Contents: The Sir! No Sir! blog is an information clearing house, drawing on a wide variety of sources, to track the unfolding history of the new GI Movement, and the wars that brought the movement to life.
Where applicable, parallels will be drawn between the new movement and the Vietnam era movement which was the focus of the film Sir! No Sir!
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This report was posted by MSNBC, February 17, 2009
WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama approved adding some 17,000 U.S. troops for the flagging war in Afghanistan, his first significant move to change the course of a conflict that his closest military advisers have warned the United States is not winning.
"To meet urgent security needs, I approved a request from (Defense) Secretary Gates to deploy a Marine Expeditionary Brigade later this spring and an Army Stryker Brigade and the enabling forces necessary to support them later this summer," Obama said in a statement issued by the White House.
About 8,000 Marines are expected to go in first, followed by about 9,000 Army troops. Some 34,000 U.S. troops are already in Afghanistan.
"There is no more solemn duty as president than the decision to deploy our armed forces into harm's way," Obama added. "I do it today mindful that the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan demands urgent attention and swift action. The Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan, and al Qaeda supports the insurgency and threatens America from its safe-haven along the Pakistani border."
Of the 17,000 troops authorized, deployment orders have been issued for 12,000 and some of those are being reassigned from roles in Iraq. Where the remaining 5,000 troops will come from will be determined later.
The Marine unit is from Camp Lejeune, N.C.. The Stryker unit is from the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division out of Fort Lewis, Wash.
The Stryker brigade was originally ordered last fall to go to Iraq. It is now at the National Training Center in the Mojave Desert, training for deployment.
Deployment likely in south
Most of the extra forces are expected to be sent to southern Afghanistan, where a shortage of U.S. and NATO troops face an intensifying Taliban insurgency.
The new troops could be a down payment on an even larger influx of U.S. forces that has been widely expected this year, and it will get forces in place in time for the increase in fighting that usually comes with warmer weather and ahead of national midyear elections.
Earlier Tuesday, Obama said the situation in Afghanistan "actually appears to be deteriorating at this point."
"I'm absolutely convinced that you cannot solve the problem of Afghanistan, the Taliban and the spread of extremism in the region solely through military means," he told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. in an interview ahead of his trip to Ottawa on Thursday. "We're going to have to use diplomacy, we're going to have to use development."
Afghan strategy still under review
The Afghan directive is the first time the new commander in chief has sent significant numbers of new forces into battle. Obama campaigned on a new strategy for the Afghanistan war, but he has taken his time to approve the new forces.
The planned troop deployment does not preclude sending more forces in the future, a senior White House official said. Any others, however, would come as part of a broader strategic review of the entire policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, not as a stand-alone troop decision, the official said.
That review should be completed sometime around the end of March, which coincides with a NATO summit in Europe.
U.S. commanders have said they could send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan this year, nearly doubling the American contingent. Gates has said two brigades could be ready to go there by spring and a third by summer.
Earlier Tuesday, a think tank issued a report concluding that a "game-changing" strategy is urgently needed in Afghanistan to save the faltering international campaign.
"All is not lost in Afghanistan," RAND Corp. experts said in a paper released by the congressionally funded United States Institute of Peace.
This report, by Keith Morrison, was originally broadcast by NBC Dateline, May 27, 2008
ANN CURRY: Good evening and welcome to DATELINE. I'm Ann Curry.
A powerful story this Memorial Day weekend about a struggle so many of our soldiers face: the battle to make peace with the realities of war. For one veteran, healing came in a remarkable way, through a keepsake he snatched by chance from the battlefield. It was a photograph of a child, just a tiny picture, but it would launch an epic journey. Here's Keith Morrison.
Mr. RICH LUTTRELL: It just sticks in your gut. Just like somebody just, you know, jammed you in the gut with a bayonet or something. I mean, it just--and it's always there.
KEITH MORRISON reporting: (Voiceover) He's pushing 60 now, young for a great grandfather. Though his wife jokes that he looks much older. Perhaps because he has seen the future, through his own turmoil, for thousands of American service people over here. It's time now, he says, to warn them.
Mr. LUTTRELL: How many more people out there that are experiencing the same thing as I am?
Unidentified Soldier: Ready?
MORRISON: (Voiceover) Yes, a great many of them, as we will find out later in this hour.
Mr. LUTTRELL: I've wanted to meet you so bad, Tammy.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) Rich Luttrell has spent years working with veterans, most of whom, just like him, are deeply proud of their service. Volunteers. True patriots. He knows all too well what many of them are in for back home.
Mr. LUTTRELL: (Voiceover) These guys need somebody to talk to.
Mr. LUTTRELL: I mean, they really do. You know, that's the worst thing for me, was a--was to come home and bury that. All those years, just to bury it.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) Bury it? Bury what? The flip side of the valor our men and women practice in war, the price they pay for what they do for us. And Rich Luttrell? Well, what happened to him is, as you'll see, almost beyond imagining.
Mr. LUTTRELL: It was the one moment and the one act in combat that has been a burden for me for 33-some years.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) It was 1967. Richard Luttrell, just barely old enough to sign up, was where he wanted to be, in the 101st Airborne. He volunteered for Vietnam.
(Bombings; photos of Luttrell as a young soldier; soldiers in combat; helicopter; flags; Vietnam)
Mr. LUTTRELL: (Voiceover) The day I got to my unit, the chopper come down in the jungle, and I seen members of my platoon standing around, my age. And these are some tough-looking guys. Just their eyes. And I can remember thinking, my God, what have I got myself into?
MORRISON: And so this puny kid from the projects found himself in a world for which no amount of training could adequately prepare. It is hot here, or wet, or both. No roof, no bed, no rest, no break from the fear. Just a scrawny kid with a backpack almost as big as he was who learned that the first rule is: You keep going and going and going.
Mr. LUTTRELL: (Voiceover) There was times I can remember contouring a mountain trying to choke the tears back.
(Mountain; soldiers moving through jungle)
Mr. LUTTRELL: Like, God, please, stop, I can't go no more. And we'd do that from daylight to dark. And I thought, what am I going to do if we get in a firefight? I mean, I can't move. I'm so tired. What do I do in a firefight? And I never was prepared for that.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) And then came the day that changed everything. It was hot, as always, like wearing a coat in a steam room. He had no idea his enemy was just a few feet away in the jungle.
(Vietnam; fog; jungle)
Mr. LUTTRELL: (Voiceover) And out of the corner of my right eye I seen movement.
Mr. LUTTRELL: I could see an NVA soldier leaning over with an AK-47 squatting.
MORRISON: First time you'd ever seen a North Vietnamese soldier.
Mr. LUTTRELL: Right. In my whole life, ever seen one.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) He was barely 18, suddenly flooded with fear. His body seemed to freeze. He couldn't let it.
(Jungle; photo of Luttrell as a young soldier; jungle)
Mr. LUTTRELL: I had to react. I had to do something. It was my decision.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) He was in the enemy's gun sight. Death was a heartbeat away. He turned, looked at the enemy soldier full in the face.
(Man with gun; jungle; silhouettes of men; jungle)
Mr. LUTTRELL: It seemed like we stared at each other for, I mean, for a long time.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) And then, like it was all in slow motion, he pulled the trigger.
(Jungle; man with gun; gun)
Mr. LUTTRELL: (Voiceover) And I just started firing, full automatic. And he went down.
Mr. LUTTRELL: It turned into a pretty heavy firefight. And I wasn't smart enough to hit the ground. And somebody tackled me and took me to the ground.
MORRISON: Did you realize that particular North Vietnamese soldier could have killed you before you even saw him?
Mr. LUTTRELL: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I'd wonder, even today, I go through my mind, and I wonder why didn't he fire?
MORRISON: (Voiceover) But that is not what played on Rich, haunted him year after year after year. Not the gunfight, nor the living in the moment of that terror. There would be a lot of that. No, it was the one thought he hadn't truly considered before, wasn't prepared for it.
(Luttrell walking; jungle)
Mr. LUTTRELL: You know, after the firefight's over and the adrenaline rush is over and you started--you know, you're all soaking wet and just feel like your legs won't hold you, you know, it hits you. I just took a life.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) And that's when he saw it. The tiny photograph. Right there on the jungle path is where it began to weave a whole new story for his life.
Mr. LUTTRELL: (Voiceover) I seen this picture sticking out, partially out. And it looked like a little--it looked like the face of a little girl with long hair or something. And I pulled it out, and it was real tiny, and it was a picture of a soldier and a little girl.
