Sunday, October 29, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR SUNDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2006 An Iraqi woman gestures as a policeman uses a metal detector to search a corpse during a funeral procession in the holy city of Najaf. American forces have fought off a botched insurgent ambush, killing at least 17 attackers, as US and Iraqi commanders sought a new joint strategy to end the violence in Iraq.(AFP/Qassem Zein) Casualty reports Marine Luke Zimmerman of Green Bay,Wisc. is reported killed, apparently on Friday. "The Department of Defense had not yet given public notification of Zimmerman's death Saturday afternoon. That announcement from the military normally takes a day or two after family is told of the death. But the news had spread among family and friends." DoD Identifies Army Casualty. First Sgt. Ricky L. McGinnis, 42, of Hamilton, Ohio, died on Oct. 26, in Balad, Iraq, from injuries suffered that same day in Muqdadiyah, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his dismounted patrol. McGinnis was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas. Security Incidents Baghdad: #1: Interior Ministry sources said Baghdad police found 25 bodies, most tortured by death squads, in the past day. #2: Gunmen fired at the convoy of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki, injuring one guard, in a southern suburb of the capital on Sunday. Al Maliki was not in the convoy at the time, as it travelled in Baghdad’s Rasheed district. #3: A sports presenter at state television station Iraqiya was killed with her driver in Baghdad on Sunday, an official at the station and police said, in the second murder of a sports reporter in five months. The Iraqiya official said Naqsheen Hamad was a presenter on Iraqiya's sports division, al-Atyaf. She and her driver, Anas Qasim, went missing on the way to work on Sunday morning and police later said their bodies had been found in central Baghdad. Police said the bodies were among six found in different parts of the city on Sunday. (I'm not sure how this relates to the 25 bodies reported by the Interior Ministry. Reuters goes on to say that 85 journalists have been reported killed in Iraq since the invasion, but that this is an undercount and does not include translators and other assistants. -- C) #4: Gunmen in a car attacked a police patrol, killing two policemen in central Baghdad, police said. Diyala Province: #1: Gunmen opened fire on a convoy of Iraqi Sunni pilgrims bound for the holy city of Mecca on Sunday, killing at least one person, while U.S. forces said they killed 17 insurgents preparing to ambush American troops. The pilgrims were about 15 miles from the city of Baqouba when gunmen showered their convoy with machine gunfire Baqubah: #1: In Baqouba, gunmen shot dead two policemen at a downtown intersection, said an officer, who asked not to named because of procedures to protect the identity of police. (This AP article by Sinan Salaheddin has more detail on other incidents as well.) From Reuters Alertnet, the following three incidents: #2: Gunmen killed three people and seriously wounded two, including a police major, in two different incidents on Saturday in Baquba, police said. #3: Gunmen in a car attacked a police patrol, killing two policemen and a civilian in Baquba. One gunman was killed, said police Lieutenant Colonel Sattar Jabbar. #4: A roadside bomb struck an Iraqi army patrol killing five soldiers in southern Baquba, police said. Muqdadiya: #1: Gunmen shot dead two civilians in Muqdadiya on Saturday, police said. Kut: #1: Gunmen shot dead a policeman near a checkpoint in Kut on Saturday, police said. #2: Gunmen attacked the house of a former military Brigadier, Nasir al-Sadoun, killing his son and three of his relatives in Kut on Saturday, police said. Al Shirqat: #1: A roadside bomb struck a police patrol, killing one policeman in the town of al-Shirqat, police said. Balad: #1: U.S. military says air strikes near Balad killed 17 militants. "No American soldiers were hurt in the overnight battle near Balad, 80 km (50 miles) north of the capital, the U.S. military said in a statement which described air strikes on militants preparing two separate ambushes for ground forces on the move. Coalition aircraft thwarted two separate terrorist ambushes as ground forces moved toward their objective early Sunday morning near Balad," the U.S. military said in a statement, adding four rebels died in one attack and about 13 in the other. Iraqi sources have a slightly different count, also not clear whether all the dead were combatants. U.S. helicopters struck the eastern side of