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Update: Okay, minor adjustment. I removed the background hiss...
Mrs G hates these videos, and can't stand me posting them here. Especially if - as in this one - I'm playing the beat up, 35+ year old Sears Roebuck guitar I borrowed from my sister 30+ years ago and never gave back. It's split nearly in half, but I'll prolly keep using it forever. You can't get rid of something like that just because it 's a little harsh on the ears, know what I mean? ;)
Confession: after spending most of last year deployed (sans guitar) I don't know if I remember how to play this one. That's another reason I made these in the first place though. I can re-learn...
He sent a bag of Beef Jerky to the troops!
LAS VEGAS-Bearing a plastic bag of peppered beef jerky, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid dropped by the Laborers International Union Hall in Las Vegas Saturday, where he spoke before a crowd of about fifty Nevadans making care packages for troops in Iraq. Reid took advantage of a few minutes in front of the crowd to slam Ariz. Sen. John McCain for not supporting a newly-approved expansion of the G.I. Bill.More details at Obama's campaign web site:
Join the Nevada Democratic Veterans & Military Families Caucus, US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, and Nevada State Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus to:And bring TV cameras, and make political speeches.
'Walk the Walk,' and support our troops overseas. Its one thing to talk about how we care about our heroes overseas, it's another thing to actually do something to care for them. Nevada's elected officials, veterans, military family members, and all concerned Americans will get together to send care packages over to our troops overseas.
Assuming that they wouldn't know, Obama instructs his minions on what the troops want:
Items like beef jerky, non-perishable snacks, batteries, toiletries, razors, old & new magazines, drink mix (such as Kool-Aid), cds, dvds, books, and other comfort items.Troops love those old magazines!
Wear your Obama gear!Of course, Obama didn't make it himself - he was busy telling dead people (don't laugh, it's a demographic he must win to gain the White House) in New Mexico about how his uncle liberated Auschwitz. (Moral to the story: when your uncle tells a war story, pay atention.)
For those who give a damn, actual details on the GI Bill are here. (And troops would like that a hell of a lot better than beef jerky and old magazines, but Harry Reid and company ensured we'll never see it.)
Ironically, last year as Harry Reid declared the war "lost", a Nevada reserve unit was deploying to iraq:
Las Vegas reserves disagree with Reid
"We're not losing this war."
That's how a Las Vegas Army Reserve sergeant and Iraq war veteran who is heading out again for Operation Iraqi Freedom reacted Friday to Nevada Sen. Harry Reid's assessment that the war in Iraq is "lost."
"Unfortunately, politics has taken a huge role in this war affecting our rules of engagement," said Turkovich, a 2001 Palo Verde High School graduate. "This is a guerrilla war that we're fighting, and they're going to tie our hands.
"So it does make it a lot harder for us to fight the enemy, but we're not losing this war," he said.
For the most part, the 50-plus soldiers from a detachment of the Army Reserve's 314th Combat Service Support Battalion expressed similar views about Reid's war-is-lost comments this week. They respectfully disagreed with the Democrat.
All volunteers, they were upbeat and excited about the deployment. Some said they were nervous and were trying not to dwell on leaving their families for a year.
In the eyes of Turkovich, who served as an infantryman with the 82nd Airborne Division for seven months each in Iraq and Afghanistan, the mission is nearing completion but is not over yet.
The 314th's stateside commander, Lt. Col. Steven Cox, said the political controversy swirling around the war "does weigh upon us because the representatives are supposed to represent American sentiments."
"Defeatism ... from our elected officials does not serve us well in the field," he said. "They embolden the enemy, and they actually leave them with the feeling that they can defeat us and win this.
Cox said he's "not sure the senator accurately echoes the people he represents. ... I believe his tactics are more of shock in trying to sway public opinion. He may have spoken out of turn."
Reid was unavailable late Friday to respond to the soldiers' views.
In an e-mail, Reid spokesman Jon Summers wrote that the senator "has the greatest respect for our troops and is grateful for their service"... he wrote. "Military generals, the American public, and a bipartisan majority of Congress all agree that to stay the course of the president's failed strategy fails our troops and will not lead to success in Iraq."
(Part one in a series)
Through the duration of the war in Iraq I've identified key indicators of important trends in the conflict on this web site. These indicators take the form of discrete events of variable duration, the trends are larger scale and longer term, and generally identifiable to the observer only as a series of events. The key to understanding what's happening in Iraq is to be able to identify a trend by it's indicators (and conversely to be able to determine which events are part of a trend) and to recognize which trends or events matter (in long or short term) and which don't. Identifying events and trends (or even distinguishing events from brief trends) is exceptionally difficult without the benefit of hindsight and demonstrably challenging even after the fact. And any attempt at forecasting - extending those trends into the future - compounds that challenge by an unknown degree, and at some point is an exercise in futility.
Those who attempt to accomplish any of those tasks without constant monitoring of the situation or first hand experience therein do so at a distinct disadvantage. Identifying trends from outside Iraq can be impossible - the observer is dependent upon reports from others (from traditional and new media, if no other contact are available), and must be aware of the bias of those few reporters whose work reaches the outside world. If I've had any success at all in the attempt (and I will humbly demonstrate shortly I've had some success, at least) much of that is due to my lack of those disadvantages that burden so many others. Further, while those of a certain partisan stripe might find my conclusions more appealing than others, another key to understanding is to be able to view the scene without partisan prejudice of any sort - at least as far as that is humanly possible - separate facts from feelings, and limit motives to truth over a desired outcome.
IF YOU READ BLOGS, you knew this a long time ago, but if you read the L.A. Times you know it now: Iraqis losing patience with militiamen.In short, that's old news.
Now there's new news out there under the radar. But first, the deep background...
In November, 2005 I explained how the war in Iraq would be won. At that time "violence" was increasing - a cyclical event in Iraq, and one that gets extensive media coverage, as it did then. But no one had noticed another number on the rise: the number of tips received from Iraqi civilians, grown from under 500 a month earlier in the year to over 3,000. And few realized that the increase in that last statistic was a direct result of the "increasing violence" - Iraqis were "losing patience" with the people who were killing them. Odd how that works...
As more Iraqi forces replace Americans, expect to see those numbers presented in the final chart climb even higher. This is how the "insurgency" will be defeated.I thought the key to maintaining that upward trend would be increased involvement from Iraqi security forces - those with whom the civilian population could identify, trust, and communicate more freely than they could with Americans. Unfortunately in the year following that prediction, attempts to achieve that goal proved futile and in some cases misguided as Americans pulled back from routine interaction with Iraqis in favor of "local" security forces that were often from other regions, lacked experience, and were for the most part not ready (trained and equipped) for the task.
The tipping point in the war in Iraq will not come from killing off insurgents - it will be achieved by replacing the Americans who are killing them with Iraqi forces capable of doing the same.
To say the situation was further complicated in the wake of the Samarra bombing would be an understatement. That attack and the resulting chaos (magnified by a simultaneous al Qaeda public relations campaign) effectively reversed any gains made over the preceding period. "Local" (often neighborhood level) and "sectarian" militias - many of which existed before the bombing - formed (or intensified their efforts) as a result of the security vacuum. The perception of chaos and retribution so carefully cultivated by al Qaeda soon became real - an uncomplicated task in a land where grudges go back thousands of years and are fueled by tribal and religious distinctions of great degree among people clustered in relatively small geographic areas - a weakness most apparent in Baghdad.
But even as security in Baghdad deteriorated, events in Anbar would undermine al Qaeda's efforts and prove the validity of my prediction, though in ways I didn't foresee.
Sunni groups had begun to turn on al Qaeda. The significance of these events was vastly under appreciated by observers in America. But al Qaeda was further weakened by the strike on Zarqawi, an event dismissed at the time as only making the group stronger. In fact it was already too late for al Qaeda in Iraq.
Sheikh Sattar al-Buzayi summoned other tribal chiefs last week for a war council at his fortified home in Ramadi, the teeming, scarred capital of Iraq's Anbar province, desert heartland of the Sunni Arabs....and by early October - before American media outlets had noticed the event and certainly long before they appreciated the significance, the Anbar Awakening movement was in full swing.
There was a bountiful feast of beef and rice, and a vow of unrelenting battle against the common enemy -- al Qaeda.
"We have to form police and army forces from among our sons to fight these al Qaeda militants," Buzayi, who says the militants murdered his father and his brother, told Reuters.
"We have now entered a real battle. It's either us or them."
Baghdad: Sunni tribal leaders who have vowed to drive Al Qaida out of Iraq's most restive province met the Shiite premier on Wednesday, marking what Washington hopes will be a breakthrough alliance against militants.Where the Iraqi military and police had failed (in some part due to the lack of Sunni participation) the "civilian" group would succeed. In short order they turned against the leader of al Qaeda's public relations team
Sattar Al Buzayi, a Sunni shaikh from Anbar province who has emerged in recent weeks as a leader of a tribal alliance against Osama Bin Laden's followers, said he and about 15 other shaikhs had offered their cooperation to Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki.
"This is admired and respected by all Iraqis. We are fully prepared to back your efforts," said the prime minister.
Sunni sheiks from Iraq's volatile Anbar province have denounced a powerful Sunni cleric as "a thug" for supporting the al-Qaida terrorist group.The remaining question - would the coalition embrace the opportunity - was answered before the end of November.
The Anbar Salvation Council, a group of sheiks formed to resist foreign militants in Iraq, also denied accusations by cleric Harith al-Dhari that it was cozying up to the Iraqi government in exchange for money, the New York Times reported Sunday.
"We, on behalf of the Anbar tribes council, say to Harith al-Dhari: If there is a thug, it is you; if there is a killer and a kidnapper, it is you," the Times quoted Sheik Abdul Sattar Buzaigh al-Rishawi as saying.
"The American's have come to the aide of the Abu Soda tribe. They have understood the dire situation [that the Abu Soda are currently battling the Al Qaeda], because [the Americans] see it as a fight against a common enemy," said Sheikh Ahmed, Sheikh of Abu Resha.It's worth noting that the events discussed above were going on throughout 2006 - the year the media fixated on the Civil War In Iraq narrative and the "we're losing" conclusion thereto - to the exclusion of these developments that would ultimately prove to be of considerably more significance. It wasn't until the American troops surge was launched that the success of the Awakening movement was acknowledged and addressed in certain quarters. And even then it was merely touted as the real reason things were improving in Iraq - the surge itself was declared a failure..
After establishing positive identification, Coalition Forces conducted air strikes and fired artillery at Al Qaeda forces attacking the Abu Soda Tribe.
This is big. Remember al-Qaeda's threat to kill the "renegade" Sunnis after Ramadan? Since the tribes "have given their men to the Ministry of the Interior to serve as Iraqi Police" and the coalition has given significant resources in support, they're going to have a tough time delivering.
In reality both the increase in US troops and the development of "awakening councils" were crucial. For example, recall that with no safe havens in Anbar, al Qaeda fled to Baqubah in Diyala Province. Months would pass before that could be addressed, but as Mike Yon would report, the combination of US surge forces and the 1920's Revolution Brigades (who like the Anbar tribes had turned on al Qaeda) were able to secure the area.
Last month, a milblogger there was explaining the ongoing battle - with boredom:
I'm not the only one feeling the boredom, on one of our patrols we paid 4 donkey cart drivers to race, the stipulation, one soldier on the back of each donkey cart. My donkey lost, it tried to kick its driver.He was echoing the sentiments Marines in Ramadi had been expressing for months.
This review of events that set the stage for success in Iraq continues here.
For those interested in the latest under-reported news from Iraq, see Exodus.
Sadly for us, she came back. But if you're interested in a brief examination of evidence that Nancy Pelosi is wrong, a re-cap of news stories that she might have missed after the "Iranian-backed cease fire" went into effect follows my poetic tribute at the link.
Bottom line: A shame Pelosi doesn't read news from countries that aren't having Presidential elections this year.
Michael Goldfarb: Just two months ago, Pelosi said, "I hope we don't hear any glorification of what happened in Basra." It seems she was only talking about glorifying the role of the U.S. military and our Iraqi allies, who were in fact victorious. Apparently glorification of the enemy is still allowed.
Ace: Having blurted out, probably accidentally, that the surge was in fact successful, Granny Rictus McBotoxImplants now scrambles to credit the enemy nation murdering our troops with the victory our troops accomplished through blood, sweat, tears, and more blood.
Allah: This is why I said yesterday that McMaster’s remarks to AEI are a must-read. This sort of willful naivete about Iran’s motives — in this case coming from a woman who not only felt compelled to meet with Assad but whom one House Democratic aide admitted would be “furious” upon hearing Murtha’s report of progress in Iraq — is right at the heart of it.
James Taranto: Who needs Barack Obama if the Bush administration is generating so much Iranian goodwill?
Related - Obama might go to Iraq, too, maybe: But there's also this: "Obama also declined McCain's invitation for a joint trip, saying he didn't want 'to be involved in a political stunt.'"
Parents Zone - Resources & Information for Parents of Military Servicemembers. I know a lot of readers here are in that group. So here's a great blog, with must-read advice to parents of deploying GIs.
I met the author of the article at that second link when she came to Landstuhl Army Medical Center to visit her son who'd been injured in Iraq, so I believe she knows what she's talking about.
Oh, and if you're a Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine currently deployed away from home, WRITE YOUR MOTHER TONIGHT.
And if you're not one of those folks, YOU TOO.
A look at mainstream media coverage of events as they unfolded - this entry is designed as a companion piece to an upcoming series here.
In January, 2006, USA Today ran a story headlined "General sees rift in Iraq enemy " - a rift described as "an opportunity for American forces to try to persuade local guerrillas to put down their weapons and join the political process":
"Now you actually have a wedge, or a split, between the Sunni population and al-Qaeda in Iraq," said Maj. Gen. Richard Zahner, deputy chief of staff for intelligence for multinational forces in Iraq. "It poses a significant crossroads for these groups as they look at where they head."
Al-Qaeda's aim of turning Iraq into a strict Islamic caliphate has turned some Iraqi fighters against the group, Zahner said.
By February 06, 2006, The Christian Science Monitor headlined Sunni tribes turn against jihadis:
"We realized that these foreign terrorists were hiding behind the veil of the noble Iraqi resistance," says Mr. Jadaan. "They claim to be striking at the US occupation, but the reality is they are killing innocent Iraqis in the markets, in mosques, in churches, and in our schools."...and also noted that "Support for attacks on US remains":
In Anbar Province, an insurgent hotbed that borders Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, US and Iraqi officials say they have a new ally against the Al Qaeda-inspired terrorists: local tribal leaders like Jadaan and home-grown Iraqi insurgents.
It's a statistic that Jedaan, the tribal sheikh, is well aware of. "Iraq has its men, its honorable resistance, and we will drive out the Americans and liberate our country ourselves."Al Qaeda's response was reported in the Washington Post:
A prominent Sunni Muslim cleric and civic leader who ran for a seat in Iraq's parliament and worked closely with American forces policing Fallujah was fatally shot Tuesday on his way to work in the western city....and in the London The Sunday Times:
Residents of Fallujah described the attack on Nazzal, who died at a hospital hours after being shot, as a chilling blow to the city. U.S. and Iraqi officials recently described Fallujah as rebounding from the devastation wrought in November 2004 during a U.S. offensive against insurgents who had massed there.
"Like many people, I am worried now about myself -- maybe I will be the next target -- and I don't know how to behave," said Fawzi Muhammed, deputy chairman of Fallujah's reconstruction committee, who has worked with U.S. forces. "Really, it's such a bad situation here now. Most of the responsible people will want to leave their work."
The Fallujah city council accused al Qaeda in Iraq of assassinating Nazzal. "They killed him because he was known for his attitude against them," said Ahmed Alwan, a council member. "He urged the people to participate in the elections and to join the police and army in Fallujah and Ramadi."
A SUNNI tribal leader was murdered in the Iraqi city of Ramadi a day after taking part in talks with American and Iraqi officials aimed at curbing violence there.Shortly after that, the Samarra bombing blew all other news from Iraq off the front pages. But a March 2006 Washington Post article acknowledged the ongoing movement in Anbar with the headline Iraqi Tribes Strike Back at Insurgents:
Sheikh Nasser Kareem al-Fahdawi, head of the al-Bu Fahad tribe and a physics professor at Anbar University, was shot by insurgents opposed to the talks in late December.
His killing came 24 hours after he had joined tribal leaders representing insurgent groups in a meeting with Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador, and Ibrahim Jaafari, the Shi’ite prime minister.
A source within the tribe, who is also a member of Al-Qaeda, indicated that he believed al-Fahdawi had been too sympathetic towards the United States during talks. “He was a traitor who deserved to be killed,” he said.
Two other tribal leaders have also been killed after revealing that they took part in talks and encouraging people to heed the American demands.
BAGHDAD, March 6 -- First they killed the chief of the Naim tribe and his son. Then they killed a top tribal sheik who headed the Fallujah city council. Then they assassinated the leader of the al-Jubur tribe.But in an odd twist...
And now the reported killers of all these men -- al-Qaeda in Iraq, the insurgent group of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- have a powerful new enemy.
Tribal chiefs in Iraq's western Anbar province and in an area near the northern city of Kirkuk, two regions teeming with insurgents, are vowing to strike back at al-Qaeda in Iraq, a Sunni Arab-led group that is waging war against Sunni tribal leaders who are cooperating with the Iraqi government and the U.S. military. Anbar tribes have formed a militia that has killed 20 insurgents from al-Qaeda in Iraq, leaders said.
"Forming the group did not come from nothing," said Khalaf al-Fahdawi, a leader of the Sunni Albu Fahd tribe in Anbar. "It came from a need to destroy al-Qaeda, which we thought the Marines might have been able to do. We were wrong, since these armed men became stronger and raped other cities."
Leaders in Anbar and south of Kirkuk said they opposed both Zarqawi and the American military occupation of Iraq, describing them as feeding off each other to the detriment of the country.
"We are a group of the Anbar people who want to get rid of Zarqawi . . . because this is the only way to make the Americans withdraw from Ramadi or Iraq in general," said Ahmed Abu Ilaf, 30, a welder and member of the new Anbar militia from Ramadi, about 60 miles west of the capital.
Fahdawi, the sheik from the Albu Fahd tribe, said the militia was forged in a series of secret meetings among tribal leaders, each of whom was asked to help form the group. Some contributed men, some money, Fahdawi said. U.S. military officers attended some of the meetings, he said, and helped "with "all kinds of financial support."If they weren't then, they soon would be.
Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, denied that American forces were funding the militia.