Mr. LUTTRELL: I can remember holding the photo and actually squatting and getting close to this soldier and actually looking in his face and looking at the photo and looking at his face.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) Here was the man he had just killed. But who was that little girl? His daughter? They seemed so serious, so sad, somehow, like the picture was taken just before they said goodbye, before her father went off to war.
(Photo of Lan's father and Lan)
MORRISON: And that hit you?
Mr. LUTTRELL: Yeah. It hit me really hard.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) Not for long, mind you. Rich stuffed the tiny picture into his wallet, and within minutes they moved out again. Not for a moment, by the way, should you believe that Rich was a reluctant soldier. When it came time to use his weapon, he did not hesitate. He developed an uncommon expertise at the dangerous and gruesome business of clearing underground tunnels of enemy personnel. He became skilled at hand-to-hand combat, at surviving.
(Photo of Luttrell as young soldier; photo of Lan's father and Lan; soldiers in combat; photos of Luttrell as young soldier; soldiers in combat; photo of Luttrell as young soldier)
Mr. LUTTRELL: (Voiceover) I can remember being on a hill one night and mortar rounds just pounding in the dark and hearing guys screaming and getting blowed out of holes...
Mr. LUTTRELL: ...and pulling my rucksack over my head and thinking, God, don't let one hit me.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) He had just 20 days left when the bullet ripped into his back, the wound that sent him home.
(Photo of Luttrell as young soldier; newspaper article)
Mr. LUTTRELL: (Voiceover) I can remember when I get on the helicopter, all of a sudden this tremendous guilt hit me, like where are you going? What are you doing?
Mr. LUTTRELL: What are you leaving these guys for?
MORRISON: (Voiceover) Rich came home to a case full of medals and married his hometown sweetheart, Carole. And as the '60s gave way to the '70s, the '80s, he tried to put Vietnam behind him.
(Helicopter; case of medals; photos of Luttrell and Carole)
CAROLE: (Voiceover) He really didn't talk about Vietnam for years.
(Photo of Luttrell and Carole)
CAROLE: Just was something he kept very personal and very hidden.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) But all the while there in his wallet was that picture, the little girl who would not let him go. Of course, he didn't know yet--how could he?--what that little image had in store for him.
Mr. DUERY FELTON: (Voiceover) That haunted me for years and years, as to who the little girl was.
Mr. LUTTRELL: (Voiceover) I really formed a bond, and especially the little girl in the photograph.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) It was so odd, so strange. All the horrors Rich had seen in battle. And it was this little face that kept coming back to haunt him.
Mr. LUTTRELL: Here's a young daughter that doesn't have a father thanks to me.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) Year after year he kept it in his wallet. As the torment he felt failed to go away, as it settled on his life like a darkening cloud.
CAROLE: The only thing I could ever say is, `Why don't you just get rid of it?' You know? `Let it go. Get it out of your life and you can forget and go on.'
MORRISON: (Voiceover) And 20 years after his return from Vietnam, that is what Rich determined to do. They were on vacation, he and Carole, in Washington, DC, and when he saw the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Rich knew what he could do with that now-tattered little photograph.
Mr. LUTTRELL: (Voiceover) I said, you know that picture? I said I'm going to leave it at the Wall.
Mr. LUTTRELL: And her face lit up. Like, I could just see it. It was--this is something good.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) And sitting in their hotel, he decided to do it right.
Mr. LUTTRELL: I sat down on a bed with a--just a scratch pad that was in the hotel room. And I started thinking, I thought, if there was any way possibly that you could talk to that soldier, what would you say?
(Voiceover) And in like just a couple of minutes I scribbled out a little note.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) In it he said those few things he'd always wanted to say. Not that he regretted being in that war, not that he regretted serving his country. No, he didn't. It was instead that unending guilt, that uncontrollable sorrow, at having taken away a young father's life.
Mr. LUTTRELL: (Reading) "Dear sir, for 22 years I've carried your picture in my wallet. I was only 18 years old that day we faced one another on that trail in Chu Lai, Vietnam.
(Voiceover) "Forgive me for taking your life. So many times over the years I've stared at your picture and your daughter, I suspect. Each time my heart and guts would burn with the pain of guilt. Forgive me, sir."
MORRISON: (Voiceover) The next day Rich placed the photo and the letter at the foot of the memorial, under the names of 58,000 Americans who lost their lives in Vietnam.
Mr. LUTTRELL: (Voiceover) And at that moment it was like I had just finished a firefight and dropped my rucksack and got to rest. And that load I was carrying was gone. It was...
MORRISON: All lifted off.
Mr. LUTTRELL: Oh, all lifted off. Just felt great. I felt--I felt free. I felt relieved, I felt free.
MORRISON: Or so he thought. Every day hundreds of people say goodbye to bits and pieces of the war and leave them here along these granite walls, and every single thing, sacred or profane, is collected and boxed up by park rangers. Including Rich's photo, which just happened to land at the top of one of those boxes, which just happened to land face up, which just happened to be seen by another Vietnam veteran, who knew right away this was something different.
Mr. FELTON: I thought, what is this? So I reached down and picked it up.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) Duery Felton is curator of the Vietnam veterans memorial collection. He has seen just about everything here. But a picture of an enemy soldier?
Mr. FELTON: And I really did a double take.
MORRISON: You don't often see a thing like that at the wall?
Mr. FELTON: I haven't seen it in about 30-odd years, that green uniform.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) And he read Rich's letter of apology.
Mr. FELTON: I read that letter, and it was about taking a life. It's very difficult to do that. That decision has to be made in a matter of seconds, and you have to live with those decisions for the rest of your life. So it was somewhat comforting, if that's the proper term ...to know that someone else had been through that, but they've sat it down on paper.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) And before long, the little photo and all the emotion it conjured up infected this veteran, too, a tiny, determined spirit floating from one old soldier to the next, reminding them both of the price they paid for pulling the trigger.
Mr. FELTON: (Voiceover) And that haunted me for years and years, as to who the little girl was.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) What is it about that image that was so powerful that you'd hang on to it? That he'd hang on--that you couldn't let it go, in a way?
Mr. FELTON: I think it resonated someplace in my psyche.
(Voiceover) You have to understand that I was in a combat unit. This is about taking someone's life.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) Of course, Rich knew none of this back in Rochester, Illinois. He was getting on with his life. He thought he was finished with that little girl. Except she wasn't yet finished with him. Coming up...
Mr. LUTTRELL: (Voiceover) It was almost a nightmare.
Mr. LUTTRELL: It was like, you know--you know, `little girl, what do you want from me?'
MORRISON: (Voiceover) An obsession returns, and a journey is launched.
Mr. LUTTRELL: I'm going to find that little girl. I'm going to find that family.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) There is a powerful, silent emotion that surrounds the monuments to America's wars. And at this one, the remarkable wall, a great and ever growing collection of the bits and pieces of survivor memories and griefs. When Duery Felton was asked to help produce a book, "Offerings at the Wall," he had a warehouse of objects and images from which to choose. He put that little girl and Rich's letter right there in the middle. And of course Rich, who by now worked for Veterans Affairs, received a copy.
Mr. LUTTRELL: (Voiceover) And I turned to page 53, and there was a picture of the picture I had left at the wall and the note I'd wrote to the soldier.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) It was as if she were staring right at him, refusing to go away, as if she was accusing him of trying to abandon her.
Mr. LUTTRELL: For me that moment was almost a nightmare. It was like, you know--you know, little girl, what do you want from me? I mean, you know, what do you want from me?
MORRISON: (Voiceover) Now the obsession returned full force. He knew he had to get the picture back. So he contacted Duery Felton, who'd become so attached to the photo himself he personally flew from Washington, DC, to Illinois to hand deliver it back to Rich. And anyone who didn't understand might have found it rather strange that two middle-aged men who didn't know each other, had never met, would hold on and weep real tears for a small girl neither knew.
Mr. LUTTRELL: And I was talking to my wife one evening, and I said, you know, I don't know if it's something mystic or fate, but I said, somehow I have to return this picture. And she said, `What do you mean?' And I said, I'm going to find that little girl. I'm going to find that family of that soldier.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) A ridiculous idea, of course. He no longer even knew the country or the language or what she looked like now, or even if she was alive.
CAROLE: I didn't badger him about it saying you can't do it, just give it up, forget it, it ain't happening, you know, it's not worth the effort, I'm tired of hearing it.
MORRISON: Did you get tired of hearing it?
MORRISON: This is an obsession.
MORRISON: Hard on you as much as on him.
MORRISON: How much did you want that to go away?
CAROLE: I don't know that I wanted it to go away. I wanted him to find peace with it.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) So Rich called a newspaper man he knew in St. Louis.
