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General Shinseki’s Resignation Will Solve Nothing: The Real Problem is a Decade of War May 30, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Mental Health, Peace, War.
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Roger’s note: this is a press release issued by Veterans for Peace.  These former soldiers know from first hand experience what are the real costs of war, i.e. precious human life.  They refuse to see themselves as pawns, but rather as thinking and caring human beings, capable of understanding the dynamics of warfare and who profits by it.

 

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Saint Louis. General Eric Shinseki has resigned from his position as Secretary of the Veterans Administration. Now what? When will we start the real debate the nation must have about turning away from war?

The resignation of General Eric Shinseki is not the answer to the challenges facing the Veterans Administration. Yes the department has serious problems of mismanagement, incompetence, indifference and fraud. All these issues must be fixed immediately. Someone must be held accountable and apparently that someone is Eric Shinseki. But we must get to the root of the problem.

Why is the VA overwhelmed by greater numbers of wounded veterans that it can effectively serve? The answer is more than a decade of war. “War is the real culprit in this crisis,” said Michael McPhearson, Executive Director of Veterans For Peace. “We must stop war mongers and corporate profiteers from controlling our foreign policy.”

“We must stop throwing our children, and the children of the world into the meat grinder of war. Every soldier and every victim of war is someone’s child.”

There is a clear pattern of neglect of veterans and troops by both Democrats and Republicans, who have systematically underfunded healthcare in their war budgets. These same problems plagued the agency long before Shinseki.

We must acknowledge that U.S. service members are facing dire stress as reflected in historically high rates of suicide, sexual assault and rape in the military. Military personnel are exhausted and depleted, with many of them having deployed more than five times, and some as many as ten.

These war policies are killing innocent people who are not a threat and will never be a threat to U.S. security or legitimate interests. For many service members, this is the most debilitating aspect of their sacrifice. Many thousands of our soldiers and veterans are suffering from “moral injury,” produced by the immoral nature of the wars they execute, as exemplified by indiscriminate killing, indefinite detention, targeted assassinations and torture.

Moreover, the Bush and Obama Administration’s war policies have failed. Afghanistan is far from secure. Violent deaths are a daily occurrence. Women are severely oppressed by Taliban and U.S.-backed warlords alike. Iraq is in utter turmoil, with sectarian violence killing scores of people on an almost daily basis. As outlined in the State Department’s annual report on global terrorism, a decade of war has failed to end or reduce terrorism. The State Department report, released in April, showed that worldwide terrorism increased by 43% in 2013.

“Why does President Obama want to keep 9,800 U.S. troops and untold numbers of contractors in Afghanistan?” asked Gerry Condon, Vice President of Veterans For Peace. “Continuing this failed policy is another grave disservice to our soldiers. If we really want to ‘Support the Troops,’ we should bring them all home now and give them the care they need and deserve.”

As Vietnam veteran John Kerry said while testifying before Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971, “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”

We keep asking our service members to be the last person to die in Afghanistan. The ones who make it back home are neglected. Bring Them Home Now and Take Care of Them When They Get Here.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Friday, May 30, 2014

For more information:

Michael McPhearson, Interim Executive Director, 314-725-6005, mcphearson@veteransforpeace.org

Gerry Condon, Veterans For Peace Vice President, 206-499-1220, projectsafehaven@hotmail.com

Camilo Mejia, Former Veterans For Peace Board Member, 786-302-8842, black65d@aol.com(Spanish Interpreter)

Sam Feldman, Former Veterans For Peace Board Member, 305-632-0036, SAMFELDMAN@THE-BEACH.NET(Spanish Interpreter)

The primary cause for the disaster in care is more than a decade of war! May 24, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Peace, War.
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Roger’s note: I cringe when in Canada or the US and I see one of those “support our troops” bumper stickers.  I think of the hypocrisy of the governments who send men and women to kill and be killed in illegal imperialist wars, then abandon them when they come home broken physically and mentally.  As the song goes: “When will they ever learn?”

 

Veterans for Peace (VFP) press release, May 22, 2014

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Veterans For Peace calls on the President and Congress to stop using the lives and deaths of veterans and troops for political points and gain, and to cease using military force and war as the means for solving international conflicts. Yes, we must address the incompetence, indifference and inefficiencies of the Veterans Administration. However, the primary cause for the disaster in care is more than a decade of war.

VFP Interim Executive Director Michael McPhearson said, “Veterans’ deaths and secret waiting lists uncovered by the current round of Veteran Administration scrutiny are tragic and outrageous, but come as no surprise to Veterans For Peace. This abuse is nothing new. For more than a decade, since the first service members returned from Afghanistan and Iraq,VFP has called for adequate attention, healthcare and services for returning veterans.” Presidents Bush and Obama, Congress and military leaders then and today claim they will do more, yet the problems continue to grow and more service members and veterans fall through cracks and gaping holes in the system, with many of them dying.

