Afghanistan


school_suppliesPlease help by mailing school supplies. And encourage the military to keep doing HELPFUL things!

1) Buy school supplies.  Pens, pencils, markers, paper, erasers.

2) Go to the post office and get some APO/FPO flat rate boxes that are used especially for sending mail to the military overseas.  If you order 10, they’re free, and they’ll ship them for free.

3) Insert the school supplies into the boxes, seal, fill out a customs form, and mail the school supplies to this USAF Airman, and he will make sure that the supplies go to children in the schools that they’re building in Afghanistan.

Isaac Greenberg
710th BSB, 3BCT, 10th MTN
FOB Shank, AF

APO AE 09364

Thank you!

Time magazine had a story this week that asks a great question, but they’ll never find the right answer if they continue to see our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan as “wars” and not “occupations”.

Why Are Army Recruiters Killing Themselves?

I’m glad they’re asking the question about military recruiters, and glad people are reading about it, but here’s the part that shows they’ll never find the answer:

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now the longest waged by an all-volunteer force in U.S. history. Even as soldiers rotate back into the field for multiple and extended tours, the Army requires a constant supply of new recruits. But the patriotic fervor that led so many to sign up after 9/11 is now eight years past. That leaves recruiters with perhaps the toughest, if not the most dangerous, job in the Army.

The problem is not that we are less patriotic or that no one wants to serve. The problem is that these are occupations and no one wants to continue fighting wars that we won years and years ago.

Last year alone, the number of recruiters who killed themselves was triple the overall Army rate. Like posttraumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, recruiter suicides are a hidden cost of the nation’s wars.

Yes there is a problem here, and yes the recruiters need help, but mostly we need to get out of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Even with this economy, poor kids don’t want to go into the military any more. Would you?

Who’s the phony one here? Rush or the soldiers from Vote Vets?

I had to read this one three times and ask my Army Sgt brother a bunch of questions before I really understood that this is NOT a good thing. Go read the whole article and then come back and I will show you what it really means.

Army orders 5,000 reservists to health ‘muster’

By Lisa Burgess, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Saturday, June 30, 2007

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Army is ordering 5,000 members of the Individual Ready Reserve to spend a day this summer at one of four U.S. reserve centers to update personal paperwork and take a medical and dental exam.

The one-day “muster” is a test of the Army’s recent efforts to straighten out the IRR system, which comprises about 78,000 soldiers who have left active duty or active Reserve service but still have time left on their contract, officials said.

The minimum military service obligation for enlisted personnel is eight years. Officers serve until they resign their commission.

The muster is a “test run” for a much larger project: bringing every member of the IRR in for a similar one-day program to ensure that the Army has up-to-date records on its members, Gall said in a telephone interview with Stars and Stripes Thursday.

This has nothing to do with records. They can get records on the phone or by mail or email. In fact, they have to have some of the records just to get the people to show up.

“The IRR pool is not in the kind of shape we would like it to be,” Gall said. “We’re trying to assure [ourselves] that we do have soldiers that are ready and willing to serve the country.”

The pilot muster, Gall said, “is the first step in trying to bring the program back in line to where to should have been” in the first place.

The Army allowed its IRR system to go fallow after its last major call-up of the reservists during the Gulf War.

Army regulations call for IRR members to update their records yearly, but many IRR members allowed that obligation to slide, to the point where “we probably haven’t heard from a preponderance of them over the years,” Gall said.

Why do you suppose the reservists let it slide?

The cracks in the IRR system were exposed after January 2004, when Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld authorized the Army to tap the IRR to fill out units bound for Iraq.

The call-up has not been smooth sailing, Gall said.

“We have a call rate of four to one,” Gull said.

“That means if [commanders in Iraq] say they need 100 soldiers, we have to send 400 notifications out,” he said.

“That told us we had some problems,” Gull said.

The pilot muster will begin in mid-July and run through August.

