Thursday, January 31, 2008


Iraq & Afghanistan
"Every age and generation must be as free to act for itself, in all cases, as the ages and generations which preceeded it...Man has no property in man; niether has any generation a property in the generations which are to follow." Thomas Paine, 1776

In January 1971, VVAW held the Winter Soldier Investigation, where Vietnam Veterans testified about war crimes and atrocities they committed or witnessed in Vietnam. This action helped expose how atrocities during Vietnam were essentially military policy, a policy that continues in the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This spring, the largest gathering of US veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Iraqi and Afghan eyewitnesses, will share their experiences in a public investigation called Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan. They will provide testimonies to war crimes the United States perpetuates with the ongoing wars and occupations, as well as the increasingly poor treatment of returning veterans by the US government agencies here at home.

From March 13-16th, 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will gather in our nation’s capitol to break the silence about the real stories of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and hold our leaders accountable for the devastation they have caused. We hope that you’ll join in supporting this, because this is a story that every American needs to hear!

Since IVAW's inception, VVAW has provided support and guidance. VVAW’s main priority this spring is to support IVAW's Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan. We are urging our membership to help with outreach to Veterans in your area, especially of the Iraq and Afghanistan era. Talk to them about possibly attending WSI or even testifying; put them in contact with local or national IVAW. We also need to raise more money; specific ideas for fundraising efforts (which can also be a great outreach tool) can be found at Ask local peace groups to help raise money to sponsor an IVAW member’sparticipation.

IVAW members face challenges similar to those VVAW faced 40 years ago. War crimes in places like Haditha, Fallujah and Abu Ghraib have assisted in turning the public against the war. But, politicians and generals repeat history by blaming 'a few bad apples' for such atrocities, rather than examining the military policies that destroyed Vietnam then and are destroying Iraq and Afghanistan now.

Veterans have the most powerful voices for speaking out about war because they have experienced it. IVAW members participating and attending the upcoming Winter Soldier Investigation will undoubtedly receive backlash similar to VVAW members in 1971. It is crucial to maximize support for one another; through the process of testifying and hearing testimonies, as well as after returning home after WSI. We request your help in getting more IVAW members to WSI and encourage VVAW members to attend and offer suport before during and after the event.

Thomas Paine, writing during the Revolutionary War, said: "The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."

It is time for all of us to support these true Winter Soldiers. All contributions for IVAW's Winter Soldier Investigation will go towards this event. Please help continue the outreach and fund raising efforts which go to further support our brothers, sisters, sons and daughters in Iraq Veterans Against the War.

For more information call VVAW at (773) 276-4189, email, or check out or

* Donate on-line at or

* Send tax deductible donations with IVAW/WSI in the memo to:
VVAWPO Box 2065, Station A
Champaign, IL 61825-2065


The Winter Soldier Investigation VVAW Support Team.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Return of the Swift Boaters

A Report
Christopher Hayes
Washington Editor, The Nation

With the upcoming IVAW Winter Soldier '08 panels in Washington D.C., and the '08 Presidential race, these low-lifes have begun to gear up again under yet another guise, for more of the same distortions of Truth and assassination of character that they have become known for. All of this directed at whomever their puppet/pay masters from the RNC oppose/fear at any particular moment. All of this done utilizing the outrageous permissiveness of the 527 tax status to protect their lack of accountability, thereby frustrating efforts to follow their activities, and demonstrate who they are truly beholden to. Not an easy proposition, as we point out in our Archives of postings for January and October of 2006 at  

In keeping with an apparent mutual disdain for what has become commonly known as "swiftboating" as a tool of political spin, and those who invented it and still practice it; I contacted Christopher Hayes for permission to re-print his article on our pages, and he has responded in the affirmative to our request. It is presented here, un-edited and in it's original form. It is presented here as a shot across the bow of the lead attack ship in 527 dirty politics, letting them know that we haven't gone away either and look forward to continuing to counter their message at every opportunity. WH
Return of the Swift Boaters Christopher Hayes posted January 2, 2008 (web only)

