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Offline bigron

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Re: Killing America's Kids and Driving Them Insane
« Reply #880 on: April 25, 2010, 07:04:38 am »
April 24, 2010
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/25/health/25warrior.html?hp

In Army’s Trauma Care Units, Feeling Warehoused

By JAMES DAO and DAN FROSCH


“It is just a dark place. Being in the W.T.U. is worse than being in Iraq.” MICHAEL CRAWFORD, an Army specialist who was a sniper in Iraq, above

COLORADO SPRINGS — A year ago, Specialist Michael Crawford wanted nothing more than to get into Fort Carson’s Warrior Transition Battalion, a special unit created to provide closely managed care for soldiers with physical wounds and severe psychological trauma.

A strapping Army sniper who once brimmed with confidence, he had returned emotionally broken from Iraq, where he suffered two concussions from roadside bombs and watched several platoon mates burn to death. The transition unit at Fort Carson, outside Colorado Springs, seemed the surest way to keep suicidal thoughts at bay, his mother thought.

It did not work. He was prescribed a laundry list of medications for anxiety, nightmares, depression and headaches that made him feel listless and disoriented. His once-a-week session with a nurse case manager seemed grossly inadequate to him. And noncommissioned officers — soldiers supervising the unit — harangued or disciplined him when he arrived late to formation or violated rules.

Last August, Specialist Crawford attempted suicide with a bottle of whiskey and an overdose of painkillers. By the end of last year, he was begging to get out of the unit.

“It is just a dark place,” said the soldier, who is waiting to be medically discharged from the Army. “Being in the W.T.U. is worse than being in Iraq.”

Created in the wake of the scandal in 2007 over serious shortcomings at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Warrior Transition Units were intended to be sheltering way stations where injured soldiers could recuperate and return to duty or gently process out of the Army. There are currently about 7,200 soldiers at 32 transition units across the Army, with about 465 soldiers at Fort Carson’s unit.

But interviews with more than a dozen soldiers and health care professionals from Fort Carson’s transition unit, along with reports from other posts, suggest that the units are far from being restful sanctuaries. For many soldiers, they have become warehouses of despair, where damaged men and women are kept out of sight, fed a diet of powerful prescription pills and treated harshly by noncommissioned officers. Because of their wounds, soldiers in Warrior Transition Units are particularly vulnerable to depression and addiction, but many soldiers from Fort Carson’s unit say their treatment there has made their suffering worse.

Some soldiers in the unit, and their families, described long hours alone in their rooms, or in homes off the base, aimlessly drinking or playing video games.

“In combat, you rely on people and you come out of it feeling good about everything,” said a specialist in the unit. “Here, you’re just floating. You’re not doing much. You feel worthless.”

At Fort Carson, many soldiers complained that doctors prescribed drugs too readily. As a result, some soldiers have become addicted to their medications or have turned to heroin. Medications are so abundant that some soldiers in the unit openly deal, buy or swap prescription pills.

Heavy use of psychotropic drugs and narcotics makes it difficult to exercise, wake for morning formation and attend classes, soldiers and health care professionals said. Yet noncommissioned officers discipline soldiers who fail to complete those tasks, sometimes over the objections of nurse case managers and doctors.

At least four soldiers in the Fort Carson unit have committed suicide since 2007, the most of any transition unit as of February, according to the Army.

Senior officers in the Army’s Warrior Transition Command declined to discuss specific soldiers. But they said Army surveys showed that most soldiers treated in transition units since 2007, more than 50,000 people, had liked the care.

Those senior officers acknowledged that addiction to medications was a problem, but denied that Army doctors relied too heavily on drugs. And they strongly defended disciplining wounded soldiers when they violated rules. Punishment is meted out judiciously, they said, mainly to ensure that soldiers stick to treatment plans and stay safe.

“These guys are still soldiers, and we want to treat them like soldiers,” said Lt. Col. Andrew L. Grantham, commander of the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Carson.

The colonel offered another explanation for complaints about the unit. Many soldiers, he said, struggle in transition units because they would rather be with regular, deployable units. In some cases, he said, they feel ashamed of needing treatment.

“Some come to us with an identity crisis,” he said. “They don’t want to be seen as part of the W.T.U. But we want them to identify with a purpose and give them a mission.”

Drugs and Addiction

Sgt. John Conant, a 15-year veteran of the Army, returned from his second tour of Iraq in 2007 a changed man, according to his wife, Delphina. Angry and sullen, he reported to the transition unit at Fort Carson, where he was prescribed at least six medications a day for sleeping disorders, pain and anxiety, keeping a detailed checklist in his pocket to remind him of his dosages.

The medications disoriented him, Mrs. Conant said, and he would often wander the house late at night before curling up on the floor and falling asleep. Then in April 2008, after taking morphine and Ambien, the sleeping pill, he died in his sleep. A coroner ruled that his death was from natural causes. He was 36.

Mrs. Conant said she felt her husband never received meaningful therapy at the transition unit, where he had become increasingly frustrated and was knocked down a rank, to specialist, because of discipline problems.

“They didn’t want to do anything but give him medication,” she said.

Other soldiers and health care workers at Fort Carson offered similar complaints. They said that most transition unit soldiers were given complex cocktails of medications that raised concerns about accidental overdoses, addiction and side effects from interactions.

“These kids change their medication like they change their underwear,” said a psychotherapist who works with Fort Carson soldiers and asked that his name not be used because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the transition unit. “They can’t even remember which pills they’re taking.”

Some turned to heroin, which is readily available in the barracks, after becoming addicted to their pain pills, according to interviews with soldiers and health care professionals at Fort Carson.

“We’re all on sleep meds, anxiety meds, pain meds,” said Pfc. Jeffery Meier, who is in the transition unit and said he knew a dozen soldiers in the unit, including a recent roommate, who had used heroin. “The heroin is all that, wrapped into one.”

Fort Carson officials said that addiction to prescription drugs was no more prevalent in the Army than in the civilian world, and that medication was just one element of a balanced treatment that includes therapy.

But they acknowledged that they had found heroin abuse in the transition unit and said they were trying to reduce the use of opiates and synthetic opiates to prevent addiction, not always with success.

“There is active resistance, because they are addicted,” said Lt. Col. Joel Tanaka, the Warrior Transition Battalion surgeon at Fort Carson. “We’ve learned if we don’t assist them and wrap our arms around them, then they go off post and get these drugs illegally.”

Jess Seiwert offers a cautionary tale. A staff sergeant and sniper who was knocked unconscious by roadside bombs in Iraq, he returned to Fort Carson in late 2006 with post-traumatic stress disorder, burns and a variety of aches. Prone to bouts of rage, he often drank himself to sleep and began abusing the painkiller Percocet.

Medical records show that Sergeant Seiwert’s captain thought he was a danger to his wife and needed inpatient psychiatric care. Instead, the sergeant was transferred into Fort Carson’s transition unit in 2008.

In a recent interview, Mr. Seiwert, now discharged from the Army, said he received minimal therapy in the unit but was given ample medication, including the painkillers he abused. “I should have been in inpatient rehab to get me off the drugs,” he said.

Last summer, just months after being medically discharged, he badly beat his wife while bingeing on alcohol and Percocet. He pleaded guilty to a second-degree assault charge and is likely to face five years in prison.

‘Making Things Worse’

Like private outpatient clinics, Warrior Transition Units aim to provide highly individualized care and ready access to case managers, therapists and doctors. But the care is organized in a distinctly Army way: noncommissioned officers, known as the cadre, maintain discipline and enforce rules, often using traditional drill-sergeant toughness with junior enlisted soldiers.

At the top of the command are traditional Army officers, not health care professionals: Brig. Gen. Gary Cheek, head of the Warrior Transition Command, was an artillery officer, and Colonel Grantham an intelligence officer.

