Guy Parent finds badly wounded soldiers not getting disability cheques

Aug 19, 2014

A new report by Canada’s veterans watchdog says nearly half of the country’s most severely disabled ex-soldiers are not receiving a government allowance intended to compensate them for their physical and mental wounds.

Veterans ombudsman Guy Parent also concluded that those who are receiving the permanent impairment allowance, along with a recently introduced supplement, are only awarded the lowest grade of the benefit.

The criteria used by federal bureaucrats to evaluate disability do not match the intent of the allowance, and the guidelines are too restrictive, the report said.

It doesn’t make sense to set aside cash to deal with a problem and then not spend it, Parent said. “You can flood programs with money, but of you don’t broaden the access, then you haven’t accomplished anything.”

It’s a pattern with the current government, he said, noting how the Conservatives poured funding into the burial program for impoverished ex-soldiers in 2013, but took a year to ease the eligibility criteria so people could actually qualify.

“The evidence presented in the report clearly demonstrates that many severely impaired veterans are either not receiving these benefits or may be receiving them at a grade level that is too low,” the ombudsman said.

“This is unfair and needs to be corrected.”

Investigators could find no evidence that Veterans Affairs adjudicators consider the effect of an enduring injury on an individual’s long-term employment and career prospects, he added.

Findings under review

In a statement, Veteran Affairs Minister Julian Fantino said the findings of the ombudsman’s latest report will be considered as the government prepares its response to a Commons committee review, which has recommended a series of improvements to the legislation governing veterans benefits.

“I have asked officials at Veterans Affairs to ensure that they consider the recommendations found in the veterans ombudsman’s PIA report as well as consult his office in the development of solutions to improve the New Veterans Charter,” Fantino said.

In defending itself against criticism that veterans are being short-changed, the Harper government has been quick to point to the allowance and the supplement as a sign of its generosity.

Fantino told a House of Commons committee last spring that some permanently disabled soldiers receive more than $10,000 per month, but figures from his own department show that only four individuals in the entire country receive that much.

The department went a step further and released a chart at the end of July that shows the maximum benefits soldiers of different ranks could qualify for under existing legislation — a “misleading” display that could raise “false expectations” among veterans, Parent said.

The latest report also noted that when a veteran dies, the spouse automatically loses the allowance, creating financial hardship for the family. Under the old Pension Act system, the widow or widower continued to receive support.

The permanent impairment allowance is a taxable benefit awarded to disabled soldiers in three grade levels as compensation for lost future earnings. The Harper government introduced a supplement to the allowance in 2011.

In some respects, that supplement contributed to a dramatic increase in the number of applications.

According to figures released by Veterans Affairs in June, some 521 ex-soldiers are deemed to be the most critically injured, but the vast majority of them — 92 per cent — receive the lowest grade of allowance support.

The ombudsman’s report estimates Canada has a total of 1,911 severely wounded soldiers, 924 of whom receive no allowance at all.

Ron Cundell, of the web site VeteranVoice.info, said the latest review doesn’t tell ex-soldiers anything they don’t know already.

“It’s a shame,” Cundell said. “The (office of the veterans ombudsman) reports are proving what the veteran community has known for a long time. Veterans Affairs is not treating veterans fairly.”

One of the best comments.

This also applies to most countries not just Canada.

 

Strange world this western world, give a man a helmet and a rifle, send him to a strange country, feed him some army rations, pay him as little as possible, send him home and try to forget about him, healthy or wounded.
Give a man a helmet and a football, fly him all over your own country, put him up in luxury hotels, feed him steaks and champagne, pay him more then his agent asks for, put his name and picture on the front pages of everything from magazines to breakfast cereal box, if he gets hurt provide him with his own private doctor and full staff, retire him in a mansion with full compensation and staff and talk about him for years at every sports program.

Seems Harper has followed what the US does to it’s Veterans. As little as possible or nothing.

More times then not these young men and women are sent to wars that are fabricated so weapons manufactures, banks, oil companies etc make profit.

ISIS in Syria are freedom fighters, but in Iraq they are the bad guys.

John McCain happens to be friends of those ISIS terrorists.

ISIS brags about links to US Senator John McCain

The US and the Harper Regime also support the Ukrainian Government,

which is killing people in Eastern Ukraine,

Both also support Israel who is killing people in Gaza.

Both supported the killing of people in Libya.

Both support the killing of Syrians.

All of the above are fabricated, wars based on Lies.

Those so called freedom fighters in Libya, Syria are Terrorist funded by the US.

The US started the war in the Ukraine. That is typical of the US however, they have been starting wars for years.

The main stream media is a disgrace. They push the propaganda and lies produced by the Governments.

Like the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. All lies.

Those so called freedom fighter remind me of Death Squads.

Well we all know, who trains them, now don’t we?

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“Tortured” veterans to sue Donald Rumsfeld

August 9 2011

Two American men can go ahead with civil lawsuit over allegations they were tortured in Iraq at the hands of US forces.
A lawyer representing Rumsfeld said the appeals court decision was a blow to the US military

Donald Rumsfeld, the former US secretary of defence, must face a lawsuit filed against him by two American men claiming they were wrongfully held and tortured by US forces in Iraq.

The US Court of Appeals in Chicago on Tuesday upheld a lower court ruling last year allowing the men, Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel, to pursue claims that Rumsfeld and unnamed others should be found personally liable for their treatment – despite efforts by the former Bush and current Obama administration to get the case dismissed.

The two men worked for a private security company in Iraq in 2006 and said they became concerned the firm was engaging in illegal bribery or other corruption activities. They notified US authorities and began co-operating with them.

Emotional abuse

In early 2006, they were taken into custody by US military forces and eventually taken to Camp Cropper near Baghdad’s airport. Vance and Ertel claimed they were subjected to harsh interrogations and physical and emotional abuse.

Months later they said they were unceremoniously dropped at the airport and never charged with a crime.

They sued, seeking unspecified damages and saying their constitutional rights had been violated and US officials knew they were innocent.

The appeals court ruled that while it may have been unusual for Rumsfeld to be personally responsible for the treatment of detainees, the two men had sufficiently argued that the decisions were made at the highest levels of government.

We agree with the district court that the plaintiffs have alleged sufficient facts to show that Secretary Rumsfeld personally established the relevant policies that caused the alleged violations of their constitutional rights during detention,” the court ruled in a split decision.

The three-judge panel voted 2-1 to affirm the lower court ruling. Judge Daniel Manion dissented, saying Congress has yet to decide whether courts should have a role in deciding whether such claims against the US military can be pursued.

A lawyer representing Rumsfeld said the appeals court decision was a blow to the US military.

“Having judges second guess the decisions made by the armed forces halfway around the world is no way to wage a war,” attorney David Rivkin said in a statement on Monday.

“It saps the effectiveness of the military, puts American soldiers at risk, and shackles federal officials who have a constitutional duty to protect America.”

A spokesman for the US Justice Department, which has been representing the former defense secretary, had no immediate comment. The Justice Department could appeal to the full appeals court or to the US Supreme Court.

There have been other lawsuits against Rumsfeld and the US government over allegations of abuse and torture overseas, but most involved foreigners, not US citizens, so federal courts have typically dismissed those cases.

A district judge in Washington last week allowed a similar case to proceed involving an American translator who worked in Iraq with the US military and who said he was later detained and subjected to harsh interrogation techniques and abuse.

Source

I hope Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel win their case.

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Published in: on August 10, 2011 at 6:03 am  Comments Off on “Tortured” veterans to sue Donald Rumsfeld  
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Soldiers, Mental illness, Drugs and Suicide

Dallas Contact Crisis Line forum to raise awareness of military suicides
March 25, 2010
By DAVID TARRANT

After eight years of war marked by repeated deployments, military families have endured great sacrifices – but few as much as Maj. Gen. Mark Graham.

In June 2003, his 21-year-old son, Kevin, a promising ROTC cadet at the University of Kentucky, killed himself. He had been diagnosed with depression. Eight months later, the general’s oldest son, Jeff, died in Iraq when a bomb exploded while he led a foot patrol.

Graham and his wife, Carol, mourned privately for several years. But as the military struggled with an increase in suicides, the Army couple began telling their story to raise awareness about depression.

“All I knew was that Kevin’s death did not need to be in vain,” Graham said in a telephone interview joined by his wife. “Carol and I both would never want this ever to happen to anyone else.”

Graham is scheduled to speak about military suicides at a luncheon today in Dallas. Contact Crisis Line, the nonprofit 24-hour suicide prevention hotline, is sponsoring the forum at the Hilton Anatole. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army’s vice chief of staff, is also scheduled to speak.

Defense Department figures show that 160 active-duty Army personnel committed suicide in 2009 – up from 140 in 2008 and more than double the 77 suicides reported in 2003. The Army suicide rate is now higher than that of civilians. There is no single explanation, Pentagon officials say, but the wear and tear of repeated deployments appears to be a major factor.

“Soldiers are hurting, families are hurting, and it’s a tough time in the Army,” said Graham, deputy chief of staff of Forces Command at Fort McPherson, Ga. “Being in a war eight-plus years – it’s tough.”

Young veterans leaving military service remain at risk. The Veterans Affairs Department said recently that suicides among 18- to 29-year-old veterans have increased considerably – up 26 percent from 2005 to 2007.

In 2005, the suicide rate per 100,000 veterans among men ages 18 to 29 was 44.99, compared with 56.77 in 2007, the VA said.

“Of the more than 30,000 suicides in this country each year, fully 20 percent of them are acts by veterans,” VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said at a suicide prevention conference in January. “That means on average, 18 veterans commit suicide each day. Five of those veterans are under our care at VA.”

Graham said: “People need to know that you can die from depression. You can die from untreated depression.”

The VA has expanded mental health services to veterans and added 6,000 new mental health professionals since 2005. A 24-hour suicide prevention hotline that started in July 2007 has received 225,000 calls from veterans, active-duty personnel and family members.

But too many soldiers are reluctant to seek help for depression and anxiety because of the stigma attached to mental illness, Graham said. “One of the things we’ve tried to do is to make it clear that it’s a sign of strength, not weakness, to come forward and ask for help.”

In 2003, Kevin Graham was attending school while sharing an apartment with his siblings, Jeff and Melanie. His parents were living in South Korea, where the general was assigned.

Kevin was a “tender-hearted” child who wanted to be a doctor, said Carol Graham. At his older brother’s graduation from the University of Kentucky in May, Kevin looked in great physical condition, she said. He was exercising and getting ready for an advanced ROTC camp.

But at some point around then, he stopped taking his medication, apparently too embarrassed to admit to the military that he needed it. “He had told no one in ROTC” that he was taking Prozac, his mother said.

The Grahams feel guilt-ridden over Kevin’s death to this day. “I knew Kevin had been having problems,” Mark Graham said. “But it never even entered my mind that he could die from [depression].”

Painful as it is, the Grahams plan to continue to tell their story.