"All military activity is conducted through the legitimate structures of the Iraqi government and security forces," he said in an e-mail. "We are working hard to ensure these structures function properly, and funding a program such as this would only undermine that process."
An al Qaeda spokesman responded:
A fighter in Zarqawi's group, calling himself Abu Azzam, said the al-Anbar Revolutionaries "are collaborators and dogs for America. They kill the mujaheddin to get money from the American crusaders. They are cowards and we have killed a lot of them. . . . All the people here support us and our jihad against the Americans and their followers."Clearly the "Awakening Movement" had it's growing pains. But while the early stories of the development of what would become the Awakening Movement were reasonably balanced any references at all to further progress were rare. Clearly that progress was ongoing, but the story of the transition from disparate groups opposed to the US and al Qaeda to a full ally of US forces never made the papers - it didn't quite fit the popular "civil war" narrative in use at the time.
In fact, within a few months of that final mention negative reporting from Iraq became so overwhelming that even the death of al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi was portrayed as a marginally significant event, at best:
BAGHDAD, June 8 --Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the mastermind behind hundreds of bombings, kidnappings and beheadings in Iraq, was killed early Wednesday by an airstrike --north of Baghdad, U.S. and Iraqi officials said Thursday.An approach that appeared all the more transparent when the death of the founder of the Anbar Awakening movement was reported one year later:
His killing is the most significant public triumph for the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq since the 2003 capture of Saddam Hussein, although analysts warned that Zarqawi's death may not stem the tide of insurgency and violence any more than Hussein's capture did. Copying Osama bin Laden's leadership strategy, Zarqawi set up numerous semi-autonomous terrorist cells across Iraq, many of which could continue operating after his death.
Amir Muhammed Ali, a 45-year-old stock broker in Baghdad, was skeptical that al-Zarqawi's death would end the unrelenting sectarian violence and said the Iraqi resistance to U.S.-led forces likely would continue.
"He didn't represent the resistance, someone will replace him and the operations will go on," he said.
The assassination Thursday of the leader of the Sunni Arab revolt against al-Qaida militants dealt a setback to one of the few success stories in U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq, but tribesmen in Anbar province vowed not to be deterred in fighting the terror movement.Sufficient time has elapsed that we may now judge the accuracy of those forecasts. As I noted here (link to follow), those who attempt to accomplish any of those tasks without constant monitoring of the situation or first hand experience therein do so at a distinct disadvantage. Further, while those of a certain partisan stripe might find my conclusions more appealing than others, another key to understanding is to be able to view the scene without partisan prejudice of any sort - at least as far as that is humanly possible - separate facts from feelings, and limit motives to truth over a desired outcome.
Still, the loss of such a charismatic leader is bound to complicate efforts to recruit more tribal leaders in the war against the terror network. Two Pentagon officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the matter, said the assassination sent a chilling message about the consequences of cooperating with the Americans.
But even the release of a letter from senior al Qaeda leaders to Zarqawi (a document that clearly demonstrated the weakened position of the group in Iraq) was discovered and released, many pundits chose to tout it as evidence that the hopes for coalition success in Iraq had actually diminished with Zarqawi's death.
Throughout the remainder of 2006 the growing "Awakening Movement" would be largely ignored in the American media. That trend would continue well into 2007, until the point that the turnaround in fortunes that accompanied the surge was undeniable. As noted previously, at that point it was hailed as "the real reason" for decreased violence in Iraq - the surge itself (and the efforts of American troops) was a failure.
Via email, from Haider Ajina
The following is my translation of an article from Iraq’s Buratha News of 5-27-08Baghdad Parks & Recreation department Invites families to visit Abu-Nawass GardensHaider comments,
Baghdad Parks & Recreation department invited residents to visit Abu-Nawass gardens and spend lovely moments amongst its beauty. Now that they have been renovated and developed with utilities and recreation equipment. The spokes person for the office said in a press release today: ‘The Resafah office of the department has completed development and improvement of an area adjacent to the Tigris and planted large areas of lawn and evergreens, seasonal trees, as well as a modern irrigation system. We added to the gardens a number of play grounds, picnic areas and other recreational amenities, with plenty modern lighting, water fountains (decorative type) and parking areas. He added that the Roads Department has improved Abu- Nawas street which leads to the Karadeh area by fixing the road, pouring side walks and painting curbs. The center divides have been replanted and the statues of Abu-Nawass and Shahraiar (in the middle of the park) have been restored.
He added, “Our goal is to keep this tourist and recreation area beautiful and clean. Thus we are strictly enforcing no littering and have provided many permanent and portable garbage cans with litter patrols in the area. The office started inspections for the near by stores and restaurants which are plentiful in the area. To make sure all garbage is properly disposed off and collected. We have also bought new garbage trucks to make sure that all garbage is collected daily.
A picture accompanying the article is in the following link. http://www.burathanews.com/news_article_42361.html
This area was very popular when I grew up in Iraq. Especially in the warmer months. Walking along the Tigris in the late after noon till late night and enjoying the cool air is an activity many Baghdadis enjoy and seek. Many fish restaurants (Barbequed on a stick) and cafes line the river front on the Resafah side. It appears that this are is experiencing a strong come back. Hence the rhetorical question is this. When do people go out and enjoy the outside and eat out etc? When they feel physically safe, secure about their incomes and earnings and pleased with their surroundings. This is no surprise. All the hard work and sacrifices our men and women endured a long with the Iraqis we trained and still training is providing for a substantially safer Iraq with prosperity and security in its future.
After living in fear for months, liquor store owners in Baghdad are proudly displaying everything from Iraqi Asriya Arak to Johnnie Walker Blue Label whisky, a sign that peace and stability may return.So, after collecting these quotes - "We are not that worried now because security has improved", "I think I can operate safely here now. Things have quieted down a bit", "We are making money. We are happy", and "Violence has fallen to its lowest level in more than four years" - what perspective could an enterprising Reuters reporter add to news of falling violence?
Bombings, shootings and hand grenade attacks by suspected Muslim militants forced many alcohol salesmen to shut down but a security crackdown by US and Iraqi forces have made it possible for them to re-open along one of the capital's busiest streets.
"We are not that worried now because security has improved," said Samir Khaled, an employee of a shop that was shaken by a car bomb in December which killed three people in one of the capital's most heavily protected areas. It reopened a month ago.
Violence has fallen to its lowest level in more than four years, according to figures released by the US military at the weekend. Iraqi and US officials say they have al Qaeda in Iraq, blamed for the worst bombings in Baghdad, on the run.
"I think I can operate safely here now. Things have quieted down a bit," he said.
Before fundamentalists came along, alcohol merchants faced the whims of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
After attracting international condemnation for invading Kuwait, he began portraying himself as a pious Muslim to improve his image at home as economic sanctions ravaged Iraq.
In the mid 1990s he banned alcohol sales in hotels, bars and restaurants.
Even though the risks are higher these days, Khaled believes customers will brave the wrath of militants and take their time choosing from the spirits arrayed at his shop.
"We are making money. We are happy," he said.
That [falling violence] may offer an opportunity for enterprising liquor store owners... to generate business in Iraq, where a drink can offer an escape from suicide bombings, shootings and kidnappings.
A major bridge in Baghdad that spans the Tigris River reopened Tuesday with much fanfare, 13 months after terrorists bombed the landmark and killed more than 10 people.Iraq's Minister of Housing and Construction thanked the United States for its offers to help rebuild the bridge...
Standing beneath the al-Sarafiyah Bridge, schoolchildren waved their hands in the air, the bright floral corsages on their wrists punctuating their words, as they sang about their love for Iraq.
They provided entertainment for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other high level officials at the reopening of one of Baghdad's major bridges.
Only 13 months ago, the scene at this landmark was the opposite of joyful. On April 12, 2007, a suicide truck bomber targeted the bridge, destroying 180 meters of its length, sending cars into the Tigris below and killing more than 10 people.
But Tuesday, the scene was festive.
Mr. Maliki said the idea was not just to open a bridge, but to send a message to an ignorant and sadistic culture that there are forces at work to stop such dark powers.
But she said the ministry refused the much appreciated offers of American assistance. She said it wanted Iraqis to show that they have the power and responsibility to rebuild their country.
To complete the re-opening ceremony, the prime minister and other dignitaries crossed the bridge, as an Iraqi flag hung down from the bridge's center and signs declaring "Reconstruction is Our Duty" decorated its sides.
I spoke with Robert Stokely on the phone today. He's doing well. "Memorial Day is less a celebration and more a time of reflection for us." He told me. But after further conversation it was clear he was keeping very busy, too - and that's a good thing - with parades and fireworks and all the things that make small town America great.
"I want to go there some day. To walk the street where Mike was killed." I believe he'll get that opportunity, and I told him so. I was in that area last summer, and I watched things go from hot to warm - and I'm not talking about air temperature. Robert assured me that he'd heard from the folks there now that the trend was continuing.
And Mike held the line, and made it possible.
We spoke of Warrior's Walk, where a tree is planted for each fallen Soldier who served in Iraq with the 3ID. "Mike told me to avoid it when we were there". Robert said. "I don't want Abbey to see it, dad."
"She needs to see it," he told him, "she needs to know this is real. You're going to war. And one day she and I might be back here to plant a tree for you."
And a little over four months later they were. But watch the tribute video she made for him, and you'll see photos I suspect she took on that earlier day at Ft Stewart. They're from the angle a little sister would use to take a picture of her big brother before he went to war.
Maj. Michael Hulsey pulled into the long driveway at the house in Sharpsburg, wearing his Class A uniform and accompanied by a chaplain. Hulsey had been trained for this duty, had volunteered for it, but this was the first time he had been called on to carry it out.There's much more to the story than what's included in this AJC piece - the story of what it's like to get that dreaded knock on the door. But if incomplete it's not unimportant - far from it. As Robert Stokely related to the reporter who'd captured the story,
He got out of the van and began walking toward the house. A pit bull blocked the way, barking maniacally.
The night before, Robert Stokely had offered prayers for the safety of his son, Michael, and then stepped out onto the front porch. He gazed at the moon, as he often did, taking comfort in knowing that Michael, at war in Iraq, would see that same moon in just a few hours.
Stokely went back inside, drifted into his son's room and fell asleep there.
Hulsey took the call that same night: Spc. Michael Stokely had been killed in the town of Yusifiyah, southwest of Baghdad, by an IED.
It hurts me deeply to let myself think about that morning, much less talk about it. But I do so because I think we live in a world where war will never cease to be a part of our lives. Many are to face what our family faced that morning, and they too will begin a journey we have now been on for the last three years. Maybe, just maybe, our story is a flicker of light on that uncharted path others will one day tread. Maybe they will see our footsteps and, in them, hope to go on.But if you know the whole story, you know it's much more than a "flicker".
From January, 2006:
Few readers here will forget Robert Stokely's moving tribute to his son Mike. Shortly after we published that the Washington Post ran a piece titled "A Life, Wasted" written by the father of a Marine who was killed in Iraq.
At the time I recall thinking of the contrast between the two stories - and their placement. Probably nothing better defines the divide between the old guard media and the blogs - I would have published either story here. (In fact, a link to the Washington Post story was included in that day's Dawn Patrol.) But apparently the Post is a bit more choosy in what they present.
It seems Mr Stokely saw that Washington Post column too, and submitted his story to them. They rejected it, explaining "we rarely publish pieces that have been published elsewhere or have been widely circulated." That criteria having been met here, it would seem. This will no doubt be quite a surprise to the folks at AP, Reuters, or any other widely distributed news agencies that will - we must assume - soon discover their contributions are no longer welcome at the Washington Post.
Mr Stokely replied to the Post:
If I understand your explanation why you would not print my letter about my son, SGT MIKE STOKELY, KIA 16 AUG 05, IRAQ / IED, it is because my letter was previously used and "widely circulated". First, I am sure that can be taken as a great compliment to the blogs that used my letter - to be known as a wide means of circulation. However, I am curious to know how many times the Washington Post published, most likely front page, the thoughts and views of Cindy Sheehan - probably the most widely circulated and published thoughts of anybody on the war in Iraq, including any parent who has lost a son or daughter?
There's more here. Some folks are considering paying to have Mr Stokely's comments published in the WaPo - I'd say it's perhaps more appropriate to have the Post pay for rejecting a tribute from a father to his son - a son who fell defending their freedom to publish whatever they choose.
Their choice in this case was a perfect follow up to their hit job on Bill Roggio, and as justifiable as their rejection of support for the "Freedom Walk" (according to staffers there: "arguments that the Freedom Walk is anything other than a political activity -- and indeed, a political activity in support of the war in Iraq -- should be put to rest by the prominent participation of country music star Clint Black, best known of late for his war-glorifying song 'Iraq and I Roll.'") and as blatantly obvious as their enthusiastic support (to the point of publishing easily verifiable but false claims about the nature or number of protestors) of the competing anti-war rally that followed.
So help spread the word.
2006-01-11 15:33:33All done!
From August, 2007:
As we come upon the eve of the 2nd year of Remembrance of the death of my beloved son, SGT Mike Stokely, KIA 16 AUG 05 near Yusufiyah Iraq, I wanted to do something to remember this event with my friends in the blogosphere. I am a little tapped out on words as I am so busy coordinating the last minute push to have a successful car and motorcycle "Ride to Remember..." in his honor on August 25, 2007. I am driven to have a successful event, not just to honor Mike and raise money for a scholarship in his name at his college, but to set the stage to do this in coming years and use the proceeds to honor each and everyone of the other 25 fallen GA National Guard Soldiers from Georgia's 48th Brigade Combat Team GAARNG with a scholarship in their name and memory.
At the road dedication ceremony last October 6, Abbey produced a video on the lap top at home as a tribute to Mike. The song "American Soldier" by Toby Keith is set to photos Abbey selected as a tribute to her beloved brother and fallen hero, SGT Mike Stokely. Toby Keith most likely will never know who Abbey Stokely or Mike Stokely are, or just how much this song means to a younger sister who lost her American Soldier, Hero and Brother in war. He certainly couldn't envision how many times I have replayed Abbey's video tribute and cry each time, for the words and his melody are so "Mike" to me. To say the least, American Soldier is a fitting song chosen by Abbey to sum up Mike's life as a soldier with but one exception - he never got to have children with his high school sweetheart (Niki) who he married just ten days before he went to Iraq. Mike Stokely was a great husband, and would have been a great Dad. Obviously, he was a great brother. As a dad, I can say he was a great son as well as a most dear friend.
I would hope Toby Keith wouldn't mind this use of his song. I wish that one day I might have the brief chance to thank him in person and tell him the real "value" of his song and what it means to me and our family. But, for now, I'll just say thank you Toby Keith in cyberspace.
Now, I'll turn it over to 15 year old Abbey Stokely and invite you to take four minutes and go to the YOUTUBE link below, and see an up close and personal view of what the cost of freedom is to our family - A Lifetime of Love.
It is no wonder we remember with honor and and on August 25 we will "Ride to Remember..." Mike Stokely,
When asked what I would say to those who built the bomb that killed Mike, my answer is "They would have better served their cause by leaving him alive to have come home to a family who would have gone on to live ordinary anonymous lives. Instead, by their acts which caused Mike's death, an enemy has brought our family and entire generation of friends alive for the cause of freedom, without bitterness, anger, or bent for revenge, as we Remember with Honor what Mike Stokely gave. We have not wavered, we shall not retreat, nor shall we forget."
proud to be the dad of Wes and Abbey Stokely and
proudly remembering my beloved son, SGT Mike Stokely
KIA 16 AUG 05 near Yusufiyah
USA E Troop 108 CAV 48th BCT GAARNG
Don't forget folks, the "Ride to Remember" Aug 25, 2007 at 10:00 am
Proceeds will help establish a scholarship in Mike’s name at his college Georgia Military College in Milledgeville, GA - $25,000 challenge goal.
From May, 2006:
An email update from Robert Stokely:
In the first hours after news of Mike's death came to us last August 16, our family put in motion, with the help of friends, the formation of the Mike Stokely Foundation. It was our family's desire to encourage those who wanted to do something to show support for our family and remember Mike to think about contributing to the Foundation rather than sending us flowers or other presents. The generosity of our friends, and so many others who have heard of the Foundation allowed Mike to be remembered and honored these past few weeks with the awarding of $2,100 of book scholarships to five students headed to college, including two at his former high school. Plans are underway to provide funding from the Foundation to help purchase books for underprivileged children, and for various libraries that had some connection to Mike. Flowers would have died; other presents would have soon been forgotten, but the money contributed to the Foundation has helped purchase a lifetime of learning, and hopefully bring a better life to those who will receive books purchased with Foundation funds. Mike's life was about helping others. Mike's life and memory have become a vehicle to help others, even if only a little and few at a time. The Foundation will not change the world, but it will do what Mike did his whole life and that is do what can be done to make a positive difference in as many lives as possible. For the foreseeable future, the positive difference, in Mike's honor and memory, will continue to be made, thanks to the continued support of so many.Robert's previous entry here should not be missed.
Memorial Day is a day of rememberance. Personally, and for the Mike Stokely Foundation, I thank those who remembered Mike in so many ways, and for those who helped make it financially possible to remember him through helping others, and furthering Mike's passion for reading.
On this Memorial Day, I say this - You can't die for a just cause if you didn't live for one. Mike Stokely is an example of a life lived well and to the fullest. He did not flinch when asked to fight in the service of his country. Throughout his service for his country and with fellow soldiers, even in his final moments, he continued to be a beacon of positive spirit whose big friendly eyes and generous smile were his tradmark. While others debated, he served. Mike Stokely died in the same way he lived - devoted to God, Family, Duty, Honor, Country. No less, he died in the same way he lived, looking out for others, as he watched the back of two friends and fellow soldiers. Mike Stokely lived for such just causes and willing sacrificed his life just because of them. How much more just a cause can there be?
I will remember those who serve in the lineage of service that keeps our country free and safe, for they serve while others debate. Their just cause of service is not found in the politics of debate, but in the answer of the call to Duty, Honor, Country - a duty to honor and obey the lawful orders of their Commander-in-Chief and thereby serve the Country they each love dearly enough to be willing to give their very life. I am thankful for those willing to serve, especially those who gave their life. I am ever thankful that so many return alive. God Bless America. Thank you God for those willing to answer the call of their country and the just cause they serve - Duty, Honor, Country.
proud dad, SGT Mike Stokely
KIA IED Yusufiyah Iraq 8/16/05
There are other such foundations organized in memory of the fallen - one of the many ways they live on. We offer
our thoughts, prayers, and appreciation that words can't express to the Stokely's and others who've experienced loss - today and every day.