Beneath them is what the Army calls its triad of care. Members of the cadre keep a close eye on individual soldiers, much like squad leaders in regular line units. Nurse case managers schedule appointments and assist with medications and therapy. And primary care managers — doctors, physicians’ assistants or nurse practitioners — oversee care and prescribe medicines.

The structure is intended to ensure that every soldier gets careful supervision and that Army values and discipline are maintained. But many soldiers at Fort Carson complained that discipline and insensitive treatment by cadre members made wounded soldiers feel as if they were viewed as fakers or weaklings.

James Agee, a former staff sergeant who transferred into the transition unit after returning from his second tour of Iraq in 2008, said he frequently heard cadre members verbally abuse medicated soldiers who were struggling to get out of bed for morning formation or stay awake for all-night duty.

“They would say, ‘These guys can’t do this because they are crazy,’ ” said Mr. Agee, who received a medical discharge from the Army. “It would make you feel like you were inferior.”

One Army specialist in the unit, who received diagnoses of post-traumatic stress syndrome and traumatic brain injury, said he was ordered to perform 24-hour guard duty repeatedly against the orders of his doctor. The specialist, who asked to remain anonymous because he feared repercussions, said he experienced flashbacks to Iraq during the long hours by himself.

In many cases, the noncommissioned officers have made it clear that they do not believe the psychological symptoms reported by the unit’s soldiers are real or particularly serious. At Fort Hood, Tex., a study conducted just before the shooting rampage there last November — which found that many soldiers in the Warrior Transition Unit thought their treatment relied too heavily on medication — also concluded that a majority of the cadre believed that soldiers were faking post-traumatic stress or exaggerating their symptoms.

Christina Perez, the wife of a transition unit soldier from Fort Carson, said she got into an ugly fight with a member of the cadre who was furious that she had gone over his head to request additional therapy for her husband, a sergeant first class who had sustained a brain injury during one of two tours in Iraq as a tank gunner.

In a meeting, the noncommissioned officer shouted that Ms. Perez’s husband did not deserve his uniform and that he should give it to her instead, Ms. Perez said in a police complaint. No charges were brought.

Eventually her husband, who has headaches and memory loss, was transferred to an inpatient psychiatric clinic in Denver while he awaits a medical discharge. “All they do is make things worse,” Ms. Perez said of the transition unit.

Last year, The Associated Press reported that the transition unit at Fort Bragg in North Carolina had a discipline rate three times as high as the 82nd Airborne Division, the base’s primary occupant.

General Cheek said the Army’s own survey of other major posts showed that discipline rates in transition units were about the same as in regular units.

He asserted that most cadre members, who receive extra pay and training for the job, do their jobs well, working long hours and spending weekends checking on soldiers. Discipline, he said, is a form of tough love.

“If we are going to maintain safe discipline, all rules must apply,” the general said. “We do have an expectation that our soldiers want to get better.”

Bureaucratic Delays

Sgt. Keith Nowicki was an intelligence analyst who was sent back early from his second deployment to Iraq in April 2008 because of severe post-traumatic stress disorder, said his wife, Ashley. Assigned to the Fort Carson transition unit, he spent nearly a year waiting for his medical discharge.

Instead of getting the help he hoped for, he spent much of the time in the unit alone, growing increasingly angry, drinking heavily and abusing Percocet. In early 2009, he separated from his wife. While on the phone with her in March 2009 he shot himself to death. He was due to be discharged at the end of the month.

Though Ms. Nowicki does not attribute her husband’s suicide to the long wait for his discharge, she said the slowness of the process and the lack of support from the transition unit added to his sense of hopelessness.

“It was just a bunch of red tape,” Ms. Nowicki said. “He would spend days trying to track down his own medical records.”

Army officials acknowledged that wait times for medical discharges at Fort Carson had grown. A major reason is that Fort Carson is part of a pilot program with the Department of Veterans Affairs in which the Army and the V.A. collaborate in evaluating soldiers’ injuries. The collaboration between the two bureaucracies is expected to speed up veterans benefits once a soldier leaves the Army, but it can lengthen the initial evaluation period, officials said.

Michael Crawford has been waiting more than a year for his medical discharge. As his anxiety and depression have worsened, so have his problems in the unit. His rank was recently reduced to private in punishment for overstaying leave and using marijuana.

But things are looking up, his mother believes: he will be able to stay with her in Michigan while awaiting his discharge. His mother, Sally Darrow, has already seen one son commit suicide. She believes that Michael would become the second if he had to return to Fort Carson and the transition unit.

“At home, with family and schoolmates, he’s dealing with things better,” Ms. Darrow said. “He’s not safe there.”



   

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Re: Killing America's Kids and Driving Them Insane
« Reply #881 on: April 25, 2010, 09:32:03 am »
No friendly waves only hatred for British troops in Afghan town In Sangin, says a farmer, 'people are sick of night raids and being treated badly by the foreigners'


Jon Boone
Guardian
April 23, 2010



British troops in Afghanistan's Upper Sangin valley. Photograph: Rupert Frere/AP


As with so many of the Helmand towns where the British are present the bazaar in Sangin is officially "thriving".

Indeed, recent visitors have to admit that there are signs of commerce in the long thin strip of shops. But the rest, says David Gill, a photographer who visited Sangin three times last year, is like "a ghost town in Death Valley where you drive through and all you see is a sign flapping in the wind".

In some of the more benign areas of Helmand children may offer the occasional wave to passing soldiers, but in Sangin all you can feel is the "intense hatred of a people who hate everything you stand for", Gill says. Development work has been glacial. The new "traditional courthouse" is little more than a room with six plastic chairs.

When the British arrived in June 2006 they had to fight while filling sandbags and constructing their base at FOB (Forward Operation Base) Jackson. Sometimes the base came close to being overrun.

The figures for British deaths in Sangin and its immediate surroundings make stark reading: of the 281 servicemen and women who have died in Afghanistan, 88 lost their lives there.

For some soldiers the notoriety of the posting brings out grim humour. They wear T-shirts with the motif "Wishtan you were here?", in reference to the notorious FOB Wishtan, with a mixture of pride and irony.

It took months to clear all the alleyways around Wishtan that had been intensively seeded with homemade bombs. No wonder Jerry Thomas, the brigadier in charge of British forces in Helmand when they first moved into Sangin, was said to be deeply sceptical about the wisdom of the move.

Today fighting is still intense, and in army spokesman Gordon Messenger's words, Sangin is "the most challenging area in which British troops operate".

Now the district is officially the country's most lethal place for foreign forces, responsible for more than 10% of daily casualties of the entire Nato mission, as a result of its particularly poisonous mix of drugs and tribal warfare. With lots of water and fertile land, Sangin is perfect for growing the poppies currently being harvested for their opium sap.

Sangin is also well suited as a trafficking hub because of its proximity to the national ring road, putting cities such as Herat and Kandahar in easy reach.

The drugs industry has every reason to fight against attempts to assert government control, making natural allies of the insurgents in the district.

The Afghan government is in no position to assert itself against such powerful narco-traffickers who hopelessly compromise what little government capacity does exist. According to a Kabul-based diplomat last year the district had only 50 Afghan policemen and about 350 soldiers.

The abusive and corrupt police force, whose members think nothing of beating and stealing from local people, has been a constant problem, with the British seen as the enforcement mechanism for deeply corrupt Afghan authorities.

Drugs and weak government are further complicated by a complex tribal situation. The fighting between armed factions during Afghanistan's civil war in the 1990s helped to fragment and weaken traditional tribal authority.

"The picture that emerges is one where a minority tribe controls the government and the majority, which is not in government, control the heroin. Everyone else gets angry and joins the Taliban," says one Kabul diplomat with knowledge of Helmand.