“It’s hard. It’d be easier to just curl up in a corner and do nothing,” Graham said. “But if it helps just one person not die by suicide, then it’s worth it.”

Source

Medicating the military

Use of psychiatric drugs has spiked; concerns surface about suicide, other dangers
By Andrew Tilghman and Brendan McGarry
March 17, 2010

At least one in six service members is on some form of psychiatric drug.

And many troops are taking more than one kind, mixing several pills in daily “cocktails” — for example, an antidepressant with an antipsychotic to prevent nightmares, plus an anti-epileptic to reduce headaches — despite minimal clinical research testing such combinations.

The drugs come with serious side effects: They can impair motor skills, reduce reaction times and generally make a war fighter less effective. Some double the risk for suicide, prompting doctors — and Congress — to question whether these drugs are connected to the rising rate of military suicides.

“It’s really a large-scale experiment. We are experimenting with changing people’s cognition and behavior,” said Dr. Grace Jackson, a former Navy psychiatrist.

A Military Times investigation of electronic records obtained from the Defense Logistics Agency shows DLA spent $1.1 billion on common psychiatric and pain medications from 2001 to 2009. It also shows that use of psychiatric medications has increased dramatically — about 76 percent overall, with some drug types more than doubling — since the start of the current wars.

THE FULL INVESTIGATION:

Could meds be responsible for suicides?

Downrange: ‘Any soldier can deploy on anything’

How drugs enter the war zone

Troops and military health care providers also told Military Times that these medications are being prescribed, consumed, shared and traded in combat zones — despite some restrictions on the deployment of troops using those drugs.

The investigation also shows that drugs originally developed to treat bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are now commonly used to treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, such as headaches, nightmares, nervousness and fits of anger.

Such “off-label” use — prescribing medications to treat conditions for which the drugs were not formally approved by the FDA — is legal and even common. But experts say the lack of proof that these treatments work for other purposes, without fully understanding side effects, raises serious concerns about whether the treatments are safe and effective.

The DLA records detail the range of drugs being prescribed to the military community and the spending on them:

• Antipsychotic medications, including Seroquel and Risperdal, spiked most dramatically — orders jumped by more than 200 percent, and annual spending more than quadrupled, from $4 million to $16 million.

• Use of anti-anxiety drugs and sedatives such as Valium and Ambien also rose substantially; orders increased 170 percent, while spending nearly tripled, from $6 million to about $17 million.

• Antiepileptic drugs, also known as anticonvulsants, were among the most commonly used psychiatric medications. Annual orders for these drugs increased about 70 percent, while spending more than doubled, from $16 million to $35 million.

• Antidepressants had a comparatively modest 40 percent gain in orders, but it was the only drug group to show an overall decrease in spending, from $49 million in 2001 to $41 million in 2009, a drop of 16 percent. The debut in recent years of cheaper generic versions of these drugs is likely responsible for driving down costs.

Antidepressants and anticonvulsants are the most common mental health medications prescribed to service members. Seventeen percent of the active-duty force, and as much as 6 percent of deployed troops, are on antidepressants, Brig. Gen. Loree Sutton, the Army’s highest-ranking psychiatrist, told Congress on Feb. 24.

In contrast, about 10 percent of all Americans take antidepressants, according to a 2009 Columbia University study.

Suicide risks

Many of the newest psychiatric drugs come with strong warnings about an increased risk for suicide, suicidal behavior and suicidal thoughts.

Doctors — and, more recently, lawmakers — are questioning whether the drugs could be responsible for the spike in military suicides during the past several years, an upward trend that roughly parallels the rise in psychiatric drug use.

From 2001 to 2009, the Army’s suicide rate increased more than 150 percent, from 9 per 100,000 soldiers to 23 per 100,000. The Marine Corps suicide rate is up about 50 percent, from 16.7 per 100,000 Marines in 2001 to 24 per 100,000 last year. Orders for psychiatric drugs in the analysis rose 76 percent over the same period.

“There is overwhelming evidence that the newer antidepressants commonly prescribed by the military can cause or worsen suicidal tendancys, aggression and other dangerous mental states,” said Dr. Peter Breggin, a psychiatrist who testified at the same Feb. 24 congressional hearing at which Sutton appeared.

Other side effects — increased irritability, aggressiveness and hostility — also could pose a risk.

“Imagine causing that in men and women who are heavily armed and under a great deal of stress,” Breggin said.

He cited dozens of clinical studies conducted by drug companies and submitted to federal regulators, including one among veterans that showed “completed suicide rates were approximately twice the base rate following antidepressant starts in VA clinical settings.”

But many military doctors say the risks are overstated and argue that the greater risk would be to fail to fully treat depressed troops.

For suicide, “depression is a big risk factor,” too, said Army Reserve Col. (Dr.) Thomas Hicklin, who teaches clinical psychiatry at the University of Southern California. “To withhold the medications can be a huge problem.”

Nevertheless, Hicklin said the risks demand strict oversight. “The access to weapons is a very big concern with someone who is feeling suicidal,” he said. “It has to be monitored very carefully because side effects can occur.”

Defense officials repeatedly have denied requests by Military Times for copies of autopsy reports that would show the prevalence of such drugs in suicide toxicology reports.

‘Then it’s over’

Spc. Mike Kern enlisted in 2006 and spent a year deployed in 2008 with the 4th Infantry Division as an armor crewman, running patrols out of southwest Baghdad.

Kern went to the mental health clinic suffering from nervousness, sleep problems and depression. He was given Paxil, an antidepressant that carries a warning label about increased risk for suicide.

A few days later, while patrolling the streets in the gunner’s turret of a Humvee, he said he began having serious thoughts of suicide for the first time in his life.

“I had three weapons: a pistol, my rifle and a machine gun,” Kern said. “I started to think, ‘I could just do this and then it’s over.’ That’s where my brain was: ‘I can just put this gun right here and pull the trigger and I’m done. All my problems will be gone.’”

Kern said the incident scared him, and he did not take any more drugs during that deployment. But since his return, he has been diagnosed with PTSD and currently takes a variety of psychotropic medications.

Other side effects cited by troops who used such drugs in the war zones include slowed reaction times, impaired motor skills, and attention and memory problems.

One 35-year-old Army sergeant first class said he was prescribed the anticonvulsant Topamax to prevent the onset of debilitating migraines. But the drug left him feeling mentally sluggish, and he stopped taking it.

“Some people call it ‘Stupamax’ because it makes you stupid,” said the sergeant, who asked not to be identified because he said using such medication carries a social stigma in the military.

Being slow — or even “stupid” — might not be a critical problem for some civilians. But it can be deadly for troops working with weapons or patrolling dangerous areas in a war zone, said Dr. John Newcomer, a psychiatry professor at Washington University in St. Louis and a former fellow at the American Psychiatric Association.

“A drug that is really effective and it makes you feel happy and calm and sleepy … might be a great medication for the general population,” Newcomer said, “but that might not make sense for an infantryman in a combat arena.

“If it turns out that people on a certain combo are getting shot twice as often, you would start to worry if they were as ‘heads up’ as they should have been,” Newcomer said. “There is so much on the line, you’d really like to have more specific military data to inform the prescribing.”

Military doctors say they take a service member’s mission into consideration before prescribing.

“Obviously, one would be concerned about what the person does,” said Col. C.J. Diebold, chief of the Department of Psychiatry at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii. “If they have a desk job, that may factor in what medication you may be recommending for the patient [compared with] if they are out there and they have to be moving around and reacting fairly quickly.”

Off-label use

Little hard research has been done on such unique aspects of psychiatric drug usage in the military, particularly off-label usage.

A 2009 VA study found that 60 percent of veterans receiving antipsychotics were taking them for problems for which the drugs are not officially approved. For example, only two are approved for treating PTSD — Paxil and Zoloft, according to the Food and Drug Administration. But in actuality, doctors prescribe a range of drugs to treat PTSD symptoms.

To win FDA approval, drug makers must prove efficacy through rigorous and costly clinical trials. But approval determines only how a drug can be marketed; once a drug is approved for sale, doctors legally can prescribe it for any reason they feel appropriate.

Such off-label use comes with some risk, experts say.

“Patients may be exposed to drugs that have problematic side effects without deriving any benefit,” said Dr. Robert Rosenheck, a professor of psychiatry at Yale University who studied off-label drug use among veterans. “We just don’t know. There haven’t been very many studies.”

Some military psychiatrists are reluctant to prescribe off-label.

“It’s a slippery slope,” said Hicklin, the Army psychiatrist. “Medication can be overused. We need to use medication when indicated and we hope that we are all on the same page … with that.”

Combination’s of drugs pose another risk. Doctors note that most drugs are tested as a single treatment, not as one ingredient in a mixture of medications.

“In the case of poly-drug use – the ‘cocktail’ — where you are combining an antidepressant, an anticonvulsant, an antipsychotic, and maybe a stimulant to keep this guy awake — that has never been tested,” Breggin said.

Newcomer agreed. “When we go to the literature and try to find support for these complex cocktails, we’re not going to find it,” he said. “As the number of medications goes up, the probability of adverse events like hospitalization or death goes up exponentially.”

Looking for answers

Pinpointing the reasons for broad shifts in the military’s drug use today is difficult. Each doctor prescribes medications for the patient’s individual needs.

Nevertheless, many doctors in and outside the military point to several variables — some unique to the military, some not.

A close look at the data shows that use of the antipsychotic and anticonvulsant drugs, also known as “mood stabilizers,” are growing much faster than antidepressants. That may correlate to the challenges that deployed troops face when they arrive back home and begin to readjust to civilian social norms and family life.

“The ultimate effect of both of these drugs is to take the heightened arousal — the hypervigilance and all the emotions that served you once you were deployed — and help to turn that back down,” said Dr. Frank Ochberg, former associate director for the National Institute of Mental Health and a psychiatry professor at Michigan State University who reviewed the Military Times analysis.

Dr. Harry Holloway, a retired Army colonel and a psychiatry professor at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., said the increased use of these medications is simply another sign of deployment stress on the force.

“For a long time, the ops tempo has been completely unrelieved and unrestrained,” Holloway said. “When you have an increased ops tempo, and you have certain scheduling that will make it hard for everyone, you will produce a more symptomatic force. Most commanders understand that and they understand the tradeoffs.” Source

This is a long list. It is an accumulations of things that happen to ordinary people on drugs. Soldiers would have many of the same problems.

There are over 2,000 entries. They include

Suicides, Murders, Robberies, Hostage situations And other health related side affects.

4.8 Million Person Increase in Bipolar Disorder in Last 11 Years: Majority Due to SSRI Use

200,000 a Year Enter Hospital Due to Antidepressant- Induced Mania/ Psychosis: FDA Testimony

A few thousand reasons not to take Drugs

After you read it you may think twice about taking  meds.

Don’t Let the DEA Ban Recommending Medical Marijuana for Veterans

The DEA is preventing doctors at veteran’s hospitals from recommending medical marijuana to patients — even in the 14 states where medical marijuana is legal.

