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What to Tell Congress - Updated - Concise Version

Longer version with more detail and advice: HERE.

 

Recommendations

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.

 

I. PEACE

 

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.

 

Shouldn't Congress Hold the Pentagon to Account?

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

Florida Veterans for Peace Mark 6th Anniversary of Iraqi Invasion

Candlelight Vigil to Mark the 6th Anniversary of the Iraq War

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.

Tomgram: William Astore, Affirming Our Prime Directive

Tomgram: William Astore, Affirming Our Prime Directive | TomDispatch.com

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

Military Widows Hit the Open Road

Military Widows Hit the Open Road
Hoping That America Never Forgets, Young War Widows Take Up Cross-Country Crusade
By James Hill and Jaime Hennessey | ABCNews

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.

The United States has 800 military bases on foreign soil...

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.

Tomgram: Pepe Escobar, Welcome to Pipelineistan

Tomgram: Pepe Escobar, Welcome to Pipelineistan | TomDispatch.com

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.

Iraq war – 6 years later

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.

The Forgotten War of the United States

The Forgotten War of the United States
by Ari Eisenstat | Center for Defense Information

Rumsfeld announced that the Department of Defense “cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions.” CBS, in reporting this, figured that 25 percent of the yearly defense budget is completely unaccounted for.

Missile Defense as Bargaining Chip

Missile Defense as Bargaining Chip
Charles Peña | Independent Institute

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

Iraq: Deaths Rise, Pretense We Care Fades

We Will Shut Down the Army Experience Center at Franklin Mills Mall in Philadelphia on May 2, 2009

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!"

Military Hangs `Help Wanted' Sign in Afghanistan

Military hangs `Help Wanted' sign in Afghanistan
By Anne Flaherty | Google News

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

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."

VA to Gather Data on Alleged Burn-Pit Victims

VA to gather data on alleged burn-pit victims
Shinseki won’t commit agency to performing medical tests
By Kelly Kennedy | Army Times

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.

Protests in Washington, Calif. Call for War's End

Protests in Washington, Calif. Call for War's End
Protesters in Washington and California march, calling for an end to Iraq war
By Nafeesa Syeed | ABCNews

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.

Navy Cuts, Limits Re-enlistments

Navy Cuts, Limits Re-enlistments | CNN

ROBERTS: They are trained for war and they don't want to tackle this job market. With the economy in shamble the military is now being forced to thin its ranks even when so many people want to re- enlist. Our Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence joins us live this morning from Washington with more on this story. Hey, Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. Yes, more people want to stay in the Navy at the same time, Congress is cutting its numbers. So these tough new reenlistment standards will open up some advancement opportunities for some and end the careers of thousands of others.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE (voice-over): This could be the last time Amanda Siren packs her sea bag.

AIRMAN AMANDA SIREN, U.S. NAVY: When they told me I couldn't reenlist it was like a kick in the face.

Jobless Rate at 11.2% for Veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan

Jobless rate at 11.2% for veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan
By Gregg Zoroya | USA TODAY

The economic downturn is hitting Iraq and Afghanistan veterans harder than other workers — one in nine are now out of work — and may be encouraging some troops to remain in the service, according to Labor Department records and military officials.

The 11.2% jobless rate for veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and who are 18 and older rose 4 percentage points in the past year. That's significantly higher than the corresponding 8.8% rate for non-veterans in the same age group, says Labor Department economist Jim Walker.

Army records show the service has hit 152% of its re-enlistment goal this year. "Obviously the economy plays a big role in people's decisions," says Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, an Army spokesman.

Senators Propose Registry for Poisoned Iraq Veterans

Three U.S. senators want Oregon Army National Guard soldiers exposed to toxic chemicals in Iraq to be tracked and receive lifetime medical care for problems that result.

Senators propose registry for poisoned Iraq veterans
by Jullie Sullivan | The Oregonian

Help find vets
The Oregon National Guard has redoubled efforts to locate the veterans who may have been exposed to hexavalent chromium, including a Facebook campaign.
Or contact Portland VA Medical Center at 800-949-1004 or Oregon Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Jerry Jepson at 503-584-2308.

Six Years of Blood and Lies

Six Years of Blood and Lies

4:08 mins.

US Military Spending and National Debt

US Military Spending and National Debt
By Hassan A. El-Najjar | All Academic

US Military Spending and National Debt By Hassan A El-Najjar Dalton State College Abstract When President George W Bush Jr. took Office at the beginning of 2001, the US national debt was about $5.6 trillion. By the end of 2006, the Bush administration added about $3 trillion to the national debt, increasing it to $8.6 trillion. In this paper, I argue that the US national debt is closely related to military spending and war. Military spending and national debt will be compared particularly since the Reagan administration, when both of them started to increase dramatically. I argue that both military spending and the national debt are beneficiary to the power elite who rule the United States, which enhances their material gains and tightens their grip on power. The paper draws on the power elite theory of C. Write Mills, who argued of an alliance between top business, military, and political leaders to the detriment of society. Militarism and War When President George W Bush Jr. took Office at the beginning of 2001, the US national debt was about $5.6 trillion. By the end of 2006, the Bush administration added about $3 trillion to the national debt, increasing it to $8.6 trillion.

Sexual Assault in Military Making the Corporate News

Sexual Assault Permeates U.S. Armed Forces

CBS Evening News: Shocking Report On Frequent Attacks, Low Rate Of Investigation, Prosecution

(CBS) 

They've become an integral part of modern warfare - 200,000 active duty women serving alongside their band of brothers.