2006-05-29 20:42:35All done!
(Originally from July, 2007.)
Received this email from Robert Stokely, father of Sergeant Michael Stokely who was KIA by IED near Yusufiyah south of Baghdad 16 Aug 2005:
We often hear this term: Freedom isn't Free. But, what does that really mean and if Freedom isn't Free, then what is the cost and who pays it?
The cost is watching someone you love go away for a long period of time where there is little contact as they endure the rigors and hardships of training.
The cost is watching someone you love serve for pay that doesn't always cover what it takes to live a standard of living most civilians enjoy and suffering a financial impact that can negatively alter a military family's prosperity for a lifetime.
The cost is deployment to combat.
The cost is a loved one leaving whole but coming home less than whole, physically, mentally or both.
The cost is a a loved one who never returns from a mission and is never found.
The cost is having to take another's life, even if they are the enemy, and living with that the rest of your life.
The cost is watching a close friend die, maybe even holding them in your arms, helpless to save them and living a life of remembering that moment and feeling guilty that it wasn't you who died instead of the close friend.
The cost is a family waiting and watching 24 / 7, hoping and praying as they watch daily newscasts about our military personnel dying.
The cost is a knock at the door no family wants but is a special privilege of sacrifice and if not borne by some, then who would bear it?
The cost is a lifetime of love.
Freedom isn't Free and the cost is high.
The Fourth of July is a special time to celebrate the freedoms we have, hard fought and won at a great cost. Well we all should enjoy this day, and every day we have to live free, for to do less would be to waste the high price paid that we might.
UPDATE: Greyhawk sends this picture from Iraq
Halfway down the trail to Hell,
In a shady meadow green
Are the Souls of all dead troopers camped,
Near a good old-time canteen.
And this eternal resting place
Is known as Fiddlers' Green.
Marching past, straight through to Hell
The Infantry are seen.
Accompanied by the Engineers,
Artillery and Marines,
For none but the shades of Cavalrymen
Dismount at Fiddlers' Green.
Though some go curving down the trail
To seek a warmer scene.
No trooper ever gets to Hell
Ere he's emptied his canteen.
And so rides back to drink again
With friends at Fiddlers' Green.
And so when man and horse go down
Beneath a saber keen,
Or in a roaring charge of fierce melee
You stop a bullet clean,
And the hostiles come to get your scalp,
Just empty your canteen,
And put your pistol to your head
And go to Fiddlers' Green.
Greyhawk responds to Mr Stokely:
If I had simply seen Mike's name and taken the picture myself it wouldn't be quite as cool a story as I'm about to tell. One of my guys was on a trip down south and this was likely taken at one of the fiyahs - they were waypoints on his trip. I'll try and find out for sure next time I talk to him. I first saw the photo myself today, and I can't even describe the chill I got on seeing Mike's name, especially after seeing your 4th of July message just yesterday. I was just looking through a shared computer drive here for some pictures I could send my wife and kids and that was the first one I saw. The guy who took the picture has no connection to the 48th, doesn't know about my web site, and probably has never heard of any of the guys whose names are recorded on that memorial. Such tributes are all too common here, so common that it doesn't occur to most people to take a picture. He was just passing through, probably wanted a momento of another place where he stopped along the way.
If you believe in such coincidences, that's a pretty amazing one in my book. But that chill I mentioned above was mostly because some things are just too coincidental to be purely coincidental.
Both Mahmudiyah and Yusifiyah are now receiving a lot of attention. When you hear of the battle for the Baghdad belts, they are two of the key points. The 3ID has the lead in that part of Iraq - though now in Iraq the Division is referred to as Multi-National Division Central (MND-C) and is basically comprised of most of the surge Brigades announced last Winter.
The last of us got here in late May, the battle wasn't truly joined until mid June, and though I doubt you are hearing much of it we are taking it to the enemy hot and heavy in this AO - so Georgia's own are here carrying on.
We first heard from Robert Stokely here.
An April, 2008, entry in our Memorial Day clebration of life.
Hughes, Ark., native, Staff Sgt. James Robinson, Company C, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), hands out school materials donated by the Mike Stokely Foundation at a school in Mullah Fayad March 27. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Tony M. Lindback, 3rd BCT, 101st Abn. Div. (AASLT))
By Staff Sgt. Tony M. Lindback, 3rd BCT, 101st Abn. Div. (AASLT)
PATROL BASE YUSIFIYAH, Iraq - Students and teachers had looks of joy - and bewilderment - as Soldiers handed out school supplies and toys at the Mullah Fayad School in Yusifiyah, Iraq, March 27.
Children grinned ear-to-ear as they looked over the treasure. When teachers asked who had sent the truckload of goods, they were surprised by the answer. Everything had been donated in the name of Sgt. Michael Stokely, who was killed Aug. 16, 2005 in Mullah Fayad.
Stokely, from Sharpsburg, Ga., served with the 48th Georgia National Guard. After his death, his father began the Mike Stokely Foundation.
The organization put together a shipment of school supplies for citizens of the communities where Stokely lived and died. It took an Army five-ton truck to deliver the supplies to the school.
Pittsburgh native Capt. Michael Starz, commander of Company C, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), coordinated with Stokely's father to ensure the donations reached the most destitute people in Mullah Fayad.
The unit distributed the school supplies along with a sizable donation from Sgt. Nathan Barnes' family and community. Barnes, who also died while serving in the area, served with 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.
"(Stokely's) dad is just a tremendous individual. He knew how much his son loved the children in the area that he worked with because his son always sent home pictures of him with kids," Starz said. "He thought a lasting tribute to his son would be to do something for the children of the area. That's just remarkable."
"They donated a lot of stuff," said Hughes, Ark., native Staff Sgt.
James Robinson, platoon sergeant for 3rd Platoon, Co. C, 3-187th Inf.
Regt. "It's like the packages just wouldn't stop ... I know a lot of kids in the neighborhood appreciated that."
Teachers received materials as well. Unlike the children, who were happy to get the gifts without asking who they come from, the teachers wanted to know who to thank. They could barely believe their ears when Starz told them.
"They said it's almost too much to imagine," Starz said. "All the teachers wanted a copy of Sgt. Stokely's picture and the foundation's name so they could frame it and put it up in their school. They say it's something the Quran teaches - the forgiveness of your enemies. But it's so hard to do ... that it's never actually seen."
Changing Iraqis' opinion about Americans is important to winning in insurgent warfare, said Starz. When people in the States, like the Stokely family, donate materials it positively impact the abilities of ground forces, he said.
"People send us care packages and things like that - and that's fantastic - but this is directly relating to our ability." Starz said.
"It's almost the modern Rosie the Riveter. You're not going to the factories and working, but you're doing something to enable and provide another tool for the combat Soldier on the ground."
Here's a previous report from Robert Stokely on this project, and info on how you can help.
Soldiers of Company C, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), distribute school materials donated by the Mike Stokely Foundation at a school in Mullah Fayad March 27. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Tony M. Lindback, 3rd BCT, 101st Abn. Div. (AASLT))
And if you haven't read this, please take a moment to do so.
2008-04-03 21:08:54All done!
An April, 2008 addition to our Memorial Day tribute...
The Maupins remained hopeful he was alive and kept busy at the Yellow Ribbon Support Center they started. It has sent thousands of gift boxes to troops overseas and awarded 180 scholarships in honor of fallen soldiers.Matt's father says that the effort will continue:
"Even though Matt is coming home, we still have another mission," said Maupin. "Our first was to bring Matt home and the second was to support the troops and that's what we are going to do."That response might be rare, but it's not unique. Robert Stokely began an effort in memory of his son Mike some time ago. In addition to funding scholarships, The Mike Stokely Foundation sends supplies to an Iraqi school in the area where Mike was killed.
Too bad the major media in this country can't spend one tenth the time they devoted to Cindy Sheehan on efforts like these. (Of course, Cindy had cash from millionaires to buy backing from various "activist" groups and PR firms - a bit out of reach for the budgets of those who are doing actual grassroots work...)
Last year, Memorial Day - I was in Iraq. It was hot and we were dragging our shite out of the conex it had been shipped in and setting up shop. On the radio (Armed Forces Network, of course) one of those "Memorial Day Weekend 500 Greatest Rock Songs of All Time" shows.
And that was great. Hard to explain how much that lightened the load. Afterwards I thought about drinking a beer.
That would be the beer I'm drinking now. There's no beer in Iraq for GI's to quaff on a hot summer day. So back then I thought about the beer I would drink on every Memorial Day afterward - assuming I made it home. And it tastes just like I thought it would. And after I finish it I'm going to have one for Major John.
And two for Andy.
Prior to deploying I sat down in front of the old computer and recorded myself playing some songs I enjoy playing. Cheap camera, cheap mic, one take. All flubs intact. I didn't have a lot of time for the project. Just wanted to quickly capture myself for posterity, you know, just in case.
Update: That song was I've always loved you, by Third Day.
Here's a clip of the original.
Next: The BoxerAll done!
At work I was talking to a colleague about a story I'd read, a piece on a man who perished in the towers. He was the solider on the front of the Vietnam history "We Were Soldiers." The piece has been going around the blogosphere, and even if I could find the link the site's bandwidth has been exceeded for a while so I'm not sure a link would be helpful today. Anyway. I'm relating the tale, how the man helped to evacuate everyone in his office, and cheered them with lusty old British war songs - and at that point I couldn't talk anymore. That was it. You make some gestures to indicate you've lost your handle for a moment; you turn away and get your grip. Didn't happen when you read the story; didn't happen when you thought about it the other day; but it's happening now.-- James Lileks, September 12, 2003
He's talking about this story, re-posted now for Memorial Day. It's a story that put Mudville on the blogosphere's map while briefly knocking us off the web.
It doesn't matter what you're doing right now. Stop. And go read this biography of Rick Rescorla, one of the greatest American heroes in our history. Rick Rescorla died on 9-11-01, but not as a victim, as a hero, who helped save the lives of 2600 people that day.As of now the story has 60 recorded trackbacks.
Mudville was a microscopic blip among blogs in September, 2003, rarely seeing 50 visits in a day. But I had another post planned for that day, one that I thought might attract a bit more attention, bring a few readers in who would visit and move on. I can't even remember what post that was. Likewise I can't recall when and where I'd first heard that the guy on the cover of We Were Soldiers had died in the World Trade Center, but I knew it was a story I wanted to share. But I wanted people to see it, so I hoped that by posting it at about the same time as that other story it might get a few more "eyes on" than it would otherwise.
Like I said, I don't even remember what that other story was.
I'd had another idea that late summer/early fall. There were a couple dozen military bloggers back then, some widely read, others lesser known than I was. I knew the total exceeded the sum of it's parts. So "what if...", I wondered, "we were all linked somehow..." still independent, but bonded. And offering encouragement and opportunity (and readers) for others who might take up the "pen" along with the sword.
But I was convinced Mudville was too small to make it happen. But then came that Rescorla post, and shortly thereafter I sent out some emails, asking something like "Hey, what do you guys think of this idea..."
So if it weren't for Rick Rescorla, there probably never would have been a MilBlogs Ring.
Thank you thank you for the tribute to my husband. Let us all never forget Rick or what happened to our world on that day. It takes much courage to face evil. You are all heros.I wasn't ready for that comment. I expected some from Rick's fellow Cav guys - Wallace Craig had told me he was going to spread the word, but this one hit me in much the same way the original post did James Lileks.
Posted by susan rescorla at September 9, 2003 11:02 AM
I sent Mrs Rescorla an email, and she replied. She's an incredible lady, and before long she had sent me a box full of autographed copies of the book Heart of a Soldier. Mrs G and I were in Germany at the time, living in a small village near Landstuhl medical center, where the wounded from Afghanistan and Iraq are sent for initial treatment. And before long those books were making it into the hands of wounded troops who were passing through.
Something he did ask me to blog about was CPT Jason Spencer, Chuck's XO. Because Chuck was wearing heavy Kevlar armor, he went bottoms up in the canal, and was drowning, Jason dove into the canal to save him, only to find himself in the same predicament as Chuck and almost drowning himself, but he managed to muscle himself upward to then help pull Chuck ashore. This man is a hero and Chuck wanted me to spread the word on this.Many people are.
The gurney arrived to transfer him to Walter Reed Medical, that was my cue that it was time for me to leave. He asked me if I had a camera, which unfortunately mine was dead, so the answer was "no". He wanted me to take his picture Note to self: always have camera charged. I did however, have for him a copy of "Heart of a Soldier", a book about a hero Rick Rescorla, autographed by Mrs Rescorla. Chuck was familiar with his story.
If there hadn't been a MilBlogs Ring, it's likely Chuck would have come home unknown to all but his family and friends. If there hadn't been a MilBlogs Ring the VALOUR-IT program might never have been launched. If it weren't for Rick Rescorla, there probably wouldn't be a MilBlogs Ring.
In spite of that, in some ways that story didn't accomplish one thing I'd hoped.
Listen to the man and then you can add your signature to an online petition calling on the President to award the Medal of Freedom to Rick Rescorla.You can still do that - and join the 30204 who have thus far. Maybe some day that medal will be awarded.
By April, 2006 the statue was unveiled.
This April 1, 2006 the unveiling of Rick's statue will take place at Ft. Benning, Ga. Eight feet tall, and the legacy will go on forever. Among my guests will be 300 Rolling Thunder bike riders who are rolling in from various states. How great is that?
Other folks attended, too
CSM Plumley, General Moore, and Joe Galloway:
I think this story will continue. In the meantime, Heart of a Soldier is still available.
As is the The Man Who Predicted 9/11 DVD
Jules Crittenden has an update to the story below - On Dying And Continuing To Be Alive - that includes news of a forthcoming sequel to We Were Soldiers Once and Young.
""We Are Soldiers Still” will include the story of John Eade, which was still untold when Moore and Galloway wrote the first book."
Turning Point: The Good News About IraqThe story points out that Iraqi forces are now leading operations in Basra, Mosul and Sadr City, making progress with relatively little American support.
As Gen. David Petraeus and Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee for confirmation hearings today, things are looking up in Iraq.
"This is unprecedented: three major Iraqi-led operations in three different parts of the country."
Last week, the overall level of attacks in Iraq was at the lowest point since April, 2004. So far in May, the U.S. death rate is the lowest of the war.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's political position has never been stronger, he currently has the backing of Sunnis, Kurds and moderate Shiites. As a result, Moqtada al-Sadr's party is politically isolated.
The speaker of the Iraqi parliament [a Sunni] wrote a heartfelt letter to President Bush, thanking the U.S. for sending the "best politicians and military commanders" to Iraq.
So, where would you find a story like that? If you guessed "Pentagon Press Release" you're wrong. If you guessed ABC News, you're right.
The obligatory disclaimer is included:
There is, of course, no guarantee that these positive developments will last. Government services and economic development still lag. Iranian involvement is still a major concern. And nobody wants to repeat Cheney's infamous 2005 comment about the "last throes" of the insurgency. But we may now be seeing the most positive set of circumstances we have seen in a long, long time in Iraq....but note that even it ends on a positive note.
As one usually pessimistic military official told me this morning, "Everything has broken our way over the past three months."
Then, this Memorial Day weekend, join with the US Congress in sending a big "Up yours, loser" message to the troops that made it happen.
A pre-Memorial Day weekend update on the new GI Bill. Once again, I'll steal Lt Nixon's good, bad, and ugly approach, because it (unfortunately) fits so well.
The Senate has passed the Webb GI Bill 75-22. The House passed it last week.
That was all the good news. But there's plenty of news left. In fact, the bad and ugly portions are so disproportionately long on this one that it's arguable whether "good" even applies. "That's nice" might be a better header. Here's why.
1. The GI Bill is attached to the war funding bill, which President Bush has vowed to veto if it included anything beyond his request. But the GI Bill supporters - and I'm one of the staunchest - say that benefits to the troops are part of the cost of war.
But billions more in domestic spending aren't.
The Senate measure extends unemployment benefits for 13 weeks, funds levee construction around New Orleans, and guarantees that veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will receive education benefits equal to the tuition at the most expensive state universities.The Bill contains so many domestic pet project add-ons that no single mainstream media report can even capture them all.
It provides additional funds for the Food and Drug Administration, the 2010 census, federal prisons, local law enforcement agencies, heating assistance for the poor and many other domestic priorities. It also blocks the administration from implementing regulations that would limit access to the State Children's Health Insurance Program.
The bill also contained $490 million for grants to local police departments, $451 million to repair roads damaged by natural disasters, $200 million for the space shuttle program, and $400 million for National Institutes of Health research projects.While the President might have passed the larger funding bill with only the education benefits tacked on, a veto now is certain.
2. The Bill must now be reconciled with the House version. In an amazing display of ineptitude, the House passed the military funding Bill last week without the military funding - but with the new GI Bill, along with billions in domestic spending, a demand that US troops withdraw from Iraq, and a tax increase. That reconciliation step can't begin until after the week long Memorial Day recess.
The AP says "Because of the differences between the two versions, it will take weeks to pass a final compromise, which Bush is expected to veto, and then send him one [a military funding bill] he can sign."
The odds of veterans getting a GI Bill we deserve might be more remote than ever.
The Politico might be the only site reporting on this issue that's willing to present the actual issues:
But unless adjustments are made, the entire wartime bill faces an almost certain veto fight with the president. The question is whether cooler heads will prevail and Congress and the White House will begin some negotiation to avoid another veto fight, which is not necessarily to the advantage of either side.Others are playing "make believe" - pretending that the GI Bill is stand-alone legislation opposed by Senator McCain and President Bush.
Instead of standing on its own with the war money, the new benefit is lumped together with an estimated $10 billion in additional domestic spending. Democrats must now decide whether to pare back these appropriations to accent the importance of the GI education issue.
And to some degree, Republicans seemed relieved that the bigger amendment succeeded right off because it then gives Bush more political cover in case of a veto fight.
The reality is that the new GI Bill passed on the votes of
1. Democrats and Republicans who sincerely want the benefit for the troops.
2. Republicans who might otherwise have opposed the Webb bill (in favor of the Republican alternative - more on that shortly) but are seen as too vulnerable on the issue in their re-election bids this year.
3. Democrats who want to create a GI Bill that has no chance of passing, then hammer their opponents for not allowing it to pass.
...and was opposed by
4. Republicans who supported the alternative bill proposed by Senator Graham of South Carolina. (The only U.S. Senator currently serving in the Guard or Reserves.)
But it's virtually impossible to distinguish the members of group one from those in two and three - especially when the media coverage won't acknowledge the political posturing of group three that in turn forces the political posturing of group two, a media that instead merely touts the "strong bipartisan support" for the bill.
