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VIPS Make Fresh Appeal for Sanity on Russia's Borders

 

 


Merkel Urged to Temper NATO’s Belligerence

 

 

Editor Note:  U.S. intelligence veterans are calling on German Chancellor Merkel to bring a needed dose of realism and restraint to the upcoming NATO conference, which risks escalating the dangerous new Cold War with Russia.

MEMORANDUM FOR: Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT: NATO Summit in Warsaw

REFERENCE: Our Memorandum to You, August 30, 2014

Barbarism, civilization and modern politics: PTSD as a Political Football in a Hobbesian Age

By John Grant

 

If our wars were to make killers of all combat soldiers, rather than men who have killed, civilian life would be endangered for generations or, in fact, made impossible.

"Modern Warfare Destroys Your Brain" in More Ways Than One

The most likely way to die in a U.S. war, by far, is to live in the country that the United States is attacking. But the most likely way in which a U.S. participant in a war will die is by suicide.

There are a couple of widely observed top causes of hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops returning from recent wars deeply disturbed in their minds. One is having been near an explosion. Another, which has been around longer than explosions have, is having killed, having nearly died, having seen blood and gore and suffering, having imposed death and suffering on innocents, having seen comrades die in agony, exacerbated in many cases by having lost faith in the sales pitch that launched the war -- in other words, the horror of war making.

The first of those two causes might be called traumatic brain injury, the other mental anguish or moral injury. But, in fact, both are physical events in a brain. And, in fact, both impact thoughts and emotions.  That scientists have a hard time observing moral injury in brains is a shortcoming of scientists that ought not to start us imagining that mental activity isn't physical or that physical brain activity isn't mental (and therefore that one is serious, while the other is sort of silly).

Here's a New York Times headline from Friday: "What if PTSD Is More Physical Than Psychological?" The article that follows the headline seems to mean by this question two things:

1) What if by focusing on troops having been near explosions we are able to distract attention away from the suffering induced by conditioning thinking human beings to mindlessly commit horrific acts?

2) What if having been near explosions impacts brains in a way that scientists happen to have figured out how to observe in a brain?

The answer to number 1 should be: We are not going to limit our brains to the New York Times as a source of information. Based on recent experience, including acts the Times has apologized for or retracted, that would be a sure way to create more modern warfare, thereby destroying more brains, risking a vicious cycle of war and destruction.

The answer to number 2 should be: Did you think the damage wasn't real because scientists hadn't found it in their microscopes yet? Did you think it was literally in soldiers' hearts? Did you think it was floating in the non-physical ether somewhere? Here's the New York Times:

"Perl's findings, published in the scientific journal The Lancet Neurology, may represent the key to a medical mystery first glimpsed a century ago in the trenches of World War I. It was first known as shell shock, then combat fatigue and finally PTSD, and in each case, it was almost universally understood as a psychic rather than a physical affliction. Only in the past decade or so did an elite group of neurologists, physicists and senior officers begin pushing back at a military leadership that had long told recruits with these wounds to 'deal with it,' fed them pills and sent them back into battle."

So, if the combination of afflictions that soldiers suffered from could not be observed by a neurologist, then they were all faking? They were suffering depression and panic attacks and nightmares in order to trick us? Or the wounds were real but necessarily minor, something to be "dealt with"? And -- importantly, there is a second implication here -- if the injury arose not from an explosion but from having stabbed to death a poor kid drafted into a different army, then it was not worthy of any concern important enough to outweigh the desirability of ignoring such matters.

Here's the New York Times in its own words: "Much of what has passed for emotional trauma may be reinterpreted, and many veterans may step forward to demand recognition of an injury that cannot be definitively diagnosed until after death. There will be calls for more research, for drug trials, for better helmets and for expanded veteran care. But these palliatives are unlikely to erase the crude message that lurks, unavoidable, behind Perl's discovery: Modern warfare destroys your brain."

Apparently the collective brain power of those of us who haven't joined the military suffers as well. Here we are faced with the understanding -- slanted and constrained though it may be -- that warfare destroys your brain; and yet we are meant to suppose that the only possible consequences of that realization are outcries for better medical care, better helmets, etc.

Allow me to suggest one other proposal: ending all warfare.

FBI: Clinton Email Investigation Must Be "Thorough" -- and Irelevant

 

 


Intel Vets Urge Fast Report on Clinton’s Emails

 

 

A group of U.S. intelligence veterans is calling on President Obama to expedite the FBI review of former Secretary of State Clinton’s alleged email security violations so the public can assess this issue in a timely fashion.

MEMORANDUM FOR: The President

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

SUBJECT: Those “Damn Emails” – “Really a Concern”

Introduction

New Veteran-led Campaign Challenges Islamophobia

By Brian Trautman

Violence against American Muslims is growing faster than at any time since 9/11, with assaults on Muslim individuals and their places of worship having tripled since the Paris and San Bernardino terror attacks. A NY Times article published last December cites several examples, which include shootings and vandalism. According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), last year set a record for the highest number of incidents targeting U.S. Mosques. As a result of this violence, Muslims across the country, including women and children, have conveyed to the public that they genuinely fear for their safety and security.

