Thursday, March 30, 2006
Depleted Uranium For Dummies By Irving Wesley Hall
VIETNAM ERA RE-VISITED??
SOLDIERS FLEE TO CANADA TO AVOID IRAQ WAR
AGENT ORANGE VICTIMS GATHER TO SEEK JUSTICE
All I can say is "good luck!" It is probable their efforts are an exercise in futility.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Senator contacts 50 who served at Abu Ghraib
Message: Does the Senator think the rank and file will risk telling on their superiors?Article Title: Senator contacts 50 who served at Abu Ghraib
About 50 American soldiers who worked at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq while detainees were being abused there have received letters from Sen. Carl Levin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, asking about the involvement of higher-ranking officials in authorizing harsh interrogation tactics, Levin's office confirmed today.
About 50 American soldiers who worked at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq while detainees were being abused there have received letters from Sen. Carl Levin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, asking about the involvement of higher-ranking officials in authorizing harsh interrogation tactics, Levin's office confirmed today.
The four-page questionnaires from the Michigan Democrat follow Democrats' failure to persuade Congress to open an independent investigation into allegations of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib and other U.S. military detention facilities. The letters were first reported today by The Washington Post.
Similar letters will be sent to contractors and civilians who worked at Abu Ghraib and other facilities, said Tara Andringa, Levin's press secretary. She said the number of people to be surveyed isn't yet known, but it could number in the hundreds.
Former Army staff sergeant Ivan L. "Chip" Frederick, a military police reservist serving more than eight years in prison for abuse at Abu Ghraib, got one of Levin's questionnaires several weeks ago, said his civilian attorney, Gary Myers.
"I welcome it because I asked at the very outset of this for a court of inquiry to bring disinterested fact-finders to bear upon these questions," Myers said.
The Pentagon has already has done several of its own investigations and has argued that another would be redundant.
Levin has said those reviews weren't thorough enough. At a hearing in early February, he said the lack of accountability above the level of 10 enlisted soldiers who have been convicted in the Abu Ghraib scandal was "unacceptable."
Seven of the convicted soldiers were from the 372nd Military Police Company, an Army Reserve unit based in Cresaptown, Md.
Levin's letters seek to assess the origin of the severe tactics documented in Abu Ghraib photographs and how those tactics were applied -- an approach the full committee has not endorsed.
The first wave of letters was sent in recent weeks to about 50 military intelligence soldiers and MPs who were affiliated with Abu Ghraib in late 2003 and early 2004. Separate questionnaires are being developed for people who worked at detention facilities at Bagram, Afghanistan; Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and locations in Iraq, including at Qaim, where an Iraqi general was killed during an interrogation in November 2003.
The first letter states that an examination is being conducted into "alleged mistreatment by U.S. personnel, the factors that may have contributed to such mistreatment, and the accountability of officials for policies, actions, or failures to act, which may have contributed to detainee abuse."
The letter poses 19 questions, including who authorized tactics such as isolation, nudity, sleep manipulation, the use of dogs, stress positions and placing detainees in female underwear. It also requests descriptions of how Army Special Forces soldiers, contractors and "other government agencies" -- usually a euphemism for the CIA -- may have ordered or directed mistreatment.
Sen. John W. Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, intends to call Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, former commander at Guantanamo Bay, and Col. Thomas M. Pappas, the top military intelligence officer at Abu Ghraib, to testify about their roles in using the severe tactics, according to John Ullyot, a spokesman for Warner. The date of that hearing hasn't been set, Ullyot said.
During the court-martial that last week ended in the conviction of an Army dog handler of using his unmuzzled animal to frighten detainees at Abu Ghraib, Pappas testified that he approved the use of dogs during an interrogation in late 2003. He said he learned about the tactic from an advisory group that Miller had brought to Iraq. Miller invoked his right not to testify at the court-martial.
Monday, March 27, 2006
Our Government Are Sending Troops Back Into Combat Who Are Mentally Ill
For some, war never ends
Message: For some, the war is never over.Article Title: For some, war never ends
David Rice lives under constant threat of attack
Wounded by shrapnel from a North Vietnamese mortar and crippled by post traumatic stress disorder, he still smells jungle rot, ducks imaginary snipers when he is outside and huddles in the corner of his living room at night for fear of mortars.
“I know it is all in my head. This is no way for a 56-year-old man to act,” said Rice, clutching a cigarette in his brown fingers.
Some soldiers on today’s battlefields could be like Rice in 30 years. Military health officials say the number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder — PTSD — is increasing. They say too few of them are seeking treatment.
“The latest numbers project one in three, but that is still conservative,” said Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
Rieckhoff fought with the 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq.
He said health workers and veterans know more about mental health problems than they did during Vietnam, but many soldiers still are not getting the help they need.
The VA has limited resources to treat the new veterans and an Army stigma against seeking mental health care prevents some from getting treatment, Rieckhoff said.
“PTSD and mental health problems are the biggest issues facing the guys coming home,” he said.
Studies have shown that thousands of veterans suffer some significant form of stress from their tours in Iraq or Afghanistan. A military study of more than 6,000 combat veterans in 2004 found that one in eight Marines and soldiers — more than 12 percent of the group — reported symptoms of PTSD.
In February, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that 35 percent of Iraq veterans sought mental health services, while almost 20 percent reported a mental health problem.
Post-traumatic stress disorder was first diagnosed in 1980, but evidence of the disorder in soldiers goes as far back as the Civil War.
Soldiers with the disorder can suffer from a number of debilitating symptoms such as insomnia, intense anxiety and difficulty coping with work, social and family relationships. Symptoms may appear within months or be delayed for years.
They can also persist for decades, as David Rice can attest.
Look at the time. I should be sleeping. The pain from the shrapnel is causing too much pain to sleep. Even the methadone does little to stop the pain. Hell, if it wasn’t the pain it would be the night terrors. — An Oct. 12, 2005, e-mail from Rice. It was sent at 2:12 a.m.
Rice graduated from high school in 1967. He was 17 and decided to enlist in the Marines after seeing footage from Vietnam on the evening news.
“I saw on TV that the children were oppressed. I was an American. If you are an American, you fight for your country,” he said.