IRR members who are ordered to report for this summer’s pilot program will go to one of four Reserve centers: Tacoma, Wash.; Fort Totten, N.Y.; Fort Meade, Md.; or Los Alamitos, Calif.

Do the reservists get to choose the day? What if they are not in the country?

The reservists will be paid $176 after they complete
the one-day process, which includes a medical checkup and dental X-rays, but no treatment for any problems that are diagnosed, Gall said.

The overall IRR muster will take six years, with funds for the project earmarked in the Army’s early budget plans through 2013, Gall said.

Is that for the people who are already in IRR or the ones who will be leaving active duty over the next six years?

I am not surprised that the Bush administration doesn’t care about the troops working in the heat. They don’t care about them at all. They’re sending some soldiers and marines for their fifth deployment. Here are a few examples from today’s news about how they are hurting the troops.

Iraqi Politicians Take August Off As US Soldiers Fight On

from the Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — The White House on Friday appeared resigned to the fact that the Iraqi parliament is going to take August off, even though it has just eight weeks to show progress on military, political and economic benchmarks prescribed by the United States.

“My understanding is at this juncture they’re going to take August off, but, you know, they may change their minds,” White House press secretary Tony Snow said.

“You know, it’s 130 degrees in Baghdad in August,” he said, sympathetically.

Snow was reminded that U.S. troops will be continuing to fight throughout August in the heat.

“You know, that’s a good point,” Snow said. “And it’s 130 degrees for the Iraqi military.”

Last month, the Iraqi parliament decided to cancel at least the first month of a two-month summer vacation supposed to start on July 1, in order to take up legislation, including a new law governing the oil industry, on which the United States has been pressing for approval.

The White House and other top officials previously had worked to persuade the parliament to remain at work, saying it would send a bad signal if the Iraqi lawmakers went on vacation while U.S. troops were fighting and dying.

Snow said that a scheduled Sept. 15 progress report on by Gen. David Petraeus was important, yet said he also said that was not a deadline. He said progress can be made even if the parliament is not in session.

“You’re assuming that nothing is going on,” Snow said.

“Let’s also see what happens because quite often when parliaments do not meet, they are also continuing meetings on the side. And there will be progress, I’m sure on a number of fronts,” the spokesman said.

The Iraqi parliament’s vacation plans have been repeatedly criticized by U.S. lawmakers. But the U.S. Congress will be on vacation from Aug. 3 to Sept. 4, if it sticks to current plans.

The Congress itself has been criticized for how little it works.

On Thursday, the White House gave Congress a progress report that showed the Iraqi government was making unsatisfactory progress on many political and military milestones. At a news conference, President Bush defended the buildup of U.S. troops as well as his decisions on troop numbers earlier in the conflict.

Bush said that when he asked Gen. Tommy Franks, the Central Command chief during the initial invasion in March 2003, whether he had enough troops, Franks told him he did. Bush said he recalled sitting in a meeting downstairs at the White House asking each commander responsible for different aspects of the operations that led to toppling Saddam Hussein.

“I said to each one of them `Do you have what it takes? Are you satisfied with the strategy?’ And the answer was `Yes,'” Bush said.

Asked whether Bush was trying to blame Franks for the bad course of the war, Snow rose to defend Franks and said historians would have to judge the correctness of U.S. strategic military decisions.

“I think General Franks did a superb job,” Snow said.

I hope something comes of this story:

Reservist Tries to Stop 5th Deployment

BRIAN SKOLOFF

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Army Reserve Sgt. Erik Botta has been sent to Iraq three times and to Afghanistan once. He thinks that’s enough.

Botta wants a court to block the military’s plan to deploy him for a fifth time Sunday, most likely to Iraq. He isn’t against the war _ but he thinks he can serve his country better now by working for a defense contractor and pursuing his education.

“This has nothing to do with protest of the war … I have nothing but respect for the people on the ground,” Botta said Friday, one day after he filed his petition in U.S. District Court in West Palm Beach. “But I feel I do need a fair decision and a fair review.”