The Veterans Administration is taking advice from the DEA based on the federal government’s assertion that marijuana has no medicinal value. This especially tragic because of the widespread evidence that marijuana is a safe and effective treatment for post traumatic stress disorder which is all too common among our veterans.

In fact, in New Mexico for example, PTSD is the most common affliction for patients enrolled in the state’s strictly regulated medical marijuana program.

But veterans who could benefit from medical marijuana, regardless of the legality in their own states, have to go outside the VA system and find new doctors just to learn about and try a potentially helpful medicine.

Sign this petition and tell the Obama administration that our veterans deserve better. They deserve to have doctors who practice medicine, not politics. Source

Give them Medical marijuana, it is much safer then pharmaceutical drugs.

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Traumatised British troops get payout pittance after Afghanistan and Iraq

November 15 2009

Soldiers whose lives have been shattered by the trauma of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq are being given as little as £3,000 compensation after their medical discharge.

One victim, who saw his friend’s throat ripped out by a bomb blast, said he would have been better off if he was unemployed and on benefits. Another accused ministers of washing their hands of mentally ill servicemen and women.

Since November 2005 the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has paid 155 mentally traumatised soldiers, who experience delusions, hallucinations, flashbacks and severe depression, an average of just under £6,000, according to official figures. Four others received payments above £9,075.

Sir John Major, the former prime minister, is so concerned by the low payouts that he has written to Gordon Brown to object in what aides describe as “the strongest possible terms”.

Charities, senior military and legal figures last week demanded changes to the compensation system in submissions to a government review.

The review was launched in August after disclosures by The Sunday Times that Bob Ainsworth, the defence secretary, was trying to cut compensation payouts through the courts.

Brigadier Ed Butler, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, said: “We have got one hell of a problem brewing up. Post traumatic stress disorder [PTSD] needs to be fully recognised and adequately compensated. When you’re talking about £3,000 for someone who has got PTSD it’s not enough.”

In the past two years 4,916 cases of mental disorder have been identified in British troops who toured Afghanistan and Iraq, while 67 who served in the two war zones have committed suicide since 2003.

The true toll of mental illness is likely to be far higher. In the United States, commanders have stated that 30% of all troops deployed suffer from some form of PTSD.

Captain Neil Christie, a Royal Marine, developed PTSD after being posted to Afghanistan in 2006. In one instance he was asked to identify a friend who had been killed by friendly fire. He said: “His face was all gnarled, his back had been ripped apart and mutilated . He was just a distorted carcass.”

A convoy of his comrades were hit by a suicide bomber and Christie said: “One of my friends had his throat ripped out. We had to wash the blood from their vehicles and equipment afterwards.”

His abiding memory was of Afghan children treated at Camp Bastion after sustaining injuries by walking into mines: “I can never forget their faces, some of them were as young as five or six who had lost limbs. ”

On his return home in 2007 he struggled to adjust and was diagnosed with PTSD in January 2008. He received a £5,000 lump sum, £180 a month and no other benefits. If he was unemployed he would get £260 a month in income support.

Christie, 28, said: “I was disgusted, I felt like the army had washed their hands of me, they just didn’t care. I’d have been better off being unemployed. I would be out on a walk down in Devon by the sea cliffs and think about just jumping off.

“I had been to hell and couldn’t process all the mental and emotional shit that went with that.” Christie received intensive counselling from Talking2minds, a charity for traumatised soldiers. He now works for it as a counsellor.

Sean Chance, 21, was diagnosed with PTSD after serving as a trooper with the Queen’s Royal Hussars in Iraq. He lost half his left foot when a rocket pierced the armour of his Challenger 2 tank. He received just £6,000 for his post-traumatic stress, which was increased on appeal to £11,000. He now earns £90 a week mowing lawns.

He said: “We were under constant attack, you couldn’t sleep for the mortar bombing. These people hated us. I remember once standing next to a sergeant and he was shot in the chin. His face was this red, lumpy mess.

“The compensation was a massive insult. I feel like they have just paid me off and abandoned me. I can’t sleep, I feel depressed and angry.

“The MoD sent me to a counsellor who just wanted me to relive the trauma, which is the last thing I want to be doing. It did nothing for me.”

Peter Doolan, 28, was diagnosed with PTSD in 1999, after serving in Kosovo. Despite his illness he went on to serve in Sierra Leone and Northern Ireland and did two tours of Iraq.

Doolan, a father of three, was medically discharged in 2007. Under the old war pensions compensation system he receives just £60 a week. “I saw horrific stuff in Kosovo. We arrived in villages where everyone was dead. We had to dig bloody graves,” he said.

“In Iraq it was full throttle. Every time we went out we were attacked. Out of my company we lost six. I got to a point in Iraq where my battle partner was shot through the throat [and] I didn’t give a shit.”

Doolan has struggled to adapt to civilian life in Dereham, Norfolk. He sleeps alone in his son’s bed because he fears he will hit out at his wife in his sleep. He has suffered severe depression and also become prone to violence.

“If I get nervous or upset I can’t control the shaking. I will physically start throwing up. When I have nightmares, even though I know it’s a dream, I can’t wake myself up. I start kicking out and screaming.

“I have hallucinations. I see people, animals, mostly cats. I’ve even seen flowers grow out of my carpet. I’ve not been to a pub in 11 months. The last time, in January, at my granny’s funeral, I beat up three of my brothers.”

Doolan is furious with the level of compensation for PTSD: “They have no bloody idea what it’s like for us. I think they must hate soldiers.”

David Hill, chief of Combat Stress, the charity, said: “These are hidden wounds and the compensation scheme discriminates quite unjustly against people suffering from mental disorders.”

The MoD said veterans requiring mental health care receive “excellent support” from the National Health Service. Ainsworth pledged that the review into the compensation system would be “thorough and wide-ranging”.

Source

Brown and companay will not take care of those who are injured or mentally ill but more then willing to send more to Afghanistan.

Brown: Britain Will Send More Troops to Afghanistan

By Sonja Pace
London
November 13 2009

Britain’s prime minister says the UK will send more troops to Afghanistan if other allies do the same. Speaking on British radio, BBC’s Radio Four, Gordon Brown said he’s confident of that support.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said British envoys are being sent out to talk with coalition partners and NATO allies to make the case for sending more troops to Afghanistan. For the rest go  here.

The  Treatment of Soldiers is appalling.

Wars for Oil,  Gas and pipelines.

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NATO bombings: Aftermath takes toll on Serbia, now left with DU Poisoning

Why: War in Iraq and Afghanistan

Published in: on November 15, 2009 at 7:31 am  Comments Off on Traumatised British troops get payout pittance after Afghanistan and Iraq  
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Afghanistan’s hidden toll: Injured Troops

Afghanistan’s hidden toll: Troops invalided out triple in three years

Unpublished figures show thousands of ex-soldiers have sought financial help – many suffering with stress disorders. Brian Brady and Nina Lakhani report

Sunday, 30 August 2009

The numbers of ‘post-service’ claims has risen by a factor of almost 100, from 15 to 1,455 since 2005

At its bloodiest, the fighting around Sangin in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, has been likened to Rorke’s Drift, the 1879 battle portrayed in the film Zulu. The military discourage the comparison but as one officer puts it: “The only difference is there are no Zulus at Sangin.”

The town has seen some of the deadliest fighting of the campaign. More British soldiers have been killed there and more medals won than anywhere else in Afghanistan. But the benefits the British troops have brought are seized on by officials, including decreased opium production and more Afghans being educated. But the benefits have come at a price, not all of which are as obvious as the monuments to the fallen British soldiers erected by their comrades.

Shortages of helicopters and surveillance equipment mean troops are only as safe as far as they can see with their rifle sights or binoculars. The Taliban also know it and are careful to lay their lethal mines and improvised explosive devices just out of sight. Soldiers work on the basis that every time they patrol there is a one in four chance one of them will die. Privately, senior British officers say they currently work on the assumption at least a “limb a day” will be lost.

The tally of dead currently stands at 208, but some senior officers believe this could rise sharply. The numbers of those wounded and maimed have soared by 300 per cent in the past three years as the increasingly bloody struggle to maintain order has intensified. New figures obtained by The Independent on Sunday also show that the numbers claiming compensation for injuries sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan are more than 12 times higher than the total in 2005.

Unpublished figures from the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) reveal in disturbing detail the “hidden costs” of the military action, with soaring numbers being forced out by wounds. The number of soldiers applying to the AFCS for financial assistance after being medically discharged rose from 200 in 2005-06, when the scheme opened, to 845 last year. Troops claiming for injuries suffered in service rose from 240 to 3,255 during the same period.

The disclosures follow revelations last week that service chiefs expect the number wounded in Afghanistan to have doubled by the end of the year. The total to the end of July was 299 – compared to 245 in the whole of 2008.

The figures also show that the numbers of “post-service” claims has risen by a factor of almost 100, from 15 to 1,455 since 2005. A Ministry of Defence spokesman admitted the heavy toll is due to the number of people experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after leaving the services.

PTSD sufferers tell of how traumatic memories come back regularly and involuntarily, resulting in chronic anxiety and hyper-alertness. The numbers affected are contentious, but conservative estimates say that tens of thousands of British troops who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq are suffering.

The MoD’s latest assessment of psychiatric health problems within UK forces, completed late last month, showed there were 3,181 new cases of “mental disorder” in 2008 – 16 cases for every 1,000 personnel. Troops who had been deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq showed high rates of “neurotic disorders”, including PTSD, with the Royal Marines affected more than all the other services.

The MoD acknowledges the high rates of mental health problems caused by military operations. In documents, seen by the IoS, officials concede that “some personnel returned from operations with psychological problems particularly when tour lengths exceeded expectations”. The MoD has appealed for increased “X factor” payments, which recognise the extra difficulties faced by service personnel.

Critics insist it is too little, too late, and fails to acknowledge the scale of the problem. Lord Guthrie, the former head of the Army, said the authorities had been slow to recognise the problem’s scale and extent. “When we go to war, we just don’t have the wherewithal to look after the physical and mental needs of our service people. You have to make sure that when you go to war, you are prepared to look after people, and that hasn’t happened.

“Successive governments have had a very poor record and have cut, cut and cut again the care for our service people. Having to rely on the NHS is not good enough. It has no capacity to deal with the extra people who need medical attention, and all this has been compounded by the reluctance of the MoD to admit how big the problem is.

“We hear a lot about the dead, but rather less about the wounded. We haven’t been able to see the proper figures,” he said.

Problems grow once soldiers have gone home, Lord Guthrie said: “You no longer have people to talk to. Support is very hard to come by. The Government has woken up much too late to this. Ideally, you need a network of military people throughout the NHS, but how do you pay for that?”

James Saunders, 39, served in the first Gulf War in the Royal Artillery. Looking back, he was suffering from PTSD when discharged in 1993, but he believes the Army was glad to close the door on him and his problems.

