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!
Disclaimer: In accordance with title 17 u.s.c. section 107, this material is distributed without profit for research and educational purposes.
The Sir! No Sir! Blog has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is the Sir! No Sir! Blog endorsed or sponsored by the originator. Links are provided to allow for verification of authenticity.
This article, by Pauline Jelinek, was poublished by the Sacramento Bee, November 13, 2009
Morale has fallen among soldiers in Afghanistan, where troops are seeing record violence in the 8-year-old war, while those in Iraq show much improved mental health amid much lower violence, the Army said Friday.
Soldier suicides in Iraq did not increase for the first time since 2004, according to a new study.
Though findings of two new battlefield surveys are similar in several ways to the last ones taken in 2007, they come at a time of intense scrutiny on Afghanistan as President Barack Obama struggles to come up with a new war strategy and planned troop buildup. There is also perhaps equal new attention focused on the mental health of the force since a shooting rampage at Fort Hood last week in which an Army psychiatrist is charged.
Both surveys showed that soldiers on their third or fourth tours of duty had lower morale and more mental health problems than those with fewer deployments and an ever-increasing number of troops are having problems with their marriages.
The new survey on Afghanistan found instances of depression, anxiety and other psychological problems are about the same as they were in 2007. But it also said there is a shortage of mental health workers to help soldiers who need it, partly because of the buildup Obama already started this year with the dispatch of more than 20,000 extra troops.
Efforts already under way to get more health workers to the Afghan war could be hampered somewhat by last week's shooting. The psychiatrist charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder was slated to go to Afghanistan. Some of the dead and wounded also were to deploy there to bolster psychological services for soldiers.
The new Afghanistan survey found that individual soldier morale was about the same as previous studies, but that "unit morale rates ... were significantly lower than in 2005 or 2007," said an executive summary of the report that was to be explained in a news conference Friday. The units referred to were mostly platoons of roughly a couple dozen people each.
In Iraq, some 2,400 soldiers in randomly selected platoons filled out surveys from December 2008 through March 2009 and a mental health assessment team went to the warfront for a month starting in late February to analyze the results and hold interviews and focus groups.In Afghanistan, more than 1,500 troops in more than 50 platoons filled out the surveys from April to June, and the assessment team when through the same process from May through June.
Mental health providers also were interviewed in each country.
It's the sixth such survey, a program that was groundbreaking when started in 2003 in that it was the biggest effort ever made to measure the health of troops - and the services they receive - right at the warfront.
The survey was different from previous ones in that it sampled two types of platoons. Some were maneuver units that warfighting groups engaged in combat-related tasks and others were support units such as aviation, engineering and medical elements less likely to have as much direct exposure to violence.
Other findings of the Afghanistan survey included:
Junior enlisted soldiers reported significantly more marital problems than noncommissioned officers, stating they intended to get a divorce or that they suspected their spouses back home of infidelity.
Exposure to combat, long recognized as a strong factor in mental health problems, was significantly higher this year than rates in 2005 and similar to rates in 2007 for the combat units.
Combat units reported significantly lower unit morale in the last six months of their tours of duty, more evidence of the wearing affect of long deployments.
Troops in their third or fourth deployment reported significantly more acute stress and other psychological problems, and among those married, reported significantly more marital problems compared to soldiers on their first or second deployment.
Soldiers on their third or fourth deployment reported using medications for psychological or combat stress problems at a significantly higher rate than those on their first deployment.
It was significantly harder to get behavioral health care this year than in 2005, a finding that may be owing to the fact that troops are spread out at hundreds of posts around the rugged terrain of Afghanistan.
Troops who spent two to four hours daily playing video games or surfing the Internet as a way to cope helped lower their psychological problems, but spending time beyond that - three to four hours - had the opposite effect. Those who exercised or did other physical training decreased their mental problems, regardless of the time spent.
Troops reported more and better training in suicide prevention and other mental health programs the Army has been increasing over recent years in an unprecedented effort to focus on the force's mental health.
The mental health care system in Afghanistan is understaffed based on the Army doctrine of one mental health worker for every 700 troops.
This article, by Elizabeth Landau, was posted to CNN.com, October 20, 2009
NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) -- Post-traumatic stress disorder may be a condition of the mind, but research has implicated it in the ills of the body. Now, a new study suggests it may be associated with death after surgery.