Botta, 26, of Port St. Lucie, contends in his petition that the Army’s refusal to exempt him from deployment “constitutes unlawful custody.” Botta argues the Army did not consider the length and nature of his previous tours “to assure a sharing of exposure to the hazards of combat.”

He was granted an initial exemption last year, allowing him to pursue an electrical engineering degree at Palm Beach Community College and work as a senior technician on Blackhawk and Seahawk helicopters at Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. But now his exemption has been denied.

Botta said he was shocked when he received notice of his latest deployment orders.

“My heart sank through the floor,” he said. “I’ve sacrificed all my time into this new life I have now.”

Botta enlisted in the Army Reserves in October 2000. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, he requested transfer to active duty, which was granted the next month, according to the petition.

Botta was deployed to Afghanistan for about seven months in 2002. He then had three deployments to Iraq _ about a month in 2003, three months in 2004 and 15 days later that year.

Army spokeswoman Maj. Cheryl Phillips noted that Army Reserve units deploy for 12 consecutive months, and that Botta had only accumulated about 10 nonconsecutive months of deployment. She also noted that Botta was under an eight-year service contract.

“The Army leadership acknowledges the hardships and sacrifices of our soldiers and their families and is aggressively pursuing means to lessen their strain,” Phillips wrote in an e-mail Friday. “We evaluate each request for deferment or exemption from mobilization independently to determine if a deployment will cause undue hardship for the soldier or the family.”

She said that out of 649 deployment delays requested by soldiers since the start of the Afghan war in 2001, the Army has granted 561 or 87 percent. Of the 5,708 exemptions that have been requested, 2,983 or 54 percent have been granted.

Botta’s previous deployments in Iraq were as a communications specialist with the 3rd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment and were shorter than most tours because they were “emergency deployments,” said his attorney, Mark Waple.

After his release from active duty on Oct. 30, 2004, Botta has not been required to participate in any training, he said.

Botta now wants a federal judge to stop his deployment. If a resolution is not reached, he said he will follow orders and deploy Sunday to Fort Jackson near Columbia, S.C.

Waple said the Army’s decision to redeploy Botta and to deny his request for exemption is arbitrary and goes against actions in similar cases where academic exemptions were granted.

“We’re just concerned that they’re granting these exemptions in some cases and denying them in others without any real meaningful methodology in making that decision,” Waple said.

Waple also noted that Congress requires the Defense Department to “take into consideration the reservist’s prior military service to be certain that there is uniform exposure among reservists to the hazards of combat and the Department of the Army has failed to do that in Sgt. Botta’s case.”

There was no immediate word as to when the court would take up the case.

But there is some good news:

New GOP bill challenges Bush Iraq policy

WASHINGTON – Two top Republicans cast aside President Bush’s pleas for patience on Iraq Friday and proposed legislation demanding a new strategy by mid-October to restrict the mission of U.S. troops.

flag shame

Image from 9thwave

End the war so we can start to end our shame in the world.

prisoners at Gitmo

Well it seems that perhaps people in the White House are talking about the closing Guantánamo Bay Prison & Concentration Camp for enemy combatants and anyone else the administration wants to torture and keep away from US courts, the rights of prisoners of war, the rights of people arrested in the United States, or any rights at all. (Until the enemy combatants are cleared of all charges and then sent back to their country to think wonderful things about the United States.)  Many have been there since we invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

CBS Reports the story complete with the White House spin reaction:

The Bush administration is nearing a decision to close the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility and move terror suspects from there to military prisons on U.S. soil, The Associated Press has learned.

But White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in a statement today that no decisions on Gitmo are imminent.

“The President has long expressed a desire to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and to do so in a responsible way,” said Johndroe.

“A number of steps need to take place before that can happen such as setting up military commissions and the repatriation to their home countries of detainees who have been cleared for released.”

