Wednesday, November 30, 2005

VA Attempting to Eat Its Own - Again

"Just six days after canceling one PTSD review, the VA “sneaks in”
another – Culture of secrecy makes agency designed to help
veterans their biggest foe."

As reported here
last month, the VA, in an attempt to save money tried to reclassify more than 72,000 Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) cases, mostly of Vietnam vets. Then the VA relented loudly before Veterans' Day - but that was a smokescreen. Now they are at it again.

The supreme irony: With an estimated 100,000 more cases coming out of Iraq, the VA is now essentially trying to fund the Iraq war on the backs of returning, mentally impaired, GIs. Protesting that the costs of taking care of PTSD cases out of Iraq will cost at least $6 billion, the VA is apparently unaware that this amounts to less than a month of Iraq war costs.

The VA even wants the American Psychiatric Association to rework the definition of PTSD. Apparently the VA thinks it is better qualified to judge PTSD than is the APA.

If all this doesn't make you angry, veterans, nothing will.

This policy is being pushed as Mr. Bush speaks at the Naval Academy about supporting our troops, hoping that by saying the same things once more, 60% of this country will magically change its mind that the war in Iraq was a bad idea.

Does he hope that by saying things louder and longer, to a - once-again - supremely safe audience, while our vets are being screwed, will hide what is being done? Write your Congressional representatives and senators - now. Use the 'Contact Congress' link to the right.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

That Guy Freud Gets Around...

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, flubbed Monday and referred to Iraq as Vietnam while commenting on Fox News against an immediate troop withdrawal.

"The Democratic Party seems to be taken over by the Michael Moore contingent in their attitude toward Vietnam, and they continually call for a withdrawal of troops at a time when we haven't finished the job," Hatch said on the network's morning show. Hatch's spokesman acknowledged the error, which was first reported on the American Prospect Web log.

UPDATE: Maybe Sen. Hatch is better at Monday morning quarterbacking than he knows. Reprinted from this blog more than a year ago:

The Vietnam II Preflight Check
By Jack McMillan

1. Cabal of oldsters who won't listen to outside advice? Check.
2. No understanding of ethnicity's of the many locals? Check.
3. National boundaries drawn in Europe, not by the locals? Check.
4. Unshakable faith in our superior technology? Check.
5. France secretly hoping we fall on our asses? Check.
6. Russia secretly hoping we fall on our asses? Check.
7. China secretly hoping we fall on our asses? Check.
8. Enemy supply lines unknown? Check.
9. Sec of Def pushing a conflict the Joint Chiefs never wanted? Check.
10. Fear we'll look bad if we back down now? Check.
11. Corrupt corporate Texan in the White House? Check.
12. Land war in Asia? Check.
13. Right-wing unhappy with outcome of previous war? Check.
14. Enemy easily moves in/out of neighboring countries? Check.
15. Soldiers about to be exposed to our own chemicals? Check.
16. Daily guerrilla attacks that cannot be stopped? Check.
17. Anti-Americanism up sharply in Europe? Check.
18. B-52 bombers? Check.
19. Helicopters that clog up on the local dust? Check.
20. Infighting among the branches of the military? Check.
21. Locals that cheer us by day, hate us by night? Check.
22. Local experts ignored? Check.
23. Local politicians ignored? Check.
24. Local conflicts since before the USA has been a country? Check.
25. Much confusion over who and where the enemy is? Check.
26. Against advice, Prez won't use taxes to pay for war? Check.
27. Blue water navy ships operating in brown water? Check.
28. Use of nukes hinted at if things don't go our way? Check.
29. War unpopular at home? Check.
30. No plan in place to end involvement? Check.

Vietnam II, you are cleared to taxi.

See anything familiar?

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Monday, November 28, 2005

Respected Military Historian Weighs In:

Costly Withdrawal Is the Price To Be Paid for a Foolish War

Martin van Creveld, a professor of military history at the Hebrew University, is author of "Transformation of War" (Free Press, 1991). He is the only non-American author on the U.S. Army's required reading list for officers.

What had to come, has come. The question is no longer if American forces will be withdrawn, but how soon — and at what cost. In this respect, as in so many others, the obvious parallel to Iraq is Vietnam.

Confronted by a demoralized army on the battlefield and by growing opposition at home, in 1969 the Nixon administration started withdrawing most of its troops in order to facilitate what it called the "Vietnamization" of the country. The rest of America's forces were pulled out after Secretary of State Henry Kissinger negotiated a "peace settlement" with Hanoi. As the troops withdrew, they left most of their equipment to the Army of the Republic of South Vietnam — which just two years later, after the fall of Saigon, lost all of it to the communists.