“When I asked to get out, I’d already been AWOL for six months, totally off-track, so they were glad to get rid of me. I’d see guys who’d been in Northern Ireland, drinking and getting into fights, but they were never punished. I realise now that the sergeants knew it was because they were suffering mentally, but rather than talk about it, they just ignored it.”

Former SAS trooper Bob Paxman, 41, said veterans’ problems are exacerbated when they leave the forces and are “out of the family”. His GP “didn’t have a clue” where to send him and specialised counselling failed. He suffered a total breakdown in 2006.

“I was on a dangerous job in Africa. I was a total wreck, at rock bottom. If I was left alone for more than five minutes, the flashbacks would come big style. So I self-medicated and filled myself with as much booze as possible. One night, I sank a bottle of whisky and put my 9mm pistol in my mouth but I couldn’t pull the trigger,” he said.

After his experiences Mr Paxman helped set up the charity talking2minds to help others with similar problems. Combat Stress is another charity which has stepped into the vacuum created by the MoD and the NHS. It is helping around 4,000 ex-servicemen and women with combat-related mental health problems.

It takes, on average, 14 years after discharge for a veteran suffering problems to approach them. Most current patients were on active duty
in the Falklands, Northern Ireland and the first Gulf War; less than 10 per cent have served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Hundreds more are treated in private hospitals ever year, paid for by the NHS.

David Hill, Combat Stress’s chief executive, said: “The scale and size of the problem is not known and is not adequately mapped in the UK – unlike the US and Australia. We are currently seeing an unprecedented increase in demand. Since 2005, there has been a 66 per cent increase in referrals and we are already providing support for 316 veterans of recent conflicts.” He says the NHS has no accurate figures on its veteran patients, and without such figures, no effective planning can be done.

In contrast, in Scotland, veterans are more involved in planning mental health services. They work in collaboration with NHS and voluntary services to ensure they get the services they need. “This is a very good model, and one that we could all learn from,” said Mr Hill. “There is a real drive in Scotland to understand more about the size and scale of the problem, and the services required to properly meet the current and future needs of veterans.”

The looming extent of problems created by Afghanistan has prompted the US to act. Earlier this month, it announced controversial plans to train all 1.1 million of its soldiers in emotional resilience. The training, the first of its kind for any military, hopes to prevent mental health problems from developing by helping soldiers to recognise and cope better with stressful situations in combat and civilian life. The $117m (£72m) scheme, to be rolled out by next summer, is unproven but the rising rates of suicide, PTSD and substance misuse has convinced military commanders to try it.

British experts aren’t convinced it is the correct route to take. Professor Simon Wessely, director of military health research at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, said: “I don’t think, to be honest, that there is a great call for this, I doubt it will be well received by the armed forces themselves anyway, and any benefits are likely to be slim… so no, I wouldn’t be pushing this. But if the US funds the research and show a significant benefit, then I am happy to be persuaded.”

Evidence strongly suggests that attempts to prevent PTSD work poorly, he said. “We have established and successful treatments;, the problem is acceptability and delivery.”

War wounds: ‘I was on a self-destruct train. There was no help’

James Saunders, 39, from Hampshire, joined the Army aged 17. Three years later, he flew to Iraq and spent six months fighting in the first Gulf War where he was involved in a terrifying friendly fire incident that injured five soldiers. On his return, his life spiralled out on control and he sought, and got, a discharge in 1993. It took another 12 years for him to find the psychological help he needed.

“We would drive down Basra Road, looking at the carnage left behind by allied air forces. It was like a slow motion film with body parts everywhere, sitting in cars. These images were burnt into my memory.

“When we flew home, a sergeant handed us all a piece of paper which said that we might experience problems with relationships. I was 21; I laughed and threw it in the bin. Eighteen months later, my son was stillborn and that sped up the self-destruct train. I ruined my relationship; cut myself off from family; I was taking every drug you can think of; went awol for months and eventually ended up in prison. I met at least six other army guys inside, all with similar problems, but there was no help.

“It wasn’t until a friend told me about Combat Stress four years ago that like so many guys, I realised I had PTSD.

“If I’d told anyone in the Army about the nightmares or how I felt I’d have been considered unreliable. That’s the way the military was, and still is. They train you physically but not mentally, which means good people are lost unnecessarily. If I’d had help back then, I’d still be in the Army now, coming up to my 22nd year of service.”
Source

Symptoms of mental illnesses.

  • PTSD
  • Clinical depression
  • Anxiety states
  • Adjustment disorders
  • Phobic disorders
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Bi-polar illness (manic depression)
  • Issues relating to past and present substance abuse/dependence (drug and alcohol)
  • Psychotic conditions in a non-acute phase
  • Issues relating to anger

Operation Enduring Freedom

Casualties of Troops By Country

More times then not, someone is watching their comrades dieing. That leaves a long term memory of sorrow and loss.

They may even be holding them in their arms as they die.

To September 18 2009

Country Total
Australia 11
Belgium 1
Canada 131
Czech 3
Denmark 24
Estonia 6
Finland 1
France 31
Germany 33
Hungary 2
Italy 21
Latvia 3
Lithuania 1
Netherlands 21
Norway 4
Poland 13
Portugal 2
Romania 11
South Korea 1
Spain 25
Sweden 2
Turkey 2
UK 216
US 838
Total 1403

Coalition Military Fatalities By Year

To September 18 2009

Year Total
2001 12
2002 69
2003 57
2004 59
2005 131
2006 191
2007 232
2008 294
2009 358
Total 1403

Source

Names of soldier,  dates  of deaths, cause of death

Each year the number of casualties are risisng.

The spin doctors try to make us believe things are getting better in Afghanistan, when in fact they are deteriorating.

Population of Afghanistan: In 2008  32,738,376

They are helping Afghanistan are they? Well I don’t see any improvements.

What you don’t hear much about in the News Media.

Unemployment rate In Afghanistan: No improvement there?

Year Unemployment rate (%)
2000 8
2006 40
2007 40
2008 40

Infant Mortality Rate is Rising: No improvement there?

Year Infant mortality rate (deaths/1,000 live births)
2000 149.28
2001 147.02
2002 144.76
2003 142.48
2004 165.96
2005 163.07
2006 160.23
2007 157.43
2008 154.67

Literacy Rate is Declining: Improved a bit for 5 years and is now below the 2000, 15% . No improvement there?

Year Literacy (%)
2000 15
2001 15
2002 21
2003 21
2004 21
2005 21
2006 21
2007 12.6
2008 12.6

Afghan Poverty rates are rising: No improvement there?

Year Population below poverty line (%)
2004 23
2005 53
2006 53
2007 53
2008 53

Afghans fit for Military Service: So one has to wonder, how many may decide to fight against NATO forces? They are seeing their friends and family die at the hands of NATO.

Year Manpower fit for military service
2000 3,432,236
2001 3,561,957
2002 3,696,379
2003 3,837,646
2004 3,642,659
2005 2,662,946
2006 2,508,574
2007 2,508,574
2008 3,946,685

Source

There have been over 56,000 Afghan Civilians injured and over 8,000 who have died because if the war.  They to suffer from all the same things soldiers suffer from as well.  The numbers on both side are growing.

The number of civilians killed in fighting between the Taliban and foreign forces in Afghanistan is rising.

March 9, 2009

The United Nations says the toll in 2008 was 40 per cent more than in the previous year, and things could get worse with the arrival of more US troops.

Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr reports from Kabul.

Within the first 6 months of 2009 over 1,000 Civilians were killed.

Since then many, many more have died.

Things have escalated in Afghanistan since the arrival of the troops from the US. The US is not wanted there.

The number of soldiers who die and get injured have risen as well.

Even the recent election was fraudulent.

So what are the soldiers dieing for?  Certainly not for “democracy” that is just a sham.  Something the spin doctors like to feed the public.

“We are making progress” something else the spin doctors like to feed the public.

The spin doctors tell us “Our soldiers die for a noble cause”. What a crock.

They actually want to control the middle east and it’s people. They want to control the resources of gas and oil.

That is really why men, women and  children  are dieing or becoming severely injured, civilian or military makes little difference.

Lost arms, lost legs, lost eyesight, mental health problems are just a few of the injuries that occur.  Permanent  injures that last for the rest of their lives.

On both sides there are thousands upon thousands of victims who will suffer for the rest of their lives.

Where do we draw the line? When do we say enough.

Usama Bin Ladin has never been connected to 9/11.

Has Usama Bin Ladin been dead for seven years – and are the U.S. and Britain covering it up to continue war on terror? FBI never linked him to 9/11

So why is NATO in Afghanistan?

More than half of British public against UK mission in Afghanistan

(Afghanistan 9) A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

Elusive threats boost PTSD risk in Afghanistan

Traumatic brain injuries the signature wound of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq

British officer leaked 8,000 Civilians killed in Afghanistan

Iraq hero goes on warpath for British troops

Victoria Cross holder condemns government failure to care for veterans suffering post-combat stress.

Exclusive by Terri Judd

February 28 2009

Johnson Beharry told The Independent it was

Teri Pengilley

Johnson Beharry told The Independent it was “disgraceful” that some veterans were struggling to receive treatment

The Army’s most decorated serving war hero has accused the Government of failing soldiers suffering from mental trauma resulting from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for twice saving the lives of colleagues in Iraq while under heavy rocket fire, told The Independent it was “disgraceful” that some veterans were struggling to receive treatment. He said the Government was relying on military charities to cover its own deficiencies and called on it to act to better help the growing number of his comrades suffering from severe combat stress, depression and mental breakdowns.

“These are people who have served this country,” said Cpl Beharry, in his most outspoken interview since receiving the VC four years ago. “Why can’t they get treatment? I don’t think the Government is doing enough for soldiers. Those who are still serving get some form of help for combat stress but even those who are serving don’t get enough support.”

Cpl Beharry became the Army’s most high-profile war hero when he was awarded the VC for “repeated extreme gallantry and unquestioned valour” for the two rescues “despite a harrowing weight of incoming fire”.

Yesterday the 29-year-old, who is still a serving soldier, displayed the courage which earned him the country’s highest honour by standing up for the thousands of servicemen and women who are still suffering from post-traumatic and combat stress, having served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a candid interview, Cpl Beharry broke his silence to reveal that almost five years after he suffered severe injuries saving his friends, he is still racked by mental anguish and excruciating pain. While he is aware he has received first-rate treatment, he has spoken out on behalf of less high-profile service personnel, criticising the fact that charities have been forced to step in where the Government has failed.

He described it as an outrage that former military personnel were forced to wait for NHS treatment: “I think it is disgraceful that an ex-serviceman or woman has to go to the NHS. The Government should have something in place for ex-servicemen and women.”

In a week when four servicemen died in Afghanistan and as British troops prepare to pull out of Basra after six years, Cpl Beharry described the nightmares, mood swings and irrational rages that plagued many soldiers.

