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Author Topic: Help our troops/our cause:  (Read 35659 times)
Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #50 on: December 11, 2006, 07:49:43 AM »

TTT
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #51 on: December 24, 2006, 03:18:41 PM »

Woof All:

In the military and overseas? All you have to do is put the words "Only a man who does nothing makes no mistakes." in the comments section when placing your order and you will automatically receive 25% off your order total.

It's our way of saying thanks and Happy Holidays!

The Adventure continues!
Dog Brothers Martial Arts
 
 
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armydoc
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« Reply #52 on: December 25, 2006, 11:36:41 PM »

That's great!   How long is the offer good for?

Keith


Woof All:

In the military and overseas? All you have to do is put the words "Only a man who does nothing makes no mistakes." in the comments section when placing your order and you will automatically receive 25% off your order total.

It's our way of saying thanks and Happy Holidays!

The Adventure continues!
Dog Brothers Martial Arts
 
 

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #53 on: December 26, 2006, 12:06:05 AM »

SOP from here forward.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #54 on: January 25, 2007, 03:33:31 PM »

Woof All:

This man's work  (see e.g. http://www.michaelyon-online.com/wp/desolate-roads-part-one.htm ) needs to continue!  Normally we don't discuss such things but I will say we have just sent the best donation we can.

The Adventure continues!
Marc "Crafty Dog" Denny
=================================



Greetings:

After spending most of 2005 in Iraq, five months of which were in Mosul, I am back to report on the progress and obstacles. There remain only a handful of US soldiers in Mosul, and they continue to fight every day. The Iraqi Security Forces here are vastly improved from 2005.  Mosul is a key and critical city in this war.  The terrorists want it badly.  Practically the only thing standing between Mosul and the terrorists are the Iraqis who are tired of the violence, and the small group of American soldiers who are vastly outnumbered.

I am again with an American infantry unit, this time it is the 2/7 Cavalry, based in Texas. During the first week of my embed, the battalion lost 6 soldiers killed in action, and 1 interpreter.  Others were severely wounded. They also were fighting back and inflicting worse damage on the enemy.  "Desolate Roads Part 1 of 2," the dispatch now posted on the site, chronicles singular moments from the past two weeks in Mosul.

My request to extend the embed with the 2/7 Cavalry  has been approved and I am looking forward to being able to observe and report on the dynamic situation on the ground here. Already, two of my camera lenses, my ballistic goggles and other expensive gear have been damaged beyond repair. The support of readers will determine how much longer I will be able to continue this work.

Very Respectfully,

Michael
Michael Yon
P O Box 416
Westport Pt MA 02791

PS: Our apologies for two server melt-downs that crashed the site after recent dispatches were published.  We switched to a dedicated server and new company.
==============================

« Last Edit: January 25, 2007, 03:43:31 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #55 on: January 28, 2007, 07:21:58 AM »

Part of military service is that for some, they return to civilian life.  There is a law concerning the rights of those who have served to return to the jobs that they held:

http://dogbrothers.com/adobedocs/4A. USERRA POSTER.pdf

The Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act:
« Last Edit: January 28, 2007, 07:46:33 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #56 on: January 31, 2007, 07:24:44 PM »

From blackfive.net

I've got permission to go hot with this.   This is typical of what I've been hearing.

It's a manifesto of sorts from a Staff Sergeant in the fight in Afghanistan.  He had an experience recently while on mid-tour leave to see his wife and baby boy that was the last straw:

Things that I am tired of in this war:

I am tired of Democrats saying they are patriotic and then insulting my commander in chief and the way he goes about his job.

I am tired of Democrats who tell me they support me, the soldier on the ground, and then tell me the best plan to win this war is with a “phased redeployment” (liberal-speak for retreat) out of the combat zone to someplace like Okinawa.

I am tired of the Democrats whining for months on T.V., in the New York Times, and in the House and Senate that we need more troops to win the war in Iraq, and then when my Commander in Chief plans to do just that, they say that is the wrong plan, it won’t work, and we need a “new direction.”

I am tired of every Battalion Sergeant Major and Command Sergeant Major I see over here being more concerned about whether or not I am wearing my uniform in the “spot on,” most garrison-like manner; instead of asking me whether or not I am getting the equipment I need to win the fight, the support I need from my chain of command, or if the chow tastes good.

I am tired of junior and senior officers continually doubting the technical expertise of junior enlisted soldiers who are trained far better to do the jobs they are trained for than these officers believe.

I am tired of senior officers and commanders who fight this war with more of an eye on the media than on the enemy, who desperately needs killing.

I am tired of the decisions of Sergeants and Privates made in the heat of battle being scrutinized by lawyers who were not there and will never really know the state of mind of the young soldiers who were there and what is asked of them in order to survive.

I am tired of CNN claiming that they are showing “news,” with videotape sent to them by terrorists, of my comrades being shot at by snipers, but refusing to show what happens when we build a school, pave a road, hand out food and water to children, or open a water treatment plant.

I am tired of following the enemy with drones that have cameras, and then dropping bombs that sometimes kill civilians; because we could do a better job of killing the right people by sending a man with a high powered rifle instead.

I am tired of the thousands of people in the rear who claim that they are working hard to support me when I see them with their mochas and their PX Bags walking down the street, in the middle of the day, nowhere near their workspaces.

I am tired of Code Pink, Daily Kos, Al-Jazzera, CNN, Reuters, the Associated Press, ABC, NBC, CBS, the ACLU, and CAIR thinking that they somehow get to have a vote in how we blast, shoot and kill these animals who would seek to subdue us and destroy us.

I am tired of people like Meredith Vieria from NBC asking oxygen thieves like Senator Chuck Hagel questions like “Senator, at this point, do you think we are fighting and dying for nothing?” Meredith might not get it, but soldiers do know the difference between fighting and dying for something and fighting and dying for nothing.

I am tired of hearing multiple stories from both combat theaters about snipers begging to do their jobs while commanders worry about how the media might portray the possible casualties and what might happen to their career.

I am tired of hearing that the Battalion Tactical Operations Center got a new plasma screen monitor for daily briefings, but rifle scope rings for sniper rifles, extra magazines, and necessary field gear were disapproved by the unit supply system.

I am tired of out of touch general officers, senators, congressmen and defense officials who think that giving me some more heavy body armor to wear is helping me stay alive.  Speed is life in combat and wearing 55 to 90 pounds of gear for 12 to 20 hours a day puts me at a great tactical disadvantage to the idiot, mindless terrorist who is wearing no armor at all and carrying an AK-47 and a pistol.

I am tired of soldiers who are stationed in places like Kuwait and who are well away from any actual combat getting Hostile Fire/Imminent Danger Pay and the Combat Zone Tax Exclusion when they live on a base that has a McDonald’s, a Pizza Hut, a Subway, a Baskin Robbins, an internet café, 2 coffee shops and street lights.

I am tired of senior officers and commanders who take it out and "measure" every time they want to have a piece of the action with their helicopters or their artillery; instead of putting their egos aside and using their equipment to support the grunt on the ground.

I am tired of senior officers and commanders who are too afraid for their careers to tell the truth about what they need to win this war to their bosses so that the soldiers can get on with kicking the ass of these animals.

I am tired of Rules of Engagement being made by JAG lawyers and not Combat Commanders.  We are not playing Hopscotch over here.  There is no 2nd place trophy either.  I think that if the enemy knew some rough treatment and some deprivation was at hand for them, instead of prayer rugs, special diets and free Korans; this might help get their terrorist minds “right.”

I am tired of seeing Active Duty Army and Marine units being extended past their original redeployment dates, when there are National Guard Units that have yet to deploy to a combat zone in the last 40 years.

I am tired of hearing soldiers who are stationed in safe places talk about how hard their life is.

I am tired of seeing Infantry Soldiers conducting what amounts to “SWAT” raids and performing the US Army’s version of “CSI Iraq” and doing things like filling out forms for evidence when they could be better used to hunt and kill the enemy.

I am tired of senior officers and commanders who look first in their planning for how many casualties we might take, instead of how many enemy casualties we might inflict.

I am tired of begging to be turned loose so that this war can be over.

Those of us who fight this war want to win it and go home to their families.  Prolonging it with attempts to do things like collect “evidence”  or present whiz bang briefings on a new plasma screen TV is wasteful and ultimately, dulls the edge of our Infantry soldiers who are trained to kill people and break things, not necessarily in that order.

We are not in Iraq and Afghanistan to build nations.  We are there to kill our enemies.  We make the work of the State Department easier by the results we achieve.

It is only possible to defeat an enemy who kills indiscriminately by utterly destroying him.  He cannot be made to yield or surrender.  He will fight to the death by the hundreds to kill only one or two of us.

And so far, all of our “games” have been “away games,” and I don’t know about the ignorant, treasonous Democrats and the completely insane radical leftists and their thoughts on the matter, but I would like to keep our road game schedule.

So let’s get it done.  Until the fight is won and there is no more fight left.

-D
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #57 on: February 01, 2007, 08:11:17 AM »

USA Today
December 21, 2006
Pg. 13
Does The Next Generation Value The Sacrifice Of War?
By Jack Valenti
There is a piece of sadness that the election failed to debate. It is the lamentable detachment by the young among us to freedom's history.

The press has reported that Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers, his masterly recreation of courage and fidelity to duty and country exhibited by young Marines in the bloodiest battle of World War II, has gone largely unattended by the youngsters of this day.

Watching this movie, watching ordinary young men performing extraordinary feats of heroism, broke my heart. They put to hazard their own lives not to win medals, but because their country was in danger. Why, then, a casual indifference to this story by so many young people? Maybe it's because we have been so benumbed by war, particularly this Iraq war, and because so few youngsters have worn a uniform. A movie about a battle a half a century ago carries no umbilical connection to them. That's understandable. But it ought not to be.

Perhaps some parents might want to do what I did years ago. When my son was about 14, I took him to Omaha Beach and the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France. We stood on the bluff above the beach in the same spot where Nazi troops had dug in. They had poured rifle, mortar and machine gunfire onto the U.S. troops clambering out of their landing crafts. They cut them down on the sand and in the water that seemed to still run red with the blood flowing so wantonly on that invasion day, June 6, 1944.

My son was struck with how close it was from the bluff to the beach. I said, "John it was very close, but remember those young boys never turned back, not one of them. They never turned back. They kept coming."

Then we walked a short distance to the American Cemetery. It is on land a grateful France granted to the United States for use in perpetuity. The Stars and Stripes flies over this cathedral of the dead. We turned our gaze to the grave markers, row upon row upon row, as far as the eye could see. There, I told my son, were buried 9,387 young men, many of whom were in between the ages of 18 and their early 20s, "just a few years older than you are right now," I said.

We walked among the markers laid out in serried ranks. I asked my son to read the inscriptions on those grave markers, the bland finalities of a young warrior's life — name, rank, outfit and the day he died — lives ended before they could be lived.

Finally, I stopped and looked full face at my son. "John, I want you to know why I brought you here." He looked puzzled. I said, "I wanted you to understand that these boys, who never knew you, nonetheless gave you the greatest gift one human can give another. They gave you the gift of freedom. They bought and paid for that gift in blood and bravery. They made it possible for you and millions like you to never have to test your own courage to see how you would react when the dagger is at the nation's belly and death stares you right in the face. You owe them a debt you will never be able to repay."

My son seemed genuinely moved. We never spoke about this again until one day years later, he phoned me. "Dad, last night I saw Saving Private Ryan. You were right. They never turned back, not a one. They kept coming." His voice trembled as he spoke.

Somehow, my own voice cracked a bit with gratitude. My son remembered. May God grant that every boy and girl in this free and loving land never forget the gift of young boys so long ago, a gift given to generations of Americans who were yet to be born.

Jack Valenti flew 51 combat missions in World War II as a pilot commander of a B-25 twin-engine attack bomber with the 12th Air Force in Europe. He also is former chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America.




//signed//
Tom Valentine
Counterintelligence Analyst
Office of Intelligence (IN-20)
U.S. Dept of Energy
Phone: (202) 586-5871
Fax: (202) 586-0342
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #58 on: February 10, 2007, 12:23:18 PM »

Greetings From Rancho Mirage
Ben Stein | February 05, 2007
Dear Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, National Guard, Reservists, in Iraq, in the Middle East theater, in Afghanistan, in the area near Afghanistan, in any base anywhere in the world, and your families:
Let me tell you about why you guys own about 90 percent of the backbone in the whole world right now and should be happy with yourselves and proud of whom you are.
It was a dazzlingly hot day here in Rancho Mirage today. I did small errands like going to the bank to pay my mortgage, finding a new bed at a price I can afford, practicing driving with my new 5 wood, paying bills for about two hours. I spoke for a long time to a woman who is going through a nasty child custody fight. I got e-mails from a woman who was fired today from her job for not paying attention. I read about multi-billion-dollar mergers in Europe, Asia, and the Mideast. I noticed how overweight I am, for the millionth time. In other words, I did a lot of nothing.
Like every other American who is not in the armed forces family, I basically just rearranged the deck chairs on the Titanic in my trivial, self-important, meaningless way.
Above all, I talked to a friend of more than forty-three years who told me he thought his life had no meaning because all he did was count his money. And, friends in the armed forces, this is the story of all of America today. We are doing nothing but treading water while you guys carry on the life or death struggle against worldwide militant Islamic terrorism. Our lives are about nothing: paying bills, going to humdrum jobs, waiting until we can go to sleep and then do it all again. Our most vivid issues are trivia compared with what you do every day, every minute, every second.
Oprah Winfrey talks a lot about "meaning" in life. For her, "meaning" is dieting and then having her photo on the cover of her magazine every single month (surely a new world record for egomania). This is not "meaning."
- Meaning is doing for others.
- Meaning is risking your life for hers.
- Meaning is putting your bodies and families' peace of mind on the line to defeat some of the most evil, sick killers the world has ever known.
- Meaning is leaving the comfort of home to fight to make sure that there still will be a home for your family and for your nation and for free men and women everywhere.
Look, Soldiers and Marines and Sailors and Airmen and Coast Guardsmen, there are six billion people in this world. The whole fate of this world turns on what you people, 1.4 million, more or less, do every day. The fate of mankind depends on what about 2/100 of one percent of the people in this world do every day and you are those people. And joining you is every policeman, fireman, and Emergency Medical Technician in the country, also holding back the tide of chaos.
Do you know how important you are? Do you know how indispensable you are? Do you know how humbly grateful any of us who has a head on his shoulders is to you? Do you know that if you never do another thing in your lives, you will always still be heroes? That we could live without Hollywood or Wall Street or the NFL, but we cannot live for a week without you?
We are on our knees to you and we bless and pray for you every moment. And Oprah Winfrey, if she were a size two, would not have one millionth of your importance, and all of the Wall Street billionaires will never mean what the least of you do, and if Barry Bonds hits hundreds of home runs it would not mean as much as you going on one patrol or driving one truck to the Baghdad airport.
You are everything to us, as we go through our little days, and you are in the prayers of the nation and of every decent man and woman on the planet. That's who you are and what you mean. I hope you know that.
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« Reply #59 on: February 17, 2007, 10:39:43 PM »

COWARDS GIVE UP ON GIS - & GIVE IN TO EVIL
By RALPH PETERS


February 17, 2007 -- PROVIDING aid and comfort to the enemy in wartime is treason. It's not "just politics." It's treason.
And signaling our enemies that Congress wants them to win isn't "supporting our troops."