Clearly this is not a pleasant model to follow, but no other alternative appears in sight.

Whereas North Vietnam at least had a government with which it was possible to arrange a cease-fire, in Iraq the opponent consists of shadowy groups of terrorists with no central organization or command authority. And whereas in the early 1970s equipment was still relatively plentiful, today's armed forces are the products of a technology-driven revolution in military affairs. Whether that revolution has contributed to anything besides America's national debt is open to debate. What is beyond question, though, is that the new weapons are so few and so expensive that even the world's largest and richest power can afford only to field a relative handful of them.

Therefore, simply abandoning equipment or handing it over to the Iraqis, as was done in Vietnam, is simply not an option. And even if it were, the new Iraqi army is by all accounts much weaker, less skilled, less cohesive and less loyal to its government than even the South Vietnamese army was. For all intents and purposes, Washington might just as well hand over its weapons directly to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Clearly, then, the thing to do is to forget about face-saving and conduct a classic withdrawal.

Handing over their bases or demolishing them if necessary, American forces will have to fall back on Baghdad. From Baghdad they will have to make their way to the southern port city of Basra, and from there back to Kuwait, where the whole misguided adventure began. When Prime Minister Ehud Barak pulled Israel out of Lebanon in 2000, the military was able to carry out the operation in a single night without incurring any casualties. That, however, is not how things will happen in Iraq.

Not only are American forces perhaps 30 times larger, but so is the country they have to traverse. A withdrawal probably will require several months and incur a sizable number of casualties. As the pullout proceeds, Iraq almost certainly will sink into an all-out civil war from which it will take the country a long time to emerge — if, indeed, it can do so at all. All this is inevitable and will take place whether George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice like it or not.

Having been thoroughly devastated by two wars with the United States and a decade of economic sanctions, decades will pass before Iraq can endanger its neighbors again. Yet a complete American withdrawal is not an option; the region, with its vast oil reserves, is simply too important for that. A continued military presence, made up of air, sea and a moderate number of ground forces, will be needed.

First and foremost, such a presence will be needed to counter Iran, which for two decades now has seen the United States as "the Great Satan." Tehran is certain to emerge as the biggest winner from the war — a winner that in the not too distant future is likely to add nuclear warheads to the missiles it already has. In the past, Tehran has often threatened the Gulf States. Now that Iraq is gone, it is hard to see how anybody except the United States can keep the Gulf States, and their oil, out of the mullahs' clutches.

A continued American military presence will be needed also, because a divided, chaotic, government-less Iraq is very likely to become a hornets' nest. From it, a hundred mini-Zarqawis will spread all over the Middle East, conducting acts of sabotage and seeking to overthrow governments in Allah's name.

The Gulf States apart, the most vulnerable country is Jordan, as evidenced by the recent attacks in Amman. However, Turkey, Egypt and, to a lesser extent, Israel are also likely to feel the impact. Some of these countries, Jordan in particular, are going to require American assistance.

Maintaining an American security presence in the region, not to mention withdrawing forces from Iraq, will involve many complicated problems, military as well as political. Such an endeavor, one would hope, will be handled by a team different from — and more competent than — the one presently in charge of the White House and Pentagon.

And Van Creveld concludes:

For misleading the American people, and launching the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 B.C sent his legions into Germany and lost them, Bush deserves to be impeached and, once he has been removed from office, put on trial along with the rest of the president's men. If convicted, they'll have plenty of time to mull over their sins.
What do you think, vets?

Source: Buzzflash

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Send 'Em All Home or to Jail, Whichever Applies (cont.)

Rep. Randy ''Duke'' Cunningham pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy and tax charges and tearfully resigned from office, admitting he took $2.4 million in bribes to steer defense contracts to conspirators...Cunningham, an eight-term Republican congressman, had already announced in July that he would not seek re-election next year...Cunningham's pleas came amid a series of GOP scandals. Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas had to step down as majority leader after he was indicted in a campaign finance case; a stock sale by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is being looked at by regulators; and Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff was indicted in the CIA leak case.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Universe is Still Mine to Have

The deep sinister voice of the second in command is unmistakable, even though it has been once again buried for months in seething, angry contemplation:

A LOW GROAN emanates from Vader's mask. Suddenly everything in the room begins to implode, including some of the DROIDS...