The people of Sangin blame inter-tribal fighting and the drug trade for the dire security situation, but also hold the foreign soldiers responsible for the chaos.

According to two farmers currently staying in Lashkar Gah who were contacted by the Guardian but did not want to be named, the behaviour of the British is by the far the biggest problem.

One said: "The Taliban do not even have a bakery that they can give bread to the people, but still most people support the Taliban – that's because people are sick of night raids and being treated badly by the foreigners."

This article was amended on 23 April 2010. The original subheading quoted a visiting photographer. This has been changed to quote a local farmer.
Resist. Rebel. Cry out to all peoples and nations from the sky as the lightening flashes from the east to the west and judge the living and the dead. Or choose submission and slavery.

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Offline LightCaster

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Re: Killing America's Kids and Driving Them Insane
« Reply #882 on: April 25, 2010, 11:48:24 am »
Yes, We Could...Get Out! Why We Won't Leave Afghanistan or Iraq


Tom Engelhardt
TomDispatch
Sat, 24 Apr 2010 16:50 EDT




Yes, we could. No kidding. We really could withdraw our massive armies, now close to 200,000 troops combined, from Afghanistan and Iraq (and that's not even counting our similarly large stealth army of private contractors, which helps keep the true size of our double occupations in the shadows). We could undoubtedly withdraw them all reasonably quickly and reasonably painlessly.

Not that you would know it from listening to the debates in Washington or catching the mainstream news. There, withdrawal, when discussed at all, seems like an undertaking beyond the waking imagination. In Iraq alone, all those bases to dismantle and millions of pieces of equipment to send home in a draw-down operation worthy of years of intensive effort, the sort of thing that makes the desperate British evacuation from Dunkirk in World War II look like a Sunday stroll in the park. And that's only the technical side of the matter.

Then there's the conviction that anything but a withdrawal that would make molasses in January look like the hare of Aesopian fable -- at least two years in Iraq, five to ten in Afghanistan -- would endanger the planet itself, or at least its most important country: us. Without our eternally steadying hand, the Iraqis and Afghans, it's taken for granted, would be lost. Without the help of U.S. forces, for example, would the Maliki government ever have been able to announce the death of the head of al-Qaeda in Iraq? Not likely, whereas the U.S. has knocked off its leadership twice, first in 2006, and again, evidently, last week.

Of course, before our troops entered Baghdad in 2003 and the American occupation of that country began, there was no al-Qaeda in Iraq. But that's a distant past not worth bringing up. And forget as well the fact that our invasions and wars have proven thunderously destructive, bringing chaos, misery, and death  in their wake, and turning, for instance, the health care system of Iraq, once considered an advanced country in the Arab world, into a disaster zone (that -- it goes without saying -- only we Americans are now equipped to properly fix). Similarly, while regularly knocking off Afghan civilians at checkpoints on their roads and in their homes, at their celebrations and at work, we ignore the fact that our invasion and occupation opened the way for the transformation of Afghanistan into the first all-drug-crop agricultural nation and so the planet's premier narco-nation. It's not just that the country now has an almost total monopoly on growing opium poppies (hence heroin), but according to the latest U.N. report, it's now cornering the hashish market as well. That's diversification for you.

It's a record to stand on and, evidently, to stay on, even to expand on. We're like the famed guest who came to dinner, broke a leg, wouldn't leave, and promptly took over the lives of the entire household. Only in our case, we arrived, broke someone else's leg, and then insisted we had to stay and break many more legs, lest the world become a far more terrible place.

It's known and accepted in Washington that, if we were to leave Afghanistan precipitously, the Taliban would take over, al-Qaeda would be back big time in no time, and then more of our giant buildings would obviously bite the dust. And yet, the longer we've stayed and the more we've surged, the more resurgent the Taliban has become, the more territory this minority insurgency has spread into. If we stay long enough, we may, in fact, create the majority insurgency we claim to fear.

It's common wisdom in the U.S. that, before we pull our military out, Afghanistan, like Iraq, must be secured as a stable enough ally, as well as at least a fragile junior democracy, which consigns real departure to some distant horizon. And that sense of time may help explain the desire of U.S. officials to hinder Afghan President Hamid Karzai's attempts to negotiate with the Taliban and other rebel factions now. Washington, it seems, favors a "reconciliation process" that will last years and only begin after the U.S. military seizes the high ground on the battlefield.

The reality that dare not speak its name in Washington is this: no matter what might happen in an Afghanistan that lacked us -- whether (as in the 1990s) the various factions there leaped for each other's throats, or the Taliban established significant control, though (as in the 1990s) not over the whole country -- the stakes for Americans would be minor in nature. Not that anyone of significance here would say such a thing.

Tell me, what kind of a stake could Americans really have in one of the most impoverished lands on the planet, about as distant from us as could be imagined, geographically, culturally, and religiously? Yet, as if to defy commonsense, we've been fighting there -- by proxy and directly -- on and off for 30 years now with no end in sight.

Most Americans evidently remain convinced that "safe haven" there was the key to al-Qaeda's success, and that Afghanistan was the only place in which that organization could conceivably have planned 9/11, even though perfectly real planning also took place in Hamburg, Germany, which we neither bombed nor invaded.

In a future in which our surging armies actually succeeded in controlling Afghanistan and denying it to al-Qaeda, what about Somalia, Yemen, or, for that matter, England? It's now conveniently forgotten that the first, nearly successful attempt to take down one of the World Trade Center towers in 1993 was planned in the wilds of New Jersey. Had the Bush administration been paying the slightest attention on September 10, 2001, or had reasonable precautions been taken, including locking the doors of airplane cockpits, 9/11 and so the invasion of Afghanistan would have been relegated to the far-fetched plot of some Tom Clancy novel.


Vietnam and Afghanistan

Have you noticed, by the way, that there's always some obstacle in the path of withdrawal? Right now, in Iraq, it's the aftermath of the March 7th election, hailed as proof that we brought democracy to the Middle East and so, whatever our missteps, did the right thing. As it happens, the election, as many predicted at the time, has led to a potentially explosive gridlock and has yet to come close to resulting in a new governing coalition. With violence on the rise, we're told, the planned drawdown of American troops to the 50,000 level by August is imperiled. Already, the process, despite repeated assurances, seems to be proceeding slowly.

And yet, the thought that an American withdrawal should be held hostage to events among Iraqis all these years later, seems curious. There's always some reason to hesitate -- and it never has to do with us. Withdrawal would undoubtedly be far less of a brain-twister if Washington simply committed itself wholeheartedly to getting out, and if it stopped convincing itself that the presence of the U.S. military in distant lands was essential to a better world (and, of course, to a controlling position on planet Earth).

The annals of history are well stocked with countries which invaded and occupied other lands and then left, often ingloriously and under intense pressure. But they did it.

It's worth remembering that, in 1975, when the South Vietnamese Army collapsed and we essentially fled the country, we abandoned staggering amounts of equipment there. Helicopters were pushed over the sides of aircraft carriers to make space; barrels of money were burned at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon; military bases as large as anything we've built in Iraq or Afghanistan fell into North Vietnamese hands; and South Vietnamese allies were deserted in the panic of the moment. Nonetheless, when there was no choice, we got out. Not elegantly, not nicely, not thoughtfully, not helpfully, but out.

Keep in mind that, then too, disaster was predicted for the planet, should we withdraw precipitously -- including rolling communist takeovers of country after country, the loss of "credibility" for the American superpower, and a murderous bloodbath in Vietnam itself. All were not only predicted by Washington's Cassandras, but endlessly cited in the war years as reasons not to leave. And yet here was the shock that somehow never registered among all the so-called lessons of Vietnam: nothing of that sort happened afterwards.