The "nonbinding resolution" telling the world that we intend to surrender to terrorism and abandon Iraq may be the most disgraceful congressional action since the Democratic Party united to defend slavery.

The vote was a huge morale booster for al Qaeda, for Iraq's Sunni insurgents, and for the worst of the Shia militias.

The message Congress just sent to them all was, "Hold on, we'll stop the surge, we're going to leave - and you can slaughter the innocent with our blessing."

We've reached a low point in the history of our government when a substantial number of legislators would welcome an American defeat in Iraq for domestic political advantage.

Yes, some members voted their conscience. But does anyone believe they were in the majority?

This troop surge might not work. We can't know yet. But we can be damned sure that the shameful action taken on the Hill while our troops are fighting isn't going to help.

And a word about those troops: It's going to come as a shock to the massive egos in Congress, but this resolution won't hurt morale - for the simple reason that our men and women in uniform have such low expectations of our politicians that they'll shrug this off as business as usual.

This resolution has teeth, though: It's going to bite our combat commanders. By undermining their credibility and shaking the trust of their Iraqi counterparts, it makes it far tougher to build the alliances that might give Iraq a chance.

If you were an Iraqi, would you be willing to trust Americans and risk your life after the United States Congress voted to abandon you?

Now that Donald Rumsfeld's gone, the Democrats are doing just what they pilloried the former Secretary of Defense for doing: Denying battlefield commanders the troops and resources they need.

Congresswoman Pelosi, have you no shame?

As a former soldier who still spends a good bit of time with those in uniform, what infuriates me personally is the Doublespeak, Stalin-Prize lie that undercutting our troops and encouraging our enemies is really a way to "support our troops."

As for bringing them home, why not respect the vote the troops themselves are taking: Sustained re-enlistment rates have been at a record high.

And our soldiers and Marines know they'll go back to Iraq or Afghanistan. And no, Senator Kerry, it's not because they're too stupid to get a "real" job like yours or because they're "mercenaries." Some Americans still believe in America.

If our troops are willing to fight this bitter war, how dare Congress knife them in the back?

On Thursday night, I was in Nashville as a guest of the 506th Regimental Combat Team - with whom I'd spent all too brief a time in Baghdad.

The occasion was their welcome-home ball, complete with dress uniforms spangled with awards for bravery. Proud spouses sat beside their returned warriors.

Of course, those soldiers were glad to be home with their loved ones. But they also know they'll go back to one theater of war or another - and no one complained.

They share a value that Congress has forgotten: duty. They're willing to bear the weight of the world on their shoulders. Because they know that freedom has a price.

As you entered the ballroom for the event, the first thing you saw was a line of 34 photographs. A single white candle softly lit each frame. Those were the members of the 506th who didn't come home.

Soldiers honor their dead. It's the least Congress could do to honor the living men and women in uniform.

You don't support our troops by supporting our enemies.

Ralph Peters' latest book is "Never Quit The Fight."


 
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rogt
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« Reply #60 on: February 26, 2007, 12:30:00 PM »

COWARDS GIVE UP ON GIS - & GIVE IN TO EVIL
By RALPH PETERS


February 17, 2007 -- PROVIDING aid and comfort to the enemy in wartime is treason. It's not "just politics." It's treason.
And signaling our enemies that Congress wants them to win isn't "supporting our troops."

If Ralph genuinely believes that this (or basically any) congressional action to end the war is in effect "providing aid and comfort to the enemy" and therefore qualfies as treason, then clearly the only solution is to shut down congress and have rule by executive fiat.  Or perhaps Ralph would be more comfortable with a military dictatorship.

That the views of somebody like Ralph are considered "supporting the troops" while people who want to bring them home and let them return to their lives are guilty of treason is pretty absurd.  it's not like getting into this war was "the troops" idea.  The troops do what they're told, and I don't see how ordering them to come home is any different from ordering them to go to war...
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #61 on: February 26, 2007, 12:52:15 PM »

I'll agree that the use of the legal term "treason" is over the top, but IMHO as our troops, who have strong re-enlistment rates, are finally being unleashed to apply a different approach, that the actions of the Democratic majority are for the most part despicable.  They are telling the enemy AND those who would be our friends, to just wait it out a few months and we will be gone.  This dramatically reduces the chance of success of the mission for which our troops fight.
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rogt
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« Reply #62 on: February 26, 2007, 01:35:37 PM »

I'll agree that the use of the legal term "treason" is over the top, but IMHO as our troops, who have strong re-enlistment rates, are finally being unleashed to apply a different approach,

Can you elaborate on what exactly this "different approach" is?

Quote
that the actions of the Democratic majority are for the most part despicable.

Didn't voters put the Democrats in charge precisely because they wanted the war brought to an end regardless of whether or not we win?  Before the election, just about every poll was showing a clear majority in favor of withdrawing some or all of the troops from Iraq.

Quote
They are telling the enemy AND those who would be our friends, to just wait it out a few months and we will be gone.  This dramatically reduces the chance of success of the mission for which our troops fight.

I understand that the troops would prefer that the war end with a US victory, but wars have never been about what the troops want or how they feel about the political decisions that are made.  And frankly, I'm not convinced that most of the military itself is as gung-ho about fighting the war as you and other war supporters think.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #63 on: February 26, 2007, 01:44:00 PM »

Woof Rog:

Answering these questions does not fit with the subject of this thread.  If you would like, please take them over to the "WW3" or "Iraq" threads.

Marc
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« Reply #64 on: March 05, 2007, 01:25:16 PM »

March 5, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist
Valor and Squalor
By PAUL KRUGMAN

When Salon, the online magazine, reported on mistreatment of veterans at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center two years ago, officials simply denied that there were any problems. And they initially tried to brush off last month’s exposé in The Washington Post.

But this time, with President Bush’s approval at 29 percent, Democrats in control of Congress, and Donald Rumsfeld no longer defense secretary — Robert Gates, his successor, appears genuinely distressed at the situation — the whitewash didn’t stick.

Yet even now it’s not clear whether the public will be told the full story, which is that the horrors of Walter Reed’s outpatient unit are no aberration. For all its cries of “support the troops,” the Bush administration has treated veterans’ medical care the same way it treats everything else: nickel-and-diming the needy, protecting the incompetent and privatizing everything it can.

What makes this a particular shame is that in the Clinton years, veterans’ health care — like the Federal Emergency Management Agency — became a shining example of how good leadership can revitalize a troubled government program. By the early years of this decade the Veterans Health Administration was, by many measures, providing the highest-quality health care in America. (It probably still is: Walter Reed is a military facility, not run by the V.H.A.)

But as with FEMA, the Bush administration has done all it can to undermine that achievement. And the Walter Reed scandal is another Hurricane Katrina: the moment when the administration’s misgovernment became obvious to everyone.

The problem starts with money. The administration uses carefully cooked numbers to pretend that it has been generous to veterans, but the historical data contained in its own budget for fiscal 2008 tell the true story. The quagmire in Iraq has vastly increased the demands on the Veterans Administration, yet since 2001 federal outlays for veterans’ medical care have actually lagged behind overall national health spending.

To save money, the administration has been charging veterans for many formerly free services. For example, in 2005 Salon reported that some Walter Reed patients were forced to pay hundreds of dollars each month for their meals.

More important, the administration has broken longstanding promises of lifetime health care to those who defend our nation. Two months before the invasion of Iraq the V.H.A., which previously offered care to all veterans, introduced severe new restrictions on who is entitled to enroll in its health care system. As the agency’s Web site helpfully explains, veterans whose income exceeds as little as $27,790 a year, and who lack “special eligibilities such as a compensable service connected condition or recent combat service,” will be turned away.

So when you hear stories of veterans who spend months or years fighting to get the care they deserve, trying to prove that their injuries are service-related, remember this: all this red tape was created not by the inherent inefficiency of government bureaucracy, but by the Bush administration’s penny-pinching.

But money is only part of the problem.

We know from Hurricane Katrina postmortems that one of the factors degrading FEMA’s effectiveness was the Bush administration’s relentless push to outsource and privatize disaster management, which demoralized government employees and drove away many of the agency’s most experienced professionals. It appears that the same thing has been happening to veterans’ care.

The redoubtable Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, points out that IAP Worldwide Services, a company run by two former Halliburton executives, received a large contract to run Walter Reed under suspicious circumstances: the Army reversed the results of an audit concluding that government employees could do the job more cheaply.

And Mr. Waxman, who will be holding a hearing on the issue today, appears to have solid evidence, including an internal Walter Reed memo from last year, that the prospect of privatization led to a FEMA-type exodus of skilled personnel.

What comes next? Francis J. Harvey, who as far as I can tell was the first defense contractor appointed secretary of the Army, has been forced out. But the parallels between what happened at Walter Reed and what happened to New Orleans — not to mention parallels with the mother of all scandals, the failed reconstruction of Iraq — tell us that the roots of the scandal run far deeper than the actions of a few bad men.
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« Reply #65 on: March 05, 2007, 09:02:24 PM »

I think this piece would have been stronger if Krugman had not sought to tie in the Katrina disaster-- which in my opinion should place most of the blame on the local and state level (Bush's incompetence consisting more in stumbling into being the fall guy for them  rolleyes )-- and his general dislike for the Bush Administration, but from what I have seen so far there is considerable merit in the accusations of shameful budgeting priorities on the part of the Bush Administration.
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« Reply #66 on: March 09, 2007, 08:39:40 AM »

Today's NY Times

GTON, March 8 — Staff Sgt. Gregory L. Wilson, from the Texas National Guard, waited nearly two years for his veterans’ disability check after he was injured in Iraq. If he had been an active-duty soldier, he would have gotten more help in cutting through the red tape.

Allen Curry of Chicago has fallen behind on his mortgage while waiting nearly two years for his disability check. If he had filed his claim in a state deploying fewer troops than Illinois, Mr. Curry, who was injured by a bomb blast when he was a staff sergeant in the Army Reserve in Iraq, would most likely have been paid sooner and gotten more in benefits.

Veterans face serious inequities in compensation for disabilities depending on where they live and whether they were on active duty or were members of the National Guard or the Reserve, an analysis by The New York Times has found.

Those factors determine whether some soldiers wait nearly twice as long to get benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs as others, and collect less money, according to agency figures.

“The V.A. is supposed to provide uniform and fair treatment to all,” said Steve Robinson, the director of veteran affairs for Veterans for America. “Instead, the places and services giving the most are getting the least.”

The agency said it was trying to ease the backlog and address disparities by hiring more claims workers, authorizing more overtime and adding claims development centers.

The problems partly stem from the agency’s inability to prepare for predictable surges in demand from certain states or certain categories of service members, say advocates and former department officials. Numerous government reports have highlighted the agency’s backlog of disability claims and called for improvements in shifting resources.

“It’s Actuary Science 101,” said Paul Sullivan, who until last March monitored data on returning veterans for the V.A. “When 5,000 new troops get deployed from California, you can logically expect a percent of them will show up at the V.A. in California in a year with predictable types of problems.”

“It makes no sense to wait until the troop is already back home to start preparing for them,” Mr. Sullivan said. “But that’s what the V.A. does.”

Veterans’ advocates say the types of bureaucratic obstacles recently disclosed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center are eclipsed by those at the Veterans Affairs division that is supposed to pay soldiers for service-related ills. The influx of veterans from the Iraq war has nearly overwhelmed an agency already struggling to meet the health care, disability payment and pension needs of more than three million veterans.

Stephen Meskin, who retired last year as the V.A.’s chief actuary, said he had repeatedly urged agency managers to track data so they could better meet the needs of former soldiers. “Where are the new vets showing up?” Mr. Meskin said he kept asking. “They just shrugged.”

Agency officials say they have begun an aggressive oversight effort to determine if all disability claims are being properly processed and contracted for a study that will examine state-by-state differences in average disability compensation payments.

“V.A.’s focus is to assure consistent application of the regulations governing V.A. disability determinations in all states,” the department said in a written statement.

Many new veterans say they are often left waiting for months or years, wondering if they will be taken care of.

Unable to work because of post-traumatic stress disorder and back injuries from a bomb blast in Iraq in 2004, Specialist James Webb of the Army ran out of savings while waiting 11 months for his claim. In the fall of 2005, Mr. Webb said, he began living on the streets in Decatur, Ga., a state that has the 10th-largest backlog of claims in the country.

“I should have just gone home to be with family instead of trying to do it on my own,” said Mr. Webb, who received a Bronze Star for his service in Iraq. “But with the post-traumatic stress disorder, I just didn’t want any relationships.”

After waiting 11 months, he began receiving his $869 monthly disability check and he moved into a house in Newnan, Ga. About three weeks ago, Mr. Webb moved back home to live with his parents in Kingsport, Tenn.

The backlogs are worst in some states sending the most troops, and discrepancies exist in pay levels.

Illinois, which has deployed the sixth-highest number of soldiers of any state, has the second-largest backlog. The average disability payment for Illinois veterans — $7,803 a year — is among the lowest in the nation, according to 2005 V.A. data.

----------------


In Pennsylvania, which has sent the fourth-highest number of troops, the claims office in Pittsburgh is tied for second for longest backlogs, where 4 out of 10 claims have been pending for more than six months. Veterans from this state on average receive relatively low payments, $8,268 per year, according to 2005 V.A. data. Comparable 2006 data were not available.

 The agency’s inspector general in 2005 examined geographic variations in how much veterans are paid for disabilities, finding that demographic factors, like the average age of each state’s veteran population, played roles. But the report also pointed to the subjective way that claims processors in each state determined level of disability.

Staffing levels at the veterans agency vary widely and have not kept pace with the increased demand. The current inventory of disability claims rose to 378,296 by the end of the 2006 fiscal year. The claims from returning war veterans plus those from previous periods increased by 39 percent from 2000 to 2006. During the same period, the staff for handling claims has remained relatively flat, a problem the department highlighted in its 2008 proposed budget. The department expects to receive about 800,000 new claims in 2007 and 2008 each.

“It’s clear to everyone here that the system over all is struggling and some veterans are waiting far too long for decisions,” Senator Larry E. Craig, Republican of Idaho, said Wednesday at a hearing before the Senate veterans affairs committee.

The growing strains on the veterans agency have affected some soldiers more than others.

While the Reserve and National Guard have sent a disproportionate number of soldiers to the war, the average annual disability payment for those troops is $3,603, based on 2006 V.A. data for unmarried veterans with no dependents. Active-duty soldiers on average receive $4,962.

Though the V.A. acknowledged that there were discrepancies, officials also said they believed that a significant factor might be length of service. Active-duty soldiers generally serve longer, and therefore more suffer from chronic diseases or disabilities that develop over time. Many who served in the Guard think they are losing the battle against the bureaucracy.

“We take a harder toll,” said Mr. Wilson, the Texan, referring to the fate of reservists and Guard troops compared with active duty soldiers.

He said that last month he received his disability check for his back injuries but only after a 21-month wait and the intervention of a congressman and a colonel.