This report was produced with support of The Nation Institute Investigative Fund. Additional research was provided by Nicholas Jahr.
More than three years after John Kerry's bitter defeat, at the dawn of what looks like a far more promising campaign cycle for the Democrats, the party is still haunted by the specter of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Once upon a time, "Swift boat" denoted an obscure military vessel, but thanks to the activities of this group it has come to represent movement conservatism's penchant for ruthlessly (and effectively) smearing any and all political opponents, from a sitting senator and war hero to an 11-year-old boy with a cranial fracture.
Research by The Nation into Federal Election Commission records of the group's top twenty donors reveals that they've been remarkably active in this cycle, contributing and bundling nearly $200,000 to presidential candidates. This does not bode well. During the last presidential campaign, the wealthy backers of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth--now rebranded as Swift Vets and POWs for Truth--didn't do their real dirty work until the general election, where as a tax-exempt 527 group they operated outside the restraints of direct campaign contributions. We may wish we were done with the Swift Boaters, but they aren't done with us.
In 2004 the top twenty donors all gave (with one exception) at least $50,000 to the group. The top three--Houston home builder Bob Perry, Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens and billionaire drugstore impresario and investor Harold Simmons--gave a combined $9.5 million ($4.45 million, $3 million and $2 million, respectively). Calculating the influence of these and the slightly less wealthy Swift Boat donors during this cycle is a touch more complicated than simply adding up their contributions. Each one exerts far more influence as a bundler, given the federal restrictions on individual giving, which limit donors to a maximum of $4,600 per cycle. So The Nation looked not only at the contributions of the donors themselves but also at those of their family members and employees. It's an imperfect method, since some employees are clearly contributing of their own volition (such as one employee of a Simmons company who gave money to Hillary Clinton), but it gives a rough estimate of who's backing whom and to what extent.
The most notable recipient of Swift Boat largesse is John McCain, erstwhile front-runner and Stand Up Guy. When the Swift Boat ads were first unleashed, McCain was alone among his Republican colleagues to condemn them. A fellow Vietnam veteran, a good friend of Kerry's and a former target of smears about his own service, McCain called the ads "dishonest and dishonorable," a "cheap stunt," and he urged Bush to condemn them. But in pursuit of the GOP nomination, McCain ditched the mantle of maverick for that of hack, and his once-floundering, possibly rejuvenated campaign has been aided along the way by $61,650 from Swift Boat donors and their associates. "There is such a thing as dirty money," said Senator Kerry in a statement, after The Nation informed him of McCain's FEC records. "I'm surprised that the John McCain I knew who was smeared in 2000 and thought so-called Swift Boating was wrong in 2004 would feel comfortable taking their money after seeing the way it was used to hurt the veterans I know he loves." (McCain's office did not return calls for comment.)
McCain's Swift Boat bounty is exceeded only by that of Mitt Romney, who has raked in $70,550. Romney's success with Swift Boat donors is significant because he has surpassed even McCain in his demonstrated willingness to do or say anything in pursuit of the presidency and because he has emerged as the GOP establishment's favored candidate. Last year, when McCain held that position, the Arizona senator received significant backing from Swift Boat donors. But many have subsequently switched their allegiance. Pickens, who donated to McCain in June 2006, is now an enthusiastic Giuliani donor and fundraiser (Giuliani ranks third in Swift Boat funding, with $47,950). Perry, who also recorded several donations to McCain's PAC in 2005 and 2006, is now a major donor and fundraiser for Romney. If the list of top Swift Boat donors is expanded to fifty, Romney's fundraising edge is even more pronounced. (Neither Romney nor Giuliani's campaign returned calls for comment.)
Also noticeable among the recipients of Swift Boat largesse is one who received only a single donation:Mike Huckabee. Despite meager fundraising and little national name recognition, the former Arkansas governor has experienced a bubble-like expansion of support and media attention, taking the lead in Iowa and approaching a steady lead in national polls. But the lack of Swift Boat contributions lends credence to the claim that Huckabee is viewed warily by the money men who call the shots in the modern GOP. Despite proposing a radically regressive tax change and taking Grover Norquist's antitax pledge, he's been attacked savagely by the Club for Growth and eviscerated by columnist George Will for "comprehensive apostasy against core Republican beliefs," among them "free trade, low taxes, the essential legitimacy of America's corporate entities and the market system allocating wealth and opportunity."
This all supports the notion that the people behind the Swift Boat operation are chiefly concerned with the continued upward redistribution of wealth that is, more or less, the contemporary GOP's raison d'être. In 2006 Perry ponied up $5 million to start the Economic Freedom Fund, a 527 group devoted to attacking Democratic incumbents, and landed a large donation from prominent Swift Boat donor Carl Lindner. All of which is to say that the Swift Boaters aren't some kind of side show, a coterie of vicious mudslingers operating at the edges of respectability. They are the show. They are modern conservatism's core funders and beneficiaries. With conservatives staring straight into the abyss, their activities in this election cycle could very well make the Swift Boat smears look tame by comparison.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

A Letter to Today's War Vets from a Vet of an Older War


A Letter to Today’s War Vets from a Vet of an Older War

You did your part.