On his program tonight (Listen here!), Keith Olbermann’s take was that this would more than likely result in more detention centers — smaller and less public ones that might not have the rest of the world hating us. OK. That makes sense. So then why is it that “The President has long expressed a desire to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and to do so in a responsible way”? You don’t think it’s possible that the White house spokesman was just saying that, do you? (more…)

Dua Khalil honor killingI have a boyfriend and my family does not want me to have sex with him. They say I am too young and so is he. (Kissing and hugging are fine, but hands must always stay above the waist.) They want me to be older, to be in love, and to be safe when I do choose to have sex. Maybe I will wait until I am married and maybe I won’t.

If I were to have sex at my age, they would be disappointed in me and angry with me. If I stayed out all night, I would definitely get grounded, lose internet access, and probably have a thousand new chores. But they would NOT kill me and NEVER let other people kill me because of sex, even if I had sex with a person of a different religion.

It is different in the middle east. There, girls can be stoned to death for having sex too early and with the wrong people. Look at what happened to Dua Khalil, a 17 year old in Northern Iraq. (She is the girl in the photo above.)
According to CNN:

Authorities in northern Iraq have arrested four people in connection with the “honor killing” last month of a Kurdish teen — a startling, morbid pummeling caught on a mobile phone video camera and broadcast around the world.

The case portrays the tragedy and brutality of honor killings in the Muslim world. Honor killings take place when family members kill relatives, almost always female, because they feel the relatives’ actions have shamed the family.

In this case, Dua Khalil, a 17-year-old Kurdish girl whose religion is Yazidi, was dragged into a crowd in a headlock with police looking on and kicked, beaten and stoned to death last month. (Watch the attack, and what authorities are doing about it Video)

Authorities believe she was killed for being seen with a Sunni Muslim man. She had not married him or converted, but her attackers believed she had, a top official in Nineveh province said. The Yazidis, who observe an ancient Middle Eastern religion, look down on mixing with people of another faith.

National Geographic estimates that thousands of women and girls are killed every year, because their families value family honor more than the lives of the women and girls.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of women are murdered by
their families each year in the name of family “honor.” It’s difficult to get precise numbers on the phenomenon of honor killing; the murders frequently go unreported, the perpetrators unpunished, and the concept of family honor justifies the act in the eyes of some societies.

Most honor killings occur in countries where the concept of women as a vessel of the family reputation predominates, said Marsha Freemen, director of International Women’s Rights Action Watch at the Hubert Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.

Reports submitted to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights show that honor killings have occurred in Bangladesh, Great Britain, Brazil, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Pakistan, Morocco, Sweden, Turkey, and Uganda. In countries not submitting reports to the UN, the practice was condoned under the rule of the fundamentalist Taliban government in Afghanistan, and has been reported in Iraq and Iran.

But while honor killings have elicited considerable attention and outrage, human rights activists argue that they should be regarded as part of a much larger problem of violence against women.

. . . .

The practice, she said, “goes across cultures and across religions.”

Complicity by other women in the family and the community strengthens the concept of women as property and the perception that violence against family members is a family and not a judicial issue.

“Females in the family—mothers, mothers-in-law, sisters, and cousins—frequently support the attacks. It’s a community mentality,” said Zaynab Nawaz, a program assistant for women’s human rights at Amnesty International.

Some organizations that are fighting to stop this violence against girls and women are UNICEF and Amnesty International.

UPDATE: You can also sign this petition and find out more from STOP Honour Killings.

Like most of my political posts, this is cross-posted at Political Teen Tidbits and at YouThinkLeft.

My brother is in the Army National Guard and I hope no President ever uses him for a prop for their photo-ops.

—Freckles

(from Crooks and Liars)

Generals To Bush: “Soldiers Not Props”

I have all sorts of snarky things to say about this, mostly on the plane that all soldiers have ever been to Bush are props, but I think these pictures say it better:

bush-soldiers.jpg bushteleconferencewire.jpg

Chicago Tribune (thanks to all the C&Lers who sent this link)

A trio of retired generals concerned that President Bush might use his scheduled appearance this afternoon at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center to try and score political points against Democrats, urged the president, via a teleconference with reporters, to focus strictly on the problems with military medical care.

