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151 Congressmen profit from Iraq - April 3, 2009
Legislation Aims to Improve Veterans' Mental Health Services
By Eric Newhouse | truthout
Montana's senior US senator, Max Baucus, introduced an important piece of legislation last week that would require stepped-up mental health screenings for all America's combat troops.
It would cost an estimated $220 million over five years to implement nationally, but it would ratchet up standards of mental health care for combat vets to a higher level - and one that's uniform across the board.
The purpose for the testing - to be done every six months for the first two years after a soldier returns from combat - will be to identify post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI) or major depression resulting from combat, Baucus said.
Whether it's $900 billion, more than one trillion dollars, or even, in the long run, several trillion dollars, the spiraling costs of George Bush's wars -- one of which is now in the grim process of becoming "Obama's War" -- are indisputable. It's hardly less disputable that those wars to "protect" America from "global terror" have contributed significantly to the country's economic meltdown, that the harder we pursued (and continue to pursue) those wars abroad, the less safe the underpinnings of our world became. Thought of another way, that famous line of the cartoon character Pogo, "We have met the enemy and he is us," couldn't be more apt.
The "One" campaign against global poverty reports:
The Senate Budget Committee, chaired by Senator Kent Conrad, wants to cut $4 billion from the president's International Affairs Budget - the part of the budget funding almost all of our anti-poverty work.
By Jonathan Springston, Atlanta Progressive News
(APN) ATLANTA - The DeKalb County School Board is planning to open a military-style public high school in conjunction with the U.S. Marine Corps that would be the first of its kind in Georgia.
But veterans, peace groups, and other anti-war organizations are quickly mounting a campaign against the school, which so far has included writing letters and emails.
"I don't want to see the military taking over our high schools more than they already have," Michael Burke, a Vietnam veteran and member of the Georgia Veterans Alliance (GVA), told APN. "These kids are too young to be subjected to the seduction of the Marine Corps."
"I think this is too much military involvement in our schools," Sven Lovegren, another Vietnam veteran and member of GVA, said.
Soldiers who survive severe injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan can be at risk of developing infections in their wounds, U.S. researchers say.
I often bemoan how the media's policy of sanitizing combat images and its failure to report what the true face of war looks like have caused the public to be detached from the carnage wrought by the occupation of Iraq and the war in Afghanistan.
For nearly a decade, both wars have largely been reported by the media and explained to the public by lawmakers in statistical terms: thousands of U.S. soldiers killed in combat, hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis dead, and three-quarters of a million veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress.
Perhaps the media is not entirely at fault for failing to provide deeper insight into the psychological impact the wars have had on more than one million U.S. veterans and their families.
Until recently, the press has been prohibited from photographing veterans returning from combat in flag-draped coffins, and funerals for the fallen were likewise off-limits.
But by relying heavily on numbers and press releases as a way of covering both conflicts, the public has been rendered incapable of experiencing or feeling any dramatic element associated with the devastation. It's a sad truth that the average person is unable to accurately say how many U.S. soldiers have been killed and wounded since the wars began (4,257 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq, more than 31,000 wounded, 320,000 diagnosed with brain injuries).
Each year War Resisters League analyzes federal funds outlays as presented in detailed tables in “Analytical Perspectives” of the Budget of the United States Government. Our analysis is based on federal funds, which do not include trust funds — such as Social Security — that are raised separately from income taxes for specific purposes. What you pay (or don’t pay) by April 15, 2009, goes to the federal funds portion of the budget.
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Click here to view details of the FY2009 Pie Chart
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The United States has failed to join with the International Community in signing on to an International Treaty banning the use of Cluster Bombs in the world, although it has made laws and has pending legislation which partially protects civilians from harm but falls far short of the provisions provided by the International Treaty. Too, U.S. military policy directly
contradicts the aims of disarming cluster bomb use.
By Sherwood Ross
Now that Obama has been in the White House awhile, I asked my friend Drew, a lifelong GOP contributor, to lunch at a seafood restaurant near his K Street office to see how he was managing to get along.
“So is your public relations business suffering since the Democrats are in power?” I began, to express my sympathy before our lobsters arrived. I knew Drew didn’t talk much once he became absorbed in cracking open the claws.
“Never been better!” he replied to my surprise. “I had four or five failing clients and Obama’s bailed every single one of them out. They have asked me to write Congressional testimony expressing their appreciation. I’ve just booked a Caribbean cruise for my whole family.”
“What a fantastic stroke of luck,” I said.
Erik Roberts, an Army sergeant who was wounded in Iraq, underwent his 13th surgery recently to save his right leg from amputation. Imagine his shock when he got a bill for $3,000 for his treatment.
"I just thought it was bull---- that I'm getting billed for being wounded in Iraq doing my job. I always put the mission first, and now that I was wounded in Iraq, they're sending me bills," he said.
"I put my life on the line and I was wounded in combat, and I came back and they're not going to take care of my medical bills?"
