Thursday, February 19, 2009
"'Serving in Afghanistan is, I think, for anyone a humbling experience. You are continually humbled by the geography, the complexity of the society, and the weight of history. Understanding in your bones how long a drive thirty miles is without a road. Feeling in your stomach eyes watching you from canyon rims. Seeing the mixture of sorrow and hope in a child's eyes and the disillusioned stare of an adolescent with no options. That stays with you and gives a texture and reality check that is valuable when sifting through dry memoranda and contemplating strategic options,' - Craig Mullaney, rumored to be soon named the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Central Asia and author of The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier's Education. Interviewed by Andrew Exum."
Monday, February 16, 2009
"the Palestinian children wounded and charred by Israeli bombings are still screaming, their physicians unable to get hold of enough pain killers to still their yelps of pain. Some 5300 Palestinians, most of them children, women and noncombatants, were wounded in Israel's savage war on the Gaza population.
Please consider donating to UNICEF's Gaza children's fund. In fact, I challenge other bloggers to carry the same appeal for UNICEF, among the best aid groups for this purpose, so that we can see if we can create a cyberspace aid convoy for them. "
The wheels of justice grind slowly, but they are grinding on. When president Bush decided to use torture as his central tool in the war on Jihadist terrorism, he faced an obvious problem. Torture was plainly illegal - under domestic and international law, under the relevant treaties, under 200 years of American history. Bush and Cheney therefore needed legal cover to break the law. The memos ordered up to accomplish this - concocted by John Yoo, Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury - read as emptily as you would imagine. They are not good faith memos explaining the law to the president (and forbidding him to torture); they are self-evidently casuistic documents designed to provide phony legal cover (and permitting him to torture anyone to the point of death - a limitation that he nonetheless repeatedly exceeded) As the former president recently said:
Sunday, February 15, 2009
This series illustrates so many of the concerns we have shared as veterans and as GI Rights advocates about the wars of choice fought by the American Empire and the effects of those experiences on soldiers and their communities. These articles tell us again and again that the war has come back home and is here in America to stay! The big question is how our government will respond.
Coming home: The conclusion
In the final article in Salon's series, we ask what President Obama will do about the rise of suicide and murder among U.S. soldiers returning from combat.
Death in the USA: The Army's fatal neglectYou can also read the introduction to the series, and the first, second and third installments,
"The Kentucky native, an Army soldier stationed at Fort Carson, between deployments in Iraq, had fallen asleep after drinking when his girlfriend began to pound on his apartment door. She wanted inside, and she wanted to talk.
Eastridge responded with a string of obscenities and then flung the door open. He pointed a loaded pistol at his girlfriend. She looked at him like he was crazy, then turned and ran. Eastridge didn't fire. He stood motionless, stunned by his own reaction.Eastridge recounts the episode from a gray plastic table inside Kit Carson Correctional Center, an island of concrete and razor wire in eastern Colorado's flat ocean of wheat. Now 25, he admits that by the time of his arrest in 2006 for felony menacing, he was already a "runaway train." But the train would keep going for another year, through a second deployment to Iraq, a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, and then the death of a fellow soldier. Eastridge is among 13 current or former Fort Carson soldiers to return from the Iraq war and then be accused or convicted of involvement in murder since 2005.
Eastridge may be unique among the soldiers whose cases have been discussed in the "Coming Home" series (read the introduction to "Coming Home" here) in that he may well have had PTSD before he ever entered the military. In previous articles in the series, Salon has discussed what happens to soldiers who develop PTSD during combat and then do harm to themselves and others. In a second article published today, we describe the case of a man whom Army doctors identified as having a psychological disorder prior to his deployment, who then was deployed anyway, only to return to the States and allegedly kill someone. With Kenneth Eastridge, the Army knew what it was getting before he entered basic training -- before he ever donned a uniform. The Army may have exacerbated Eastridge's preexisting condition by sending him into combat. Once he had been to Iraq, twice, and was diagnosed with PTSD yet again, the Army was done with him. That's when he was loosed on the public, with tragic consequences."
Note the push back from our own state department on this - calling on AIPAC to intervene! I wonder where Clinton is on this issue. and whether Obama wil be able to hold his line.
Sat Feb 14, 2009 at 11:54:44 PM PST
"For those of us eager to see the Obama administration plot a new course for the Middle East, the last few weeks have been a waiting game. After the highly encouraging appointment of George Mitchell, the Israeli elections have kept the first 20 days fairly quiet. Tonight, however, reading over the headlines from Haaretz, one begins to see some very interesting signals. Consider the following three stories, which are all currently listed on the front page:"
Sunday, February 8, 2009
"First, the Taliban destroyed a crucial bridge west of Peshawar over which NATO trucks traveled to the Khyber Pass and into Afghanistan. 75% of US and NATO supplies for the war effort in Afghanistan are offloaded at the Pakistani port of Karachi and sent by truck through the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan. Then the Taliban burned 10 trucks carrying such materiel, to demonstrate their control over the supply route of their enemy. The Taliban can accomplish these breathtaking operations against NATO in Pakistan in large part because Pakistani police and military forces are unwilling to risk much to help distant foreign America beat up their cousins. That reluctance is unlikely to change with any rapidity."