Unfortunately, some veteran's groups are willing to play along:
For the 22 Senators opposing this crucial legislation, I can only express my disappointment. For them, partisanship came before patriotism. (Three Senators were not present for the voting, including Senator Kennedy, who was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor, and Senator McCain, who was at a fundraising event in California.)While paraphrasing President Bush's "with us or against us" line here will have a strong appeal to a certain segment of the population, that argument would be valid only if the Bill was a stand-alone, or even if it was the only add-on to the larger funding Bill. Sadly, that's not the case. But that point is ignored by IAVA, and their willingness to provide cover to those who created this monstrosity is disappointing at the very least. True advocates of the GI Bill - or veteran's issues in general - aren't going to issue a free pass to the group three folks above.
The President has threatened on multiple occasions to veto the emergency supplemental if it includes war timelines or other policy restrictions, or if it goes over his arbitrary budget cap. The Administration has also expressed objections to the GI Bill based on concerns about retention - basically, they believe that if a GI Bill benefit is too good, it'll reward veterans too richly for their service and draw them away from re-enlisting.
So with a veto threat looming, we haven't won yet. There is one final hurdle--and it is a big one: the President. When the politicians return to Washington after Memorial Day, Congress will get a final version of the war funding bill to the President, and President Bush will have to decide whether he is with Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, or against them.
And that's where Democrats handed Republicans a golden opportunity - one that Republicans were far too stupid to notice. The GOP could have enthusiastically supported the Webb bill from the beginning, and if they had could effectively hammer those Democrats who set it up for failure last week in the House and this week in the Senate. Instead, they chose to offer an alternative bill. Submitted by Senator Graham, it was also a generous improvement on the current GI Bill, but offered benefits on a sliding scale that rewarded continued service, and added an option that would allow troops to transfer the benefit to their dependents. Webb's Bill neglected both of these provisions.
But initially the Graham Bill fell short on other issues. For instance, it failed to eliminate the "buy in" (under the Montgomery GI Bill the lowest ranking troops were forced to elect to have their pay reduced their first year in service if they wanted to receive the benefit years later). But The Politico reports that Graham's Bill has subsequently been improved:
Both groups would see their benefits improved from current law under both bills. And trying to compete with Webb, the McCain alternative has been modified to offer a richer package to help pay for books, for example or forego fees charged enlistees. But on balance, Webb is much more generous to veterans, while McCain’s first priority is career personnel, including a costly proposal to allow an Air Force NCO, for example, to transfer his education benefits to his children.Note, however, that as with most media coverage the excerpt above leads the reader to believe that Graham's Bill is actually John McCain's. While he supports it, it's as much McCain's bill as Webb's is Obama's. (More on that shortly.) Likewise, while a claim that Webb's bill is more generous to a larger number of veterans is accurate, the statement that "Webb's Bill is more generous to veterans" is untrue. Graham's bill offers better benefits to those who served beyond one term.
But all comparisons of the two bill's are moot except this one: a Republican bill has no chance for success in a Democrat-controlled legislature. Thus in many regards the folks in group four above are no better than the folks in group three, supporting a Bill that has no chance in hell of passing.
However, group four folks are identifiable, their votes are on record, and as previously noted group three members are not. And that's where the Republicans have screwed themselves (and veterans) completely and utterly on this issue when they didn't have to in the first place.
The even uglier:
As noted in an earlier discussion on this topic (Obama Goes for Joe), Senator Obama had already telegraphed that his initial assault on John McCain would be over this issue. That's a brilliant stroke, because it will cost McCain votes from military members and their supporters, and that loss of support will be widely touted by the media for the same reasons that the actual issues over the GI Bill won't. (See How Republicans "lost" the Military Vote).
And now, just in time for Memorial Day, the story begins to make it's way to the front pages. During the Senate debate, Obama (feigning ignorance of why McCain opposed Webb's GI Bill) said "I respect Senator John McCain's service to our country, but I can't understand why he would line up behind the president in opposition to this G.I. Bill. I can't believe why he believes it is too generous to our veterans."
Had Republicans initially responded to the Webb bill as detailed above that statement could never have been made, and instead McCain could have been questioning why Obama and his fellow Democrats added massive domestic spending to a military funding bill - a measure that would ensure it's defeat. The press probably wouldn't cover it, but we'd be much closer to having an actual GI Bill passed into law.
WASHINGTON - Republican John McCain launched a harsh attack on Democrat Barack Obama’s lack of military credentials yesterday, charging that the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination has “zero understanding” of veterans issues.He might want to ask John Kerry how well that approach will work.
“I will not accept from Senator Obama, who did not feel it was his responsibility to serve our country in uniform, any lectures on my regard for those who did,” said McCain, a former Vietnam naval aviator who was held as a prisoner of war for more than five years.
But according to the story, "An angry McCain answered in a statement released by his campaign". I want to think that McCain had much more in that statement than a simple, pointless, and counter-productive attack on Obama. And I don't trust reporters to deliver McCain's comments in full (see "100 years" for example), so I clicked over to John McCain's campaign web site to find that statement in full. Over the past weeks, as this situation was growing rapidly out of his control, McCain's campaign (and web site) was devoted to advancing his position on global warming. But I had hoped (in spite of the countless missed opportunities) that they would have realized by now that unless he sets the record straight on the GI Bill fiasco no one will.
I couldn't find it. If that now widely reported statement is anywhere on McCain's web page it's certainly well hidden. That's too bad. Hopefully that will be corrected.
The latest entry on the campaign blog (a blog, for the uninitiated, is a frequently updated web site) is this one from two days ago:
As you can see, we've changed a few things on JohnMcCain.com. We have a new design, a new look and some new tools to help us in the fight to get John McCain elected. This is only the beginning of what's to come, so stay tuned.I think someone involved better add "New GI Bill" to the list of things that might help "in the fight to get John McCain elected". Because you are taking punches you should have seen coming from a mile away.
Take a look around and let us know what you think!
Update - not so fast!: Dead Bill Walking (I suspect there are Mudville readers involved...)
Military.com has the Daily Election Blog that is comprised of military vets and military wives speaking on issues around the election. If you haven't been there yet, there's some very interesting stuff, although it does seem to be filled with a few fainting Obama fans. Author "Air Force Wife" is trying to fit in as a new contributor there, I say we support her with some comments.
Her latest post spawned some down right hateful comments.
I also found these post by other contributors interesting:
The AP reports on UN scrutiny of potential abuses by the United States:
The American military is holding about 500 juveniles in detention centers in Iraq and has about 10 detained at the military base at Bagram, Afghanistan, the United States has told the United Nations.However, "Human Rights" groups are outraged:
A total of 2,500 people under the age of 18, almost all in Iraq, have been detained for periods of up to a year or more since 2002, the United States reported last week to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. Most are believed to be 16 or 17.
“The juveniles that the United States has detained have been captured engaging in anticoalition activity, such as planting improvised explosive devices, operating as lookouts for insurgents or actively engaged in fighting against U.S. and coalition forces,” the report said.
The American report pointed out, “Although age is not a determining factor in whether or not we detain an individual under the law of armed conflict, we go to great lengths to attend to the special needs of juveniles while they are in detention.”
Civil liberties groups such as the International Justice Network and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) denounced the detentions as abhorrent, and a violation of U.S. treaty obligations.Also included in the story...
"It's shocking to me that the U.S. government has not figured out a way to keep children out of adult prisons. It's outrageous, and it is not making us any safer, I can say that about Afghanistan from personal experience," Tina M. Foster, the executive director of the International Justice Network, said Sunday.
Jamil Dakwar, director of the A.C.L.U.’s Human Rights Program, released a statement expressing his dismay.
“It is shocking to know that the U.S. is holding hundreds of juveniles in Iraq and Afghanistan, and even more disturbing that there is no comprehensive policy in place that will protect their rights as children,” it said.
The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the General Assembly in 1989, with backing at the time from the U.S. government of President Bill Clinton, and with strong lobbying from then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, who now is competing for the Democratic Party presidential nomination with Barack Obama.But somehow left out of the story...
In August, the military announced it had opened the first detention facility meant specifically to house juvenile prisoners. According to the American command in Baghdad, the Dar al-Hikmah facility houses some 600 detainees from 11 to 17 years old and provides “basic education instruction.”And in Baghdad:
The U.S. military says the first group of detainees to attend a seven-week education program at one of the military prisons in Iraq has “graduated.”
Dubbed “The Hasty School,” the program at Camp Bucca gave prisoners “seven weeks studying Arabic, English, math, science, geography and civics to a first to third-grade level,” according to a news release issued Tuesday.
Military officials said the program was part of several initiatives to steer prisoners away from violence or crime. Other initiatives have included education programs and youth art contests.
CAMP CROPPER, Iraq — Sixteen students of the Dar al-Hikmah juvenile education center, or “House of Wisdom,” completed the school’s first civics course May 1, and their teacher could not have been happier with their performance.
During the 10-day civics course, students are taught a basic understanding of the importance of family, national service, Iraqi citizenship and the composition of the Iraqi government.
The civics course is poised for a larger enrollment in its second installation. Following the graduation of the 16 juvenile detainees from the first class, the second iteration, scheduled to begin later this week, has already received a voluntary enrollment of approximately 25 participants.
Dar al-Hikmah, which provides basic education to more than 500 juvenile detainees at the Camp Cropper Theater Internment Facility on Victory Base Complex, also provides programs in Arabic, history, science, geography, math and athletics.
In other news:
A youthful suicide bomber killed at least 23 people Wednesday in an attack against relatives of Col. Faisal Ismail al-Zobaie, a U.S.-backed police chief and former insurgent who has turned against his onetime comrades.Elsewhere:
Zobaie, the police chief of Fallujah in Anbar province, said a bomber of about 12 years of age attacked the funeral of Zobaie's uncle.
Militants linked to al-Qa’eda have set up training camps in Pakistan to teach children how to conduct suicide attacks.Neither the UN or ACLU have commented on those stories.
The Pakistani army claimed today to have overrun one such camp in territory where the notorious Pakistani Taliban commander, Baitullah Mehsud, operates.
Militants had transformed a government-run school near the village of Spinkai in South Waziristan into what one officer described as a “nursery for preparing suicide bombers”.
The school was part of a large compound above the village that included a small mosque.
Maj Gen Tariq Khan, the commander of the division that captured the area, said: “It was like factory that had been recruiting nine to 12-year-old boys and turning them into suicide bombers.”
He told the Dawn newspaper that at another location military investigators found film footage on a DVD that they believed depicts children at the school being taught suicide training.
The footage, which was shown to journalists, contained images of a masked teacher instructing rows of schoolchildren who wore white headbands inscribed with Quranic verses.
However, the ACLU is concerned for American children being abused by the US military, too. From their press release (which the AP reprinted nearly verbatim as their "news" story at the first link - minus this batshit crazy section):
The government claims in its report that Defense Department policy is not to recruit any youth under the age of 17, but a Pentagon-produced video game recruitment tool targets 13-year-olds, military training corps target youth as young as 11, and military handbooks instruct recruiters to target high school students as early as possible, says the ACLU.It's unclear from the press release whether the ACLU wants to prohibit the Navy from hiring "youth of color" altogether or simply set a UN-determined limit on how many can join.
"Contrary to the government report, recruitment does not begin when a high school senior signs a contract to enlist," said Jennifer Turner of the ACLU Human Rights Program. "The government fails to acknowledge that recruiters contact, cultivate, and at times harass potential recruits long before they are old enough to sign up."
The government report also reveals the high number of youth of color among enlistees. In fiscal year 2007, 43 percent of all new under-18 enlistees in the Navy were black or Latino, along with 32 percent in the Air Force, 30 percent in the Marine Corps, and 22 percent in the Army. In its submission to the UN yesterday the ACLU charged that the military targets youth of color for military recruitment.
The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child is scheduled to question the U.S. delegation on its compliance with its obligations on May 22 in Geneva.
Al Qaeda has no treaty obligations, therefore their compliance or lack thereof is not an issue.
From the White House:
Setting The Record Straight:Kind of fun to see them hitting back. That email was sent with the links formatted, by the way.
The following is a letter from Counselor to the President Ed Gillespie to NBC News President Steve Capus:
President, NBC News
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, N.Y. 10112
This e-mail is to formally request that NBC Nightly News and The Today Show air for their viewers President Bush's actual answer to correspondent Richard Engel's question about Iran policy and "appeasement," rather than the deceptively edited version of the President's answer that was aired last night on the Nightly News and this morning on The Today Show.
In the interview, Engel asked the President: "You said that negotiating with Iran is pointless, and then you went further. You said that it was appeasement. Were you referring to Senator Barack Obama?"
The President responded: "You know, my policies haven't changed, but evidently the political calendar has. People need to read the speech. You didn't get it exactly right, either. What I said was is that we need to take the words of people seriously. And when, you know, a leader of Iran says that they want to destroy Israel, you've got to take those words seriously. And if you don't take them seriously, then it harkens back to a day when we didn't take other words seriously. It was fitting that I talked about not taking the words of Adolph Hitler seriously on the floor of the Knesset. But I also talked about the need to defend Israel, the need to not negotiate with the likes of al Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas. And the need to make sure Iran doesn't get a nuclear weapon."
This answer makes clear: (1). The President's remarks before the Knesset were not different from past policy statements, but are now being looked at through a political prism, (2). Corrects the inaccurate premise of Engel's question by putting the "appeasement" line in the proper context of taking the words of leaders seriously, not "negotiating with Iran," (3). Restates the U.S.'s long-standing policy positions against negotiating with al Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas, and not allowing Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.
Engel's immediate follow-up question was, "Repeatedly you've talked about Iran and that you don't want to see Iran develop a nuclear weapon. How far away do you think Iran is from developing a nuclear capability?"
The President replied, "You know, Richard, I don't want to speculate – and there's a lot of speculation. But one thing is for certain – we need to prevent them from learning how to enrich uranium. And I have made it clear to the Iranians that there is a seat at the table for them if they would verifiably suspend their enrichment. And if not, we'll continue to rally the world to isolate them."
This response reiterates another long-standing policy, which is that if Iran verifiably suspends its uranium enrichment program the U.S. government would engage in talks with the Iranian government.
NBC's selective editing of the President's response is clearly intended to give viewers the impression that he agreed with Engel's characterization of his remarks when he explicitly challenged it. Furthermore, omitted the references to al Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas and ignored the clarifying point in the President's follow-up response that U.S. policy is to require Iran to suspend its nuclear enrichment program before coming to the table, not that "negotiating with Iran is pointless" and amounts to "appeasement."
This deceitful editing to further a media-manufactured storyline is utterly misleading and irresponsible and I hereby request in the interest of fairness and accuracy that the network air the President's responses to both initial questions in full on the two programs that used the excerpts.
As long as I am making this formal request, please allow me to take this opportunity to ask if your network has reconsidered its position that Iraq is in the midst of a civil war, especially in light of the fact that the unity government in Baghdad recently rooted out illegal, extremist groups in Basra and reclaimed the port there for the people of Iraq, among other significant signs of progress.
On November 27, 2006, NBC News made a decision to no longer just cover the news in Iraq, but to make an analytical and editorial judgment that Iraq was in a civil war. As you know, both the United States government and the Government of Iraq disputed your account at that time. As Matt Lauer said that morning on The Today Show: "We should mention, we didn't just wake up on a Monday morning and say, 'Let's call this a civil war.' This took careful deliberation.'"
I noticed that around September of 2007, your network quietly stopped referring to conditions in Iraq as a "civil war." Is it still NBC News's carefully deliberated opinion that Iraq is in the midst of a civil war? If not, will the network publicly declare that the civil war has ended, or that it was wrong to declare it in the first place?
Lastly, when the Commerce Department on April 30 released the GDP numbers for the first quarter of 2007, Brian Williams reported it this way: "If you go by the government number, the figure that came out today stops just short of the official declaration of a recession."
The GDP estimate was a positive 0.6% for the first quarter. Slow growth, but growth nonetheless. This followed a slow but growing fourth quarter in 2007. Consequently, even if the first quarter GDP estimate had been negative, it still would not have signaled a recession – neither by the unofficial rule-of-thumb of two consecutive quarters of negative growth, nor the more robust definition by the National Bureau of Economic Research (the group that officially marks the beginnings and ends of business cycles).
Furthermore, never in our nation's history have we characterized economic conditions as a "recession" with unemployment so low – in fact, when this rate of unemployment was eventually reached in the 1990s, it was hailed as the sign of a strong economy. This rate of unemployment is lower than the average of the past three decades.
Are there numbers besides the "government number" to go by? Is there reason to believe "the government number" is suspect? How does the release of positive economic growth for two consecutive quarters, albeit limited, stop "just short of the official declaration of a recession"?
Mr. Capus, I'm sure you don't want people to conclude that there is really no distinction between the "news" as reported on NBC and the "opinion" as reported on MSNBC, despite the increasing blurring of those lines. I welcome your response to this letter, and hope it is one that reassures your broadcast network's viewers that blatantly partisan talk show hosts like Christopher Matthews and Keith Olbermann at MSNBC don't hold editorial sway over the NBC network news division.
Counselor to the President
To View The Edited Version Of NBC News' Interview, Click Here
To View The Full Interview Of The President, Click Here
Sad news today. Another fellow milblogger has joined the "Ghost battalion" (milblogs that quit blogging when their deployment end). Badger 6 came home the first week of May, 08 and has decided to hang up his camo keyboard.
B-6 has been instrumental in getting the ground truth out about what has been going on in Ramadi - Falluja. He shared the stories of the soldiers of Company A, 321st Engineer, the progress they made and the loses they incurred
All is not lost however, for those avid readers, he will continue to post occasionally at MilBlogs
I'm going out of town so have no time to tell you all how much of a loss this is to the milblogging community, Greyhawk may add to this later.
Thank You B6 for making history. Hope to see you around MilBlogs.
Let's set the wayback machine for August, 2004. In the heat of a Presidential campaign pitting a Vietnam combat veteran against a former Air National Guard fighter pilot, Democrats used one of their other veterans to launch an attack on the Vice President...
Harkin also lashed out at Vice president Dick Cheney who last week accused Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry of lacking the basic understanding of the war on terrorism to protect Americans.That CNN story has disappeared off the internet, but Fox coverage is still available:
Harkin said “When I hear this coming from Dick Cheney, who was a coward, who would not serve during the Vietnam War, it makes my blood boil.
Those of us who served and those of us who went in the military don't like it when someone like a Dick Cheney comes out and he wants to be tough.