It's a level of outrage shared by his mother, as well as the doctor who performed the surgery.
Longer version with more detail and advice: HERE.
For Meetings with Congress Members and Senators
During April 4-19, 2009, Recess
Adjust to your communities’ priorities and to fit your representative and senators. Make the case to them of the necessary trade-off in defunding war in order to fund human needs. Make alliances with activist groups wishing to pressure elected officials on domestic funding needs and workers’ rights.
Oppose Escalation of War in Afghanistan and Pakistan
A bipartisan group of fourteen members of Congress recently wrote to the president asking him to reconsider his proposal to send more troops to Afghanistan. Your representative and senators should send similar letters, and should include opposition to missile strikes or the introduction of troops into Pakistan.
By John Nichols, The Nation
Members of Congress who actually care about crafting a budget that keeps America secure at home and abroad are beginning to express frustration with the Obama administration's plan to hike the Pentagon's already bloated budget by four percent.
"I have a question as to whether we need defense spending to go up by as much as it is," Iowa Senator Tom Harkin told reporters after a budget briefing that left the chairman of the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education subcommittee of the powerful Appropriations Committee worried about where he would find the money to meet mounting demands for education and health care spending on the domestic front.
Florida Veterans for Peace Mark 6th Anniversary of Iraqi Invasion
On the 6th anniversary of the Iraq invasion, St. Augustine People for Peace and Justice and Central Florida Veterans For Peace Chapter 136 sponsored a candlelight vigil in La Plaza de la Constitucion in St. Augustine. A black "Memorial Wall" bearing the names of the 4915 "official" U.S. Military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan lined the inner wall of the Plaza's gazebo. There was a flag-draped coffin and a flag flew at half mast. A group of about 30 people, including veterans of the conflicts in Vietnam, Panama and Grenada joined in reading the names of the 226 military deaths from Florida. A bugler then played taps and a moment of silence was observed. Food Not Bombs provided dinner.
Okay, the new Star Trek film -- you know, the prequel with space sex -- is premiering in Australia. Go figure. All I know is I'm not beaming there. On the other hand, I've already been in close communication with a Trekkie pal, and she and I have chosen our night here in New York. May 14th. See you then. (I'll be the one wearing the TomDispatch hat.)
In the meantime, retired Lieutenant Colonel William Astore, TomDispatch regular and another Trek fan -- okay, it's not exactly War and Peace, but give us a break -- was thinking recently about the strange history of Star Trek, the show that took John F. Kennedy's "new frontier" deep into TV space, even as Lyndon Johnson's U.S. was moving ever deeper into its disastrous war in Vietnam. Now here we are again, a new Star Trek forty-three years later, and this time, two "counterinsurgency" wars already growing desperately old, and one, in Afghanistan, heating up to a boil. If only we could stick to the movies. But since we can't, pop that bowl of popcorn, butter and salt it well, and let Astore take you through some wormhole into alternate American universes on that spaceship we're all riding, the USS Ameriprise. Tom
The women of the American Widow Project, an online support network and nonprofit organization dedicated to unifying a new generation of widows, are far from traditional. They surf, skydive and now road-trip to honor their husbands, who died serving their country in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Widows Taryn Davis and Nicole Hart, both 23, will spend most of the next few months driving cross-country, sleeping in campgrounds and knocking on doors. They are traveling to military towns, offering understanding and hope to an ever-growing band of sisters.
"I really believe if we can lessen the pain and lessen the grief that just one widow can go through, then we are accomplishing our mission," Davis told ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff.
Davis and Hart are traveling in a black RV custom-painted with the names of more than 4,000 of the fallen from Iraq and Afghanistan, including their husbands, Cpl. Michael Davis of San Marcos, Texas, and Sgt. David Hart of Lake View Terrace, Calif.
"We really just hope to, if anything, not have them disappear," Davis said.
Floridians Gathering in Melbourne This Saturday to Say: "Hey, Obama, Yes, We Can! Troops Out of Afghanistan!"
When: Saturday, March 28, 2pm
Florida Mass March - Front Street Park to Melbourne City Hall
Join several hundreds from more than 10 cities, Miami to Atlanta, in demanding our government fund human needs instead of war and corporate greed. Bail out the people and the troops, not the banks. ("Hey, Obama, yes, we can. Troops out of Afghanistan.") In addition to sending a message to elected officials, our coming together for this mass march for peace will stir the consciousness of the broader public, educate the uninitiated, and cultivate a new bond between citizens, peace and justice activists and those from more than 60 local, statewide, and national groups.
By Alan Maki, Thoughts from Podunk
What we need--- instead--- is 800 public health care centers spread out across the United States where people can universally access, for free, all their health care needs from pre-natal care, to general health care to eye, dental and mental care right through to burial.