After boot camp, he was sent to Vietnam.
It was 1968 and he was assigned to an artillery unit and worked on the fire control team. When he wasn’t plotting fire missions for the battery, he was out on patrol acting as a forward observer.
“A couple of times I was far enough out that my position was surrounded and I’ll tell you, I prayed a lot that the VC did not hear me on the radio relaying their position back to the gun batteries,” he said. “A few times our own artillery got awfully close and I wasn’t sure if I would make it out.”
Rice was in Vietnam from October 1968 to March 1969 — 5 months and 28 days. He left in pieces.
Rice was walking across the top of a bunker at his unit’s firebase in the A Shau Valley in central Vietnam when a mortar exploded near him.
Shrapnel peppered the left side of his body. Two pieces were lodged in his heart and his left arm and leg were shredded.
Despite his wounds, he was able to fire several belts of ammunition from his M-60 machine gun before a Navy corpsman arrived to treat him and get him on a medevac flight.
“I woke to a blonde Red Cross nurse with green eyes and a French accent,” Rice said.
He spent five months in Navy hospitals in Japan and Okinawa. He finally returned to Camp Pendleton in San Diego and was discharged in 1971.
Rice returned to his hometown in Michigan and tried to find a job, but couldn’t hold one down. He tried to take classes, but had to drop out.
“There were too many people around,” he said.
He never considered PTSD, nor did he know what it is. With his mind in shambles and his body crippled by shrapnel, he turned to beer and drugs.
In 1988, after three failed marriages and numerous relationships, Rice checked himself into the VA hospital in St. Louis to treat his drug and alcohol abuse.
“I got so tired. I wanted to calm down. This was my last chance,” he said.
I guess our talk caused me some not so good memories and stirred up the PTSD more than I had thought it would. So the combination of talking to you and my anniversary sorta knocked me out of reality for awhile and I have been bunkered down in the house most of the time. Every time I started to write I would lock up, cry or get pissed. — Nov. 3 e-mail.
Rice admits he is a broken man. His slight build is now burdened by a large beer gut that looks like a pillow is stuffed under his shirt. He hobbles along most days with a metal cane — sometimes in the mornings he needs two.
Rice speaks with a slight lisp — his front teeth were knocked out in a 1994 bar fight and his left eye is covered with an eye patch.
Rice’s house on Main Street in Wade is both a refuge and a prison.
The ramshackle one story house is covered in 11 American flags — all hung upside down as a signal of distress. A black MIA/POW and a Marine Corps flag hangs next to his door. Old, junky computer desks crowd the porch.
Rice spends most of his days in a dingy living room smoking cigarettes and surfing the Internet.
Being outside, even in his yard, makes him feel exposed. He rarely leaves and most times only to go to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center on Ramsey Street for treatment.
Before his appointments he waits in the stairwell because he fears a mortar attack when he is in groups of more than five people.
“Flashbacks are not always the same and not always about the same thing nor of the same intensity,” he said. “The ones that really get me are the ones that start out as dreams and then I wake up and they are still there. Sometimes smells, sometimes sounds, sometimes the whole thing.”
Quality of life in the limited time I have left is important and almost as important is to warn the troops, new veterans, boys and girls (doing the jobs of men and women) about what they can expect. — Oct. 17 e-mail.
Rice was living in Fayetteville in 2003. He owned a computer parts business and a house. Rice said the PTSD hadn’t flared up in a while.
Everything changed when the city fined him $10,000 for having a messy yard plus $1,000 for clean-up costs. Rice claims the crew took some rehabilitation equipment.
He fell into a funk that cost him his business and house in Fayetteville.
“Their actions caused enough trauma to set off the PTSD so that it is as bad, and in some cases worse, than it was 30 years ago,” he said.
For the next three years, Rice wrote to the city and to lawmakers in Washington seeking help. He also asked Mayor Tony Chavonne for help.
Chavonne looked into the issue, according to e-mails to Rice.
“Sir, I have reviewed the files regarding your situation, including the correspondence with the Governor’s Advocacy Council for Persons with Disabilities, the Cumberland County Veterans Affairs and the VA Medical Center. It is our opinion that the situation was handled properly from the city’s perspective,” Chavonne wrote in an e-mail.
The response was a crushing blow, Rice said, and cost him his six-year relationship with his girlfriend. With no cure for the disorder, Rice has resigned himself to a life unfulfilled.
“All I wanted was to get an education, fall in love, marry, raise a family, and enjoy my work,” Rice said. “What a stupid fool I was to help them by giving up my life dreams and goals.”Staff writer Kevin Maurer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 486-3587. Please visit Veterans for Common Sense at http://www.veteransforcommonsense.org
EYES ON IRAQ; SECOND IMPRESSIONS
Eyes on Iraq: Second Impressions
� 2004 The Washington Post Company
U.S. TROOPS IN IRAQ; RON HAVIV-VII
photo gallery by Ron Haviv-VII
Ron Haviv - VII
� 2004 The Washington Post Company
U.S.TROOPS IN IRAQ; DAVID GILKEY
photo gallery David Gilkey
David Gilkey - Detroit Free Press
� 2004 The Washington Post Company
U.S. TROOPS IN IRAQ; ANDREW CUTRARO
photo gallery by Andrew Cutraro
Andrew Cutraro - St. Louis Post-Dispatch
� 2004 The Washington Post Company
EYES ON IRAQ; GALLERY OF PHOTOS
gallery of photos
Eyes on Iraq: Second Impressions
� 2004 The Washington Post Company
U.S. TROOPS IN IRAQ - Patric Baz
US Troops in Iraq - photographer Patric Baz
Patrick Baz - AFP
� 2004 The Washington Post Company
SECURITY CONTRACTOR IN IRAQ ARRESTED FOR EXPLOSIVES IN CAR
SECURITY contractor? Now, what would a security contractor need with explosives? A construction contractor, maybe, although doubtful he would carry them in his car. Could it be that Blackwater or other "security" (read that mercenary) firms are involved in blowing up places and people in order to foment strife and uprisings? It is a tired, old tactic used for decades by the US to divide and conquer, so to speak, but a very effective one.