Now you face a different struggle: Re entry into an indifferent society with a declining economy. And, possibly, some of these things:
Discharges for Pre existing Conditions
The Walter Reed Hospital Scandal
Inadequately prepared VA
Repeated Deployments
No draft or taxes to staff and pay for the war efforts
Skeletonized GI Bill (educational benefits)
Depleted Uranium / Gulf War Syndrome
Relationship / Intimacy problems
“Frozen Feelings”
Restlessness / Boredom
High Risk activities
Substance Abuse / Self Medication
Sense of Direction (lost)
Survivor’s Guilt
Strained Relationships

Watch out for those things. Some folk might have to deal with some of that for a while. Most won’t. Hardly any one will face all.

The U.S. supposedly supports the troops. Don’t expect that as a veteran. The nation’s full of Chicken Hawks, Chicken Hearts and people with weird political ideas and agendas they expect some one else to do the heavy lifting for. Yellow ribbons ain’t gonna get it. If you’re lucky you will find a few people who really care for you and back that with acts.

It’s normal to feel abnormal. You may not still be in the military but you’ll never be like the average civilian who only knows war or combat from a video game, movie or book.

You had the smarts, heart, skill, strength and luck to survive there. With a different kind of effort, you’ll survive here. You’ve been changed but hopefully not maimed in heart, mind or spirit.

It will take a while to “detox” and get into the “groove” again. Don’t be ashamed to seek and ask for a help or a hand up if you need it.

You can get good feelings from talking to other vets, joining a veterans group or working with your “higher power” (how ever you define that). Visit a web site like this one. Do the things you really used to enjoy. Find new people and things that turn you on. What ever’s mostly safe and mostly sane. What ever doesn’t hurt you, yours or others.

It is good to be alive. Enjoy life. Claim happiness.
People have different reasons for joining the military. The bottom line is that you did.

You served and sacrificed. Most Americans—most so called “patriots”—never do that.

You may have been strained but you’re not damaged goods. You’ve already exceeded what most way REMF politicians and civilians will ever do.

Use the same heart and mind that got you through the mess and back to the U.S. to thrive here. Don’t rush it but don’t delay it too long either.

You have a new way to measure and deal with “hard times” and daily stress.

Some professional athletes call themselves “warriors.” You know what the real thing is.

Today’s wars are worse than Nam. There is no draft and a much smaller percentage of the population bears the weight for all. And the same neglect of veterans goes on.

But, you don’t have to embrace the suck any more! All there is here are the winds, wildfires, and mudslides of daily life. You’ve dealt with worse.

People have learned a lot since the Nam time. Well, not too much really. But people and institutions have learned some things and changed others. You’ll probably never run into some one like the dumb high school kids who’d ask me “Did you kill any one?”

The very question shows they a) had no cool or clue and b) no concept of what war is about or like. And, hopefully, you’ll never run into some one like this:

A coed walked up to me one day on a college campus while I was in a conversation with some one else. She blurted out “Why are all you Vietnam vets so crazy!?”

I didn’t cuss her out, smack her or call her out of her name. I just said, in an even quiet voice like some one talking to a *very* dumb child, “Because of people like you asking questions like that.”

Some people, places and things you may never forget. Some you may never want to see or think of again. Time may not heal all wounds but it does help you get used to them and learn workarounds.

Welcome home. Keep on keepin’ on. You’ve taken the test. Now take the best and later for the rest. Most of you are going be all right.

Horace Coleman

Woe unto the statesman who makes war without a reason that will still be valid when the war is over! After the war, you will all look differently at these questions. Otto Von Bismarck (1815–1898), Prussian statesman.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Happy New Year Veterans!

Off to a flyin' start...
a voice from the Heartland...
We got this E-mail via the VVAW mail list-serve. It is indicative of yet another year of the VA hierarchy, in cahoots with the Bush administration, maintaining an advesarial role in it's relationship with America's Veterans. Like the author, we do not lay this outrage at the feet of the tireless underpaid and underappreciated VA employees. We lay it at the feet of upper management and our elected and appointed government officials whose duty it is to serve America's Veterans, not stand in the way of their care, as is so often the case. Want your voice heard? E me,, Subj: VetSpeak Submit, please include a short bio. America needs to hear your voice. WH

-------- Original Message --------

Date: Thu, 3 Jan 2008 15:07:14
From: < >
To: < >
Subject: You are not going to believe this. My experience with VA Hospital, Lincoln, NE

This is the experience I had with VAhospital in Lincoln, NE:

1. A nurse swabbed my throat at 1330 yesterday (2 Jan 08).

2. I took the swab upstairs to the lab.

3. The Lab sends it to Omaha today (3 Jan 08)

4. In three or four days, we get the results back.

Meanwhile...if I have strep, it has just gotten worse over a three or four day period.