But this latest scandal is really the tip of issues plaguing an abused military force. For more than eight years, Veterans For Peace has called into question military policies and culture that put both men and women in danger of sexual assault and rape. There are countless well documented cases of service members reporting abuse and facing retaliation for reporting; thus many others do not report at all. There are well documented reports of female soldiers in Iraq refusing to drink water because they were afraid of being assaulted or even raped by male soldiers if they went to use the women’s latrine after dark. Many cases of assault have been swept aside or under-investigated. Yet today women and men continue to face growing rates of sexual assault in the face of ineffective responses by the Pentagon and political leaders.

“The suicide crisis among veterans and service members continues to grow. Veterans For Peace has called attention to this issue at least since our 2006 Veterans and Survivors March for Peace and Justice from Mobile, Alabama to New Orleans, Louisiana. Calling for an end to the wars and for the money used for war to be diverted to human needs, we highlighted the similar rates of high unemployment, PTSD and suicide among recent veterans and Hurricane Katrina survivors. Suicide was heavy on participants’ minds as we had recently lost Douglas Barber, an Iraq veteran, to suicide,” McPhearson commented.

There is a clear pattern of neglect of veterans by both Democrats and Republicans. The best evidence of the negligence is a decade of war that has failed in its objective to end or reduce terrorism as outlined in this year’s State Department’s annual report on global terrorism. The report released in April showed a worldwide increase of 43% in 2013. Yet we have service members who have undertaken multiple tours, some up to ten times, like Sgt. First Class Cory Remsburg. The standing ovation and pats on the back during this year’s State Union saluting his service do little if anything to help him contend with a broken mind and body, caused by broken and immoral polices controlled by the people who celebrated him. Perhaps more debilitating to many service members is the moral injury produced by the immoral nature of the wars they execute, exemplified by indefinite detention, torture, indiscriminate killing and targeted assassinations.

As troops and veterans die, who benefits from these policies? War profiteers make out like bandits and politicians build their political careers. The primary reason for these wars are greed and pursuit of power. The war economy is not working for the vast majority of U.S. citizens. To repeat our mantra since 2003, coined with Military Families Speak Out, “Bring our troops home now and take care of them when they get here.”

 

US War Has Littered Afghanistan with World’s Deadly Garbage April 10, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Children, Imperialism, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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Roger’s note: I recall the ubiquitous chant from the days of Vietnam anti-war protests: “Hey, Hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”  Viet Nam still hasn’t recovered from Agent Orange and other toxins, but at least they didn’t have to face plutonium bullets, and they will recover much sooner than America’s more recent victims in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere.  The killing of children goes on, in the name of democracy and financed with U.S. citizens’ tax dollars.

 

Afghan children and poorest citizens most vulnerable to unexploded bombs and toxic materials of thirteen-year war

- Jon Queally, staff writer

A concrete wall marks the beginning of the Bagram air base firing range. Some of the firing ranges left behind by U.S. forces will be transferred to the Afghan army. About 40 ranges belonged to nations in the international coalition, and they will have to determine whether to clear them. (Photo: Lorenzo Tugnoli/For The Washington Post)

As in the abandoned battle fields and scarred countrysides of southeast Asia a generation ago, the U.S. military’s footprint in Afghanistan is leaving a deadly legacy of unexploded ordinances and toxic materials that will continue to kill and permanently harm the nation’s children and others for years to come.

According to the Washington Post on Thursday:

As the U.S. military withdraws from Afghanistan, it is leaving behind a deadly legacy: about 800 square miles of land littered with undetonated grenades, rockets and mortar shells.

The military has vacated scores of firing ranges pocked with the explosives. Dozens of children have been killed or wounded as they have stumbled upon the ordnance at the sites, which are often poorly marked. Casualties are likely to increase sharply; the U.S. military has removed the munitions from only 3 percent of the territory covered by its sprawling ranges, officials said.

Clearing the rest of the contaminated land — which in total is twice as big as New York City — could take two to five years. U.S. military officials say they intend to clean up the ranges. But because of a lack of planning, officials say, funding has not yet been approved for the monumental effort, which is expected to cost $250 million.

“If the Americans believe in human rights, how can they let this happen?” asked Sayed Sadeq, whose teenage son and his friend were both killed when one of them stepped on an unexploded grenade near a U.S. firing range in Ghazni province.

Spokespeople for the U.S. military confess that cleaning up the garbage of the U.S. military occupation has not been a priority.

“Unfortunately, the thinking was: ‘We’re at war and we don’t have time for this,’” Maj. Michael Fuller, the head of the U.S. Army’s Mine Action Center at Bagram Airfield, told the Post.

According to the UN, too little has been done to address the problem even as the statistics soar.