UPDATE: FACES OF THE FALLEN
� 2004 The Washington Post Company
America at War: Iraq, Afghanistan, the War on Terror and More (washingtonpost.com)
VETERANS' VOICES ON IRAQ
Veterans' Voices On Iraq
The heat, which is like living under a french-fry lamp, like standing in front of the world's biggest hair dryer, like sitting in a sealed car on the hottest summer day in Washington with the heater blasting and someone throwing sand in your face.
To view the entire article, go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/18/AR2006031801497.html?referrer=emailarticle
Would you like to send this article to a friend? Go to
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� 2004 The Washington Post Company
In Their Own Words: Veterans' Stories from Iraq (washingtonpost.com)
Sunday, March 26, 2006
HIS NAME WAS JESSE
I suggest putting HIM in an active combat zone.
Saturday, March 25, 2006
Consortiumnews.com/RETROSPECTIVE OF WAR
AMERICANS ANESTHETHIZED; TROOPS STILL BRAINWASHED; INDEPENDENT JOURNALISTS TORTURED, MURDERED
Many troops still believe that Saddam had WMDs, funded terrorists and harbored Osama bin Laden, was involved in 9/11.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Hard News: See Dick Loot
War is very profitable.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
OPERATION HOLLYWOOD - VIDEO
Invasion Iraq: 3 Years Later - MSNBC.com Special
Url may not be valid long. Numerous sites and links for articles, photos, videos of various aspects of invasion. Truths emerge from previous lies.
MSNBC.com Article: Do you remember?/ short vids of early invasion
Do you remember? http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11865279/from/ET
MSNBC's Picture Stories/ Vets with amputations
Alternet: Fog of War or War Crimes?
This story has been forwarded to you from
A Marine tells his story of Iraq
Fog of War or War Crimes?
Jimmy Massey, the Marines' most outspoken anti-war war criminal, talks about what really happened on the road to Baghdad.
LETTER TO PRESIDENT BUSH
Ofcourse Bush will never see the letter. Bush is insulated and protected from reality and from anything that disputes his vision of reality. This principled and brave man will probably now be investigated as a possible subversive, under Bush's guidelines of if you aren't with us, you are with the terrorists.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
Decades later, Marines hunt Vietnam-era deserters
- 8,000 desert during Iraq war
Monday, March 13, 2006
BUSH'S "BRING 'EM ON" PHOTO ALBUM
Saturday, March 11, 2006
IEDs Remain Top Killer of Troops in Iraq
Message: IEDs still biggest killer of troops in Iraq, the primary cause of legs and arm or hand macerations that require amputations, and head injuries that result in moderate to severe neurological impairment.Article Title: IEDs Remain Top Killer of Troops in Iraq
Roadside bombs, the Iraq insurgency's weapon of choice and the leading killer of American troops there, are now only about half as deadly as they were a year ago, Pentagon officials say.
But in an indication the problem is still serious, President Bush on Saturday is getting his first briefing from Montgomery Meigs, the retired Army general who is heading a Pentagon organization armed with a multibillion-dollar budget in pursuit of measures to counter the threat.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld will also join in the session. A Rumsfeld spokesman, Bryan Whitman, said Friday that Bush will be given an update on progress against what the Pentagon calls improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. But there have been no new technological breakthroughs to report, Whitman said.
"There is no `silver bullet' to solve this problem," Whitman said. It requires a broad effort, with collaboration among the military and the defense industry, to find better ways of identifying and defeating IEDs, he said. Troops are receiving more extensive and focused training on how to spot and avoid suspected roadside bombs, which often are buried in the ground or hidden inside animal carcasses or other unlikely objects.
Christine Devries, spokeswoman for Meigs' group that is known as the Joint IED Defeat Organization, said much progress has been made already. As an illustration, she said that about 40 of every 100 roadside bombs are found and defused before they explode. That means the other 60 do explode, although Devries said the number of U.S. troops killed or wounded by each explosion has fallen by about 50 percent from a year ago.
Devries said more detailed information about the casualty rate per IED explosion is considered too sensitive to release publicly because it could give the insurgents in Iraq new insights into their effectiveness.
Likewise, Pentagon officials are willing to say little about the electronic jamming devices and other technological means they have used to detect and defeat IEDs.
In testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said U.S. forces are finding more IEDs before they explode, but he provided no numbers.
"That means a lot of the work that's being done and a lot of the resources that you have allocated are having positive effects," Pace said. "But we have a lot of work to do in this regard."
Spending has ballooned from $1.2 billion in the 2005 budget to $3.3 billion in the current budget, including $1.9 billion as part of the emergency war funding request the Bush submitted to Congress last month.
Devries said the administration has not yet decided how much it will spend on the counter-IED effort in the 2007 budget year that begins Oct. 1. Bush's proposed 2007 budget has no specific provision for financing the Meigs' organization; its money will be drawn from several different spending accounts in the budget, Devries said.
When the Pentagon began focusing on an effort to counter the IED threat in 2003, it was an Army responsibility and initially involved a staff of only 12 people. It has since grown to a military-wide effort and the staff has grown to about 174. The staff is expected to grow beyond 300 people, Devries said.
Meigs was appointed to head the organization last December
Thursday, March 09, 2006
WHY DID AMERICANS AT ABU GHRAIB BEHAVE LIKE MONSTERS? part 1
In one of the Abu Ghraib photos there is a guard kneeling on a group of prisoners, with fist drawn back, apparently punching out a prisoner. Nearby lies a prisoner with pants down around his ankles and underwear down about his thighs and buttocks exposed.
In the interview the convicted guard relates the circumstances leading up to the photo of him beating a prisoner. There is no explanation for the exposure of the prisoner with clothing pulled down.
It is interesting to note that most of the men interviewed about Abu Ghraib state that Military Intelligence took over policy, supervision, and even interrogation of prisoner at the prison, even though it is against Military policy. The troopers allege that orders came down from the highest levels re: treatment and techniques used against prisoners. Ofcourse the upper echelons deny this. I believe the enlisted men. Also, the only officer charged was the female officer in command of Abu Ghraib, and she states that Military Intelligence would not allow her in the prison.