“It brings me back into the killing zone, to the explosion. When you hear a bang in Iraq you know it is going to be followed by something and back home you feel the same. You go tense, waiting. I go into that defence mode.

“I am learning to live with it. Everyone experiences combat stress differently. But we are all linked, we all suffer the same problem in different ways.”

Serving with the 1st Battalion, The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment in Al Amarah in the summer of 2004, Cpl Beharry’s unit came under fierce attack more than 800 times.

In the last three months of 2007 alone, 868 military personnel presented with a problem at the MoD’s mental health departments and 69 were so severe they had to be admitted as inpatients. While just 43 were diagnosed as having full-blown post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), hundreds more were deemed to have mood or adjustment disorders or depressive illnesses.

A report on the Ministry of Defence’s Departments of Community Mental Health (DCMH) stated that there was a “significantly higher rate of PTSD among those deployed to the Iraq or Afghanistan theatres of operation”.

The report stated: “[The findings] do not cover the full picture of all mental disorders in the UK armed forces. Personnel may have been seen in primary care who did not require, or wish, onward referral to the DCMHs.”

Robert Marsh, a director of Combat Stress, the charity that offers a lifeline to thousands of veterans suffering from PTSD or associated conditions, said they had seen a 53 per cent increase in new veterans in the past three years. In the past year alone, they have treated 3,700 new veterans.

“Most people do not come forward for an average of 14 years after they have left the services so there is a problem storing up for the future,” he said. “Combat Stress is working hard to reduce this time lag because by the time we see them they are on their uppers.

“To have someone like Johnson Beharry VC talking so candidly helps normalise this condition for other veterans and, we really hope, encourages them to come forward.”

Defence minister Kevan Jones said: “We recognise mental illnesses as serious and disabling conditions but also ones that can be treated.”

Psychiatric teams provided diagnosis and treatment during and after deployments but the provision of those teams was just one part of the Government’s approach, he said.

The Government had also ensured support systems were in place to help non-medical staff spot those who might have been affected by traumatic events. “Decompression periods” in Cyprus also allowed personnel to begin to unwind, mentally and physically, after their operational tours.

“We are not complacent,” Mr Jones said. The Government had commissioned mental health research into King’s College London and expanded the medical assessment programme at St Thomas’ Hospital to include assessment of veterans who had served in operations since 1982.

Source

Indexed List of all Stories in Archives

Published in: on February 28, 2009 at 6:33 am  Comments Off on Iraq hero goes on warpath for British troops  
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Afghan veterans more likely to suffer from mental illness

British frontline troops nine times more prone to psychological trauma

By Kim Sengupta
November 5 2008

Remembrance crosses placed at Westminster Abbey yesterday to honour the fallen

PA

Remembrance crosses placed at Westminster Abbey yesterday to honour the fallen

British forces who served in Afghanistan are nine times more likely to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder than comrades who have not been sent to war, a report from the Ministry of Defence shows. Iraq veterans are six and half times more likely to be affected by the condition than others who were not there.

The study found women in the armed forces suffer almost double the rate of psychological trauma than men, and other ranks are affected more than officers. Overall, nearly 4,000 new cases of mental health disorder were diagnosed last year and that figure, say officials, is expected to rise next year with service personnel now more willing to come forward to talk about their problems.

The study, by Defence Analytical Services and Advice (Dasa), also cautions that the statistics “do not cover the full picture of all mental disorders in the UK armed forces” because the support provided by the “strong culture of comradeship within the armed forces may have served to minimise the number and severity of symptoms experienced by some cases”.

The MoD acknowledged that “there was a statistically significantly higher rate of PTSD among those deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan compared with those not deployed there”. Women in the services had mental health disorder assessment at 8.2 per 1,000, double that of male personnel at four per 1,000, and other ranks were diagnosed at 4.9 per 1,000, more than two and half times that of officers at 1.8 per 1,000. Surgeon-Commander Neil Greenberg, senior lecturer in military psychiatry, said he believed that the differences probably related to factors they brought into the services such as social background.

Women comprise 18,100 out of the total strength of 195,100 in the armed forces and have been involved in increasingly important roles in Iraq and Afghanistan. Five British female soldiers have been killed in Iraq and Sgt Sarah Bryant, of the Intelligence Corps, was killed in Afghanistan five months ago while with the SAS.

The MoD stressed that major progress had been made in diagnosing mental problems and the Medical Assessment Programme (MAP) provided assessments for veterans deployed on operations since 1982. But Gary Williams, 39, who served in the 1991 Gulf War as a 22-year-old sapper, said: “I did go to see the MAP people a few years ago but I got nothing from it. The Gulf Veterans Association has been very good and fixed it for me to have psychological examinations which have been very helpful. The problem is that you have to fight the state every part of the way to get something like disability benefits and your military pension.”

Mr Williams, from Weaverham, Cheshire, added: “We were told one in three of us would die. We were told to expect chemical and biological weapons and we used to look at each other and wonder who would make it home alive and who would go back in a coffin. And, of course, we had Scud attacks. I have been diagnosed with medical problems. I have aches and pains and dizzy spells. I can’t go far without a stick and I have flashbacks, snapshots of the things that happened to us. It is not a good way to live.”

Source

Prison statistics call U.S.’s priorities into question

by Matt Petryni

PUBLISHED ON 3/4/08
As of last Thursday, the United States, land of the free, is on record as the world’s leader in imprisonment. A report released by the Pew Center last week calculated that 2.3 million Americans are behind bars, about one percent of our adult population. Russia and the former Soviet Union countries follow, while the northern Europeans – Sweden, Finland and Denmark – imprison only around ten percent of our number. We’re also a major player in executions, killing more of our citizens per capita than such tasteful governments as those of Syria and Sudan.

All of these shocking statistics, though, must come with some qualifications (as do all shocking statistics, I find). Ranking us below regimes like China’s is difficult, due to the trouble in getting accurate information on how many people they incarcerate. And while we might “officially” execute more people than Sudan does – something we should probably stop doing, no doubt – it must be acknowledged that many of the tragic deaths in Darfur could probably be added to Sudan’s number.

Further, the sheer number isn’t enough to evaluate the “oppressiveness” of a country’s prison policies. While we might lock up the most people, it could be argued that we do so with more respect for some kind of substantive due process and civil rights than more repressive regimes do. And while we’re undoubtedly efficient at killing people who have been convicted of murder, many countries use execution as an explicit means to eliminate political enemies and minority ethnic groups.

Nonetheless, it is important that we look at our incarceration numbers with concern. It does appear, by some accounts, that our increased incarceration rate has corresponded nationally with a drop in crime rates. Yet this has more trouble translating to the state level, as many states that have thrown more of their residents in jail have had trouble keeping control over their crime rate. Some states have even experienced significant drops in crime despite having released more of their prison population than other states. This is not to suggest that we could reduce crime by freeing criminals. But it does point out that it may not be as simple as “increasing incarceration means decreasing crime.”

As primitively “fun” as it may be to lock up the sinners and whatnot, it is also incredibly expensive. Oregon spends more of its general fund on corrections than does any other state – a number that has increased 4.6 percent in the last 10 years. These numbers are rising fast across the country. Statistics suggest that, inflation adjusted, nationwide spending on prisons has more than doubled from roughly $19.4 billion (today’s dollars) in 1997 to $44.1 billion last year. Each prisoner, it is estimated, costs taxpayers about $24,000 per year (compared to $8,700 invested per student on schools).

Why so much imprisonment? In the United States, we tend to use incarceration as an indirect answer to many social problems: drug addiction, mental illness, poverty. This is not to say that the crimes of criminals are by any means “excusable” due to their circumstances. Criminals are still responsible for their personal actions and should be held accountable. But for those of us who aren’t just interested in the satisfaction of casting the first stone, and would actually like to see fewer homes broken, fewer women raped, and fewer people killed, the policies that result in widespread incarceration and their relation to crime rates must be critically examined.

Drug addicts, for example, cycle through prisons at an alarming rate. As recently as 2004, state prisons incarcerated 249,400 criminals for drug offenses, roughly 20 percent of all state prisoners. This doesn’t even include federal prison numbers, where more than half are incarcerated for drug offenses. It is estimated that every dollar invested in the treatment of drug addiction returns $4 to $7 to taxpayers in the reduction of drug-related crime. I’m not a financial expert, but if I could get a 400 to 700 percent return on my investment, I’d take it.

And putting the practicality of a Puritanical drug policy aside, a better question might be the ethicality. Drug addicts are not simply criminals in the classic sense. It doesn’t work, statistically or ethically, to “punish” them for a serious disease. Even some of the staunchest advocates of drug addiction “punishment” have ended up being users and abusers themselves, making clear that recognizing the fear of punishment for the “crime” of drug addiction seems no deterrent to “committing” drug addiction.

With so much money being spent treating the ills of society by locking them up in our prisons, and with our incarceration rate so high, it’s well past time to consider more effective, more productive and more ethical means of driving our crime rate down. It isn’t about letting criminals off easy: It’s about keeping them from hurting others in the first place.

Source

Imprisoned vets tell their war stories for history

As U.S. forces withdrew from Vietnam in early 1974, Seaman Apprentice Frederic D. Jones was fighting his own battles.

The cocky Baltimore teenager spent nearly three months AWOL in the Philippines. There, he said, he played cat-and-mouse with shore patrol while fending off a murderous drug dealer, romancing the sister of a militia leader and robbing other servicemen to feed his heroin habit.

Eventually caught, Jones negotiated an honorable discharge but couldn’t stay clean. An armed robbery spree in 1995 got him a 45-year sentence in the Maryland Correctional Institution near Hagerstown.

While Jones, now 52, is locked away from society, his war story has been preserved for posterity. He is among the first incarcerated veterans to tell his military service tale to the Library of Congress Veterans History Project.

Video recordings of more than 30 inmates at the medium-security prison are archived at the library’s American Folklife Center, along with those of nearly 60,000 other veterans. Just one other prison, the Fairton Federal Correctional Institution in Fairton, N.J., has collected veterans’ stories, said Bob Patrick, director of the Veterans History Project.

Congress created the oral history program in 2000 to document the personal wartime experiences of American service members. The library doesn’t try to verify their stories, but The Associated Press confirmed the service records of the inmates mentioned in this report.

Patrick said that by recognizing their roles in history, the project dignifies the service of veterans who take part. Jones was so proud of his videotape that he had a copy sent to his elderly mother.

“She was so overjoyed and surprised,” he said.

Since any veteran, no matter how decorated or disgraced, can contribute to the archive, Jones’ story was as welcome as that of any admiral. And it’s hard to imagine one more colorful.

On his nearly 90-minute recording, Jones recounts his adventures as a “young, wild, impulsive,” 18-year-old in and around the Subic Bay Naval Base. There, he said, a female gang called the Black Stockings helped him steal cash and watches from drunken sailors and aided him in avoiding a drug dealer he had wronged.