The Post reporting continues:

Even before the U.S. military arrived in 2001, Afghanistan was the most heavily mined country in the world. When the Soviets withdrew in 1989 after a 10-year occupation, they left about 20 million pieces of unexploded ordnance scattered nationwide. The munitions have killed and wounded thousands of children. The U.S. government has helped fund efforts to clear those devices, a massive project expected to be completed in 2023.

The firing ranges aren’t the only places where U.S. military explosives may be lying undetonated. There are 331 known sites of battles against the Taliban where some American ordnance probably remains, especially from airstrikes. U.S. officials say they will not attempt to clear those sites.

“We’re probably never going to be able to find those [munitions], because who knows where they landed,” said another U.S. official who also spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The United Nations says a more robust effort to clear those sites is necessary.

“The battles happened in areas where people live, work and attempt to earn their livelihoods. The contamination needs to be addressed,” said [one UN official].

In response to reports of civilian casualties, the U.S. military has posted additional barricades around some firing ranges. But American officials have refused to construct fencing, which they said would be prohibitively expensive and probably ineffective.

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Book Review: Empire’s Ally: The U.S. and Canada February 3, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Foreign Policy, Imperialism, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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Roger’s note: to some degree Canada has always been a subservient servant to U.S. economic and geopolitical interests.  But when I arrived here in 1968 as a Vietnam war resister, it was a different country politically than it is today.  Of course, for that matter, so is the United States.  I never romanticized Canada as the perfect peace loving nation.  Few do any more.  But there was a time when the Canadian government at least did not “go along” with American imperial adventures.  Stephen Harper and what my friend Charlie calls the suposi-TORIES have changed all that.  Today, more than ever Canada is the 51st state, politically, economically, culturally, and with respect to Orwellian surveillance.  Nothing less than a tragedy for peace an justice loving Canadians.

 

By  (about the author)OpEdNews Op Eds 1/31/2014 at 17:44:38

Source: Dispatches From The Edge


(image by Amazon)

Book Review
Empire’s Ally: Canada and the War in Afghanistan
Edited by Jerome Klassen and Greg Albo
University of Toronto Press
Toronto Buffalo London 2013

Americans tend to think of Canadians as politer and more sensible than their southern neighbors, thus the joke: “Why does the Canadian chicken cross the road? To get to the middle.” Oh, yes, bit of a “muddle” there in Afghanistan, but like Dudley Do Right, the Canadians were only trying to develop and tidy up the place.

Not in the opinion of Jerome Klassen and a formidable stable of academics, researchers, journalists, and peace activists who see Canada’s role in Central Asia less as a series of policy blunders than a coldly calculated strategy of international capital. “Simply put,” writes Klassen, “the war in Afghanistan was always linked to the aspirations of empire on a much broader scale.”

“Empire’s Ally” asks the question, “Why did the Canadian government go to war in Afghanistan in 2001?” and then carefully dissects the popular rationales: fighting terrorism; coming to the aid of the United States; helping the Afghans to develop their country. Oh, and to free women. What the book’s autopsy of those arguments reveals is disturbing.

Calling Canada’s Afghan adventure a “revolution,” Klassen argues, “the new direction of Canadian foreign policy cannot be explained simply by policy mistakes, U.S. demands, military adventurism, security threats, or abstract notions of liberal idealism. More accurately, it is best explained by structural tendencies in the Canadian political economy — in particular, by the internationalization of Canadian capital and the realignment of the state as a secondary power in the U.S.-led system of empire.”

In short, the war in Afghanistan is not about people failing to read Kipling, but is rather part of a worldwide economic and political offensive by the U.S. and its allies to dominate sources of energy and weaken any upstart competitors like China, and India. Nor is that “broader scale” limited to any particular region.

Indeed, the U.S. and its allies have transformed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) from a European alliance to contain the Soviet Union, to an international military force with a global agenda. Afghanistan was the alliance’s coming-out party, its first deployment outside of Europe. The new “goals” are, as one planner put it, to try to “re-establish the West at the centre of global security,” to guarantee access to cheap energy, to police the world’s sea lanes, to “project stability beyond its borders,” and even concern itself with “Chinese military modernization.”

If this all sounds very 19th century — as if someone should strike up a chorus of “Britannia Rules the Waves” — the authors would agree, but point out that global capital is far more powerful and all embracing than the likes of Charles “Chinese” Gordon and Lord Herbert Kitchener ever envisioned. One of the book’s strong points is its updating of capitalism, so to speak, and its careful analysis of what has changed since the end of the Cold War.

Klassen is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for International Studies, and Greg Albo is an associate professor of political science at York University in Toronto. The two authors gather together 13 other academics, journalists, researchers and peace activists to produce a detailed analysis of Canada’s role in the Afghan war.

The book is divided into four major parts dealing with the history of the involvement, its political and economic underpinnings, and the actual Canadian experiences in Afghanistan, which had more to with condoning war crimes like torture than digging wells, educating people, and improving their health. Indeed, Canada’s Senate Standing Committee on National Security concluded that, in Ottawa’s major area of concentration in Afghanistan, Kandahar, “Life is clearly more perilous because we are there.”