Mr. LUTTRELL: (Voiceover) I spent a couple of hours talking about it. And the story made the front page of the Post Dispatch on a Sunday, I believe.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) The plan kept forming as he went. He folded up the article and stuck it in a letter to the Vietnamese ambassador in Washington, DC.
Mr. LUTTRELL: He'd told me he would forward it to Hanoi. And he said something to the effect that `maybe we'll get lucky.'
MORRISON: It's a needle in a haystack, Richard.
Mr. LUTTRELL: Oh, yeah. A million to one.
MORRISON: It's a big country.
Mr. LUTTRELL: A million to one.
MORRISON: And so a copy of the photograph made its way all the way around the world again to the capital of Vietnam, to Hanoi, where an enterprising newspaper editor recognized a good story when he saw one and published the photograph, along with an appeal: Does anyone know these people? If the article failed to hit its mark, well, it was a shot in the dark anyway. But there's another way newspapers make their way around, a time-honored tradition, as wrapping paper.
(Voiceover) It just so happened that a man in Hanoi decided to send his mother a care package. He happened to wrap that package in this newspaper, the one containing Rich's photo. And then, by some bizarre coincidence, probably, the package made its way to a rural village north of Hanoi, where an old woman unwrapped it, saw the photo, took it to a neighboring hamlet, and told a woman there, `Here. This is your father.' And before long, thousands of miles away, Rich Luttrell received a letter. The girl had a name, Lan. She had children herself.
Mr. LUTTRELL: (Voiceover) It just didn't seem possible. It seemed surreal.
Mr. LUTTRELL: I just couldn't believe it was happening. I mean, of course, all the emotion again and, you know, now it's real.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) And it was complicated, too. He wrote a letter to Lan and her family trying to explain how he felt.
Mr. LUTTRELL: (Voiceover) The difference between guilt and regret. OK?
Mr. LUTTRELL: I do carry some guilt because of that action, but I have no regret as a soldier and participation in that war. And it was important for me to make sure they understood that.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) But around then it finally dawned on him: He would have to go back to Vietnam himself, would have to carry the photo and give it back. But how could he face his own closet full of horrors? And how would he face the girl?
Mr. LUTTRELL: How do you tell a little girl, `Hi, my name's Rich Luttrell, I killed your father in Vietnam'? There's a risk there. There really is. There's a risk there. I don't know how they're going to react.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) Decades after Rich Luttrell aimed his weapon at another human being and pulled the trigger in service of his country, he was about to perform his own personal act of atonement. Coming up...
Mr. LUTTRELL: This is not easy. It's really hard.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) It was early one springtime when Richard Luttrell set out in search of a cure for what tortured him.
Mr. LUTTRELL: (Voiceover) The whole thing's bigger than I am.
Mr. LUTTRELL: It's hard for me to understand it sometimes myself.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) Years ago he swore he would never go back to that place. He had seen too much killing, too many horrors. All that suffering reflected in that one small image. But now here he was, on his way to Vietnam, drawn by a photo no bigger than a postage stamp and, like a live thing, it had made its way from a dead man to a dusty trail in Vietnam to an American GI, a war memorial, to a book, to a wallet, to this bag, on its way home.
Mr. LUTTRELL: This is the flight I've been looking for, huh?
MORRISON: (Voiceover) To present the picture to that little girl, the daughter of the man he killed. Will he even know her? He's no teenage grunt, and she must be, well, 40 or so. It's the smell that hits him first. Every memory has one--Normandy, Vietnam, Iraq. The day before he is to meet the girl--now woman--in the photo, Rich is almost beyond nervous.
Mr. LUTTRELL: (Voiceover) I'd almost rather face combat again than face this girl.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) It's a cloudy Wednesday morning in Hanoi. Rain is threatening as Rich boards a van for the two and a half hour drive to Lan's village, a drive through a world changing fast, but still utterly different. Past markets crowded with faces amazed to see this entourage, this white-haired man. The village draws closer. In the van he fidgets, edgy.
Mr. LUTTRELL: I have to bring flowers.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) And then suddenly Rich and Carole are here, walking. Here is where that somber, serious soldier lived, had his children, the place to which he never returned.
MORRISON: How you feeling?
Mr. LUTTRELL: Nervous.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) And then, just around a stone wall, Rich sees a woman. And is sure.
Mr. LUTTRELL: I've already seen her. I know who she is.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) He takes a moment to compose himself, then walks toward her. And here they are. They had never laid eyes on each other before.
Mr. LUTTRELL: (Vietnamese spoken)
LAN: (Vietnamese spoken)
MORRISON: (Voiceover) For a few seconds they don't know what to say. They're intimate strangers.
Mr. LUTTRELL: (Vietnamese spoken)
MORRISON: (Voiceover) He recites a sentence he has learned in Vietnamese.
(Luttrell and Lan)
Mr. LUTTRELL: (Vietnamese spoken)
MORRISON: (Voiceover) `Today,' he says, `I return the photo of you and your father which I have kept for 33 years. Please forgive me.' Finally, it all comes pouring out, this terrible, painful release. As if right now at this moment she is finally able to give in to grief and cry for the father she never really knew. She clutches Rich as if he were her father himself, finally coming home from the war. Her brother tells us that both of them believe that their father's spirit lives on in Rich. They expect we'll think it's just superstition, and perhaps, they say, it is. But for them, today is the day their father's spirit has come back to them.
Mr. LUTTRELL: I've heard she has a new father.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) The whole village has turned out to see the photo returned. Once Rich had wondered about formality, ceremony. But not now.
Mr. LUTTRELL: Tell her this is the photo that I took from her father's wallet the day that I shot and killed him and that I'm returning it.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) She is 40 years old, and it's the first time she has held the photo of herself and her father in her hands. And in this moment and during the afternoon that followed...
Mr. LUTTRELL: He died a brave man and a courageous warrior.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) ...in the company of former enemies, Rich Luttrell felt as if his wounded soul had been stitched up and made new again.
Mr. LUTTRELL: I'm so sorry.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) At which point we could almost imagine some Hollywood director shouting, `Cut! Print!' Except, of course, life isn't quite like that. And in the chapter that follows you'll see why.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) Coming up, a new generation, back from a new war, and haunted just like Rich.
Marine Sergeant JESSE ODOM: When you kill a man, you start to think, `Did this guy has a three-year-old daughter back home? Did he have a wife?'
MORRISON: (Voiceover) Who will help heal their wounds? When Coming Home continues.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) It is not a simple thing, as Rich Luttrell can certainly tell you, coming back from a foreign war. He was hardly alone as he suffered through flashbacks and bouts of depression. Rich saw it for himself firsthand, in his work at the Veterans Center in Illinois: The struggle to heal, for many, was deeply wrapped up in guilt over killing other human beings.
Lieutenant Colonel PETER KILNER: War and the killing that goes on with it, those get into the biggest issues of life.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) Here on the bluff overlooking the Hudson River, a world away from the jungles of Rich Luttrell's Vietnam or the sand-blown towns of Iraq, a West Point professor named Lieutenant Colonel Peter Kilner tells us a researcher poring over a study of Vietnam vets came to a remarkable conclusion.
Lt. Col. KILNER: That the single greatest factor into whether a Vietnam War veteran experienced symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder was whether they had killed someone. The remarkable thing...
MORRISON: It's not the firefights or being hit by a bullet or seeing the enemy firing at you. It wasn't that. It was killing somebody else?
Lt. Col. KILNER: Yes.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) Of course, there are many factors that can contribute to PTSD. The trouble is, says Professor Kilner, in the Army and out, the subject of killing and its relation to PTSD seems virtually off limits.
Lt. Col. KILNER: The topic of killing in the profession of arms is the elephant in the living room that no one's talking about.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) Failure to face the elephant, says Kilner, can invite a lifetime of torment for the people who have served us in combat.
Lt. Col. KILNER: Because they're good people. So in a strange way, an ironic way, having psychological problems after having killed in war can be a sign of moral health.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) And yet, to bring it up in polite company back home, very difficult.
Lt. Col. KILNER: Mothers and fathers are proud to see their children come home and have medals and have served their country honorably. They probably still don't want to hear that their son or daughter killed another human being.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) Rich Luttrell remembers writing home to his mom just hours after killing three enemy soldiers.
Mr. LUTTRELL: I went and dug a prone position that night, and I went to write my mother a letter. And I just broke down and started bawling, just like a baby. I mean, you know, how do you tell your mom that you just killed three people? How many more people out there that are experiencing the same thing as I am?
MORRISON: A whole new generation of them.