When active-duty soldiers near discharge, they have access to far more programs offering assistance with benefits than do reserve and National Guard soldiers, according to veterans’ advocates.

“The active-duty guys, they get those resources,” Mr. Wilson said. “We don’t.”

He said that while active-duty soldiers often received medical disability evaluations in about 30 days, many reservists he knew waited two years or more to get an initial appointment. Active-duty personnel also routinely received legal advice about appeals and other issues from military lawyers, while reservists had to request those hearings, he said.

For years, the V.A.’s inspector general, the Government Accountability Office, members of Congress and veterans’ advocates have pointed out the need to improve how the V.A. tracks data on soldiers as they are deployed and when they are injured. That would help prepare for their future needs and ease delays in processing health and benefit claims.

In 2004, a system was designed to track soldiers better, prepare for surges in demand and avoid backlogs. But the system was shelved by program officials under Secretary Jim Nicholson for financial and logistical reasons, V.A. officials said Thursday at a hearing before the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

The V.A., which has said it has an alternate tracking system nearly operational, depends on paper files and lacks the ability to download Department of Defense records into its computers.

President Bush has appointed a commission to investigate problems at military and veterans hospitals.

For Mr. Curry, the reservist from Chicago who has fallen behind on his mortgage payments, his previous life as a $60,000-a-year postal worker is a fading memory. “It’s just disheartening,” he said. “You feel like giving up sometimes.”

« Previous Page1 2

Richard G. Jones contributed reporting from Trenton, Bob Driehaus from Cincinnati, and Sean D. Hamill from Pittsburgh.

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« Reply #67 on: March 10, 2007, 10:21:45 PM »

Free Walter Reed
The wounded deserve more than political recrimination.
Wall Street Journal

Saturday, March 10, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

The reports of poor conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center have set off a political firestorm. It remains to be seen whether the system that created the problem is capable of fixing it.

The Walter Reed facility is located inside the District of Columbia. While the press reports have been dramatic, it strains credulity to think these problems are suddenly news to Congress and all its staff, the executive branch, the Pentagon (across the Potomac), the rest of the Washington press divisions or servicemen and their families.

So now Congress is holding hearings, the White House is setting up an independent commission and Vice President Dick Cheney has pledged "there will be no excuses, only action." Arguably "only action" is a federal-government oxymoron. The action so far has consisted of firings and recrimination. If this continues, the incentive for anyone in government to think innovatively about Walter Reed will fail.

Not surprisingly, the story beneath the Walter Reed mess is a morass. It is government, in its inevitable sprawl, working at cross purposes with itself. For starters, Walter Reed is scheduled to shut down in 2011 as part of the base-closure commission process. No surprise that resources going into Walter Reed would not rise under this circumstance.

Meanwhile, President Bush has proposed spending $38.7 billion on military health care in the coming year--double what the military spent in 2001. Over the past six years the military has expanded health coverage for reservists and for military families and has added a more generous prescription drug benefit.





What has happened is that for more than a decade military health care has shifted away from long hospital stays in favor of increased outpatient care, mirroring the private-sector trend. The military and the entirely separate Department of Veterans Affairs--which itself spends tens of billions of dollars on health care--have shuttered large in-patient facilities and opened hundreds of outpatient clinics.
By and large this has been for the good. The military in fact is a pace-setter in medical procedures to treat the severely injured; it drives advances in prosthetic limbs, trauma care and reconstructive surgery. Approximately 98% of those wounded on the battlefield who reach a hospital survive. Consider the following comparison: The ratio of those wounded to killed today is seven to one; in Vietnam that ratio was closer to three to one. And the VA is excelling at outpatient care. The Rand Corporation recently found that on nearly every measure of quality of care--preventive services, follow-ups, chronic care--VA patients receive better care than most civilians.

But the problems are real and significant. The military provides health care to more than nine million people. The VA runs the largest unified health-care program in the country to cover an additional five million people. It's predictable that patients will get lost inside a government system this vast. In recent weeks veterans from the Korean and Vietnam wars have stepped forward to tell their own stories of fighting the health-care bureaucracy.

More than three million people eligible for cheap prescription drugs through the VA are opting instead to pay a little extra for Medicare drug coverage. Why? Because, as a Manhattan Institute study recently found, only 22% of the most important drugs released in recent years are covered by the VA.

These manifest problems will now tread water while we await the president's commission, Congress's hearings and on into the darkness. We have some shorter-term ideas to get help where it's needed.

For starters, free the patients captive inside this system. Congress should give these wounded soldiers vouchers to pay for out-patient care anywhere in America they wish--near home and family, at innumerable state-of-the-art rehab facilities, at specialized care institutions. Army word-of-mouth would quickly transmit data on best care, location, cost and family support. The professionals and staff in these places would move heaven and earth to help the service men and women.

To make this work, give a primary role to nonprofit foundations. The Fisher House program of comfort homes for families is perhaps the most famous. There are others more than willing to help.

Certainly the government needs to right its own battered programs. But in the meantime, let the American people--the world's greatest reservoir of medical, financial and volunteer skills--at last get involved helping those who've been fighting on our behalf in Iraq and in the war on terror.
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« Reply #68 on: March 13, 2007, 12:36:22 PM »

http://s75.photobucket.com/albums/i312/ChrisFry/?action=view&current=02_FEB_07_ABC_DFW_Welcome.flv

Some of us may need a tissue for this one.

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« Reply #69 on: March 13, 2007, 01:51:49 PM »

I'm not able to view the one Crafty just posted in my browser, but this one is pretty powerful:

http://www.worldpressphoto.org/index.php?option=com_photogallery&task=view&id=875&Itemid=146&bandwidth=high

I'm not sure which of them I feel sorrier for.

Rog
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« Reply #70 on: March 24, 2007, 09:40:30 PM »

And here is an example of hurting our troops and our cause-- this from this weekend's WSJ:
===============

'A Triumph for Pelosi'
March 24, 2007
That's how the Associated Press described yesterday's vote by the House to demand a U.S. retreat from Iraq, and in the perverse calculus of Capitol Hill we suppose it was. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has demonstrated she can pile on enough pork to bribe enough Democrats to cobble together a bare, partisan majority to "send a message" that has no chance of becoming law. Congratulations.

"Today is an historic day," Ms. Pelosi said on the House floor. "The new Congress will vote to end the war in Iraq." But of course the bill does nothing of the sort. If she truly wanted to end the war, the Speaker and her fellow Democrats could simply have used their power of the purse to refuse to fund it. But that would have meant taking some responsibility for what happens in Iraq, which is the last thing Democrats want to do. So they have passed a bill that funds the war while claiming it ends the war.

The bill's "benchmarks" and deadlines certainly have nothing to do with achieving victory in Iraq, or assisting General David Petraeus's campaign to secure Baghdad. They are all about the war inside the Democratic Caucus. On the one hand, they appease the antiwar left by pretending to declare the war illegal if certain goals aren't met by Iraqis or U.S. forces. But on the other, they allow "moderates" from swing districts to claim they are nonetheless "supporting the troops." Acts of Congress don't get much more cynical than that.

This is not to say the vote won't do considerable harm. It will be noted by our enemies in Iraq and will encourage them to inflict more casualties to further sour American support. It will make it harder for Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to disarm Shiite militias, who can point to the vote and say the Americans will soon be leaving. And most disgraceful, it will send a message to U.S. troops that they can fight on -- albeit without much chance of success and without Congressional support.

The lengths that Democratic leaders had to go to win their "triumph" betrayed its cynicism. To get her narrow majority of 218 votes, Ms. Pelosi and Appropriations Chairman David Obey had to load it up like a farm bill: $74 million for peanut storage, $25 million for spinach growers, $283 million for dairy farmers -- all told, some $20 billion in vote-buying earmarks of the kind Democrats campaigned against last year.

Even at that price, they could win over a mere two Republicans: antiwar Members Wayne Gilchrest of Maryland and Walter Jones of North Carolina. We hope GOP primary voters note those votes well. Given how the war hurt so many Republicans last November, this GOP solidarity is notable and a credit to the minority leadership.

President Bush was quick to denounce the vote yesterday, promising a veto. And we hope he keeps it up. By bowing to their antiwar left, Democrats are once again showing that they can't be trusted on national security. The President should drive that message home until Congress gives him a clean war bill that gives our troops the money to fight our enemies without having to take orders from MoveOn.org.

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« Reply #71 on: April 09, 2007, 04:41:26 PM »

Yep, let it never be said that Col. Ralph Peters doesn't support the troops 100% and unconditionally.

WHERE'S WINSTON?

By RALPH PETERS

April 3, 2007 -- THE greatest shock from the Middle East this year hasn't been terrorist ruthlessness or the latest Iranian tantrum. It's that members of Britain's Royal Marines wimped out in a matter of days and acquiesced in propaganda broadcasts for their captors.

Jingoism aside, I can't imagine any squad of U.S. Marines behaving in such a shabby, cowardly fashion. Our Marines would have fought to begin with. Taken captive by force, they would've resisted collaboration. To the last man and woman.

You could put a U.S. Marine in a dungeon and knock out his teeth, but you wouldn't knock out his pride in his country and the Corps. "Semper fi" means something.

And our Aussie allies would be just as tough.

What on earth happened to the Royal Marines? They're members of what passes for an elite unit. Has the Labor government's program to gut the U.K. military - grounding planes, taking ships out of service and deactivating army units - also ripped the courage from the breasts of those in uniform?

The female sailor who broke down first and begged for her government to surrender was pathetic enough. But when Royal Marines started pleading for tea and sympathy . . . Ma, say it ain't so!

Meanwhile, back at No. 10 "Downer" Street, British politicians are more upset that President Bush described their sailors and Marines as "hostages" than they are with the Iranians.

Okay, Lord Spanker and Lady Fanny - what exactly are those sailors and Marines? Package tourists?

Naturally, the European Union has praised Britain's "restraint." We've now got another synonym for cowardice.

I've always respected the Brits and quite liked those I worked with when in uniform . . . but I'm starting to wonder if I bought into a legend. While criticizing our military's approach to everything, the Brits made an utter balls of it in Basra - now they're bailing out, claiming "Mission accomplished!" (OK, they had a role model . . .) In Heaven, Winston Churchill's puking up premium scotch.

The once-proud Brit military has collapsed to a sorry state when its Royal Marines surrender without a fight, then apologize to their captors (praising their gentle natures!) while criticizing their own country. Pretty sad to think that the last real warriors fighting under the Union Jack are soccer hooligans.

Of course, bravery isn't equally distributed. One or even two collaborators might be explicable. But not all 15.

Yes, journalists and other civilian captives routinely make embarrassing statements on videos, chiding their governments and begging to be swapped for a battalion of mass murderers. One expects nothing better. But military men and women in the English-speaking tradition historically maintained high standards over long years in brutal captivity - and this hostage situation has barely lasted long enough to microwave a bag of popcorn.

Think about Sen. John McCain with his broken limbs undergoing torture in that Hanoi prison - and refusing an early chance to be repatriated because he wouldn't leave his comrades behind. Think he'd do a Tokyo Rose for Tehran?

The Iranians judged their victims well: The British boat crews didn't make even a token effort at defending themselves. Now their boo-hoo-we-quit government isn't defending them, either. Was Margaret Thatcher the last real man in Britain?

The correct response to the seizure of 15 British military hostages - if not released promptly - would've been to hit 15 Revolutionary Guards facilities or vessels along the Iranian coast, then threaten to hit 30 deeper inland the next day.

By hammering the now-degenerate Revolutionary Guards, the Coalition would've strengthened the less-nutty and less-vicious regular military and emboldened President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad's growing number of opponents within the government. (It was telling that the Revolutionary Guards could only muster about 200 demonstrators to harass the British embassy - it didn't look much like 1979.)

Instead, we allowed the Iranian hardliners to humiliate a once-great military and encourage hostage-takers everywhere.

At the very least, the British naval officer commanding in the zone of operations and the vocal collaborators among the hostages should be court-martialed. And the Royal Marine company to which those wankers belong should be disbanded and stricken from the rolls.

John Bull has been cowed. By a pack of unshaven thugs. And the Britannia that ruled the waves is waving goodbye.
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« Reply #72 on: April 09, 2007, 09:46:18 PM »

 rolleyes
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« Reply #73 on: April 09, 2007, 11:05:05 PM »


The American soldier's code of conduct
By Michelle Malkin   ·   April 05, 2007 01:43 PM
Apropos of the British sailors and marines' release and their humiliation at the hands of Iran, an American officer in Iraq sent me this link to the DoD's code of conduct for US soldiers:

I

I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.

II

I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist.

III

If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and to aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.

IV

If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information or take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior, I will take command. If not, I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up in every way.

V

When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause.

VI

I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.

***

My Army friend writes that the release of the British servicemen "was no coincidence, and was Iran's response to the escalation of measures against its nuclear program." He urges that we open our eyes:

The world was distracted by the captured sailors incident, when it should have been focused on Iran's nuclear intransigence. Instead Britain lost face and Iran became the benevolent captor. In my view, the incident on the border on September between US forces and border-violating Iranian forces was an earlier attempt by Iran to achieve a similar IO effect by capturing US forces, staging video in Iranian territory, parading them around on TV, and acting magnanimous in their release.
This would, of course, forced us to deal with them face to face immediately before the GWB spoke to the UN (as well as Ahmadinejad). The problem is, of course, that US forces fight back and we don't allow ourselves to be paraded like fools for the world to see (see below).

Britain's shame is Iran's gain. Iran failed in September, but not this time, yet no news source has come to the conclusion that Iran had perhaps tried this before (even though they've been doing it for 30 years).

***

Reader A. e-mails about the code of conduct:

"We had to memorize it in basic. When I got to my unit, we had to recite it whenever we saw the Battalion Commander and he asked us to. I can still recite it to this day and I got out in 1992."

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« Reply #74 on: April 10, 2007, 11:19:30 AM »

Britain Was Once Great Britain   
By Dennis Prager
FrontPageMagazine.com | April 10, 2007

It is painful to see the decline of Great Britain.
Greatness in individuals is rare; in countries it is almost unique. And Great Britain was great.

It used to be said that "The sun never sets on the British empire." That is how vast Britain's influence was. And that influence, on balance, was far more positive than negative. Ask the Indians -- or the Americans, for that matter. The British colonies learned about individual rights, parliamentary government, civil service and courts of justice, to name of few of the benefits that the British brought with them. Were it not for British involvement, India might still have sati (burning wives on the funeral pyre of their husband), would have no unifying language, and probably no parliamentary democracy or other institutions and values that have made that country a democratic giant, now on its way to becoming an economic one as well. But today, the sun not only literally sets on an extinct British empire; it is figuratively setting on Britain itself.

Two recent examples provide evidence:

One is the way Britain handled the recent act of war against it by Iran. Everything about the British reaction revealed a civilization in decline.

Whether the British sailors and marines should have put up more resistance -- i.e., any resistance -- to the unprovoked Iranian military attack is something for military and other experts to decide. Whether the captured sailors and marines offered more information and more cooperation, and more smiles than was necessary to the leader of their kidnappers, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will also be determined in ongoing investigations. Whether the British government engaged in appeasement of Iran or ineffective diplomacy will also have to be judged.