The study shows that veterans with PTSD were more likely to die within a year after surgery than those without the disease, regardless of how many years had passed since their service. The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists this week.
This is the first research to examine the mortality of patients with PTSD after surgery, said study author Dr. Marek Brzezinski, anesthesiologist and assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco.
"If you consider that perhaps more and more patients are coming, and they're going to be with us for years to come, this is obviously a huge field that needs to be addressed," he said.
People develop PTSD, an anxiety disorder, in response to a traumatic event. Symptoms, which include intrusive memories, social withdrawal and increased anxiety or emotional arousal, typically begin within three months of a traumatic event, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The condition has also been correlated with increased risk for alcohol and drug abuse, smoking, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, elevated lipid levels and other psychiatric disorders, Brzezinski said.
About 6.8 percent of adult Americans have had PTSD at some point in their lives, according to a 2005 survey cited by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Among veterans of the Vietnam War, 30.9 percent of men and 26.9 percent of women have had PTSD, according to the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Survey, conducted between November 1986 and February 1988.
Researchers focused on male patients treated between 1998 and 2008 at the VA San Francisco Medical Center. These patients had their first elective noncardiac major surgery requiring hospital admission during that time. The authors relied on information that was already recorded and did not interview any patients.
Of the 1,792 male veterans, 129 -- or 7.2 percent -- had a diagnosis of PTSD on the day of surgery, and the rest did not.
One year after surgery, 8.5 percent of the patients with PTSD had died, compared with 6.8 percent of patients who did not have the psychiatric disorder, representing a 25 percent increased risk for those with PTSD. The researchers did not find substantial differences in mortality among the kinds of surgeries that patients had.
Researchers also noted that the patients with PTSD tended to be younger; the average age for them at the time of surgery was 59.2 years old, while the average non-PTSD veteran was 66.3.
The study was retrospective and was not designed to see whether it was the PTSD, the surgery, or some other underlying factor that most influenced the patients' deaths, Brzezinski said.
But a follow-up study that he and colleagues are working on will look at the issue prospectively, following the outcomes of patients with and without PTSD as they go through surgeries. Participants will be tested for PTSD before and after surgery, and researchers will chart any complications that arise.
These preliminary findings make sense given that PTSD has been associated with poor eating habits, high blood pressure, heart disease, smoking and significant substance abuse histories, said Dr. Israel Liberzon, professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Another possibility is that the condition itself, which involves the major stress systems of the body, leads to a worse recovery from major surgery, he said.
Liberzon and colleagues are analyzing data of patients to see whether people who undergo vascular surgery are more likely to develop PTSD after. The surgery itself is less traumatizing than the overall experience of fearing death and undergoing associated procedures, he said.
For example, aortic surgery requires both physical stress and pain. There is also a threat of death, as patients have this surgery to avoid aneurysms. "All of those components can contribute to the development of PTSD, rather than the simple fact of going into surgery," he said.
Unlike the normal stress of everyday life, people with PTSD experience lifelong stress that changes how they perceive everything, Brzezinski said.
"One patient told me, for example, he feels like being in a cage with a tiger, and it's permanent stress," he said. "This obviously changes how patients perceive everything, how their body works."
Older veterans, especially those from the 1960s and '70s, tend to have more long-lasting PTSD than younger veterans, Liberzon said. While both age-groups have traumatic memories and sleep difficulties, the older veterans tend to have more anger outbursts, thoughts and dreams about the trauma, he said.
It is well established that stress is associated with poor outcomes of surgery, Brzezinski said. Patients with PTSD may also have elevated stress hormones, which could increase their chances of other conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, he said.
PTSD is also associated with poor compliance, meaning patients may be less likely to take their required medications or see a doctor when they need one, he said.
It's important for physicians to treat PTSD not only as a mental condition, but also as an independent risk factor for other health problems, Brzezinski said.
This article, by Selena Coppa, was posted to Facebook, September 26, 2009
First, I'd like to say that I really appreciate the efforts of Brandon Friedman, Director of New Media over at the VA, for getting the VA to acknowledge the ways that people receive media, and that so often it is via the internet rather than print newspapers. There was a really excellent Blogger's Roundtable for military veteran bloggers and representatives of veterans service organizations via the phone, Assistant Secretary Tammy Duckworth and VA Deputy Director of Education Services Lynn Nelson taking the time to discuss the delay in GI bill payments with veteran bloggers and answer their questions. I really appreciate this-I think it's much more likely that the information in its unabridged form will make it to veterans than when it hits a newspaper and has to conform to space restrictions. I especially appreciate it as Duckworth was traveling on behalf of the VA and still made time for us and our concerns.