Mr. LUTTRELL: A whole new generation. Yeah. Another generation.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) In a small apartment in Akron, Ohio, live Jill Stacy and Matt Frank, soul mates since they were 14, and now as close as any two people can be. And then Matt came home from Iraq.
Ms. JILL STACY: I would wake up in the middle of the night because he--his entire body would be shaking and he would be screaming.
MORRISON: Pretty scary.
Ms. STACY: Very scary.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) He joined right out of high school, couldn't wait to be in the military.
Mr. MATT FRANK: Getting into the Army was like a new sense of stability that I never had before. I loved it.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) In Iraq he was a humvee gunner, which took him to a town called Baquba, where, one day during an uprising, Matt and his buddies came under blistering attack.
Mr. FRANK: Everybody was shooting at us. At least that's the way it seemed. And you just kind of shoot at every possible spot you that think somebody could be in. You just basically fill every window, every rooftop with as many bullets and everything that you can. But there was this one person that wasn't shooting at us. So he's hiding behind a trailer, he thinks he's fine. You know, and he's not. And then it happens. You have a bunch of people shooting at each other, somebody's bound to get hurt that wasn't supposed to be. I mean, bullets don't have a mind. They just keep going. Especially large ones. They go through everything. And then they got him. And that was the worst. And his dad comes out and he sees him there. He's laying there on the ground. You know, he's dead. He's not dying. He's dead. And the dad's just, you know, freaking out.
MORRISON: And you're watching this?
Mr. FRANK: I'm watching this, yeah. That's what I think about. That's probably the thing I think about the most.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) It was understandable, of course. Not his fault. He was defending himself, defending his buddies. He never meant to kill that young man. Never even saw him. So why does he feel guilty?
Sgt. ODOM: As soon as we entered the city limits we got in the worst fire--I mean, it was terrible.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) Then there's Marine Sergeant Jesse Odom, caught in the fiercest fighting in the battle for Baghdad, and suddenly under fire himself from an insurgent in an alley, very close.
Sgt. ODOM: The guy, you know, he was, as we called it, spraying and praying. He just didn't aim in or nothing like that. And he went back around his little corner. He came back, and I shot him. And I shot him several times, you know, until he stopped moving. I justified it in my head at that time that, you know, I had a legitimate reason to do what I did.
MORRISON: Well, you did. You did the right thing.
Sgt. ODOM: Mm-hmm. Thank you.
MORRISON: You would have been killed if you hadn't.
Sgt. ODOM: I think I would have. Or somebody would have been killed if...
MORRISON: And yet you're giving me kind of the reasons a man gives when he feels sort of bad about something.
Sgt. ODOM: It's complicated. You know, it's complicated because, at one point, you know, you have one extreme where this guy is trying to kill you, you know. And then, as part of that--part of that whole moment is you've done something extreme and you've killed a man. You start to think about things, `Did this guy have a three-year-old daughter back home? Did he have a wife?'
MORRISON: (Voiceover) A daughter? A wife? Just the sort of thing Rich Luttrell worried about for so many years.
Mr. GARRETT REPPENHAGEN: I did my job. You know, I engaged my enemy, and I killed them.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) Garrett Reppenhagen was an accomplished sniper in Iraq, nickname "Warhorse."
Mr. REPPENHAGEN: You're put in a situation where you've got to think consciously what you're doing, calm yourself down, put a man in your sights, and kill him.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) As a sniper, most of Reppenhagen's kills were at a distance. And then he went on patrol and saw his enemy close up.
Mr. REPPENHAGEN: You know, I hit him in the chest, and he fell on his back, and he started arching his back and screaming, and--like clutching his chest like I shot him with an arrow or something and he was trying to pull it out or something. And he's just in agonizing pain, you know, writhing all over ground. You know, it's like, this is--this is what it is to kill someone.
MORRISON: So those are the moments that live with you.
Mr. REPPENHAGEN: Yeah. It's different than--different than shooting targets.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) And then in his head, or his heart, or his soul the trouble began. How could he heal from that?
MORRISON: The act of killing people and--how do you describe it? Is it a psychological toll or a spiritual toll or a moral toll? What's the word you use to describe?
Mr. REPPENHAGEN: It's all of those, you know. It affects you on so many levels. You find God. You lose God. You, you know, wonder if you're ever going to get redeemed. You wonder about where you're going to be in your afterlife.
MORRISON: Three young men desperate to find a way to feel better after doing so well at what we asked them to do. But how? Rich Luttrell went back to Vietnam. What could they do now?
Mr. FRANK: And then there's always that one that goes, `Did you kill anybody?' Now, how do you answer that question?
MORRISON: (Voiceover) Coming up, our struggle and theirs.
Sgt. ODOM: One of my friends had everything going for him, and he hung himself.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) Whether they return from the jungles of Rich Luttrell's Vietnam or the sand-blown towns of Iraq, after having fought and killed in combat many veterans struggle--not with what was done to them, but with what they did to others. West Point military ethics Professor Peter Kilner says police officers get counseling and psychological help after a shooting, so why shouldn't combat veterans?
Lt. Col. KILNER: What breaks my heart is that there's people who are great Americans who volunteer to serve their country, but if we haven't empowered them to be at peace with their consciences then and for the rest of their lives, then we're not doing them justice.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) American combat troops are some of the best trained in the world, due in part to a remarkable discovery by a World War II historian.
Lt. Col. KILNER: (Voiceover) That usually only a quarter of those in battle were actually aiming and intending to kill the enemy. Some people aimed high...
MORRISON: Three-quarters of people at least were not firing their weapons when they saw the enemy in their sights?
Lt. Col. KILNER: They may be firing their weapons, but they weren't firing to hit the enemy.
MORRISON: That's pretty extraordinary.
Lt. Col. KILNER: They weren't cowards.
(Voiceover) They would risk their own lives for their buddies. But he said in general the individual riflemen, most of them chose not to engage and kill the enemy.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) That report, issued shortly after World War II, controversial and disputed even today, sent shock waves through the military. The result was a revolutionary change in training. Soldiers spent less time on the parade ground and more time on mock battlefields firing rounds into pop-up targets.
Lt. Col. KILNER: The research shows that by the time the US Army a generation later was fighting in Vietnam that the firing rates, which had been 20 to 25 percent in World War II, were up closer to 85 to 90 percent.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) It's that superb training that saved lives on the battlefield and transformed US troops into such a dominant military force. But what happens to a highly trained combat soldier who's been discharged and no longer wears the uniform?
Mr. REPPENHAGEN: We learn how to effectively kill people. But nobody tells you how to deal with that and manage it.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) Without that help, could there be another wave just like there was after Vietnam of veterans returning home quietly suffering from post traumatic stress disorder? Or maybe the wave is already here. A report released last month by the Rand Corporation says a minimum of 300,000 returning Iraq and Afghanistan service members, about 20 percent of those deployed, are suffering from PTSD or major depression. And even that might be an underestimate. Why? Listen to Garrett Reppenhagen, who, when he returned from Iraq, filled out a document similar to this one, a post-deployment health assessment form.
Mr. REPPENHAGEN: You're given a 30-day leave when you get out of the war. And we were told if you had any issues you would have to stay after and visit the mental health clinic to resolve these before you got to go back to the United States.
MORRISON: And maybe not get your 30 days.
Mr. REPPENHAGEN: So a lot of the guys were like nope, no problems. No problems here.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) The Army says it's discovered that problem, too. So now is scheduling follow-up evaluations six months after soldiers come home. They've also deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan more than 200 stress control teams to offer soldiers counseling in the field. And, searching for signs of trouble, the military asks returning soldiers questions like this: Were you in danger of being killed?
Lt. Col. KILNER: Coming back from Iraq a few months ago, I was asked those questions. I still wasn't asked, did I kill someone.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) Even though, says Kilner, unresolved guilt over killing may be one of the significant causes of the more extreme forms of post traumatic stress disorder. But whatever the cause--and there can be lots of those--it's a diagnosis, a label, which many soldiers try very hard to avoid. The Rand Corporation study found that only half of service members who have symptoms of PTSD admitted to the military, and fewer than half of them receive anything like adequate treatment.
MORRISON: Do you suffer from PTSD?
Mr. FRANK: To say somebody has PTSD is to say they have a problem. There's nothing wrong with me. There's nothing wrong with me. There's nothing wrong with any of these guys. They're fine. They're good people. You know? They're not sick. They got--they went to a screwed-up situation, and now they're coming back.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) But while Matt Frank and the others tell us they do not have PTSD, they all say they have friends who do.
Mr. REPPENHAGEN: Right now a lot of my buddies are just popping pills. Then they go out drinking, you know, to try to suppress it even more. And you know, it's just an awful mess.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) They are decent people, these three, engaging, extremely bright, deeply moral. Which is, says Jesse Odom, part of the problem, as he discovered when it hit too close to home.