VADER SCREAMS, breaks his bonds to the table, and steps forward, waving his hands, causing objects to fly around the room. Sidious deflects the objects, but some of the Droids (especially one named Libby) aren't so lucky. VADER'S PAINFUL SCREAMS echo throughout the Center.

"They won't get me, do you hear? Bob Woodward will never squeal, and 30 years from now, if he's still alive, it won't matter..."

With apologies for the slight additions to the Stars Wars III script...

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Monday, November 21, 2005

"Mean Jean" Steps in it Bigtime

...In attacking the Democrats' position, Ms. Schmidt, the newest member of Congress, said she had received a call from a Marine colonel, who "asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message: that cowards cut and run, Marines never do."

The House exploded in catcalls and jeers among outraged Democrats. When debate resumed, Ms. Schmidt retracted her comments and said, "I did not intend to suggest they applied to any member," especially Mr. Murtha.

Ms. Schmidt could not be reached for comment on Saturday, with voice mailboxes full at all three of her offices. Her campaign manager did not return a phone call. Several Republicans who were on the House floor said afterward that Ms. Schmidt did not appear to know she was referring to a much-decorated veteran.

"The poor lady didn't know Jack Murtha was a Marine - she really just ran into a hornet's nest," said Representative Jack Kingston of Georgia.

Representative David Dreier of California said, "Very clearly, she did not know that Jack Murtha was a Marine."


Schmidt won a very close, highly publicized special election for a House seat from Ohio over Iraqi war veteran Paul Hackett a few months ago. All any Democrat has to do in her district next November is play her soliloquy over and over and they are in. Hackett apparently may now run for the Senate.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Thursday, November 17, 2005

A Turning Point

I now don't think it's overstating it to say that a turning point has been been reached with this administration, not only with Rep. John Murtha's press release today* in the House from a previously strong supporter of the war, but also with the budget being voted down with the help of 22 Republicans - all after yesterday's 98-0 vote requiring a better approach to resolving Iraq.

Left here to fend off the barrage, the vice president resorted to insults, accusing all who disagreed with him (by reference including Murtha) as having 'no backbone' - a comment that Murtha, a Marine's Marine, said was coming from a man with 5 or 6 deferments during Vietnam.

'Staying the course' has turned into a textbook example of the sunk cost syndrome. While bird flu is on the agenda of the president in Asia, the 98-0 vote yesterday shows that cutting our losses honorably and sensibly is now squarely in the sights of even his former supporters - while GIs continue to die and be wounded.

Murtha concludes: Because we in Congress are charged with sending our sons and daughters into battle, it is our responsibility, our OBLIGATION to speak out for them. That’s why I am speaking out.

Our military has done everything that has been asked of them, the U.S. can not accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. IT IS TIME TO BRING THEM HOME.

*Thanks to Tescht for the links.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

NeoCon Logic 101 (cont, etc. etc.)

If you can't admit guilt, baffle them with BS. The neocon argument about pre-war intelligence goes like this: "We weren't the only ones wrong - everyone else was too."

Even if this version of Rove dog poo were correct, which it isn't, what does this say about LEADERSHIP in this administration? Their definition: Refuse to accept responsibility and accountability and spread the blame in any way possible (after blaming Bill Clinton first). They haven't figured out why they are in the 35% approval range and going down: people across the political spectrum want answers not excuses to FIX things like Iraq, real support of the troops and veterans, medical care, education etc., etc., etc.

There are no answers coming from the neocons, just louder and louder denials that it wasn't just their fault. What inspiring leadership...

UPDATE on Veterans PTSD (see Oct 26 post below): Responding to growing outrage from military and veterans' groups, the VA has cancelled its plans to review thousands of VA disability ratings for PTSD.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Friday, November 11, 2005

Happy Veterans' Day

To all vets: I salute you.

To all those on active duty and in dangerous places (including my son): my thoughts and prayers are with you.

To those in the Reserves & National Guard: thank you as well.

For those of you who are not in the military or veterans, do something for or with a veteran today.

This veteran's voice is focused on making things better for all of you.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Thursday, November 10, 2005

True Colors of the Congressional Republicans Are Showing Once Again: 'Support the troops' and Forget Veterans

... And as if to add insult to injury, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Steve Buyer (R-Ind.) recently announced that veterans service organizations will no longer have the opportunity to present testimony before a joint hearing of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees. For several decades now, these joint hearings have been held each year to allow the leaders of veterans service organizations to discuss their group’s legislative agenda and foremost concerns with the lawmakers who have jurisdiction over federal veterans programs.