Hostility toward Muslims because of their religious faith is fundamental to the root and expression of Islamophobia. A 1997 reportof the Runnymede Trust defined Islamophobia as "an outlook or world-view involving an unfounded dread and dislike of Muslims, which results in practices of exclusion and discrimination." The report also identified eight common misconceptions about Islam, such as the religion is inferior, primitive, and barbaric and embodies a political ideology rather than a true religious faith.For these reasons, among others, it can beargued that Islamophobia is a form of racism.

The hate propaganda and political demagoguery observed in the current presidential election season has fueled Islamophobia and contributed to the sharp rise in hate crimes. Many public figures, social commentators and members of the media tragically conflate terrorism with Islam, despite the lack of credible evidence pointing to any connection between the two. Sadly, it is quite possible that the anti-Muslim responses to the terror attacks in Brussels from Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and others may have incited more Islamophobia and put Muslims at greater risk of victimization.

There are about 3 million Muslims in the U.S. today and more than 1.6 billion worldwide. They have the same right to religious freedom, freedom from fear, and human dignity as members of any other religion, particularly in a nation that touts itself as a beacon of hope and the "Land of the Free."As citizens, we have a moral responsibility to act to protect and preserve these rights. Accordingly, Islamophobia must be confronted every time it rears its ugly head. There is no room for apathy or complacency on this matter.

Determined to defy and combat Islamophobia before more innocent Muslims are targeted and harmed, Veterans For Peace (VFP), working closely with Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), has organized a campaign called “Veterans Challenge Islamophobia” (VCI). This national campaign is a broad-based, action-oriented effort which calls on military veterans everywhere to defend the values of religious freedom, equality and individual rights – the very same values that are embedded in the U.S. Constitution. The campaign strives to prevent further abuse of our Muslim neighbors while building strong, positive relationships with Muslim communities to help guard them against hate-motivated threats and behavior.

VFP understands that terror groups like ISIL do not speak for Islam and in fact the vast majority of ISIL’s victims are Muslims. To quote Muslim Navy veteran and VFP member Nate Terani, ISIL’s atrocities represent “utter cowardice carried out by thugs who know NO religion except violence and destruction. They are NOT members of my faith which preaches the sanctity of creation.” In a recent op-ed, Paul K. Chappell, retired Army Captain and a member of VFP’s advisory board, argues that ISIL deliberately provokes Islamophobia for the purposes of recruitment. The terror organization requires two specific conditions before this objective can be fulfilled: “It needs to dehumanize the people it kills, and it also needs Western countries to dehumanize Muslims.” Chappell contends that ISIL “commits horrible atrocities against Westerners because it wants us to overreact by stereotyping, dehumanizing, and alienating Muslims.” Islamophobia, therefore, has the real potential of strengthening ISIL, especially if left unchallenged.

Besides being used as a mechanism to denigrate Muslim Americans, Islamophobia has been employed as a vehicle to demonize Muslims in foreign lands, functioning as a convenient tool for lawmakers pushing to reject war refugees from the Middle East or furnish a pretext for sending more military troops to the region. VFP also believes that the pro-torture rhetoric of several presidential candidates is linked to Islamophobia, a position that VFP has articulated publicly. The ongoing vilification and targeting of Muslims both here and abroad demonstrates the urgent need for and importance of the VCI campaign.

The formal statement of the VCI campaign reads as follows:

“We are U.S. military veterans, many of whom saw combat in Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam, who are appalled by the current spate of bigotry, racism and hatred expressed toward Muslims, the huge majority of whom are law-abiding and productive citizens.

Bigotry and racism violate all of the values we believed we were defending during our military service. The ideals contained in the Constitution, to the degree they have been manifested in America, have been a beacon to much of the world because of the diversity, openness, and respect for people of all faiths that most Americans live by. It will be a great calamity if we let fear give rise to hatred.

Fear-mongering endangers our national security and gives rise to hatred and racism that play into the hands of an enemy that wants to convince Muslims around the world that the West, led by the U.S., hates them, and that joining ISIL or similar organizations is the only way to truly observe and defend their religion. We can never defend ourselves effectively by playing into our adversary’s strategy, giving credibility to their recruitment propaganda. We endanger ourselves whenever we make that mistake.

We call on all Americans to let their voices be heard and to stand up for the values of tolerance, respect and love. As Pope Francis told Congress, “to imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place.”

The above statement is published on the VCI campaign website where veterans can sign on to support the campaign and non-veterans can sign upfor campaign news while helping make sure the voices of veterans are heard as we defend freedom of religion and stand against bigotry.