Today, Vietnam is a reasonably prosperous land with friendly relations with its former enemy, the United States. After Vietnam, no other "dominos" fell and there was no bloodbath in that country. Of course, it could have been different -- and elsewhere, sometimes, it has been. But even when local skies darken, the world doesn't end.

And here's the truth of the matter: the world won't end, not in Iraq, not in Afghanistan, not in the United States, if we end our wars and withdraw. The sky won't fall, even if the U.S. gets out reasonably quickly, even if subsequently blood is spilled and things don't go well in either country.

We got our troops there remarkably quickly. We're quite capable of removing them at a similar pace. We could, that is, leave. There are, undoubtedly, better and worse ways of doing this, ways that would further penalize the societies we've invaded, and ways that might be of some use to them, but either way we could go.


A Brief History of American Withdrawal

Of course, there's a small problem here. All evidence indicates that Washington doesn't want to withdraw -- not really, not from either region. It has no interest in divesting itself of the global control-and-influence business, or of the military-power racket. That's hardly surprising since we're talking about a great imperial power and control (or at least imagined control) over the planet's strategic oil lands.

And then there's another factor to consider: habit. Over the decades, Washington has gotten used to staying. The U.S. has long been big on arriving, but not much for departure. After all, 65 years later, striking numbers of American forces are still garrisoning the two major defeated nations of World War II, Germany and Japan. We still have about three dozen military bases on the modest-sized Japanese island of Okinawa, and are at this very moment fighting tooth and nail, diplomatically speaking, not to be forced to abandon one of them. The Korean War was suspended in an armistice 57 years ago and, again, striking numbers of American troops still garrison South Korea.

Similarly, to skip a few decades, after the Serbian air campaign of the late 1990s, the U.S. built-up the enormous Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo with its seven-mile perimeter, and we're still there. After Gulf War I, the U.S. either built or built up military bases and other facilities in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and Bahrain in the Persian Gulf, as well as the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. And it's never stopped building up its facilities throughout the Gulf region. In this sense, leaving Iraq, to the extent we do, is not quite as significant a matter as sometimes imagined, strategically speaking. It's not as if the U.S. military were taking off for Dubuque.

A history of American withdrawal would prove a brief book indeed. Other than Vietnam, the U.S. military withdrew from the Philippines under the pressure of "people power" (and a local volcano) in the early 1990s, and from Saudi Arabia, in part under the pressure of Osama bin Laden. In both countries, however, it has retained or regained a foothold in recent years. President Ronald Reagan pulled American troops out of Lebanon after a devastating 1983 suicide truck bombing of a Marines barracks there, and the president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, functionally expelled the U.S. from Manta Air Base in 2008 when he refused to renew its lease. ("We'll renew the base on one condition: that they let us put a base in Miami -- an Ecuadorian base," he said slyly.) And there were a few places like the island of Grenada, invaded in 1983, that simply mattered too little to Washington to stay.

Unfortunately, whatever the administration, the urge to stay has seemed a constant. It's evidently written into Washington's DNA and embedded deep in domestic politics where sure-to-come "cut and run" charges and blame for "losing" Iraq or Afghanistan would cow any administration. Not surprisingly, when you look behind the main news stories in both Iraq and Afghanistan, you can see signs of the urge to stay everywhere.

In Iraq, while President Obama has committed himself to the withdrawal of American troops by the end of 2011, plenty of wiggle room remains. Already, the New York Times reports, General Ray Odierno, commander of U.S. forces in that country, is lobbying Washington to establish "an Office of Military Cooperation within the American Embassy in Baghdad to sustain the relationship after... Dec. 31, 2011." ("We have to stay committed to this past 2011," Odierno is quoted as saying. "I believe the administration knows that. I believe that they have to do that in order to see this through to the end. It's important to recognize that just because U.S. soldiers leave, Iraq is not finished.")

If you want a true gauge of American withdrawal, keep your eye on the mega-bases the Pentagon has built in Iraq since 2003, especially gigantic Balad Air Base (since the Iraqis will not, by the end of 2011, have a real air force of their own), and perhaps Camp Victory, the vast, ill-named U.S. base and command center abutting Baghdad International Airport on the outskirts of the capital. Keep an eye as well on the 104-acre U.S. embassy built along the Tigris River in downtown Baghdad. At present, it's the largest "embassy" on the planet and represents something new in "diplomacy," being essentially a military-base-cum-command-and-control-center for the region. It is clearly going nowhere, withdrawal or not.

In fact, recent reports indicate that in the near future "embassy" personnel, including police trainers, military officials connected to that Office of Coordination, spies, U.S. advisors attached to various Iraqi ministries, and the like, may be more than doubled from the present staggering staff level of 1,400 to 3,000 or above. (The embassy, by the way, has requested $1,875 billion for its operations in fiscal year 2011, and that was assuming a staffing level of only 1,400.) Realistically, as long as such an embassy remains at Ground Zero Iraq, we will not have withdrawn from that country.

Similarly, we have a giant U.S. embassy in Kabul (being expanded) and another mega-embassy being built in the Pakistani capital Islamabad. These are not, rest assured, signs of departure. Nor is the fact that in Afghanistan and Pakistan, everything war-connected seems to be surging, even if in ways often not noticed here. President Obama's surge decision has been described largely in terms of those 30,000-odd extra troops he's sending in, not in terms of the shadow army of 30,000 or more extra private contractors taking on various military roles (and dying off the books in striking numbers); nor the extra contingent of CIA types and the escalating drone war they are overseeing in the Pakistani tribal borderlands; nor the quiet doubling of Special Operations units assigned to hunt down the Taliban leadership; nor the extra State department officials for the "civilian surge"; nor, for instance, the special $10 million "pool" of funds that up to 120 U.S. Special Operations forces, already in those borderlands training the paramilitary Pakistani Frontier Corps, may soon have available to spend "winning hearts and minds."

Perhaps it's historically accurate to say that great powers generally leave home, head elsewhere armed to the teeth, and then experience the urge to stay. With our trillion-dollar-plus  wars and yearly trillion-dollar-plus national-security budget, there's a lot at stake in staying, and undoubtedly in fighting two, three, many Afghanistans (and Iraqs) in the years to come.

Sooner or later, we will leave both Iraq and Afghanistan. It's too late in the history of this planet to occupy them forever and a day. Better sooner.

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com. He is the author of The End of Victory Culture, a history of the Cold War and beyond, as well as of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing. His latest book, The American Way of War (Haymarket Books), will be published in June.
Resist. Rebel. Cry out to all peoples and nations from the sky as the lightening flashes from the east to the west and judge the living and the dead. Or choose submission and slavery.

The light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.  (John 1:5)

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Re: Killing America's Kids and Driving Them Insane
« Reply #883 on: April 25, 2010, 01:00:10 pm »
Afghan ‘Exit Strategy’ Won’t Involve Removing Any Troops Road Map Will Involve 'Decades' of Additional Deployments


Jason Ditz
antiwar.com
April 23, 2010




A NATO summit in Estonia has culminated with the much-hyped "road map," an exit strategy for the alliance from Afghanistan after nearly a decade of war. It will detail the alliance’s new strategy for the conflict and, as is so often the case, lower the bar for what constitutes ’success’ in the nation.

Amazingly, initial indications are that the "exit strategy" won’t involve actually removing any troops, but instead will hand over select provinces to the Karzai government while keeping the NATO troops there too for support. This "handover" is expected to last decades, though officials were quick to note it was "not calendar-driven."

The public announcement has yet to come, but it looks as though the big winner in the strategy is President Karzai, as NATO civilian chief Mark Sedwill ’s comments suggested the alliance will basically shrug off his government’s massive corruption, apparently in the hope that it will eventually grow into a responsible regime.

