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Military Industrial Complex
The milk frother screams as a couple of young soldiers in camouflaged combat uniforms peruse the lit table. All around them are the familiar surroundings of a coffeehouse: posters on the wall, tables and chairs, and shelves stuffed with used books. Yet this café, just across the street from the sprawling Ft. Lewis Army Base in Washington, is not your ordinary coffeehouse. "Support War Resisters: Iraq Veterans Against the War," reads a huge banner on the wall. GI Rights handcards sit next to the cash register and manuals about "getting out" cover the lit table. Social movement history books fill the bookshelves, and a picture on the wall shows a soldier throwing a grenade with a caption that reads, "What am I doing here?" The sign on the front window declares "COFFEE STRONG. Veteran Owned and Operated."
Human rights advocates dismayed at U.S. military funding to Mexico | Press Release
NEW YORK, NY - Human rights organizers in New York City are disappointed by
the U.S. House of Representatives February 25, 2009 vote to approve $300
million in military aid to Mexico under the Merida Initiative, also known as
"Plan Mexico is a disaster for human rights in Mexico, Central America and
the Caribbean," says Robert Jereski, a member of Friends of Brad Will. "It
means further aid to armies and police forces that have been widely
implicated in grave human rights violations. But it further energizes our
networks for our upcoming Day of Action on March 11 in Washington, D.C."
A Falcon of Peace - Who Wants to Be a Dove? (They Always Lose.)
By Tom Engelhardt | TomDispatch
How come they get to be the hawks? And we get to be the doves? A hawk is a noble bird. A dove. Well, basically it's a pigeon. The sort of bird that, in New York City anyway, messes your building's window sills, is always underfoot, and, along with the city's rats, makes a hearty lunch for the red-tailed hawks which now populate our parks.
Even a turkey would be less of a turkey than a dove. We get to carry that olive twig -- okay, they call it a "branch" -- around in our beaks, but you can bet your bippy that they get the olives, or, more likely, the opportunity to trample the olive groves into oil.
A newly leaked military document appears to show the Pentagon knowingly exposed US troops to toxic chemicals that cause cancer, while publicly downplaying the risks exposure might cause.
The document, written by an environmental engineering flight commander in December of 2006 and posted on Wikileaks (PDF) on Tuesday, details the risks posed to US troops in Iraq by burning garbage at a US airbase. It enumerates myriad risks posed by the practice and identifies various carcinogens released by incinerating waste in open-air pits.
"Angler": The Rise and (Finally!) Fall of Dick Cheney
By Bernard Weiner | The Crisis Papers
Reading Barton Gellman's "Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency" (Penguin Press, 2008) is yet another reminder that all too often those who were right early on about the massive dangers facing American society under the CheneyBush Administration were ignored, marginalized, reviled, often punished.
There were scores of us in the media, most on the internet but a healthy handful inside corporate mainstream journalism, who from the very beginning were warning of a power-hungry Administration out of control, with terrible consequences to our foreign/military policy and to the integrity of the Constitution. (See this one, for example, from December 2001.) Eight long years were lost to this catastrophically wrong turn in American politics, while the corporate mass-media in the main served as an effective lapdog for the neo-conservative madness.
But Bart Gellman's voluminously-researched volume, along with recent revelations by Obama's Department of Justice about the run-amok legal philosophy in the Bush White House has demonstrated the incontrovertible truth that no longer can be ignored:
CIA Confirms 12 of 92 Videotapes Destroyed Showed Prisoners Tortured
By Jason Leopold | Truthout
Heavily redacted government documents filed in a New York federal court Friday afternoon say the CIA destroyed 12 videotapes that specifically showed two detainees being tortured.
The documents were filed in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. In December 2007, the ACLU filed a motion to hold the CIA in contempt for its destruction of the tapes in violation of a court order requiring the agency to produce or identify all records requested by the ACLU. That motion is still pending.
On Monday, the Justice Department revealed in court documents that the CIA destroyed 92 interrogation videotapes, which is now the subject of a criminal probe. According to Friday's court documents, 90 tapes relate to one detainee and two tapes relate to another detainee.
In a letter filed Friday in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, Acting US Attorney Lev Dassin said a complete list of summaries, transcripts or memoranda related to the videotapes would be filed with the court by March 20.