A number of campaign-related activities have taken place since VCI was launched last January. At the end of February, for instance, a VFP sponsored rally titled “Muslims Are Not Our Enemy” was held outside the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, New England’s largest mosque (video). The campaign has inspired the hashtag #VetsVsHate, a movement of veterans who have posted personal messages of solidarity to social media and held nonviolent protests at political events nationwide, including in South Carolina, Alabama, Nevada and Arizona. Veterans involved in protests have displayed banners with appeals to stop the hate, two of which read, “Veterans to Mr. Trump: End Hate Speech Against Muslims” and “We Stand With Our Muslim Brothers and Sisters.” During some of these actions, several veterans were accosted and manhandled by security officials and belligerent political supporters.

It is the hope of VFP and its allies that the VCI campaign functionsas an educational instrument and a call to action. The attempts to manufacture fear and hatred of Muslims in our society must be stopped. All veterans, whether or not they agree with VFP on other issues, can be prominent and influential leaders in the struggle against Islamophobia and in persuading their fellow Americans to oppose hate. This campaign is intended as one small but significant contribution toward that effort.

Brian Trautman serves on the national board of directors of Veterans For Peace (VFP). He is a post-Cold War veteran of the U.S. Army. Brian teaches peace studies and economics at Berkshire Community College in western Massachusetts and resides near Albany, NY. On Twitter @BriTraut.

DNC defection: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s Surprise Endorsement Gives Sanders a Chance to Change the Whole Primary Game

By Dave Lindorff

 

            Just as the media, in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s landslide win in South Carolina’s Democratic primary Saturday, are predictably writing the obituary for Bernie Sanders’ upstart and uphill campaign for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) has handed him an opportunity to jolt the American people awake.

A Lesson (Still) Not Learned

By Michael Nagler

I was deeply saddened to read last week of the death by suicide of Cmdr. Job Price who was with a Navy SEAL team in Afghanistan.

I was even sadder when I realized that the hopeful idea that sprung up in my mind was naive: “Now maybe people will understand why soldiers commit suicide.” The only reasons for his suicide that the media could offer were the usual suspects: it was a bad deployment, “a cautionary tale of how men were ground down by years of fighting and losing comrades,” and of course, the old fallback that puts a stop to the whole inquiry, “no one knows why.”

The fact is, we know very well why soldiers and veterans commit suicide – if we allow ourselves to know it. In his book, “On Killing,” Lt. Col. David Grossman describes that from the beginning of the historical record up to the Korean War, soldiers were extremely reluctant to kill their fellow human beings, going so far as reloading weapons they hadn’t fired.  Muskets were found on the battlefields of the American Civil War with as many as eighteen balls rammed down the barrel in this pretense. And what Grossman concluded has been strongly confirmed by science: human beings have a strong, inherent inhibition against killing and injuring their fellows.

We can, of course, be trained or conditioned to go against this inhibition; but what results is what psychologist Rachel MacNair calls Perpetration-Induced Traumatic Stress (PITS), a form of PTSD that affects not only combat soldiers but police officers, prison guards who carry out “legal” executions, and many others. In any of these people, the cognitive dissonance can lead to suicide. This inhibition is arguably what makes us human; we cannot violate it without serious consequences, no matter what society or our conscious minds tell us about it’s being necessary, or even glorious.

This inhibition, which we should be very proud of, goes back so far in evolution that we are born with “mirror neurons” in our brain that cause us to feel what others feel. Distinguished neuroscientist Marco Iacoboni of UCLA says, “Although we commonly think of pain as a fundamentally private experience, our brain actually treats it as an experience shared with others.”

In Grossman’s second book, “Let’s Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill,” he reports that after the military had discovered how few men were actually firing their weapons in combat situations, it set about conditioning recruits to override the inhibition. In some cases, they simply used the same games that our children are playing on their X-Box or Playstation (hence Grossman’s title). They were very “successful” – that is, in increasing the firing rate – not in changing human nature.

A SEAL is supposed to be beyond all this, but the case of Cmdr. Price shows it isn’t so. Now, I have no idea what goes into the making of a Navy SEAL, but as part of basic training in the regular army, recruits shout out in unison when asked the purpose of the bayonet “to kill, kill without mercy.” But to be without mercy is to be without your humanity. And this is what veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are telling us: “I lost my soul in Iraq,” “I no longer like who I am,” etc.

When will we realize that the reluctance to kill and injure is not an inconvenience, but a precious capacity that we should celebrate and reward and that we could use as a guide to how we can and should live?

There was, to be sure, one hint in the press: just before he killed himself, Cmdr. Price had in his pocket a report about an Afghan girl who had died in an explosion near the base. But it was mentioned without comment, and of course with no attempt to draw conclusions. It’s left to you and me to tell this story when and wherever we get a chance. Of course, it means that Americans will have to rethink how we conduct ourselves in the international arena, how we treat offenders in our society – many such things must be examined and re-examined, and we shouldn’t shrink from this challenge. The alternative is to go on dehumanizing our servicemen and women, who are already committing suicide at an appalling rate. And why should we shrink from it, when if we accept it we can build a far better world based on the true recognition of who we are.