As is usual, the "little people" get charged and punished and the "big guys" go free.
That's the way it's always been.
Later I will add a post about why do ordinary men and women stoop to such perverted levels.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
SFGate: THE WAR WITHIN
Blake Miller, the "Marlboro Man", media poster boy for the Iraq War. Read his sad story and his struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Blake Miller is now 21; he was only 19 when the photo was taken. Still a teenager, enduring the horrors and rigors of war.
The original article can be found on SFGate.com here: but full story follows
Sunday, January 29, 2006 (SF Chronicle)
THE WAR WITHIN
Matthew B. Stannard, Chronicle Staff Writer
Pike County, Ky. -- BATTLE SCARS: The photo of the Marlboro Man in
Fallujah became a symbol of the Iraq conflict when it ran in newspapers
across America in 2004. Now the soldier has returned home to
Kentucky,where he battles the demons of post-traumatic stress
The photograph hit the world on Nov. 10, 2004: a close-cropped shot of a
U.S. Marine in Iraq, his face smeared with blood and dirt, a cigarette
dangling from his lips, smoke curling across weary eyes.
It was an instant icon, with Dan Rather calling it "the best war
photograph in recent years." About 100 newspapers ran the photo, dubbing
the anonymous warrior the "Marlboro Man."
The man in the photograph is James Blake Miller, now 21, and he is an
icon, although in ways Rather probably never imagined.
He's quieter now -- easier to anger. He turns to fight at the sound of a
backfire, can't look at fireworks without thinking of fire raining down on
a city. He has trouble sleeping, and when he does, his fingers twitch on
The diagnosis: post-traumatic stress disorder.
His life in Kentucky, before and after the clicking shutter, says as much
about hundreds of thousands of new American war veterans as his famous
photograph said about that one bad day in Fallujah -- a photo Miller
cannot see as an icon.
"I don't see a whole lot," he said. "I see a day I won't care to remember,
but that I'll never forget."
James Blake Miller was born in Pike County in the hills of eastern
Kentucky, where Daniel Boone is said to have walked and where moonshine is
still consumed. An average family here makes about $24,000; the only
decent-paying jobs are down at the coal mine.
Miller got his first name from his father, who got it from his and back
into family history. But folks called him Blake, the middle name his
parents heard on the television show "Dynasty."
His paternal grandfather was a Marine in '53; a heavy smoker, like most of
the men in the family, he died of cancer before he was 40. The man Miller
grew up calling "Papaw" was his grandmother's second husband, an Army vet
Sometimes, Papaw would get crying drunk and start telling the story about
the boy who came into the camp in Vietnam one night, and how they had to
shoot him. Then he would stop speaking, and look at the little boys
hanging on his every word. "You've had enough, Joe Lee," his wife would
say then. "It's time to go to bed."
"It wasn't that he liked to drink -- that was how he dealt with it,"
Miller grew up in Jonancy, a tiny hamlet 20 miles from the county seat of
Pikeville. He got his first job -- washing cars at the local auto
dealership -- at age 13, about a year after he took up smoking.
Before long, he began working in a body shop, where the owner told him the
most extraordinary thing: Miller could get his auto body repair
certification for free -- just by joining the military. A Marine recruiter
offered more: insurance, housing, college money.
"I thought, 'Well, damn, that's amazing,' " Miller said. "Hell, here I am,
18 years old -- I can have all this in the palm of my hands just by giving
them four years."
Following his grandfather's footsteps, he went infantry, and left for boot
camp in November 2002. Four months later, the war in Iraq broke out.
"Before I knew it," Miller said, "I was thrown into the mix without even
thinking about it."
Miller was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment of the 2nd
Marine Division, based in Camp Lejeune, N.C.
"Right before we got ready to leave for Iraq, I guess I was a little
nervous. I started smoking more -- I went from about a pack-and-a-half a
day to 2 1/2 packs a day," he said. "When we got to Iraq ... I was smoking
5 1/2 packs."
For a while, Iraq didn't seem all that bad. Miller and his fellow Marines
settled into a routine in Anbar province in western Iraq, setting up
hiding places among the palms and sand, and watching for the white pickups
that insurgents would use to plant bombs and fire mortars.
There also was time for candy and laughter with the Iraqi children who
came running to see the American troops. Miller felt like he was helping.
Then, on Nov. 5, 2004, in the middle of a sandstorm, the Marines got the
word that they might be heading for an assault on Fallujah -- at the time,
the capital of the Iraqi insurgency.
No American forces had gone inside the city in months. And now Miller
would be among the first. He had been a Marine for less than two years.
"It puts butterflies in my stomach right now," he said. "I don't know if
you can describe it. I don't think words can."
The days before the assault were an intense blur of training, preparation
and fear. But there was one bright spot, when Miller ran into a good
friend in the chow hall -- Demarkus Brown, a 22-year-old from Virginia.
Miller met Brown in infantry school, when the smiling African American
introduced himself to the white Kentucky native with a grinning, "What's
Miller quickly realized Brown didn't mean the word seriously -- didn't
mean much of anything seriously. Brown liked to party all hours and go
dancing, then call Miller to come pick him up.
"It didn't matter what you told him or how s -- ty it was," Miller said.
"He was always the one guy who had a smile on his face."
But one thing Brown took seriously was music: He loved raves and techno
music, and Miller played bluegrass on bass and guitar. Their styles
somehow harmonized, and they became close friends.
Now they were together outside Fallujah.
The night before U.S. forces went into the city, Miller gathered with his
fellow Marines and led them by memory through a passage from the Bible,
"In my Father's house, there are many mansions: if it were not so, I would
have told you. I leave this place and go there to prepare a place for you,
so that where I may be, you may be also."
The assault on Fallujah began Nov. 8, 2004, when U.S. planes, using a
combination of high explosives and burning white phosphorus, hammered the
city in advance of the artillery push. Miller was under fire from the
moment he stepped out of the personnel carrier.
It lasted into Nov. 9 -- the day that, for a while, would make Miller's
face the most famous in Iraq.