What does seem clear, however, is that the British government did not confront the Iranians in any way reminiscent of a great country, let alone of Britain's great past. If we judge the British government's reaction alone -- without any reference to the behavior of the British sailors and marines -- Iran was the feared power, not Great Britain, which acted like the supplicant.

But what really makes one weep for Britain's lost greatness is what has happened since the sailors and marines were released.

The UK Minister of Defense, Labor MP Desmond Browne, announced that the released sailors and marines were all free to sell their stories to the media, "as a result of exceptional media interest." If this is not unprecedented, it would certainly be difficult to find anything similar in the annals of military history. Some of the captured sailors and marines have already earned large sums of money. The Guardian newspaper said the one woman who had been captured, Faye Turney, agreed to a deal with The Sun and ITV television for approximately $200,000. (American soldier Jessica Lynch, who was captured when her Army convoy was ambushed in 2003, received a $500,000 advance for her book, "I Am a Soldier, Too." But that was a book published later and she had never charged the news media when interviewed by them.)

And John Tindell, the father of another of the hostages, said the marines were planning to sell on eBay the vases given to them by the Iranians.

As The Australian reported, "Some of the sums being offered to the captives are higher than the money paid to service personnel maimed in Iraq or Afghanistan. The standard tariff for the loss of an arm is 57,500 pounds."

The Labor government's decision was described well by the mother of a British soldier killed in Iraq. As reported by Reuters: "The mother of a 19-year-old British soldier killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq at the weekend said she would be 'very shocked' if any of the detainees were paid for their stories. 'If you are a member of the military, it is your duty to serve your country,' Sally Veck, mother of Eleanor Dlugosz, told the Times. 'You should do your duty and not expect to make money by selling stories.'"

That pretty well sums up the revulsion many feel at the British government's decision.

The other current example of Great Britain's decline is the widely reported (in the UK) decision of schools in various parts of that country to stop teaching about the Holocaust in history classes. The reason?

As reported by the BBC, "Some schools avoid teaching the Holocaust and other controversial history subjects as they do not want to cause offence, research has claimed. Teachers fear meeting anti-Semitic sentiment, particularly from Muslim pupils, the government-funded study by the Historical Association said."

No comment necessary.

But a word of caution: If Great Britain can cease to be great in so short a time span, any country can. All you need is an elite that no longer believes in their country, that manipulates history texts to make students feel good about themselves, that prefers multiculturalism to its own culture, and that has abandoned its religious underpinnings. Sound familiar, America?



Dennis Prager hosts a nationally syndicated radio talk show based in Los Angeles. He is the author of four books, most recently "Happiness is a Serious Problem" (HarperCollins). His website is www.dennisprager.com. To find out more about Dennis Prager, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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« Reply #75 on: April 11, 2007, 09:01:29 AM »

http://www.hopeforthewarriors.org/
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« Reply #76 on: April 11, 2007, 04:54:53 PM »

This chickenhawk warmongering keyboard commando suspects the Rumbo DOD to have been miserly with the troops.
=================

From FoxNews:

WASHINGTON —
The struggle to entice Army soldiers and Marines to stay in the military, after four years of war in Iraq, has ballooned into a $1 billion campaign, with bonuses soaring nearly sixfold since 2003.
The size and number of bonuses have grown as officials scrambled to meet the steady demand for troops on the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan and reverse sporadic shortfalls in the number of National Guard and Reserve soldiers willing to sign on for multiple tours.
Besides underscoring the extraordinary steps the Pentagon must take to maintain fighting forces, the rise in costs for re-enlistment incentives is putting strains on the defense budget, already strapped by the massive costs of waging war and equipping and caring for a modern military.
The bonuses can range from a few thousand dollars to as much as $150,000 for very senior special forces soldiers who re-enlist for six years. All told, the Army and Marines spent $1.03 billion for re-enlistment payments last year, compared with $174 million in 2003, the year the war in Iraq began.
The Associated Press compiled and analyzed the budget figures from the military services for this story.
"War is expensive," said Col. Mike Jones, who oversees retention issues for the National Guard. "Winning a war, however, is less expensive than losing one."
The soaring budget for re-enlistment bonuses — particularly for the Guard and Reserves, which have seen the most dramatic cost increases — has prompted some observers to question whether the country can still afford its volunteer force.
"I believe the whole issue of the affordability of the volunteer force is something we need to look at," said Arnold Punaro, who heads an independent panel established by Congress to study the National Guard and Reserves.
The higher bonuses come as support for the war continues to wane both in Congress and with the American public. That decline is fueling concerns that more soldiers will leave the military under pressure from families who fear the rising death toll and are weary of the lengthy and repeated overseas deployments. The Iraq war has claimed the lives of at least 3,280 U.S. troops to date.
Incentives for Army Guard and Reserve members combined have skyrocketed from about $27 million in 2003 to more than $335 million in 2006.
The active Army, meanwhile, poured more than $600 million into these payments last year, a six-fold increase from $98 million in 2003. The Army gave two out of every three soldiers who re-enlisted a bonus last year, compared to less than two in 10 who received one during 2003.
Those who don't get bonuses are generally in jobs that are not in high demand or are not in war zones. For example, certain artillery crewmembers who re-enlisted outside Afghanistan or Iraq would receive no bonus, said Army spokesman Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty.
Bonuses for Marines have nearly doubled, from about $50 million in 2003 to nearly $90 million in 2006.
The incentives help the military compete with private employers who often pay much higher salaries, Hilferty said.
"Soldiers with valuable skills and experience are aggressively sought after by industry," Hilferty said. He said while the extra money is important, "people don't re-enlist in a wartime Army for $13,000. ... If soldiers didn't think they were doing the right thing for the right reason, they would get out and get a job back home."
He said soldiers with special skills can get bonuses between $10,000 and $30,000, with a select few eligible for payments up to $50,000. Only very few highly qualified special forces soldiers would get the top bonus of $150,000. Nearly all soldiers deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait get a maximum of $15,000 for re-enlisting, just a bit more than the average.
Bonuses for Marines in certain critical specialties can go as high as $60,000 for a new four-year tour. On average a Marine who re-enlists this year can receive as much as $24,000. About eight in 10 Marines with up to six years of service will get a bonus this year, as will more than half of those with six to 14 years in the Corps.
Punaro, chairman of the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves, calls the soaring costs "a ticking time bomb."
"My instinct tells me ... that the Guard and Reserve will continue to be a real bargain for the taxpayer" because the costs for the active duty military have gone up a lot more, he said.
So far, the extra cash appears to be working. The active Army, the Guard and the Army Reserve are all on track to meet their re-enlistment goals for the fiscal year that will end Sept. 30.
Sgt. 1st Class Richard Doran, who works full-time for the Guard, signed on for another six-year tour late last year, just before he returned home from Iraq. That not only gives him the $15,000 bonus but also makes it tax-free because he was on the battlefront when he re-enlisted.
"It helps a lot of guys out," said Doran. "And I think it does sway some of the decisions to stay in when guys are on the fence trying to decide."
But for some who have been sent to war as many as three times, the money isn't enough.
"We had some that, once we got back, opted to say goodbye and just leave. Some guys said the money did play a part in their decision to stay, others said the $15,000 wasn't worth it."
Jones of the Guard said boosting the maximum re-enlistment bonus from $5,000 to $15,000 caused most of the budget increase. And, he said, more soldiers signed up than anticipated.
"When we're at peace, and when we're not deploying units, the bonuses probably don't need to be what they are today," said Jones. "When the risks are lowered, the reward would be lowered. But one of reasons we struggled in 2005 and 2004 is because we were slow as a nation to increase the rewards at the same time as we increased the risk."
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« Reply #77 on: May 11, 2007, 12:27:39 PM »

Security Deposit
Want to support the war on terror? Pull out your checkbook.

BY NAOMI SCHAEFER RILEY
Friday, May 11, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

WEST POINT, N.Y.--On a stormy night here a couple of weeks ago, a group of men and women gathered at the U.S. Military Academy to discuss the future of national security. Nothing unusual about that. The group included military brass, naturally, and a few scholars. But it also included--how to put this?--some rich people.

No, this wasn't a top-secret meeting of Halliburton executives. It was a conference called "National Security Studies and Military History: How Philanthropists Can Make a Difference." The point of the evening, sponsored by the Philanthropy Roundtable, wasn't to learn how to profit from government largess, Halliburton-style, but the other way around: to discuss how the government--or at least the Pentagon and its mission--might be helped by the efforts of America's philanthropic citizens.

As it happens, there is a long tradition of the private sector bolstering national security. Hayim Solomon, an 18th-century New York City merchant, invested $350,000 in government securities to pay for Gen. George Washington's Yorktown campaign. During World War II, Henry Ford transformed his factories to manufacture B-24 bombers. These days, no one is suggesting that private donors sponsor, say, the troop surge in Ramadi, Iraq, but as Mark Smith, the conference's director, told me later, such help makes perfect sense: "It is really the American way for the private sector to roll up their sleeves and get engaged."

But where to begin? Stephen Rosen, a professor at Harvard and a conference participant, believes that people in the national-security areas of government are focused too much on day-to-day "crisis management." They don't stop to think about the next decade or two. That is where philanthropists can step in, by sponsoring researchers who might think about--and write about and talk about--the long-term challenges we face: our relationship with, say the Islamic world, the use of nuclear weapons and the behavior of China. It is true that any number of scholars spend time thinking about the larger geopolitical dimensions of these questions and the diplomatic options for resolving them. But few devote themselves to the actual military issues involved.

It is futile to expect universities to produce such people, at least so the conference participants believed. "A number of subjects subsumed under the subject of national security are looked down on or ignored by academia," said Josiah Bunting, a retired officer and the president of the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation. In his keynote address, he contrasted the meager study of military history on university campuses with the shelves of Barnes & Noble, which are "groaning" under the weight of books on military subjects.





Mr. Bunting traces the current situation to the 1990s, with the retirement or death of the last college professors who served in World War II. "There was a much larger receptivity in that group toward military and strategic studies than in the generation that followed them." To revive that area of inquiry, Mr. Bunting recommends that patrons give money to a particular professorship or program that has a limited lifetime. Permanent endowments are likely to be misdirected.
Another possible focus for philanthropy is the Combating Terrorism Center, based at West Point itself. Started in February 2003, the center is headed by a military officer but most of the people who work there--about 20 in all--are civilians, specializing in everything from bioterrorism to intelligence-gathering. As Mr. Smith explains, the center can "serve as a bridge between the military and the academic community." It can, for example, thanks to its high security clearance, "take documents that Special Operations has and translate them."

Walter P. Stern, one of the conference participants, told me that he was interested in giving money to the center. "The resources are there in the private sector for this sort of thing." But aren't the resources there in the public sector as well? Yes and no. The Defense Department can spend millions of dollars on strategic studies, but the National Security Council and other agencies in the White House are more likely to rely on reports coming in from outside scholars and analysts.

I asked one senior administration official who knew about the conference just how he would like to see philanthropists direct their money. He offered a short list, beginning with strategies for "the war of ideas in the war on terror." He wants some positive suggestions, though. "I could find you 30 critiques of the way we're conducting the war of ideas."

Ms. Riley is The Wall Street Journal's deputy Taste editor.
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« Reply #78 on: May 13, 2007, 05:13:54 AM »

This from today's always suspect NY Times:
===========

Fighting the Terror of Battles That Rage in Soldiers’ Heads
By DAN FROSCH
Published: May 13, 2007

COLORADO SPRINGS, May 8 — The nightmares that tormented Sgt. Walter Padilla after returning home from Iraq in 2004 prompted extensive treatment by Army doctors, an honorable discharge from the military and a cocktail of medication to dull his suffering.

 
Kevin Moloney for The New York Times
Specialist Alex Lotero said he was belittled when he sought help for anxiety attacks after serving in Iraq.
Still, Sergeant Padilla, 28, could not ward off memories of the people he had killed with a machine gun perched on his Bradley fighting vehicle. On April 1, according to the authorities and friends, he withdrew to the shadows of his Colorado Springs home, pressed the muzzle of his Glock pistol to his temple and squeezed the trigger.

Sergeant Padilla had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder at Fort Carson Army base here, where concerns over the treatment of returning soldiers struggling with the condition, compelled members of Congress last month to ask the Government Accountability Office to reassess the military’s mental health policies.

A letter signed by nine senators refers to “a number of upsetting allegations” at the base regarding a lack of treatment for soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder and the stigmatization of those with the condition. On Monday, some of those senators’ staff members will visit Fort Carson to meet with soldiers, families and commanders, the fourth time this year Congressional staff members have traveled to the base.

The Army, reeling from fallout over its poor handling of outpatient soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, dispatched Brig. Gen. Michael S. Tucker to Colorado to speak with the base’s leaders and soldiers on Tuesday.

General Tucker, the deputy commander of Walter Reed, commended Fort Carson for its treatment of post-traumatic stress and said he viewed the Congressional visits as a means of highlighting the base’s programs that deal with the condition, said an Army spokesman, Paul Boyce.

But Veterans for America, an advocacy group that has lobbied the Army and Congress on behalf of returning soldiers, said the Army must do better, particularly at Fort Carson, where soldiers with the stress disorder have spoken of being punished by their commanders.

The base has 17,500 soldiers assigned to it, and about 26,000 of its soldiers have been deployed to Iraq since the war began.

“Fort Carson is overwhelmed with men and women coming home from Iraq with psychological injuries from war, and there are unit commanders here who don’t understand these medical conditions,” said Steve Robinson, director of veterans affairs for the group.

Col. John Cho, the base’s chief medical officer, said Fort Carson had treated 1,703 soldiers for post-traumatic stress disorder, or P.T.S.D., since 2003. Colonel Cho disputed the assertion that problems at Fort Carson were widespread. “We’re never going to fully eliminate the stigma associated with P.T.S.D., but the leadership at Carson has been fully supportive of getting soldiers they help they need,” he said.

The Army reports seven suicides of active duty soldiers at Fort Carson since 2004 but says it does not know if any were linked to the disorder. Sergeant Padilla was not included among the seven because he died after being discharged.

Most recently, Staff Sgt. Mark Alan Waltz, who was being treated for post-traumatic stress, was found dead in his living room on April 30. An autopsy of Sergeant Waltz, 40, is pending, but his wife, Renea, believes her husband died from a reaction to the antidepressants he was taking for stress and painkillers prescribed for a back injury. Ms. Waltz is also convinced that the psychological wounds he carried from battle played a part in his death.

Ms. Waltz said her husband was reluctant to seek treatment after returning from Iraq in 2004 because he thought a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder would cost him his rank. She said the condition was eventually diagnosed and he was referred for treatment. Even then, she said, he was “picked out, scrutinized and messed with continually” by his commanding officers.

“It’s not right that our guys are going over to Iraq, doing their job, doing what they’re supposed to do, and they when they come back sick, they’re treated like garbage,” Ms. Waltz said.

Army officials at Fort Carson said Sergeant Waltz’s death was still under review and, citing privacy laws, would not comment further.