NATO Chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned that no exit strategy could involve a "run for the exits," and there seems to be no danger of that, as the alliance’s plan seems to cement NATO’s presence as an occupying power over much of Afghanistan for untold decades to come.

Resist. Rebel. Cry out to all peoples and nations from the sky as the lightening flashes from the east to the west and judge the living and the dead. Or choose submission and slavery.

The light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.  (John 1:5)

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Re: Killing America's Kids and Driving Them Insane
« Reply #884 on: April 26, 2010, 07:05:51 am »
Noel Koch Ousted: Pentagon's Head Wounded-Soldier Care Official Forced To Resign


by LOLITA C. BALDOR | 04/25/10 04:26 PM |
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/25/noel-koch-ousted-pentagon_n_551225.html





WASHINGTON — The Pentagon official in charge of the wounded warrior program said Sunday he has been forced to resign, as the military continues to struggle with how best to care for troops injured in combat.

Noel Koch said in an e-mail that he was asked to step down by Clifford Stanley, the undersecretary of defense for personnel. Koch had been serving as the deputy undersecretary of defense for wounded warrior care and transition policy.

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said Defense Secretary Robert Gates had asked Stanley to do a full review of the Pentagon's personnel and readiness office. He said this is not the first nor the last change to take place.

"He was given wide latitude to make needed changes so that our men and women in uniform are better served," said Morrell. "What you're seeing is that the overhaul of that vitally important office is under way."

Koch said he believes the decision was unjust and that he resigned "under duress" after Stanley told him he had no confidence in him. The Pentagon had no comment.

"No explanation was given, although I pressed for one," he said. "No prior indication of dissatisfaction with the work of this office was cited."

Koch said the wounded warrior program has done good work during the past 11 months since his appointment to lead the new office.

Nearly nine years of war, in Afghanistan and Iraq, has physically, mentally and emotionally battered the military, sending thousands home with severe injuries and spawning spikes in suicides and post-traumatic stress issues.

Officials have scrambled to set up transition units to help wounded troops recover and return to society or even the military, but the flood of patients and the complexities of their injuries have often overwhelmed the system.


On the Net:

Defense Department: http://www.defenselink.mil


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Re: Killing America's Kids and Driving Them Insane
« Reply #885 on: April 26, 2010, 09:17:32 am »
US-NATO Occupation Forces in Afghanistan: Pullout or Chased Out?


by Bunn Nagara
The Star
April 25, 2010




Foreign occupation troops in Afghanistan are caught between an anticipated withdrawal and an expected rout.

TWO days ago, Nato came to an inevitable conclusion: start handing control of Afghanistan back to the Afghan people later this year. That was the thrust of the Nato meeting in Tallinn, Estonia, during the week.

The eventual pullout might not have been part of the original plan when US forces invaded and ejected the Taliban regime in 2001. After all, Afghans live in a strategic region with layers of intrigue overlaid with oil pipelines in or around Central Asia, the Caspian, and certain transnational corporations running through some nations while bypassing others.

Oil as a geopolitical factor has been as influential as it has been invisible, and the Bush administration that invaded Iraq and Afghanistan has been the most informed by oil interests yet. Besides, like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Taliban Afghanistan had posed as such a convenient and tempting target when they refused to “cooperate” quietly.

Nonetheless, a projected winding down of US-led occupation forces later this year accords with US President Barack Obama’s plan to withdraw US troops from July 2011. Officially, this would first need to be approved by the Afghan government this July.

However, the proposed schedules are still very tentative when seen from either the Nato or the US standpoint. Realities on the ground indicate that various militant groups in Afghanistan or in neighbouring Pakistan are regrouping, and raring to “test” local government strength once the occupying forces withdraw.

Equally, the presence of foreign forces does not discourage militant attacks on them or on local villagers in the way. The status of foreign troops as occupiers only affirms their role as legitimate targets, for nationalistic, religious, local political or some self-interested purposes.

Then when the occupation forces retaliate against suspected insurgent hideouts, innocent bystanders often get maimed or killed as well. Militant groups and local communities have different reasons for ridding their country of foreign occupiers, that being a hallmark of Afghan history.

Such are some of the undercurrents of the occupation that the foreign forces have had to improvise to stay ahead, or just stay alive. This constant need to evolve policy in the field is crucial, albeit seldom appreciated in central headquarters in Washington.

The latest need involves deciding the future of small, remote military outposts that come under frequent militant attack. These attacks resulted in the troop withdrawal from Korengal Valley in mid-April, and now the issue is whether to maintain positions like Combat Outpost (COP) Spera in eastern Khost province.

Militant attacks usually involve a mutual exchange of fire with some casualties, without the insurgents defeating the occupation troops. But the larger questions are how long these outposts can continue to endure a war of attrition, and whether remote outposts are worth the trouble.

Operationally, the militants know where the occupation troops are, but not vice-versa. The militants then attack at will, usually at night, making the troops sitting ducks before melting away in the darkness.

Whatever the balance of casualties, the insurgent attacks do exact a toll in terms of morale. And what do the small remote outposts actually achieve anyway?

The standard answer is that they help check the cross-border passage of militant fighters and their weapons. Khost is only a little over 100km from Kabul, and when outposts there are referred to as “remote”, it shows how much more of the country the Afghan government does not control.

More significantly perhaps, Khost is only some 25km from the Pakistan border. The fact that many of the Afghan Taliban as well as Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda fighters are now based in Pakistan, and make border crossings with apparent ease, also shows how little effective policing is done.

It also shows that militant threats can no longer be contained within separate national jurisdictions.

Militancy and defending against it are practically seamless in this version of a “borderless world”, as acknowledged by the now-common collective term “AfPak”.

Defensive actions by the authorities, however, are different in generally remaining inadequate. The asymmetrical, unstreamlined, non-harmonised policies between the Afghan and Pakistan governments instead only encourage militants to be bolder.

And yet the situation could still get worse: besides al-Qaeda and the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, others like Lashka-e-Taiba, the so-called “Indian Mujahideen” and assorted others might yet coordinate and cooperate among themselves more than they have ever done.

The Taliban themselves have already shown a greater resilience and tenacity than any of the occupation forces had expected or thought possible.

For example, after Pakistan and occupation troops celebrated action that “flushed” the Taliban from South Waziristan, the result was only that they moved to North Waziristan.

Politically, occupation troops would look better leaving on their own terms on schedule rather than get chased out like so many others in Afghan history. The challenge then becomes leaving before things get too rough, making withdrawal look like defeat; but would the militants oblige?

Amid these developments, Nato is talking the long talk. It said its forces would not leave before the job of soundly defeating the militants is done, and that the transfer of control to Afghan authorities must be sustainable and irreversible.

Doing all that may require abandoning all known deadlines for withdrawal. Nato’s hopes amount to little more than a pep talk, but when troop morale is declining even a pep talk should help.
Resist. Rebel. Cry out to all peoples and nations from the sky as the lightening flashes from the east to the west and judge the living and the dead. Or choose submission and slavery.

The light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.  (John 1:5)

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Re: Killing America's Kids and Driving Them Insane
« Reply #886 on: April 27, 2010, 07:32:35 am »
Anger following Killings of Civilans by US NATO Occupation Forces: 16 Nato Oil Tankers Torched in Afghanistan


Global Research
April 26, 2010


PESHAWAR: Angry people on Sunday staged a protest against the killing of civilians by foreign forces and blew up 16 Nato oil tankers in the Kulangar area in the Logar province of Afghanistan.

A local resident told the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) the mob attacked the Paktia-bound logistics convoy early in the day, blowing up at least 16 oil tankers. “The protest came to an end a short while ago but the Kabul-Gardez Highway is still not opened,” he said, adding that though the American and Afghan troops had come to the scene, it is believed the road would be opened for traffic tomorrow.