Talk Nation Radio: Cian Westmoreland, former U.S. Air Force technician in Afghanistan, speaks against war

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-cian-westmoreland-former-us-air-force-technician-in-afghanistan-speaks-against-war 

Cian Westmoreland is a former Air Force technician who served in Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan at the 73rd Expeditionary Air Control Squadron. He assisted in building a signal relay station that was used for transmitting and receiving data, radio, and radar picture for unmanned and manned missions for approximately 250,000 square miles over Afghanistan. In a report provided to him after his tour, he was credited with assisting in 2,400 close air support missions and 200+ kills of supposed enemies. The UNAMA report for that year, 2009, claimed however that this number also included 359 civilians killed in airstrikes. Westmoreland discusses his experience.

Learn more: http://projectredhand.org

See related film: http://dronethedocumentary.com

Support whistleblowers: https://whisper.networkforgood.com

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

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My 2016 New Years Day: The Good, the Sad and the Ugly

By John Grant

 

Philadelphia -- A number of things converged to make my New Years special this year. Three of them were good, one was not so good -- in fact, it had the sense of a nasty omen for the future.

A half century of US hospital bombings: Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar

By Dave Lindorff

 

“US forces would never intentionally strike a hospital.”

       -- US Commander of NATO Forces in Afghanistan Gen. John Campbell

 

Please don’t thank me for my service.

By John Ketwig, Roanoke Times

Ketwig is a Bedford resident, a member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and a member of Veterans For Peace and Vietnam Veterans of America. He is the author of “...and a hard rain fell: A G.I.’s True Story of the War in Vietnam” originally published by Macmillan in 1985 and still in print.

Please don’t thank me for my service. I was taken against my will, yanked away from all the hopes and plans I had for my life, and made to see and experience things that contradicted anything and everything I had ever been taught about right and wrong.

I heard the screams of someone dying, far away from home, a fragile human being blown apart, for no good reason. I saw burnt, bloodied, maimed children. And men, and women.

I smelled the scent of open wounds, of flowing blood and burnt flesh. I felt the splatter of someone’s loss of life as it exploded across my face, and no matter how many times I have washed my face over the past 47 years I cannot wash away that horrible stain.

And you would thank me for that?

I abandoned my morality. I lost my equilibrium. I cannot tell you much of what I learned, but it wasn’t worth a damned thing in the civilian workplace, in my baby’s nursery, or at the checkout of the grocery store. It is only a spectre, a dense dark monster that pursues me in the night; that colors my view every day in ways no one else can see. Too many nights, almost half a century later, the horror twists my stomach into knots.

Oh, I know, you thank me because you don’t know anything else to say. You still hope that it was all about freedom and democracy and good things like that, and not just about profits and power, authority and career advancement and some ancient illicit definition of the word masculine.

It was about corporate profits and garish stripes sewn onto a sleeve, about genocide and the screwed-up notion that you can make a total stranger’s existence better by killing or maiming him.

I was playing in a rock ‘n roll band when they came for me, reciting songs about understanding and brotherhood and love. They took me against my will, stripped me naked and beat me bloody, and they sent me to the other side of the world where death fell out of the sky and exploded, and its shards tore up anything and anybody they hit.

I learned to lie as flat as possible on the mud, to will my body to become a puddle and sink down into the ooze. I learned to overcome the terror, the violent tremors, and I learned that none of those things matter when your number is up. I learned it happens to the very best guys, in the very worst ways, and there’s nothing right or righteous about it; they were just wasted.

Please, oh please don’t thank me. If you want to express something, promise me you will get involved in the struggle to abolish wars. Nothing else will say that you understand.

Then I will thank you.

Veterans Day Is Not for Veterans

johnketwigBy David Swanson, for teleSUR

John Ketwig was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1966 and sent to Vietnam for a year. I sat down with him this week to talk about it.

"My read on the whole thing," he said, "if you talk to guys who've been to Iraq and Afghanistan and look at what really happened in Vietnam, you run into what I call the American way of waging war. A young guy goes into the service with the idea you're going to help the Vietnamese or Afghan or Iraqi people. You get off the plane and the bus, and the first thing you notice is wire mesh in the windows so grenades can't come in. You immediately run into the MGR (mere gook rule). The people don't count. Kill em all, let the dogs sort em out.* You're not there to help the poor people in any way. You're not sure what you are there for, but it's not for that."

Ketwig talked about veterans returning from Iraq having run children over with a truck, following orders not to stop for fear of IEDs (improvised explosive devices). "Sooner or later," he said, "you're going to have down time, and you're going to begin to question what you're doing there."

Ketwig didn't focus on speaking out or protesting when he returned from Vietnam. He kept fairly quiet for about a decade. Then the time came, and among other things, he published a powerful account of his experience called And a Hard Rain Fell: A GI's True Story of the War in Vietnam. "I had seen body bags," he wrote, "and coffins stacked like cordwood, had seen American boys hanging lifeless on barbed wire, spilling over the sides of dump trucks, dragging behind an APC like tin cans behind a wedding party bumper. I had seen a legless man's blood drip off a stretcher to the hospital floor and a napalmed child's haunting eyes."