Sgt. ODOM: One of my friends was a great leader. Apparently, he suffered from, you know, what we did over there.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) Chip Wicks, a Marine Corps Sergeant, as indestructible as they come. And then Odom came home from Iraq and saw a news story about his friend Chip.
Sgt. ODOM: And I read in the article that he had had PTSD. And I couldn't imagine that guy, being such a strong person, athletic, good-looking guy, you know, smart, had everything going for him. And he hung himself.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) There was no note, no explanation. Wicks' father told us his son was a sensitive man and was not the same after Iraq. But there are ways, says Lieutenant Colonel Peter Kilner, for even a tortured soul to heal.
Lt. Col. KILNER: If you look at people with PTSD, those who get better, a lot of times spirituality is a big part of it.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) Perhaps, he says, we should borrow a tradition of more ancient civilizations, one used by the Roman Army and later by the Catholic Church: a cleansing ritual, a proper recognition of what we've asked them to do.
Lt. Col. KILNER: So I actually know of some Army chaplains, when they come back, they're going to offer their soldiers a chance to go through a purification ritual, something that recognizes those feelings, that guilt that happens just whenever you have a hand in the death of another person.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) It's what Rich Luttrell was trying to accomplish himself back there in Vietnam: purification, absolution. Some kind of peace for people raised on the commandment "thou shalt not kill." After leaving the Army, former sniper Garrett Reppenhagen has been searching for solid ground. He says he still loves the military, yet found himself working for Iraq Veterans Against the War for a while, even testified before a congressional subcommittee about veterans' health care.
Mr. REPPENHAGEN: (Congressional Subcommittee hearing) I was a sniper and I served in Iraq.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) He's back now, living with his mom outside Colorado Springs, going to college.
Mr. REPPENHAGEN: All right, thanks.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) Though he says that his classmates have little stomach for his war stories.
Mr. REPPENHAGEN: People ask you, but they don't really want to know the answers. People want to--people want to eat their hamburger, but they don't want to know how the cow's butchered.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) Since coming home, Jesse Odom got married, went to college, is building a house. He describes himself as jumpy, cautious, on guard. He keeps a pistol in his car, he says, a shotgun under his bed. He has trouble sleeping.
Sgt. ODOM: I lock myself in a room with a six pack of beer and I'll write, you know, until three or four in the morning.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) That's been Jesse Odom's purification ritual, his way to heal since leaving the Marine Corps.
Sgt. ODOM: That's how I deal with it.
MORRISON: You need that?
Sgt. ODOM: That's my vent.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) Hundreds of pages worth. So much that a book has emerged about his unit's time in Iraq, to be published this very weekend, called "Through Our Eyes." For Matt Frank, it isn't necessarily over. He's in the reserves. He could be sent back. And Jill remembers the last time and imagines saying goodbye again.
Ms. STACY: It was very difficult. Yeah. It was hard.
MORRISON: You remember that moment, saying goodbye?
Ms. STACY: I'm sorry.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) For now he's in college, where his fellow students stress out over finals and he struggles with lessons from Iraq.
Mr. FRANK: I can learn from it, but I can't change it. The only thing I can do now is not kill anybody else.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) Rich Luttrell, for all his trying, the trip to Vietnam, the meeting with that woman, the girl from the picture, there is one thing he has still every day: the picture in his mind of the lives he had to end.
Mr. LUTTRELL: I would hate for anybody to have to live through the emotional pain that I've gone through. It's just incredible. I mean, it just like--you know, it just sticks in your gut.
MORRISON: (Voiceover) The legacy of what he and they did for us.
This article, by Nick Turse, was originally published in The Asia Times, June 26, 2008
The top Pentagon contractors, like death and taxes, almost never change. In 2002, the massive arms dealers Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman ranked one, two and three among Department of Defense (DoD) contractors, taking in US$17 billion, $16.6 billion and $8.7 billion.
Lockheed, Boeing and Northrop Grumman did it again in 2003 ($21.9 billion, $17.3 billion and $11.1 billion); 2004 ($20.7 billion, $17.1 billion and $11.9 billion); 2005 ($19.4 billion, $18.3 billion and $13.5 billion); 2006 ($26.6 billion, $20.3 billion and $16.6 billion); and, not surprisingly, 2007 as well ($27.8 billion $22.5 billion and $14.6 billion).
Other regulars receiving mega-tax-funded payouts in a similarly clockwork-like manner include defense giants General Dynamics, Raytheon, the British weapons maker BAE Systems and former Halliburton subsidiary KBR, as well as BP, Shell and other power players from the military-petroleum complex.
With the basic Pentagon budget now clocking in at roughly $541 billion per year - before "supplemental" war funding for Iraq, Afghanistan and President George W Bush's "war on terror", as well as national security spending by other agencies, are factored in - even Lockheed's hefty $28 billion take is a small percentage of the massive total. Obviously, significant sums of money are headed to other companies. However, most of them, including some of the largest, are all but unknown even to Pentagon-watchers and antiwar critics with a good grasp of the military industrial complex.
Last year, in a piece headlined "Washington's $8 billion shadow", Vanity Fair published an expose of one of the better-known large stealth contractors, SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation). SAIC, however, is just one of tens of thousands of Pentagon contractors. Many of these firms receive only tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Pentagon every year. Some take home millions, tens of millions or even hundreds of millions of dollars.
Then there's a select group that are masters of the universe in the ever-expanding military-corporate complex, regularly scoring more than a billion tax dollars a year from the DoD. Unlike Lockheed, Boeing and Northrop Grumman, however, most of these billion-dollar babies manage to fly beneath the radar of media (not to mention public) attention. If appearing at all, they generally do so innocuously in the business pages of newspapers. When it comes to their support for the Pentagon's wars and occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq, they are, in media terms, missing in action.
So, who are some of these mystery defense contractors you've probably never heard of? Here are snapshot portraits, culled largely from their own corporate documents, of five of the Pentagon's secret billion-dollar babies:
1. MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings Inc.
Its total DoD dollars in 2007 were $3,360,739,032. This is billionaire investor Ronald Perelman's massive holding company. It has "interests in a diversified portfolio of public and private companies" that includes the cosmetics maker Revlon and Panavision (the folks who make the cameras that bring you TV shows like 24 and CSI).
MacAndrews & Forbes might, at first blush, seem an unlikely defense contractor, but one of those privately owned companies it holds is AM General - the folks who make the military Humvee. Today, says the company, nearly 200,000 Humvees have been "built and delivered to the US armed forces and more than 50 friendly overseas nations". Humvees, however, are only part of the story.
AM General has also assisted Carnegie Mellon University researchers in developing robots for the Pentagon blue-skies outfit, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's "Grand Challenge", an autonomous robot-vehicle competition. Last year, AM General and General Dynamics Land Systems, a subsidiary of mega-weapons maker General Dynamics, formed a joint venture "to compete for the US Army and Marine Corps Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) program". AM General has even gone to war - dispatching its "field service representatives" and "maintenance technical representatives" to Iraq where they were embedded with US troops.
As such, it's hardly surprising that, this year, the company received one of the Defense Logistics Agency's Outstanding Readiness Support Awards. Nor should anyone be surprised to discover that a top MacAndrews & Forbes corporate honcho, executive vice chairman and chief administrative officer Barry F Schwartz, contributed a total of at least $10,000 to Straight Talk America, the political action committee of Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who famously said it would be "fine" with him if US troops occupied Iraq for "maybe a hundred years" (if not "a thousand" or "a million").
Perhaps hedging their bets just a bit, MacAndrews & Forbes is diversifying into an emerging complex-within-the-complex: homeland security. Recently, AM General sold the Department of Homeland Security's Border Patrol "more than 100 HUMMER K-series trucks for use in border security operations".
2. DRS Technologies, Inc.
Its total DoD dollars in 2007 were $1,791,321,140. Incorporated during the Vietnam War, DRS Technologies has long been "a leading supplier of integrated products, services and support to military forces, intelligence agencies and prime contractors worldwide"; that is, they have been in the business of fielding products that enhance some of the DoD's deadliest weaponry, including "DDG-51 Aegis destroyers, M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks, M2A3 Bradley fighting vehicles, OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters, AH-64 Apache helicopters, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and F-16 Fighting Falcon jet fighters, F-15 Eagle tactical fighters ... [and] Ohio, Los Angeles and Virginia class submarines."
They even have "contracts that support future military platforms, such as the DDG-1000 destroyer, CVN-78 next-generation aircraft carrier, Littoral combat ship and Future Combat System".