As Miller remembers that day, he was on a rooftop taking fire and calling
for support on his radio - a 20-pound piece of equipment that he had to
lug around along with nine extra batteries, hundreds of extra rounds of
ammunition, and a couple of cartons of cigarettes.
As insurgent bullets from a nearby building pinged off the roof, a
horrified Miller heard footsteps coming up the stairs behind him. He
raised his rifle -- and barely had time to halt when he saw it was
embedded Los Angeles Times photographer Luis Sinco.
Miller returned to his radio, guiding two tanks to his position. When they
opened fire, he said, the thunder left his body numb -- but the building
housing the attackers had collapsed. Later, he said, they would find about
40 bodies in the rubble.
"I was never so happy in all my life to take that handset away from my
head," Miller said. "I lit up a f -- cigarette."
His ear was bleeding from the sound of the tank firing -- Miller still
can't hear out of his right ear. His nose bled from a nick he took when
his rifle scope and radio got tangled up midfire. He looked at the sunrise
and wondered how many more of those he would see.
He was vaguely aware that elsewhere on the rooftop, Sinco was taking
At a briefing the next day, Miller's gunnery sergeant walked up to him,
grinning, and said: "Would you believe you're the most famous f -- Marine
in the Marine Corps right now? Believe it or not, your ugly mug just went
all over the U.S."
The Marines wanted to pull him out of Fallujah at that point, Miller said,
not wanting the very public poster boy to die in combat. But he stayed.
He won't talk about the weeks that followed. He only mentions moments,
like still frames from a film. The day his column barely survived an
ambush, escaping through a broken door as bullets struck near their feet.
The morning he woke up to discover that a cat had taken up residence in
the open chest cavity of an Iraqi body nearby, consuming it from within.
The day he discovered that Demarkus Brown had been killed.
"When we found out, I told a couple of my buddies who were close to him,
too. We just sat around, and we didn't say much at all," Miller said. "You
didn't have the heart to cry."
But it wasn't those terrible benchmarks that affected him the most, Miller
said. It was the daily chore of war: the times he had to raise his rifle,
peer through the scope and squeeze the trigger to launch a bullet, not at
a target, not at a distant white truck, but at another human being.
"It's one thing to be shot at, and you shoot a couple rounds back, just
trying to suppress somebody else," Miller said. "It's another thing when
you see a human being shooting a round at you, knowing that you're
shooting back with the intent to kill them. You're looking through a scope
at somebody. It's totally different. You can make out a guy's eyes."
When Miller returned to America, he brought back a big duffel bag packed
with numerous letters and gifts from those who had seen his photo. It was
only later that he discovered he'd brought home some of the war, too.
None of the Marines talked much about the strain that war puts on one's
emotions, Miller said. The "wizards" -- military psychologists -- gave the
returning troops a briefing on the subject, but nobody paid much
attention. Even guys who were taking antidepressants to help them sleep
didn't think much about the long-term consequences.
"What the hell are those people going to do once they get out? They ride
it out until they get an honorable discharge, and then they're never
diagnosed with anything," Miller said. "How the hell are you going to do
anything for them after that? And that's how so many of these guys are
ending up on the damn streets."
Miller dismissed the early signs, too. When he and his buddies reacted to
a truck backfire by dropping into a combat stance and raising imaginary
rifles, well, that was to be expected. And when his wife, Jessica -- the
childhood sweetheart whom Miller had married in June -- told him he was
tightening his arm around her neck in the night, that was strange, but he
figured it would pass. So would the nightmares he began to have about
Iraq, things that had happened, things that hadn't.
Then one day, while visiting his wife at her college dorm in Pikeville,
Miller looked out the window and clearly saw the body of an Iraqi sprawled
out on the sidewalk. He turned away.
"I said, 'Look, honey, I just got to get out of here.' I couldn't even
tell her at the time what had happened," he said. "(I thought), 'Well,
that's it. That's my little spaz I'm supposed to have that the
psychiatrists were talking about ... I'm glad I got it out of the way."
But he hadn't. Jessica, a psychology student, tried to help with a
visualization technique. But when he looked inside himself, Miller found a
kind of demonic door guarded by a twisted figure in a black cloak. Under
the cloak's hood, he spotted the snarling face of the teufelhund, a Marine
Corps icon -- the devil dog.
"So I come out again, without closing the door," he said. "After all this
happened, my nightmares started getting a lot f -- ing worse."
Finally, Miller went to a military psychiatrist, who diagnosed him with
signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. Miller thought that meant he
could not be deployed. But in early September, he joined a group of
Marines headed to police New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
"I really didn't want to go. ... There was a possibility we would be
shooting people," he said. "We could be going into another (urban warfare)
environment just like Iraq, except this would actually be U.S. citizens.
"Here we go, Fallujah 2, right here in the states."
Not long after they arrived, as Hurricane Rita bore down on them, the
Marines were packed into the amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima to wait out
the storm offshore. And one day, as Miller headed for the smoke deck with
a Marlboro, a passing sailor made a whistling sound just like a
"I don't remember grabbing him. I don't remember putting him against the
bulkhead. I don't remember getting him down on the floor. I don't remember
getting on top of him. I don't remember doing any of that s -- ," Miller
said. "That was like the last straw."
On Nov. 10, 2005 -- the Marine Corps' 230th birthday and one year to the
day after the Marlboro Man picture appeared in the Los Angeles Times,
Miller was honorably discharged after a medical review. His military
career was over.
Miller returned to eastern Kentucky, the place he had spent years trying
to escape. He wanted the familiarity and safety of the people and land
he'd known since birth.
"Maybe it made me think twice about what I had lost," he said. "What I was
In a way, though, his family is still missing Blake Miller -- the Miller
who left Kentucky for Iraq a couple of years ago.
The man who left was easygoing, quick to laugh, happy to sit in a
relative's house and eat and smoke and talk. The man who came back is
quick to anger, they say, and is quiet. He still smiles often but does not
And when he takes a seat in his adoptive grandmother's home, amid her
collection of ceramic Christ figurines, it is in a chair that faces the
Mildred Childers, who owns those figurines, sees Miller's difficulties as
a crisis of faith. She still remembers Miller's call just before the
assault on Fallujah, and his terrible question: "How can people go to
church and be a Christian and kill people in Iraq?"