“I ended up getting a contract on my life,” Jones says. “I felt like I had never left home.”

Jones, who is black, said he enlisted in the Navy seeking structure and style — he liked the bell-bottomed uniforms — but he quickly grew disenchanted by the racism and drug use he found.

“I’d had my own preconceived ideas what the military was — I mean straight-up, strict discipline,” Jones says on the video, made a year ago. “The drugs, the gang mentality — it was all right there in the military. It was a big letdown.”

In a June interview with the AP, Jones said he doesn’t blame the military for his mistakes but has found in prison the sort of discipline he had expected from the Navy. Behind bars, he and 58-year-old John E. Barba, who is serving a life sentence for robbing and murdering a methamphetamine maker, have become co-chairmen of the prison’s veterans history committee.

Guided by materials from the Library of Congress, they have become such skilled interviewers since last fall that they and prison librarian Mary Stevanus, who spearheaded the history project, hope to produce a how-to booklet or video for other veterans groups, in or out of prison.

“What you’re looking for is the meat of the stuff,” said Barba, who served domestically in the Navy from 1970 to 1974. Working together, he and Jones conduct informal “pre-interviews” with their subjects, making notes of compelling material “so when they’re giving their interview, we can dive in,” Barba said.

They extracted a harrowing account from Ronald L. McClary, 62, of his experience under fire as a fresh-faced Marine in Vietnam. On his video, the burly inmate, seated before a large U.S. flag, recalls his daily “search-and-destroy” missions.

“Every day, you would look at one of your buddies and wonder who wasn’t going home today or who was going to get killed today. Everybody knew it was going to be somebody,” said McClary, who is serving 12 years for the second-degree murder of his wife in Baltimore 2005.

He recounted a firefight in which two buddies were killed.

“Three rounds went off. The first round hit Amos in the head. Amos fell. When Amos fell, Cope looked around and looked down at Amos. The second round hit Cope in the head. And I seen it. I told you, three rounds went off. Cope was to my left. Amos was to my left, and then there was me. You cannot tell me today the third round wasn’t meant for me. But I was down. I was eating dirt.”

Ordered by his lieutenant to get up and charge the enemy, McClary fired two shots before his gun jammed. “I had to get back down,” he says on the video. “I’ve never been so scared in all my life.”

Jones said he feels privileged hearing such stories.

“These guys have kept this stuff to themselves for 40 years,” he said. “You’ll see one guy that actually breaks down and cries. I mean, these are hardened criminals and he breaks down and cries on his video.”

About 226,000 of the national’s 25.1 million veterans were in prison or jail in 1998, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics’ most recent report on the subject.

Matt Davison, chairman of an incarcerated veterans project for New York-based VietNow National, a veterans advocacy group, said most inmate vets he’s met are proud of having served — and many feel remorse for having done something dishonorable.

Barba said most of the inmates he has interviewed for the history project express gratitude that they were able to serve.

In one video, white-haired World War II vet Lee D. Gerhold, doing 50 years for arranging an ex-wife’s murder, grips his cane and says, “I’m thankful to the country for accepting me.”

Source

More Prison Statistics

Published in: on November 2, 2008 at 8:57 pm  Comments Off on Prison statistics call U.S.’s priorities into question  
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Senator John McCain’s Record on Troop and Veterans’ Issues


In recent presidential debates, Senator John McCain has said things like, “I know the veterans.  I know them well.  And, I know that they know that I’ll take care of them.”  It was stunning, because nothing could be further from the truth.  It’s something that our friend Charlie Fink even made an issue of in his new video at Lunatics and Liars.

A lot of you have asked VoteVets.org to explain why Senator McCain gets consistently low ratings from veterans groups.   Below is a full list of votes, statements, and positions of Senator McCain’s, which shows that Senator McCain has consistently bailed on troops and veterans.

It’s a very long, but comprehensive list.  I encourage you to take a look and pass it around.  An even more robust list, complete with video, can be found at VetVoice.com, as well.

Sincerely,

Brandon Friedman
Iraq and Afghanistan War Veteran
Vice Chairman, VoteVets.org

Senator John McCain’s Record on Troop and Veterans’ Issues

· Veterans Groups Give McCain Failing Grades. In its most recent legislative ratings, the non-partisan Disabled American Veterans gave Sen. McCain a 20 percent rating for his voting record on veterans’ issues.  Similarly, the non-partisan Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America gave McCain a “D” grade for his poor voting record on veterans’ issues, including McCain’s votes against additional body armor for troops in combat and additional funding for PTSD and TBI screening and treatment.

· McCain Voted Against Increased Funding for Veterans’ Health Care. Although McCain told voters at a campaign rally that improving veterans’ health care was his top domestic priority, he voted against increasing funding for veterans’ health care in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007. (Greenville News, 12/12/2007; S.Amdt. 2745 to S.C.R. 95, Vote 40, 3/10/04; Senate S.C.R. 18, Vote 55, 3/16/05; S.Amdt. 3007 to S.C.R. 83, Vote 41, 3/14/06; H.R. 1591, Vote 126, 3/29/07)

· McCain Voted At Least 28 Times Against Veterans’ Benefits, Including Healthcare. Since arriving in the U.S. Senate in 1987, McCain has voted at least 28 times against ensuring important benefits for America’s veterans, including providing adequate healthcare. (2006 Senate Vote #7, 41, 63, 67, 98, 222; 2005 Senate Votes #55, 89, 90, 251, 343; 2004 Senate Votes #40, 48, 145; 2003 Senate Votes #74, 81, 83; 1999 Senate Vote #328; 1998 Senate Vote #175; 1997 Senate Vote #168; 1996 Senate Votes #115, 275; 1995 Senate Votes #76, 226, 466; 1994 Senate Vote #306; 1992 Senate Vote #194; 1991 Senate Vote #259)

· McCain Voted Against Providing Automatic Cost-of-Living Adjustments to Veterans. McCain voted against providing automatic annual cost-of-living adjustments for certain veterans’ benefits. (S. 869, Vote 259, 11/20/91)

· McCain Voted to Underfund Department of Veterans Affairs. McCain voted for an appropriations bill that underfunded the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development by $8.9 billion. (H.R. 2099, Vote 470, 9/27/95)

· McCain Voted Against a $13 Billion Increase in Funding for Veterans Programs. McCain voted against an amendment to increase spending on veterans programs by $13 billion. (S.C.R. 57, Vote 115, 5/16/96)

· McCain Voted Against $44.3 Billion for Veterans Programs. McCain was one of five senators to vote against a bill providing $44.3 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs, plus funding for other federal agencies. (H.R. 2684, Vote 328, 10/15/99)

· McCain Voted Against $47 Billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs. McCain was one of eight senators to vote against a bill that provided $47 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs. (H.R. 4635, Vote 272, 10/12/00)

· McCain Voted Against $51 Billion in Veterans Funding. McCain was one of five senators to vote against the bill and seven to vote against the conference report that provided $51.1 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as funding for the federal housing, environmental and emergency management agencies and NASA. (H.R. 2620, Vote 334, 11/8/01; Vote 269, 8/2/01)

· McCain Voted Against $122.7 Billion for Department of Veterans Affairs. McCain voted against an appropriations bill that included $122.7 billion in fiscal 2004 for the Department of Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development and other related agencies. (H.R. 2861, Vote 449, 11/12/03)

· McCain Opposed $500 Million for Counseling Services for Veterans with Mental Disorders. McCain voted against an amendment to appropriate $500 million annually from 2006-2010 for counseling, mental health and rehabilitation services for veterans diagnosed with mental illness, posttraumatic stress disorder or substance abuse. (S. 2020, S.Amdt. 2634, Vote 343, 11/17/05)

· McCain opposed an Assured Funding Stream for Veterans’ Health Care. McCain opposed providing an assured funding stream for veterans’ health care, taking into account annual changes in veterans’ population and inflation. (S.Amdt. 3141 to S.C.R. 83, Vote 63, 3/16/06)

· McCain Voted Against Adding More Than $400 Million for Veterans’ Care. McCain was one of 13 Republicans to vote against providing an additional $430 million to the Department of Veterans Affairs for outpatient care and treatment for veterans. (S.Amdt. 3642 to H.R. 4939, Vote 98, 4/26/06)

· McCain Supported Outsourcing VA Jobs. McCain opposed an amendment that would have prevented the Department of Veterans Affairs from outsourcing jobs, many held by blue-collar veterans, without first giving the workers a chance to compete. (S.Amdt. 2673 to H.R. 2642, Vote 315, 9/6/07)

· McCain Opposed the 21st Century GI Bill Because It Was Too Generous. McCain did not vote on the GI Bill that will provide better educational opportunities to veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, paying full tuition at in-state schools and living expenses for those who have served at least three years since the 9/11 attacks. McCain said he opposes the bill because he thinks the generous benefits would “encourage more people to leave the military.” (S.Amdt. 4803 to H.R. 2642, Vote 137, 5/22/08; Chattanooga Times Free Press, 6/2/08; Boston Globe, 5/23/08; ABCNews.com, 5/26/08)

· Disabled American Veterans Legislative Director Said That McCain’s Proposal Would Increase Costs For Veterans Because His Plan Relies On Private Hospitals Which Are More Expensive and Which Could Also Lead To Further Rationing Of Care. “To help veterans who live far from VA hospitals or need specialized care the VA can’t provide, McCain proposed giving low-income veterans and those who incurred injury during their service a card they could use at private hospitals. The proposal is not an attempt to privatize the VA, as critics have alleged, but rather, an effort to improve care and access to it, he said. Joe Violanti, legislative director of the Disabled American Veterans, a nonpartisan organization, said the proposal would increase costs because private hospitals are more expensive. The increased cost could lead to further rationing of care, he said.” (Las Vegas Sun, 8/10/08)

Lack of Support for the Troops

· McCain co-sponsored the Use of Force Authorization. McCain supported the bill that gave President George W. Bush the green light–and a blank check–for going to war with Iraq. (SJ Res 46, 10/3/02)

· McCain Opposed Increasing Spending on TRICARE and Giving Greater Access to National Guard and Reservists. Although his campaign website devotes a large section to veterans issues, including expanding benefits for reservists and members of the National Guard, McCain voted against increasing spending on the TRICARE program by $20.3 billion over 10 years to give members of the National Guard and Reserves and their families greater access to the health care program. The increase would be offset by a reduction in tax cuts for the wealthy. (S.Amdt. 324 to S.C.R. 23, Vote 81, 3/25/03)

· McCain voted against holding Bush accountable for his actions in the war. McCain opposed the creation of an independent commission to investigate the development and use of intelligence leading up to the war in Iraq. (S.Amdt. 1275 to H.R. 2658, Vote 284, 7/16/03)

· McCain voted Against Establishing a $1 Billion Trust Fund for Military Health Facilities. McCain voted against establishing a $1 billion trust fund to improve military health facilities by refusing to repeal tax cuts for those making more than $1 million a year. (S.Amdt. 2735 to S.Amdt. 2707 to H.R. 4297, Vote 7, 2/2/06)