Thuluiya, killing 11 people, including three brothers, and wounding six on Saturday evening, according to police and the Tikrit Joint Coordination Centre. Asked about the strike, the U.S. military referred reporters to a statement saying that U.S. forces and Iraqi police killed 17 suspected insurgents in an airstrike and subsequent ground clashes early on Sunday near Balad. #2: Also from Alertnet Gunmen clashed with the Iraqi army on Saturday, killing three soldiers and wounding four in Tal al-Thahab village near Balad, police said. Samarra: #1: A car bomb exploded near a primary school, wounding eight in Samarra, police said. Dinwaniyah: #1: On Saturday night, gunmen shot dead a translator for U.S. forces outside a restaurant in Diwaniyah, 80 miles south of Baghdad, police said. Kirkuk: #1: A roadside bomb exploded near a police patrol, seriously wounding two people, including a policeman, in the centre of the northern oil city of Kirkuk, police said. Hawija: #1: Iraqi and U.S. forces encircled the town of Hawija, 165 miles north of Baghdad, and searched for armed men who had fired on patrols, said Brig. Sarhat Qadir of the police force in the nearby city of Kirkuk. Thanks as always to Whisker for parsing the security news for us. -- C Ramadi: A family of six was killed during fighting in the Iraqi town of Ramadi yesterday as US forces battled to regain control of an area claimed by Al Qaeda-led insurgents. "Six members of one family were killed when US planes bombed their place, a nursery school they were using as a house in 17th of July Street in the centre of the city," said Dr Kamal Al Hadithi of Ramadi Hospital. (Juan Cole discusses this story from the Gulf News, and the gulf in perceptions between Arabs and Americans:
The implication is that we are serial family-killers. And, the US is relatively popular in the Gulf, so imagine what the other Arab newspapers think of us. As Bobby Burns once put it with a brogue, "O wad some power the giftie gie us/ to see oursels as ithers see us!/ It wad frae monie a blunder free us and foolish notion . . ." The US military said it had no record of launching the air strike. US forces have been fighting guerrillas in Ramadi and have been firing tank and mortar shells. They also point out that the guerrillas are firing RPGs, which could have it the house. Except that what happened to the family sounds to me like big firepower, of a sort I am not sure the guerrillas can muster.
OTHER NEWS OF THE DAY Nouri al-Maliki is showing increasing resentment over U.S. control. Apparently, this guy is under the impression that he is the Prime Minister of an independent nation. Where did he get that idea?-- C Excerpt:
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - After a hastily arranged video conference with George W. Bush, Iraq’s prime minister said yesterday that the U.S. president promised to move swiftly to turn over full control of the Iraqi army to the Baghdad government. A close aide to Nouri al-Maliki said later the prime minister was intentionally playing on U.S. voter displeasure with the war to strengthen his hand with Washington. Hassan al-Suneid, a member of al-Maliki’s inner circle, said the video conference was sought because issues needed airing at a higher level than with U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. Al-Suneid said the prime minister complained to Bush that Khalilzad, an Afghan-born Sunni Muslim, was treating the Shiite al-Maliki imperiously. "The U.S. ambassador is not" Paul "Bremer," the former U.S. administrator in Iraq. "He does not have a free rein to do what he likes. Khalilzad must not behave like Bremer but rather like an ambassador," al-Suneid quoted al-Maliki as saying. The remarks were the fourth time in a week that al-Maliki challenged the U.S. handling of the war. The ripostes flowed from an announcement by Khalilzad on Tuesday that al-Maliki had agreed to a U.S. plan to set timelines for progress in quelling violence in Iraq. Al-Maliki’s anger grew through the week until on Friday, al-Suneid said, the prime minister told Khalilzad: "I am a friend of the United States, but I am not America’s man in Iraq." After yesterday’s talks, White House spokesman Tony Snow said of al-Maliki: "He’s not America’s man in Iraq. The United States is there in a role to assist him. He’s the prime minister - he’s the leader of the Iraqi people." snip Snow said Bush told al-Maliki not to worry about U.S. politics "because we are with you and we are going to be with you." Al-Suneid, however, said al-Maliki was intentionally using the displeasure of U.S. voters over Bush’s handling of the war to strengthen his position.
