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ABC News' Luis Martinez reports: The Army has had another bad month for suicides within its ranks with 18 suspected suicides during the month of February. That is a decrease from January's record-high of 24 suspected suicides, but one Army official said Wednesday the number still remains high and "very disturbing."
The Army's in the midst of a month-long training stand-down to help soldiers identify suicidal behavior among their colleagues. That stand-down was prompted by last year's record number of 143 suspected suicides in the ranks, 138 of those have been confirmed as suicides and five remain under investigation as possible suicides. Still, last year's 143 possible suicides were substantially higher than the 115 suicides that occurred in 2007, and the fourth straight year that suicides had increased Army-wide.
Last year, the Government Accountability Office reported that cost overruns on the Pentagon's 95 largest weapons acquisitions system totaled about $300 billion, even though the government cut quantities and reduced performance expectations. "A train wreck is coming," McCain said at a hearing yesterday on the bill.
A bill to end cost overruns in major weapons systems would create a powerful new Pentagon position -- director of independent cost assessments -- to review cost analyses and estimates, separately from the military branch requesting the program.
President Obama wants, quite reasonably, to "reset" relations with Russia. He also said, quite reasonably, he would "go through the federal budget line by line, programs that don't work, we cut."
Our relations with Colombia also need to be reset. "Plan Colombia," which was supposedly going to cut the flow of Colombian cocaine into the U.S., doesn't work, neither to reduce the flow of illegal drugs, nor to promote human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Colombia. Since Plan Colombia doesn't work, it should be cut.
An October report from the Government Accountability Office found that coca-leaf production in Colombia had increased by 15% and cocaine production had increased by 4% between 2000 and 2006, and recommended cutting funding. Plan Colombia has cost U.S. taxpayers over $6 billion.
The number of U.S. troops who have suffered wartime brain injuries may be as high as 360,000 and could cast more attention on such injuries among civilians, Defense Department doctors said Wednesday.
The estimate of the number injured — the vast majority of them suffering concussions — represents 20 percent of the roughly 1.8 million men and women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, where blast injuries are common from roadside bombs and other explosives, the doctors said.
US Justice Department memos: the specter of military dictatorship
By Bill Van Auken | WSWS
A set of nine secret memos released by the US Justice Department Monday reveal that in the weeks and months after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks the US government began erecting the legal scaffolding for a full-blown military dictatorship.
Attorney General Eric Holder declared that the release of the documents, which were posted on the Justice Department's web site, signaled a new era of "transparency and openness." The actions of the Obama administration in recent weeks, however, including the invocation of national security and state secrets to quell lawsuits challenging the worst abuses of the Bush era, make it clear that the threat revealed in these memos is far from over.
A front page article in the New York Times starts out with the sentence: “The budget that President Obama proposed on Thursday is nothing less than an attempt to end a three-decade era of economic policy dominated by the ideas of Ronald Reagan and his supporters.” Not so much.
The budget battle being waged in cities and towns across Massachusetts reached the front lines last week, when a soldier serving his third tour of duty in Iraq received his pink slip.
NewsCenter 5’s Kelley Tuthill reported that Leo Pike, who was deployed to Iraq again in September with the Navy Reserves, opened his mail Thursday and learned that he will be losing his job as a New Bedford firefighter.
“He loves being a firefighter,” said Pike’s fiancée Renee Garbitt. “He loves his job and he says that he’s one of those people that’s happy to go to work every day.”
Garbitt, who is raising their 2-year-old son, Leo, on her own while Pike is deployed over seas, said that the layoffs were enacted with little consideration for the disadvantages the family would face as a result of Pike’s military service.
“He’s going to have to come home to no job and, now, competing with 76 others who have had quite a head start on him,” Garbitt said.
Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films writes:
Watch the video Many of you reading this e-mail worked diligently to support President Obama and his call for change.
Many of you reading this e-mail worked diligently to support President Obama and his call for change.
Note: Although this article is dated, it is republished here to honor a mother's sacrifice of her son, and in support of the March 18th Cluster Bomb Treaty Signing at the United Nations. Learn how to take action here and here.
More than half the world's nations are meeting in Oslo on Wednesday to sign a global treaty banning cluster bombs. Although my government won't be there, I will.
I have a personal stake in this treaty. My son, Travis, a corporal in the Marines, was killed by one of our own cluster bomblets in July 2003. He was clearing an Iraqi farmer's field near Karbala of unexploded ordnance when one of the men from his unit mishandled a cluster submunition. It exploded, killing Travis and taking an eye and an arm from the Marine who touched it.
Italians furious over US base on their soil
By Russia Today
The US is reorganizing its presence in Europe. It plans to close down a base in Germany and relocate some 3,000 troops to Vicenza, Italy. However, locals there are against having a US army base in their backyard.
The Italian government has approved the new base without asking the local population. After numerous requests, the government had denied them a chance to hold a referendum on the issue.
Vicenza’s mayor Achille Variati says he is powerless:
“These are military pacts Italy signed at the end of WWII, now the issue is under the competence of Rome. As a result the citizens of Vicenza have no influence over these agreements in 2009.”