"He was raised where that's one of the Ten Commandments, do not kill," she
said. "I think it's hard for a soldier to go to war and have that embedded
in them from small children up, and you go over there and you've got to do
it to stay alive."
Recently, some of his Marine buddies have been calling Miller up, crying
drunk, and remembering their war experiences. Just like Papaw Joe Lee used
to do when Miller was a boy.
"There's a lot of Vietnam vets ... they don't heal until 30, 40 years down
the road," Miller said. "People bottle it up, become angry, easily
temperamental, and hell, before you know it, these are the people who are
snapping on you."
Jessica interrupted. "You're already like that," she said.
She recalled her own first glimpse of the Marlboro Man -- an image seen
through tears of relief that he was alive, and misery at how worn he
"Some people thought it was sexy, and we thought, 'Oh, my God, he's in the
middle of a war, close to death.' We just couldn't understand how some
people could look at it like that," she said. "But I guess for some people
it was glory, like patriotism."
She looked at her quiet husband through the smoke drifting from his right
"But when it comes out and there's actually a personality behind that
picture, and that personality, he has to deal with all the war, and all
he's done, people don't want to know how hard it actually is," she said.
"This is the dark side of the reality of war. ... People don't want to
know the Marlboro Man has PTSD."
Miller stood outside his father's home in Jonancy, looking over the beaten
mobile homes, the rows of corn, potatoes and cabbage. For a change, he
wasn't smoking - he's down to a pack-and-a-half a day.
"There ain't a goddamn thing around here," he said. "My whole life, all I
did was watch my old man bust his ass."
It was why he joined the Marines -- why part of him wishes he could go
"My whole life, all I've ever known is working on cars, doing body work,
cutting grass, manual labor, you know? It was something different," he
said. "You always hear those commercials -- it's not just a job, it's an
adventure. It was, you know?"
On the other hand, Miller isn't sure he'd want to go back to combat -- nor
sure he'd ever let any kid of his enlist. He has mixed feelings about the
oversize copy of the Marlboro Man picture proudly displayed in the lobby
of the Marine recruiting station in Pikeville.
Some of his relatives and friends are against the war; others see it as a
fight against terrorism.
Miller himself seems torn -- proud of the troops fighting for freedom, but
wondering whether there was a peaceful way, to find terrorists in Iraq
There was no time for such questions in Fallujah. But now, at night, when
he can't sleep, Miller thinks of the men he saw through his rifle scope,
and wonders: Were they terrorists fighting against America? Or men
fighting to protect their homes?
"I mean, how would we feel if they came over and started something here?"
he asked. "I'm glad that I fought for my country. But looking back on it,
I wouldn't do it all over again."
It helps, sometimes, to talk about it -- last week, Miller did what he
hopes other veterans do: He had his first visit with a Veterans
"I've got my whole life ahead of me," he said. "I'm too young to lay down
and quit; too young to let anything beat me."
Down the road, Miller hopes to start a business. For now, he is waiting
for his disability benefits to kick in. Maybe then, he and Jessica can
afford the big wedding they had always wanted. She already has her white
wedding dress. He still intends to wear his Marine Corps blues.
Veterans and stress
Post-traumatic stress disorder is an ailment resulting from exposure to an
experience involving direct or indirect threat of serious injury or death.
Symptoms include recurrent thoughts of a traumatic event, reduced
involvement in work or outside interests, hyper alertness, anxiety and
About 317,000 veterans diagnosed with the disorder were treated at
Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers and clinics in fiscal year
2005. Nearly 19,000 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were seen
for the disorder in veterans' medical centers and Vet Centers from fiscal
year 2002 to 2005.
A recent study of soldiers and Marines who had served in Iraq and
Afghanistan found that about 17 percent met criteria for post-traumatic
stress disorder, depression, or generalized anxiety disorder. Of those
whose responses were positive for a mental disorder, 40 percent or fewer
actually received help while on active duty.
For more information, contact your local veterans facility, call (877)
222-VETS or visit one of the following Web sites:
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for Post-Traumatic
Stress Disorder: www.ncptsd.va.gov
San Francisco Chronicle Guide for Returning Veterans:
Sources: Department of Veterans Affairs, New England Journal of Medicine
E-mail Matthew B. Stannard at email@example.com. ----------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright 2006 SF Chronicle
BLAKE MILLER; THE "MARLBORO MAN" IN IRAQ WAR PHOTO
We saw his face as the final image on the video "No Bravery". as "....only sadness."
It is not surprising that he now suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Click on 'next' or 'previous' to view these photos of one of our own war victims, a 'walking wounded' with no visible injuries, yet wounded all the same. ------------------------------------------------------
To view the video again, click on:
Note: If you get a page saying the page cannot be displayed, keep trying; or type in the address and access it that way. I had a problem this morning but finally accessed it. The url is good. Problem may be with my computer; I get a lot of that.------------------------------------------
To view a companion video on the same theme, same song, different video, click on:
The video continues for another minute after the song is finished.
And remember! this same evil occurred in the Balkans too.
1-in-10 US Iraq veterans have stress disorder: study - Yahoo! News
Those who have viewed the war photos that have been posted can understand the mental stress of our military personnel seeing this upclose and personal, including the death and maiming of their buddies. Many of these soldiers and marines are in their twenties or fresh out of high school. Coupled with the rigors and terrors of combat plus the horrific scenes of dead and mutilated human beings, it is no wonder they sufffer stress disorders. The "Marlboro Man" was only 19 years old during the Battle of Fallujah.
And I have not posted the most horrific photos, cautious of the sensibilities of the readers. Only the men themselves know what unspeakable scenes they have witnessed.
ALSO SEE: SHAMEFUL TREATMENT OF OUR VETERANS. THE HOMELESS.
Friday, March 03, 2006
Actor Gary Sinise: Positive Support for Iraq
The following article has been forwarded to you by a reader of NewsMax.com.
To visit NewsMax.com, point your browser to http://www.newsmax.com.