After almost $1 trillion dollars poured into Afghanistan — Canada’s contribution runs to about $18 billion — some 70 percent of the Afghan population lives in poverty, and malnutrition has recently increased. Over 30,000 Afghan children die each year from hunger and disease. And as for liberating women, according to a study by TrustLaw Women, the “conflict, NATO airstrikes and cultural practices combined” make Afghanistan the “most dangerous country for women” in the world.

The last section of the book deals with Canada’s anti-war movement.

While the focus of “Empire’s Ally” is Canada, the book is really a sort of historical materialist blueprint for analyzing how and why capitalist countries involve themselves in foreign wars. Readers will certainly learn a lot about Canada, but they will also discover how political economics works and what the goals of the new imperialism are for Washington, London, Paris, and Berlin.

Klassen argues that Canadians have not only paid in blood and gold for their Afghanistan adventure, they have created a multi-headed monster, a “network of corporate, state, military, intellectual, and civil social actors who profit from or direct Canada’s new international policies.”

This meticulously researched book should be on the shelf of anyone interested in the how’s and why’s of western foreign policy. “Empire’s Ally” is a model of how to do an in-depth analysis of 21st century international capital and a handy guide on how to cut through the various narratives about “democracy,” “freedom,” and “security” to see the naked violence and greed that lays at the heart of the Afghan War.

The authors do more than reveal, however; they propose a roadmap for peace in Afghanistan. It is the kind of thinking that could easily be applied to other “hot spots” on the globe.

For this book is a warning about the future, when the battlegrounds may shift from the Hindu Kush to the East China Sea, Central Africa, or Kashmir, where, under the guise of fighting “terrorism,” establishing “stability,” or “showing resolve,” the U.S. and its allies will unleash their armies of the night.

I Worked on the US Drone Program. The Public Should Know What Really Goes On December 29, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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Few of the politicians who so brazenly proclaim the benefits of drones have a real clue how it actually works (and doesn’t)

The Elbit Systems Hermes 450 is an Israeli medium size multi-payload unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designed for tactical long endurance missions.

Whenever I read comments by politicians defending the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Predator and Reaper program – aka drones – I wish I could ask them some questions. I’d start with: “How many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile?” And: “How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?” Or even more pointedly: “How many soldiers have you seen die on the side of a road in Afghanistan because our ever-so-accurate UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicle] were unable to detect an IED [improvised explosive device] that awaited their convoy?”

Few of these politicians who so brazenly proclaim the benefits of drones have a real clue of what actually goes on. I, on the other hand, have seen these awful sights first hand.

I knew the names of some of the young soldiers I saw bleed to death on the side of a road. I watched dozens of military-aged males die in Afghanistan, in empty fields, along riversides, and some right outside the compound where their family was waiting for them to return home from mosque.

The US and British militaries insist that this is such an expert program, but it’s curious that they feel the need to deliver faulty information, few or no statistics about civilian deaths and twisted technology reports on the capabilities of our UAVs. These specific incidents are not isolated, and the civilian casualty rate has not changed, despite what our defense representatives might like to tell us.

What the public needs to understand is that the video provided by a drone is a far cry from clear enough to detect someone carrying a weapon, even on a crystal-clear day with limited clouds and perfect light. This makes it incredibly difficult for the best analysts to identify if someone has weapons for sure. One example comes to mind: “The feed is so pixelated, what if it’s a shovel, and not a weapon?” I felt this confusion constantly, as did my fellow UAV analysts. We always wonder if we killed the right people, if we endangered the wrong people, if we destroyed an innocent civilian’s life all because of a bad image or angle.

It’s also important for the public to grasp that there are human beings operating and analyzing intelligence these UAVs. I know because I was one of them, and nothing can prepare you for an almost daily routine of flying combat aerial surveillance missions over a war zone. UAV proponents claim that troops who do this kind of work are not affected by observing this combat because they are never directly in danger physically.

But here’s the thing: I may not have been on the ground in Afghanistan, but I watched parts of the conflict in great detail on a screen for days on end. I know the feeling you experience when you see someone die. Horrifying barely covers it. And when you are exposed to it over and over again it becomes like a small video, embedded in your head, forever on repeat, causing psychological pain and suffering that many people will hopefully never experience. UAV troops are victim to not only the haunting memories of this work that they carry with them, but also the guilt of always being a little unsure of how accurate their confirmations of weapons or identification of hostile individuals were.

Of course, we are trained to not experience these feelings, and we fight it, and become bitter. Some troops seek help in mental health clinics provided by the military, but we are limited on who we can talk to and where, because of the secrecy of our missions. I find it interesting that the suicide statistics in this career field aren’t reported, nor are the data on how many troops working in UAV positions are heavily medicated for depression, sleep disorders and anxiety.