Mr. Robinson, of Veterans for America, said the group’s research indicated that since 2004, there had been at least six incidents in which Fort Carson soldiers with stress disorder have died, either from suicide or from accidents involving narcotics or medications.
====

(Page 2 of 2)



In addition, the veterans group is investigating some 30 cases of Fort Carson soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury or personality disorders who have complained of mistreatment.

One case involves Specialist Alex Lotero, who returned from Iraq late last year suffering from anxiety attacks and nightmares after dozens of combat missions, including one in which his convoy was struck by a roadside bomb.

Specialist Lotero, a thick-muscled 20-year-old from Miami, said his superiors treated his diagnosis disdainfully, showering him with obscenities and accusing him of insubordination when he missed training for doctors’ appointments.

“They belittled my condition,” he said. “They told me I was broke, that I didn’t have anything left.”

Specialist Lotero eventually checked himself into nearby Cedar Springs Hospital for a few days and is waiting for his medical discharge request to be processed. He points to his forearm, draped in a tattoo of a machine-gun wielding, Vietnam-era soldier. The soldier’s face is ghoulish, his body gaunt and rotting. “This is how I feel right now,” he said.

In an interview, Maj. Gen. Gale S. Pollock, the acting Army surgeon general, said Fort Carson had taken “the bull by the horns” in combating the stigma associated with post-traumatic stress disorder.

General Pollock said the Army was developing initiatives to lessen that stigma and cited examples of officers publicly seeking treatment for combat stress as a means of encouraging their soldiers to follow suit.

“We have to reinforce it again and again,” she said. “I talk with patients, and many of them have looked at me through cheerful eyes and said, ‘You mean I’m not crazy?’ ”

Lt. Col. Laurel Anderson, a psychiatric nurse in charge of behavioral health at Fort Carson’s soldier readiness center, said the number of soldiers referred for mental health screenings had risen from about 12 percent of those seen at the center to 25 percent over the past year.

Colonel Anderson said soldiers sometimes refused her referrals to psychiatrists. “They don’t want anyone to know,” she said.

This year, Colonel Anderson began training officers to de-stigmatize post-traumatic stress disorder within their units. Another training session, this one for noncommissioned officers, is scheduled for Monday.

The Army is also considering sending a unit to Fort Carson and other bases to help soldiers navigate the administrative tangle of medical treatment. But Sergeant Padilla’s death showed that even when a soldier feels comfortable enough to seek treatment, that may not be enough.

Friends and family say Sergeant Padilla complained that antidepressants and painkillers were no substitute for talking with someone who understood what it was like to kill.

“He told me that the doctors weren’t helping him,” said his mother, Carmen Sierra, in a telephone interview from her home in Puerto Rico. “He told me that they couldn’t understand him, that he was still having those nightmares.”

A few months ago, Sergeant Padilla told his girlfriend, Mia Sagahon, that maybe it was time he start speaking with a doctor again. He never did.

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« Reply #79 on: May 17, 2007, 09:19:10 AM »

NY Times
Gas May Have Harmed Troops, Scientists Say
 

By IAN URBINA
Published: May 17, 2007

WASHINGTON, May 16 — Scientists working with the Defense Department have found evidence that a low-level exposure to sarin nerve gas — the kind experienced by more than 100,000 American troops in the Persian Gulf war of 1991 — could have caused lasting brain deficits in former service members.


Possible Sarin Exposure in Iraq, 1991 Though the results are preliminary, the study is notable for being financed by the federal government and for being the first to make use of a detailed analysis of sarin exposure performed by the Pentagon, based on wind patterns and plume size.

The report, to be published in the June issue of the journal NeuroToxicology, found apparent changes in the brain’s connective tissue — its so-called white matter — in soldiers exposed to the gas. The extent of the brain changes — less white matter and slightly larger brain cavities — corresponded to the extent of exposure, the study found.

Previous studies had suggested that exposure affected the brain in some neural regions, but the evidence was not convincing to many scientists. The new report is likely to revive the long-debated question of why so many troops returned from that war with unexplained physical problems. Many in the scientific community have questioned whether the so-called gulf war illnesses have a physiological basis, and far more research will have to be done before it is known whether those illnesses can be traced to exposure to sarin. The long-term effects of sarin on the brain are still not well understood.

But several lawmakers who were briefed on the study say the Department of Veterans Affairs is now obligated to provide increased neurological care to veterans who may have been exposed.

In March 1991, a few days after the end of the gulf war, American soldiers exploded two large caches of ammunition and missiles in Khamisiyah, Iraq. Some of the missiles contained the dangerous nerve gases sarin and cyclosarin. Based on wind patterns and the size of the plume, the Department of Defense has estimated that more than 100,000 American troops may have been exposed to at least small amounts of the gases.

When the roughly 700,000 deployed troops returned home, about one in seven began experiencing a mysterious set of ailments, often called gulf war illnesses, with problems including persistent fatigue, chronic headaches, joint pain and nausea. Those symptoms persist today for more than 150,000 of them, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, more than the number of troops exposed to the gases.

Advocates for veterans have argued for more than a decade and a half that a link exists between many of these symptoms and the exposure that occurred in Khamisiyah, but evidence has been limited.

The study, financed by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is the first to use Pentagon data on potential exposure levels faced by the troops and magnetic resonance imaging to scan the brains of military personnel in the exposure zone. It found signs of brain changes that could be due to exposure, showing that troops who had been exposed at higher levels had about 5 percent less white matter than those who had little exposure.

White matter volume varies by individual, but studies have shown that significant shrinkage in adulthood can be a sign of damage.

The study was led by Roberta F. White, chairman of the department of environmental health at the Boston University School of Public Health. Dr. White and other researchers studied 26 gulf war veterans, half of whom were exposed to the gases, according to a Defense Department modeling of the likely chemical makeup and location of the plume. The researchers found that troops with greater potential exposure had less white matter.

In a companion study, the researchers also tested 140 troops believed to have experienced differing degrees of exposure to the chemical agents to check their fine motor coordination and found a direct relation between performance level and the level of potential exposure. Individuals who were potentially more exposed to the gases had a deterioration in fine motor skills, performing such tests at a level similar to people 20 years older.

Dr. White says this study and the results of research from other studies provide “converging evidence that some gulf war veterans experienced nervous system damage as a result of service, and this is an important development in explaining gulf war illnesses.”

Phil Budahn, a spokesman for the Department of Veterans Affairs, said the research required further examination.

“It’s important to note that its authors describe the study as inconclusive,” Mr. Budahn said, adding, “It was based upon a small number of participants, who were not randomly chosen.”

Dr. White said she did not describe her study as inconclusive, though she said it would be accurate to call it preliminary.

=========

Page 2 of 2)



Lea Steele, a Kansas State University epidemiologist and the scientific director of the veterans department’s advisory committee on gulf war illnesses, said she thought the study was extremely important. Dr. Steele said that gulf war illnesses had been described by their symptoms, but that until now scientists had struggled to find physiological conditions that corresponded with those symptoms.


Possible Sarin Exposure in Iraq, 1991 But the new research, Dr. Steele said, used previously nonexistent brain scanning technology to, essentially, “look into the brain to evaluate the difficult-to-characterize problems affecting gulf war veterans.”

Thus, she said, it is “the first to demonstrate objective indicators of pathology in association with possible low-level sarin-cyclosarin exposures.”

Dr. Daniel J. Clauw, professor of medicine and director of the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center at the University of Michigan, said that while the study indicated that the veterans had not imagined their illnesses, more research was needed.

“Future studies need to compare the results of brain scans of gulf war veterans with individuals with chronic pain and other symptoms who were not deployed to the gulf war before concluding that any changes are due to wartime exposures,” Dr. Clauw said.

For more than five years after the explosions at Khamisiyah, the Pentagon denied that any American military personnel had been exposed to nerve gas. Confronted by new evidence in 1996 and 1997, it acknowledged that up to 100,000 troops might have been in the path of the plume and exposed to low-level doses that produced no immediate effect. In 2002, it released a report saying the exposures had been too low to have caused a long-term adverse effect on health.

Now, the government is straining to handle the health and rehabilitation needs of soldiers returning from the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and lawmakers say they are concerned that veterans facilities will soon need to provide brain scans and treatment to soldiers from the 1991 war who learn of the new research.

On May 2, after learning about the research, Senators Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, and Christopher S. Bond, Republican of Missouri, wrote the Defense and Veterans Affairs Departments, asking about their plans for outreach and expanded benefits for exposed troops.

The new research, the senators wrote, finally provides “comfort to the thousands of gulf war veterans who have fought for answers and now know that there is a ‘significant association’ between gulf war illnesses and nerve agent exposure in Khamisiyah, Iraq, in 1991.”

The Pentagon has not decided whether to inform veterans about the possibility of a link between exposure and brain damage.

Dr. Michael E. Kilpatrick, deputy director of the Force Health Protection and Readiness Initiative at the Defense Department, said that while Dr. White’s study represented an important finding, he did not believe that his department would send letters to potentially exposed veterans alerting them of it.

The impact of the study was limited, Dr. Kilpatrick said, because it did not establish a direct causal connection between sarin exposure and gulf war illnesses, and it depended on Defense Department data that was at best an estimate and at worst a guesstimate of exposure levels by troops.

“But I’m sure we will be talking with members of Congress about it in deciding how to go forward,” said Dr. Kilpatrick, who has handled much of the department’s work on Khamisiyah and troop health issues.

In 2005, the Pentagon notified about 100,000 gulf war veterans who had been exposed that a study showed a link between brain cancer and gas exposure. Ms. Murray said the Pentagon needed to send similar letters about the new research, expressing concern that many veterans might not know that something might be wrong with them.

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« Reply #80 on: May 20, 2007, 05:46:53 AM »

Woof All:

An article in today's NY Times about a solar flashlight caught my attention and I posted it on the SC&E forum.  While checking out this related website http://bogolight.com/ I saw it mentioned that the company who sells these flashlights has a "buy on give one" program for designated worthy people e.g. poor people in Africa and our troops in Iraq/Afghanistan. 

Apparently the light will run for 5 hours on a single day's charge and is supposed to last over 20 years.

TAC,
CD
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« Reply #81 on: June 12, 2007, 09:46:05 PM »


Washington Post
June 12, 2007
Pg. 1


Amid The Chaos Of War, Gifts Of Music

Thanks to Couple's Efforts, Troops in Iraq Get Instruments

By Peter Slevin, Washington Post Staff Writer

FERGUS FALLS, Minn. -- The e-mail from Iraq started this way:

"So, a friend in my battalion received a Fender Stratocaster from you guys. It was amazing! . . . It's been about 6 months since I have played and it was so awesome playing the guitar my friend got. He told me about you guys, so I thought I would see if maybe I can get my own guitar."

And that is how Sgt. Jason Low received an acoustic guitar from Steve Baker, a Vietnam veteran of modest means and powerful purpose. Baker and his wife, Barb, run Fergus Music, a shop here in a rural patch of Minnesota not far from the North Dakota line. Together, they have shipped more than 300 guitars, mandolins, harmonicas, drums and wind instruments to Iraq to ease the strain of the soldiering life.

Fifty more will soon be on the way, thanks to $800 raised at an Elks club spaghetti dinner and $1,500 chipped in by two local businesses. In response, the Bakers receive notes such as this one, sent April 17 by Luis Rivera:

"Yahooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! I have something to look forward to. Thank you very much."

Steve Baker served as an Army Ranger in Vietnam in the mid-1960s. Wiry and mustachioed at 62, and tending toward T-shirts and jeans, he moves between the music shop and the crowded back room where he keeps guitar-ready cardboard boxes and his computer, which seems constantly abuzz with e-mails from Iraq.

"This started as a fluke," Baker said.

In 2004, his stepson, a soldier in Iraq, requested a guitar, so he sent one. The stepson's friend wanted one, so he dispatched another. Pretty soon, the requests were coming faster than the newly christened Operation Happy Note could respond. The waiting list is now more than 150 names long.

The store does not generate enough income to do all the things the Bakers would like to do, but they manage. Steve Baker, who says he previously owned a music store before losing it in a divorce, had been repairing commercial refrigerators before he bought Fergus Music in 2003.

"I didn't realize how much of a going concern this wasn't," he says now. And that was before Happy Note.

"When you do something like this, you're not making money, you're losing it," Baker said of the volunteer project. He added, "I don't care."

The operation to send free instruments has benefited from the generosity of others, such as a woman in Elbow Lake who printed posters, no charge. Then there was the lucky moment when Barb Baker spotted a garage door company giving away bubble wrap. She filled their Jeep with it. In March 2005, the Bakers held their first fundraiser, and have brought in about $13,000 since.

The Bakers have boxed up violins, clarinets, bongos, harmonicas and stringed instruments, along with picks, extra strings and teaching guides created by Steve, who gives lessons in Fergus Falls and has a weekly band gig. When someone asked for cymbals for a military chapel, he took an $800 pair from the shop's wall and packed them up.

A soldier wrote to say that his wife wanted to buy him a Bach Stradivarius trumpet as an anniversary present. The Bakers found one and shipped it off. The acoustic guitars come from the factory, six to a box, for $31 apiece. The Bakers repack them in individual cartons. Postage is $20.80 and travel time is seven to 15 days. Attempts to find a political sponsor to lobby for free postage have so far failed.

"If we didn't have so much postage," Steve Baker said, "we could send more instruments."

As for who receives them, all he knows is that they're American fighting men and women: "I don't care where they're from. They're wearing the uniform. They're protecting us."

Baker's passion for the project has its roots in his experience in the Vietnam War and the years that followed.

"When I was in, nobody cared. I mean, Vietnam, my God," he said, recalling how some Americans swore at troops. "All I got was hooting and hollering, and I remember that to this day. There's no way I'm going to allow that to happen to these kids."

Happy Note is hardly the sole provider of musical instruments. Army Sgt. 1st Class Charles Covey, who asked the Bakers for help, explained in an e-mail that budget constraints have made it necessary for his 25th Infantry Division unit to appeal to private organizations for donations to support base recreation centers.

Between Baghdad and Tikrit, Covey said in response to e-mailed questions, soldiers have received about 100 acoustic guitars, "along with a couple of electric guitars, a bass and an old drum set. They were donated by Fender and the Charlie Daniels Band. (He is a big supporter of the Troops.)" Recent requests range from mandolins to a piano.

Camp Speicher, a military base north of Baghdad, holds informal jam sessions on Wednesdays and Fridays, Covey said, and the division band performs. He reported an increasing desire for electric guitars and keyboards, bass guitars and fiddles, and large amplifiers.

Alas, "these instruments are neither cheap nor easy to store," Covey wrote.

Robert Thierfelder filled one of the more unusual requests relayed to the Bakers. He sent to Iraq three practice chanters, similar to recorders, that bagpipers use to perfect their craft, along with instruction CDs and books. Thierfelder, who runs a bagpipe company, said, "It's the least I can do."

Army Spec. Nathan J.J. Hoskins sent word to the Bakers that two guitars had reached the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade at Camp Taji and were gratefully received. He told the Bakers they were doing "an awesome job. You bring joy to many troops that otherwise may be down in the dumps."