Veteran's benefits is a big piece for me, it's the IVAW mission that I think I do probably the most work on, because it's one of the most important: making sure our returning veterans are taken care of fully. So getting the chance to participate in this and help our members and other veterans and get answers was very important.
I think one of the most valuable things that came out of this was a little more clarification on where the problems are. Secretary Duckworth said that while 277,403 veterans have submitted for eligibility determination, (and that they've processed 205,704 of those) they cannot send checks to those people. They have to wait for the schools to send enrollment certifications, and a lot of the schools are apparently waiting until the ad-drop period to do this. They have received 27,735 enrollment certifications, and of those, they've processed and sent out 24,186.
So this is where (by my math) 71,699 students were as of Thursday. Much as I am quick to blame the VA usually, to be fair, this means the bulk of the problem is quite possibly indeed in the schools and with communication. Using the numbers Secretary Duckworth gave, that's (my math) 249,668 veterans whose schools have not sent enrollment certifications, and (my math) 177,969 veterans who have gone as far as they can in the VA system without the enrollment certification and are now waiting on the schools. Granted, it's hard to tell how many of those are actually trying to go to school this fall. Some may have simply wanted to create eligibility for later. But that is overwhelmingly the largest number of screwed veterans in this situation, and it seems to be coming from bad communication and the schools.
Some possibilities I'm thinking:
chools are, as Duckworth says, not sending until after ad-drop period
schools and students are not aware that they in fact do need to send it for payment to start
schools are not aware where specifically to direct it to
They do seem to be working on this: spring survival guides were mentioned to improve the communication issue and apparently more reaching out to the schools is going on to ask them to cut their veteran students a little slack.
Duckworth also assured us that Shinseki is really aware of this and receiving daily reports.
Terry Howell, from military.com asked a really important clarification question: whether or not certifying officials at the schools need to wait for that eligibility determination to certify that the veterans were taking classes at their schools. This is really important, and I'm glad he asked that. What Ms. Nelson told our fellow vets is that they do not. So what this means for you, is that as /soon/ as you are in the school system as attending for that term, you can start bugging the bursar/registrar to get them to send the information to the VA, /even/ if you're still waiting for your eligibility letter. This means you can do them simultaneously, and cut down your wait time massively. Some colleges, especially those dealing with Yellow Ribbon Programs, will need the eligibility letter, but if the GI bill covers your whole tuition, do it now. Tomorrow, in fact. If you are enrolled in school and are still waiting, you should go to your school tomorrow and ask what the status of the certification of enrollment is.
The mention again was made: they pay you housing after the fact, rather than before. I think this is a really lousy way to go, personally: rent is due before you start living there, not the month after. I understand that the VA is most likely trying to protect itself from fraudulent claims, but we are talking about veterans who served honorably. Could we not assume as a default that these guys are more likely to be honest, and take it back afterwards if it's found out they didn't deserve it? VA did accept fault, however, on the call, for failing to communicate to students that this would be happening, for which I applaud them.
What I also took from this call is that VA is working around the clock in order to get this done-VA employees working massive overtime on weekends, etc. They may not have anticipated the full demand, but they're doing a lot now.
Also, I know a lot of you guys have been talking about how when you call in, the VA has no clue where your stuff is at. I did ask about this, about what sort of tracking system they have and why everyone is getting such bad information. This is because, according to Secretary Duckworth and Ms. Nelson, the status of your claim is not visible until the authorization has been signed and the payment has gone out. Before then, they are not able to track at all where your claim is at. That is apparently not going to change for a while, but for next year, they'll have improvements-they estimate December of 2010 for a fully automated system that will fix a lot of these problems (as well as potentially have your results in an amazing ten days)
More confirmation for those of you who were a little unsure: they reaffirmed that if you completely use your MGIB, all 36 months, that you're still eligible for 12 months of the Post 9/11 GI Bill.
One thing the VA is doing well: they pointed out that if they owe you money, if you're owed back pay by the time the VA processes the claim, you will get it right away, you don't have to wait until the first. The payment will go out the day it's finished being processed.