Recently, the Guardian ran a commentary by Britain’s secretary of state for defence Philip Hammond. I wish I could talk to him about the two friends and colleagues I lost, within one year leaving the military, to suicide. I am sure he has not been notified of that little bit of the secret UAV program, or he would surely take a closer look at the full scope of the program before defending it again.

The UAV’s in the Middle East are used as a weapon, not as protection, and as long as our public remains ignorant to this, this serious threat to the sanctity of human life – at home and abroad – will continue.

Heather Linebaugh

Heather Linebaugh served in the United Stated Air Force from 2009 until March 2012. She worked in intelligence as an imagery analyst and geo-spatial analyst for the drone program during the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Follow her on Twitter: @hllinebaugh

US Court: Military’s Prisoners in Afghanistan Have No Rights December 26, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Iraq and Afghanistan, Torture, War.
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Roger’s note: this article, of course, contradicts the myth that under Obama torture and illegal detention has stopped.

 

In Christmas Eve ruling, judges say U.S. Constitution does not apply to notorious Bagram prison

- Sarah Lazare, staff writer

Afghanistan’s Bagram prison. (Photo: File)

In a Christmas Eve ruling that passed with little fanfare, three U.S. Appeals Court Judges gave their legal stamp of approval to indefinite detentions without trial for prisoners of the U.S. military in occupied Afghanistan.

In a 44-page decision, penned by George H.W. Bush appointee Judge Karen Henderson, the habeas corpus petitions filed by five captives at Afghanistan’s infamous Bagram military prison—known to some as the “Other Guantanamo“—were rejected.

The petitions were invoking the men’s rights to challenge unlawful detention—rights recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court for Guantanamo Bay inmates (though not fully implemented in practice).

The ruling claimed there are “significant differences between Bagram and Guantanamo” because “our forces at Bagram… are actively engaged in a war with a determined enemy.”

Yet, as Michael Doyle writing for McClatchy notes, “[O]ne might wonder whether a ‘war’ has changed into an ‘occupation,’ and whether that affects the legal analysis.”

The court statement expressed concern that “orders issued by judges thousands of miles away would undercut the commanders’ authority” and “granting the habeas corpus petitions would distract “from the military offensive abroad to the legal defensive at home.”

The report claimed there are many “practical obstacles” to honoring these inmates’ constitutional rights.

The decision followed in the path of a 2010 similar ruling, which involved three of the five appellants who report having been captured outside of Afghanistan—in Thailand, Iraq and Pakistan.

The U.S. maintains control over the prison’s non-Afghan inmates, many of whom were captured in other countries then transported to this prison, giving the U.S. military broad latitude to violate their rights and hold them indefinitely.

Bagram, which is under an even more stringent media blackout than Guantanamo Bay, is notorious for torture and abuse, including sleep deprivation, beatings, sexual assault, rape and dehumanization.

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The Conservatives’ treatment of veterans is hypocritical November 24, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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Roger’s note: Support Our Troops (by screwing them after they have killed, been shot at in a place they have not business being,  and come home)!

“Even more shockingly, Mr. Stogran stated, ‘I was told by a senior Treasury Board analyst… that it is in the government’s best interest to have soldiers killed overseas rather than wounded because the liability is shorter term.’”

As the doctor said to my father when he announced my gender to him on the day of my birth in 1941: “CANNON FODDER.”

Gerald Caplan

If the politics of contempt is the hallmark of Stephen Harper’s governing style – for Parliament, for accountability, for critics, for science, for journalists – nothing is more shameful than its contempt for Canada’s veterans. It’s not merely that vets have won the right to so much better. It’s also the flat-out hypocrisy, the unbridgeable chasm between the Harper government’s rapturous rhetoric and its actual policies.

Besides the usual Remembrance Day platitudes, there was the PM at the recent Conservative Convention in Calgary shamelessly boasting that only his party cared about Canada’s “brave men and women in uniform.” Yet precisely one week earlier, Corporal David Hawkins from London, Ont., injured in the field and suffering from post-traumatic stress, was booted out of the military before he was eligible to collect an indexed pension – one of many wounded vets who are being treated so callously.

The ugly truth is that Mr. Hawkins is only one example of the many “brave men and women in uniform” who have been betrayed by the Harper government. And refusing veterans their rightful pensions is only one example of the many heartless ways it has actually treated so many of them.

Indeed, just in the weeks around Remembrance Day 2013, the media has been replete with examples of this absolutely inexplicable phenomenon. In the typical words of Corporal Shane Jones, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in Afghanistan, “We go overseas, we fight for our country, we do what we’re asked and when we come home it’s like we have to start another war all over again just to get the help we need.” That was three days after Mr. Harper’s Calgary speech and exactly one week before November 11.