DES MOINES, Iowa — Sen. Tom Harkin pushed the name-calling in the presidential race to a new level, calling Vice President Dick Cheney a coward for not serving in Vietnam and cowardly for his criticism of John Kerry.But Donald Sensing (first link above) raised some questions on Harkin's own service record. And Glenn Reynolds found the story compelling enough to spend part of his lunch hour fact checking...
He said President Bush and Cheney are "running scared because John Kerry has a war record and they don't."
In a book called Stolen Valor : How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of Its Heroes and Its History, I found this passage, which is considerably worse for Harkin than Sensing's short summary. I'm reproducing it as an image for the benefit of doubters.As professor Reynolds noted...
I also found an article from the Wall Street Journal, entitled "Harkin Presidential Bid Marred by Instances In Which Candidate Appears to Stretch Truth,"...Mr. Harkin said at that meeting, in words that were later quoted in a book, Changing of the Guard, by Washington Post political writer David Broder. "One year was in Vietnam. I was flying F-4s and F-8s on combat air patrols and photo-reconnaisance support missions. I did no bombing."
That clearly is not an accurate picture of his Navy service. Though Mr. Harkin stresses he is proud of his Navy record -- "I put my ass on the line day after day" -- he concedes now he never flew combat air patrols in Vietnam. . . .
Mr. Harkin's Navy record shows his only decoration is the National Defense Service Medal, awarded to everyone on active service during those years.
Two things bother me about this. One is that Harkin seems a rather odd choice for the Democrats as an attack dog. As Sensing notes, what are they thinking?
The other is that I managed to do this research over my lunch hour, but it doesn't seem to be noted in the press treatment of Harkin's charges by the people who get, you know, paid to do this stuff.
Yeah, funny, that. And it often bothers me, too.
But anyhow, that was 2004, and this year the Republicans are nominating a Vietnam combat veteran. In fact, he's a Navy fighter pilot (though unlike Harkin he flew combat missions).
Since neither of his potential opponents has any military experience (though Hillary Clinton once fabricated a story about being under fire in a combat zone and has that in common with Harkin) guess which veteran Democrats called on to insult him...
Republican presidential candidate John McCain's family background as the son and grandson of admirals has given him a worldview shaped by the military, "and he has a hard time thinking beyond that," Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Ia., said Friday.I expect politicians to lie a little bit, but liars of Harkin's caliber are no better than the Jonathan Apontes of the world.
"I think he's trapped in that," Harkin said in a conference call with Iowa reporters. "Everything is looked at from his life experiences, from always having been in the military, and I think that can be pretty dangerous."
"But now McCain is running for a higher office. He's running for commander in chief, and our Constitution says that should be a civilian," Harkin said. "And in some ways, I think it would be nice if that commander in chief had some military background, but I don't know if they need a whole lot."
My December, 2003 look at Stolen Valor here.
It really is a great book - get yours here.
Jonathan Aponte comes home
The door to the doughnut shop swung open. For a moment, the tall young man, every bit a soldier in his bearing, stood with the windy rain of Friday afternoon at his back. A wave of coffee and doughnut humidity slapped him in the face.But this "tall young man, every bit a soldier in his bearing" wasn't returning from Iraq - he was home from an eight-month stay in Rikers Island prison.
His eyes swept across the shop. Then he spotted the older man seated at a table over a cup of decaf. Their eyes locked. The prodigal son had come home. The father rose. They hugged, with lots of thumping on the back instead of words.
He had been to Iraq. But while home on leave last year he decided he didn't want to go back...
Home on leave for 10 days last year, Mr. Aponte entered into a marriage of extremely short duration with a young woman. The new bride either volunteered or was assigned to hire a gunman to shoot her new husband, carefully. She negotiated via text messages. Right after Mr. Aponte arrived in the hospital with his wounded leg and flimsy yarn about a mysterious assailant, the scheme collapsed, followed immediately by the marriage.But as Aponte and his lawyer prepared his defense the anti-war left found a new hero. His publicity campaign was launched on CBS TV in New York
The death and destruction of U.S. troops fighting in Iraq seems to have become so rampant to one local soldier that he actually staged an attack on himself -- allegedly hiring a hitman to non-fatally shoot him -- so he wouldn't be sent back for another tour of duty.His story fit the Iraq war narrative so popular among the easily swayed (see here here here...). While easily verifiable if true, none would question his claims of atrocities, suicides, PTSD, mortal combat against pregnant women and eight year olds with machine guns, and desperate efforts to avoid returning to the complete American defeat in Iraq. And each mainstream news report of his story would reinforce his claims with lead paragraphs like the one above, or this one from the New York Daily News:
"Bullets being shot at me, almost being hit, with car bombs, burning flesh," Aponte recalls of his first tour. Now the soldier, his mother, and lawyer all say his plot for pain proves he's a victim of post traumatic stress disorder caused by the horrific memories of battle.
The war in Iraq was such hell for Bronx soldier Jonathan Aponte he decided he'd never go back again - no matter what.TV talk show host Star Jones even delayed an appearance by Grey's Anatomy co-star Isaiah Washington (who had lost his job and made headlines by allegedly referring to a gay fellow actor as a "faggot") to interview him:
"I have nightmares all the time. I hear people screaming, gunshots, explosions, and I can smell burning flesh in my dreams," the 20-year-old told the Daily News yesterday as he fought back tears.
Rather than endure another tour of trauma, authorities say, Aponte hired a hit man to shoot him in the leg so he could stay home.
"I was desperate to stay home and at the end of my rope," Aponte said. "I couldn't deal with being in Iraq anymore. Would I risk going to prison? As far as being shot at, I think it's better."
Aponte believes the U.S. is losing the war and urged President Bush to bring "everyone back ASAP."
He said victory was virtually impossible when "we don't know who the enemy is. In Iraq, the enemy is dressed in street clothes, or they're pregnant ladies and sometimes even 8-year-olds with machine guns."
The ever-present death and destruction, he said, takes its toll on all soldiers.
On his first day of combat Aponte said a female sergeant killed herself in the middle of chow hall, an image he can't get out of his mind.
"She locked, loaded and shot herself in the head," he recalled. "I also saw people being shot and being blown up. I was shot at more than once by Iraqi insurgents. Being in Iraq was like something out of a movie. I was horrified to be there."
On Tuesday, however, Jones called an audible -- delaying part two of Washington to spend more time with an Iraq war vet, Jonathan Aponte, who paid to have himself shot to avoid returning to duty. Aponte’s plight is depressing and poignant, but Jones couldn’t think of much more to say other than repeatedly asking him how he felt about it.We already know how he felt about it. So perhaps it comes as no surprise that the Grand Jury investigating the shooting declined to indict Aponte:
His wife, Alexandra Gonzalez, and hit man Felix Padilla, who took $500 to shoot Aponte in the leg while he was home on leave in July, were indicted on assault charges.More details:
The Bronx grand jury wouldn't indict Aponte, who won over the panelists with his tearful testimony.
The Bronx soldier accused of hiring a hit man to shoot him so he wouldn't have to return to active duty will be spared felony charges, but his wife and the gunman have been indicted by a grand jury, the Daily News has learned.
"I was hoping for the best, but preparing myself for the worst," Aponte, 21, told The News yesterday. "I am so happy that I was not indicted. I went into the grand jury and told the truth, and I think they had sympathy for me.
"I told the grand jury I just couldn't go back to Iraq after what I had experienced," he added. "I love my country and I wanted to serve, but I wasn't prepared to fight in the war or handle what I saw."
Aponte's mother, Gwen, said she is thankful and knows her son still has a long road in front of him.
"I am ecstatic and grateful that the people of New York had compassion for my son," said Gwen Aponte. "They understood his plight. My son is not well ... he is not the same boy I sent to the Army."
There was just one little catch. Aponte was still scheduled to appear in court for falsely reporting the incident, a misdemeanor charge. But before that trial, Aponte returned to Ft Hood. Reporters accompanied him - perhaps seeking a story of a hero's welcome. But shockingly, given that they had supposedly gone through the same mind-bending horrors Aponte had, the New York Daily News reported that Aponte wasn't greeted by a marching band and a cheering throng of fellow
Bronx soldier Jonathan Aponte doesn't know yet if he'll be punished by his superiors, but he's already taking lumps from his peers.That response might be because they knew something the many reporters supporting Aponte did not (or chose not) to report.
Since returning to his base, the 20-year-old private has felt the scorn of other soldiers - through stares and words - who are appalled that he hired someone to shoot him in the leg to avoid returning to Iraq.
"I wouldn't want him next to me in combat - not a chicken like that," said Dee Xiong, 22, an infantryman set to redeploy in December after serving 10 months in Iraq.
"What he did was wrong," said a 20-year-old Army mechanic who served a year in Iraq. "You know what you sign up for and you just have to finish it out."
Here's a myspace milblog response to Aponte from before the Grand Jury decision:
I am a soldier currently deployed in Iraq. I was sent a copy of a story fox news morning show did on a "soldier" named Jonathan Aponte. Apparently Jonathan hired someone to shoot him in the leg to avoid returning to Iraq because he couldn't handle all the ..."chaos, blood and bombs.." I happen to know who this soldier is and I know first hand that his story of the horror he supposedly witnessed is a bald-faced LIE. Spc Aponte is in my Unit here in Iraq.By the time of his misdemeanor trial, New York prosecutors had some "new" information...
This soldier is a fueler for an aviation unit stationed at a large secure base in Iraq, and the only time he left this FOB (forward operating base) is when he got on a helicopter to catch a flight to the US via Kuwait. His job here consists of driving a fuel truck up and down the flight line pumping gas. He possibly worked up to 8 hours a day, but more than likely it was closer to 5 hours. The closest he came to seeing any combat action was playing video games on his XBox in his air conditioned room.
As for him supposedly seeing a female Sergeant First Class commit suicide in the middle of the "chow hall" that is just laughable. It never happened. He never went door to door clearing houses. He never witnessed body parts or dead people. He is just an irresponsible kid who decided he didn't like the Army. He is a phenomenal disgrace to the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces. He mocks the hard work and 12 to 15 hour days that majority of the soldiers here do without complaint. He demeans the Infantry troops that actually do go door to door clearing houses and regularly come into contact with enemy fire and IED's. He is a punk.
That any national media outlet would run this story without even bothering to verify a single allegation that this guy made makes me sick to my stomach. They went through the trouble of hiring an "expert" on PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) on the show, but they never even bothered to call the guys unit and verify that there was a chance he could be lying. How credible can a person be, who lied to the police about hiring someone to shoot him.
Assistant District Attorney James P. Cudden told the court that investigators had determined that Private Aponte lied to a grand jury about his experiences in Iraq. Private Aponte did not witness a soldier’s suicide, as he claimed, and was not under fire in combat, Mr. Cudden said, adding that Private Aponte was a supply clerk on a military base and was never involved in any hostilities.Why that wasn't available to the Grand Jury (or whether it would alter the feelings of a random group of New Yorkers) is anyone's guess.
A Bronx soldier who hired a hit man to shoot him in the leg so he wouldn't have to go back to Iraq was sentenced to a year in jail yesterday after admitting he lied about being in combat and witnessing atrocities.For what it's worth, Aponte's lawyer was quick to claim that Aponte's first response to being caught in a lie regarding his shooting was actually true, and that his admission that it was actually another lie was the real lie, told to spare his family further pain:
For months, Jonathan Aponte detailed the horrors he'd seen in combat, talking of the smell of burning flesh, the sound of car bombs and the horror of "being shot at every day" by insurgents.
The 20-year-old's story garnered him sympathy nationwide and he was invited on the Star Jones show to pour out his heart.
In a stunning reversal, prosecutors said yesterday it was all made up: Aponte worked in a warehouse during his Iraq tour and never saw combat.
"Mr. Aponte's testimony that he saw a female sergeant commit suicide less than 50 feet away from him was not true," Bronx Assistant District Attorney James Cudden said.
"Stories about people dying in front of his eyes were not true. Mr. Aponte worked in a warehouse that stocked helicopters. He did not go to combat."
Faced with potential felony perjury charges, Aponte pleaded guilty in Bronx Criminal Court to a misdemeanor of false reporting.
Aponte had said he told them, "I have nightmares all the time. I hear people screaming, gunshots, explosions, and I can smell burning flesh in my dreams."
Aponte's lawyer Marty Goldberg said his client maintains that he told the truth, but decided to cop the plea to avoid putting his family through any more agony.Sadly, no reporters bothered to verify any of the claims - which should have been fairly easy given that whatever Aponte did in Iraq, he didn't do it alone. (Or if they did verify, they chose not to report their discoveries.)
"It's a sad story," Goldberg said. "The prosecution said he lied, but that's their opinion. He didn't believe it was in his best interest to go to trial.
Which brings us back to the present. Aponte is home, and after his eight month stay in prison (we'll assume he got time off from his year for good behavior) the NY Times explains that he only joined to get an education:
In the late winter of 2004, Mr. Aponte was hanging around outside a friend’s store on Westchester Square in the Bronx. “This guy in uniform came up to me and said, ‘You look like you’re in decent shape,’ ” Mr. Aponte said. “I told him, ‘Yeah, I do my pushups now and then.’ He said, ‘You ought to think about the military.’ ”And concludes the story with an interesting spin:
Mr. Aponte had not finished high school but he had earned a general equivalency diploma, and he worked occasionally in a barbershop.
For now, Mr. Aponte appears to be one of the very few people in America — if not the only one — to go to jail for lying about the Iraq war, a conflict nurtured in the deceptions and errors of people in positions of great responsibility.Actually, the story isn't complete. Ms. Gonzalez and Mr. Padilla are still awaiting trial on charges of felony assault.
Update: Somewhat related discussions at MilBlogs - here and here (scroll a bit - multiple entries at the second link), as yet another spinner of "atrocity" tales rears his ugly little head (and makes headlines for doing so).
With Memorial Day around the corner, Sen. John McCain and his allies are reaching out to Virginia Democratic Sen. Jim Webb in the hope of finding a compromise on a GI Bill that would eliminate a potential embarrassment for the Arizona Republican’s presidential campaign.Read the whole thing - along with coverage of the Republican attempt to attach their alternative bill to other legislation in the Senate (and no matter how you may feel about it, that bill has a snowball's chance), a House proposal to "tax the rich" to pay for the benefit, and a Senate vow to eliminate that provision.
It was McCain who instigated a letter to Webb signed by himself and two fellow Republicans on Monday, in an effort to end a standoff between the two Vietnam veterans. Discussions followed Tuesday between Webb and McCain ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and late in the day there was a staff meeting that lasted more than an hour.
It is too early to predict what will come of the discussions, but Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), a former Senate Armed Services Committee chairman who has served as an intermediary of sorts between the Webb and McCain camps, was hopeful.
“I think it’s an exciting chapter. I’m enjoying every minute of it,” Warner told Politico. “We’re going to get it. I’ll bet your bottom dollar we get it. ... I’ll give you odds we’re going to win.”
Webb has steadily picked up support for his proposal and this week moved within two votes of the 60 needed to overcome procedural obstacles in the Senate.
Webb is in a strong enough political position that he will be reluctant to make major changes. But it is also in the Virginian’s interest to bring as many senators, including his friend McCain, into the same camp.
The letter sent Monday is conciliatory in tone, expressing a “sincere interest in working with you on one of the most important issues that may come before the Senate this year: a revitalized GI Bill program.”
“Each of us supports increasing education benefits for our nation’s veterans, and we believe this must be accomplished as quickly as possible,” reads the letter, signed by McCain, Graham and Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.). The three Republicans go on to say that they have “never disagreed with the overall intent” of the Webb bill but would like more attention to problems of recruitment and retention as well as “in-service education of career servicemen and women.”
I checked McCain's campaign blog for any mention of the GI Bill issue (specifically I was hoping to see the full text of that letter) - but they're currently foot stomping McCain's solution for "climate change".
Update: GI Bill Passes Senate
That's G.I. Joe - but who knows where Joe goes come November?
Barack Obama's brief appearance in West Virginia should serve as a warning to John McCain. The Charleston, West Virginia Gazette headlines their story on his appearance there "Obama pushes for new GI Bill":
"I'm honored that some of you will support me, and I understand that many more here in West Virginia will probably support Senator Clinton," he told the crowd at the Civic Center.That's a telegraphed punch. Obama acknowledges he expects Hillary Clinton to get as much as 80% of the West Virginia primary vote. So he quite wisely turns his focus to his next opponent, and the issue that will ensure the Vietnam veteran loses the military/veteran vote in November - the new GI Bill.
"But when it's over, what will unify us as Democrats - what must unify us as Americans - is an unyielding commitment to the men and women who've served this nation and an unshakable fidelity to the ideals for which they've risked their lives."
In response, McCain and other Republicans are busy creating "kick me" signs to wear throughout the upcoming political season.
The proposed 21st Century GI Bill would allow soldiers to receive free tuition for college. Obama said it is one of a number of upgrades to GI benefits and healthcare the federal government should provide.In fairness it must be noted that McCain supports a hastily contrived Republican alternative to the Webb bill that offers lower benefits and covers fewer troops - and has no chance of passing in a Democrat-controlled congress. But while he simplifies the issue here, Obama's characterization of McCain's opposition is on the mark.
"It would provide every returning veteran with a real chance to afford a college education, and it would not harm retention," Obama told about 1,500 people at the Charleston Civic Center. After that, he stopped to shoot a game of pool with a veteran at a South Charleston pub.
The Illinois Democrat said McCain, whom he added he greatly respects as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War, doesn't like the new plan.
"He is one of the few senators of either party who oppose this bill because he thinks it's too generous," Obama said. "I couldn't disagree more.
"At a time when the skyrocketing cost of tuition is pricing thousands of Americans out of a college education, we should be doing everything we can to give the men and women who have risked their lives for this country the chance to pursue the American dream."
Here's a comparison of the competing GI Bills in Stars and Stripes - the semi-independent military newspaper. Note that in addition to Senator Obama, mainstream veterans' groups (including the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars) have strongly endorsed the Webb bill.
If McCain doesn't act fast (specifically, endorse the Web bill before this issue expands nationwide) my forecast will prove correct. And once newspapers and evening news stories begin headlining the growing (and glowing) military (bear in mind that active duty folks won't be specifically endorsing candidates) and veteran support for Obama a cascade among other voters (at least those swayed by military-related issues; war for example) is likely to begin. Talking points, sincere explanations, and rationalizations won't change that at all.
Update: The Latest
Previous entries (please read before explaining to me how little I know about this issue)
"America's Favorite Moms" from several categories will be crowned tonight. NBC, 7PM eastern/6 central. We'll be watching at haus Greyhawk, and ready to cheer for Patti.