He said the protesters were chanting slogans against Karzai and the US, asking the authorities to punish the foreign troops for killing civilians. Logar Governor’s spokesman Din Muhammad Darvesh told AIP that last night foreign forces launched an operation, killing three persons in Nasarkhel area near Pul-e-Alam in Logar. Logar Provincial assembly Speaker Abdul Hakim Sulemankhil told AIP that deceased were local.


Afghan protesters burn NATO trucks in response to killing of 3 civilians


Joshua Partlow
The Washington Post



Afghan security forces stand guard near
trucks burned by countrymen


Afghan protesters torched NATO supply vehicles in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, hours after allegations emerged that U.S. and Afghan troops had killed three civilians, including two brothers, in their home.

The demonstration occurred in Logar province after a nighttime joint patrol of U.S. Special Operations forces and Afghan soldiers fatally shot three people and arrested two others. NATO officials said the men were insurgents who had displayed "hostile intent." One of those captured was a low-level Taliban commander who planned suicide bombings, they said.

But after daybreak, more than 100 people gathered on a main road in Logar to protest the killings and the death in a separate incident of an Islamic scholar, according to Afghan officials. Military operations at night are deeply unpopular, and Afghan officials have called for them to stop. The furious crowd blocked traffic and set fire to at least 10 fuel tankers using hand grenades, said the provincial police chief, Ghulam Mustafa Moisini.

"If they were insurgents, why are the people so angry?" asked provincial government spokesman Din Mohammad Darwish.

A relative of the slain men, Abdul Ghani, said that dozens of Afghan and U.S. soldiers appeared at his family's home about 2 a.m. When they entered, a chaotic scene ensued, and two of his brothers, Haji Abdul Aziz and Abdul Waqil, were shot and killed. Two other brothers, Abdul Wahid and Abdul Hai, were arrested, he said.

Ghani said that his brothers work as shopkeepers and have no links to the insurgency.

"Not only the families of the victims hate the U.S. forces," he said. "Everyone is turning against them."

The police chief, however, corroborated the NATO claims that the men killed and captured were insurgents. The joint patrol collected weapons, including AK-47s and pistols, along with Pakistani passports, he said. The people knew this, but protested anyway, Moisini said, a sign of either grass-roots support for the Taliban or intimidation by the insurgents.

"Whether they are insurgents or civilians, the people go and protest," he said.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan on Sunday, a man walked into a crowded market and exploded himself, killing at least two people and wounding more than 10 others in Zabul province.

The bombing did not appear to target any foreign or military target, said Nazir Ali Wahidi, the Afghan intelligence chief in the province.

"The terrorists just want to sow fear and panic among the people," he said. "That's their main goal."

Sun, 25 Apr 2010 22:14 EDT
Resist. Rebel. Cry out to all peoples and nations from the sky as the lightening flashes from the east to the west and judge the living and the dead. Or choose submission and slavery.

The light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.  (John 1:5)

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Re: Killing America's Kids and Driving Them Insane
« Reply #887 on: April 27, 2010, 08:07:37 am »
US military escalates its dirty war in Afghanistan


James Cogan
World Socialist Website
Tue, 27 Apr 2010 08:36 EDT




The New York Times reported Sunday that American special forces units are operating in and around the Afghan city of Kandahar, assassinating or capturing alleged leaders and militants of the Taliban resistance ahead of the major US-NATO offensive scheduled for June.

Suggestive of the sinister and murderous character of such operations, the Times noted that the "opening salvos of the offensive are being carried out in the shadows". It reported that "elite" units had been "picking up or picking off insurgent leaders" for the past several weeks.

A "senior American military officer" boasted that "large numbers of [the] insurgent leadership based in and around Kandahar have been captured or killed", but that it was "still a contested battle space."

The Times reported that "more than a dozen military and civilian officials directly involved in the Kandahar offensive" had agreed to speak about the special forces' activities because it would help "scare off insurgents" before the bulk of American troops move into Taliban-held areas of the city. This claim is either patent nonsense or deliberate deception. The Taliban do not require an article in the American media to inform them that "large numbers" of their fighters are being killed or captured.

The real motive for the article is to introduce the audience of the New York Times and broader public opinion to the reality of the dirty war that the Obama administration is presiding over in Afghanistan. Assassination, or alternatively, detention without trial under the harshest conditions, is the preferred method of the US military to suppress resistance to the neo-colonial agenda of US imperialism.

The commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, is applying the same tactics that he used during the Bush administration's "surge" in Iraq in 2007 and 2008, when he was serving under General David Petraeus as the head of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).

JSOC units are drawn from the Army's Delta Force and Ranger battalions, the Navy Seals and specialized units of the Air Force. Regular Marine and Army battalions were used during the battles for Karbala, Najaf and Fallujah in 2004. The Iraq "surge" was marked by the use of JSOC, aided by local collaborators, to kill or capture suspected insurgents ahead of the deployment of larger formations into resistance-held areas.

The secretive mass killings and stories of brutal imprisonment generated terror in urban centers like Ramadi, Baqubah, Mosul, Basra, Amarah and the suburbs of Baghdad. It is credited by sections of the US military as playing an equally decisive role in subduing resistance as the parallel policy of bribing insurgents to cease fighting in exchange for amnesty and cash.

The coming assault on Kandahar is the centerpiece of the Obama administration's plan to shatter the Afghan insurgency and finally impose American control over the country. Kandahar and the neighboring province of Helmand have been the main support bases of the Taliban movement since the mid-1990s. Large swathes of both provinces have remained under its influence since the US invasion in 2001. The majority of the predominantly ethnic Pashtun population is virulently opposed to the presence of foreign forces. They do not accept the authority of the thoroughly corrupt Afghan puppet government headed by President Hamid Karzai.

The bulk of the 30,000 additional troops ordered to Afghanistan this year by Obama are being deployed to either Kandahar or Helmand. Reflecting the views of the White House and the Pentagon, the New York Times referred to the coming operation as a "make-or-break offensive".

Thousands of troops have been positioned to cut off the possibility of reinforcements to or escape from Kandahar. According to the Times' sources, American units have established "several dozen" positions guarding the roads in and out of the city. A 12,000-strong US, British and Canadian force and 10,000 Afghan government soldiers will eventually be involved in the assault.

Before they are moved in, however, JSOC's death squads have been unleashed.

An unnamed US official told the Los Angeles Times last month that a number of JSOC's units had been transferred to Afghanistan under the Obama administration because "hunting season is over in Iraq". According to the LA Times' sources, JSOC currently has 5,800 personnel at its disposal in Afghanistan - double the number used during the Iraq surge. They are conducting assassination or snatch missions across the country, assisted by Special Forces units from Britain, Australia, New Zealand and some NATO states.

There is no concrete figure as to how many alleged insurgents have been assassinated in Kandahar or elsewhere in Afghanistan. JSOC operations take place under the cloak of total censorship. Nor does the US military provide any details as to the criteria used by JSOC to determine its choice of victims. It is not known, for example, if the killings are limited to armed combatants, or extends to anyone who provides political or material support to the insurgency. There is also no accountability as to how the identity of targets is verified, given that most operations take place in the dead of night, or over how many civilians are being killed or injured in the process.

There is a litany of recorded cases in which non-combatants were massacred during operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In the most recent example, raids last Friday and Saturday night on alleged Taliban in the eastern Afghan province of Logar resulted in the death of the local school principal and religious leader. The killing provoked an eruption of anger. A crowd of Afghans surrounded and set ablaze a column of 12 trucks carrying fuel to a nearby NATO base.