In addition to 2007's haul of Pentagon dollars, DRS Technologies has continued to clean up in 2008 for a range of projects, including: a $16.2 million army contract for refrigeration units; $51 million in new orders from the army for thermal weapon sights (part of a five-year, $2.3-billion deal inked in 2007); a $10.1 million contract to build more than 140 M989A1 heavy expanded mobility ammunition trailers (to transport "numerous and extremely heavy multiple launch rocket system pods, palletized or non-palletized conventional ammunition and fuel bladders"); and a $23 million deal "to provide engineering support, field service support and general depot repairs for the mast mounted sights (MMS) on OH-58 Kiowa Warrior attack helicopters," among many other contracts.
Fitch Ratings, an international credit rating agency, recently made a smart, if perhaps understated, point - one that actually fits all of these billion-dollar babies. DRS, it wrote, "has benefited from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan ..."
3. Harris Corporation
Its total DoD dollars in 2007 were $1,501,163,834. Harris is "an international communications and information technology company serving government, defense and commercial markets in more than 150 countries".
It has an annual revenue of more than $4 billion and an impressive roster of former military personnel and other military-corporate complex insiders on its payroll. Not only does Harris assist and do business with a number of the Pentagon's largest contractors (like Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems), it is also an active participant in occupations abroad.
On its website, the company boasts, "Harris technology has been used for a variety of commercial and defense applications, including the war in Iraq where the [Harris software] system provided detailed, 3-D representations of Baghdad and other key Iraqi cities."
Last year, Harris signed multiple deals with the military, including contracts to create a high-speed digital data link that transmits tactical video, radar, acoustic and other sensor data from US
Navy MH-60R helicopters to their host ships. It also supplies the navy with advanced computers that provide the "highly sophisticated moving maps and critical mission information via cockpit displays" used by flight crews.
In the first six months of this year, Harris has continued its hard work for the complex. In January, the company was "selected by the US Air Force for the Network and Space Operations and Maintenance (NSOM) program" for "a base contract and six options that bring the potential overall value to $410 million over six-and-a-half-years" to provide "operations and maintenance support to the 50th Space Wing's Air Force Satellite Control Network at locations around the world."
In May, the company was "awarded a three-year, $20 million contract by [top 10 Pentagon contractor] L3 Communications to provide products and services for a next-generation Tactical Video Capture System (TVCS)" - a system that integrates real-time video streams to enhance tactical training exercises - "that will support training at various US Marine Corps locations across the US and abroad".
That same month, Harris was also "awarded a potential five-year, $85 million Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract from the US Navy for multiband satellite communications terminals that will provide advanced communications for aircraft carriers and other large deck ships".
In addition, Harris is now hard at work in the homeland. Not only did the company pick up more than $3 million from the Department of Homeland Security last year, but national security expert Tim Shorrock, in a 2007 CorpWatch article, "Domestic spying, Inc", specifically noted that Harris and fellow intelligence industry contractors "stand to profit from th[e] unprecedented expansion of America's domestic intelligence system".
4. Navistar Defense
Its total DoD dollars in 2007 were $1,166,805,361. Still listed in Pentagon documents under its old name, International Military and Government, LLC, Navistar is the military subsidiary of Navistar International Corporation - "a holding company whose individual units provide integrated and best-in-class transportation solutions".
While the company has served the US military since World War I, it's known, if at all, by the public for making some of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles designed to thwart Iraqi roadside bombs. As of April 2008, the US military had "ordered 5,214 total production MaxxPro MRAP vehicles" from Navistar and, that same month, the company was awarded "a contract valued at more than $261 million ... for engineering upgrades to the armor used on International MaxxPro MRAP vehicles".
But Navistar makes more than MRAPs. Just last month, the company signed a "multi-year contract valued at nearly $1.3 billion" with the US Army "to provide medium tactical vehicles and spare parts to the Afghanistan National Police, Afghan National Army and the Iraqi Ministry of Defense". This followed a 2005 multi-year army contract, worth $430 million, "for more than 2,900 vehicles and spare parts".
Obviously, the company is significantly, profitably, and proudly involved in the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. As Tom Feifar, the Global Defense and Export general manager for Navistar Parts, put it late last year, "It's an honor to be a part of the effort to support our troops."
5. Evergreen International Airlines
Its total DoD dollars in 2007 were $1,105,610,723. A privately held global aviation services company, it has subsidiaries in related industries such as helicopter aviation (Evergreen Helicopters, Inc), as well as a few unrelated efforts like producing "agricultural, nursery and wine products" (Evergreen Agricultural Enterprises, Inc).
Evergreen has been on the Pentagon's payroll for a long time. In 2004, Ed Connolly, the executive vice president of Evergreen International Airlines, stated, "Evergreen has flown continuously for the [US Air Force] Air Mobility Command since 1975 and is proud to continue its long-standing history of supporting the US armed forces global missions with quality and reliable services."
Not surprisingly, Evergreen has been intimately involved in the occupation of Iraq. In fact, in 2004, the company received "approximately 200 awards for its support of international airlift services during the Iraq war" from the air force's Air Mobility Command. An air force general even handed out these medals and certificates of achievement to Evergreen's employees.
In Amnesty International's 2006 report, "Below the Radar: Secret Flights to Torture and 'Disappearance'," the human-rights organization noted that Evergreen was one of only a handful of private companies with current permits to land at US military bases worldwide.
That same year, the company even airlifted FOX News personality Bill O'Reilly and his TV show crew to Kuwait and Iraq to meet and greet troops, sign books and pictures and hand out trinkets. And just last year the company was part of a consortium, including such high-profile commercial carriers as American, Delta and United Airlines that the Pentagon awarded a "$1,031,154,403 firm fixed-price contract for international airlift services ... [that] is expected to be completed September 2008".
Under the radar
All told, these five stealth corporations from the military-corporate complex received more than $8.9 billion in taxpayer dollars in 2007. To put this into perspective, that sum is almost $2 billion more than the Bush administration's proposed 2009 budget for the Environmental Protection Agency. Put another way, it's about nine times what one-sixth of the world's population spent on food last year.
Tens of thousands of defense contractors - from well-known "civilian" corporations (like Coca-Cola, Kraft and Dell) to tiny companies - have fattened up on the Pentagon and its wars. Most of the time, large or small, they fly under the radar and are seldom identified as defense contractors at all. So it's hardly surprising that firms like Harris and Evergreen, without name recognition outside their own worlds, can take in billions in taxpayer dollars without notice or comment in our increasingly militarized civilian economy.
When the history of the Iraq war is finally written, chances are that these five billion-dollar babies, and most of the other defense contractors involved in making the US occupation possible, will be left out. Until we begin coming to grips with the role of such corporations in creating the material basis for an imperial foreign policy, we'll never be able to grasp fully how the Pentagon works and why the US so regularly makes war in, and carries out occupations of, distant lands.
WASHINGTON — The Army is accustomed to protecting classified information. But when it comes to the planning for the Iraq war, even an unclassified assessment can acquire the status of a state secret.
That is what happened to a detailed study of the planning for postwar Iraq prepared for the Army by the RAND Corporation, a federally financed center that conducts research for the military.
After 18 months of research, RAND submitted a report in the summer of 2005 called “Rebuilding Iraq.” RAND researchers provided an unclassified version of the report along with a secret one, hoping that its publication would contribute to the public debate on how to prepare for future conflicts.
But the study’s wide-ranging critique of the White House, the Defense Department and other government agencies was a concern for Army generals, and the Army has sought to keep the report under lock and key.
A review of the lengthy report — a draft of which was obtained by The New York Times — shows that it identified problems with nearly every organization that had a role in planning the war. That assessment parallels the verdicts of numerous former officials and independent analysts.
The study chided President Bush — and by implication Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who served as national security adviser when the war was planned — as having failed to resolve differences among rival agencies. “Throughout the planning process, tensions between the Defense Department and the State Department were never mediated by the president or his staff,” it said.
The Defense Department led by Donald H. Rumsfeld was given the lead in overseeing the postwar period in Iraq despite its “lack of capacity for civilian reconstruction planning and execution.”
The State Department led by Colin L. Powell produced a voluminous study on the future of Iraq that identified important issues but was of “uneven quality” and “did not constitute an actionable plan.”
Gen. Tommy R. Franks, whose Central Command oversaw the military operation in Iraq, had a “fundamental misunderstanding” of what the military needed to do to secure postwar Iraq, the study said.
The regulations that govern the Army’s relations with the Arroyo Center, the division of RAND that does research for the Army, stipulate that Army officials are to review reports in a timely fashion to ensure that classified information is not released. But the rules also note that the officials are not to “censor” analysis or prevent the dissemination of material critical of the Army.