Clinton Wants Nonfunctioning Weapon to Protect Europe from Nonexistent Threat of Weapons Iran Doesn't Have
Hmm, now can we ask who profits from missile offense? Or is this just a case of American officials' habitual compulsion to say crazy stuff when in Israel?
Many in Afghanistan oppose Obama's troop buildup plans
Frustration and fear is sparking opposition to plans that would nearly double the size of US forces there.
By Anand Gopal | CS Monitor | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
The lack of public support could provide fertile recruiting ground for the Taliban and hinder US operations..."They don't respect our tradition, culture, or religion."...locals saw two boys practicing their fledgling English with American soldiers who were passing by. The Taliban later executed the children, accusing them of being spies...."The fighting will be intense, and a lot of us villagers are talking about fleeing to Kabul. We are worried our families will be caught in the middle..."
Parliamentarian Shukria Barakzai says she has an innovative amendment to Washington's planned injection of up to 30,000 new troops here.
"Send us 30,000 scholars instead. Or 30,000 engineers. But don't send more troops – it will just bring more violence."
A North Carolina woman who was recalled to the Army four years after being honorably discharged was driving nearly 400 miles and braving a Southeastern winter storm to report for duty Sunday, with her children by her side.
Lisa Pagan was en route to Fort Benning, despite the snow, and said in a phone interview she hoped to reach the Georgia post by early evening.
"I know I'm on my way doing what I need to do," Pagan said. "But I'm a little nervous."
Pagan said she wasn't expected at Fort Benning at a specific time, other than to get there by the end of the day. She said road conditions weren't too bad, but the weather had slowed her down.
The Imperial Unconscious: Afghan Faces, Predators, Reapers, Terrorist Stars, Roman Conquerors, Imperial Graveyards, and Other Oddities of the Truncated American Century
By Tom Engelhardt | Tom Dispatch.com
Sometimes, it's the everyday things, the ones that fly below the radar, that matter.
Here, according to Bloomberg News, is part of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates's recent testimony on the Afghan War before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:
"U.S. goals in Afghanistan must be 'modest, realistic,' and 'above all, there must be an Afghan face on this war,' Gates said. 'The Afghan people must believe this is their war and we are there to help them. If they think we are there for our own purposes, then we will go the way of every other foreign army that has been in Afghanistan.'"
Now, in our world, a statement like this seems so obvious, so reasonable as to be beyond comment. And yet, stop a moment and think about this part of it: "there must be an Afghan face on this war." U.S. military and civilian officials used an equivalent phrase in 2005-2006 when things were going really, really wrong in Iraq. It was then commonplace -- and no less unremarked upon -- for them to urgently suggest that an "Iraqi face" be put on events there.
HOW TO GET HELP: Veterans can contact the VA's Health Benefits Service Center at 1-877-222-VETS (8387) or go to http://www.va.gov/healtheligibility.
A former soldier once adamantly argued in an e-mail to me that no one can really be "against the war" but "for the troops."
I disagreed, banking on a higher level of empathy among non-military citizenry who also hold passionate views on war.
Still, I'll concede a few points to that Vietnam veteran and VA volunteer. He was speaking largely about the experience of the Vietnam War vets, and also as a supporter of George W. Bush.
Older soldiers find a niche in new Army | 'GI Jorge,' a father, grandfather and struggling property appraiser, is becoming a soldier at 40 to secure his family's financial future.
By Carol Rosenberg | Miami Herald
As the South Florida real estate market disintegrated and the number of jobless rose, 40-year-old Jorge Gil Muela made a young man's decision.
The five-foot-seven, 235-pound property appraiser walked into a recruiting center in a Kendall strip mall in December to join the Army. He was told to shed 50 pounds. It's a small price, he said, for the job security and pay, family health insurance and new career as a cargo handler.
A 185-pound Muela will report for duty at Fort Sill, Okla., next month, leaving his wife, children and grandchildren behind in Miami.
Thanks to a defense contractor's errant use of a peer-to-peer file-sharing network, President Obama's helicopter may not be as safe as it looks.
A Pittsburgh-area company that monitors peer-to-peer networks accessed with file-sharing software like LimeWire and Napster says it has identified a potentially serious security breach involving Marine One and an IP address in Tehran, Iran.
The company found a file detailing the helicopter's blueprints and avionics package, which it then traced to its original source, Tiversa CEO Bob Boback told NBC affiliate WPXI, which reported the story Saturday.
When Lisa Pagan reports for duty Sunday, four long years after she was honorably discharged from the Army, she will arrive with more than her old uniform. She is bringing her kids, too.
"I have to bring them with me," she said. "I don't have a choice."
Pagan is among thousands of former service members who have left active duty since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, only to later receive orders to return to service. They are not in training, they are not getting a Defense Department salary, but as long as they have time left on their original enlistment contracts, they are on "individual ready reserve" status — eligible to be recalled at any time.