Forwarded by: worried american (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Comments: Gary said,"and if they [Americans] view it as a war, they view it as an illegal war, and they're not going to support it; therefore, they're not going to support the military who are fighting it." I take strong exception to that last remark. Nearly everyone I know is anti-war and do not support this war; yet every one supports our troops completely.
The following is an exclusive NewsMax interview with actor Gary Sinise. James Hirsen reports from Hollywood.
"Everybody needs a good day in a war zone." Actor Gary Sinise
The U.S. media present a "completely opposite" view of what is really happening with American troops in Iraq, highlighting the negative and ignoring the positive, Emmy Award-winning actor Gary Sinise tells NewsMax.
. . .
To read the rest of this article Click Here.
Personal Essay: To A Soldier
Message:Article Title: Personal Essay: To A Soldier
I saw you in the airport, in desert pattern combat fatigues, a duffle bag over your shoulder. Briefly, I saw myself in 1968, in this same airport, my head nearly shaved, my uniform looking like a clown suit on my skinny frame, on my way to Viet Nam.
You were surrounded by people, either not noticing you, not wanting to disturb you, or, in this all too Washington, DC way, not wanting to appear uncool by speaking to a stranger. No one ever spoke to me, either. I have spoken to others of you, to tell you to take care of yourselves and each other over there, or, if your boots were dusty and you looked tired, a “Welcome Home”.
I am touched and humbled by your willingness to serve, as our protectors, and as our ready armed forces. Many of you flocked to enlist when our country was attacked, because you believed that you would be going after the very people who attacked us. Perhaps yours was a purer motive than mine. I enlisted because I had dropped out of college and was faced with the draft. My chosen path was, in those days, one of least resistance.
We both grew up believing that it is the duty of Americans, particularly men, to serve our country in the military. There is an underlying message that we are to define ourselves as men in this light. My great-great and great-grandfathers were Confederates, both grandfathers were in WWI, my father was in WWII. My son served seven years in the army, and was medically retired with a disability.
Perhaps, like me and my peers in Viet Nam, you have found it a matter of practicality to accept the ethos of the warrior, because it is necessary for your survival in a hostile environment. You are justifiably proud of your competence and skills. The professionals who trained you in the arts of war, for their years and experience, are even more skilled than you, so you follow and respect them. Perhaps you are a professional soldier and choose to remain so.
For the soldier, it is your war, justified because you are in it. It is not your job to make foreign policy; it is your job to carry it out. If you relay radio messages, prepare meals for hundreds, or walk combat patrol, you do your job so that your buddy can do his. Your buddy is the most important person in your life; you do what you can for him, and you depend on him for your very life. When you cannot keep him from harm, you grieve.
Ours is the brotherhood of the soldier, a part of the universal human experience. The American soldier is still only a soldier, serving under arms to further what others have judged to be in the best interests of his country. If we read history, we should know that we share this experience with Israelites and Philistines, Roman legions, Moors, Napoleon’s divisions, and the men of every European and Asian nation having armies. No leaders have ever lacked men willing to fight, suffer and die for them, not Ghengis Khan, George Washington, Lincoln, Hitler, or Binh Laden. They all manage to convince us that we are meant to be part of a grand effort, of something far larger than ourselves, our families, and our village. They may appeal to fear, revenge for some wrong committed against you, or these motives may give way to hate, pure and simple.
Every soldier thinks that his cause is unique in human history, his devotion to that cause most justified, most righteous, most pure. Your enemy is the one trying to conquer the world, to anhihilate your people, to destroy your way of life, to enslave others. Our own cause seems without fault, built on unassailable logic and truth. I found a Nazi belt buckle among my father’s things. It had, above the Nazi eagle and swastika, the words, “Gott Mit Uns”. Soldiers have been all equally devoted, equally ferocious in battle, equally believing in a righteous God at their side, Crusaders and Arabs alike.
As terribly costly as WWII was, almost no one questioned the righteousness of the war, or its cost. The enemy was clearly attempting mass conquest, genocide, and unspeakable brutality. There was no disagreement on the necessity for bringing their depredations to an end.
When our country was attacked, we all agreed that it made good sense to go after the very people who attacked us, if for no other reason but so they would not do it again. We cheered you on, and we sent the best trained of you, special operations, to hunt them down.
Like my war, however, this expanded war, this invasion and occupation of Iraq, has become a war many good people question. As many of half of us in this country favor bringing it to a quick end. It is clear to the American people that those who wanted this war with Iraq have, for the most part, never worn the uniform you wear. We are not surprised when their children and other young people who claim to support this war would rather see you serve two and three combat tours than to serve themselves. In spite of rhetoric comparing the urgency and gravity of Iraq to WWII, the draft has not been instituted. The administration knows that this war does not have the support of the American people.
Why can I not accept the fact that war is an inevitable consequence of the human condition? Since our society, like every other one in history, is able to convince some of its members to fight and die while the rest of us go on about our business, why not let soldiers do what soldiers do, and assume victory or some vague semblance of it?
We sowed the seeds of this reluctance to go to war ourselves. We have created weapons so terrible, so unthinkably devastating, that we assume no one would dare to use them. We forgot an inevitable consequence of military technology, that whatever we have, someone else will copy, steal, buy or figure it out for himself. We could not prevent the old Soviet Union, Israel, India, Pakistan or North Korea from obtaining nuclear weapons. We ignored the warnings of the wise old general, Dwight Eisenhower, when he told us that the cooperation of industry, finance and the military, for profit would be a greater threat to our safety, way of life and our Constitution than would any other foreign power. We have not been successful even in preventing the proliferation of rapid-fire, high volume fire weapons among children in our own country. Weapons proliferation does not lower the stakes of our insatiable appetite for weapons, it raises the possibility of devastation beyond anything we can imagine. Diplomacy, intelligence-gathering, international cooperation have become more essential, not less. We simply have to learn to get along with the rest of the world, accept less than we’d like, give more than expected, and act as a more mature, more intelligent, more compassionate and wiser nation.