Update: Golf ran late, so NBC bumped the show in our area (if they ran it at all) but...
SOLDIERS' ANGELS FOUNDER WINS!
Patti Patton-Bader Named "America's Favorite Mom"
May 11, 2008, PASADENA, CA -Soldiers' Angels founder Patti Patton-Bader was named "America's Favorite Mom" in a primetime television show Sunday night on NBC. Sponsored by Teleflora and hosted by Donnie and Marie Osmond, the show highlighted fifteen outstanding mothers who had distinguished themselves in categories ranging from Working Moms to Military Moms and "Non-Mom" Moms.
Humbled by the honor, Patton-Bader is thrilled to be able to use it to continue the Soldiers' Angels mission of "May No Soldier Go Unloved." As the grand prize winner, she will receive $250,000, a set of household appliances, and other valuable items. Patton-Bader hopes to apply the winnings to her plans for a small ranch that will allow newly returned soldiers to relax with their families after deployments.
"I really am lucky to know so many heroes in my life," said Patton-Bader, who herself has two sons in the Army, one currently deployed to Iraq. "Whether they are the troops who serve our country or the amazing mothers here on this America's Favorite Mom program, I am honored to be in the presence of such inspirational people and also am humbled to know that America thinks the same of me."
Patton-Bader is also excited about the opportunities this platform gives her to help people learn more about America's military heroes and options for supporting them and their families. The attention she has received through the America's Favorite Mom events has already drawn a number of new volunteers who want to use their talents and connections to help support the troops.
In a nationwide online poll last March, Patton-Bader was voted "America's Most Inspirational Mom" after having been nominated by her eldest son for founding and leading Soldiers' Angels. On May 5, 2008 she appeared on the Today show as one of three selected finalists in the "Favorite Military Mom" category. A nationwide online poll was again conducted, and the results were announced on May 11, 2008 with Patton-Bader being named winner in both the "Favorite Military Mom" and "America's Favorite Mom" categories. More information is available at www.americasfavoritemom.com.
Soldiers' Angels is a grassroots 501(c)(3) non-profit comprised of around 200,000 volunteers in over twenty different teams and programs with unique and effective ways to support members of the U.S. military. Soldiers' Angels operates internationally to provide letters, care packages, and comfort items to the deployed, and support for their families at home. They also provide assistance to the wounded, continuing support for veterans, remembrances and comfort for families of the fallen, and immediate response to unique difficulties. For more information, see www.soldiersangels.org or call (615) 676-0239.
America's Favorite Mom was presented by NBC Television and Teleflora, America's leading source of hand-arranged floral bouquets, plants, and gift baskets. For more information, see www.americasfavoritemom.com.
"May no soldier go unloved, may no soldier walk alone, may no soldier be forgotten, until they all come home." ~ Patti Patton-Bader.
Or "Doin' the Joes - Blue Doggy Style!!"
Continuing our coverage of the progress of the "new GI Bill" through congress.
“Some of us oppose creating a new entitlement program in an emergency spending bill, whether it’s butchers, bakers or candlestick-makers,” said Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn.), a founding member of the Blue Dog Coalition who serves on the House leadership team as a deputy whip.But have you ever heard of "Blue Dog Democrats" stopping a bill before this one? Probably not. Here's one explanation for that, from Travis Sharp "...the Military Policy Analyst at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.":
Blue Dogs' opposition to GI money in supp is inconsistentSpeaking of "$3 billion in drought assistance for farmers", meet Ken Cook:
Restoring fiscal responsibility to Congress is a laudable goal, and Blue Dogs are to be applauded for insisting that responsible budgeting be a key issue within their party. However, a quick look at how Congress has dealt with recent supplemental funding bills shows that while Blue Dogs may object to the current GI proposal being off-budget, they have supported both war-related and non-war-related off-budget supplemental spending in years past.
Congress has stuffed billions of dollars of non-war-related spending into supplementals, especially since Democrats regained the majority in 2007 and began using war supplementals as vehicles for their domestic funding priorities. Surely Blue Dogs voted against the “fiscally irresponsible” domestic spending in these previous supplementals, just as they currently oppose spending on GI educational benefits, right?
Take for example the fiscal year 2007 supplemental approved in May 2007, which, at $120 billion, stands as the largest supplemental in history. Approximately $20 billion of this bill went to programs that, given their current opposition to GI benefits, Blue Dogs should have regarded as fiscally irresponsible. These included $4.8 billion in veterans’ health care, $6.4 billion in Hurricane Katrina relief, and $3 billion in drought assistance for farmers.
When House Democrats complained that they wanted to be able to vote against the $100 billion in war funding but vote for the $20 billion in domestic funding, the Democratic leadership charitably elected to split the fiscal year 2007 supplemental into two separate amendments and hold two separate votes.
Guess how many Blue Dogs voted against Amendment #1, the amendment chocked full of non-war-related money? Not one. In fact, only one Democrat voted against it, the always-contrarian Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH).
Why do some Blue Dogs think it is okay to abrogate fiscal responsibility on $700 billion in war funding to date, along with $20 billion in unrequested domestic pork-barrel spending in the Fiscal Year 2007 supplemental, but not okay to approve $5 billion per year in off-budget spending for GI benefits over the next decade?
If they want to use procedural excuses to explain why they don't want to add $50 billion in debt over the next ten years to finance veterans' benefits, they should at least be forced to explain why they have not taken such a principled procedural stance on previous supplemental funding.
Ken Cook is president of Environmental Working Group, a public interest research and advocacy organization known for its Farm Subsidy Database. The author of dozens of articles, opinion pieces and reports on agricultural, public health and environmental topics, "[Cook's] fingerprints can be found on nearly two decades of U.S. farm law"Ken says:
It seems that money spent on veterans is the first time some of these folks decided to just say no.
Maybe House Democrats riled up about the Blue Dogs' position on education benefits for veterans should stage a revolt themselves--by signalling support for Bush's promised veto of the farm bill.
After all, Blue Dogs are mopping up billions in that legislation, which Speaker Pelosi is strong-arming her caucus to support. We know that at least $5.9 billion in "direct payment" farm subsidies will go to farmers in Blue Dog districts over the next five years, despit the sky-high crop prices and record incomes that subsidy crop farmers will be earning.
How "fiscally responsible" is that?
Earl Pomeroy's farmers will get $1.1 billion from taxpayers. Marion Berry's will get $965 million. Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin's will haul in over $800 million.
And Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, who has been saying the payments are "hard to defend" when farmers' incomes are at record levels, will bring home $691 million in direct payment subsidies under the bill.
Here's a complete list of the direct payments Blue Dogs are projected to haul in over the next five years.
I think I'm inclined to agree with Paul Reickoff again - the issue the Blue Dogs are raising is moot:
The GI Bill belongs in the emergency supplemental because it is a cost of war, and it's part of our promise to care for our troops. It's no different from bullets, body armor or bandages for the wounded. This bill has the support of more than half the House and half the Senate, and we expect to get past these procedural hurdles. At the end of the day, no patriotic American would understand if a member of Congress votes for a $100-plus billion dollar war bill and then nickel-and-dimes the troops who are fighting that war.But in addition to "fiscal responsibility", the Blue Dogs might have other "concerns"
Leadership faces more than the normal Caucus reluctance that has come to define consideration of the war supplemental, with Blue Dogs remaining a major obstacle to bringing the bill to the floor.Meanwhile, The American Legion takes a stand:
Caucus sources said Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D., is particularly incensed that a veterans' tuition package by Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., is in the measure instead of the bipartisan package she sponsored in the House.
The leader of the nation’s preeminent veterans organization criticized Congress for delaying a needed GI Bill because of cost. Improvements to the current GI Bill, like its predecessors, will serve as the ultimate stimulus package for veterans, their families, and for the nation.And the Veterans of Foreign Wars followed up its earlier endorsement of the bill with a call to action
“When The American Legion championed the original Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, even some veterans groups complained that it would ‘break the treasury,” National Commander Marty Conatser said. “Instead, the GI Bill transformed the economy and has been widely hailed as the greatest domestic legislation Congress ever passed. The critics were wrong then and they are wrong now.”
Conatser pointed out that while the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the bill, S-22, would cost $51.8 billion over 10 years, “it is a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the sacrifices made by America’s servicemembers and their families.”
The debate over the cost for the original World War II-era GI Bill was unpersuasive to its author, American Legion Past National Commander Harry Colmery. “If we can spend 200 to 300 billion dollars to teach our men and women to kill, why quibble over a billion or so to help them to have the opportunity to earn economic independence and to enjoy the fruits of freedom?” he asked at the time.
Over the decades, the GI Bill has enabled millions of veterans to attend college and is estimated by some economists to have returned $7 to the economy for every $1 in cost. However soaring tuition and decreases in program benefits over the years has left higher education out of reach for many current veterans.
Concerns that the new GI Bill, proposed by Sen. James Webb, D-Va., would hurt military retention are unfounded, according to The American Legion. “This bill would encourage young men and women to join the military,” Conatser said. “As far as retention goes, the CBO estimates that a simple $8,000 bonus to personnel at their first enlistment point would increase reenlistments by 2 percentage points. Another way to encourage mid-level servicemembers to stay in the military is to transfer GI Bill benefits to family members so the servicemember can remain in the military and still benefit from the program.”
Conatser had a suggestion to critics who believe the GI Bill is too expensive. “Visit Walter Reed. War is expensive indeed and the bulk of that cost is paid for by the men and women who wear the uniform. Benefits are just a small, small cost of war.”
“The GI Bill is important enough to stand on its own merit,” concludes Conatser. “I have faith in the American people that they will demand that Congress pass the GI Bill, which truly expresses the thanks of a grateful nation for service above and beyond that of normal citizenship.”
VFW Washington Weekly, May 9, 2008
Friday, May 9, 2008 at 07:50 PMby Missouri
1. GI Bill Call to Action: The VFW still needs you to urge your senators to support S. 22, and your representatives to support H.R. 5740, so that the VFW goal of creating a new GI Bill for the 21st century becomes a reality. As of this morning, 57 senators are supporting S. 22, a number that is unchanged from last week. Introduced by Jim Webb (D-VA), S. 22 has strong bipartisan support from fellow senators such as Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and John Warner (R-VA). Its companion bill in the House, H.R. 5740, increased by 27 to 293 co-sponsors, or 67% of the House. Introduced by Harry Mitchell (D-AZ), it, also has strong bipartisan support from fellow congressmen such as Bill Young (R-FL) and Chris Smith (R-NJ). America's newest Greatest Generation needs your help to bring educational benefits back in line with current day tuitions. Use this link to contact your members: http://capwiz.com/vfw/dbq/officials/.
They won't receive G.I. Bill benefits for it, but note how quickly an Army of Davids has come together on this issue. If it isn't obvious from the variety of links above, this bill has strong support from a wide variety of groups. Opposing it at this point is political suicide.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi assured voters that the bill would eventually pass:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that stalling tactics by Republicans might result in the measure not coming up until next week.Whoops - wrong quote - that was Wednesday, before her fellow Democrats stalled the vote. I'll try again.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said twice Sunday that Iraq “is a failure,” adding that President Bush’s troop surge has “not produced the desired effect.”Whoops - wrong again. That was Iraqi government inaction she was criticizing. One more try...
“The purpose of the surge was to create a secure time for the government of Iraq to make the political change to bring reconciliation to Iraq,” Pelosi said on CNN’s “Late Edition.” “They have not done that.”
Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi says "she is confident the impasse with the rebel Democrats can be ironed out."
Got it that time.
And if you're interested in the actual text (surprisingly brief) of that Congressional Budget Office report on the cost of the bill, it's at this link (and also below).
May 8, 2008Update: Obama goes for Joe All done!
Honorable Judd Gregg
Committee on the Budget
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
On May 5, 2008, you requested that CBO provide information about the cost of S. 22, the Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, including its impact on the retention of military personnel. CBO has reviewed several versions of S. 22, most recently a modified version of that bill provided to CBO by Senator Webb’s office on April 23, 2008. We have completed a preliminary estimate of the mandatory and discretionary costs of that modified language.
Preliminary Estimate of Costs for S. 22
The modified version of S. 22 would increase the amount of the education benefits available to veterans and to active-duty and reserve servicemembers; expand the number of individuals eligible to receive such benefits; increase the period of time during which such benefits could be used; and allow the benefits to be used to cover an expanded array of education-related expenses. CBO estimates that enacting those provisions would increase direct spending for veterans’ and reservists’ education benefits by $51.8 billion over the 2008-2018 period (see attached table).
S. 22 (as modified) also would increase spending subject to appropriation in
several ways. CBO estimates that implementing the proposal would:
• Increase costs to the Department of Veterans Affairs for personnel and information technology,
• Decrease costs to the Department of Defense (DoD) to maintain current levels of enlistment,
• Increase DoD’s cost to maintain current levels of retention, and • Decrease DoD’s contributions to fund education benefits for reservists. In total, CBO estimates that the bill would increase discretionary spending by $145 million over the 2009-2013 period, assuming appropriation of the estimated amounts.
Impact of S. 22 on Recruitment and Retention
You requested specific information regarding our estimate of the impact of S. 22 (as modified) on the retention of personnel by the Armed Forces. CBO expects that both enlistment and retention would be affected by the proposed improvement in education benefits. The net impact on DoD’s discretionary costs for those purposes would be an increase of $1.1 billion over the 2009-2013 period. That net change reflects the expected cost of increased bonus payments for reenlistment ($6.7 billion), less the estimated savings for enlistment bonuses and other recruiting costs ($5.6 billion). (The net discretionary costs described above include this $1.1 billion, as well as offsetting savings to DoD from other aspects of the legislation.)
To maintain current levels of enlistment and retention, DoD incurs costs for advertising, recruiters, enlistment bonuses, and retention bonuses. An enhanced package of education benefits would make military service more attractive, and increasing those benefits would allow the services to reduce other enlistment incentives while still enlisting the same number of recruits. However, because the higher educational benefits would reduce the costs of attending college after military service, enacting S. 22 (as modified) also would increase the number of servicemembers who would separate from military service to take advantage of those benefits. Additional reenlistment incentives would then be required to keep the number of reenlistments, and the experience profile of the military force, constant.
Educational benefits have been shown to raise the number of military recruits. Based on an analysis of the existing literature, CBO estimates that a 10 percent increase in educational benefits would result in an increase of about 1 percent in high-quality recruits. On that basis, CBO calculates that raising the educational benefits as proposed in S. 22 would result in a 16 percent increase in recruits. To maintain the same force levels and thus the same number of recruits, enlistment bonuses and other recruiting costs could be reduced.
The marginal cost of enlistment bonuses and the other expenditures necessary to attract an additional enlistment is about $35,000. CBO estimates that reduced spending for those purposes would result in a savings of almost $5.6 billion over the 2009-2013 period.
Literature on the effects of educational benefits on retention suggest that every $10,000 increase in educational benefits yields a reduction in retention of slightly more than 1 percentage point. CBO estimates that S. 22 (as modified) would more than double the present value of educational benefits for servicemembers at the first reenlistment point—from about $40,000 to over $90,000—implying a 16 percent decline in the reenlistment rate, from about 42 percent to about 36 percent. CBO assumes that to maintain the same force size, the services would offer selective reenlistment bonuses (SRBs). An $8,000 bonus to personnel at the first reenlistment point is estimated to increase reenlistments by about 2 percentage points. Thus, CBO estimates that SRBs of about $25,000 for each first-term servicemember who reenlists would offset the expected effects on retention of increased educational benefits, resulting in a cost of $6.7 billion over the 2009-2013 period for additional reenlistment bonuses.
You also asked about the impact on retention of S. 2938, the Enhancement of Recruitment, Retention, and Readjustment Through Education Act of 2008. CBO has not yet completed its estimate of the impact of that legislation on costs or retention rates.
IN TENNESSEE 300 National Guard soldiers from Campbell County just got back from Iraq, after a year in which they suffered no casualties. Congratulations, and welcome back.And they were outside the wire:
The units spent most of the past year hauling equipment through Iraq. They covered more than 1.6 million miles, according to the National Guard - all without a single casualty.That reminds me of this story from January '07:
The Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, sergeant was responsible for more than 800 convoys during his deployment in support of OIF. His expert leadership resulted in the convoys traveling more than 450,000 miles across Iraq without a single casualty or injury.So I suppose the surge really hasn't made things better in Iraq.
Elsewhere, JP Borda prepares to pop smoke:
You'll be happy to know we've completed our final mission just a few days ago. All Bad Voodoo soldiers are safe and off the road.
Since the Army was kind enough to send me an invitation to go back to Operation Iraqi Freedom, I decided to R.S.V.P. to it by writing a little Op-Ed piece about it for the San Francisco Chronicle.I guess meeting recruiting and retention goals isn't enough.
Looks like somebody's got some politickin' to do:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., pulled the bill from the schedule Wednesday night after conservative-to-moderate "Blue Dog" Democrats revolted over Democratic leaders' insistence on including in the war funding bill an unrelated provision to sharply increase education benefits for veterans under the GI Bill.More:
The new GI Bill — designed to give Iraq war veterans enough help to finance a four-year stint at a public college — would cost $51 billion over 10 years. It runs afoul of a rule designed to prevent new benefit programs from causing the deficit to spiral.
The Democratic rebels are the House's top supporters of "pay as you go" budget rules that require that new benefit programs be financed with offsetting spending cuts or new taxes so as not to cause the budget deficit to increase. The war funding bill is an emergency appropriation, but the veterans education funding is a new mandatory benefit program that's supposed to be subject to the budget rule.
"It's the principle involved of not putting a mandatory program of any kind on an emergency supplemental," said Rep. John Tanner, D-Tenn.
Meanwhile, White House budget director Jim Nussle weighed in Thursday with renewed veto threats against rival House and Senate Iraq funding bills, saying the add-ons for veterans and an extension of unemployment benefits were unacceptable.
"To just pile them into the troop funding bill because the troop funding bill is necessary is a cynical process that the president has already been very clear about — the fact that he would veto," Nussle told The Associated Press.
"It does not honor veterans to borrow Chinese yuan to pay for these benefits," said Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., a leader of the 47-member House Blue Dog Coalition, which opposes deficit spending.
Budget experts outside Congress were even more incensed. David Walker, the former U.S. comptroller general who has said the nation faces $53 trillion in unfunded federal liabilities over the coming century, called it "morally reprehensible." Criticism also came from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and the Concord Coalition deficit watchdog group.
"No matter how laudable the intended purpose and no matter how important the targeted population is, the absolute last thing we ought to be doing is expanding entitlement benefits," Walker said.