Read in Full Army is increasingly concerneda about snipers. (Note: The intro to this story seems odd -- presumably they already know when they're taking sniper fire. I'm not sure what the formal distinction is between "sniper fire" and "small arms fire," since I presume that the vast majority of Iraqis who attack U.S. forces with small arms do so from concealed locations. Whatever -- C) Excerpt:
By Paul Holmes BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The U.S. military has begun looking more closely at shooting attacks on troops in Iraq to establish whether they are carried out by snipers, according to a spokesman. The change reflects concern over an insurgent video-CD that appears to show a series of shooting attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces in Baghdad by a purported sniper brigade from the Sunni militant Islamic Army. The video, which Reuters has seen, was handed out in Sunni parts of western Baghdad last week as a "gift" to mark the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. It shows 28 separate attacks, several of them involving precision shots to the head. Narrated by a man described as the brigade "commander" and subtitled in English, it claims the marksmen use a training manual written by a retired U.S. Army Special Forces officer. "Ultimate Sniper", written in 1993 by Major John L. Plaster, is freely available through online bookstores. It was updated this year "for today's Global War on Terror", according to www.ultimatesniper.com, which calls it the bible of sniping. Spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Christopher Garver said the U.S. military was aware of the video. He said the military was taking unspecified steps to reduce the possible new threat and had begun to examine killings by small arms fire in greater detail. "We are being more specific in trying to hone in on sniper tactics," Garver said. U.S. casualty reports list three killings by sniper fire in Baghdad this year, all since July, and 24 by small arms fire, 10 of them in October
. Read in Full IN-DEPTH REPORTING AND ANALYSIS NYT's Sabrina Tavernese chronicles the ruined lives of Baghdad's middle class. Excerpt:
By SABRINA TAVERNISE BAGHDAD, Oct. 28 — The things the women missed were almost too small to notice at first. Simple numbers and dates began to elude their memories. They were hugging their children less. Past pleasures, eating and listening to music, began to feel flat. They were shouting at their husbands like army commanders. Small as they seemed, these scraps of life were the effects of the war as discussed by four Iraqi women on a cloudy Saturday afternoon in a women’s center in Baghdad. Their stories began with a familiar theme: the shrinking lives of middle-class families in the capital. Social clubs have emptied out. Weddings have been sparsely attended. But as the circle has become smaller, and as they focus intensely on just staying alive, they said, even the basics are being stripped away. “All the elements of society have been dismantled,” said Fawsia Abdul al-Attiya, a sociologist and a professor at Baghdad University. “You are afraid because you are a woman, a man, a Sunni, a Shiite, a Kurd. “All these things start to change society.” In a room in the Amal Women’s Network that was strewn with remnants of a morning meeting — a half-eaten piece of cake, an orange peel, some crumpled tissues — the women talked about the changes forced on their lives by that fear. One of the women, a senior employee in an Iraqi ministry that is now run by religious Shiites, recalled recently walking through the gate of her office building with several colleagues, two wearing form-fitting dresses with bare heads and a third in a hijab, when security guards pulled the third woman aside. “They told her to tell her friends to be more cautious,” she said, leaning out of her high-backed chair. She asked that her name not be used because it would be recognized. She has received two threats on her life. Her own office was a measure of just how far relations between Iraqis have unraveled. She has worked with her colleagues for 21 years, but in the past year, strange new alliances and rivalries have emerged. In business trips abroad, lists of those permitted to go were compiled along sectarian lines. Shiites chose Shiites. Sunnis chose Sunnis. Basma al-Khateeb, a 47-year-old mother of three, shook her head sadly at the familiar tale. “We never dreamed it would be like this,” she said. Ms. Khateeb, who runs a program for youths at the center, said she missed the very simple pleasures that gave life its texture. “Walking. Riding a bicycle down the street. We gave up so many things we used to do,” she said. “Now we call them accessories.”