Richard Smith of VoteVets made a really important point I think that applies for all of us pressing the VA on this. He mentioned some details of his own situation, and they offered him a personal followup. However, he pointed out that it wasn't for himself that he was asking, but for the other veterans. A solution that helped only him would not be a solution in his eyes. We're not out for ourselves. We're out for our brothers.
By the time of this writing, there has in fact been action on the VA, but it is so outstanding that it deserves its own separate post. However, this call in and of itself was pretty amazing, and I applaud it.
Please pass this news along! It could really help some veterans struggling to get their payments.
This announcement, from Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, was published on the Veterans and Service Members Stand Up Against War and Racism website
October 7, 2009 marks the start of the ninth year of the invasion of Afghanistan. On that day, there will be anti-war actions in cities and towns throughout the country. There will also be anti-war actions on Monday, October 5, and Saturday October 17.
Many national and local anti-war organizations are initiating these actions. The ANSWER Coalition is either initiating or endorsing and supporting all of these actions.
The war and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq are both colonial-type wars. Bush used the “War on Terror” as a pretext for the escalation of imperialist intervention. Bush is gone but the brutal occupations continue.
Now, eight long years after the invasion of Afghanistan, the U.S. and its NATO allies are vastly expanding the war, doubling the numbers of troops. Casualties on both sides are soaring. Resistance to foreign occupation is growing rapidly inside Afghanistan and across the border in Pakistan. The war is a disaster for the peoples of those countries, just as are the occupations of Iraq and Palestine. It is also growing disaster for the people here — not only the soldiers and their families, but the tens of millions of people suffering from the economic crisis.
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq cost more than $14 billion per month, $160 billion every year, nearly $1,000,000,000,000 ($1 trillion!) since the start. At the same time, we are told by the politicians — who never say no to the military-industrial complex and have given away more than $10 trillion to the big banks — that there’s no money for single-payer health care. They have proven that the money is there. The problem is that the politicians are dedicated to protecting the interests of the military and health insurance corporations, not of the people.
The ANSWER Coalition is calling for people across the country — in cities, towns and campuses — to take action on Wednesday, October 7, 2009, and at all the planned actions between October 5 and October 17 to demand an end to all the wars and occupations, and health care for all. We urge you to organize a rally, picket, teach-in or some other kind of activity that day.
A list of all the anti-war actions in October will be posted within the next week on the ANSWER Coalition website at www.ANSWERCoalition.org.
By clicking this link, you can let us know what you are planning and we’ll add it to the national calendar.
This article, by Tom Engelhardt, was posted to Alternet, September 26, 2009
Front and center in the debate over the Afghan War these days are General Stanley "Stan" McChrystal, Afghan war commander, whose "classified, pre-decisional" and devastating report -- almost eight years and at least $220 billion later, the war is a complete disaster -- was conveniently, not to say suspiciously, leaked to Bob Woodward of the Washington Post by we-know-not-who at a particularly embarrassing moment for Barack Obama; Admiral Michael "Mike" Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who has been increasingly vocal about a "deteriorating" war and the need for more American boots on the ground; and the president himself, who blitzed every TV show in sight last Sunday and Monday for his health reform program, but spent significant time expressing doubts about sending more American troops to Afghanistan. ("I'm not interested in just being in Afghanistan for the sake of being in Afghanistan... or sending a message that America is here for the duration.")
On the other hand, here's someone you haven't seen front and center for a while: General David Petraeus. He was, of course, George W. Bush's pick to lead the president's last-ditch effort in Iraq. He was the poster boy for Bush's military policies in his last two years. He was the highly praised architect and symbol of "the surge." He appeared repeatedly, his chest a mass of medals and ribbons, for heavily publicized, widely televised congressional testimony, complete with charts and graphs, that was meant, at least in part, for the American public. He was the man who, to use an image from that period which has recently resurfaced, managed to synchronize the American and Baghdad "clocks," pacifying for a time both the home and war fronts.
He never met a journalist, as far as we can tell, he didn't want to woo. (And he clearly won over the influential Tom Ricks, then of the Washington Post, who wrote The Gamble, a bestselling paean to him and his sub-commanders.) From the look of it, he's the most political general to come down the pike since, in 1951 in the midst of the Korean War, General Douglas MacArthur said his goodbyes to Congress after being cashiered by President Truman for insubordination -- for, in effect, wanting to run his own war and the foreign policy that went with it. It was Petraeus who brought Vietnam-era counterinsurgency doctrine (COIN) back from the crypt, overseeing the writing of a new Army counterinsurgency manual that would make it central to both the ongoing wars and what are already being referred to as the "next" ones.