Veterans' groups reacted warily to the moderate Democrats' intervention. "I think their bark is a lot worse than their bite," said Patrick Campbell, legislative director for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. "I don't think any one of these people want to be on the record for voting against the GI bill."
If the bill becomes law, it would be the third time that House Democrats have violated the rule they passed last year to pay for new spending or tax cuts. They did not pay for the two-year, $168 billion economic-stimulus package passed in February or a $50 billion tax cut last December.
Negotiations over the next few days will focus on how to pay for the education benefit. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday she wants to keep it in the bill. "We are going to say 'thank you' to our vets. 'Now you can go to college if you wish,' " she said.
The war-funding bill needs to be passed by next month, or the Defense Department will begin sending furlough notices to civilian employees.
Update: GI Wish I Could go to College
BAGHDAD (AP) -- The leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, was arrested in the northern city of Mosul, the Iraqi Defense Ministry spokesman said Thursday.In an amazing coincidence, this is almost exactly the one-year anniversary of his death.
Spokesman Mohammed al-Askari said the arrest of al-Masri, also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, was confirmed to him by the Iraqi commander of the province. There was no immediate confirmation or comment from U.S. forces on the arrest.
The U.S. military in Baghdad said "we are currently checking with Iraqi authorities to confirm the accuracy of this information."
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A man seized by Iraqi forces in the northern city of Mosul is not Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, a senior U.S. military official said on Friday.
"He has not been detained," the official told Reuters, without giving further details. Several Iraqi officials had earlier said Masri had been captured in an operation late on Wednesday.
Nice to see this story catching on - even if the spin begins...
CBS/AP: Ex-Guantanamo Prisoner ID'd As Iraq Bomber. The story includes a picture borrowed from this link (wonder how they found it?) along with this amazing spin:
Wilner called the alleged suicide attack a "tragedy" that could have been avoided with court hearings for prisoners held at Guananamo [sic], where the U.S. now holds about 270 men.Associated Press: US: Former Gitmo prisoner carries out recent attack in Iraq
"The lack of a process results in tragic mistakes on both sides," the lawyer said.
Al-Ajmi's American lawyer said incarceration at Guantanamo may have turned the Kuwaiti into a terrorist.CNN: Pentagon: Ex-detainees returning to fight
Al-Ajmi is not the first former Guantanamo detainee to reportedly return to the battlefield after being released. Pentagon officials say there are more than 10 people once held by the U.S. at Guantanamo who have been killed or captured in fighting after being released from the detention facility.AFP: Suicide attacker was former Guantanamo detainee: US military:
"Our reports indicate that a number of former [Guantanamo Bay] detainees have taken part in anti-coalition militant activities after leaving U.S. detention. Some have subsequently been killed in combat," said Cmdr. Jeff Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman.
The Pentagon has publicly identified 13 former Guantanamo detainees who have gone back to the fight since their release.The Guardian: Ex-Guantánamo prisoner took part in Iraq bombing, says US
But a Defense Intelligence Agency report dated May 1, 2008 says that 36 former detainees are "confirmed or suspected" of having returned to terrorism, said a US defense official who asked not to be identified.
Fears case will harm civil rights bid to free inmates
The involvement of an ex-Guantánamo detainee will make it harder for civil rights lawyers in the US and Britain, who have been fighting for the release of the remaining prisoners at the camp complex in Cuba.
The Democratic and Republican candidates to replace President George Bush in January next year have promised to close the camp.
Hat tip: Tim Sumner of 9/11 Families - who are following this story closely.
Previous entry: Such a Nice Boy
Here's the latest on the GI Bill for the 21st Century. (Links to earlier related entries are provided at the bottom for those who might need to catch up.) I'm going to steal Lt Nixon's good, bad, and ugly format for this one, because it fits perfectly.
The Good: The House will vote on the new GI Bill today (more on that shortly). Meanwhile, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee conducted hearings yesterday:
At Wednesday’s hearing, three major veterans’ groups — the American Legion, AmVets and Paralyzed Veterans of America — are expected to endorse S 22, the benefits bill sponsored by Sen. James Webb, D-Va., over the Republican bill, sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.The Republican alternative bill offers significant improvement over the current Montgomery GI Bill, and would offer better benefits to those who've served longer (I'm among that group) than S22 - but has no chance of passing in a Democrat-controlled congress. I can accept reality on that issue - the Webb bill is fine by me, too.
Veterans’ groups also are expected to directly contradict Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ opposition to S 22 on the grounds that it would hurt the all-volunteer force by encouraging people to get out of the military.
The bad - back to those Senate hearings:
The Department of Veterans Affairs seemed to be standing in front of a fast-moving train Wednesday when a top official said VA would need two years of preparation to come up with a payment system for a proposed overhaul of GI Bill education benefits.That's a valid concern - and there are other "21st Century" details to work out:
The warning flags were waved by Keith Pedigo, VA’s associate deputy undersecretary for policy and program management, who said meeting an Aug. 1, 2009, effective date for the benefits increases, under what lawmakers are calling the 21st Century GI Bill of Rights, would be extremely difficult.
Because the proposal calls for the maximum benefit to be different in each state, payments would have to be manually, rather than automatically, processed, Pedigo said.
“VA does not now have a payment system or the appropriate number of trained personnel to administer the program,” Pedigo said, predicting it would take two years to develop a payment system to provide the new benefits.
Pedigo also warned of fundamental unfairness in a proposed housing allowance that would be based on where a school is located, rather than where a student lives, which could encourage veterans to enroll in online learning programs offered by schools in high-cost areas.And, meanwhile...
The Pentagon, VA and the White House’s Office of Management and Budget oppose S 22, either as a separate bill or combined with the supplemental...but it is a "fast-moving train" - for now.
The Ugly - meanwhile, over in the House...
Setting up their last major battle over war policy with President Bush, House Democrats yesterday unveiled a plan to link their favored domestic spending projects and a troop-withdrawal timeline to additional funds for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan requested by the White House....and there's the rub. They aren't debating the Gi Bill as a stand-alone - that would be unstoppable legislation, no one could oppose it and survive. They're tacking it on to the war funding bill, along with these measures:
House Democrats, defying President Bush's threat of a veto, will offer a supplemental appropriation bill tomorrow that continues funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but includes other provisions opposed by the White House. The three amendments include:Some of those add-ons won't make it through the Senate next week. But others will, and the President has vowed to veto any bill that exceeds his original $108 billion request.
· $162.6 billion to continue funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan well into 2009.
· A requirement to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq within 30 days of passage, with a goal of having all troops out of Iraq by December 2009 (except those providing embassy security).
· A mandate that any unit deployed to Iraq must meet Pentagon requirements that it be "fully mission capable."
· An anti-torture provision that requires the CIA to comply with interrogation techniques in the Army Field Manual.
· $1.2 billion for global food aid.
· $5.8 billion to repair levees in Louisiana.
· An additional $11 billion over 10 years for unemployment compensation.
· An expansion of education benefits for returning troops.
But Democrats are less interested in passing a new GI Bill and more focused on creating political advertisements for the upcoming campaign season. Any House or Senate Republican who opposes the "Big Bill" for reasons other than the GI education benefits can (and will) be accused of voting against the new GI Bill. And the Democrats have spent years developing "Veterans Groups" who are actually political wings of their party and are now standing by to aid and abet the effort through a very willing and supportive media. Democrats win, veterans lose (in a big way - there will be no chance of a Bill in a non-election year like 2009) and Republicans won't know what hit them.
Update: Good News/Bad News
A sad tale...
Three years ago, Abdullah Saleh al-Ajmi, a Kuwaiti soldier who deserted to fight in Afghanistan alongside the Taliban, sat in a detention cell at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, while lawyers argued whether he was an "enemy combatant."But his lawyers won the day...
U.S. counterterrorism analysts argued in a review of al-Ajmi's activities that he should not be released or returned to Kuwait based on the following:
— That he deserted from the Kuwaiti army to participate in a jihad in Afghanistan;
— The Taliban supplied him with arms, including grenades;
— He admitted fighting with the Taliban, including engaging in two or three firefights;
— He was captured by coalition forces in the Tora Bora region, an area once thought to be a hideout of Usama bin Laden;
Al-Ajmi denied all charges that he was an enemy combatant and a jihadist, and that documented statements were untrue.And now...
He was repatriated to Kuwaiti authorities on Nov. 3, 2005.
Last week, a Dubai-based television channel reported that al-Ajmi was killed carrying out a homicide bombing in Mosul, Iraq.That's an interesting way to put it.
It might have been one of these incidents
Three suicide bombers and a car bomb have struck the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, killing at least nine people and wounding 31 others, police said.Or perhaps this one:
Iraqi soldiers foil suicide bomb attack in MosulHow, you might ask, could such a thing happen?
MOSUL, Iraq, April 29 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi soldiers at a military base in Mosul, the capital of the northern province of Nineveh, foiled a suicide tanker bomb attack on their base, said the provincial police.
The incident occurred at about 7 a.m. (0400 GMT) when a suicide bomber tried to drive his booby-trapped tanker into the army base in the al-Tanak area in western Mosul, Brigadier Khalid Abdul-Sattar, spokesman of the provincial security operations office told Xinhua.
The soldiers at the entrance of the base ordered the tanker driver to stop before they opened fire with rocket propelled grenades and machinguns, causing a powerful explosion in the tanker which was heard on all over the city of Mosul, Sattar said.
Only one soldier was injured by the blast because the soldiers blew up the tanker before reaching the fortified entrance of the base, added the spokesman.
How did Shearman & Sterling get tapped for this historic assignment? Speaking at Seton Hall Law School in fall of 2006, Mr. Wilner recounted that he visited the facility at Guantanamo Bay in 2002, months before he met the Kuwaiti 12’s families. What was Mr. Wilner doing at Gitmo more than two years before Rasul established the legal basis for lawyers getting access to detainees inside the camp? One of his Gitmo legal colleagues has said that Mr. Wilner was brought into the case by an oil industry client.And al-Ajmi was one of the "Kuwait 12" - read the whole thing.
It turns out that Shearman & Sterling, a 1,000-lawyer firm with offices in 19 cities all over the world, has substantial business dealings on six continents. Indeed, Shearman’s client care for Middle Eastern matters has established a new industry standard: The firm’s Abu Dhabi office states that it has pioneered the concept of “Shariah-compliant” financing. In Kuwait, the firm has represented the government on a wide variety of matters involving billions of dollars worth of assets. So the party underwriting the litigation on behalf of the Kuwaiti 12–from which all of the detainees have benefited–is one of Shearman & Sterling’s most lucrative OPEC accounts.
Shearman & Sterling did far more than just write legal briefs and shuttle down to Gitmo to conduct interviews about alleged torture for the BBC. In addition to its legal services, the firm registered as an agent of a foreign principal under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 (FARA) as well as the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 (LDA) to press the Kuwaiti detainees’ cause on Capitol Hill. Shearman reported $749,980 in lobbying fees under FARA for one six-month period in 2005 and another $200,000 under the LDA over a one-year period between 2005 and 2006. Those are the precise time periods when Congress was engaged in intense debates over the Detainee Treatment Act and the Military Commissions Act, legislation which Shearman & Sterling and its Kuwaiti paymasters hoped would pave the way for shutting down Guantanamo permanently and setting their clients free.
Mr. Wilner, a media-savvy lawyer who immediately realized that the detainee cases posed a tremendous PR challenge in the wake of September 11, hired high-stakes media guru Richard Levick to change public perception about the Kuwaiti 12. Mr. Levick, a former attorney whose Washington, D.C.-based “crisis PR” firm has carved out a niche in litigation-related issues, has represented clients as varied as Rosie O’Donnell, Napster, and the Roman Catholic Church. Mr. Levick’s firm is also registered under FARA as an agent of a foreign principal for the “Kuwaiti Detainees Committee,” reporting $774,000 in fees in a one year period. After the U.S. Supreme Court heard the first consolidated case, the PR campaign went into high gear, Mr. Levick wrote, to “turn the Guantanamo tide.”
In numerous published articles and interviews, Mr. Levick has laid out the essence of the entire Kuwaiti PR campaign. The strategy sought to accomplish two things: put a sympathetic “human face” on the detainees and convince the public that it had a stake in their plight. In other words, the militant Islamists who traveled to Afghanistan to become a part of al Qaeda’s jihad on America had to be reinvented as innocent charity workers swept up in the war after 9/11. The committed Islamist who admitted firing an AK-47 in a Taliban training camp became a “teacher on vacation” who went to Afghanistan in 2001 “to help refugees.” The member of an Islamist street gang who opened three al-Wafa offices with Suliman Abu Ghaith (Osama Bin Laden’s chief spokesman) to raise al Qaeda funds became a charity worker whose eight children were left destitute in his absence. All 12 Kuwaitis became the innocent victims of “bounty hunters.”
A Montreal-based marketing firm was hired to create the families’ full-service Web site which fed propaganda–unsourced, unrebutted and uninvestigated by the media–aimed at the media all over the world. Creating what Mr. Levick calls a “war of pictures,” the site is replete with images meant to appeal to Americans: smiling Kuwaiti families wearing T-shirts and baseball caps, cute children passing out yellow ribbons.
In other Gitmo news:
An Al-Jazeera cameraman released from the U.S.-run Guantanamo Bay detention center last week described it Monday as the worst prison mankind has ever seen.Meanwhile, in the New York Times last weekend, Nicholas Kristoff demonstrated why it isn't called the New York Timing:
Sami al-Haj, a Sudanese citizen, was whisked from his hospital bed in a convoy escorted by police cars with flashing lights and wailing sirens to an outdoor event in his neighborhood organized by his family. His speech was broadcast live on Sudanese television.
“After 2,340 days spent in the most heinous prison mankind has ever known, we are honored to be here. Thank you, and thank all those defended us and of our right in freedom,” he told the cheering crowd.
When I started writing about Guantánamo several years ago, I thought the inmates might be lying and the Pentagon telling the truth. No doubt some inmates lie, and some surely are terrorists. But over time — and it’s painful to write this — I’ve found the inmates to be more credible than American officials.Or maybe it's just you.
In reality, it would take an exceptional enemy to damage America’s image and interests as much as President Bush and Mr. Cheney already have with Guantánamo.
UPDATE: MUCH More from 9/11 families here.
A third Kuwaiti, identified as Bader Al-Harbi has reportedly carried out a suicide attack in Iraq according to knowledgeable sources.And here
Released Guantanamo detainee Sami al-Haj faked weakness and the inability to walk off the US Air Force plane once it landed in Khartoum.
Via SSGT Brandon H. Varn email:
Hi Everyone,NZ Bear says
My mom Patti Patton Bader founder of Soldiers Angels is up for consideration for NBC's America's Favorite Military Mom on Monday (May 5th). You can help her, Soldiers Angels, and me, by voting for her at http://www.nbc.com/Americas_Favorite_Mom/ - You can only vote Monday May 5th from 9 AM to 9 PM Eastern ST but you can vote up to 10 times (on the 5th) for each valid email address you have. If she wins Soldiers Angels will get more exposure on a National T.V. show on May 11. This exposure helps us show our troops in a real way that they are strongly supported by us at home, and also helps to provide awareness and needed donations so that we can continue to meet the needs of our heroes.
Also, if you get a chance, my mom will be on NBC's The Today Show during the 9 A.M. hour today. As you all know Soldiers Angels is a wonderful organization of volunteers that does a lot of great support for all the men and women of the military, aids our troops wherever we raise the Stars and Stripes, helps wounded heroes here and abroad, and assists military families in times of need. Please help us by voting for my mom Monday and maybe passing on this email to a few of your friends. It's for a good cause and only takes a moment. Here's the link again. http://www.nbc.com/Americas_Favorite_Mom/
Thank you and God Bless everyone who helps our troops,
SSGT Brandon H. Varn
Patti Patton-Bader, founder of Soldiers’ Angels , is one of the fifteen semi-finalists in NBC’s “America’s Favorite Mom” contest. There are five categories, and she is nominated with two other mom's in the "military mom's" category. The winner receives a $250,000 cash prize, and Patti has said she’d like to use the money to build a ranch for soldiers and their families to vacation at with assistance from Angel families.
Patti will be featured the morning of Monday May 5th on NBC’s Today Show, and all day Monday (but ONLY Monday) folks will have the opportunity to vote at http://www.nbc.com/Americas_Favorite_Mom/ in her category. All the mom's are deserving, so whether you choose to vote for Patti or not, check it out!
I've been trying to ignore this topic...
Words matter, and in the global war on terror we are losing the battle of words, in a self-inflicted defeat. The consequences could not be more profound....as it seemed mostly pointless to me.
Recent government policy memoranda, circulating through the national counter-terrorism and diplomatic community, establishes a new "speech code" for the lexicon in the war on terror, as reported by the Associated Press and now available in the public domain .
Then while working another project I stumbled across this poignant reminder of why I was wrong.
Moment of Truth in Iraq is back in stock at Amazon. If that's kept you from buying a copy, wait no more.
That headline isn't accurate yet. But it will be soon, and here's why.
"And they wonder why 73 plus percent of military members are registered as Republicans" - that's the headline at Blackfive on the story of the new DNC anti-McCain attack ad.
I'd be surprised if that figure is accurate (and regardless of how they register or vote in any given election I believe the majority of military members would declare themselves independent). But I have no doubt that a majority (though perhaps slight) of military members who voted in the 2004 elections voted four more years for George Bush. That's certainly conventional wisdom, as it was four years previously when attempts to dismiss absentee ballots in Florida were attributed to the Gore campaign's concern that the overwhelming Republican vote from military members would tip the disputed results there to his opponent. Both issues are history - and not the focus here. But right or wrong, that conventional wisdom will re-appear in new and different ways during election coverage this fall as variations on the form of the headline I've chosen for this post. And the fact that the Republican candidate is a respected veteran will be noted in the first paragraph of each story.
But first, back to the ad. (And first, read this entry for additional background.) Obviously, from the viewpoint of the Democratic National Committee it's perfect - and these sorts of things are heavily market-tested before they are used. It conveys their message to voters about John McCain - he's George Bush - and his military 'victims'. It's also an outright lie and deception from start to finish, and the juxtaposition of a half-quote with video of an explosion near two uniformed GIs (bonus: They're black!) presents exactly the opposite of what McCain actually said.
Which means it's marvelously effective propaganda. And while that deceptive use might infuriate some military members, this ad is not directed at military members - it's for consumption by civilians. But it will play well for other military folks - the vast majority of whom, like their civilian counterparts, have never been that close to a boom and imagine it happens every hour to everyone in Iraq.