A teacher from the area, Mohammed Sharif, told the New York Times, "People are fed up with these night raids and wilful operations. They are raiding houses during the night, killing innocent people. Sometimes they kill opposition people as well, but usually they are harming ordinary and innocent people."

Alleged insurgents who are detained disappear into various US and Afghan government-run prisons. The British Broadcasting Corporation reported on April 15 that a secret area of a prison facility at Bagram Air Base is being used to subject detainees to beatings, sleep deprivation and psychological stress, as part of an interrogation regime. The allegations were based on interviews or signed statements by nine former inmates. The charges were predictably denied by the US military.

JSOC also works closely with the CIA's "Special Activities Division", which is particularly involved in the assassination of alleged Afghan and Pakistani Taliban militants in the remote tribal agencies of North West Pakistan. The main method currently used for the killings is Hellfire missiles launched from remotely flown Predator drones. According to the Pakistani military, such strikes have slaughtered well over 700 innocent civilians since Obama took office, fueling support in the border region for the anti-occupation insurgency. On the weekend, two more Predator attacks were carried out in the agency of North Waziristan, killing at least 12 people.

An article in Monday's New York Times detailed the latest innovations of the CIA to carry out its remote-controlled assassinations. They include the coffee-cup-sized, 35-pound "Small Smart Weapon" that can be "fitted with four different guidance systems that allow it to home in on targets as small as a single person in complete darkness" and a "small thermobaric warhead, which detonates a cocktail of explosive powders on impact to create a pressure wave that kills humans but leaves structures relatively intact".

Justified in 2001 as a "war on terrorism", the Afghan occupation has always been an attempt to impose US dominance over a strategic area of Central Asia. The only change in the conduct of the war from the Bush to the Obama White Houses has been the escalation of the number of troops involved and the greater use of a secretive apparatus of assassins to carry out the murderous repression of the Afghan people.
Resist. Rebel. Cry out to all peoples and nations from the sky as the lightening flashes from the east to the west and judge the living and the dead. Or choose submission and slavery.

The light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.  (John 1:5)

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Re: Killing America's Kids and Driving Them Insane
« Reply #888 on: April 27, 2010, 08:15:11 pm »
The American Military is Creating an Environmental Disaster in Afghanistan


by Matthew Nasuti
Global Research
April 27, 2010




The American military presence in Afghanistan consists of fleets of aircraft, helicopters, armored vehicles, weapons, equipment, troops and facilities. Since 2001, they have generated millions of kilograms of hazardous, toxic and radioactive wastes. The Kabul Press asks the simple question:


“What have the Americans done with all that waste?”


The answer is chilling in that virtually all of it appears to have been buried, burned or secretly disposed of into the air, soil, groundwater and surface waters of Afghanistan. While the Americans may begin to withdraw next year, the toxic chemicals they leave behind will continue to pollute for centuries. Any abandoned radioactive waste may stain the Afghan countryside for thousands of years. Afghanistan has been described in the past as the graveyard of foreign armies. Today, Afghanistan has a different title:


“Afghanistan is the toxic dumping ground for foreign armies.”


The (U.S.) Air Force Times ran an editorial on March 1, 2010, that read: “Stamp Out Burn Pits” We reprint here the first half of that editorial:

 
“A growing number of military medical professionals believe burn pits are causing a wave of respiratory and other illnesses among troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Found on almost all U.S. bases in the war zones, these open-air trash sites operate 24 hours a day, incinerating trash of all forms — including plastic bottles, paint, petroleum products, unexploded ordinance, hazardous materials, even amputated limbs and medical waste. Their smoke plumes belch dioxin, carbon monoxide and other toxins skyward, producing a toxic fog that hangs over living and working areas. Yet while the Air Force fact sheet flatly states that burn pits “can be harmful to human health and environment and should only be used until more suitable disposal capabilities are established,” the Pentagon line is that burn pits have “no known long-term health effects.”

 
On April 12, 2010, the Richmond Times-Dispatch carried an article by David Zucchino who investigated the American burn pits in Iraq. He interviewed Army Sgt. 1st Class Francis Jaeger who hauled military waste to the Balad burn pit which was being operated by a civilian contractor for the Pentagon. Jaeger told Zucchino:


“We were told to burn everything - electronics, bloody gauze, the medics’ biohazard bags, surgical gloves, cardboard. It all went up in smoke.”


The Pentagon now admits to operating 84 “official” burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. The number of unofficial burn pits is not known. The Pentagon claims that it is phasing out its burn pits in favor of incinerators and that 27 incinerators are currently operating in Iraq and Afghanistan with 82 more to be added in the near future.

 
According to a website called the “Burn Pits Action Center,” hundreds of American veterans who came in contact with burn pit smoke have been diagnosed with cancer, neurological diseases, cardiovascular disease, breathing and sleeping problems and various skin rashes. In 2009, they filed more than 30 lawsuits in Federal courts across the United States, naming Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR), and its former parent company Halliburton. These companies were named because of their involvement in the LOGCAP (Logistics Civil Augmentation Program) contracts for Iraq and Afghanistan. Several KBR entities either managed or assisted in the management of the American military’s waste in both countries and allegedly operated some or all of the burn pits. Additional lawsuits were filed in 2010, including one in Federal District Court in New Jersey.

 
The lawsuits reveal that the Pentagon has ignored American and international environmental laws and the results appear to be the widespread release of hazardous pollutants into the air, soil, surface water and groundwater across Afghanistan. This is a persistent problem that continues today. Unlike Saudi Arabia which insisted that American forces cleanup their pollution after the war to oust Iraq from Kuwait in 1991, or the Government of Canada which likewise insisted on a strict cleanup of American bases on its soil, the Government of Afghanistan has been unable to force the Americans and their allies to repair all the environmental damage that they have caused and continue to cause. Afghanistan does not want to wind up like Vietnam. While American ground combat units withdrew from South Vietnam in 1972, neither Vietnam nor its people have recovered from the long term environmental damage and mutagenic effects that American military operations and their exotic chemicals caused.

 
This article summarizes the problem of America’s military wastes and examines the types of hazardous wastes that are likely to have been released into Afghanistan.

 
Part 2 of this series will address the contradictory responses by the Pentagon to this problem and it will explore one of the remedies that the Pentagon is currently implementing, which is to phase out the burn pits, replacing them with incinerators. The article examines the flaws in that strategy and why Afghanistan should carefully consider whether to permit the continued use of military incinerators.

 
Part 3 of this series will set out the recommendations of the author to the Government of Afghanistan on how to investigate and clean up the pollution of Afghanistan’s countryside caused by the burn pits, landfills and other disposal facilities used by American forces.

 
The Sources or Means by Which the Various Wastes Are Being Released

 
The American military hazardous wastes that are believed to have entered the air, soil, groundwater and surface water of Afghanistan did so through the following methods (this list is partial only):

Burn pits

Incinerators

Burying/landfilling of the waste and ash

Intentional dumping

Accidental spills

Surface runoff

Leaking storage tanks, sumps and basins

Latrines


Categories of Amercian Military Waste
 

The American military’s waste, at this time, cannot be completely characterized. The volume and variety of waste (i.e., thousands of different chemicals) are not known and there are certain to be classified items and materials which have been brought into Afghanistan for which there may be no documentation. Regardless of that, much is known about the materials and chemicals that the military routinely uses and about the waste that it routinely generates. Most American military wastes will falls into one of the following twelve (12) categories:

 
The Dirty Dozen:

 
1. Fuel leaks and spills. These include releases of aviation fuel, gasoline and diesel fuel. These releases would range from large releases at American airbases of hundreds or even thousands of liters, to minor spills at Forward Operating Bases and combat outposts as soldiers seek to refill diesel generators. Petroleum residues have the ability to leach rapidly into underground drinking water aquifers and create plumes that will permanently contaminate local wells. There is no known way to completely remediate a groundwater source after it has been contaminated with hydrocarbons.