One glad recipient was Spec. Mark Gordon, who could hardly believe that a stranger thousands of miles away would send him a gleaming guitar just because he had asked. "Yet here I sit with mine," he wrote in an e-mail from Baghdad. To relieve stress, he said, he had played every day before he deployed -- so often that he felt it had become a way of life. But when he mobilized, carrying a guitar was out of the question.

After learning of Happy Note from an officer in his unit, he e-mailed the Bakers and quickly received an affirmative reply. He had to read it twice before it sank in. When the guitar arrived in a 3-foot-by-2-foot box, he considered it "satisfying and overwhelming that the kindness of the world has not diminished and people still care about us over here."

Now that he has the guitar, Gordon wrote, friends and battle buddies cram into his room to listen and play.

"The uplifting rhythm of all jazz and blues riffs calm my soul and warm my heart," he said. "It only takes one song to feel like I'm at home."
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« Reply #82 on: June 17, 2007, 10:55:00 PM »

Woof to my fellow fathers who now protect us in faraway and dangerous places:

I want to thank you for the wonderful Father's Day that I had here at home and to let you know that you are remembered, honored and appreciated.

Marc "Crafty Dog" Denny
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« Reply #83 on: June 18, 2007, 10:40:34 AM »

A Wary Veteran Patrols the Daunting Home Front
NY Times
By FRANCIS X. CLINES
Published: June 18, 2007

“I was kicking down doors, driving Humvees,” is the terse way Rob Timmins summarizes a year in Iraq. His description of his new job — roaming the American home front trying to get Americans to care about other returning soldiers — is more complicated. “The Support Our Troops magnets on people’s cars will eventually come off, and 5, 10 years from now, who will remember the veterans?” asks the 25-year-old Mr. Timmins, outspoken as the Staten Island bartender he used to be.

As outreach director for a nascent veterans group, Mr. Timmins engages the casualty wards at veterans hospitals, addresses public hearings and lobbies Congress, all the while sensing the insufficient traction of his cause. “We live in an MTV-“American Idol” culture where you can change the channel and not have to be engaged in this war,” he says.

There’s only fitful attention to the resettlement problems of more than one million men and women who have been cycling home all too anonymously from two war fronts, wounded and otherwise damaged and not making much noise yet.

Their troubles range from the mushrooming brain traumas from roadside explosions to outdated benefits pegged to the costs and cares of World War II. The veterans’ hospital scandal that uncovered a legion of outpatients foundering in a sea of bureaucracy gave little comfort to Mr. Timmins’s organization, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Sure, the headlines prodded a bit of public attention, he says, but they only hinted at costly problems that will haunt the nation and its casualties long after the war and the Bush administration are finished.

More than 26,000 returning fighters are dealing with war wounds, 45,000 with post-traumatic stress disorder. The government’s backlog of benefit claims reaches to the hundreds of thousands, with the data transition from soldier to veteran status a computer disaster between the Pentagon and Veterans Administration.

Mr. Timmins tries to make the public grasp that troops are being returned to second and third combat tours with untreated mental disorders. At home, there’s homelessness on the rise for veterans who also discover that the G.I. Bill can’t cover the cost of public college. Their unemployment rate is three times the national average. The old veterans’ movie, “The Best Years of Our Lives,” is ready for a grim remake.

And day after day Mr. Timmins has to grind his teeth at how swiftly, how vapidly the occasional news of troubled veterans is bumped aside by a deluge of bulletins about Paris Hilton or some other this-just-in frippery. “It’s staggering, sickening,” he says. “There are days I scream at the television — lives are being taken, families left in heartbreak.”

He half apologizes for being so properly obsessed. He muses that “compassion fatigue” is one of the risks of paying attention to veterans of a failed war now longer and far less glorious than World War II. A once pro-war public would sooner forget about it. “The point is we got to galvanize this generation of veterans now, and not several years from now,” he reminds himself. “Other national themes and issues will quickly follow this war — health care, whatever — and the vets better have a voice in the public dialogue.”

But new veterans typically want to get deeply lost again in civilian life, not organize and beg for their rights. The three-year-old nonprofit group employing Mr. Timmins is one of the stronger veteran groups, and it has signed up 3,200 actual veterans as opposed to the 70,000 donors and other supporters looking for ways to help.

“In this war, you don’t really engage a single enemy, so everybody becomes the enemy,” Mr. Timmins explains, speculating that a warier veteran is returning, branded with the dark battlefield anomie of Iraq. “You have a generation of vets coming home from a fight where everybody was a threat. The mental health challenge is going to be tremendous.”

As he works the home front, the Support Our Troops bumper stickers eat at Mr. Timmins. He concludes lip service is better than nothing, but fantasizes asking bumper-sticker patriots exactly how they support the troops. “I figure they’d fumble, without an answer,” he says. Then again, he hardly looks forward to the day the stickers fade entirely from sight.
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« Reply #84 on: June 18, 2007, 04:39:07 PM »

I just went through 40 hours of "Crisis Intervention Training" and in the simulations we went through included a vet with PTSD and TBI. The USG hasn't done enough for the veterans of the GWOT. Serious money needs to be put into rebuilding the VA.
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« Reply #85 on: June 18, 2007, 08:31:34 PM »

Couldn't agree more.

What's TBI?
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« Reply #86 on: June 18, 2007, 09:58:55 PM »

Traumatic Brain Injury. Most often happening from IEDs. The concussive force causes injury even if there is no externally visible trauma.
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« Reply #87 on: July 22, 2007, 10:52:25 AM »

Disabled soldier feels abandoned by Army

Ordeal crushed his body, then his spirit

By Nancy Montgomery, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Sunday, July 22, 2007

Nancy Montgomery / S&S
Sgt. Archie Hennessey, crushed by a piece of rebar he was ordered to lift during an Army Special Forces selection course in September and now being medically separated from the Army, leans against a pillar for support in an unguarded moment as his daughter, Summer, plays hide-and-seek.
 


Nancy Montgomery / S&S
Sgt. Archie Hennessey, with his daughter, Summer, says he feels betrayed that the Army classified him as only 10 percent disabled.
 

Related story: Veterans, advocates: Army shortchanges on disabilities
HEIDELBERG, Germany – If you’re a soldier reporting to Special Forces Assessment and Selection, “You should be at 100 percent physical ability with zero percent stress level,” the Army says.
Sgt. Archie Hennessey was.
He had trained for months before going on temporary duty from the Heidelberg Military Intelligence Detachment, 2nd MI Battalion, 66th MI Group, to the monthlong selection program at Fort Bragg, N.C., in September and was ready for the challenge.
“I could put 70 pounds on my back and run for 20 miles,” he said. “I could pick up [my daughter] with one arm and my wife with the other.”
But a week or so into the course, an accident changed everything.
Hennessey and other soldiers were ordered to hoist thousands of pounds of rebar from a construction site onto their shoulders and clear it away.
“Finally, we get it lifted up,” Hennessey recalled. “I was the third guy on it. The first guy tripped. I tried to hold it up, and it sort of crushed me.”
Hennessey stayed at Fort Bragg four more days.
“At that point, I needed help getting up. I didn’t have control of my bladder,” he said.
As bad as that sounds, it was just the beginning of a health decline that’s changed Hennessey’s body, his sense of himself and his future.
Hennessey, 34, not only won’t become a Special Forces medic as he had planned, but he’s also soon to become a civilian with what he says is chronic back pain and disability. He’s made a dozen trips to the emergency room in past months, needs a cane to get around and takes handfuls of painkillers daily.
“Sometimes I can walk, but sometimes I can’t get out of bed,” Hennessey said. “My leg will just give out. The pain gets to me. It does.”
Worst of all, he said, is what he views as the Army’s abandonment of him: a classification that he’s just 10 percent disabled, entitling him to a medical discharge and severance pay of about $10,000.
“I guess I’m just dumbfounded,” he said. “ ‘Here’s 10 percent. Get out of the Army.’ ”
Hennessey’s medical records say he suffers from “lumbar neuritis,” or inflamed nerve tissues in the low back as a result of the injury that he says is debilitating.
But an Army Physical Evaluation Board in Washington, D.C., this month decided that while he was unfit for duty because of the injury and should be discharged, his disability rating was 10 percent. That meant he would receive severance pay calculated on his base pay and three years’ active-duty service.
Hennessey said an official told him, “ ‘You’ve only invested three years in the Army. What do you expect them to do?’ ”
“I said, ‘I expect them to do what’s right.’ I said, ‘What about me not being able to walk sometimes, not being able to work?’ ”
His commander, Capt. Darren A. Spaulding, wrote in a letter to the Physical Evaluation Board that, prior to the injury, “Sgt. Hennessey’s performance was superb. But now, Sgt. Hennessey experiences continuous pain during the day.”
If Hennessey had been classified as 30 percent disabled, he’d have received much more compensation. Thirty percent is the threshold for troops with less than 20 years of service to receive retirement disability pay and the other military benefits that come with it.
“If you receive 30 percent or higher, you get a disability check for the rest of your life,” said Maj. Orlando Rummans, patient administration chief for the Europe Regional Medical Command, Command Surgeon.
Hennessey said the most important thing for him would have been health-care benefits for him and his family.
“I feel like I’ve done every single thing that’s been asked of me. You expect them to take care of you,” Hennessey said. “But then it turns out, it’s a business.”
Hennessey is appealing his rating at a formal Physical Evaluation Board in Washington on July 30.

http://stripes.com/article.asp?secti...&article=47551
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« Reply #88 on: July 26, 2007, 08:41:49 AM »

The NYTimes takes the tone that one would expect.  Still, the issue is important and so I post the article.
==================

WASHINGTON, July 25 — A presidential panel on military and veterans health care released a report Wednesday concluding that the system was insufficient for the demands of two modern wars and called for improvements, including far-reaching changes in the way the government determines the disability status and benefits of injured soldiers and veterans.

Commission’s Web SiteThe bipartisan commission made 35 recommendations that included expanded and improved treatment of traumatic brain injuries and the type of post-traumatic stress disorders that overwhelmed public mental health facilities during the Vietnam era but remain stigmatized to this day.

President Bush told reporters at the White House late Wednesday that he had directed Robert M. Gates, the defense secretary, and Jim Nicholson, secretary of veterans affairs, “to take them seriously, and to implement them, so that we can say with certainty that any soldier who has been hurt will get the best possible care and treatment that this government can offer.”

The commission said fully carrying out its recommendations would cost $500 million a year for the time being, and $1 billion annually years from now as the current crop of fresh veterans and active military members ages and new personnel is in place.

The report was spurred by a series of embarrassing news reports about the substandard treatment returning soldiers received at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, which for years had been held up by politicians, including the president, as providing unparalleled care to American troops.

Mr. Bush named the nine-member President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors in March, with Bob Dole, the former Republican Senate leader, and Donna E. Shalala, the former Clinton administration health and human services secretary, as its leaders.

The commission’s report went beyond just the problems at Walter Reed. It proposed fixes for longstanding concerns about disparities in treatment and benefits at Department of Defense facilities, for active-duty military personnel and the Department of Veterans Affairs facilities, which treat the retired. It also recommended cutting the red tape that frustrates military families.

“This is a major overhaul and a simplification and a rationalization of the disability system in this country for our veterans,” Ms. Shalala told reporters Wednesday.

The report also focused on treatment, calling for more aggressive attention to potential brain trauma caused by roadside bombs.

Even as it called for change, the report avoided harsh assessment of the administration’s handling of the military and veterans health care systems. Rather, it portrayed many of the problems it was seeking to fix as resulting from advances in modern medicine that have allowed soldiers to survive injuries that would have killed them in previous wars.

“While numerous aspects of U.S. medical care are excellent, problems in coordination and continuity of care are common,” the report said. “Our overall health system is oriented to acute care, not long-term rehabilitation.”

And, it acknowledged, “Many of the concerns already are being addressed by Congress and in the two departments.”

Indeed, the panel’s recommendations came on the same day the Senate approved several related measures. The chamber approved a 3.5 percent pay raise for military personnel and the creation of programs to improve the oversight of injured service members as they move through the system, and to improve the treatment of brain injuries and stress disorders.

The most far-reaching of the commission’s recommendations involve restructuring the Defense Department’s disability and compensation system, which has provoked complaints from many military personnel. Currently, injured service members go through an elaborate process to assess whether their conditions are serious enough to prevent them from returning to duty.

If they are unfit, Defense Department doctors assign patients a rating that determines what level of benefits they receive.

After retiring, a service member can choose whether to receive benefits from Veterans Affairs or the Defense Department, evaluating which package is better — a choice that would be eliminated under the new recommendations.

When the commission met in April, Col. Allan Glass of the Army talked about the case of a sergeant with 18 years of active duty to illustrate the disparity in disability ratings.

Colonel Glass said the sergeant was found to have stomach cancer that had spread to his lymph nodes and underwent surgery at Walter Reed. The colonel said the Army’s physical evaluation board said the soldier was unfit for service but gave him a disability rating of zero percent. The Army reopened the case at the behest of the soldier’s senator and changed his rating to 4o percent. Yet when Colonel Glass spoke in April, he said the soldier had still not received a final disability rating from Veterans Affairs.

The commission report on Wednesday called for a change in the system that would leave the Defense Department responsible for determining if a service member is fit for duty, but transfer the responsibility for determining disability ratings and compensation to the V.A.

=============

Ms. Shalala said the shift could provide savings by reducing the bureaucracy, though she said the savings had not been calculated, and were not accounted for in the plan’s overall price. And carrying out that recommendation, the report acknowledged, would require Congress to pass legislation.

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Related
Text: The Commission’s Report (Microsoft Word)
Commission’s Web SiteThe commission also recommended creating a “recovery plan” for seriously injured military personnel and assigning one coordinator for each patient and their family to help them navigate the process of recovering and returning to duty or retiring from active service.

Patients are now assigned case managers, but the commission said it found that patients “typically have several case managers, each concerned with a different component of their care.”

In addition, the report said, patients complained that some managers “did not understand” how to treat people with traumatic brain injuries, a condition that can affect soldiers injured in roadside bomb attacks.

When 35,000 apparently healthy returnees from Iraq and Afghanistan were screened, 10 to 20 percent “had apparently experienced a mild T.B.I. during deployment,” the report noted, using the military abbreviation for traumatic brain injury.

Soldiers and their families complained in the wake of the Walter Reed revelations — first disclosed in The Washington Post — about delays in receiving benefits and treatment because of delays in sharing data between the Defense Department and the V.A.

Democrats noted that the administration had not embraced previous reports and their recommendations, including the recent Iraq Study Group report and those of the commission that investigated the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

But Mr. Bush has spent his presidency pledging support for the troops, and reports of problems in their care has exposed political and policy vulnerabilities that the Democrats have seized upon.

After a brief run Wednesday on the White House South Lawn with two veterans who were using prostheses, Mr. Bush said: “The spirit of that report is, any time we have somebody hurt, they deserve the best possible care, and their family needs strong support. We’ve provided that in many cases, but to the extent we haven’t, we’re going to adjust.”

(Aides said the jog, with one veteran who lost both legs in Afghanistan and one who lost a leg in Iraq, had been scheduled earlier, independent of the report’s release.)

Asked if she thought Mr. Bush would follow through on his pledge, Ms. Shalala said, “Senator Dole and I are going to keep an eye on him.”