And on Remembrance Day itself, in B.C., retired Air Force captain Claude Latulippe was among other vets who chose to turn their backs on their Conservative MP at the local cenotaph, “just like the Conservatives are turning their backs on veterans.” This attitude hardly surprises Veterans Ombudsman Guy Parent, appointed by the Harper government, who angrily points out that the Harper government’s New Veterans Charter will relegate hundreds of the most severely disabled vets to poverty in their old age.

But lest we forget, Remembrance Day 2013 was no aberration on this front. Remembrance Day 2010, for example, was marked by a farewell J’Accuse! from Patrick Stogran, a 30-year vet and Canada’s first Veterans Ombudsman, also appointed by Stephen Harper but pointedly not reappointed.

“What I am here to do,” Mr. Stogran said, “is to expose to Canadians what I perceive as a system that for a long time has denied veterans not just what they deserve, but what they earned with their blood and sacrifice.”

“It is beyond my comprehension,” he later added, “how the system could knowingly deny so many of our veterans the services and benefits that the people and the Government of Canada recognized a long, long time ago as being their obligation to provide.”

Even more shockingly, Mr. Stogran stated, “I was told by a senior Treasury Board analyst… that it is in the government’s best interest to have soldiers killed overseas rather than wounded because the liability is shorter term.”

Mr. Stogran’s cri de coeur did not come as a surprise to veterans. Over the 2010 Remembrance Day weekend they hit the streets in an unprecedented series of nation-wide demonstrations to publicize their long list of grievances against a government that has made a fetish of its devotion to Canada’s veterans.

Remembrance Day 2012 once again saw a series of public protests by vets against their own government. As reported by Canadian Press, disabled veterans and military widows assembled on Parliament Hill “to paint a stark picture of bureaucratic indifference and red tape that flies in the face of reassurances from the government, which says the care of military families is a top priority….Few of the government’s touted programs meant to help combat veterans find civilian jobs actually help the disabled.”

What does it take for the Harper government to be shamed into action? This Remembrance Day, 2013, many media finally gave the vets’ grievances significant coverage. Besides several news stories, The Globe, for example, published an editorial, two pieces by its own columnists and an editorial cartoon all harshly critical of the government.

There are some indications that the government is finally paying attention, though Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino insists, in quintessential Harperland style, that “a majority of Canada’s veterans receive the support and care they need.” At about the same time, 3,000 to 4,000 citizens took to the streets of Sydney, N.S., (population: 31,597) to support local veterans in protesting the government’s decision to close nine Veterans Affairs Department district offices across the country, including theirs.

Some Opposition MPs have been pressing the vets’ case for some time; Peter Stoffer has been an especially tireless advocate. But surely the Opposition must go further and make this just cause an absolute priority. Shaming Stephen Harper is not an easy task, as years of protest by vets have sadly proved. But surely his betrayal of Canada’s veterans cannot be allowed to continue.

When Canada made Afghanistan worse October 14, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, Media, War.
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Roger’s note:  I cannot agree with one of the author’s statements, to wit, that the West, including Canadians, “unintentionally” made things worse.  I don’t believe that “the West, including Canadians” (meaning governments, not necessarily citizens) gives a damn about the welfare of the Afghan people; the sole intention for the illegal invasion, occupation and destruction of the country has to do entirely with the geopolitical (oil, military, industrial, arms sales, etc.) objectives of the United States and its lackeys.  Nor do I agree with the conclusion that NATO involvement should continue, which in essence contradicts the rest of the article.

In those early, hopelessly naive years, when Canadian soldiers and their energetic general encamped in Kandahar to kill “scumbags” and set Afghanistan on the road to democracy, the accompanying media fell into line – in love with the general, the soldiers and their mission.

The early coverage was largely ahistorical, gung-ho, a big group hug for the Canadians – a travesty of journalism, really. What Canadians needed then was a clear-eyed analysis of the country and its history, an understanding of its regional antagonisms, an appreciation of the daunting, even impossible task Canada and its government – to say nothing of the entire North Atlantic Treaty Organization – had signed up for in that forbidding, post-medieval place.

Many years later, as the Americans prepare to withdraw their forces and the last Canadians (trainers for the Afghan army) can see the end of their time in Afghanistan, Westerners will have left behind graveyards of their fallen and a country still corrupt, tribally divided and closer to civil strife than civil peace.

After that first full flush of nonsense reporting that, in fairness, played well at home and was supplemented by the country’s biggest windbag on Hockey Night in Canada, along came another group of correspondents, sympathetic to the troops and their travails, of course, but willing to question the party line and explore beyond the perimeters of the Canadian base in Kandahar.

There were some very good journalists in this group, brave men and women in a place growing more violent every day. One lost her life. Another was held hostage. Another was seriously wounded.