Ketwig's fellow soldiers, living in rat-infested tents surrounded by mud and explosions, almost universally saw no possible excuse for what they were doing and wanted to return home as soon as possible. "FTA" (f--- the Army) was scrawled on equipment everywhere, and fragging (troops killing officers) was spreading.

Air-conditioned policy makers back in Washington, D.C., found the war less traumatic or objectionable, yet in a way far more exciting. According to Pentagon historians, by June 26, 1966, "the strategy was finished," for Vietnam, "and the debate from then on centered on how much force and to what end." To what end? An excellent question. This was an internal debate that assumed the war would go forward and that sought to settle on a reason why. Picking a reason to tell the public was a separate step beyond that one. In March, 1965, a memo by Assistant Secretary of "Defense" John McNaughton had already concluded that 70% of the U.S. motivation behind the war was "to avoid a humiliating U.S. defeat."

It's hard to say which is more irrational, the world of those actually fighting a war, or the thinking of those creating and prolonging the war. President Bush Senior says he was so bored after ending the Gulf War that he considered quitting. President Franklin Roosevelt was described by the prime minister of Australia as jealous of Winston Churchill until Pearl Harbor. President Kennedy told Gore Vidal that without the U.S. Civil War, President Lincoln would have been just another railroad lawyer. George W. Bush's biographer, and Bush's own public comments in a primary debate, make clear that he wanted a war, not just before 9/11, but before he was selected for the White House by the Supreme Court. Teddy Roosevelt summed up the presidential spirit, the spirit of those whom Veterans Day truly serves, when he remarked, "I should welcome almost any war, for I think this country needs one."

Following the Korean War, the U.S. government changed Armistice Day, still known as Remembrance Day in some countries, into Veterans Day, and it morphed from a day to encourage the end of war into a day to glorify war participation. "It was originally a day to celebrate peace," says Ketwig. "That doesn't exist anymore. The militarization of America is why I'm angry and bitter." Ketwig says his anger is growing, not diminishing.

In his book, Ketwig rehearsed how a job interview might go once he was out of the Army: "Yes, sir, we can win the war. The people of Vietnam are not fighting for ideologies or political ideas; they are fighting for food, for survival. If we load all those bombers with rice, and bread, and seed, and planting tools, and paint 'From your friends in the United States' on each one, they will turn to us. The Viet Cong cannot match that."

Neither can ISIS.

But President Barack Obama has other priorities. He has bragged that he, from his well-appointed office, is "really good at killing people." He's also just sent 50 "advisors" to Syria, exactly as President Eisenhower did to Vietnam.

Assistant Secretary of State Anne Patterson was asked this week by Congresswoman Karen Bass: "What is the mission of the 50 special forces members being deployed to Syria? And will this mission lead to greater U.S. engagement?"

Patterson replied: "The exact answer is classified."

*Note: While I heard Ketwig say "dogs" and assumed he meant that, he tells me he said and meant the traditional "God."

Don’t Thank Me Anymore: Take Care of Us When We Return Home and Work to End All War

By Michael T. McPhearson

This past Saturday morning in Saint Louis, MO I was walking home when I saw a people gathering and portions of the street being blocked.  I live downtown, so it could have been another run, walk or festival. I asked someone who looked like a participant and he told me it was for the Veterans Day Parade. I was a bit surprised because Veterans Day is Wednesday. He went on to say the parade was being done on Saturday because planners were not sure if they could get enough parade spectators on Wednesday. I’m not sure if he was right about why it was decided to have the parade on Saturday, but it makes sense and is an example of our society celebrating veterans but not really caring that much about us.

Many years ago I became fed up with the hollow thank yous and stopped celebrating Veterans Day. Today I join with Veterans For Peace in a call to Reclaim November 11th as Armistice Day -- a day to think about peace and thank those who served by working to end war. I’m tired of us vets being used for war and then many of us being pretty much discarded. Instead of thanking us, change how we are treated and work to end war.  That is a real tribute.

Do you know that an average of 22 veterans die by suicide every day? That means 22 died Saturday and through November 11th, 88 more veterans will die. Saturday’s parade and November 11th means nothing to these 110 veterans. To illustrate the severity of this epidemic, by November 11th next year, 8,030 veterans will have died by suicide.

Suicide is the direst challenge facing veterans, but there are many others. Recently, after years of higher unemployment rates for veterans who joined the military after September 11, 2001 than their civilian counterparts, veterans’ rates are lower at 4.6% — than the national average of 5%, as reported in USA Today, November 10, 2015. Yet, veterans between the age of 18 and 24 continue to face high unemployment at 10.4%, nearly identical to the 10.1% unemployment figure for civilians in the same bracket. However, these numbers do not tell the full story. Due to the slow economic recovery, many discouraged people have dropped out of the job market. Good paying jobs are hard to find. Well-paying low skilled jobs nearly don’t exist. Veterans negotiate these same obstacles while at the same time facing other challenges.

Homelessness continues to be a major problem for veterans. According to information from the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, we veterans face homelessness because of “mental illness, alcohol and/or substance abuse, or co-occurring disorders. About 12% of the adult homeless population are veterans.”

