|Aides said Defense Secretary Robert Gates's decisions will be guided by what he learns while spending time with troops.|
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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.
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.
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
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.
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
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 Permeates U.S. Armed Forces
CBS Evening News: Shocking Report On Frequent Attacks, Low Rate Of Investigation, Prosecution
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
By PAULINE JELINEK AND KIMBERLY HEFLING, Associated Press
WASHINGTON – The Army will substantially reduce use of the unpopular practice of holding troops beyond their enlistment dates and will pay $500 to those still forced to stay in the service, defense and congressional officials said Wednesday.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates was expected to announce later Wednesday that he had approved the plan for cutting the use of so-called "stop-loss" except in extraordinary circumstances, The Associated Press has learned.
Some critics have called "stop-loss" a backdoor draft because it keeps troops in the military beyond their retirement or re-enlistment dates. But the military has said it's a necessary tool to keep unit cohesion in times of war and to keep soldiers with certain skills needed in those units.
Security Without Empire: National Organizing Conference on Foreign Military Bases
American University, Washington, D.C.
Feb. 27–Mar. 2, 2009
Guahan: An American Colony and "Tip of the Spear", Lisa Natividad from I Nasion CHamoru
Security without Empire Gets a Hearing in
DC Trip Report, Bruce Gagnon, Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space
Veterans for Peace No Bases Report, Michael Uhl, Veterans for Peace
A decision to dismiss war crimes charges against a U.S. Marine commander in Iraq should stand, a military appeals court says.
The U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeal agreed Tuesday in Washington to uphold the dismissal of charges against Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, the highest-ranking Marine charged in the 2005 slayings of 24 civilians in Haditha, Iraq, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The court agreed with a military judge at Camp Pendleton, Calif., who ruled that war crimes charges against Chessani were tainted because a Marine lawyer who investigated the Haditha killings had sat in on meetings with the general who later decided to charge Chessani and seven other Marines in the case, the newspaper said.
The United States has always paid for its wars. For 200 years we paid for the Revolution, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, even LBJ's Great Society, and had yet to reach a national debt of $1 trillion -- until 1982. Now our government in the past eight years has borrowed, spent, and added to the national debt $5 trillion.
The Congressional Budget Office reported that in the first four years of the Bush term, deficits were caused by: 48% tax cuts, 37% wars, and 15% increased spending. We kept the government on steroids during the Bush years and household debt of $7 trillion joined the binge.
Battle looms with Congress
WASHINGTON - As the Bush administration was drawing to a close, Robert M. Gates, whose two years as defense secretary had been devoted to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, felt compelled to warn his successor of a crisis closer to home.
The United States "cannot expect to eliminate national security risks through higher defense budgets, to do everything and buy everything," Gates said. The next defense secretary, he warned, would have to eliminate some costly hardware and invest in new tools for fighting insurgents.
What Gates didn't know was that he would be that successor.
Now, as the only Bush Cabinet member to remain under President Obama, Gates is preparing the most far-reaching changes in the Pentagon's weapons portfolio since the end of the Cold War, according to aides.
By Dave Lindorff
It may not be obvious today, and certainly it’s not how the corporate media reported it, but future historians are likely to look back at March 13, 2009 as the day that American imperialism began it’s inexorable decline. That’s the day that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao announced that his country was “worried” about its holdings of over $1 trillion in US treasury securities, and warned that he wanted the US to assure China that it would maintain its good credit and “honor its promises” and “maintain the safety of China’s assets.”
There is no way that the US can accommodate Premier Wen and still finance and operate a global military system with over 1000 overseas bases, massive aircraft carrier battle groups, and with hundreds of thousands of men and women armed to the teeth with the latest high-tech military hardware, not to mention fight endless wars on the far side of the globe.
Obama's Serious About Taking an Axe to Corruption and Waste at the Pentagon
Obama has been devoting time to talk about defense spending reform, and has assembled a team to make sure it happens.