Before he left office, Bush advanced his favorite general to the head of U.S. Central Command, which oversees the former president's Global War on Terror across the energy heartlands of the planet from Egypt to Pakistan. The command is, of course, especially focused on Bush's two full-scale wars: the Iraq War, now being pursued under Petraeus's former subordinate, General Ray Odierno, and the Afghan War, for which Petraeus seems to have personally handpicked a new commanding general, Stan McChrystal. From the military's dark side world of special ops and targeted assassinations, McChrystal had operated in Iraq and was also part of an Army promotion board headed by Petraeus that advanced the careers of officers committed to counterinsurgency. To install McChrystal in May, Obama abruptly sacked the then-Afghan war commander, General David McKiernan, in what was then considered, with some exaggeration, a new MacArthur moment.
On taking over, McChrystal, who had previously been a counterterrorism guy (and isn't about to give that up, either), swore fealty to counterinsurgency doctrine (that is, to Petraeus) by proclaiming that the American goal in Afghanistan must not be primarily to hunt down and kill Taliban insurgents, but to "protect the population." He also turned to a "team" of civilian experts, largely gathered from Washington think-tanks, a number of whom had been involved in planning out Petraeus's Iraq surge of 2007, to make an assessment of the state of the war and what needed to be done. Think of them as the Surgettes.
As in many official reassessments, the cast of characters essentially guaranteed the results before a single meeting was held. Based on past history and opinions, this team could only provide one Petraeus-approved answer to the war: more -- more troops, up to 40,000-45,000 of them, and other resources for an American counterinsurgency operation without end.
Hence, even if McChrystal's name is on it, the report slipped to Bob Woodward which just sandbagged the president has a distinctly Petraeusian shape to it. In a piece linked to Woodward's bombshell in the Washington Post, Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Karen DeYoung wrote of unnamed officials in Washington who claimed "the military has been trying to push Obama into a corner." The language in the coverage elsewhere has been similar.
There is, wrote DeYoung a day later, now a "rupture" between the military "pushing for an early decision to send more troops" and civilian policymakers "increasingly doubtful of an escalating nation-building effort." Nancy Youssef of McClatchy News wrote about how "mixed signals" from Washington were causing "increasing ire from U.S. commanders in Afghanistan"; a group of McClatchy reporters talked of military advocates of escalation feeling "frustration" over "White House dithering." David Sanger of the New York Times described "a split between an American military that says it needs more troops now and an American president clearly reluctant to leap into that abyss." "Impatient" is about the calmest word you'll see for the attitude of the military top command right now.
Buyer's Remorse, the Afghan War, and the President
In the midst of all this, between Admiral Mullen and General McChrystal is, it seems, a missing man. The most photogenic general in our recent history, the man who created the doctrine and oversees the war, the man who is now shaping the U.S. Army (and its future plans and career patterns), is somehow, at this crucial moment, out of the Washington spotlight. This last week General Petraeus was, in fact, in England, giving a speech and writing an article for the (London) Times laying out his basic "protect the population" version of counterinsurgency and praising our British allies by quoting one of their great imperial plunderers. ("If Cecil Rhodes was correct in his wonderful observation that 'being an Englishman is the greatest prize in the lottery of life,' and I'm inclined to think that he was, then the second greatest prize in the lottery of life must be to be a friend of an Englishman, and based on that, the more than 230,000 men and women in uniform who work with your country's finest day by day are very lucky indeed, as am I.")
Only at mid-week, with Washington aboil, did he arrive in the capital for a counterinsurgency conference at the National Press Club and quietly "endorse" "General McChrystal's assessment." Whatever the look of things, however, it's unlikely that Petraeus is actually on the sidelines at this moment of heightened tension. He is undoubtedly still The Man.
So much is, of course, happening just beyond the sightlines of those of us who are mere citizens of this country, which is why inference and guesswork are, unfortunately, the order of the day. Read any account in a major newspaper right now and it's guaranteed to be chock-a-block full of senior officials and top military officers who are never "authorized to speak," but nonetheless yak away from behind a scrim of anonymity. Petraeus may or may not be one of them, but the odds are reasonable that this is still a Petraeus Moment.