I am a 100 percent Service Connected, 21 year Veteran of the US Army. Not that all that matters, but how do they treat the guy with just a few years of service?

And they wonder why I drink? Hell...I don't need a script for Jim Beam!

No...I am not going to drink, but...I will call my Congressman and my Senators. Barrack Obama needs to hear about this and the funny papers too!!! Is that show: Believe it or Not, still running?

My civilian girlfriend and her kids went to a civilian ER, got swabbed, got the results back and had their medication all in about two hours. Now...I have their illness...I served my Country and got injured in the process, but I have to wait four days? I am sorry, but that is unacceptable!

I don't think I am the only one that feels that way either! I'll bet there are a lot of Veterans that have stories to tell about their experiences with the VA Hospitals in Lincoln and across this country.

This is not the fault of many of the dedicated employees and volunteers at the VA. Most of them do a fantastic job. However, somewhere at the top, there is a problem. Someday, across this Country, we are all going to hear a loud will be the pop of someone in Washington DC pulling their head out of their butt!


Lincoln, NE 68505

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Suicides by US soldiers and war veterans surge

Joe Kay
We recieved this article via e-mail from a list-serve and subsequently followed the trail back to Joe Kay, and asked his permission to reprint it on our pages. It is well researched, well written, and it clearly supports our perspective; that there needs to be a paradigm shift in the way that the Department of Defense and the VA view PTSD, from a medical/mental illness model to a psycho-social anxiety disorder model. Currently they are claiming all the wrong things as stressors, and overlooking (on purpose?) the real ones. Therefore, they are providing all the wrong solutions; as this riveting article seems to point out. WH
Among the tragic consequences of the explosion of American militarism has been the sharp rise in the suicide rate of active duty and veteran US soldiers. Traumatized by what they have witnessed and forced to do in Iraq and Afghanistan, and provided with inadequate health care resources, an increasing number of veterans have opted to take their own lives.

On Wednesday, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs heard testimony from family members of soldiers who have committed suicide and experts in mental health on what several witnesses described as an “epidemic.”

The hearings were in part a response to a CBS News report last month that for the first time calculated the total number of suicides by US veterans. These figures are not tallied by the military itself, which only counts the number of suicides of active duty soldiers.

From data obtained from 45 of the 50 US states, CBS calculated that there were at least 6,256 veteran suicides in 2005 alone—amounting to 120 every week or approximately 17 every day.

The highest surge in suicides was among young veterans—those most likely to have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. CBS calculated that the suicide rate among veterans aged 20-24 was between 2.5 and almost four times higher than the rate among non-veterans in the same age group. In total, between 22.9 and 31.9 veterans per 100,000 in this age group killed themselves in 2005.

CBS News quoted veterans rights advocate Paul Sullivan as noting, “Those numbers clearly show an epidemic of mental health proportions.”

Speaking before the House committee on Wednesday, Mike Bowman, the father of Timothy Bowman, an Iraq veteran that committed suicide in 2005, said, “When CBS News broke the story about veterans suicides, the VA [US Department of Veterans Affairs] took the approach of criticizing the way that the numbers were created instead of embracing it and using it to help increase mental health care within their system.”

Bowman pointed out, “CBS did what no government agency would do; they tabulated the veteran suicide numbers to shed light on this hidden epidemic and make the American people aware of this situation.”

Bowman also spoke about his son, Timothy, whose experiences were no doubt similar to many of those who have killed themselves. He joined the National Guard in 2003 “to earn money for college and get a little structure to his life,” Bowman said.

With US military forces stretched thin, however, the government has relied heavily on National Guard forces. Timothy was sent to Iraq. When he returned in March 2005, “He was a different man,” Bowman said. “He had a glaze in his eyes and a 1000-yard stare, always looking for an insurgent.” Neither Timothy nor his family was given any serious help in coping with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Timothy shot himself in November 2005. He was 23 at the time of his death.

Some of the most interesting testimony on Wednesday came from Penny Coleman, author or Flashback: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Suicide, and the Lessons of War, who sought to draw out some of the social causes of the high suicide rate.