Read in Full Antonio Castaneda describes the desperate effort to save the life of a Marine injured in Anbar. Excerpt:
SURGICAL, Iraq — The chaplain assigned to the medical camp was drafting a homily. The heart surgeon was using the quiet spell to edit a medical paper. The medics ate lunch. Twenty miles away, on the desert plain outside Fallujah, an insurgents bullet tore through the body of a young Marine. Less than a half-hour later, Camp Taqqadum Surgicals men and women watched a roaring helicopter land at their patch of sand-colored tents. And so began an urgent, hour-long effort to save the life of Lance Cpl. James W. Higgins, 22, of Thurmont, Md. For the 75 Navy doctors and medics here, it was in many ways just a normal case — one of the roughly 100 seriously wounded Marines and Iraqi soldiers and civilians they see each month from this section of the violent Anbar province. They stabilize the wounded, who then are taken to larger U.S. military hospitals. But when a 22-year-old man is fighting for his life, nothing is normal. I always go at it with the mindset that we can save this person, said Cmdr. Subrato Deb, 42, a heart surgeon from Alexandria, Va. — part of a team of roughly 15 doctors and medics who would work on the Marine over the next hour. The team knew Higginss injuries were bad. He was an urgent surgical, the most severe category. His heart had stopped while he was carried onto the helicopter. Medics pumped his chest as the chopper landed. The Marine would begin to suffer brain damage after just five minutes without oxygen. As the helicopter landed, medics rushed him by gurney into the hot and crowded surgical tent. The first step took only 60 seconds — a clamshell procedure that entailed cutting the Marines sternum and pulling open his rib cage. Inside, the surgeons found terrible damage. The bullet had pierced Higgins back, searing diagonally across his body before leaving the front of his chest. His diaphragm had been torn off. His liver was damaged, one lung had collapsed and his right chest cavity was full of blood. Worst of all, the bullet had clipped the right atrium of his heart in two places, letting blood build up around the heart. The surgeons had to do two things immediately and simultaneously — get the heart beating and stop the internal bleeding. Deb drained the blood around the heart, then raced to sew up the first hole. Then he noticed the second hole was much bigger — about the size of a dime. He asked a surprised medic for a urinary catheter. Instead of sewing the second hole, Deb used the catheter balloon to plug the wound. Then he used the catheter tube connected to a unit of blood to pump fresh blood into the Marines heart. Thats what really got him kind of responding, said Capt. H.R. Bohman of Oceanside, the senior surgeon at the facility, who — as Deb worked — was trying to stop internal bleeding. But the young Marines heart still was not beating. The job of massaging it back into a rhythm fell to the hands of Lt. Cmdr. Barbara Drobina, an emergency medical doctor who had never performed such a procedure before. It was a delicate task: taking the heart between her two hands and gently and firmly pressing. Am I doing it right? Am I doing it right? Drobina remembered asking Deb repeatedly. Then a monitor began showing a heart rate. Drobina could feel the rhythm in her fingers. Yeah, just keep doing what youre doing, said Deb, focusing on clamping the rest of the wounds. In the background, Navy chaplain Lt. Wilfredo Rodriguez, of New Brunswick, N.J., had pulled out his prayer book and was silently reading. Of his great mercy, may he forgive you your sins, release you from suffering and restore you to wholeness and strength, he mouthed. Then the chaplain stepped in to help. The surgeons already had stapled closed the hole in Higgins lung and wrapped his liver in gauze to stop the bleeding. They had clamped his aorta to send all available blood to his brain and heart, not his lower body. And they were pumping in blood, urgently, unit by unit — 18 in all. I figured I could pump blood and pray ... I said, Hey, looks like youve been holding that bag of blood for a long time. Can I chime in?'" said Rodriguez. He took the dark-red bag from a doctor who had been holding it and kept it high above his head. Five minutes passed — five minutes in which the Marines heart beat. Then it stopped again. She kept on massaging. But this time, it wasnt working. The heart would not beat again. The surgeons knew the end was near.
Read in Full Let Freedom Reign Department: Baghdad Gays Fear for Their Lives. Homosexuals across the capital are being hunted down and murdered by Islamic militants and even the police. Excerpt:
By Basim al-Shara'a in Baghdad (ICR No. 199, 20-Oct-06) Faris Thamir carefully watches the street in his Al-Batawin neighbourhood, afraid the police or militia men might try to kill him. In Iraq, where religious radicals consider homosexuality a sin punishable by death, gays have good reason to worry about being “outed”. Thamir, 35, is wary of the extremist Islamic groups that prowl the streets of the capital - but neither does he trust the police who are supposedly there to protect him. Thamir and other gay men complain about frequent mistreatment by police, accusing them of blackmail, torture, sexual abuse and theft. "Policemen raped me several times at gunpoint and threatened to hand me over to extremist groups if I refuse," said Thamir. Concern about the involvement of policemen in criminal acts have also been raised by western officials and Sunni Arab leaders who say the Shia-controlled interior ministry has been infiltrated by Shia militias, like the Badr Brigades, who allegedly use their uniforms as cover to kidnap, torture and murder. Earlier this month, the head of 8th National Police Brigade, one of Baghdad's frontline police units, was detained on suspicion of involvement with sectarian death squads. Several thousand policemen have been dismissed and face prosecution for criminal acts. Thamir does not count on any official help anymore. After spending a month in prison - during which he said he was tortured and beaten - police continued to pursue him. So he hid at a friend’s house - and only dares to go out twice a month, disguised as a woman. For him, the Saddam era seems like a "golden" time because homosexuality was discreetly tolerated. "Now I am desperate because I expect either to be shot or beheaded at any moment," he said.
