... now, would we? Oops, did I say "dental problems?" Sorry, I was quoting a disingenuous Bush administration official. What I mean to say was "catastrophic brain injuries..."
So while we're on the subject of the military and war, just how the hell are things going with that "surge" in Iraq, pray tell? Says the Guardian:
An elite team of officers advising US commander General David Petraeus in Baghdad has concluded the US has six months to win the war in Iraq - or face a Vietnam-style collapse in political and public support that could force the military into a hasty retreat. The officers - combat veterans who are leading experts in counter-insurgency - are charged with implementing the "new way forward" strategy announced by president George Bush on January 10. The plan includes a controversial "surge" of 21,500 additional American troops to establish security in the Iraqi capital and Anbar province.
But the team, known as the "Baghdad brains trust" and ensconced in the heavily fortified Green Zone around the US embassy, is struggling to overcome a range of entrenched problems in what has become a race against time, said a former senior administration official familiar with their deliberations. "They know they are operating under a clock. They know they are going to hear a lot more talk in Washington about 'Plan B' by the autumn - meaning withdrawal. They know the next six-month period is their opportunity. And they say it's getting harder every day," the former official said.
By improving security, the plan's short-term aim is to create time and space for the Iraqi government to bring rival Shia, Sunni and Kurd factions together in a process of national reconciliation, us officials say. If that works within the stipulated timeframe, longer-term schemes for rebuilding Iraq under the so-called "go long" strategy will be set in motion. But the next six months are make-or-break for both the US military and the Iraqi government.
The main obstacles confronting Gen Petraeus's team are: · Insufficent numbers of troops on the ground · A "disintegrating" international coalition · An anticipated upsurge in violence in the south as the British leave · Morale problems as casualties rise · A failure of political will in Washington and/or Baghdad
"The scene is very tense. They are working round the clock. Endless cups of tea with the Iraqis," the former senior administration official said. "But they're still trying to figure out what's the plan. The president is expecting progress. But they're thinking, what does he mean? The plan is changing every minute, as all plans do."
And why do we STILL not have enough troops in the theater? ThinkP:
Top U.S. intelligence officials yesterday disclosed to the Senate “that the deployment of Iraqi forces into Baghdad under President Bush’s new plan to stabilize Iraq is running behind schedule and that all of the units sent so far have arrived under strength, some by more than half.“