The site goes on to say that, “Roughly 40% of all homeless veterans are African American or Hispanic, despite only accounting for 10.4% and 3.4% of the U.S. veteran population, respectively….Nearly half of homeless veterans served during the Vietnam era. Two-thirds served our country for at least three years, and one-third were stationed in a war zone.”

Added to this shameful reality, 1.4 million veterans are considered at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing.

Rates of post-traumatic stress are, of course, higher for veterans than civilians, no surprise there. To that we add what some call the new signature wound for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, traumatic brain injury or TBI, primarily caused by improved explosive devices. A December 2014 Washington Post article reported that, “Of the more than 50,000 American troops wounded in action in Iraq and Afghanistan, 2.6 percent have suffered a major limb amputation, the majority due to an improvised explosive device.”

After we are injured in war, what happens when we come back home? Today we have veterans from WWII through the current conflicts trying to access Veteran Affairs healthcare. That is 74 years of veterans from too many conflicts, wars and military actions to list. We have all heard about veterans waiting for months and sometimes years for care. Perhaps you have heard the horror stories of veterans receiving negligent care like at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center as reported in February of 2007 by the Washington Post.

We keep hearing claims that services will get better and we support our veterans and troops. But an October, 2015 Military Times article reports, “  Eighteen months after a scandal broke over waiting periods for Veterans Affairs health care, the department is still struggling to manage patients' schedules, at least in the mental health care arena where some veterans have waited nine months for evaluations, a new government report says.” Could this have anything to do with the suicide rate?

This neglect is nothing new. It has been the case since Shays Rebellion in 1786 led by veterans treated poorly after the Revolutionary War to the Bonus Army of World War I when veterans and their families gathered in Washington in the spring and summer of 1932 to demand pay promised that they needed in the middle of the Depression. For decades Vietnam Veterans were denied recognition of illnesses caused by the extremely deadly chemical dioxin in Agent Orange. Gulf War veterans are struggling with Gulf War Syndrome.  And now the challenges faced by returning troops today. The madness and suffering will not end until civilians demand a different way. Maybe because you don’t have to fight the wars, you don’t care. I don’t know. But with all the above I outlined, I repeat, don’t thank us anymore. Change the above and work to end war.  That’s real thanks.

Michael McPhearson is the executive director of Veterans For Peace and veteran of the Persian Gulf War also known as the First Iraq War.  Michael’s military career includes 6 years of reserve and 5 years active duty service. He separated from active duty in 1992 as a Captain. He is a member of Military Families Speak out and Co-Chair of the Saint Louis Don’t Shoot Coalition formed in the aftermath of the police killing of Michael Brown Jr.
@mtmcphearson veteransforpeace.org

Why do War Veterans Commit Suicide or Murder?

In two recent articles in the Los Angeles Times and the academic studies that inspired them, the authors investigate the question of which war veterans are most likely to commit suicide or violent crimes. Remarkably, the subject of war, their role in war, their thoughts about the supposed justifications (or lack thereof) of a war, never come up.

The factors that take the blame are -- apart from the unbearably obvious "prior suicidality," "prior crime," "weapons possession," and "mental disorder treatment" -- the following breakthrough discoveries: maleness, poverty, and "late age of enlistment." In other words, the very same factors that would be found in the (less-suicidal and less-murderous) population at large. That is, men are more violent than women, both among veterans and non-veterans; the poor are more violent (or at least more likely to get busted for it) among veterans and non-veterans; and the same goes for "unemployed" or "dissatisfied with career" or other near-equivalents of "joined the military at a relatively old age."

In other words, these reports tell us virtually nothing. Perhaps their goal isn't to tell us something factual so much as to shift the conversation away from why war causes murder and suicide, to the question of what was wrong with these soldiers before they enlisted.

The reason for studying the violence of veterans, after all, is that violence, as well as PTSD, are higher than among non-veterans, and the two (PTSD and violence) are linked. They are higher (or at least most studies over many years have said so; there are exceptions) for those who've been in combat than for those who've been in the military without combat. They are even higher for those who've been in even more combat. They are higher for ground troops than for pilots. There are mixed reports on whether they are higher for drone pilots or traditional pilots.

The fact that war participation, which itself consists of committing murder in a manner sanctioned by authorities, increases criminal violence afterwards, in a setting where it is no longer sanctioned, ought of course to direct our attention to the problem of war, not the problem of which fraction of returning warriors to offer some modicum of reorientation into nonviolent life. But if you accept that war is necessary, and that most of the funding for it must go into profitable weaponry, then you're going to want to both identify which troops to help and shift the blame to those troops.

The same reporter of the above linked articles also wrote one that documents what war participation does to suicide. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says that out of 100,000 male veterans 32.1 commit suicide in a year, compared to 28.7 female veterans. But out of 100,000 male non-veterans, 20.9 commit suicide, compared to only 5.2 female non-veterans. And "for women ages 18 to 29, veterans kill themselves at nearly 12 times the rate of nonveterans." Here's how the article begins:

"New government research shows that female military veterans commit suicide at nearly six times the rate of other women, a startling finding that experts say poses disturbing questions about the backgrounds and experiences of women who serve in the armed forces."