Read in Full Iraqi tribunal may defy Karl Rover, delay sentencing of Saddam till after U.S. election. "Delaying the sentence, which was originally due for Nov. 5, could be a disappointment for U.S. President George W. Bush and his Republican Party. Polls suggest Republicans could lose control of Congress in elections on Nov. 7 and a guilty verdict against Saddam could be used by Bush and his allies as a vindication of their policy to overthrow him." Homecomings This seems to be the flavor of the day for U.S. newspapers -- C A Southern California Marine Corporal comes home, while an Army Sergeant on leave will soon return to Iraq. They've made it through great hardships, but they don't seem to know why. Excerpt:
By ANNIE BURRIS The Orange County Register War affects people in different ways. Marine Cpl. Luis Torres wants to forget his experiences on the front lines of Iraq, while Army Sgt. John Villanueva takes the heat and improvised explosive devices in stride. With violence increasing in Iraq, the two Anaheim residents returned home this month and discussed their experiences. Torres finished his tour in Iraq and wants to forget about the war. Army reservist Villanueva still has five more months to serve in Iraq, where he's a truck driver. After seeing 22 comrades die in Iraq, Luis Torres is just glad to be home. Marine Cpl. Luis Torres doesn't consider himself a hero – despite the fact that he volunteered to go to Iraq in place of a friend whose wife was pregnant. Not heroism, says the 21-year-old Torres: "I just saw it as my duty." Torres spent seven months in Iraq helping fortify Marine bases and positions west of Baghdad. Off base, Torres and his fellow Marines ate bags of dried food that they mixed with water, and with no toilets available they burned bags of waste. "There was nothing really civilized out there," he said. During a mission near Fallujah, a mortar exploded nearby, killing 22 fellow Marines. He said that he feels the lives of many Iraqis are improving, but that the insurgents have developed a new and desperate style of guerrilla warfare. "I feel more mature than kids my age because I've been through a lot more," he said. "I've lost friends and seen different aspects of life." Now that Torres is home, he sums up life in Orange County with one word: privilege. "You go from the worst ever and a month later you are looking at the beach, eating El Torito," Torres said. "It's a trip on your mind." Torres came home to Anaheim Hills two weeks ago. He attended Canyon High School before entering the Marines. "It was the greatest experience," Torres said of his reunion with family and friends. "I shed some tears. Watching everyone was such a relief." However, even back at home Torres said he can't forget. "Relax, relax, relax, you're back home," Torres said he told himself. "Nothing is going to hurt you. You are fine." Torres has 10 more months in the Marines that he hopes to spend at Camp Pendleton, unless tensions with North Korea send him across the Pacific Ocean. After the Marines, he hopes either to go to a police academy or become a history teacher. "Thank God I'm home," Torres said. Despite the IEDs and RPGs exploding around him, Army reservist John Villanueva stays positive. "There is a lot of joking around among the squad mates," said Sgt. Villanueva, 27. "But the driving separates the men from the boys." One of his primary jobs is to find "improvised explosive devices" and dodge the "rocket-propelled grenades" hidden along on the road. At the beginning of his tour – eight months ago – his convoys were rarely hit, but these days he said he expects an attack during most missions. "It's crazy," Villanueva said. "I don't know how they are going to fix it. There is more violence compared to when I first got here, especially in Baghdad." He said the increased violence doesn't scare him but makes him more aware: "Sometimes, you see two or three (IEDs) in one night and it is not fun. Of course, we laugh about it. When everyone is talking, it keeps you alert." On Oct. 19, he was given a two-week leave to visit family and friends in Anaheim. "It feels like a vacation," he said. "It doesn't feel like home because I know I am going to be going back."