The report on rebuilding Iraq was part of a seven-volume series by RAND on the lessons learned from the war. Asked why the report has not been published, Timothy Muchmore, a civilian Army official, said it had ventured too far from issues that directly involve the Army.
“After carefully reviewing the findings and recommendations of the thorough RAND assessment, the Army determined that the analysts had in some cases taken a broader perspective on the early planning and operational phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom than desired or chartered by the Army,” Mr. Muchmore said in a statement. “Some of the RAND findings and recommendations were determined to be outside the purview of the Army and therefore of limited value in informing Army policies, programs and priorities.”
Warren Robak, a RAND spokesman, declined to talk about the contents of the study but said the organization favored publication as a matter of general policy.
“RAND always endeavors to publish as much of our research as possible, in either unclassified form or in classified form for those with the proper security clearances,” Mr. Robak said in a statement. "The multivolume series on lessons learned from Operation Iraqi Freedom is no exception. We also, however, have a longstanding practice of not discussing work that has not yet been published."
When RAND researchers began their work, nobody expected it to become a bone of contention with the Army. The idea was to review the lessons learned from the war, as RAND had done with previous conflicts.
The research was formally sponsored by Lt. Gen. James Lovelace, who was then the chief operations officer for the Army and now oversees Army forces in the Middle East, and Lt. Gen. David Melcher, who had responsibility for the Army’s development and works now on budget issues.
A team of RAND researchers led by Nora Bensahel interviewed more than 50 civilian and military officials. As it became clear that decisions made by civilian officials had contributed to the Army’s difficulties in Iraq, researchers delved into those policies as well.
The report was submitted at a time when the Bush administration was trying to rebut building criticism of the war in Iraq by stressing the progress Mr. Bush said was being made. The approach culminated in his announcement in November 2005 of his “National Strategy for Victory in Iraq.”
One serious problem the study described was the Bush administration’s assumption that the reconstruction requirements would be minimal. There was also little incentive to challenge that assumption, the report said.
“Building public support for any pre-emptive or preventative war is inherently challenging, since by definition, action is being taken before the threat has fully manifested itself,” it said. “Any serious discussion of the costs and challenges of reconstruction might undermine efforts to build that support.”
Another problem described was a general lack of coordination. “There was never an attempt to develop a single national plan that integrated humanitarian assistance, reconstruction, governance, infrastructure development and postwar security,” the study said.
One result was that “the U.S. government did not provide strategic policy guidance for postwar Iraq until shortly before major combat operations commenced.” The study said that problem was compounded by General Franks, saying he took a narrow view of the military’s responsibilities after Saddam Hussein was ousted and assumed that American civilian agencies would do much to rebuild the country.
General Franks’s command, the study asserted, also assumed that Iraq’s police and civil bureaucracy would stay on the job and had no fallback option in case that expectation proved wrong. When Baghdad fell, the study said, American forces there “were largely mechanized or armored forces, well suited to waging major battles but not to restoring civil order. That task would have been better carried out, ideally, by military police or, acceptably, by light infantry trained in urban combat.”
A “shortfall” in American troops was exacerbated when General Franks and Mr. Rumsfeld decided to stop the deployment of the Army’s First Cavalry Division when other American forces entered Baghdad, the study said, a move that reflected their assessment that the war had been won. Problems persisted during the occupation. In the months that followed, the report said, there were “significant tensions, most commonly between the civilian and military arms of the occupation.”
The poor planning had “the inadvertent effort of strengthening the insurgency,” as Iraqis experienced a lack of security and essential services and focused on “negative effects of the U.S. security presence.” The American military’s inability to seal Iraq’s borders, a task the 2005 report warned was still not a priority, enabled foreign support for the insurgents to flow into Iraq.
In its recommendations, the study advocated an “inverted planning process” in which military planners would begin by deciding what resources were needed to maintain security after an adversary was defeated on the battlefield instead of treating the postwar phase as virtually an afterthought. More broadly, it suggested that there was a need to change the military’s mind-set, which has long treated preparations to fight a major war as the top priority. The Army has recently moved to address this by drafting a new operations manual which casts the mission of stabilizing war-torn nations as equal in importance to winning a conventional war.
As the RAND study went through drafts, a chapter was written to emphasize the implications for the Army. An unclassified version was produced with numerous references to newspaper articles and books, an approach that was intended to facilitate publication.
Senior Army officials were not happy with the results, and questioned whether all of the information in the study was truly unclassified and its use of newspaper reports. RAND researchers sent a rebuttal. That failed to persuade the Army to allow publication of the unclassified report, and the classified version was not widely disseminated throughout the Pentagon.
Neither General Lovelace nor General Melcher agreed to be interviewed for this article, but General Lovelace provided a statement through a spokesman at his headquarters in Kuwait.
“The RAND study simply did not deliver a product that could have assisted the Army in paving a clear way ahead; it lacked the perspective needed for future planning by the U.S. Army,” he said.
A Pentagon official who is familiar with the episode offered a different interpretation: Army officials were concerned that the report would strain relations with a powerful defense secretary and become caught up in the political debate over the war. “The Army leaders who were involved did not want to take the chance of increasing the friction with Secretary Rumsfeld,” said the official, who asked not to be identified because he did not want to alienate senior military officials.
The Army has asked that the entire RAND series be resubmitted and has said it will decide on its status thereafter.
This article, by Nick Suhr, was originally published in the Vets Voice blog, February 13, 2008
Today, the New York Times reported on the buried RAND Report that faulted pre-Iraq War planning. This disgusts me beyond words for so many reasons, but I want to respond to some passages of the Times article.
WASHINGTON - The Army is accustomed to protecting classified information. But when it comes to the planning for the Iraq war, even an unclassified assessment can acquire the status of a state secret.
That is what happened to a detailed study of the planning for postwar Iraq prepared for the Army by the RAND Corporation, a federally financed center that conducts research for the military.
After 18 months of research, RAND submitted a report in the summer of 2005 called "Rebuilding Iraq." RAND researchers provided an unclassified version of the report along with a secret one, hoping that its publication would contribute to the public debate on how to prepare for future conflicts.
To me, the key point of this passage is the last sentence. As a cadet in college and as a junior officer in the military, after action reviews were drummed into my head. We must conduct reviews of our convoys, our training exercises, everything, so that we can learn how to do it better and improve on it the next time we did it.
For example, before I left active duty I was stationed in Hawaii with a field artillery unit. To do any sort of major live fire training, we had to ship our equipment from Oahu to the Big Island. This is a time intensive process that takes at least a week, but we did it three times in 18 months, and every single time we got better and more efficient at it. Why? Because we used the lessons from each successive shipment to improve the next time and ensure we wasted less time and got things done quicker.
My question here is this: How in the %#$* are we supposed to improve on the disastrous post-invasion planning in Iraq when the government-funded study is buried somewhere? So, we can just flop around and get more of our soldiers killed whenever we decide to invade Iran or Pakistan or wherever the neoconservative wingnuts would have us invade next.
The terrible thing here is that the decision to bury this report was made by people with stars on their shoulders along with civilians who don't know crap all about the military, and they don't like making themselves or the military look bad. But when they blatantly ignore and bury this report, they cost our soldiers lives, because then no one can use that information to improve in the future. Why does the Pentagaon hate our troops?
But the study's wide-ranging critique of the White House, the Defense Department and other government agencies was a concern for Army generals, and the Army has sought to keep the report under lock and key.
A review of the lengthy report - a draft of which was obtained by The New York Times - shows that it identified problems with nearly every organization that had a role in planning the war. That assessment parallels the verdicts of numerous former officials and independent analysts.
This just proves my previous point. No one likes a review of this performance that makes them look bad, but for all that is holy in this world, how the hell are we supposed to learn from our mistakes if we hide the report that tells us how to fix them? I hate this, because it led to teh death of one of my closest friends, one who was driving around in Fallujah in an unarmored Humvee 8 MONTHS AFTER THE INVASION!!!! because the idiots in the Pentagon had no idea an insurgency would spring up and didn't plan accordingly. Or the fact that my entire artillery unit drove 600 miles in Iraq from Kuwait to Kirkuk with exactly four truck with armored doors. That's four trucks out of over 100!!! That's some smoooth planning right there.
The study chided President Bush - and by implication Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who served as national security adviser when the war was planned - as having failed to resolve differences among rival agencies. "Throughout the planning process, tensions between the Defense Department and the State Department were never mediated by the president or his staff," it said.
The Defense Department led by Donald H. Rumsfeld was given the lead in overseeing the postwar period in Iraq despite its "lack of capacity for civilian reconstruction planning and execution."