Of all Barack Obama’s promises of reform, perhaps the most audacious is his pledge to “restore honesty, openness, and commonsense to Pentagon contracting and procurement.” Washington is littered with the open-jawed skeletons of such efforts, and given the historic length of the White House to-do list, some might say taking on the defense establishment smacks of hubris. But a raft of recent statements, directives, and appointments indicate the administration fully intends to chaperone Pentagon shopping trips and hold defense contractors accountable in a way they never have been before.
An Army Reservist from Green Bay has agreed to report back to his unit in Iraq, after threatening to stay home to protest the war.
Army Spc. Kristoffer Walker is assigned to the 353rd Transportation Company based in Buffalo, Minn. He's now working with his unit to return overseas.
After a two-week leave last month, the 28-year-old declined to board a flight to go back. He said the war is illegal and immoral.
Rage at soldier's continued detention in embassy stretching diplomatic ties
By Stephen C. Webster, Raw Story
Late 2006, four US Marines were accused of rape and complicity in the assault of a 22-year-old girl. Today, one convicted rapist's pending appeal and continued detention in an American embassy has stretched to the breaking point American relations with a country it liberated during World War II.
Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith was convicted of the rape and initially held in a local jail in Manila. Three other US servicemen were accused of complicity in the rape, but their charges were dropped.
Worldwide, people identify Woodstock with peace and music. We all know that the festival didn’t happen here. But now it turns out that Woodstock’s material contribution to war and peace in the world is weighted heavily on the side of war. We can change this.
Even as Woodstockers were dedicating our Peace Pole last year, just a mile away Woodstock’s largest employer, Ametek Rotron Military and Aerospace Products, was gearing up for another week’s production. According to the company itself, its 380 Woodstock employees make small but essential components of many major weapons systems – fighter and bomber aircraft, attack helicopters, tanks and military ships. These weapons systems have taken leading roles in wars, war crimes and human rights violations across the world.
We have just learned that the Czech Chamber of Deputies is likely to vote this coming week of March 16 on whether to accept the U.S. military radar base that was originally proposed by the Bush administration. The radar, along with Interceptor missiles in Poland, would create a European "missile defense" system. Two thirds of Czechs have consistently opposed the radar, and the Campaign for Peace and Democracy has been active in supporting the Czech anti-radar movement. The upcoming vote in the Chamber of Deputies is critical; a vote to defeat the radar could put an end to this dangerous escalation.
Please sign the open letter below TODAY; we will be sending it to Prague early in the week of March 16. To sign the letter, donate, or see the full list of signers, please go to the CPD website at www.cpdweb.org If for any reason you have difficulty signing on at the website, just send us an email at email@example.com
Thank you for your support,
Joanne Landy and Thomas Harrison
Co-Directors, Campaign for Peace and Democracy
Here is the text of the open letter:
TO THE MEMBERS OF THE CZECH CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES:
It is our understanding that after much debate in your country, the Czech Chamber of Deputies will vote very soon on the proposed agreement to accept the U.S. military radar. We are writing to let you know that we deeply believe that the radar is not in the real interests of people in either the United States or the Czech Republic. We hope you will vote to reject it.
Millions of Americans, including ourselves, are eager for a new peaceful U.S. foreign policy that advances democracy and demilitarization around the world, rather than an escalation of the arms race. Moreover, the extremely expensive missile defense program is, like so much of our country's military budget, a vast waste of resources. We would much prefer to spend our nation's wealth on education, housing, healthcare and other human needs, both domestically and internationally.
We are inspired by the fact that more than two thirds of the Czech people have repeatedly expressed their opposition to the radar. We join with them in calling on President Obama to pull back from plans to install Interceptor missiles in Poland and a companion radar station in the Czech Republic.
An end to this dangerous "missile defense" program could form the basis for a very positive and constructive relationship between the people of our two countries, and could serve as an important first step in a broader process of global disarmament.
The protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are forcing the Obama administration to rethink what for more than two decades has been a central premise of American strategy: that the nation need only prepare to fight two major wars at a time.
For more than six years now, the United States has in fact been fighting two wars, with more than 170,000 troops now deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. The military has openly acknowledged that the wars have left troops and equipment severely strained, and has said that it would be difficult to carry out any kind of significant operation elsewhere.