Sunday, July 27, 2008

Vets to Receive Disability for ALS

Vets to Receive Disability for ALS

The Department of Veterans Affairs plans to provide full disability payments for Lou Gehrig's disease, tacitly acknowledging for the first time a generalized link between the fatal neurological disorder and military service.

Veterans and patient advocates have advocated the change for years, citing studies showing that former soldiers are more likely than the general population to contract the disease, formally known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

The VA already extends full compensation to ALS-stricken veterans of the first Persian Gulf war, who, according to a study earlier this decade, are twice as likely as other service members to contract the disease.

Learn more about the full range of your military benefits.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Send Jane to Baghdad!

Dear John: The only way to win in Iraq is to leave:

"if I go over to Baghdad instead, I will have the entire Combined Press Information Center in the Green Zone all to myself. Plus if I went over to Iraq right now, I could send some more accurate dispatches back to poor sweet be-nighted John McCain, who needs all the help he can get.

Dear John, I would write, you ve got it all wrong. That s happening over here in Iraq right now isn t just an old-school type of war that American troops can win or lose. We already won that kind of war here, back in 2003. But in case you haven t noticed, things have changed a lot in Iraq since 2003 and we can no longer call it a war any more because there are just too many other factors involved"

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Another perspective on the Cost of War

Tomgram: Michael Klare, The Pentagon as Global Gas-Guzzler: "Sixteen gallons of oil. That's how much the average American soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan consumes on a daily basis -- either directly, through the use of Humvees, tanks, trucks, and helicopters, or indirectly, by calling in air strikes. Multiply this figure by 162,000 soldiers in Iraq, 24,000 in Afghanistan, and 30,000 in the surrounding region (including sailors aboard U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf) and you arrive at approximately 3.5 million gallons of oil: the daily petroleum tab for U.S. combat operations in the Middle East war zone.

Multiply that daily tab by 365 and you get 1.3 billion gallons: the estimated annual oil expenditure for U.S. combat operations in Southwest Asia. That's greater than the total annual oil usage of Bangladesh, population 150 million -- and yet it's a gross underestimate of the Pentagon's wartime consumption.

Such numbers cannot do full justice to the extraordinary gas-guzzling expense of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. After all, for every soldier stationed 'in theater,' there are two more in transit, in training, or otherwise in line for eventual deployment to the war zone -- soldiers who also consume enormous amounts of oil, even if less than their compatriots overseas. Moreover, to sustain an 'expeditionary' army located halfway around the world, the Department of Defense must move millions of tons of arms, ammunition, food, fuel, and equipment every year by plane or ship, consuming additional tanker-loads of petroleum. Add this to the tally and the Pentagon's war-related oil budget jumps appreciably, though exactly how much we have no real way of knowing.

And foreign wars, sad to say, account for but a small fraction of the Pentagon's total petroleum consumption. Possessing the world's largest fleet of modern aircraft, helicopters, ships, tanks, armored vehicles, and support systems -- virtually all powered by oil -- the Department of Defense (DoD) is, in fact, the world's leading consumer of petroleum. It can be difficult to obtain precise details on the DoD's daily oil hit, but an April 2007 report by a defense contractor, LMI Government Consulting, suggests that the Pentagon might consume as much as 340,000 barrels (14 million gallons) every day. This is greater than the total national consumption of Sweden or Switzerland."

Juan Cole on Our New Status of Forces agreement (?) with Iraq

Informed Comment

Here is an excellent analysis of the progress on agreements on what happens after the UN mandate for US troops runs out this year in Iraq. It appears to boil down to the US demanding occupation (no constraints on troop actions and full immunity from the law for US troops and contractors) versus sovereignty for Iraq with a timetable for US withdrawal. It also appears the agreement will be "just between two guys" ie Bush and Maliki because the congresses in both countries will refuse to approve the agreement. And how legal is that (not!) and do they really care?

Friday, July 18, 2008

War.Inc Satire connects Corporate Greed and War

John Cusack: Bypassing the Corporate Media | Movie Mix | AlterNet

See it if you get a chance!
In the spirit of Smedley Butler it satirizes the connection between war and profit. After seeing it in Minneapolis, We decided that it is bound to be a cult classic because of the abundance of puns and details such as tanks with billboards and a corporate logo that could be mistaken for a crusader flag.