I've blogged before about our enslavement of workers in the Marianas, but here's a forthcoming film that tells a longer, broader history of our colonization of Guam and the Northern Marianas, and the current place of Guam in the global resistance to US military bases and the global expansion of US military bases. U.S. soldiers who are native to these islands and unrepresented by any vote in Washington are dying in Iraq at a per-capita rate four times higher than that of any U.S. state.
We do, on U.S. military bases in other countries. Check out this very cool site that allows you to see all of the world's military bases in Google Earth. You Congress member might like to know this, even if they claim that military spending creates jobs. Research shows that non-military spending produces more and better paying jobs in the U.S. economy, and that's when compared with military spending in the U.S. Here, most jobs created are created in nations most of whose populations do not want the bases. Of course, to save the $140 billion we'll have to spend a little to close the bases, and we'll have to decommission a lot of soldiers, not just bring them home. Why not find them jobs in green energy, mass transit, healthcare, education?
Updates on proposed base in Vicenza here.
President Barack Obama this week is laying out the road home from the war in Iraq during the next 19 months. More or less.
The President has indicated that he'll order the withdrawal of upward of 100,000 American troops from a war that began six years ago and has cost us more than 4,200 American dead, well over 70,000 wounded or injured and nearly a trillion dollars in national treasure.
This withdrawal, however, will leave tens of thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq to train and advise Iraqi security forces, safeguard American facilities and personnel and continue tracking down and eliminating the worst al Qaida in Iraq terrorists.
The US is likely to boycott a UN racism conference, reports say, saying a text drawn up for the event criticises Israel and restricts free of speech.
An unnamed state department official said the draft document for April's forum in Geneva was "unsalvageable".
Canada and Israel have also said they plan to boycott the meeting.
Six people were hurt when Afghan police opened fire on demonstrators who claimed U.S. troops had desecrated a Koran during a raid on a mosque.
The incident took place in Deh Khodaidad village in Ghazni, southwest of the capital, Kabul.
Police said a government team had been sent to investigate claims that foreign troops had raided the mosque, rounded up worshippers and tore apart copies of the Koran on Thursday night.
A spokesman for the U.S. military said he was aware of a "peaceful protest." Afghan police said any injuries had been caused by "saboteurs" in the crowd.
Santa Barbara Welcomes Author of "The War Comes Home: Washington's Battle Against America's Veterans" This Sunday
Walter H. Capps Center for the Study of Ethics, Religion, and Public Life at UCSB present:
Aaron Glantz, author of "How America Lost Iraq" discusses his new book:
“The War Comes Home: Washington's Battle against America's Veterans”
Sunday, 1 March / 3:00 p.m. / Free
Victoria Hall, 33 West Victoria Street, Santa Barbara
"The War Comes Home: Washington's Battle against America's Veterans" is the first book to systematically document the U.S. government's neglect of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Aaron Glantz, who reported extensively from Iraq during the first three years of this war and has been reporting on the plight of veterans ever since, offers a devastating indictment of the Bush administration for its blatant neglect of soldiers and its disingenuous reneging on their benefits.
Whether well-founded or not, fears abound that the new BCT assignments to the homefront foreshadow abuses of executive power; that a president could use the threat of terrorism or an actual attack to invoke the Insurrection Act and call in battle-hardened troops to suppress social disorder or political dissent....“What we have here is a little backward...We are sending the National Guard and Reserves overseas and taking the active duty out of combat fighting to remain here in the United States. What’s going on?”
Obama seeks $205 billion for Iraq, Afghan wars
By Tabassum Zakaria and Andrea Shalal-Esa, Reuters
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama requested about $205 billion in war funding through the end of fiscal 2010 on Thursday, as he sought to withdraw tens of thousands of troops from Iraq and boost forces fighting a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan.
Obama's first budget proposal asked for $75.5 billion through September, which would bring total war spending to $141.4 billion for the current fiscal year. Obama also requested a slightly smaller $130 billion to fund the wars for fiscal year 2010, which starts on October 1.
Obama asked Congress to increase the Pentagon's regular budget to $533.7 billion next year -- up 4 percent, or $20.4 billion, from its spending plan for the current year, drawn up under the Bush administration.
Early this winter, the PBS "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" interviewed the medical director at a community clinic in Northern California. He recalled the sight of military equipment moving along railroad tracks next to his office. "I've joked with my colleagues," Dr. David Katz said, "if we could just get one of those Abrams tanks we could probably fund all the primary care clinics for a year."
The comment didn't make it on the air - it was only included in video on a PBS Web site - and that was unfortunate. We need more public focus on what our tax dollars are buying.
By Miriam Pemberton and Suzanne Smith
In December, The New York Times reported that Obama’s Secretary of State, National Security Advisor, and Defense Secretary had all “embraced a sweeping shift of priorities and resources in the national security arena…a rebalancing of America’s security portfolio after a huge investment in new combat capabilities during the Bush years.”
The budget released today does show signs of a modest course correction. A “sweeping shift” will have to wait. The main cause: while the new administration has slowed the rate of increase in the base military budget, it has still requested more money for the Pentagon than the Bush administration ever did. Its request of $534 billion is $20 billion more than the amount Congress appropriated for FY 2009.