"The government is needlessly withholding information about these tapes from the public, despite the fact that the CIA's use of torture - including waterboarding - is no secret," said Amrit Singh, staff attorney with the ACLU. "This new information only underscores the need for full and immediate disclosure of the CIA's illegal interrogation methods. The time has come for the CIA to be held accountable for flouting the rule of law."
The soldiers worried about Saddam Hussein loyalists, not the dust.
Dust coated the Oregon Army National Guardsmen's combat boots and caked their skin as they protected Halliburton KBR contractors restoring oil flow in Iraq in 2003. Dust poofed from the soldiers' uniforms as they crowded into vans at the end of the day and shared tents at night.
When the dust blew onto Spc. Larry Roberta's ready-to-eat meal, he rinsed the chicken patty with his canteen water and ate it.
Six months later, doctors discovered the flap into Roberta's stomach had disintegrated. Six years later, the Marine and former police officer can no longer walk to the mailbox or work.
Another Oregon soldier, Sgt. Nicholas Thomas, died of complications of leukemia at age 21. Three others have reported lung problems to headquarters. Five more told The Oregonian they suffer chronic coughs, rashes and immune system disorders.
The same Oregon Guard soldiers who went into Iraq without adequate body armor or up-armored Humvees face another dubious first: exposure to hexavalent chromium, which greatly increases their risk of cancer and other diseases. It was in the orange and yellow dust spread over half the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant by fleeing Saddam supporters.
Scientists call the carcinogen a Trojan horse because the damage may not be immediately obvious. Over time, people can develop different cancers, breathing problems, stomach ulcers or damage to the digestive tract.
"This is our Agent Orange," says Scott Ashby, who served in the Oregon Guard.
The military is harmed more by having second-class citizens in its ranks than by any imagined ill effects on unit cohesion. The military will adapt to gays and lesbians just as it adapted to African-Americans.
Shortly after Bill Clinton took office in 1993, he attempted to push the U.S. military to openly accept the reality that it had gays and lesbians in its ranks. Colin Powell, then Clinton’s top general, and Sam Nunn, the powerful Democratic Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, nixed the effort by arguing that coming out of the closet on this not-so-secret secret would undermine “unit cohesion” in the armed forces. By courageously taking up this hot button issue soon after taking office, Clinton, already having incurred the scorn of the military for avoiding being shanghaied into the fruitless Vietnam quagmire, was criticized for being naïve and going down to an early defeat—thus quickly piercing the aura of invincibility that new presidents covet.
By David Vine, Foreign Policy in Focus
In the midst of an economic crisis that's getting scarier by the day, it's time to ask whether the nation can really afford some 1,000 military bases overseas. For those unfamiliar with the issue, you read that number correctly. One thousand. One thousand U.S. military bases outside the 50 states and Washington, DC, representing the largest collection of bases in world history.
Russian advice: More troops won't help in Afghanistan
By Tom Lasseter | McClatchy Newspapers
The old diplomat sighed as he recalled his years in Afghanistan, and then leaned forward and said in a booming voice that no escalation of troops would bring lasting peace.
As the Soviet ambassador to Afghanistan from 1979 to 1986, Fikryat Tabeyev saw the numbers rise to more than 100,000 troops without any possibility of victory against a growing insurgency.
In a California federal court, President Obama's Justice Department is defending former Bush official John Yoo, author of the so-called "torture memo."
Yoo is being sued by Jose Padilla, currently serving 17 years in prison for conspiring to provide support to Islamist extremists. Padilla's lawyers say that Yoo's memos on interrogation policies led to his detention and torture.
The Obama Justice Department moved to dismiss the case before U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White.
Army captain charged with stealing $690,000 | MSNBC
28-year-old entrusted with money for Iraq relief allegedly mailed it home
An Army captain accused of stealing nearly $700,000 from the U.S. government while serving in Iraq pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges including theft of government property and money laundering.
Capt. Michael Dung Nguyen, 28, is accused of stealing more than $690,000 entrusted to him as the battalion civil affairs officer in Muqdadiyah, Iraq, between April 2007 and Feb. 24. A federal grand jury indictment alleges Nguyen used some of the money to buy two new vehicles, along with computers, electronics and furniture.
Prosecutors said the funds were designated for commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan for urgent humanitarian relief and reconstruction needs.
New Orleans Police Illegally Confiscating Guns After Katrina
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.