If so, Obama has only himself to blame. He took up Afghanistan ("the right war") in the presidential campaign as proof that, despite wanting to end the war in Iraq, he was tough. (Why is it that a Democratic candidate needs a war or threat of war to trash-talk about in order to prove his "strength," when doing so is obviously a sign of weakness?)
Once in office, Obama compounded the damage by doubling down his bet on the war. In March, he introduced a "comprehensive new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan" in his first significant public statement on the subject, which had expansion written all over it. He also agreed to send in 21,000 more troops (which, by the way, Petraeus reportedly convinced him to do). In August, in another sign of weakness masquerading as strength, before an unenthusiastic audience at a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention, he unnecessarily declared: "This is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity." All of this he will now pay for at the hands of Petraeus, or if not him, then a coterie of military men behind the latest push for a new kind of Afghan War.
As it happens, this was never Obama's "war of necessity." It was always Petraeus's. And the new report from McChrystal and the Surgettes is undoubtedly Petraeus's progeny as well. It seems, in fact, cleverly put together to catch a cautious president, who wasn't cautious enough about his war of choice, in a potentially devastating trap. The military insistence on quick action on a troop decision sets up a devastating choice for the president: "Failure to provide adequate resources also risks a longer conflict, greater casualties, higher overall costs, and ultimately, a critical loss of political support. Any of these risks, in turn, are likely to result in mission failure." Go against your chosen general and the failure that follows is yours alone. (Unnamed figures supposedly close to McChrystal are already launching test balloons, passed on by others, suggesting that the general might resign in protest if the president doesn't deliver -- a possibility he has denied even considering.) On the other hand, offer him somewhere between 15,000 and 45,000 more American troops as well as other resources, and the failure that follows will still be yours.
It's a basic lose-lose proposition and, as journalist Eric Schmitt wrote in a New York Times assessment of the situation, "it will be very hard to say no to General McChrystal." No wonder the president and some of his men are dragging their feet and looking elsewhere. As one typically anonymous "defense analyst" quoted in the Los Angeles Times said, the administration is suffering "buyer's remorse for this war... They never really thought about what was required, and now they have sticker shock."
Admittedly, according to the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, 51% of Americans are against sending in more troops. (Who knows how they would react to a president who went on TV to announce that he had genuinely reconsidered?) Official Washington is another matter. For General Petraeus, who claims to have no political ambitions but is periodically mentioned as the Eisenhower of 2012, how potentially peachy to launch your campaign against the president who lost you the war.
A Petraeus Moment?
In the present context, the media language being used to describe this military-civilian conflict of wills -- frustration, impatience, split, rupture, ire -- may fall short of capturing the import of a moment which has been brewing, institutionally speaking, for a long time. There have been increasing numbers of generals' "revolts" of various sorts in our recent past. Of course, George W. Bush was insistent on turning planning over to his generals (though only when he liked them), something Barack Obama criticized him for during the election campaign. ("The job of the commander in chief is to listen to the best counsel available and to listen even to people you don't agree with and then ultimately you make the final decision and you take responsibility for those actions.")
Now, it looks as if we are about to have a civilian-military encounter of the first order in which Obama will indeed need to take responsibility for difficult actions (or the lack thereof). If a genuine clash heats up, expect more discussion of "MacArthur moments," but this will not be Truman versus MacArthur redux, and not just because Petraeus seems to be a subtler political player than MacArthur ever was.
Over the nearly six decades that separate us from Truman's great moment, the Pentagon has become a far more overwhelming institution. In Afghanistan, as in Washington, it has swallowed up much of what once was intelligence, as it is swallowing up much of what once was diplomacy. It is linked to one of the two businesses, the Pentagon-subsidized weapons industry, which has proven an American success story even in the worst of economic times (the other remains Hollywood). It now holds a far different position in a society that seems to feed on war.
It's one thing for the leaders of a country to say that war should be left to the generals when suddenly embroiled in conflict, quite another when that country is eternally in a state of war. In such a case, if you turn crucial war decisions over to the military, you functionally turn foreign policy over to them as well. All of this is made more complicated, because the cast of "civilians" theoretically pitted against the military right now includes Karl W. Eikenberry, a retired lieutenant general who is the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Douglas Lute, a lieutenant general who is the president's special advisor on Afghanistan and Pakistan (dubbed the "war czar" when he held the same position in the Bush administration), and James Jones, a retired Marine Corps general, who is national security advisor, not to speak of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
The question is: will an already heavily militarized foreign policy geared to endless global war be surrendered to the generals? Depending on what Obama does, the answer to that question may not be fully, or even largely, clarified this time around. He may quietly give way, or they may, or compromises may be reached behind the scenes. After all, careers and political futures are at stake.