"Well, you might say, there are other ways to get supplies to Afghanistan. But remember it is a landlocked country. Its neighbors with borders on the state are Pakistan, China, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan; Kyrgyzstan is close enough to offer an air route. Pakistan is the most convenient route, and it may be at an end. China's short border is up in the Himalayas and not useful for transport. Tajikistan is more remote than Afghanistan. The US does not have the kind of good relations with Iran that would allow use of that route for military purposes. A Turkmenistan route would depend on an Iran route, so that is out, too.
Unfortunantly Kyrgystan is the country that is asking us to leave and close our air bases.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Falluja’s Strange Visitor - A Western Tourist - NYTimes.com
Apparently the Surge is not working well enough for tourism to return to Iraq!
"Mr. Yacoub checked Mr. Marchio’s documents and despite qualms about hosting a foreigner found his papers in order and gave him a room key. “He told us he just wanted to see Baghdad,” Mr. Yacoub said.
Asked if he thought Iraq was ready for tourists, Mr. Yacoub said, “No.” When he was asked if he believed Falluja was safe for tourists, his emphatic “no” was echoed by staff members and guests standing within earshot."
" The next morning he set out for Falluja despite the hotel staff’s efforts to dissuade him, insisting on taking a public bus to the city, 40 miles west of Baghdad.
Within hours, the hotel staff received a call from the Falluja police. “I wasn’t surprised when they called,” Mr. Yacoub said. The police told him that they had found Mr. Marchio in a minibus next to a woman who sold fresh milk, yogurt and cream door to door. “They were very worried about him,” Mr. Yacoub said.
For the eager Mr. Marchio, that was the end of his bella viaggio in Iraq.
The police summoned local Iraqi journalists to tell them of the wandering Italian, American marines were called in, the Italian Embassy was notified. The police concluded that Mr. Marchio was not an Italian jihadist and was a risk to no one but himself. An American marine working with the police suggested taking him to the city limits and dropping him where Falluja met the main highway.
“I explained to him that it was not safe to move around,” said Renato Di Porcia, the deputy chief of mission at the Italian Embassy in Baghdad. “He is a little bit naïve.”
On Friday night Mr. Marchio was being held for his own safety, the Iraqi police said. “He will leave with the earliest flight tomorrow morning,” Mr. Di Porcia said.
When will Iraq be safe for tourists?"
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Obama Campaign Speech on the cost of war:
"The costs of war are greatest for the troops and those who love them, but we know that war has other costs as well. Yesterday, I addressed some of these other costs in a speech on the strategic consequences of the Iraq war. I spoke about how this war has diverted us from fighting al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and from addressing the other challenges of the 21st Century: violent extremism and nuclear weapons; climate change and poverty; genocide and disease.
And today, I want to talk about another cost of this war - the toll it has taken on our economy. Because at a time when we're on the brink of recession - when neighborhoods have For Sale signs outside every home, and working families are struggling to keep up with rising costs - ordinary Americans are paying a price for this war.
When you're spending over $50 to fill up your car because the price of oil is four times what it was before Iraq, you're paying a price for this war.
When Iraq is costing each household about $100 a month, you're paying a price for this war.
When a National Guard unit is over in Iraq and can't help out during a hurricane in Louisiana or with floods here in West Virginia, our communities are paying a price for this war.
And the price our families and communities are paying reflects the price America is paying. The most conservative estimates say that Iraq has now cost more than half a trillion dollars, more than any other war in our history besides World War II. Some say the true cost is even higher and that by the time it's over, this could be a $3 trillion war.
But what no one disputes is that the cost of this war is far higher than what we were told it would be. We were told this war would cost $50 to $60 billion, and that reconstruction would pay for itself out of Iraqi oil profits. We were told higher estimates were nothing but "baloney." Like so much else about this war, we were not told the truth.
What no one disputes is that the costs of this war have been compounded by its careless and incompetent execution - from the billions that have vanished in Iraq to the billions more in no-bid contracts for reckless contractors like Halliburton.
What no one disputes is that five years into this war, soldiers up at Fort Drum are having to wait more than a month to get their first mental health screening - even though we know that incidences of PTSD skyrocket between the second, third, and fourth tours of duty. We have a sacred trust to our troops and our veterans, and we have to live up to it."