The State Department led by Colin L. Powell produced a voluminous study on the future of Iraq that identified important issues but was of "uneven quality" and "did not constitute an actionable plan."
Gen. Tommy R. Franks, whose Central Command oversaw the military operation in Iraq, had a "fundamental misunderstanding" of what the military needed to do to secure postwar Iraq, the study said.
Where do I even start here? If you want to understand how completely fouled up this really is read Bob Woodword's books: Plan of Attack and State of Denial. They really reveal the complete incompetence of Don Rumsfeld, Condi Rice, and Tommy Franks.
I don't even need to mention what a complete hack of a person Don Rumsfeld was as SECDEF. We all the know that numerous tales of incompetence and complete buffoonery that emanated from his office in the Pentagon.
I will say this know, and let it echo clear, Condi Rice is the most incompetent figure in an adminstration full of incompetence. She was an embarassment as the NSA--she had no spine and was terrified of disagreeing with Cheney on anything, read the Woodward books to understand fully her level of incompetence. And this is the women some on the right are positing as a potential VP candidate. What a sorry state of affairs.
Tommy Franks, the man who made the plan and walked away with a Medal of Freedom after he retired. But, sir, you tried to do less with more to appease the politcians and it has cost us dearly. Sometimes, you have to say to your leaders, "I need more to get this done." You know like, Dave Petraeus does, who gets his wish granted when Eric Shinseki was drummed out of the military for saying we needed more troops. The only problem now is that it is destroying our military do this.
The regulations that govern the Army's relations with the Arroyo Center, the division of RAND that does research for the Army, stipulate that Army officials are to review reports in a timely fashion to ensure that classified information is not released. But the rules also note that the officials are not to "censor" analysis or prevent the dissemination of material critical of the Army.
The report on rebuilding Iraq was part of a seven-volume series by RAND on the lessons learned from the war. Asked why the report has not been published, Timothy Muchmore, a civilian Army official, said it had ventured too far from issues that directly involve the Army.
"After carefully reviewing the findings and recommendations of the thorough RAND assessment, the Army determined that the analysts had in some cases taken a broader perspective on the early planning and operational phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom than desired or chartered by the Army," Mr. Muchmore said in a statement. "Some of the RAND findings and recommendations were determined to be outside the purview of the Army and therefore of limited value in informing Army policies, programs and priorities."
What a surprise a civilian is sent out to explain why the report was buried, with some flimsy excuse about it being too broad a study. What a complete joke! This is disgusting, because, even if it the truth, shouldn't we have a working group with all the interested parties: State, NSA, CIA, Army, USMC, etc. to discuss who to improve this debacle? Who cares if it's "outside the purview" of the Army. As a junior leader, I would want my leadership to take every step to prevent this from happening ever again!!! But instead it is ignored and hidden and more young men and women will die while idiots like Timothy Muchmore ignore information that can help us now and in the future. What makes it all the more disheartening is that Mr. Muchmore is a retired armor officer. Shame on you Mr. Muchmore, I guess you forgot your duty to your soldiers and junior officers: TAKE CARE OF THEM!!!
Let me skip ahead to the recommendations:
Another problem described was a general lack of coordination. "There was never an attempt to develop a single national plan that integrated humanitarian assistance, reconstruction, governance, infrastructure development and postwar security," the study said.
One result was that "the U.S. government did not provide strategic policy guidance for postwar Iraq until shortly before major combat operations commenced." The study said that problem was compounded by General Franks, saying he took a narrow view of the military's responsibilities after Saddam Hussein was ousted and assumed that American civilian agencies would do much to rebuild the country.
General Franks's command, the study asserted, also assumed that Iraq's police and civil bureaucracy would stay on the job and had no fallback option in case that expectation proved wrong. When Baghdad fell, the study said, American forces there "were largely mechanized or armored forces, well suited to waging major battles but not to restoring civil order. That task would have been better carried out, ideally, by military police or, acceptably, by light infantry trained in urban combat."
A "shortfall" in American troops was exacerbated when General Franks and Mr. Rumsfeld decided to stop the deployment of the Army's First Cavalry Division when other American forces entered Baghdad, the study said, a move that reflected their assessment that the war had been won. Problems persisted during the occupation. In the months that followed, the report said, there were "significant tensions, most commonly between the civilian and military arms of the occupation."
The poor planning had "the inadvertent effort of strengthening the insurgency," as Iraqis experienced a lack of security and essential services and focused on "negative effects of the U.S. security presence." The American military's inability to seal Iraq's borders, a task the 2005 report warned was still not a priority, enabled foreign support for the insurgents to flow into Iraq.
In its recommendations, the study advocated an "inverted planning process" in which military planners would begin by deciding what resources were needed to maintain security after an adversary was defeated on the battlefield instead of treating the postwar phase as virtually an afterthought. More broadly, it suggested that there was a need to change the military's mind-set, which has long treated preparations to fight a major war as the top priority. The Army has recently moved to address this by drafting a new operations manual which casts the mission of stabilizing war-torn nations as equal in importance to winning a conventional war.
It seems to me like all of these recommendations are things that are of critical importance to the Army, such as:
"Don't invade a country without a joint plan on how to care for its people, provide humanitarian assistance, and security"
"Don't invade without enough troops"
"Don't cancel the deployment of obviously needed troops"
"Don't try to occupy major urban areas with armored and mechanized forces who can't respond to emergencies"
"Don't bring so few troops that you can't provide security, leading to a burgeoning insurgency"
"Don't invade a country if you can't protect its borders and prevent foreign support to flow into said insurgency"
"Do have a manual to fight counter-insurgency operations that provide ACTUAL GUIDANCE on how to fight an insurgency"
It seems to me like there were plenty of Army-specific recommendations in this report. Imagine that they even created a new counter-insurgency manual to address the problems created by fighting an insurgency. Yep, it sure sounds to me like there was nothing in that report that could have been of use to the Army. What a ridiculous and cowardly response.
Neither General Lovelace nor General Melcher agreed to be interviewed for this article, but General Lovelace provided a statement through a spokesman at his headquarters in Kuwait.
"The RAND study simply did not deliver a product that could have assisted the Army in paving a clear way ahead; it lacked the perspective needed for future planning by the U.S. Army," he said.
A Pentagon official who is familiar with the episode offered a different interpretation: Army officials were concerned that the report would strain relations with a powerful defense secretary and become caught up in the political debate over the war. "The Army leaders who were involved did not want to take the chance of increasing the friction with Secretary Rumsfeld," said the official, who asked not to be identified because he did not want to alienate senior military officials.
Generals Lovelace and Melcher are the senior leaders who commissioned, then ignored this report. Sounds like high incompetence to me, except that both have since been promoted since igonring this report, Lovelace moving from Pentagon planner to the man in charge of Army forces in Iraq and Melcher to become in charge of Pentagon budgeting.
What a tortured response by Lovelace's lackey. General Lovelace shold be ashamed of himself, trying to justify this complete abrogation of his duties as an Army general. This report was chock full of ideas, as we can see even from a summary in a newspaper article. That he allowed it to be buried signals his lack of competence.
Oh, this last paragraph is the best of all. They hid the report because they didn't want to piss off Rumsfeld. Good God, stand up for principle you star-wearing losers. Presumably, some of you had to exhibit some form of leadership to get to where you were. Don't be afraid of Donald Rumsfeld. You're not there to make him look good, you're there to protect the Army from overbearing, arrogant a-holes who will send them to war completely unprepared and without enough protection and will then make callous excuses like "You go to war with the Army you have, not the one you want to have" or some tripe close to that.
And that is why I am the most pissed off. The generals in the Pentagon were too spineless to stand up to Donald Rumsfeld. All they wanted to do was protect their stars and their careers and it's cost us the lives of nearly 4000 brave men and women so far. And that is why, despite how proud I am of my service, I am completely embarassed by my "superiors" who are supposed to look out for me, not their careers. What a silly idea.
And the best quote of all:
The Army has asked that the entire RAND series be resubmitted and has said it will decide on its status thereafter.
How do I even respond to this? YOU ALREADY HAVE THE REPORT. Why do they have to send you another one. It's presumably in some filing cabinet. And I'm sure RAND could have 50 copies on every relvant desk by tomorrow if you wanted it. The sheer idiocy of this request boggles the mind and is obviously a delaying tactic to once again avoid the issue.
The Pentagon is a complete disaster area and it shows. Too bad we can't have some real leadership in there, leadership interested in learning from past mistakes and improving on them, so that MORE SOLDIERS don't die in the future.
Is that too much to ask for?