Read in Full Boston Globe's Thomas Farragher tells the story of two soldiers who survived an attack that killed their comrade Spec. Jeremy Regnier. The Globe introduces the story this way: "They were an Army of Three — fun-loving, young, courageous, afraid. And when the bomb went off outside Baghdad, killing New Hampshire's Jeremy Regnier, the survivors of the squad found their lives upended. What they suffer has a name — post-traumatic stress — but a label can't describe it. This is a story of a death and its descendants." Excerpt:
By Thomas Farragher, Globe Staff | October 29, 2006 First of four parts It was circled on his calendar, a day he'd looked forward to for months. But as Andy Wilson stood on the wind-swept airfield and the chartered plane glided out of a leaden Texas sky, he was anything but upbeat. An unsettling cocktail of emotions swirled inside. The balloons and marching bands, the confetti and welcome-home banners were not for him, though they could have been. Should have been. As a noncommissioned officer, Wilson had sworn to stick by the men he led in combat, no matter what. And to bring them all home. But after that night in Baghdad when the bomb went off and his friend and comrade slumped against his shoulder, Wilson's war was over. He left Iraq on leave in late 2004, his mind and spirit broken, and never returned. Doctor's orders. "It gnaws at me," he said. Three months later, as the troops he served with stepped off the plane at Fort Hood after a year at war, the emotional torque of it all bore down on him again. The grapevine had carried the whispers from the war zone: Wilson's lost it. Wilson's a coward. And when some of the returning officers refused his outstretched hand or grabbed it limply with looks of disappointment or disdain, he knew who the whisperers were. But for now, it didn't matter. As the troops lined up to return their weapons, their gas masks and the other gadgetry of warfare, Wilson searched the crowd for a single face. Dustin Jolly was the only other soldier who really knew what happened that night in October 2004 when Jeremy Regnier, the cocksure gunner from Littleton, N.H., died. Like Wilson, Jolly had felt the blast and seen the unspeakable injury -- and knew how easily that memory reel could unspool. But unlike Wilson, who sought help and went home, he had bottled up his demons and gone back out on patrol. And so as Jolly -- near the front of the line -- stepped into view, the reunion sequence was anything but certain. Wilson held his breath. "I saw him," Wilson said, "and once he gave me that dumb-ass Jolly look, I knew he was OK." The men hugged and smiled and shook hands. They made promises to drink beer and catch up. "It made me feel good," Wilson said. "It made me feel proud. It made me still feel loved, I guess." In the months to come, what the two men shared, the darkness and the love, would come to mean everything. The war after the war had begun.
Read in Full Chicago Tribune's James Janega and Aamer Madhani discuss the difficulties of returning veterans more generally. Excerpt:
CHICAGO - It's been more than three years since Martin Binion navigated minefields and sniper fire as he made his way to Baghdad with a combat assault team in the opening days of the Iraq war. Now the former U.S. Army soldier is trying to make it through the Veterans Affairs system, and Binion, 33, is barely getting by. He has flirted with homelessness, been turned down for more than a dozen jobs, and is trying to be treated for post-traumatic stress disorder. More than five years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and two wars later, advocates fear too many young veterans share Binion's difficulty readjusting to life in America. Hoping to end the pervasive problems faced by earlier generations of veterans in accessing services, the veterans support group Amvets opened a national symposium in Chicago to address issues facing young veterans. The goal is to present Congress with a new set of policy priorities after the November elections. An online survey of 600 veterans unveiled by the group hinted at what those priorities would be. It found eight in 10 veterans felt more could be done to help troops leave the military and join the civilian workforce. Nearly four in 10 felt underemployed, and two-thirds had trouble accessing disability benefits in a veterans affairs system most agree is overwhelmed to the point that soldiers like Binion have fallen through the cracks. ''When you join the Army, they tell you that they got your back 'till the end,'' Binion said. ''From my experience, it's not been that way.'' Complaints about an underfunded and overburdened VA system are a perennial problem, but some veterans' advocates say a bad situation has been exacerbated by ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq that have inundated the system with a new and younger generation of veterans looking for help. Demands for health-care services by veterans have climbed by 34 percent since 2000, while a third of soldiers who returned from Iraq in the first two years of the war required mental health services within a year of ending their deployment, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. Meanwhile, veterans groups forecast a $1 billion shortfall in health-care funding for veterans in 2007, according to independent analysis by Amvets, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Read in Full QUOTE OF THE DAY We've emphasized this many times here, but in the United States, it's about as widely understood as tensor calculus. So I'm making this the QoD to make sure we don't forget it. -- C
Iraq's savage sectarian war is now regarded as a greater obstacle to any semblance of peace returning than the insurgency, and was the main reason for the Americans recently pouring 12,000 troops into the capital - an operation that, they now acknowledge, has failed. Yet, ironically, the death squads are the result of US policy. At the beginning of last year, with no end to the Sunni insurgency in sight, the Pentagon was reported to have decided to train Shia and Kurdish fighters to carry out "irregular missions". The policy, exposed in the US media, was called the "Salvador Option" after the American-backed counter-insurgency in Latin America more than 20 years ago, which led to 70,000 deaths and countless instances of human rights abuse.
Kim Sengupta, writing for The Independent


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