Reasons Democrats also support the guttingof our constitution

The Motivation for Blocking Investigations Into Bush Lawbreaking -

The quote below refers to both torture and FISA:

"Bush officials faced serious danger of criminal liability in the wake of the 2006 Hamdan ruling that the Geneva Conventions applied to Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees. But the Military Commissions Act, passed several months after the Hamdan ruling, took care of that problem by immunizing the lawbreakers. Jay Rockefeller was right there supporting that retroactive immunity, too — thereby helping to block investigations and prosecutions for illegal torture programs about which Rockefeller knew and in which he was complicit.
This is exactly the dynamic which Law Professor, Fourth Amendment expert, and Simple-Minded, Confused Leftist Hysteric Jonathan Turley was describing on MSNBC on June 19:

I mean, the Democrats never really were engaged in this. In fact, they repeatedly tried to cave in to the White House, only to be stopped by civil libertarians and bloggers. And each time they would put it on the shelf, wait a few months, they did this before, reintroduced it with Jay Rockefeller’s support, and then there was another great, you know, dustup and they pulled it back. . . .

I think they’re simply waiting to see if the public’s interest will wane and we’ll see that tomorrow, because this bill has, quite literally, no public value for citizens or civil liberties. It is reverse engineering, though the type of thing that the Bush administration is famous for, and now the Democrats are doing — that is to change the law to conform to past conduct.

It’s what any criminal would love to do. You rob a bank, go to the legislature, and change the law to say that robbing banks is lawful. . . .

This is a very frightening bill. What people have to understand is that FISA itself is controversial. This court issued tens of thousands of warrants granted applications for surveillance without turning down any. Only recently did they turn down two. . . .

What you’re seeing in this bill is an evisceration of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. It is something that allows the president and the government to go in to law-abiding homes on their word alone, their suspicion alone, and to engage in warrantless surveillance. That’s what the framers that drafted the Fourth Amendment wanted to prevent. . . ."

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

U.S. mercenaries in Iraq Serious Concern of US MIlitary

U.S. mercenaries in Iraq |

Jeremy Scahill, an investigative journalist and author of the award-winning book Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, spoke at Socialism 2008 on the spread of privatized war corporations and the struggle against them.

Blackwater's heavily armed security forces

"I GAVE a talk the other day in San Francisco in front of an audience primarily of military people. I was invited by the Marines' Memorial Association of San Francisco, and I was actually introduced by Major Gen. Mike Myatt, who was one of the commanders of the 1991 Gulf War."

"WHAT HAPPENED after this shooting in Nisour Square--which became known in some circles as Baghdad's Bloody Sunday--was that the Iraqi government was under the mistaken impression that Nuri al-Maliki was actually the prime minister of Iraq. What they did is say that Blackwater needs to leave this country, and the men who did this shooting would be prosecuted in Iraqi courts as criminals.

Of course, things are not as simple as that. Nuri al-Maliki is not the prime minister of Iraq; Condoleezza Rice apparently is. Jalal Talabani is not the president of Iraq; George Bush apparently is...

...For three days after this shooting, Blackwater's operations were halted, as Washington and its puppet regime in Baghdad discussed this diplomatic crisis. And for those three days, no U.S. officials could go anywhere outside the Green Zone. They were trapped with the Cinnabons and the Burger Kings and the Pizza Huts. One Iraqi friend said it was as though the Green Zone had been turned into the Green Zoo--because they were all trapped inside of it.

Many of you are probably already aware of this, but a lot of people in this country aren't--the United States spends more than $2.3 billion every week occupying Iraq. Forty cents of every dollar spent on the occupation of Iraq goes directly to a for-profit war corporation. There are 630 corporations on the U.S. government payroll in Iraq, with 180,000 personnel. That's more than there are U.S. troops in Iraq--there are 150,000 U.S. troops...