But seven years after 9/11 many have been deployed - if not into combat. And even those who've never left Kuwait or Qatar still experience the real cause of the weariness that births the longing for conflict's end - separation from those back home. It's a more widespread burden than combat. We're winning in combat, and soldiers aren't afraid to fight. So even if American soldiers heard (and believed) McCain's assurance that his 50-100 years is without combat some might not be able to summon the energy to cheer out loud. Pay no attention to the fact that Senators Clinton and Obama would - if elected - simply relocate them from Iraq to Afghanistan, Kuwait, Qatar, or somewhere else nearby from which they could spring quickly from isolation into action...
That's war. At least an element thereof, and it's an element the political opposition gets to use against the current leadership. The willingness to do so (and to what degree to do so) is the stuff of 21st Century market research. With or without the DNC ad, American service members are well aware of the dangers of combat and the loneliness of separation. Some, upon seeing this ad, might say it's no wonder that most military members are Republicans. Others might feel the DNC "understands" them. And still others might simply be worn down one more notch by yet another of the relentless messages that a significant percentage of their fellow Americans want them out of Iraq, and they are therefore wasting their time. For the Democrats, it's a winner.
Meanwhile, back in America, a Georgia congressman is trying to ban the sale of "porn" on military installations.
Exchange officials noted that tax dollars are not used to procure magazines in the system’s largely self-funded operations.Actually, his new legal definition of porn would ban magazines like Maxim and Cosmopolitan and anything else that might feature women wearing "less than opaque" clothing. As he and his 16 Republican co-sponsors were swapping triumphant fanny-pats, a commenter here was saying:
But Broun’s spokesman John Kennedy contended that taxpayer dollars are involved — “used to pay military salaries, so taxpayer money is, in effect, being used to buy these materials,” he said.
It’s good to know that those 16 backers have taken care of all the other problems the military faces and are now taking care of this issue.Sure enough, within days
Nothing builds up my morale like some know-nothing busybody congressman checking up on conditions at military bases and being able to see the lack of adequate and affordable housing, reduction in base services like affordable childcare, or the various pawn shops, strip bars, and “E-Z credit know money down payday loan” places lining both sides of the entry to a military post, and can see it’s nudie mags in the PX that is the big threat facing “our boys and girls” in uniform.
Ed Frawley is mad as hell — and thanks to a video he recently posted on YouTube, so are a lot of other people. What has the Menomonie man so hot under the collar are the “embarrassing and disgusting” — and downright unsafe — conditions he discovered in an aging barracks at Ft. Bragg, N.C.A new barracks was under construction but not ready, but it's too late for excuses. These conditions are certainly not the fault of Republicans in any way shape or form, but if I were planning the next round of campaign videos for the DNC, I'd quickly make one showing Congressman Broun
On April 13, Frawley’s son, Sgt. Jeff Frawley, 22, returned stateside from a 15-month deployment in the mountains of Afghanistan. Along with the parents of other soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division’s Charlie Company, his father was on hand to greet him.
Following a brief initial greeting session when the troops landed at Pope Air Force base, the families were invited to meet with their soldiers back at the barracks at Ft. Bragg.
“All of the families got to the barracks about 10:30 that night on April 13,” Frawley said. “They put them in the day room. ... It was nasty. I felt so bad for these parents. You could see all of them looking around.”
It was at that point that Frawley toured the rest of the building, taking photos along the way. What he found was peeling lead paint, open drains leaking sewer gas, missing and molding ceiling tiles and rusting bathroom fixtures.
“The more I looked the madder I got,” he said...
But if you think those are issues - you aint seen nothin' yet. The debate over the new GI bill - just getting underway in congress - is likely to become a major issue, one in which Republicans are eagerly (and pointlessly, and needlessly) setting themselves up for complete destruction.
I urge you to read this entry (and the links therein) for more details. In a nutshell, Senator Webb (D-Va) has introduced legislation to replace the anemic current GI Bill with a new version that rivals the original post-WWII bill in benefits for the troops. How good is it? So good that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has expressed his concern that the troops might actually use it:
Gates also restated long-standing Pentagon opposition to GI Bill educational benefits that are too generous, making it more likely for service members to leave the military to attend college. “Serious” retention issues are expected if benefits exceed the average monthly cost for a four-year public college, including tuition, room, board and fees, Gates said.There's a great degree of absurdity here, as Gates' comments can also stand as an acknowledgement that the current bill isn't strong enough to attract a significant number of military members to give up combat for a life in academia.
Clearly an overhaul is years overdue - but election years are better than others for some legislation. In fact, Webb's bill (S 22) was introduced over a year ago, and has been going nowhere ever since - until now. (But "better late than never" is an applicable cliche here.) Regardless of motivation, the bill has been dusted off and is now a topic for debate in the Senate. (Along with related legislation in the House.) In an age when the percentage of Americans serving their country is ridiculously low, this effort seems to be a no-brainer - one would expect congressional delegations from both sides of the aisle to get on board and make it happen. And in fact, the bill has strong bi-partisan support.
But suddenly, a Republican counter-bill appears. A "senior Pentagon official, speaking on condition of not being identified" declares it “...is retention friendly. It gives education benefits a big boost, but not more than average national costs. We can manage retention at those levels, but S 22 is a retention killer.”
And in all fairness, it too is an improvement over the current Montgomery GI Bill - but it falls short. But even if it was superior to Webb's offer, if you think that a Republican counter-bill has a chance to make it through a Democrat-controlled congress you're living in a fantasy world. Likewise in fairness, it should be noted that Democrats might attach Webb's bill to another that will be strongly opposed by their Republican counterparts and likely vetoed by the President - on other grounds. However, while that scenario would be a loss for Americans serving, as with the video that opened this post it will be a huge publicity boost for Democrats, who will be handed a golden opportunity to paint their opponents as anti-military throughout the upcoming campaign season – and (in this case) rightfully so.
The media set-up has already begun. Not content to stick with the simple facts (which in this case already heavily favor the Democrats) news stories are presenting the Republican bill as McCain's. While he is a co-sponsor, the bill is actually from Lindsey Graham. McCain may be convinced that the Webb bill's potential to damage military retention outweighs its benefits to individual servicemembers, and he's certainly not acting in complete disregard for the troops, but he's just as certainly going to leave himself wide open to accusations of just that. A long sit-down with Webb and other veteran members of congress might go a long way to dispelling that rumor - even if McCain remains committed to the hopeless Republican alternative bill. But McCain's public endorsement of Webb's bill (perhaps with conditions that it not be submitted with other legislation and instead pass on its own merits) could completely eliminate the threat.
It's certainly far too early to declare a winner in the 2008 Presidential elections. But it's worth noting that in the 2004 elections an incumbent wartime president narrowly defeated a challenger (who tried to portray himself - rightly or wrongly - as a war hero) in part because of the perception (correct or incorrect) that his opponent had betrayed the troops (see "Winter Soldier"). The 2008 election could see a similar result.
You can bet that we'll be watching developments in this story very closely here.
Next: Update: The New GI Bill
Ricardo Sanchez writes a profile of Moqtada al Sadr for Time Magazine's 100 most influential people list:
In April 2004, al-Sadr's militia attacked coalition forces and took control of most provincial capitals in southern Iraq. In response, President Bush officially declared al-Sadr the enemy and ordered the military to capture or kill him. "We can't allow one man to change the course of the country," stated Bush in a video teleconference. "He must be wiped out." However, within a week, the White House reversed direction and ordered coalition forces to walk away from the mission. Negative media coverage was endangering the planned July 1, 2004, transfer of sovereignty to Iraq, which was heavily tied to Bush's re-election campaign.I think this re-write of one sentence could really improve the story: Negative media coverage of the abu Ghraib story was endangering the planned July 1, 2004, transfer of sovereignty...
He will inevitably continue as a major political power broker on the Iraq scene. But the die was cast in April 2004.
You may or may not have noticed some of the slowly growing media coverage of the new GI Bill. If not, I suspect you will - this is the sort of story that tends to catch on.
I hope it doesn't - at least not for the reasons I suspect it will - but you'll have to read on to see why.
First: I've never been a fan of the current GI Bill. It's been badly in need of reform on several counts for a long time. Here's what I wrote from Iraq in October last year:
Give the GI Bill to all active duty troops along with Guard/reserve forces activated for service in Iraq and Afghanistan. By "give" I mean ELIMINATE THE "BUY IN" - stop forcing junior troops to decide between feeding their families and tucking some money away for college. And while we're at it, increase the benefit to equal what the troops returning from WWII received. If it could be done for the largest Army in American history, it certainly could be done for the smallest.(See also here.)
Who has that power? Only one group of people can do it. It's not the military. It's not the President.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it's the most unpopular institution in the history of the United States: your Congress. (Who are working on another pork-leaden defense spending bill even as we speak...)
And now, lo and behold and glory hallelujah:
WASHINGTON, April 29, 2008 – The national commander of America's largest organization of combat veterans is demanding that Congress pass S. 22, the "Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act."And those who already doled out the cash for their future GI Bill benefits would have that money refunded. To me the whole deal sounded too good to be true. But any doubts I had about the significance of the benefit were erased entirely when I read the best possible endorsement it could ever get:
"A new GI Bill for the 21st century must be passed," said George Lisicki, who leads the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S., a veterans' service organization that includes more than 70,000 Afghanistan and Iraqi war veterans among its 1.7 million members.
S. 22 was introduced by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) to mirror the original World War II educational benefit. It would repeal the $1,200 enrollment fee, match tuition at the highest in-state rate, and provide for books and fees, and a living stipend. For those veterans accepted to private institutions, S. 22 would also provide a dollar-for-dollar tuition match for those colleges and universities who choose to participate in the program.
Lisicki is hopeful that strong bipartisan support will finally help the new GI Bill for the 21st century become reality.
Gates also restated long-standing Pentagon opposition to GI Bill educational benefits that are too generous, making it more likely for service members to leave the military to attend college. “Serious” retention issues are expected if benefits exceed the average monthly cost for a four-year public college, including tuition, room, board and fees, Gates said.Read into that comment a little bit and you'll realize that it's also an acknowledgement that the current Montgomery GI Bill isn't a threat - it ain't good enough to hurt retention, even in an army at war. However, Secretary Gates also draws attention to an undeniable shortfall in S.22 - benefits can't be transferred to dependents:
Transferability, Gates said, “is the highest priority set by the service chiefs and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reflecting the strong interest from the field and the fleet,” Gates said.I concur. But not for these reasons:
Transferring benefits is good for the family but also good for the services by helping to keep people in the military while family members are using the benefits, Gates said.So, enter a competing bill - from Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina:
Graham’s bill would raise fulltime MGIB benefits to $1500 a month, up from $1101, for all users. That would include veterans and retirees who left service long before the attacks of 9-11.All very nice - and as a guy with over 20 years time in, I think I'd come out ahead compared to Webb's offer. BUUUUTTTTT...
It also would offer new enticements – including eligibility to transfer benefits to spouse or children -- for current members who meet new MGIB-enhancement thresholds at six and 12 years of service. After six years, members could transfer half of any unused MGIB benefits to family members. After 12 years’ service, the monthly benefit would pop up to $2000 a month, and members could transfer 100 percent of any unused portion to spouses or children.
Other attracted features of S 2938 include an extra $500 a year for books and a fresh chance to buy into the MGIB for roughly 5000 members still on active duty who first entered service when the only education benefit offered was the anemic Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP)....there's that "buy in" again. Put your life on the line, spend time in war zones far from home, and you're eligible to purchase educational benefits if you can afford them (AND LOTS OF LOW RANKING PROPLE CAN'T - please don't argue that it's a reasonable price). I wonder which bill most military members and veterans would prefer?
Anyhow, although I hate to lend credence to anonymous officials, this quote sounds legit:
A senior Pentagon official, speaking on condition of not being identified, said the McCain bill, co-sponsored by Republican Sens. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Richard Burr of North Carolina, “is retention friendly. It gives education benefits a big boost, but not more than average national costs. We can manage retention at those levels, but S 22 is a retention killer.”Except that it's not the McCain bill - he is a co-sponsor, but it's Lindsey Graham's bill. But you'd be hard pressed to find that data point in most of the coverage. (More on that politicization of the issue shortly.)
First, for the record, I'm in full agreement with Paul Rieckhoff on the retention issue
Support for expanding GI education benefits in some fashion is widespread. Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and a strong proponent of Webb's legislation, said concerns that the bill's expanded benefits will encourage service members to leave the military is a "very short-sighted argument."So let me introduce my dream-scenario GI Bill:
Expanded benefits are "a recruiting tool, readiness tool, and a moral obligation," he says. "The overall net gain is going to outweigh any potential retention problems."
1. No "buy in"
2. Webb's benefits for short term service, growing to Graham's numbers for career service members.
3. Transferability per Graham's bill. ( I really can't find anyone's defense of the lack of this provision in Webb's bill.)
What I'd gladly welcome: Webb's bill (even though I think I personally benefit more from Graham's.)
And now let me tell you what I think is more likely "New GI Bill": NOTHING. ZIP. NADA, NO CHANGE.
And here's why:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- House Democrats are discussing a proposal to add money and conditions to a war funding bill despite President Bush's specific objections.The little screaming cynic living in my head is telling me that the entire thing is a scam ro be crammed into a bill that has no chance in hell of surviving a Presidential veto for other reasons - then used as a political commercial in the upcoming campaign season to hammer anyone who "denied veterans" their just due.
The proposal would add a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq as a condition for the funding, several Democratic leadership aides said.
It would also add money for some of the Democrats' domestic priorities, including unemployment assistance, a new GI bill to fund education benefits for military veterans and a package of tax credits for renewable energy sources.
Democratic sources say the $178 billion measure would include $108 billion the president requested for military spending in 2008 and $70 billion to cover war costs in Iraq and Afghanistan through early 2009.
But then again, the screaming little cynic isn't always right. Maybe for the first time in decades congress will do the right thing and send the best possible GI Bill as a stand alone measure to the White House.
You can bet I'll be watching developments closely.
The text of Graham's bill (S 2938) isn't available yet - it's too new.
Updates - see also:
Soldiers' Angels Founder to Appear On NBC Today Show
Soldiers' Angels founder Patti Patton Bader will appear on NBC's Today show on May 5, during the nine o'clock hour. She has been selected as a semi-finalist in NBC/Teleflora's America's Favorite Mom contest. Votes based on her appearance on the show with two other military moms will determine whether she moves on to the final round.
On Mother's Day (May 11), NBC will broadcast a prime-time special featuring the crowning of "America's Favorite Mom," the results of which will be determined by how many votes are received from May 5 to May 9. Each mother can only receive votes during the exact day she appears on the Today show, and the mothers with the five highest vote totals will move on to the prime-time special.
Patton Bader was selected as a semi-finalist after being voted "America's Most Inspirational Mom" in March. Her son, Staff Sergeant Brandon Varn, nominated her for starting a non-profit organization to support soldiers and their families. "My mom is one of the most amazing women in the world," he wrote. "She started an organization called Soldiers' Angels when I was deployed to Iraq. The organization is there to ensure, 'May no soldier go unloved.' It is the largest non-profit independent military support organization that has started since the onset of the 'War on Terrorism.' She puts her whole self into helping Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, and Marines every day," says Varn. Patton Bader's other son, Specialist Bretton Varn, is currently deployed to Iraq and will appear with her via satellite on Today.
Prizes for the five winning mothers include $25,000 to $250,000 in cash, and a number of free services and products. But in keeping with her efforts to support the troops, Patton Bader wants America's soldiers to be the big winners. "I plan on using everything to help heroes. Everything," she says, referring to the wide variety of prizes she could receive if she is lucky enough to win . "It is a true honor to stand with these fourteen outstanding moms," she adds.
Soldiers' Angels encourages all Americans to visit www.nbc.com/Americas_Favorite_Mom to vote for their favorite mom, and to watch the Today show the week of May 5-9 and the America's Favorite Mom show on Mother's Day, May 11, to celebrate these remarkable mothers
Soldiers' Angels has 570 service members waiting to be adopted. One service member waiting for adoption is too many. Let's give Patti the best Mothers Day gift and get these soldiers adopted!
Pasadena, CA., May 1, 2008- As more American service members deploy, or redeploy with the Global War on Terror, Soldiers' Angels mission becomes even more critical. Soldiers' Angels has sent over 200,000 packages and countless letters to our troops since it began in 2003. Patti Patton-Bader was inspired to found Soldier's Angels when her son wrote home from Iraq, expressing his concern that some soldiers did not receive any mail or support from home. Within a few short months Soldiers' Angels had grown from a mother writing a few extra letters, to an Internet Community with two hundred thousand angels worldwide.
"It is only through the collective effort of people who believe and stand for freedom that we can continue to help these young heroes who valiantly stand for us", says Bader.
Soldiers' Angels has grown and expanded to include several programs that support American service members and their families The programs include: letters, care packages, and support to troops overseas; first responder packs; laptop computers to wounded troops hospitalized or receiving treatment at military hospitals; armored blankets for military ambulances; items shipped to overseas soldiers to give to children in war zones; memorial trees for the families of heroes who have been killed while serving; and emergency airfare for service members and their families who would otherwise not qualify or cannot afford the cost of a flight.
Soldiers' Angels has never let our troops down, but now, more than ever, we need help from Americans like you. To support our troops, we need your help. Will you adopt a soldier? Will you write letters? Soldiers' Angels has many teams in many areas to fulfill our mission statement. If you don't have the time to adopt or join a specialized team, how about making a much needed donation? Every cent raised goes straight into filling the service members needs. We need you. American heroes need you. Please help, visit www.soldiersangels.org to sign up or make a donation.
Soldiers' Angels is an all volunteer non-profit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to support the brave men and women deployed away from family and friends in support of the War on Terror in Iraq, Afghanistan and wherever they raise the flag of the United States of America.
Thanks for the updates Shelle
A Tennessee couple whose soldier son was killed in Iraq want to expand their lawsuit against an Arizona online merchant of anti-war T-shirts to cover thousands of casualties and seek more than $40 billion in damages.
An amended complaint filed on behalf of Robin and Michael Read of Greeneville seeks to make the lawsuit a class-action case covering the heirs of all U.S. service members killed in the Middle East since Sept. 11, 2001.
Dan Frazier's T-shirts listed Iraq war casualties' names and Frazier's lawyer says the First Amendment protects his client's political speech.
The Reads' amended complaint filed Tuesday in federal court in Tennessee says Frazier has no right to make a profit from commercial sale of products using the casualties' names without permission.