But consider us warned. This is a question that is not likely to go away and that may determine what this country becomes.
We know what a MacArthur moment was; we may find out soon enough what a Petraeus moment is.
This article, by Paul Reikoff, was published on the Iraq and Afghan Veterans of America website, October 1, 2009
Every year, Congress needs to pass 12 appropriations bills by October 1st to keep the federal government up and running. If lawmakers don’t meet this deadline, the government operates on temporary funding or shuts down.
And Congress rarely meets this deadline. In fact, 19 out of the last 22 years, Congress has failed to pass the VA budget on time. When the VA budget is late, the nation’s largest healthcare provider is forced to wait in limbo, relying on stop-gap funding measures. VA hospitals and clinics can’t plan for critical staffing and equipment needs, leading to long waits for appointments and rationed care. As a result, 6 million veterans who rely on the VA for health care pay the price for Congress’ bickering and inefficiency.
Despite repeated assurances that the VA budget would be passed on time this year, the September 30th deadline has come and gone. And the only thing that’s passed is another milestone: 20 out of the last 23 years, the veterans‘ health care budget is late. This year, the VA is not alone. The only budget that did pass on time was the one that funds salary checks for members of Congress. So Congress gets paid, and vets get stuck waiting. Again.
If Adam Vinatieri missed 20 out of his last 23 field goals, he’d be out of a job, and all of Indianapolis would be outraged. But Congress repeatedly misses the mark, gives itself a pay raise, and hardly anyone notices.
In the last two weeks especially, veterans have fallen victim to government inefficiency at its worst. First, it was thousands of late GI Bill payments and now it’s a late VA budget. Congress has spent months debating new government health care plans, and can’t even fund the ones we already have. Wait until Glenn Beck hears about this one. His head might actually explode.
With over half of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans still serving on active duty and poised to flood the VA system in the next few years, we cannot allow this ineffective funding process to continue.
The only way to ensure the highest quality of care our nation’s veterans deserve is to provide sufficient, timely, and predictable funding. In recent years, Congress has delivered record increases in VA funding. And when this year’s budget is approved, Congress will have increased VA funding by 15 percent over 2009 levels. But that can only happen if the budget is actually passed.
Ironically, the solution to chronic VA budget delays is wrapped up in this year’s proposed budget. “Advance appropriations,” or approving the VA health care budget one year in advance, is the top legislative priority for IAVA and many other leading veterans groups in 2009 and is included in the pending budget. Advanced appropriations would provide the VA with many more tools to prepare for the surge of veterans coming home and would put the years of tardy budgets behind us.
The men and women who have bravely served our country should not be forced to wait any longer for the care they have earned. If lawmakers aren’t pressured into passing the VA budget and advance appropriations and quickly, this trend will surely continue. And I’ll be writing a similar piece again this time next year. Veterans shouldn’t have to play this wait-and-see game, while Congress goes to the bank.
This article was posted to the We Move To Canada Blog, September 25, 2009
In light of Bill C-440 in support of US war resisters in Canada, there's a letters-to-the-editor battle raging in several newspapers from BC to St. John's. I've been receiving the letters by email, and let me tell you, the other side is out in full force with mouths foaming.
If you support Bill C-440, and believe people who refused to participate in the US invasion and occupation of Iraq should be welcome in Canada, please take a few minutes and write to your local newspaper.
Since the right-wing's main talking point amounts to "...but they volunteered," you might want to address that non-issue.
One, soldiers volunteer to protect and defend their country, not to invade and kill a civilian population, and not to blindly follow illegal orders. International law recognizes that it is not only a soldier's right to refuse illegal orders, but his or her responsibility.
Two, many of the war resisters volunteered, served, and have no legal way to leave the military. They didn't volunteer to be owned for the rest of their lives.
And finally, why is conscription vs volunteer even an issue? It wasn't in the Vietnam era. Thousands of the war resisters Canada welcomed in the 1960s and 1970s had volunteered for service. When they saw what was really happening in Vietnam, they changed their minds, but the US military wouldn't let them leave. Canada let them in - and let them stay.