...This is the internationalization of war, and using the poor of the world as cannon fodder to occupy a country that has been systematically targeted by the United States and whose economy has been destabilized.

Right now, this remains a virtual non-issue in Congress. But it represents a very, very dangerous trend. The United Nations is now investigating this--they have a working group on mercenaries that has been traveling the globe investigating this. Because if you look at the fact that there are 177 mercenary companies in Iraq alone right now, and you realize that's almost as many nations as there are registered at the UN, it raises very serious questions about global order--about monopoly on the use of force....

...Whenever we think that grassroots activism or grassroots struggle isn't central to changing this country, the moment we start to think that there's a politician who's somehow capable of overhauling the system and bringing justice to the heart of America, when they try to marginalize those who believe in justice, those who stand for what's right, those who soar above the Democratic Party with others to struggle for meaningful change and meaningful justice, we must remember that we are part of a vast majority in this world....

...We need an internationalized perspective--getting away from false nationalism--of solidarity with others who live on the other side of the barrel of the gun that is foreign policy, and those who live under it here at home in prisons and poor communities across this country, with the victims of police brutality, the death penalty, the almost $5 a gallon gasoline prices, the sub-prime mortgage crisis, the health care crisis.

It's all one struggle, and we need to remember any moment we feel down that we are part of a global movement that is strong and growing every day."

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Kurdish MP Opinion on US or Iraeli Attack on Iran

Military action 'would destabilise Iraq' - Middle East, World - The Independent

Another prediction of disaster to follow an attack on Iran:

"The Iraqi government may be militarily dependent on the 140,000 US troops in the country, but its Shia and Kurdish leaders have long been allied to Iran. Iraqi leaders have to continually perform a balancing act in which they seek to avoid alienating either country.

The balancing act has become more difficult for Iraq since George Bush successfully requested $400m (£200m) from Congress last year to fund covert operations aimed at destabilising the Iranian leadership. Some of these operations are likely to be launched from Iraqi territory with the help of Iranian militants opposed to Tehran. The most effective of these opponent groups is the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), which enraged the Iraqi government by staging a conference last month at Camp Ashraf, north-east of Baghdad. It demanded the closure of the Iranian embassy and the expulsion of all Iranian agents in Iraq. "It was a huge meeting" said Dr Othman. "All the tribes and political leaders who are against Iran, but are also against the Iraqi government, were there." He said the anti-Iranian meeting could not have taken place without US permission.

The Americans disarmed the 3,700 MEK militants, who had long been allied to Saddam Hussein, at Camp Ashraf in 2003, but they remain well-organised and well-financed. The extent of their support within Iran remains unknown, but they are extremely effective as an intelligence and propaganda organisation.

Though the MEK is on the State Department's list of terrorist groups, the Pentagon and other US institutions have been periodically friendly to it. The US task force charged by Mr Bush with destabilising the Iranian government is likely to co-operate with it."

St Johns County Sherriff threatens peace group

Video - Breaking News Videos from

St. Augustine People for Peace and Justice has been encountering problems with the
St. Johns County Sheriff's Department in the recent past. I have attached a letter
that our group has sent along with photos of t-shirts being distributed by the
Sheriff (see t shirts in the video link above).

30 June 2008

Dear Sheriff Shoar,

As citizens of St. Johns County and members of St. Augustine People for Peace and Justice, Veterans for Peace, and Grandparents for Peace, numbering over 500 strong, we are very concerned and dismayed about the "sniper" t-shirts that you recently distributed at a veterans' meeting. The shirts have a silhouette of a sniper on the front, and on the back the following script: "If you can't stand behind o ur troops, do us all a favor and stand in front of them." These shirts appear to advocate violence (i.e., sniper fire) on anyone who disagrees with the Bush administration's policies in the Middle East (currently about 70% of the US population).

We understand that you were previously contacted about these shirts on Wednesday, June 18th, by Mr. Ed Slavin. He asked you a number of questions in his e-mail, none of which were actually answered in your response to him on June 19th.