Instead of moving in this progressive direction, President Barack Obama and the United States Congress are moving in a most reactionary direction towards establishing military bases in outer space as they seek to insure the profits of both the merchants of death and destruction and the profit-driven health care industries... talk about skewed priorities and your wacky ideas devoid of common sense.
At one point last week, the price of a barrel of crude oil -- which had risen as high as $147 last July and, with the global economic meltdown, hit a low of $32 in 2009 -- rebounded above $51. Prices at the local gas pump are expected to rise as well in the coming weeks. However, given a worldwide falloff in oil use, these price jumps may not hold for long. Still, cheap or not, oil and natural gas (as well as coal) are what drives global civilization, and that's clearly not going to change any time soon.
Editorial: Iraq war – 6 years later | Post Cresent
Public interest wanes, but troops still need attention
When U.S. and allied troops invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003, the nation saw an initial surge of patriotism, the determination by President George W. Bush and many in Congress to "get Saddam" and his weapons of mass destruction.
Our country had been wronged on Sept. 11, 2001, and this was going to make it right somehow.
That's how it started, with parades and banners and the ubiquitous donning of yellow "support our troops" ribbons. Mixed in were peaceful and passionate protests against the war, calls to Congress to stop it and a heightened sense of indignation that we were invading a sovereign country.
Six years later, the war in Iraq continues, more than 4,200 of our nation's soldiers have perished, yet the war is fading from the public consciousness.
It has been more than twenty-five years since President Ronald Reagan launched the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI)—or Star Wars, as detractors dubbed it. Twenty-six years ago today, Reagan asked, “What if free people could live secure in the knowledge that their security did not rest upon the threat of instant U.S. retaliation to deter a Soviet attack, that we could intercept and destroy strategic ballistic missiles before they reached our own soil or that of our allies?” It was his great hope that missile defense would “give us the means of rendering these nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete.” Although more than $120 billion has been spent on missile defense since Reagan’s speech, it has yet to fulfill its promise of making nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete. However, President Barack Obama may have found a new, more suitable use for missile defense: a bargaining chip.
Iraq: Deaths Rise, Pretense We Care Fades
By Pat Elder
Killing is fun -- and life is cheap at the Army Experience Center at the Franklin Mills Mall in suburban Philadelphia.
"This is so cool!" This is so cool!" The enthralled 13 year-old kept repeating as he squeezed rounds from his M-16, picking off "enemy combatants" while perched on a real Army Humvee.
We're in the new Army Experience Center in suburban Philadelphia and the young teen, who doesn't look older than eleven, was obviously impressed with the Army's killing machines. "I just came to the mall to skateboard in the skate park across the hall but everyone said this was pretty cool. I just had to try it and its great!"
Complicating matters is that the armed guards hired in Afghanistan most likely won't be U.S. citizens. According to Gates, only nine out of the 3,847 security contractors in Afghanistan have U.S. passports. Some lawmakers worry that arming non-U.S. citizens to protect American bases or convoys poses a security risk in a country rife with corruption and on the defensive against the militant Taliban.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The military buildup in Afghanistan is stoking a surge of private security contractors despite a string of deadly shootings in Iraq in recent years that has called into question the government's ability to manage the guns for hire.
Soldiers: Army forced us to deploy despite health woes
By Gregg Zoroya | USA TODAY
"What we're trying to do is just get our stories heard," says Sgt. Stephen Scroggs, who tracks the progress of ailing soldiers left behind for the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment. He is part of the rear detachment and is involved in the petition drive....The petition says, "As the shortage of troops has become more and more difficult to overcome, our commanders have become more and more aggressive in deploying soldiers with injuries and illnesses."
Kerry Baker, DAV’s assistant national legislative director, issued an update Tuesday in which he reported that about 182 veterans are in the database. Of those, 48 have developed lymphoma, leukemia or some other form of cancer. Another 55 reported pulmonary disorders, including asthma and asthma-like symptoms. Other reported conditions include multiple sclerosis, sleep apnea and heart problems. At least 16 veterans entered into the database have died, Baker said.
The Veterans Affairs Department is gathering data to monitor potential health problems in troops who say they were made ill by exposure to smoke from open-air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said in a letter to Congress.
Before war protesters ended their demonstration Saturday afternoon, several placed cardboard coffins in front of the offices of northern Virginia defense contractors such as KBR Inc. and Lockheed Martin Corp. as riot police stood by.
"Lockheed Martin you can't hide, we charge you with genocide!" they chanted as part of a demonstration that began in Washington to mark the sixth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.
Arlington County, Va., police estimated there were 2,500 to 3,000 protesters and said no arrests were made.
Organizers from the ANSWER Coalition said more than 1,000 groups sponsored the protest to call for an end to the Iraq war, and estimated that about 10,000 people participated. Carrying signs saying "We need jobs and schools, not war" and "Indict Bush," demonstrators beat drums and played trumpets as they marched from near the Lincoln Memorial past the Pentagon into Virginia.