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« Reply #89 on: August 18, 2007, 09:30:41 AM »

Is anyone familiar with this group? http://www.woundedwarriors.org/ Do they make effective use of the monies the receive?  Any other recommended groups?
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« Reply #90 on: August 28, 2007, 08:18:25 AM »

WSJ

Will You Answer the Call?
By BOB OKUN
August 28, 2007; Page A13

Stop what you're doing and simply listen for a moment so you may hear a conversation that is going on across America. It is not about who will be the next president, but about why average citizens aren't more fully engaged in the war on terror.

Why haven't we all been asked by our leaders to give more of ourselves as in previous wars? And most importantly, what can and should we all do about the national disconnect between citizen and soldier?

In part, most of us have gone on with our lives with minimal interruption because we are fighting an intensive, protracted two-front war with an all-volunteer force. Only a relatively small slice of American society, myself included, has any real connection to the brave men and women in uniform protecting our freedoms every day. Fewer still have any idea what their families are going through as they wait for their service members to come home.

We as citizens have seemed content that we've contributed to a care package or applauded someone in uniform. But with so little asked of us in terms of personal commitment, it is our responsibility, our obligation, to rally around those whose loved ones sacrifice their time, their safety and even their lives for our country.

Two years ago, my daughters opened my eyes to this national disconnect between average citizens and soldiers, and to how we may repay the burden military families assumed on our behalf. They had sent care packages to the troops overseas through church and Girl Scouts, but they wanted to do more. Then a classmate's father returned from Iraq with severe injuries. The girls wanted a way to show support for their classmate's family, and for all military families.

What started as a kitchen-table idea evolved into ThanksUSA, a national nonprofit dedicated to providing post-secondary school scholarships to the children and spouses of those serving on active duty, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over 1,000 military family members in all 50 states and D.C. have already received vocational and college scholarships, and another round will be awarded this year. Hundreds of thousands of other military families need and deserve a variety of support from community members, civic leaders, corporate leaders and all Americans as they set out to reclaim and reassemble their lives in the coming years.

Since the war began, there have been some shining examples, "best practices" in corporate-speak, of businesses supporting the troops and their families.

Home Depot, CVS and Dell have reached out to hire military spouses. Freddie Mac, purchaser of residential mortgages, has helped injured soldiers and their families to manage their finances upon re-entry to civilian life. Entrepreneurs such as Dan Caulfield (a veteran) recently created Hire a Hero, using the Internet to help returning service members connect with eager businesses seeking skilled workers.

Other service organizations are involved, including Fisher House, which provides housing near hospitals for families of wounded veterans, and information clearinghouses for military families such as America Supports You, as well as the modern USO, all doing their part daily to help military personnel.

Our family just completed a 7,000-mile cross country road trip in an overcrowded SUV this month, visiting military bases and military families and touring historical sites that define America's greatness. We can anecdotally report that more and more people recognize the national disconnect between average citizen and soldier, and are beginning to take action, neighborhood by neighborhood, community by community to help military families whose loved ones are abroad.

Those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11 answered their country's call to duty with no questions or hesitation. When they and their families need your support in the coming years, will you answer the call?

Mr. Okun is president and CEO of ThanksUSA.
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« Reply #91 on: September 18, 2007, 10:39:27 AM »

Sent to me by a friend. 
====================

Baghdad, IRQ
 Clear, 109°
·          Tuesday
 121° /  95°
·          Wednesday
 120° / 90°
·          Thursday
 115° /  88°
·          Friday, Saturday, Sunday
 114° / 87°
 
According to the weather reports, it is my understanding that it is 115 degrees in Iraq right now - and the low will be 90!   Our troops need our prayers for strength, endurance, and safety. If it be God's will, give these men and women the strength they need to prevail.

I am sorry but I am not breaking this one.....Let us pray.

Prayer chain for our Military...please don't break it... Please send this on after a short prayer.

 Pray for our soldiers... 
 
Prayer 
"Lord, hold our troops in your loving hands.
Protect them as they protect us.
Bless them and their  families for the selfless acts they perform for us in our time of need. 
I ask this in the name of Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Amen."

Prayer Request: When you receive this, please stop for a moment and say a prayer for our troops around the world.
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« Reply #92 on: September 20, 2007, 09:13:36 AM »

The subject of this article is exactly the sort of thing where the NY Times often becomes the NY Slimes so caveat lector.

That said, I post it here precisely because it leaves me utterly flabbergasted.  Aren't we supposed to be killing enemy combatants?!?  Why on earth are these men on trial?!  angry angry angry


==========

Hearing in Killing of Afghan Puts Army War Effort on Trial
   
By PAUL VON ZIELBAUER
Published: September 20, 2007

FORT BRAGG, N.C., Sept. 19 — At the close of a two-day hearing on charges that Special Forces soldiers murdered an Afghan man near his home last October, it is increasingly evident that the Army is also examining itself and how it is fighting the war in Afghanistan.

A Special Forces colonel presiding over the hearing must determine whether sufficient evidence exists to recommend courts-martial for the two soldiers accused of killing the man, Nawab Buntangyar, who had been identified as an “enemy combatant,” while he walked unarmed outside his home near the Pakistan border.

But the focus of the hearing frequently shifted from the soldiers’ actions and toward the Army’s decision to bring charges against them. It also shifted to the effect on the Afghan people of Special Forces soldiers being allowed to kill some Afghan fighters more or less on sight.

From the beginning of the proceeding, Col. Kevin A. Christie, the presiding officer, seemed pressed to figure out why a military lawyer pursued murder charges after an Army investigation cleared the two soldiers of wrongdoing when they killed Mr. Buntangyar, who as a designated enemy combatant was subject to attack under the Special Forces’ classified rules of engagement.

In questions to several witnesses, Colonel Christie indicated that the Army was aware of the risks of trying to win the tactical battle in Afghanistan by aggressively pursuing the enemy in an unconventional war, as balanced against the potential expense of losing the larger strategic battle for the hearts and minds of Afghan civilians.

The decision by the general in charge of Special Forces to allow limited public access to the hearing was itself a sign of the Army’s desire to be seen as reflective and open to scrutiny, specialists in military justice said.

In an exchange that reflected the underlying issues of concern to the Special Forces command here, Colonel Christie asked Maj. Matthew McHale, the company commander in charge of the assault team that included the two accused soldiers, about the repercussions of how his men had killed Mr. Buntangyar.

Mr. Buntangyar was killed on Oct. 13, 2006, when Master Sgt. Troy Anderson, acting on orders from Capt. Dave Staffel, shot him in the face from a distance of about 100 feet. The order to shoot came after Afghan Border Police officers had surrounded Mr. Buntangyar’s home, exchanged a friendly greeting with him and asked him twice to confirm his identity. Captain Staffel and Sergeant Anderson were charged with premeditated murder in June, two months after an Army investigation determined Mr. Buntangyar’s “enemy combatant” status justified killing him.

“Would you tell your teams to do things that had limited tactical effects if they had potential strategic negative effects?” Colonel Christie asked Major McHale.

The major said assault teams continually weigh the two goals during missions.

The colonel asked if he thought the “strategic effect” of shooting a man whom the Afghan police had essentially lured out of his home “adds to the credibility of the police,” an institution that the American military is desperate to make independent and trustworthy in the eyes of local residents.

Major McHale conceded that the killing could undermine the public perception of the police. But, he added, they were unreliable and often sloppy. At the home, the police had to gesture to communicate with Special Forces soldiers because the police had accidentally locked their radios and car keys in their vehicles.
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« Reply #93 on: September 25, 2007, 08:44:08 AM »

I don't get it-- why are these men being prosecuted?  AND WHY WAS THIS SECRET PROGRAM BEING DISCUSSED IN OPEN COURT AND PRINTED IN THE WASHINGTON POST?


New York Times

September 24, 2007
Soldiers Describe Baiting of Insurgents

By PAUL VON ZIELBAUER

Under a program developed by a Defense Department warfare unit, Army snipers have begun using a new method to kill Iraqis suspected of being insurgents, planting fake weapons and bomb-making material as bait and then killing anyone who picks up them up, according to testimony presented in a military court.

The existence of the classified “baiting program,” as it has come to be known, was disclosed as part of defense lawyers’ efforts to respond to murder charges the Army pressed this summer against three members of a Ranger sniper team. Each soldier is accused of killing an unarmed Iraqi in three separate incidents between April and June near Iskandariya.

In sworn statements, soldiers testifying for the defense have said the sniper team was employing a baiting program developed by the Pentagon’s Asymmetrical Warfare Group, which met with and gave equipment to Ranger sniper teams in Iraq in January.

The Washington Post first described the baiting program in an article Monday.

An Army spokesman, Paul Boyce, said on Monday that the Army does not discuss specific methods for “targeting enemy combatants” publicly, and that no classified program authorizes the use of “drop weapons” to make a killing appear justified.

The court martial of one of the accused soldiers, Spec. Jorge Sandoval Jr., is scheduled to begin in Baghdad on Wednesday. The two other soldiers facing premeditated murder charges are Staff Sgt. Michael Hensley, the sniper team squad leader, and Sgt. Evan Vela. All three are part of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, based at Fort Richardson, Alaska.

None of the three soldiers deny that they killed the three Iraqis they are charged with murdering. Through their lawyers and in court documents, the soldiers argue that the killings were legal and authorized by their superiors. A transcript of the hearing was provided by a member of an accused soldier’s family.

Snipers are among the most specialized of soldiers, using camouflage clothing and makeup to infiltrate enemy locations and high-powered rifles and scopes to stalk and kill enemy fighters. The three snipers accused of murder had for months ventured into some of the most dangerous areas of Iraq, said lawyers for Sgt. Vela.

“Snipers are special people who are trained to shoot in a detached fashion, not to see their targets as human beings,” said James D. Culp, one of Sgt. Vela’s lawyers. “Snipers have split-seconds to take shots, and he had a split second to decide whether to shoot.”

After visiting the sniper unit in Iraq, members of the Asymmetrical Warfare Group gave soldiers ammunition boxes containing so-called “drop items” like bullets, plastic explosives and bomb detonation chords to use to target Iraqis involved in insurgent activity, according to Capt. Matthew P. Didier, a sniper platoon leader who gave sworn testimony in the accused soldiers’ court hearings.
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« Reply #94 on: September 25, 2007, 12:49:54 PM »

This is where "lawfare" is leading us.  rolleyes

I'm sure our "legal model advocates" here would require that any alleged insurgent our military might want to engage would be required to be served with a legal notice for a hearing to determine if the person is indeed a combatant and can be shot as such on the field of battle. This of course would require an independant judiciary, legal representation and translators to ensure due process.
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« Reply #95 on: October 05, 2007, 11:01:46 AM »

Warfront with Jihadistan: Berets and Blackwater
In last week’s witch hunt, “unbiased journalism” attempted to convict two from among America’s most elite fighting force, despite conclusive evidence that both were blameless. In Afghanistan last October, under the direction of Army Special Forces Capt. Dave Staffel, Master Sgt. Troy Anderson killed insurgent leader Nawab Buntangyar with a single, 100-yard sniper shot, thus “rehabilitating” the architect of countless suicide and roadside bombings. Incredibly, rather than being awarded medals for ridding planet Earth of this vermin, these two Green Berets were charged with premeditated murder, on the basis that Buntangyar was unarmed when he was shot. Apparently, SOCOM must now deploy lawyers when it sends out its finest, along with primers on Miranda warnings.

Two official Army investigations each concluded that Staffel’s seven-man team had fully complied with U.S. rules of engagement. Further, the reports noted that having been classified as an enemy combatant, Buntangyar was “fair game” as a target, armed or not. Finally, of considerable weight was the nontrivial issue that Buntangyar happened to showcase on the Special Forces’ “Top Ten” list of individuals to be killed or captured.

Evidently more convinced by media trials than he was by the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command, however, the recently-pinned-on Army three-star charged with Special Forces oversight in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Frank Kearney, convened yet another hearing to weigh evidence against the two soldiers. As the attorney for Capt. Staffel noted, Kearney’s charges carried an air of “military politics” about them. Fortunately, the American justice system trumped media jurists in this case, but only barely. Although the two soldiers were exonerated earlier this week, neither Lt. Gen. Kearney nor any within media circles offered so much as an oops-we-goofed comment to clear the soldiers’ good names.

In this week’s witch hunt, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Left Coast) leads a House investigation into Blackwater, a private security firm providing protection for State Department members in Iraq and Afghanistan. At issue is the culpability of Blackwater agents on 16 September, when at least 14 Iraqis were killed following a shootout occurring while the agents were protecting U.S. Embassy staff in a Baghdad convoy. Though Rep. Waxman had agreed not to probe for specific information because of ongoing FBI investigations, his promise apparently didn’t weigh too heavily on his conscience, as he pressed on, unhindered, with his inquisition, er, investigation. We note that Rep. Waxman has a history of hounding Blackwater for everything from war-profiteering to 2004’s ambush at Fallujah (ironically, Waxman cites the cause as—wait for it—Blackwater’s cost-cutting!), so we’re not surprised by this latest move.

We should also note that we’re not asserting that Blackwater is without fault in this incident (U.S. military reports say they fired without provocation), however, like last week’s Green Beret incident, both the media, as well as key individuals in power, have made such a determination for themselves—and apparently for everyone else, if they can get away with it—before all the evidence is in and before ongoing investigations are complete

Patriot Post
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« Reply #96 on: October 06, 2007, 08:51:33 AM »

Caveat lector, its the NY Times.  That said, as Commander in Chief, the ultimate responsibility on this matter does fall to the President.

Editorial
 
Published: October 6, 2007
It’s more painfully clear that wounded soldiers who seek disability care and benefits face bureaucratic chaos worthy of an infernal ring from Dante. Seven months after news accounts detailed the appalling neglect of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, Congressional investigators have found promised repairs already lagging at the Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs.

It still takes almost half a year for the average veteran’s claim for disability benefits to be decided in a tortuous process that can involve four separate hearings. The promised pilot program to make a single efficient system out of dueling military and veterans bureaucracies — the knotty heart of a mammoth backlog running into hundreds of thousand of cases — should have begun last month. Now the promise is slipping into next year. At the same time, the Army’s plan for creating special “warrior transition units” to deliver more personalized care at 32 national centers is bedeviled by staff shortages that mean close to half of the eligible troops are unable to get the service.

A dozen Congressional and executive agencies and blue-ribbon commissions are investigating. Unfortunately, there has been no comparable surge of creativity or commitment from the White House.

Worthy remedies are being proposed. The latest is from a Congressionally created commission that is urging wholesale changes in the veterans’ benefit system, which hasn’t been modernized since 1945. Chief among its recommendations is that the signature disabilities of the current war — severe brain damage and the post traumatic stress syndrome already afflicting 45,000 veterans — be accorded top priority for improvement. The commission is also recommending an immediate increase of up to 25 percent in benefits — above economic disability payments — for the lost quality of life that scarred veterans suffer.

With the number of wounded mounting daily, the White House needs to fix these problems. For many veterans, their disabilities will endure their remaining lifetimes, outlasting the politicians who now proclaim them heroes while shortchanging them in the care and support they desperately need.