The generals were spurred into action by news reports that suggested the president might use the event to take on Democrats as both sides clash over the Iraq and Afghanistan spending bills just passed by the Senate and House which include timelines Bush fiercely opposes for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.

Some of the pointiest of comments came from retired Army Major Gen. Paul Eaton [..]:

I’m equally happy, Gen. Garde is on target, that the president is going to visit our wounded soldiers. I’m convinced that he would honor them more if he would refrain from using soldiers as props in political theater.

We have a commander-in-chief who does very well when he is unscripted, unrehearsed and engaging with soldiers. But too often those who handle his performances try to turn the American fighting man and woman into a political prop for the scenery.

So I would be very happy to see him do the Water Reed visit more like the commander and secondarily as an inspector general instead of as a politician. The inspector general in the U.S. army is the fellow charged with ferreting out problems such as Walter Reed and delivering the nature of the problem to the commander. So it is best that the commander in chief pursue this visit to Walter Reed as commander in fact of the American fighting man and the American fighting woman.

All I can say to Gen. Eaton: Well done, sir.

President Bush eating with soldiers

President Bush with wounded soldiers

President Bush with soldiers

Is this what the Bush administration considers SUPPORTING THE TROOPS??? This is a horrible thing and they should be ashamed of themselves taking advantage of wounded soldiers and lying to them.

My brother is in the National Guard and I hope that he and his friends read all papers really careful before they sign anything.

The Nation Logo


How Specialist Town Lost His Benefits

by JOSHUA KORS

[from the April 9, 2007 issue]

Jon Town has spent the last few years fighting two battles, one against his body, the other against the US Army. Both began in October 2004 in Ramadi, Iraq. He was standing in the doorway of his battalion’s headquarters when a 107-millimeter rocket struck two feet above his head. The impact punched a piano-sized hole in the concrete facade, sparked a huge fireball and tossed the 25-year-old Army specialist to the floor, where he lay blacked out among the rubble.

“The next thing I remember is waking up on the ground.” Men from his unit had gathered around his body and were screaming his name. “They started shaking me. But I was numb all over,” he says. “And it’s weird because… because for a few minutes you feel like you’re not really there. I could see them, but I couldn’t hear them. I couldn’t hear anything. I started shaking because I thought I was dead.”

Eventually the rocket shrapnel was removed from Town’s neck and his ears stopped leaking blood. But his hearing never really recovered, and in many ways, neither has his life. A soldier honored twelve times during his seven years in uniform, Town has spent the last three struggling with deafness, memory failure and depression. By September 2006 he and the Army agreed he was no longer combat-ready.

But instead of sending Town to a medical board and discharging him because of his injuries, doctors at Fort Carson, Colorado, did something strange: They claimed Town’s wounds were actually caused by a “personality disorder.” Town was then booted from the Army and told that under a personality disorder discharge, he would never receive disability or medical benefits.

Town is not alone. A six-month investigation has uncovered multiple cases in which soldiers wounded in Iraq are suspiciously diagnosed as having a personality disorder, then prevented from collecting benefits. The conditions of their discharge have infuriated many in the military community, including the injured soldiers and their families, veterans’ rights groups, even military officials required to process these dismissals.

They say the military is purposely misdiagnosing soldiers like Town and that it’s doing so for one reason: to cheat them out of a lifetime of disability and medical benefits, thereby saving billions in expenses.

The Fine Print

In the Army’s separations manual it’s called Regulation 635-200, Chapter 5-13: “Separation Because of Personality Disorder.” It’s an alluring choice for a cash-strapped military because enacting it is quick and cheap. The Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t have to provide medical care to soldiers dismissed with personality disorder. That’s because under Chapter 5-13, personality disorder is a pre-existing condition. The VA is only required to treat wounds sustained during service.