Coleman noted that the consequences of the increased mental breakdown of US soldiers could be seen not only in their propensity to take their own lives, but also in the crimes committed against the Iraqi people. “In 2004, the release of the Abu Ghraib photographs broke the unforgivable silence in the mainstream press about the atrocities committed by American soldiers in Iraq,” she noted. “Haditha followed, then Mahmoudiyah, Ishaqi, and at this writing, multiple other instances of savage, homicidal violence directed against civilians have been reported. More recently, there have been the reports of veterans involved in violent incidents after coming home."

"These acts,” Coleman stressed, “are being committed by Americans soldiers who are predictably out of control.”

The homicidal outbursts of American soldiers are in fact the inevitable outcome of a brutal occupation regime, in which soldiers are conditioned to regard all Iraqis as their enemies. Coleman noted that modern military training is designed “to overcome what studies done over the last century have consistently demonstrated, namely, that healthy human beings have an inherent aversion to killing others of their own species.”

Coleman described recent developments in military training, which are designed to “disconnect recruits from their civilian identities.” The intention is to condition soldiers who will kill more effectively and more efficiently. “Using cruelty, humiliation, degradation and cognitive disorientation, recruits are reprogrammed with an entirely new set of learned responses,” she said.

It is estimated that over one million Iraqis have died violent deaths as a result of the US invasion and occupation, a significant proportion killed by American soldiers. Four million more have been turned into refugees. An entire society has been devastated to advance the interests of the American ruling elite.

This barbaric enterprise must have an effect upon the mental health of American soldiers who are, after all, still human beings. In order to overcome the “aversion to killing others of their own species,” it is necessary, in a fundamental sense, to makes soldiers unhealthy. The atrocities themselves—and the general brutalization that comes with any occupation regime, including the constant presence and fear of death—only compound the psychological problems.

Coleman suggested, “It is a credit to their humanity, not a sign of their weakness, that these men and women find it hard to live afterwards with what they have seen and, in some cases, done. The soldiers who, following orders, have run over children in the road rather than slow down their convoy will never be the same again. Nor will the soldiers manning checkpoints who shoot, as ordered, and kill entire families who failed to stop, only to learn later that no one had bothered to share with them the American signal to stop...”

Other factors that have contributed to the rise of suicides include: the extension of tours of duty in combat zones; the redeployment of soldiers to multiple tours of duty, even if they already show signs of PTSD; the heavy use of anti-depressants and other drugs to give a short-term solution to mental problems; and the recruitment of soldiers who have pre-existing psychological problems.

The treatment of Lieutenant Elizabeth Whiteside is emblematic of the way that the military deals with soldiers who break down under the pressure of war. The Washington Post profiled the case of Whiteside in a December 2 article. She faces the possibility of a court martial for breaking down and shooting herself in the stomach while stationed in Iraq.

Whiteside was stationed in Camp Cropper, a prison camp for “high-profile” prisoners captured by the US in Iraq. She suffered from extreme stress, and apparently broke down after a riot at the prison following the execution of Saddam Hussein in December 2006. On the day after the riots, she was seen waving a gun in the air, shot twice into the ceiling, and then shot herself.

According to the Post, “Military psychiatrists at Walter Reed who examined Whiteside after she recovered from her self-inflicted gunshot wound diagnosed her with a severe mental disorder, possibly triggered by the stresses of war. But Whiteside’s superiors considered her mental illness ‘an excuse’ for criminal conduct.” This week, in response to the Post exposé, an army hearing recommended that the court martial be dropped. This recommendation must still be upheld by the presiding officer in the case, however.

The hearing on suicide rates provided members of both the Democrats and Republicans with an opportunity to posture as supporters of “our troops.” Various proposals will be made to create a national suicide help line or marginally expand funding for mental health problems among soldiers.

No one within the political establishment will or can propose the first basic step required to address the rise of suicides among soldiers—the immediate end of the war in Iraq and the withdrawal of all US troops. Democrats are currently working out a compromise with the White House that will continue funding for the occupation in spite of overwhelming opposition to the war among the American population.

Responsibility for these suicides—and responsibility for all the death and destruction in Iraq and Afghanistan—lies primarily with those who prepared, launched, and continue to fund the war.

See Also:

US veteran population: a mounting social catastrophe
[20 November 2007]

US troop deaths in Iraq set a yearly record
[7 November 2007]

Officer recommends dropping last murder charges in Haditha massacre
[8 October 2007]

Walter Reed scandal lifts lid on neglect of wounded US troops
[10 March 2007]

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