Does it really? Is their background really the problem? It's not a totally crazy idea. It could be that men and women inclined toward violence are more likely to join the military as well as more likely to engage in violence afterward, and more likely to be armed when they do so. But these reports don't focus primarily on that question. They try to distinguish which of the men and women are the (unacceptable, back home-) violence-prone ones. Yet something causes the figure for male suicides to jump from 20.9 to 32.1. Whatever it is gets absolutely disregarded, as differences between male and female military experiences are examined (specifically, the increased frequency of female troops being raped).

Suppose for a moment that what is at work in the leap in the male statistic has something to do with war. Sexism and sexual violence may indeed be an enormous factor for female (and some male) troops, and it may be far more widespread than the military says or knows. But those women who do not suffer it, probably have experiences much more like men's in the military, than the two groups' experiences out of the military are alike. And the word for their shared experience is war.

Looking at the youngest age group, "among men 18 to 29 years old, the annual number of suicides per 100,000 people were 83.3 for veterans and 17.6 for nonveterans. The numbers for women in that age group: 39.6 and 3.4." Women who've been in the military are, in that age group, 12 times more likely to kill themselves, while men are five times more likely. But that can also be looked at this way: among non-veterans, men are 5 times as likely to kill themselves as women, while among veterans men are only 2 times as likely to kill themselves as women. When their experience is the same one -- organized approved violence -- men's and women's rates of suicide are more similar.

The same LA Times reporter also has an article simply on the fact that veteran suicides are higher than non-veteran. But he manages to brush aside the idea that war has anything to do with this:

"'People's natural instinct is to explain military suicide by the war-is-hell theory of the world,' said Michael Schoenbaum, an epidemiologist and military suicide expert at the National Institute of Mental Health who was not involved in the study. 'But it's more complicated.'"

Judging by that article it's not more complicated, it's entirely something else. The impact of war on mental state is never discussed. Instead, we get this sort of enlightening finding:

"Veterans who had been enlisted in the rank-and-file committed suicide at nearly twice the rate of former officers. Keeping with patterns in the general population, being white, unmarried and male were also risk factors."

Yes, but among veterans the rates are higher than in the general population. Why?

The answer is, I think, the same as the answer to the question of why the topic is so studiously avoided. The answer is summed up in the recent term: moral injury. You can't kill and face death and return unchanged to a world in which you are expected to refrain from all violence and relax.

And returning to a world kept carefully oblivious to what you're going through, and eager to blame your demographic characteristics, must make it all the more difficult.

Pushing Up

By Kathy Kelly

Last weekend, about 100 U.S. Veterans for Peace gathered in Red Wing, Minnesota, for a statewide annual meeting. In my experience, Veterans for Peace chapters hold “no-nonsense” events.  Whether coming together for local, statewide, regional or national work, the Veterans project a strong sense of purpose. They want to dismantle war economies and work to end all wars. The Minnesotans, many of them old friends, convened in the spacious loft of a rural barn. After organizers extended friendly welcomes, participants settled in to tackle this year’s theme: “The War on Our Climate.”

They invited Dr. James Hansen, an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, to speak via Skype about minimizing the impacts of climate change.  Sometimes called the “father of global warming”, Dr. Hansen has sounded alarms for several decades  with accurate predictions about the effects of fossil fuel emissions. He now campaigns for an economically efficient phase out of fossil fuel emissions by imposing carbon fees on emission sources with dividends equitably returned to the public.

Dr. Hansen envisions the creation of serious market incentives for entrepreneurs to develop energy and products that are low-carbon and no-carbon.  “Those who achieve the greatest reductions in carbon use would reap the greatest profit. Projections show that such an approach could reduce U.S. carbon emissions by more than half within 20 years — and create 3 million new jobs in the process.”

War Veterans Discard Medals in Rejection of Militarism and War

By Veterans For Peace UK

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On Friday 10 July 2015, three members of Veterans For Peace UK met in Trafalgar Square, London and walked down Whitehall towards the residence of the Prime Minister.

Once at Downing Street the veterans lined up, faced the police barricades and made the following statements.

“We are members of Veterans For Peace UK, an ex-services organisation of men and women who have served this country in every conflict since the second world war. We exist in the hope of convincing you that war is not the solution to the problems of the 21st century. We have come here today to hand back things, given to us as soldiers, that we no longer require or want.” Said Ben Griffin.

“This is my Oath of Allegiance, it is something I had to recite in order to get the job as a soldier. At 15 years old I had little understanding of its true meaning. Now I fully understand the words, they have no meaning at all.” Said John Boulton who then discarded his Oath of Allegiance.

“This is my Oath of Allegiance, this was a contract between the Monarchy, the British Government and a fifteen year old child. I am no longer loyal to the Government or the Monarchy.” Said Kieran Devlin who then discarded his Oath of Allegiance.