Soldiers discharged under 5-13 can’t collect disability pay either. To receive those benefits, a soldier must be evaluated by a medical board, which must confirm that he is wounded and that his wounds stem from combat. The process takes several months, in contrast with a 5-13 discharge, which can be wrapped up in a few days.

If a soldier dismissed under 5-13 hasn’t served out his contract, he has to give back a slice of his re-enlistment bonus as well. That amount is often larger than the soldier’s final paycheck. As a result, on the day of their discharge, many injured vets learn that they owe the Army several thousand dollars.

One military official says doctors at his base are doing more than withholding this information from wounded soldiers; they’re actually telling them the opposite: that if they go along with a 5-13, they’ll get to keep their bonus and receive disability and medical benefits. The official, who demanded anonymity, handles discharge papers at a prominent Army facility. He says the soldiers he works with know they don’t have a personality disorder. “But the doctors are telling them, this will get you out quicker, and the VA will take care of you. To stay out of Iraq, a soldier will take that in a heartbeat. What they don’t realize is, those things are lies. The soldiers, they don’t read the fine print,” he says. “They don’t know to ask for a med board. They’re taking the word of the doctors. Then they sit down with me and find out what a 5-13 really means–they’re shocked.”

Russell Terry, founder of the Iraq War Veterans Organization (IWVO), says he’s watched this scenario play itself out many times. For more than a year, his veterans’ rights group has been receiving calls from distraught soldiers discharged under Chapter 5-13. Most, he says, say their military doctors pushed the personality disorder diagnosis, strained to prove that their problems existed before their service in Iraq and refused to acknowledge evidence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury and physical traumas, which would allow them to collect disability and medical benefits.

“These soldiers are coming home from Iraq with all kinds of problems,” Terry says. “They go to the VA for treatment, and they’re turned away. They’re told, ‘No, you have a pre-existing condition, something from childhood.'” That leap in logic boils Terry’s blood. “Everybody receives a psychological screening when they join the military. What I want to know is, if all these soldiers really did have a severe pre-existing condition, how did they get into the military in the first place?”

(more…)

This man is walking from California all the way to Washington DC to protest against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Check out his website.

Freckles

wtetw4.JPG

 

Walk To End The Wars

 

My name is Bill McDannell. I am a father of five and grandfather of
four. I am a Vietnam era veteran and a former pastor of the United
Methodist Church. Despite considerable evidence to the contrary, I
still firmly believe that, as a citizen of the United States of
America, I have a voice in the activities of our country, and that my
voice can be heard and can have an impact.

On Saturday, November 4th, 2006 I began to put that belief to the
test. Mindful of my constitutional right to petition my government, on
that date I left my home in Lakeside, California to begin a walk that
will end in Washington, D.C. I am carrying with me a petition I intend
to present to both the executive and legislative branches of our
government requesting that we, as a nation, declare an immediate end to
the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I am only one person, and do not pretend to have the individual
wisdom to dictate exactly what actions should take place as a result of
a declaration of the end of the wars. In fact, this is the reason I am
walking to Washington. I expect it will take me nine or ten months to
walk from California to Washington, D.C., and I believe that the
leaders who managed to figure out a way to get us into these wars in
just a few months ought to be able to figure out a way to get us out by
the time I arrive. The details of how many of our sons and daughters in
the military will be brought home and how soon they will arrive home
must be left to those more familiar with the logistics than myself, but
I certainly believe that a declaration that the wars are over must come
immediately and that, with the wars officially over, our sons and
daughters should begin to return home immediately.

The basis for my petition is quite simple. First, regarding the war
in Iraq. We the people of the United States of America have been given
several reasons why we went to war with Iraq in the first place:

1. We have been told that we went to war to liberate the people of
Iraq from the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein. We have accomplished
that. Saddam Hussein has been deposed, tried, convicted and executed.

2. We have been told that we went to war to locate and destroy
weapons of mass destruction and the capability to deliver them. We have
discovered that there were no weapons of mass destruction, neither was
there any means to deliver such weapons. (more…)