Eliminating these joint hearings is an affront to the men and women who have fought and died to protect our Constitutional rights, including their right to petition the government.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Monday, November 07, 2005

President Directs White House to Take Ethics Class

Subtitle to the article that should have been added: Overflow Crowd Expected

Anyone want to guess who will be the guest speakers to help Harriet Meiers? There are lots of possibilities:

Tom DeLay?
Bill Frist?
Scooter Libby?
Karl Rove?
John Poindexter?
Anyone who says we have never used torture techniques but still wants to exempt the CIA?
(Readers: can you think of anymore guest speakers)?

How about what will not be taught:

- Conflicts of interest or the appearance thereof
- Rights to counsel and a reasonably prompt hearing of charges
- Inhumane & illegal treatment of prisoners
- Withdrawal of funding from the people who especially need it like veterans, seniors, students, medicare - while continuing tax breaks for the rich
- Protection of privacy
- Real values like honor, integrity, truthfulness

Unfortunately it's going to hard to run the class because it's going to be next to impossible to find an ethical code in line with the 'values' of this administration. Forseeing this possibility, Ms. Meiers will probably outsource the course to Halliburton, after first making sure the vice president's automatic deposit is still coming in from them.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Repugs' Internal Debate Over Whether to be a Lawless Nation

An excerpt from this morning's Washington Post (with key phrases highlighted):

The Bush administration is embroiled in a sharp internal debate over whether a new set of Defense Department standards for handling terror suspects should adopt language from the Geneva Conventions prohibiting "cruel," "humiliating" and "degrading" treatment, administration officials say.

Advocates of that approach, who include some Defense and State Department officials and senior military lawyers, contend that moving the military's detention policies closer to international law would prevent further abuses and build support overseas for the fight against Islamic extremists, officials said.

Their opponents, who include aides to Vice President Dick Cheney and some senior Pentagon officials, have argued strongly that the proposed language is vague, would tie the government's hands in combating terrorists and still would not satisfy America's critics, officials said.

Since Mr. Bush's second term began, several officials said, factions within the administration have clashed over the revision of rules for the military tribunals to be held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the transfer of some prisoners held there, and aspects of the United States' detention operations in Afghanistan and Iraq...

The behind-the-scenes debate over the Pentagon directive comes more than three years after President Bush decided that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to the fight against terrorism. It mirrors a public battle between the Bush administration and Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who is pressing a separate legislative effort to ban the "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" of any detainee in United States custody.

After a 90-to-9 vote in the Senate last month in favor of Mr. McCain's amendment to a $445 billion defense spending bill, the White House moved to exempt clandestine C.I.A. activities from the provision. A House-Senate conference committee is expected to consider the issue this week.

Mr. Cheney and some of his aides have spearheaded the administration's opposition to Senator McCain's amendment; they were also quick to oppose a draft of the detention directive, which began to circulate in the Pentagon in mid-September, officials said...

Mr. Whitman confirmed that the Pentagon officials were revising four major documents - including the two high-level directives on detention operations and interrogations and the Army interrogations manual - as part of its response to the 12 major investigations and policy reviews that followed the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal.

Even some supporters of those policies have acknowledged that the tensions stem in part from the way they were pushed through after the Sept. 11 attacks, by a handful of administration lawyers who circumvented international-law experts, military lawyers and even some cabinet-level officials who might have objected...

Since President Bush's decision in February 2002 to set aside the Geneva Conventions in fighting terrorists, government lawyers have debated what legal framework should apply to combatants in a struggle that the administration argues does not fit into the categories of international violence contemplated by the 1949 conventions.

"The uniformed service lawyers are behind the rewrite because it brings the policy into line with Geneva," one senior defense official said. "Their concern was that we were losing our standing with allies as well as the moral high ground with the rest of the world."

Another official said Mr. Addington and others also argued that Mr. Bush had specifically rejected the Article 3 standard in 2002, setting out a different one when he ordered that military detainees "be treated humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva...

"If we don't resolve this soon," one defense official said, referring to the overlapping debate over Senator McCain's proposal, "Congress is going to do it for us."

Integrity, honor, moral leadership - all of this and more we are trashing as a nation since March of 2003, because while the goal of beating the terrorists is crucial, the means to do so don't matter anymore - and who is responsible?

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link