The Globe and Mail’s Graeme Smith (now with the International Crisis Group in Kabul) was among them. He stayed longer than most, took extraordinary risks around Kandahar and in Quetta across the Pakistani border, interviewed the Taliban (despite criticism for giving a microphone to the enemy) and, more than anyone else, exposed the story of Afghan prisoner detainees turned over by Canadians and other NATO forces to local authorities, who tortured and abused them.

Canada’s government lied about many aspects of the detainee affair, insisting that Ottawa didn’t know what was happening or that Afghan authorities were examining all allegations of misconduct – despite memos from Canadian officials on the ground saying that wasn’t so.

Mr. Smith explains the detainee affair, from the prison where he visited and interviewed prisoners to the government’s mendacity in the House of Commons, in The Dogs Are Eating Them Now, a memoir of his correspondent days in Kandahar and Kabul. But the detainees represent but one small part of a wise, enthralling, detailed, realistic account of his time in Afghanistan.

Many are the lessons from Mr. Smith’s book, but one emerges above all: that the presence of foreigners did not necessarily turn the tide against the Taliban. Indeed, the foreigners’ military forays and strange (to the Pashtuns) ways may even have allowed the Taliban to survive and, ultimately, to grow.

Mr. Smith doesn’t say so, but he would be honest to admit that his portrait is of only one part of a sprawling, diverse country. There were and are much less violent parts of Afghanistan, where leaders fought against the Taliban before and might do so again after the Americans leave.

His is a picture of Kandahar and its surroundings, where the Pashtun code of tribal identity and revenge has for centuries proved difficult for foreigners to understand. In southern Afghanistan, at any rate, “we are leaving behind an ongoing war; at worst, it’s a looming disaster,” Mr. Smith says.

How the West, including Canadians, unintentionally made things worse is a textbook case of cross-cultural misunderstanding and hubris. The West will tell itself heroic stories, then forget about Afghanistan.

Perhaps unexpectedly, given his depressing account, Mr. Smith concludes that saying goodbye would be a mistake. The Afghan government Westerners leave behind will need support, and lots of it. Without foreign money and help, he argues, the chances of a moderately peaceful Afghanistan seem remote – as remote as that support continuing.

In Oval Office Meeting, Malala Yousafzai Tells Obama to End Drone Strikes in Pakistan October 13, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Imperialism, Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan, Peace, War, War on Terror, Women.
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ROGER’S NOTE: I TURN OVER MY “ROGER’S NOTE” SPACE TODAY TO “TUTTLE,” WHO COMMENTED ON THIS ARTICLE IN COMMONDREAMS.ORG:

President Obama in conversation with Malala in the Oval Office

“Well Malala, it goes like this. I am the Ruling Elite and you are not. Your life is yet just another mere commodity to be used as fodder to heat the machine that devours the planet and the rest of your class. Posing with you here today is like posing with the Turkey I pardon every year when the American people celebrate the genocide carried out on the original peoples that inhabited this country. These people are now just an embarrassment and a nuisance. Which brings me back to you and your people. You see Malala your life is worthless to me and my investors. These photo-ops are just to keep the illusion going that we care. And you are now a willing participant in that fairytale. If you threaten me or my class or their ability to make a profit… I have a list… Where is that list?…Malia, darling could hand your father that piece of paper… thank you. See Malala, I have the right to Kill anyone in the ENTIRE world. ANYONE. yes, even U.S. citizens… see here, I killed a young man no more than a couple years older than you. And that was because of who his father was! hahaha! Imagine! Now Imagine, if you, Malala truly stood up and spoke out against me and my friends. So just to let you know, I will drone anyone anywhere I feel like because that’s just apart of my job as Ruler of the free world. Now smile for the camera.
Say Freedom!”

 

 

- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

 

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and their daughter Malia meet with Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot in the head by the Taliban a year ago, in the Oval Office, Oct. 11, 2013. PETE SOUZA — Official White House photo

Malala Yousafzai, the sixteen-year-old Pakistani girl who survived a gunshot to the head by members of the Taliban for speaking out on women’s right to education, told President Barack Obama in an Oval Office meeting on Friday that he should stop drone strikes in countries such as Pakistan.

In a statement released after the meeting, Yousafzai said that she told Obama that she is concerned about the effect of U.S. drone strikes in her country—a portion of the conversation that was omitted from White House statements so far.

 

“I [expressed] my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism,” Yousafzai said in a statement released by the Associated Press. “Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact.”

 

Yousafzai—the youngest ever nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize—was invited to the White House “for her inspiring and passionate work on behalf of girls education in Pakistan,” according to a White House statement.

 

Yousafzai also recently called on the U.S. and U.K. governments to end military attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan in an interview with BBC.

 

“The best way to solve problems and to fight against war is through dialogue,” she told BBC. “That’s not an issue for me, that’s the job of the government… and that’s also the job of America.”

 

Yousafzai was awarded a prestigious international human rights award—the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought—on Thursday, but did not win the Nobel Peace Prize, as was announced on Friday.