 
2. Paints, asbestos, solvents, grease, cleaning solutions (such as perchloethylene) and building materials that contain formaldehyde, copper, arsenic and hydrogen cyanide.

 
3. Hydraulic fluids, aircraft de-icing fluids, antifreeze and used oil. Used oil is carcinogenic, anti-freeze is poisonous, de-icing fluids can contain hazardous ethylene and propylene glycol, along with toxic additives such as benzotriazoce (which is a corrosion and flame inhibitor). Hydraulic fluids can contain TPP (triphenyl phosphate).

 
4. Pesticide/poison leaks and spills: Afghanistan apparently has no list of the pesticides, fungicides, termiticides and other poisons that the Americans brought into Afghanistan and used, spilled and released into the countryside in order to control flies, mosquitos, ants, fleas and rodents. The military refers to such practices as “vector control.” It is expected that the list of such neuro-toxins and the quantity sprayed or spilled throughout Afghanistan is staggering.

 
5. Lead, nickel, zinc and cadmium battery waste and acids (which are toxic and/or corrosive).

 
6. Electronic waste (or E-waste). This includes computers, printers, faxes, screens, televisions, radios, refrigerators, communications gear, test equipment. They contain cancer-causing chemicals such as the flame retardant PBDE (polybrominated diphenyl ethers), PCDD (polychlorinated dioxins), barium, copper, lead, zinc, cadmium oxides and cadmium sulphides and trivalent antimony, which is eco-toxic.

 
7. Light bulbs. This may not seem important but many military light bulbs are fluorescent and therefore contain toxic levels of mercury. Disposal of these light bulbs in ordinary landfills is prohibited in the United States.

 
8. Plastics. The U.S. military uses thousands of different types and formulations of plastic. While most are harmless in their present state, such as plastic water bottles and Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) piping, the military has been burning its plastic waste in Afghanistan. When burned, many plastics release a deadly mix of chemicals including dioxins, furans, benzene, di 2-ethylhexyl phthalates (DEHP), hydrochloric acid, benzo(a)pyrene (BAP) and various acids and chlorine gas (which is a neurotoxin). Breathing a few seconds of this mixture in a concentrated form would likely be fatal.

 
9. Medical Waste. Infectious disease waste and biohazard materials, including used syringes, bloody bandages, sheets, gloves, expired drugs, amputated limbs and animal carcasses.

 
10. Ammunition waste. Lead, brass and other metals from ammunition along with all the constituents of the propellants, including trininitrotoluene, picric acid, diphenylamine, nitrocellulose, nitroglycerin, potassium nitrate, barium nitrate, tetracene, diazodintrophenol, phosphorus, peroxides, thiocarbamate, potassium chlorate, vinyl fluoride, vinyl chloride, sodium fluoride and sodium sulfate.

 
11. Radioactive waste. When one thinks of radioactive waste, usually one thinks only of atomic weapons, but that is not the case. The American military routinely uses a variety of devices and equipment that contain radioactive elements or radioluminescent elements. These materials are referred to as “Radioactive Commodities” by the American military. The primary radioactive materials are: Uranium, Tritium, Radium 226, Americium 241, Thorium, Cesium 137 and Plutonium 239.

 
Some of the equipment containing radioactive elements:

 
Night Vision Devices

 
M-16 Front Sight Post Assemblies

 
M72 Light Antitank Weapons

 
T-55 Aircraft Engine components

 
M58 and M59 Light Aiming Posts

 
M4 Front Sight Post Assemblies

 
RADIAC Calibrator Sets and Check Sources

 
Radium Compasses

 
L4A1 Quadrant Fire Control Devices

 
Fire Control Azimuths

 
Level Gauges

 
M-1 Collimators

 
M-1 Muzzle Reference Sensors

 
Soil Moisture Density Testers

 
TACOM Vehicle Dials and Gauges

 
Radios, including VRC-46/GRC-106/GRC-19

 
Chemical Agent Monitors

 
Testing Instruments

 
Vehicle Depleted Uranium Plates

 
Depleted Uranium Ammunition, including 20 millimeter ammunition

 
Electron Tubes for Communications Equipment

 
Various types of Laboratory and Hospital Analysis and Testing Machines.

 
Note: The American military will likely insist that it strictly controls the disposal of radioactive waste, but such assertions are not credible. While there are strict regulations, the time and cost of complying with them in a war zone are such that base commanders in Afghanistan most likely ignored them, opting instead for throwing the waste into burn pits. The evidence for this is contained in Part 3 of this Report, which cites to a Pentagon-funded study of what American field commanders think of the Pentagon’s environmental regulations.

 
If the American military continues to insist that it did not release radioactive materials in Afghanistan it should document such assertions by releasing its records. The Pentagon should publicly release all data on every radioactive commodity brought into Afghanistan. They should all be listed in HMIRS (the Hazardous Materials Information System). The Pentagon should then detail where each commodity is today.

 
12. Grey and Black Water. The American military and its contractors in Afghanistan operate human waste facilities. The military refers to these as LSS (Latrine, Shower and Shave) facilities. They generate what is known as grey and black waste-water. Grey water from sinks and showers has as its primary pollutant soap residue (i.e., phosphates and other chemicals that generate what is known as BOD - biological oxygen demand, which means they can absorb all the available oxygen in streams and rivers so fish cannot breathe). Some American soaps contain additives such as MIT (methylisothiazolinone), which is under investigation as a toxin.

 
Latrines generate black water pollution. While the American military has to adhere to strict rules regarding the discharge of such waste in the United States, it faces no restrictions in Afghanistan. Latrines can be dug near ground water and even upgradient from surface water (so that discharges can flow into them). There are no known maps of all the American latrines. After a latrine pit is filled, it is apparently covered over with dirt and forgotten.


While environmental releases involving categories 1 and 12 above are a certainty, it is feared that millions of kilograms and millions of liters of wastes set out in categories 2 through 11 were all thrown into the hundreds of American burn pits in Afghanistan or dumped into secret landfills. If true, the American legacy to Afghanistan is not freedom, but pollution.

 
In February 2010, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs began an 18-month study of the burn pits in Afghanistan and their effect on human health. Afghanistan cannot wait eighteen months for the results of this study, it has to act now.

 
The author is a former U.S. Air Force Captain. He advised on environmental cleanups at Logistics Command regarding the Air Force’s most contaminated bases and depots. He then worked for Bechtel Environmental and was involved in Superfund cleanups across the United States and radiological cleanups at U.S. Department of Energy sites. He later served as a consultant to a group of environmental remediation companies, smelters and waste recyclers.

 
Sources for Further Reading:

Houston Chronicle - February 7, 2010 - “GIs tell of horror from burn pits”

Los Angeles Times - February 18, 2010 - “Veterans speak out against burn pits”

The New York Times - February 25, 2010 - “Health Panel Begins Probing Impacts of Burn Pits”

Salem-News - March 29, 2010 - “Sick Veterans Sue KBR Over Iraq and Afghanistan Burn Pits”

AFP - November 10, 2009 - “Troops sue KBR over toxic waste in Iraq, Afghanistan”

U.S. Department of the Army Pamphlet 700-48
Resist. Rebel. Cry out to all peoples and nations from the sky as the lightening flashes from the east to the west and judge the living and the dead. Or choose submission and slavery.

The light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.  (John 1:5)

Offline Jackson Holly

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Re: Killing America's Kids and Driving Them Insane
« Reply #889 on: January 27, 2013, 09:21:31 pm »


BUMP!

One helluva thread that pulls no punches ...
St. Augustine: -The truth is like a lion; you don't have to defend it.
Let it loose; it will defend itself.-