· Senator McCain opposed efforts to end the overextension of the military–a policy that is having a devastating impact on our troops. McCain voted against requiring mandatory minimum downtime between tours of duty for troops serving in Iraq. (S.Amdt.. 2909 to S.Amdt. 2011 to HR 1585, Vote 341, 9/19/07; S.Amdt. 2012 to S.Amdt. 2011 to HR 1585, Vote 241, 7/11/07)

· McCain announced his willingness to keep U.S. troops in Iraq for decades–a statement sure to inflame Iraqis and endanger American troops. McCain: “Make it a hundred” years in Iraq and “that would be fine with me.” (Derry, New Hampshire Town Hall meeting, 1/3/08)

· McCain voted against a ban on waterboarding–a form of torture–in a move that could eventually endanger American troops. According to ThinkProgress, “the Senate brought the Intelligence Authorization Bill to the floor, which contained a provision from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) establishing one interrogation standard across the government. The bill requires the intelligence community to abide by the same standards as articulated in the Army Field Manual and bans waterboarding.”  McCain voted against the bill.  (H.R. 2082, Vote 22, 2/13/08)

· McCain Also Supported Outsourcing at Walter Reed. McCain opposed an amendment to prevent the outsourcing of 350 federal employee jobs at Walter Reed Army Medical Center–outsourcing that contributed to the scandalous treatment of veterans at Walter Reed that McCain called a “disgrace.” (S.Amdt. 4895 to H.R. 5631, Vote 234, 9/6/06; Speech to VFW in Kansas City, Mo., 4/4/08)

· Senator McCain has consistently opposed any plan to withdraw troops from Iraq–a policy that has directly weakened American efforts in Afghanistan. Senator McCain repeatedly voted against a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq. (S.Amdt. 3876 to S.Amdt. 3874 to H.R. 2764, Vote #438, 12/18/07; S.Amdt. 3875 to S.Amdt. 3874 to H.R. 2764, Vote #437, 12/18/07; S.Amdt.3164 to H.R. 3222, Vote #362, 10/3/07; S.Amdt. 2898 to S. Amdt. 2011 to H.R. 1585, Vote #346, 9/21/07; S. Amdt. 2924 to S.Amdt. 2011 to H.R.1585, Vote #345, 9/21/07; S.Amdt.2 087 to S.Amdt. 2011 to H.R. 1585, Vote #252, 7/18/07; S.Amdt. 643 to H.R. 1591, Vote #116, 3/27/07; S.Amdt. 4320 to S. 2766, Vote #182, 6/22/06; S.Amdt. 4442 to S. 2766, Vote #181, 6/22/06; S.Amdt. 2519 to S.1042, Vote #322, 11/15/05)

· McCain said it’s “not too important” when U.S. troops leave Iraq. This exchange occurred on NBC’s Today Show with Matt Lauer:

LAUER: If it’s working, senator, do you now have a better estimate of when American forces can come home from Iraq?
McCAIN: No, but that’s not too important.

(NBC, Today Show, 6/11/08)

Cheerleading for War with Iraq–While Afghanistan was Unfinished

· McCain suggested that the war in Iraq could be won with a “smaller” force. “But the fact is I think we could go in with much smaller numbers than we had to do in the past. But I don’t believe it’s going to be nearly the size and scope that it was in 1991.” (CBS News, Face the Nation, 9/15/02)

· McCain said winning the war would be “easy.” “I know that as successful as I believe we will be, and I believe that the success will be fairly easy, we will still lose some American young men or women.” (CNN, 9/24/02)

· McCain also said the actual fighting in Iraq would be easy. “We’re not going to get into house-to-house fighting in Baghdad.  We may have to take out buildings, but we’re not going to have a bloodletting of trading American bodies for Iraqi bodies.” (CNN, 9/29/02)

· Continuing his pattern, McCain also said on MSNBC that we would win the war in Iraq “easily.” “But the point is that, one, we will win this conflict. We will win it easily.” (MSNBC, 1/22/03)

· McCain argued Saddam was “a threat of the first order.” Senator McCain said that a policy of containing Iraq to blunt its weapons of mass destruction program is “unsustainable, ineffective, unworkable and dangerous.” McCain: “I believe Iraq is a threat of the first order, and only a change of regime will make Iraq a state that does not threaten us and others, and where liberated people assume the rights and responsibilities of freedom.” (Speech to the Center for Strategic & International Studies, 2/13/03)

· McCain echoed Bush and Cheney’s rationale for going to war. McCain: “We’re going to win this victory. Tragically, we will lose American lives. But it will be brief.  We’re going to find massive evidence of weapons of mass destruction . . . It’s going to send the message throughout the Middle East that democracy can take hold in the Middle East.” (Fox News, Hannity & Colmes, 2/21/03)

· “But I believe, Katie, that the Iraqi people will greet us as liberators.” (NBC, 3/20/03)

· March 2003: “I believe that this conflict is still going to be relatively short.” (NBC, Meet the Press, 3/30/03)

· McCain echoed Bush and Cheney’s talking points that the U.S. would only be in Iraq for a short time. McCain: “It’s clear that the end is very much in sight . . . It won’t be long . . . it’ll be a fairly short period of time.” (ABC, 4/9/03)

Staunch Defense of the Iraq Invasion

· McCain maintained that the war was a good idea and that George W. Bush deserved “admiration.” At the 2004 Republican National Convention, McCain, focusing on the war in Iraq, said that while weapons of mass destruction were not found, Saddam once had them and “he would have acquired them again.” McCain said the mission in Iraq “gave hope to people long oppressed” and it was “necessary, achievable and noble.” McCain: “For his determination to undertake it, and for his unflagging resolve to see it through to a just end, President Bush deserves not only our support, but our admiration.” (Speech, Republican National Convention, 8/31/04)

· Senator McCain: “The war, the invasion was not a mistake. (Meet the Press, 1/6/08)

· McCain said the war in Iraq was “worth” it. Asked if the war was a good idea worth the price in blood and treasure, McCain: “It was worth getting rid of Saddam Hussein. He had used weapons of mass destruction, and it’s clear that he was hell-bent on acquiring them.” (Republican Debate, 1/24/08)

Dangerous Lack of Foreign Policy Knowledge

· When questioned about Osama bin Laden after the 1998 U.S. missile strikes in Afghanistan, McCain surmised that the terrorist leader wasn’t as “bad” as “depicted.” “You could say, Look, is this guy, Laden, really the bad guy that’s depicted?  Most of us have never heard of him before.” (Interview with Mother Jones magazine, 11/1998)

· McCain was unaware of previous Sunni-Shia violence before the Iraq War. “There’s not a history of clashes that are violent between Sunnis and Shias. So I think they can probably get along.” (MSNBC, Hardball, 4/23/03)

· McCain said our military could just “muddle through” in Afghanistan. While giving a speech, McCain was asked about Afghanistan and replied, “I am concerned about it, but I’m not as concerned as I am about Iraq today, obviously, or I’d be talking about Afghanistan.  But I believe that if Karzai can make the progress that he is making, that in the long term, we may muddle through in Afghanistan.” (Speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, 11/5/03)

· McCain stated that Sunni al Qaeda was “supported” by the Shia Iranians. (2/2008)

· McCain again confused Sunni Muslim al Qaeda operatives with Shi’a Muslim insurgents. The Washington Post reported of McCain: “He said several times that Iran, a predominately Shiite country, was supplying the mostly Sunni militant group, al-Qaeda. In fact, officials have said they believe Iran is helping Shiite extremists in Iraq.

“Speaking to reporters in Amman, the Jordanian capital, McCain said he and two Senate colleagues traveling with him continue to be concerned about Iranian operatives ‘taking al-Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back.’

“Pressed to elaborate, McCain said it was ‘common knowledge and has been reported in the media that al-Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran, that’s well known. And it’s unfortunate.’” (Press conference, Amman, Jordan, 3/18/2008)

· Yet again, McCain demonstrated that he didn’t know whether al Qaeda was a Sunni or Shiite organization. While questioning General David Petraeus during a Senate hearing, the following exchange occurred:

MCCAIN: Do you still view al Qaeda in Iraq as a major threat?
PETRAEUS: It is still a major threat, though it is certainly not as major a threat as it was say 15 months ago.
MCCAIN: Certainly not an obscure sect of the Shi’ites overall?
PETREAUS: No.
MCCAIN: Or Sunnis or anybody else.

(Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing, 4/8/08)

· McCain incorrectly thought General David Petraeus was in charge of Afghanistan. The Army Times reported: “Speaking Monday at the annual meeting of the Associated Press, McCain was asked whether he, if elected, would shift combat troops from Iraq to Afghanistan to intensify the search for al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

‘I would not do that unless Gen. (David) Petraeus said that he felt that the situation called for that,’ McCain said, referring to the top U.S. commander in Iraq.

“Petraeus, however, made clear last week that he has nothing to do with the decision. Testifying last week before four congressional committees, including the Senate Armed Services Committee on which McCain is the ranking Republican, Petraeus said the decision about whether troops could be shifted from Iraq to Afghanistan was not his responsibility because his portfolio is limited to the multi-national force in Iraq.” (Annual meeting of the Associated Press, 4/14/08)

· McCain credited the “surge” for the “Anbar Awakening”–even though the Anbar Awakening preceded the surge by nearly a year. (7/22/08)

· John McCain has also recently demonstrated either serious knowledge gaps in terms of foreign policy, or mounting confusion, when discussing an array of other countries:

Spain: McCain refused to commit to meeting with the president of Spain, a NATO ally, after becoming confused about America’s relationship with Spain, its leader, and, possibly, exactly where Spain is located. (9/17/08)


Czech Republic and Slovakia: McCain referred to the two countries using the name “Czechoslovakia” several times–despite the fact that Czechoslakia split apart and hasn’t existed since 1993. (
7/15/08; (7/14/08))


Venezuela: McCain said that Venezuela was a Middle Eastern country. (
9/30/08)

This man it seems would not protect our men and women who risk their lives every day.

Know who your voting for.  I would never vote for this man. I love my troops too much to leave them in his hands. The majority of the money in 612 billion budget for defense goes to contractors etc. The majority goes to the profiteers of war and there are many.

Not for the troops or the veterans. Very little actually is used to take care of them.

One can decide what they will but, always consider the running record of any candidate.

McCain’s record in this area is rather bleak. One would think of all the people, he would understand, the needs of these ones the most. But he doesn’t.

If he can’t fathom the needs of troops and veterans, I am afraid he would never be able to lead the American people into a new and brighter future. But that’s just my opinion.

Would you want the lives of you children, brothers, sisters, uncle, aunts, families or friends left in his hands?

That is the ultimate question we all have to ask ourselves.

