War News for Sunday, January 2, 2005
Bring ‘em on: One US Marine killed fighting in al-Anbar
Bring ‘em on: Sniper kills one, wound s one inside Baghdad’s
Bring ‘em on: Nineteen Iraqis killed, six wounded in car bomb attack near Balad
Bring ‘em on: Iraqi policeman assassinated in Baghdad
Bring ‘em on: Two Iraqis beheaded in Baghdad
Bring ‘em on: Insurgents execute five captured Iraqi soldiers in Ramadi
Bring ‘em on: Two Iraqi government officials assassinated in incidents near Khalis and Baquba
Bring ‘em on: One ING soldier killed, six wounded by roadside bomb near Mahmoudiyah
Bring ‘em on: Pipeline ablaze near Bahbahan
Bring ‘em on: One US soldier killed, one wounded by roadside bomb near Baghdad
Bring ‘em on: Two ING soldiers killed, six wounded in mortar attack near Samarra
Bring ‘em on: Iraqi police officer assassinated near Kirkuk
. “But six weeks before the historic vote, a U.S. official said, fewer than 1 percent of eligible Iraqis have responded to a voter-registration drive, forcing authorities to look for other ways to build up voter lists.”
. “Administration officials are preparing long-range plans for indefinitely imprisoning suspected terrorists whom they do not want to set free or turn over to courts in the United States or other countries, according to intelligence, defense and diplomatic officials.”
. “Insurgent attacks on Iraq's vital oil industry have cost the country nearly $US8 billion in lost export revenue since March 2003, Oil Minister Thamer Ghadban said on Sunday. ‘We want to tell the Iraqi people that there is an all-out war against the country's oil infrastructure,’ Mr Ghadban told reporters as he toured the capital's Dura refinery, which came under mortar fire last week.”
. “Hospitals in southern Iraq were getting urgently needed supplies from Minnesota medical companies. Northwest Airlines was seeking permission to serve Baghdad International Airport. Ten employees of the Minnesota Middle East Trading Company Inc. were cutting deals in major Iraqi cities. That was 2003. Today, all of those hopeful connections have been severed, driven out of Iraq by bomb blasts, kidnappings and sniper fire.”
. “In a shift largely made necessary by the continuing violence in Iraq, U.S. officials in charge of reconstruction projects say they are now hiring Iraqi firms to do many of the jobs once performed by Western contractors.”
Rehearsing the show
. “Meanwhile, Iraqi judges and prosecutors involved in the case against Saddam will stage a mock trial in an attempt to prevent legal chaos when the deposed president appears before a special tribunal in Baghdad some time after the elections.”
? “The military is increasing drug testing of its forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, in part out of concern that troops will turn to drugs because of combat stress, Pentagon officials said yesterday.”
Fleece the troops
“Federal law prohibits retired military people from signing over their future pension payments to others. The companies offering these deals say they are arranged to avoid that restriction. But two federal bankruptcy judges ruled this year that deals like Mr. Jones's, in which veterans in need of quick cash give up their future pensions for a small fraction of their value, do in fact violate that law.
But the law has not been enforced or consistently interpreted. Indeed, the Defense Department's payroll centers routinely handle the paperwork that diverts the pension payments, even though veterans are warned ‘to exercise caution in these arrangements,’ a Pentagon spokeswoman said.
As a result, a small but persistent band of financial companies using military-sounding names continue to offer these so-called pension advances to retired military people over the Internet and in military newspapers.
Consumer lawyers are getting calls from people facing lawsuits and bankruptcy after signing over future pension payments to these companies. No one is certain how many veterans have been affected, but the potential market is substantial. In the last year, roughly 1.7 million military retirees received about $33 billion in pension payments from the Pentagon.
None of these practices are a surprise to either the Pentagon or to Congress. In September 2002, the Senate passed a bill that would have penalized companies offering military pension advances, but the effort stalled in the House. Veterans' groups have warned members about these deals. And in May 2003, the National Consumer Law Center, a nonprofit group in Boston that has worked on consumer protection issues for more than 35 years, condemned the cash advances as illegally disguised loans that do not comply with federal truth-in-lending laws.
Despite these warnings, neither the Pentagon nor Congress has clearly defined these deals or decided which laws apply to them.
The Pentagon does not see pension advances as examples of retirees signing away their future pensions, which it acknowledged would be illegal. Instead, to the Pentagon, ‘these agreements appear to be loans based on retired pay as collateral,’ said Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, a spokeswoman for the Defense Department.”
: “The Pentagon is beginning to resemble a desperate farmer who feeds his starving family the seed corn meant for sowing next year's crop. To keep enough boots on the ground now, it is sacrificing the ability to retain the leaders of tomorrow. As overdeployment has become chronic, promising young officers are opting not to re-enlist. When new crops of young people graduate from school, they will be less willing to combine their civilian careers with service in the Army National Guard; recruitment is already down almost 30 percent. The Regular Army is hurting too. Despite enlistment bonuses, it has had to speed up its reporting schedules, sending new recruits straight into basic training. This growing crisis is not due to a lack of preparedness on the part of military brass, but to the ideology on which preparedness was based. Before Iraq, Pentagon dogma - supported by most Republican politicians and many conservative Democrats - held that United States troops were war fighters. Peacekeeping and nation-building were jobs for Old Europe. Well, that was then.”
: “The truth is that for all the lip service paid to supporting the troops, out of sight is often out of mind. Even the minority that remains gung-ho about the war in Iraq is quick to blame the grunts for anything that goes wrong. Specialist Wilson, Rush Limbaugh said, was guilty of ‘near insubordination’ for his question in Kuwait; the poor defense secretary ‘was set up,’ whined The New York Post. The same crowd tells us that a few low-level guards are solely responsible for the criminal abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and in Guantánamo Bay, not any policy-setting higher-ups who may be sitting in that audience at Kennedy Center. President Bush even tried to pass the buck for his premature aircraft carrier victory jig to the troops, telling the press months later that ‘the 'Mission Accomplished' sign, of course, was put up by the members of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, saying that their mission was accomplished.’ Of course.”
Local story: California
soldier killed in Iraq.
Local story: New Mexico
sailor wounded in Iraq.