“This is my Oath of Allegiance, I made this oath when I was 19 years old. It required me to obey orders without question. I am no longer bound by this contract.” Said Ben Griffin who then discarded his Oath of Allegiance.

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“This is my Army hat, it defined me as a soldier and a cog in the military machine. I reject militarism” Said John Boulton who then discarded his beret.

“This is my Army hat, this was given to me as a sixteen year old boy. I reject militarism, I reject war. And it means nothing to me.” Said Kieran Devlin who then discarded his beret.

“I used to wear this hat as a soldier, it used to have great significance to me. I no longer want to keep hold of this symbol of militarism”. Said Ben Griffin who then discarded his beret.

“These are the medals given to me for the sick dichotomy of keeping the peace and waging war. They are trinkets, pseudo payments. But really all they represent is the self interest of those in there, who hold power.” Said John Boulton who then discarded his medals.

“These are my medals, these were given to me were given to me as a reward for invading other peoples countries and murdering their civilians. I’m now handing them back” Said Kieran Devlin who then discarded his medals.

“I was given these medals for service on operations with the British Army. This particular medal here, was given to me for my part in the occupation of Iraq. Whilst I was over there, I attacked civilians in their homes and took away their men, off to be tortured in prison. I no longer want these despicable things.” Said Ben Griffin who then discarded his medals.

The three veterans then walked away from Downing Street leaving the oaths, berets and medals lying scattered on the floor.

John Boulton served in the Armoured Corps. He deployed on operations to Cyprus and Afghanistan. He is now a member of Veterans For Peace UK.

Kieran Devlin served in the Royal Engineers. He deployed on operations to the Gulf War and N Ireland. He is now a member of Veterans For Peace UK.


Ben Griffin served in the Parachute Regiment and the SAS. He deployed on operations to N Ireland, Macedonia, Afghanistan and Iraq. He is now a member of Veterans For Peace UK.

The case for ‘courageous restraint’: The Killer Elite, at Home and Abroad

By John Grant


We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.

                                                      - George Orwell


Memorial Day 2015: Antiwar Veterans Join the Conversation at the Vietnam Wall

By John Grant


Anthropologists have found that in traditional societies, memory becomes attached to places.

T.M. Luhrmann, New York Times Op-ed May 25, 2015


VETERANS GROUPS CALL FOR WITHDRAWAL OF NATIONAL GUARD FROM BALTIMORE

National Guard Members Encouraged to “Listen to Community”

Two national veterans organizations, Veterans For Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War, are calling for the immediate withdrawal of the Maryland National Guard from the streets of Baltimore.

“We are horrified to see military weapons, vehicles and equipment deployed in U.S. cities against U.S. citizens who are reacting to a long history of state-sanctioned violence and appalling economic and social conditions,” said Michael McPhearson, Executive Director of Veterans For Peace.

“We are highly concerned, as we approach the 45th anniversary of Kent State this May 4th and Jackson State this May 15th, that we will see another example of nervous and fearful National Guard troops shooting and possibly killing people in the streets of this nation,” continued Michael McPhearson, reading from a statement for Veterans For Peace.

A statement issued by Iraq Veterans Against the War directly addresses their fellow soldiers in the National Guard: “As veterans who have deployed to and served in support of occupations abroad, we see some of the same tactics and military equipment being used by police against the people of Baltimore, just as it was used against the people of Ferguson and Oakland. The increased militarization of our foreign policy and our domestic policing, coupled with racist violence perpetuated by our government, has to stop. The people of Baltimore who are demanding systemic change should be responded to with dialogue not an escalation of force.

“We encourage National Guard members across the country, many of whom we have served with, to begin a conversation on how they will respond when it becomes their turn to be mobilized against their own communities,” continues the statement from Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Both veterans organizations also addressed the underlying cause of the violence in Baltimore, and pointed the way toward a peaceful resolution.

From the Statement by Veterans For Peace: “We call on our nation to hold police accountable for lawless violence against communities, and we call on the rich and powerful to end global wars, to end their indifference and pursuit of profit over humanity and to use the trillions devoted to Pentagon war spending to invest in human needs here at home. The quickest path to end violence is to provide a path to a bright future. Education, jobs and opportunity will lead to stable families and prosperity.”

Click HERE for Complete Statement from Veterans For Peace

 

From the Statement by Iraq Veterans Against the War: “As 1,000 soldiers currently deploy to put down an uprising of exploited people who have been terrorized by a consistently racist police department, we stand in solidarity with the people of Baltimore and encourage service members and veterans to listen to their fellow community members and to stand on the right side of history.”

Click HERE for Complete Statement from Iraq Veterans Against the War

40 years after Vietnam: Celebrating the End of One War, and Witnessing the Start of a New One Here at Home

By Dave Lindorff


It was 40 years ago today that the last troops from America’s criminal war against the people of Vietnam scurried ignominiously onto a helicopter on the roof of the US Embassy in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) and fled the country where US forces had killed some 3-4 million people in the name of “fighting Communism.” 


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