In your reply to Mr. Slavin you stated that you "chuckled" when you read the script on the shirts and also that you found the shirts "amusing." The fact that you, the County's top law enforcement officer who took an oath "to serve and protect", found the prospect of sniper fire on civilians who disagree with the war in Iraq to be "amusing" and worthy of a "chuckle" is, frankly, appalling, particularly for a person in your position. The phrase "do us all a favor" (emphasis added) in particular implies that you support the killing/maiming of anyone who disagrees with the war in Iraq.

The following is a list of the options we are considering in response to your distribution of the shirt:

1) We would like to receive a written, public apology and an explanation for the shirts and why you found them to be worthy of distribution

2) An immediate recall of all shirts distributed by you and an injunction against any further distribution of the shirts

3) We would also like to have a full accounting of the cost of these shirts, and the name and position of the person who gave them to you

4) Notifying the FBI of an elected, law enforcement official who is promoting the use of violence against civilians. Section 802 of the Patriot Act defines domestic terrorism as:
(5) the term ‘domestic terrorism’ means activities that—
(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;
(B) appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;

You may think that these shirts are just a joke. However, to those of us who speak out publicly, who put our faces, bodies, and reputations on the line to protest the illegal, unjust war in Iraq, these shirts suggest that the Sheriff of St. Johns County advocates violence against peaceful, unarmed civilians exercising their constitutional right to free speech. This is completely unacceptable. Given the culture of violence and the suppression of constitutional rights our society is already suffering, the last thing we need is this kind of message coming from our County Sheriff.

We look forward to your response.


Members of St. Augustine People for Peace and Justice, Veterans for Peace, and Grandparents for Peace

The issue in St Johns County is a perfect example of the clash between constructive patriotism and Symbolic patriotism referred to in the article posted below this one. But this exchange between the peace groups and the sheriff's office illuminates another dimension of the differences between these two groups. The threat of violence by some but not all symbolic patriots towards their opponents is an additional dark aspect of this conflict. For another examples look at the history of the Gathering of Eagles, Symbolic Patriots, who the day after they beat the antiwar father of a dead Marine in the streets of Washington DC were feted on the lawn of the White House with barbecue and photos with the president.
Mary Bahr

Dissent is Constructive Patriotism

Patriotism can shift with time | | The Gainesville Sun | Gainesville, FL
"Michael D. Martinez, associate professor of political science at the University of Florida, said there are several types of patriotism, some which work together and depend upon each other, others which are in direct conflict with each other.

Symbolic patriotism will be on display in parades and backyards throughout the country today as Americans fly the flag, buy red, white and blue balloons and eat blueberry pie over flag-themed tablecloths.

There's also national identity, or the kind of patriotism that comes with defining oneself by one's American citizenship.

Though these two forms of patriotism run the risk of being shallow, Martinez said flying the flag and feeling proud to be an American can actually lead to deeper forms of patriotism.

"There is evidence that the patriotism that's related to national identity is actually correlated with things like public involvement," Martinez said.

Then, Martinez said, there's constructive patriotism and uncritical patriotism, which by definition are at odds.

Constructive patriots are those who cast a critical eye toward the government by voicing their dissent with an aim to make the country better.

Scott Camil, a Vietnam veteran and head of the Alachua County chapter of Veterans for Peace, falls into this group. He said the truest form of patriotism is the defense of the Constitution, whether that's as a service member in a time of war or on a street corner protesting government policy.

"I'm willing to bet all of those Nazis who ran concentration camps were patriotic," Camil said. "And the Japanese who bombed us in Pearl Harbor, I'm sure they were patriotic, too. To me, patriotism has to stand for something more than just loving your country. The Constitution is what makes us different and special, and gives us a really good reason to love our country. That's where my loyalty lies."

Camil said symbolic patriotism can be dangerous, depending on what's behind it.

"The flag is used to sell cars and to sell politicians," Camil said. "It is made into clothes. I don't think generally the flag is treated with the respect it should be. And I personally think that the government uses both the symbol of the troops and the symbol of the flag to wrap its policies in, which makes questioning those policies harder."

Scott has an excellent analysis here of the view many in VFP have about patriotism and Dr Martinez throws a clearer light on the semantics of what can be a loaded term.

Mary Bahr