Another theme is that allowing war resisters to stay in Canada is somehow an insult to Canadian troops. But Canada refused to participate in the invasion of Iraq. The vast majority of Canadians oppose the US war against Iraq. Canada didn't force its troops to fight that war. Welcoming Iraq War resisters to Canada has no bearing on the Canadian forces - or on any other soldier who serves willingly.
Please take five minutes and write a letter to the editor of your local paper. If you don't know the address, look on the website. Small-town newspapers are as important as their big city cousins.
The other thing you can do to help is to either donate $10 or $20, and/or circulate the link for our new Fundable campaign. Please post it on your own blog, on Facebook, Twitter, to email lists you're on. So far the Fundable campaign is going nowhere. We need the money to pay our legal bills, so war resisters won't be deported.
Supporting war resisters is a concrete way you can support peace.
This article, by Geoff Millard, was posted to the IVAW website, September 9, 2009
It has been nearly four years sense my return from Iraq and yet some days I feel like I am still in the ROC at FOB Speicher. Last night was one of those nights.
As I sat and listened to the Iraqi trade unionist talk during part one of last nights program I was trying to balance listening to what they were saying with preparing my own remarks. I listened as they talked about lack of power, clean water, and security much the same as was the case four years ago while I was in Iraq. I heard these things but it was not their words that put me back there.
I kept nervously shuffling through my pocket and playing with my Washington DC drivers license. I felt the smooth edges and ran my fingers across the face until it reached a corner whose own face has begun to peel. As I flicked the peeling facade of my ID with my finger I looked up and was bad in the ROC. I could hear MAJ M not the presenter. I strained to hear through the crackle of the radio, not the interpreter.
A few minutes later I had to take the stage and try to tell the audience in our nations capital what IVAW was doing to end the occupations. More over I had to look these Iraqis in the eyes and say; "I was one of those who occupied your country. I am one of those that helped to kill your people. And this is what I am doing to try and make sure it ends."
I talked about the Field Organizing Program, the work it is and will be doing. I talked about the unique place that IVAW has in the antiwar movement. But, the entire time that those Iraqis stared up at me from the front row all I wanted to do was to scream my apologies, beg forgiveness, and plead with them until I no longer was associated with the occupation. I wanted to but what good would it have done? I may feel a bit better in the moment if a small group of Iraqis tells me that "it's ok" but unless I am ending the war I am not making it right.
When it comes down to it the reason why I do this work is because the best thing that we as veterans can do to help the people of Iraq is to get our friends home alive. They are not wanted there and every Iraqi I have ever met in my travels wishes for the same thing. The work that IVAW does to bring our brothers and sisters in arms home alive is the most important thing any of us can be doing. The small things that sometimes distract us are gone in the moment when face to face with a group of Iraqis that smile and welcome you despite the fact that I have helped to ruin their lives.
To morrow night these same Iraqis will have dinner at the IVAW DC house. Maybe then they will see that what I do now is with as much sorrow and regret as it is with love and solidarity.
This video is a mix of the Army Strong video produced by the army to entice young women and men to join the military. The other video is produced by Displaced Films which is a series of films produced for the Iraq Veterans Against the War http://ivaw.org/wintersoldier
The series of films can also be seen here http://www.vimeo.com/5448532
You can make a donation to Jeriko Films here http://jerikofilms.wordpress.com/about/
The military has a budget of $459 million in advertising revenue which is the amount it spent in 2005. Please help us provide an honest picture of war by making a donation. Here is further information from, David Zeiger who requested we include the following information.
Hello Cindy and All
I am so happy that you used episodes from our series, This is Where We Take Our Stand, for your Army Strong video. It's incredibly powerful, and getting out to a lot of people. You did a great thing with it, and this is what the series is for.
I have a very important request, though. Please make it much more clear on your site and in the piece that the material is from the web series This is Where We Take Our Stand, and that the entire series can and should be seen at http://thisiswherewetakeourstand.com/ There are still two episodes that will be posted this monday and in two weeks, and then the entire series will be available as a single piece as well.
First of all, it's important that people see the whole series. But along with that, it's been a tremendous struggle to get the story made and told, and we are still in the midst of trying to get the funds to complete a television film as well. So it is crucial that both the name of the series and the people who made it be very prominent whenever it is used. It's also important to include that it is from the people who made Sir! No Sir! I'm sure you understand all of this.
We are linking Army Strong to http://thisiswherewetakeourstand.com/, and will do what we can to help get it out there.