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« Reply #97 on: October 06, 2007, 09:10:47 AM »

Second post of the morning.  Here the NY Slimes' reporter's disappointment is almost palpable.

The Erosion of a Murder Case Against Marines in the Killing of 24 Iraqi Civilians

By PAUL von ZIELBAUER
Published: October 6, 2007
BAGHDAD, Oct. 5 — Last year, when accounts of the killing of 24 Iraqis in Haditha by a group of marines came to light, it seemed that the Iraq war had produced its defining atrocity, just as the conflict in Vietnam had spawned the My Lai massacre a generation ago.

 But on Thursday, a senior military investigator recommended dropping murder charges against the ranking enlisted marine accused in the 2005 killings, just as he had done earlier in the cases of two other marines charged in the case. The recommendation may well have ended prosecutors’ chances of winning any murder convictions in the killings of the apparently unarmed men, women and children.

In the recent case, against Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, the investigator recommended that he be charged with negligent homicide if the case moved ahead to court-martial. In the other two cases, the investigator recommended dropping all charges.

Experts in military justice say the Haditha prosecutions were compromised by several factors having to do with the quality of the evidence, including a delayed investigation and the decision to conduct hearings in the United States, far from the scene of the killings and possible Iraqi witnesses.

The cases also reflect the particular views of Lt. Col. Paul J. Ware, who presided over the hearings and concluded that all three cases lacked sufficient evidence. He made clear in his recommendations to the commander who ultimately decides the cases that he felt that the killings should be considered in context — that of a war zone where the enemy ruthlessly employed civilians as cover.

Perhaps nothing handicapped military prosecutors more than the delay in investigating the killings, on Nov. 19, 2005, because battalion officers initially decided the case did not require an inquiry. The attack began after a roadside bombing of the marines’ convoy killed a comrade; led by Sergeant Wuterich, a group of marines then killed 24 people over several hours. Nineteen of the 24 were killed in their homes.

By the time the Marine Corps announced murder charges against the infantrymen, 13 months had passed. Evidence vanished, witnesses evaporated and memories paled.

Those problems with collecting evidence were further complicated because Haditha remained a combat zone. When forensic experts traveled there last year to interview family members of those killed, heavily armed Marine infantrymen had to guard them, and even then, insurgent fire forced the investigators to abandon the scene after an hour.

Beyond that, Islamic custom dictates that families bury their dead within hours. Relatives of those killed in Haditha refused American requests to exhume the bodies for forensic analysis.

In addition, the collection of evidence was hurt by the decision to hold evidentiary hearings for the marines in the Haditha case at Camp Pendleton, Calif., rather than in Baghdad, where some other cases have been heard.

“In the Vietnam era, you often had the lawyers, the witnesses, the scene, the victims’ families — you had them right there,” said Gary D. Solis, a former Marine judge who teaches the laws of war at Georgetown University Law Center. “If you happened to have a witness who had rotated back to the United States, you could call them back.”

In the end, in Colonel Ware’s view, expressed in dozens of pages of analysis and opinion in his reports on all three cases, the Haditha prosecutors failed to amass enough evidence to win a conviction.

In his latest report, in which he recommended dismissing 10 murder charges against Sergeant Wuterich and reducing seven others to negligent homicide, Colonel Ware wrote that the evidence presented to him “is simply not strong enough to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.”

He made similar conclusions in his reports on the cases against two other infantrymen for whom he urged the dismissal of all charges: Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt, whose murder charges were subsequently thrown out by the commanding general overseeing the case, and Lance Cpl. Stephen Tatum, who is still waiting to hear the general’s decision. Commanders usually follow investigators’ recommendations.

“When you have an investigating officer like Ware, who says ‘don’t go there if you can’t prove,’” your case, Mr. Solis said, “we’re left with what appear to be very reduced charges.” He added: “He’s aggressive, and he seems to make his judgments without regard for anything but the law. He must know that people — civilians, primarily — are going to howl about this, but that doesn’t seem to be a concern.”

Other military law experts also noted that in his two reports on the charges against Lance Corporals Sharratt and Tatum, Colonel Ware revealed a willingness to give the men the benefit of the doubt, and to consider the impact of the prosecutions on the morale of troops still fighting in Iraq.

“It does surprise me to see that the killing of seven women and children by grenades and rifles, for the purposes of clearing structures, is being treated the way this investigating officer has treated it,” said Eugene R. Fidell, an expert in military law in Washington.

In an unusual departure from the analysis of the facts in Lance Corporal Sharratt’s case, Colonel Ware warned that putting marines on trial for murder without having the evidence to prove it could “erode public support of the Marine Corps and mission in Iraq.”

Michael F. Noone, a law professor at Catholic University and a retired Air Force lawyer, said Colonel Ware was right to assume that rulings in the Haditha cases might have an impact on the overall war effort. Last week, he noted, testimony in a Baghdad military murder trial suggested that an Army sniper, a member of one of the most highly trained infantry units, had planted evidence on the remains of a dead fighter — as insurance against second-guessing.

“That’s somebody who doesn’t trust the system,” Professor Noone said. “Do you want kids out there representing the United States who don’t think they’re going to be treated fairly?”

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #98 on: October 06, 2007, 09:26:19 PM »

Second post of the day:

This seems worthy of President Bush's intervention:

By Rhonda Erskine
MINNEAPOLIS, MN (NBC) -- When they came home from Iraq, 2,600 members of the Minnesota National Guard had been deployed longer than any other ground combat unit. The tour lasted 22 months and had been extended as part of President Bush's surge.



1st Lt. Jon Anderson said he never expected to come home to this: A government refusing to pay education benefits he says he should have earned under the GI bill.

"It's pretty much a slap in the face," Anderson said. "I think it was a scheme to save money, personally. I think it was a leadership failure by the senior Washington leadership... once again failing the soldiers."

Anderson's orders, and the orders of 1,161 other Minnesota guard members, were written for 729 days.

Had they been written for 730 days, just one day more, the soldiers would receive those benefits to pay for school.

"Which would be allowing the soldiers an extra $500 to $800 a month," Anderson said.

That money would help him pay for his master's degree in public administration. It would help Anderson's fellow platoon leader, John Hobot, pay for a degree in law enforcement.

"I would assume, and I would hope, that when I get back from a deployment of 22 months, my senior leadership in Washington, the leadership that extended us in the first place, would take care of us once we got home," Hobot said.

Both Hobot and Anderson believe the Pentagon deliberately wrote orders for 729 days instead of 730. Now, six of Minnesota's members of the House of Representatives have asked the Secretary of the Army to look into it -- So have Senators Amy Klobuchar and Norm Coleman.

Klobuchar said the GI money "shouldn't be tied up in red tape," and Coleman said it's "simply irresponsible to deny education benefits to those soldiers who just completed the longest tour of duty of any unit in Iraq."

Anderson said the soldiers he oversaw in his platoon expected that money to be here when they come home.

"I had 23 guys under my command," Anderson said. "I promised to take care of them. And I'm not going to end taking care of them when this deployment is over, and it's not over until this is solved."

The Army did not respond questions Tuesday afternoon.

Senators Klobuchar and Coleman released a joint statement saying the Army secretary, Pete Geren, is looking into this personally, and they say Geren asked a review board to expedite its review so the matter could be solved by next semester.

Minnesota National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Kevin Olson said the soldiers are "victims of a significant injustice."

Source Drudge
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #99 on: February 23, 2009, 11:12:24 AM »

Sorry to have to report this, but we search for Truth.

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Probe finds Army charity is hoarding millions

Military's biggest charity is stockpiling cash, rather than using it for aid

Feb. 22, 2009

FORT BLISS, Texas - As soldiers stream home from Iraq and Afghanistan, the biggest charity inside the U.S. military has been stockpiling tens of millions of dollars meant to help put returning fighters back on their feet, an Associated Press investigation shows.

Between 2003 and 2007 — as many military families dealt with long war deployments and increased numbers of home foreclosures — Army Emergency Relief grew into a $345 million behemoth. During those years, the charity packed away $117 million into its own reserves while spending just $64 million on direct aid, according to an AP analysis of its tax records.

Tax-exempt and legally separate from the military, AER projects a facade of independence but really operates under close Army control. The massive nonprofit — funded predominantly by troops — allows superiors to squeeze soldiers for contributions; forces struggling soldiers to repay loans — sometimes delaying transfers and promotions; and too often violates its own rules by rewarding donors, such as giving free passes from physical training, the AP found.

Founded in 1942, AER eases cash emergencies of active-duty soldiers and retirees and provides college scholarships for their families. Its emergency aid covers mortgage payments and food, car repairs, medical bills, travel to family funerals, and the like.

Army charity lent out emergency aid

Instead of giving money away, though, the Army charity lent out 91 percent of its emergency aid during the period 2003-2007. For accounting purposes, the loans, dispensed interest-free, are counted as expenses only when they are not paid back.

During that same five-year period, the smaller Navy and Air Force charities both put far more of their own resources into aid than reserves. The Air Force charity kept $24 million in reserves while dispensing $56 million in total aid, which includes grants, scholarships and loans not repaid. The Navy charity put $32 million into reserves and gave out $49 million in total aid.

AER executives defend their operation, insisting they need to keep sizable reserves to be ready for future catastrophes.
"Look at the stock market," said retired Col. Dennis Spiegel, AER's deputy director for administration. Without the large reserve, he added, "We'd be in very serious trouble."

But smaller civilian charities for service members and veterans say they are swamped by the desperate needs of recent years, with requests far outstripping ability to respond.
While independent on paper, Army Emergency Relief is housed, staffed and controlled by the U.S. Army.

That's not illegal per se. Eric Smith, a spokesman for the Internal Revenue Service, said the agency can't offer an opinion on a particular charity's activities. But Marcus Owens, former head of IRS charity oversight, said charities like AER can legally partner closely with a government agency.
However, he said, problems sometimes arise when their missions diverge. "There's a bit of a tension when a government organization is operating closely with a charity," he said.

Some reserves are prudent

Most charity watchdogs view 1-to-3 years of reserves as prudent, with more than that considered hoarding. Yet the American Institute of Philanthropy says AER holds enough reserves to last about 12 years at its current level of aid.

Daniel Borochoff, president of the American Institute of Philanthropy, said that AER collects money "very efficiently. What the shame is, is they're not doing more with it."
National administrators say they've tried to loosen the purse strings. The most recent yearly figures do show a tilt by AER toward increased giving.
Still, Borochoff's organization, which grades charities, gives the Army charity an "F" because of the hoarding.

The AP findings include:

*Superior officers come calling when AER loans aren't repaid on time. Soldiers can be fined or demoted for missing loan payments. They must clear their loans before transferring or leaving the service.

*Promotions can be delayed or canceled if loans are not repaid.

*Despite strict rules against coercion, the Army uses pushy tactics to extract supposedly voluntary contributions, with superiors using language like: "How much can we count on from you?"

*The Army sometimes offers rewards for contributions, though incentives are banned by program rules. It sometimes excuses contributors from physical training — another clear violation.

AER screens every request for aid, peering into the personal finances of its troops, essentially making the Army a soldier's boss and loan officer.
"If I ask a private for something ... chances are everyone's going to do it. Why? Because I'm a lieutenant," says Iraq war veteran Tom Tarantino, otherwise an AER backer. "It can almost be construed as mandatory."

Neither the Army nor Sgt. Major of the Army Kenneth Preston, an AER board member, responded to repeated requests for comment on the military's relationship with AER.
AER pays just 21 staffers, all working at its headquarters at Army Human Resources Command in Alexandria, Va. AER's other 300 or so employees at 90 Army sites worldwide are civilians paid by the Army. Also, the Army gives AER office space for free.
AER's treasurer, Ret. Col. Andrew Cohen, acknowledged in an interview that "the Army runs the program in the field." Army officers dominate its corporate board too.

Officers must recommend soldiers for aid

Charities linked to other services operate along more traditional nonprofit lines. The Air Force Aid Society sprinkles its board with members from outside the military to foster broad views. The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society pays 225 employees and, instead of relying on Navy personnel for other chores, deploys a corps of about 3,400 volunteers, including some from outside the military.

Army regulations say AER "is, in effect, the U.S. Army's own emergency financial assistance organization." Under Army regulations, officers must recommend whether their soldiers deserve aid. Company commanders and first sergeants can approve up to $1,000 in loans on their own say-so. Officers also are charged with making sure their troops repay AER loans.

"If you have an outstanding bill, you're warned about paying that off just to finish your tour of duty ... because it will be brought to your leadership and it will be dealt with," says Jon Nakaishi, of Tracy, Calif., an Army National Guard veteran of the Iraq war who took out a $900 AER loan to help feed his wife and children between paychecks.
In his case, he was sent home with an injury and never fully repaid his loan.

The Army also exercises its leverage in raising contributions from soldiers. It reaches out only to troops and veterans in annual campaigns organized by Army personnel.
For those on active duty, AER organizes appeals along the chain of command. Low-ranking personnel are typically solicited by a superior who knows them personally.

Spiegel, the AER administrator, said he's unaware of specific violations but added: "I spent 29 years in the Army, I know how ... first sergeants operate. Some of them do strong-arm."

Many violations uncovered

Army regulations ban base passes, training holidays, relief from guard duty, award plaques and "all other incentives or rewards" for contributions to AER. But the AP uncovered evidence of many violations.

Before leaving active duty in 2006, Philip Aubart, who then went to Reserve Officer Training Corps at Dartmouth College, admits he gave to AER partly to be excused from push-ups, sit-ups and running the next day. For those who didn't contribute the minimum monthly allotment, the calisthenics became, in effect, a punishment.

"That enticed lots and lots of guys to give," he noted. He says he gave in two annual campaigns and was allowed to skip physical training the following days.
Others spoke of prizes like pizza parties and honorary flags given to top cooperating units.

Make no mistake: AER, a normally uncontroversial fixture of Army life, has helped millions of soldiers and families. Last year alone, AER handed out about $5.5 million in emergency grants, $65 million in loans, and $12 million in scholarships. Despite the extra demands for soldiers busy fighting two wars, AER's management says it hasn't felt a need to boost giving in recent years.

But the AP encountered considerable criticism about AER's hoarding of its treasure chest.

Jack Tilley, a retired sergeant major of the Army on AER's board from 2000 to 2004, said he was surprised by AP's findings, especially during wartime.
"I think they could give more. In fact, that's why that's there," said Tilley, who co-founded another charity that helps families of Mideast war veterans, the American Freedom Foundation.

Accumulates stocks and bonds with its wealth

What does AER do with its retained wealth? Mostly, it accumulates stocks and bonds.
AER ended 2007 with a $296 million portfolio; last year's tanking market cut that to $214 million, by the estimate of its treasurer.

Sylvia Kidd, an AER board member in the 1990s, says she feels that the charity does much good work but guards its relief funds too jealously. "You hear things, and you think, "`They got all this money, and they should certainly be able to take care of this,'" she said. She now works for a smaller independent charity, the Association of the United States Army, providing emergency aid to some military families that AER won't help.

Though AER keeps a $25 million line of bank credit to respond to a world economic crisis, its board has decided to lop off a third of its scholarship money this year. "We're not happy about it," Spiegel says.
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