Jessica was one of those women. Born into a military family, at 24 she enlisted in the Army.

Antiwar Veteran Arrested at VA Protest in Washington, D.C.

Antiwar Veteran Arrested at VA Protest in Washington, D.C.

Also, the Veterans wanted to underscored how those that have served the nation in foreign conflicts are not receiving adequate services from the VA, medical and otherwise. Before the press conference, U.S. Army Veteran Forrest Schmidt climbed the canopy/awning in the front of the VA building and raised a huge banner which said: "Veterans Say 'No' to War and Occupation," and which also promoted the "March on the Pentagon" rally set for this Saturday, March 21st. in D.C. He was immediately arrested. Speaking at the press conference were: Adam Kokesh, Ms. Tracey Harmon, Eric Murillo and James Circello. For more details on Schmidt's arrest, and the charges that he faces; and on the draconian fines being leveled on the ANSWER Coalition by the local D.C. municipal government for posting flyers around town promoting the March 21st rally; and on the planning for this Saturday's "March on the Pentagon" rally, go here.

Pentagon Announces Gates to Dover AFB and His Emotional Reaction to Seeing the 4 "Transfer Cases"

Gates to Dover AFB

Now, watch Gates' Emotional Reaction to His Visit to Dover AFB here.

Gates said: "...very difficult...I will add a sentence or two...I went to the back of the plane by myself, and spent time with each of the 'transfer cases'...I think I'll stop there."

Tomgram: Pratap Chatterjee, Unknown Afghanistan

Tomgram: Pratap Chatterjee, Unknown Afghanistan | TomDispatch.com

The signals coming from the Obama administration as a "strategic review" of Afghan policy is nearing completion this week are, to say the least, confusing. While much new thinking on the Afghan War has been promised, early leaks about the review's proposals for the next "three to five years" largely seem to promise more of the same: a heightened CIA-run drone war in the Pakistani borderlands, more U.S. military and economic aid for Pakistan (and more strong-arming of the Pakistanis to support U.S. policy in the region), more training of and an expansion of the Afghan army, and of course more U.S. forces -- the president has already ordered 17,000 extra troops into the war.

The Calculus of Civilian Casualties

The Calculus of Civilian Casualties
By Sharon Otterman | NY Times | January 6, 2009

It’s a macabre calculus computed by every military: how many dead civilians are an acceptable collateral cost when striking a militarily important target in an armed conflict.

According to Marc Garlasco, the former chief of high-value targeting for the Joint Chiefs of Staff as the United States went to war in Iraq in 2003, and Gen. T. Michael Moseley, the top Air Force commander during the war, the actual numerical answer to that question in the early months of the Iraq operation was 30.

As each target was weighed by U.S. military planners, said Mr. Garlasco, now a senior military analyst for Human Rights Watch, commanders analyzed how many civilians were likely to be killed in the operation. If the number was under 30, military planners could go ahead without special clearance for a particular strike. If it was more than 30, they needed “special clearance from [Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld or Bush,” he said.

As Michael Gordon reported in July, 2003 in an article in The New York Times, “an assessment prepared by General Moseley on the lessons of the war with Iraq,” for an internal briefing of senior American and allied generals, detailed how this policy was carried out:

Air war commanders were required to obtain the approval of Defense Secretary Donald L. Rumsfeld if any planned airstrike was thought likely to result in deaths of more than 30 civilians. More than 50 such strikes were proposed, and all of them were approved.

Pentagon Will Help Families Travel to Dover

Pentagon Will Help Families Travel to Dover
By Katharine Q. Seelye | NY Times

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today that the Pentagon would pay for families to travel to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware if they want to be present when the body or remains of a loved one is returned from war.

Mr. Gates announced last month that the Pentagon was reversing its longstanding policy of barring media coverage during the repatriation of fallen soldiers at Dover. He said then, and reiterated today at a news conference, which the Pentagon’s Web site streamed live, that the decision about media coverage would be up to each family.

He said that if several bodies arrived at Dover together on the same flight, the media could record the repatriation ceremony only of those soldiers whose families had given permission. That decision reflects the sharp division in the views of military families about whether coverage should be allowed; some have said it is an extremely private moment and want to keep it that way, while others have said they want wider recognition of the sacrifice of their loved one.

In the past, the Pentagon has justified barring the media in part by saying that the presence of cameras might make some families feel obligated to travel to Dover, but that doing so would be a financial and emotional hardship. By saying today that the military would pay for that travel, Mr. Gates seemed to be trying to remove a barrier for the families; if they can be present at Dover, some may feel more open to allowing media coverage.

Gates: Goal Is to End Forced Army Service by 2011 "It Was Breaking Faith."

Gates: Goal is to end forced Army service by 2011
By Pauline Jelinek and Kimberly Hefling | Google News

The Army this summer will start cutting back on use of the unpopular practice of holding troops beyond their enlistment dates and hopes to almost completely eliminate it in two years. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, though, it may never be possible to completely get rid of the policy called "stop-loss," under which some 13,000 soldiers whose time is already up are still being forced to continue serving.

"I felt, particularly in these numbers, that it was breaking faith," Gates told a Pentagon press conference.

Defense Department Press Briefing on Sexual Assault Prevention in the Military

Defense Department Press Briefing on Sexual Assault Prevention in the Military

Kaye Whitley, director of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO), conducted a press briefing at the Pentagon to discuss the fiscal 2008 Report on Sexual Assault in the Military.

Watch it here.

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