Anyone who has had an adversarial relationship with John McCain will tell you that there are few with less self-control than the senator from Arizona. Many have questioned his ability to maintain a clear head in a time of crisis. For those of us who have seen these sparks of insanity from McCain, we know all too well that what lies beneath is something dark, ominous and certainly not presidential. John McCain makes reference to his service to our great nation by almost daily reminding us of his five and a half year captivity in the Hanoi Hilton. Yet few have been able to look beyond McCain, the POW, to examine his political record, as if it were taboo somehow to be critical of a former prisoner of war. But what about this former prisoner of war and his criticism of the very same people who fought to bring him home from the dark dank cell he likes to remind us about so much? – The POW/MIA Families of those less fortunate than McCain, those who still have yet to be returned to the soil they gave their lives for.

Since his return from Hanoi, McCain has …

~Ignored pleas of POW/MIA Family Members for his political influence in the overall POW/MIA Issue as well as with their individual cases

~Verbally abused POW/MIA Family Members in public and private

~Attempted to negatively influence those who testified before the 1992 Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs

~Diminished legislation that gave oversight and protection to the families

~Dismantled protection to any future servicemen that go missing.

Source

Published in: on October 17, 2008 at 12:46 pm  Comments Off on Senator John McCain’s Record on Troop and Veterans’ Issues  
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Portrait of an Army Cemetery

View of gravesites

“Gardens of stone” view at Arlington National Cemetery.  Source

Section 60

Government issued headstones in Section 60. More photos…

October 15, 2008

Most Americans have never heard of Section 60, let alone visited it. But thanks to filmmakers Jon Alpert and Matt O’Neill, you can now get a glimpse of the area in Arlington National Cemetery where the men and women who have died fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq are buried. “Section 60: Arlington National Cemetery” is the third of a trilogy of collaborations between the filmmakers and HBO that captures the costs of the current wars. “Section 60,” in fact, picks up where “Baghdad ER” left off. The tragic death from shrapnel wounds of 21-year-old Lance Cpl. Robert T. Mininger comes at the unforgettable end of “Baghdad ER.” Their latest documentary opens with a mother visiting the grave of her son “Bobby.” Unlike like the action-packed “Baghdad ER” or the stylized “Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq,” “Section 60” offers an almost unmediated view into the lives of the men and women, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, who, week after week, day after day, find solace, community and a place to grieve and visit their lost loved ones in Section 60.

The Emmy-award winning directors are based in New York out of DCTV. They were recently in Washington, D.C., to attend a special TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) screening of their film at the Navy Memorial. I caught up with Alpert and O’Neill over the phone as they got ready for the screening and talked to me about why “Section 60” matters now, how making this film affected them in a way no other documentary has, and what it’s like feeling “trapped in Section 60.”

“Section 60” aired on HBO on Monday. For more information on when you can watch it, go here.

Katie Halper: Why should Americans care about Section 60 and your film?

Matt O’Neill: The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have become the background noise in this presidential election. No one is paying attention right now in the mainstream media to the costs that the military and their families are paying day in and day out, whether it’s the 5,000 lives lost or the hundreds of thousands who have spent years away from their friends and families. That’s why we’re proud to be working with HBO and Sheila Nevins to make this film. They’ve consistently brought attention to these issues when the rest of the media is ignoring them. And it’s an important time right now in the context of the presidential elections. Americans need to be paying attention to the two wars that we’re fighting overseas right now and the hundreds of thousands of men and women who are serving the county over there. No matter what you think politically, it’s essential that when you walk into the voting booth on Nov. 4, you remember that the person you’re voting for, whether it’s a congressional or the presidential election, will be deciding whether or not to send men and women to fight wars. We want the film to be watched by tens of millions of people, because that’s the type of attention we want to bring to Section 60. And we told the families, “Let us into your world because we want people to pay attention to it.” We think Section 60 deserves it.

KH: Your war-related recent films were very different. “Baghdad ER” was more dynamic and action-packed. And “Alive Day Memories” was much more stylized. How did this compare to those two experiences?

MO: The reality in “Baghdad ER” is very different than the reality in “Section 60.” In “Baghdad,” we tried to show what it’s like being in an emergency room in a war zone, with tons of action. It’s terrifying … riveting, it reminds you of the costs of the war in a visceral way. “Section 60” had a totally different energy. We’re trying to help the rest of the country enter the world that these families live in every day. The greatest praise that we received thus far was at a screening for a number of the families. Paula Zillinger is one of the mothers in this film; she’s in the first real scene in the film, and she goes to visit her son’s grave. Her son Bobby died in the end of “Baghdad ER.” At the screening, she got up and faced the audience and said, “Welcome to our world.” I hope it brings an audience into the reality that these families are living.

An Interview With the Directors of HBO’s “Section 60”

KH: Was it eerie? Did you feel like you were intruding?

MO: Approaching these families was one of the most difficult things that I’ve ever had to do as a filmmaker because their expressions of grief, their visits to the graves of their lost loved ones, are the most intimate moments you could possibly imagine. And we’re standing there … waiting … with a camera. So the way that we operated was as human beings first, documentarians second. We spent lots of time in the cemetery not filming, talking about why we were doing what we were doing, how we wanted to capture the cemetery as experienced on a day-to-day basis. We wanted to capture their love. And sometimes the first time we spoke to a family, they declined to be filmed. And maybe on the second time we spent a lot of time talking but didn’t film anything, and then maybe on the third time or the fourth time they said, “You know, we would like to be part of this. We would like to be filmed.” And eventually we became part of the fabric of the cemetery. So many of these families are returning week after week or day after day, so we became part of their community.

KH: What was your schedule like?

JA: Basically the schedule was, we were in the cemetery from the opening of the gates to the closing of the gates every single day for almost four months.

KH: What kind of toll did that take on you?

JA: Every American should visit Arlington and visit Section 60. I hope it would have the same impact that it had on us. … When you stand there and see the rows and rows of tombstones stretching toward the horizon, you really realize what the price of war can be — not only these wars but what it has been for centuries. That really goes deep into your being. Section 60 is such an open wound in the families of the fallen. People say, “You’ll get over it. With time you’ll heal.” The loss and the sadness of these families is not healing. That’s another thing we hope America will pick up. Because maybe we’re paying a price for the war in the way it’s affecting our economy, but it’s not something that has an impact. … I mean, people could watch a football game on Monday night instead of watching this documentary. But for these families, their lives have been altered and they will never, ever, ever be the same.

MO: I cried a lot in “Section 60.” I got the sense that a lot of these families were trapped by their loss and trapped by their love that couldn’t be requited, and I felt trapped to a certain extent. Over the course of four months I became somewhat overwhelmed by the sense of loss and the sense that nobody is paying attention. The loss is so profound in Section 60, so tangible. You understand that each of those numbers discussed in the media, whether they were talking about 3,000, 4,000, 5,000, have left a profound sense of emptiness and ripped a hole in the fabric of a community and the fabric of a family. And when I wasn’t there, I wanted to be there, paying respect and honoring the people who are buried there. Because a large swath of the country isn’t and isn’t even aware of it. It’s your responsibility as a citizen, an American, to know what’s happening with our service members overseas. So I became quite depressed at times.

KH: When you were running around doing “Baghdad ER,” you must have had a lot of adrenaline. With this film, the grief is unmitigated, with no action or suspense or chaos to distract you. It affected me, a viewer, in a way that “Baghdad ER” didn’t. How did it affect you as filmmakers differently? And how did it affect the way you filmed it?

MO: There’s very little that distracts these families from their love and their loss. And when they’re in Arlington, that’s a sacred time that they’re spending with their loved ones. There really isn’t anybody else there but the families, their memories, their efforts to celebrate lives lost too soon and, for four months in 2007, Jon and I and our cameras. There was a month where I was filming alone because of certain circumstances, and at the end of that month I was feeling totally crushed. This stuff plays out in slow motion. When you see the same grief, the same wounds that will never heal, acted out day after day after day, you realize it’s a pain that’s never going to go away. Paula talks about going to a meeting of Gold Star mothers (who have lost a child in war), where a mother was talking about her son she lost in Vietnam. And Paula said, “Forty years. I realized that I was going to feel this loss. … I was going to continue to love him for 40 years. It’s something that never ends.”

In the film there are no subtitles, no music, no graphics. You’re just sort of placed in the cemetery as we were for four months, and you begin to get a sense of what it might feel like to be trapped in Section 60.

KH: This film focuses as much, if not more, on the people who are left behind as it does on the people who they lose. You as documentary filmmakers often travel to dangerous places to capture important stories. Did seeing the way people reacted to the deaths of their loved ones, did being surrounded by the grief of those left behind, make you think about your own loved ones who would be left behind if something were to happen to you? Did it make you reconsider the types of projects you’d want to embark on?

MO: One thing, universally, regardless of their political persuasion or feelings on the war, that parent after parent, husband after husband and wife after wife said was, “my loved one died serving the people that he loved and trying to do some good in the world.” I never want to leave any of the people that I love behind. But I also think it’s very important to try to have a positive effect on the world. I think the positive effect that we can have as filmmakers is helping other people understand the world and enter places they couldn’t otherwise enter. Not everyone can spend four months in Section 60. Watching this film and participating in this film is a way to begin to get a sense of what is going on. There are lots of places in the world that we as Americans need to understand a heck of a lot better than we do. I hope this helps inform the American public and helps us understand other people. The better we understand other people, the more likely we are to all work together to build something useful and good.

JA: It compels you to go to the war zones. We’ve been lobbying to go to Afghanistan for three years. HBO is one of the few places that gives you the resources to tell these stories. And if we have a choice between going to Afghanistan and Alabama, we’ll go to Afghanistan. I certainly was left wondering what would happen if I died. What it really made me think about was what I would feel like if my daughter, who is the same age as these soldiers, died. And it haunted me because I saw that … it’s something that you can never be prepared for and something that you can never recover from.

KH: Besides watching the film, what else can people do?

MO: We have almost 200,000 people serving overseas right now. Write a letter saying thank you, send a package. Since the draft ended, only a small portion of American society is participating in war directly. And they’re participating in an enormous way. So many families have sent their sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, mothers, fathers overseas not once, not twice, not three times, but even four different times. They’ve done four tours of duty in some combination in Iraq and Afghanistan, years away from families and friends and loved ones. It’s important, no matter what your political persuasion, to say thank you.

There are so many families that shared stories with us who are not in the film. We wish we could have included them. We want the whole world to come to Section 60.

The other thing I think about all the time is in Section 60 we’ve lost 5,000 people. The loss that the Iraqi people have suffered in the last five years is horrific. The loss the Afghani people have suffered in the last five years is horrific, and each one of those holes is just as personal and just as deep as they are in Section 60.

Source


Mountain Home National Cemetery

A bit of history om Mountain Home Cemetary
Interments Thru  Year 2007: 12,850

There are also others.

Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemeteries

The VA’s National Cemetery Administration maintains 125 national cemeteries in 39 states (and Puerto Rico) as well as 33 soldier’s lots and monument sites.