 

 

What The Government Shutdown Teaches Us About the Afghanistan War October 5, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Peace, War.
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An Iraq war veteran’s perspective

By Mike Prysner, VFP Board Member and former U.S. Army corporal and Iraq war veteran.

Let’s look at this debate and the shutdown for what it really is, and what the attitudes about the politicians involved teach us about their management of our lives.

For veterans and service members, the government shut down means the closing down of many essential services. The Veterans Benefits Administration will be unable to process education and rehabilitation benefits, which are critical to so many vets being able to pay their bills. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals will be unable to hold hearings, extending our already outrageous wait period even longer.

If the shutdown continues, the 3.6 million veterans who receive disability and compensation payments for wounds in service—many of whom completely rely on these paychecks to eat—will not be paid. “Thank you for your service”?

The Republicans, on their quest to attack all social programs, civil rights and social rights, are mad that 50 million people will have access to healthcare who didn’t before. This is their opportunity to rally their base against “big government” to pad their pockets from lobbyist friends and boost their anti-worker election strategy.

The Democratic Party is cool with the shutdown. Instead of fighting the right-wing assault that will affect millions, they’re excited to use this towards their election strategy, too, with new ammunition to paint the Republicans as causing hardship for the “middle class”—so they’re happy to wait it out. No rush for them.

So these Congressmen, who are mostly millionaires and work only around 135 days out of the year, playing a political chess game and in their rich-guy spat consider our lives fair game to throw on the table. Our lives and the lives of our families are expendable, to enrich the lives and careers of these rich politicians.

These same politicians gush endlessly over loving the troops and veterans, especially when it comes to justifying multi-billion-dollar contracts to defense corporations—like the recent 1.2 billion (yes, billion) dollar deal to buy 48 missiles for the United Arab Emirates. Seems like our tax money well spent, if you’re a Lockheed Martin CEO or a prince in the UAE. (NPR, Sept. 23, 2013)

At home and abroad, their careers more important than our lives

U.S. troops are now dying and loosing
limbs patrolling areas the generals and
politicians knowwe will abandon.

Now the let’s look at how the politicians take this same attitude in the government shutdown to the war in Afghanistan. We’re about to mark its 12th year anniversary. The vast majority of Americans oppose it. But Congress has no qualms about approving funds to keep that war going endlessly.

Those same politicians know and acknowledge from their classified foreign policy briefings that the war in Afghanistan cannot be won. Just take it from the general who commanded the war (and the CIA), David Petraeus, when he thought nobody was listening: “You have to recognize also that I don’t think you win this war. … This is the kind of fight we’re in for our lives and probably our kids’ lives.”

They tell us we’re fighting and dying and killing to keep the Taliban from coming back to power. But that isn’t actually true. The U.S. is negotiating with the Taliban behind the scenes and begging them to join a national unity government (i.e., putting them in power).

But they also know and acknowledge that the Taliban, bolstered by a national, multi-dimensional resistance movement against the U.S./NATO occupation, don’t really care about the offers that include bowing to the U.S. military, because they’re committed to a long war and know, like the U.S. commanders, that they’ve created a no-win situation for the U.S. military effort.

The people of the United States do not support this ridiculous exercise and the politicians also know that the U.S. must withdraw from Afghanistan. But they don’t want to do it right away because none of them want to take responsibility for telling the truth and saying that the war is lost and that we need to leave immediately.

Neither the politicians nor the generals want to even suggest that they would tarnish the image of the U.S. military as the most invincible, powerful force ever known. They use that a lot, in their dealings with many other countries, as we know.

So they keep us there. They “end” the war in a “phased withdrawal” that lasts several years. That way they can maintain the myth that the U.S. is not retreating from the battlefield without “victory.” We die and get badly wounded just so they can save face. What makes this even more disgusting is that these politicians are mostly privileged millionaires who, except in the rarest case, never see their children go to war nor served themselves.

In the meantime, they get bought dinner at 5-star steakhouses with their defense contractor friends, going home to their families in big homes, with no worries about putting their rich-mans-club career in jeopardy. At that same time, we do something very different.

We kill the time losing legs on pointless patrols through fields we know will return to the hands of the people resisting in them; we spend the time getting blown apart by rockets in outposts we know will close down when it is politically convenient for those rich politicians.

While the generals and politicians order us to retreat in slow motion, to protect their image and the endless flow of cash to the defense industry, countless lives and limbs are sacrificed.

Like their current posturing match, they are also playing a political chess game in Afghanistan, in which our lives are expendable to suit theirs.

The government shutdown charade and the saving-face strategy in Afghanistan are both examples of how our “leaders” are incapable of managing our lives, and why we shouldn’t follow their ridiculous orders.

Click here to learn about the movement of veterans and service members advocating for the right to refuse to fight in Afghanistan.

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