It is increasingly clear that the reasons for this war, like the reasons for my war, are fraudulent. Intelligence, military and diplomatic professionals have made this clear. Military adventurism is not “defending America” any more than I was defending my country in Viet Nam. “Weapons of mass destruction”, the links between Iraq and Al Qaeda, and the attempts to secure uranium have been found and proven to be untrue. No one can define to our satisfaction what “victory” is, and how we would know when we have achieved it. Like Vietnam, a victory of sorts might be possible by using the weaponry available to lay waste to an entire country. Both then and now, we stop short of doing the unthinkable. History is strewn with the shame of the Japanese in Nanking, the Russians in Berlin, the Holocaust, and My Lai. We know better, we claim to stop short of inflicting intentional suffering and death on citizens not involved in combat.
We share the experience of being under arms in a country where we are not welcome. The most cursory reading of military history makes clear the tremendous risk of forcing an opponent to defend his own home territory. If another power were to attempt to occupy the continental United States, your father and I would be hanging their blackened bodies from the nearest bridge. I suppose they would term us something like “insurgents”.
You know right from wrong. The military has its standards of decent treatment of prisoners of war and non-combatants. You had the classes I had on the Geneva Convention and rules of engagement. No one has voted to repeal these minimal standards of human decency. Most of the US Senate has, in fact, voted to uphold them. People who have never worn the uniform insist that torture and detention without charges are lawful, and do not consider that such treatment might also be inflicted on our own young men and women.
For Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson in 1968, decency was more important than looking good for his superiors. He reported the My Lai massacre and would not be dismissed by the brass. Sp4 Joe Darby blew the lid off the abuse of prisoners, many of them innocent, at Abu Ghraib. He acted on what he knew to be right, as did the CID soldiers to whom he reported it. Military JAG officers, as attorneys, know that holding people without representation at Guantanamo is wrong; they are right to question it. Temporary soldiers have been known to act with more professionalism than professionals.
The yellow ribbon you see on the backs of cars says “Support the Troops”. The word “troops” has no legitimate singular form. Political leaders and generals like to think in terms of troops. They cannot dwell on the individual suffering and death war entails. “Troops” implies a faceless, nameless mass, to be moved like chess pieces, instead of individuals, each life precious. I see implicit in the word a wish for the horrors of war to be left to military professionals and the willing, like us, so that the accountants, firefighters, teachers and brickmasons among us don’t have to deal with it. We don’t like to be reminded of the heat, danger and horrors you face every day. Like me in Viet Nam, you are “other people’s kids”, “troops”, kept at a distance, in the airport, when you come home wounded, and when you come home looking for a job.
For Viet Nam veterans, the yellow ribbon is a declaration that, regardless of how we feel about the justification for the war, that we will not allow you to be denigrated, ignored, and abused, as we were during and after Viet Nam. When that war became unpopular, we became unpopular. We veterans know that the war is not the fault of the warrior at whose feet we lay it.
This administration has responded to the welfare of soldiers only grudgingly, sometimes having to be shamed into recognizing your sacrifice. As soon as they committed our young people to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, they sought to reduce the budget of the Veterans Administration, the very government agency with the resources and experience to deal with the inevitable results of sending soldiers into combat. Some are looking forward to the dismantling of the Veterans Administration, sneering at those good folks and the services they provide for veterans as an “entitlement program”. Recently, our government has engaged in a hand-wringing exercise over compensation and treatment for those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They seek to curtail the compensation paid to some who have been receiving this benefit from Viet Nam. PTSD is real, its effects are real, and recognized by mental health professionals. Treatment for so many will be expensive and, in some cases, lengthy. It is time to pay the piper. When we create veterans, we are obligated to your care. The yellow ribbons, when not accompanied by a firm commitment to deal with the consequences of sending you into harm’s way, are a pathetically hollow gesture.
Do not be pressured into denying PTSD, if you think you may be suffering from it. Keep a copy of your medical and mental health treatment records. If you are already separated from the military, seek out a Vet Center, a group of people like yourself who meet regularly with a mental health professional for support. PTSD is treatable. To the extent that it may interfere with getting and holding a job, you may be entitled to compensation for PTSD as a service-connected condition. See a veterans organization such as Disabled American Veterans to file and pursue your claim. The VA claims processing offices are understaffed; your compensation will not come quickly.
While you are in Afghanistan or Iraq, take care of each other, look out for each other and do your best to keep safe. We freely chose to be soldiers. We make the best of our situation, try to survive it, try to get others though it unharmed. Your mind is your own. Read and stay informed. Stay in touch with friends and family. If the military shuts down your blogs, then write letters. There are fine writers, poets, photographers, and artists among you. You must survive to tell your stories when you are back with us. The military experience will always be a part of you, even if you don’t choose to define yourself in terms of it. When we are no longer soldiers, the experience of war never leaves our dreams. We see our comrades, and hear their voices, sometimes even of our enemies.
My friends and I have sent letters and care items to those of you in the Middle East. We would deny you nothing that would make your life over there a little easier, a little more comfortable. What I cannot do for you is to accept the reasons for and the circumstances under which you were sent to Iraq. My gift to you today is to let you know that good people are working to bring you home.
Go back to school, using the education benefits you have earned. Choose your course of study and your life’s work carefully. Work for justice; work for peace. And, finally, be involved enough in your country’s government to be very, very sure before you commit soldiers to combat, before you allow people the age of your children to endure what you have endured, to suffer what you have suffered.
Welcome home.Please visit Veterans for Common Sense at http://www.veteransforcommonsense.org
Weekly Update: One third of Iraq Vets seek mental health care
Message: Veterans complain of PTSDArticle Title: Weekly Update: One third of Iraq Vets seek mental health care
In a new study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Colonel Charles Hoge of Walter Reed Army Medical Center reports that up to a third of Iraq War veterans have sought mental health care treatment since their return from Iraq. Also, update on the Resource Guide and letter to the President.
Veterans for Common 2006 First Quarter Fundraising Campaign
Consequences of WarThird of Returning Soldiers Get Counseling
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March 1, 2006
Dear VCS Members and Supporters:
In a new study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Colonel Charles Hoge of Walter Reed Army Medical Center reports that up to a third of Iraq War veterans have sought mental health care treatment since their return from Iraq.
Unfortunately, even as we learn of even more devastating consequences of war, on ongoing assault against veterans continues, with some columnists and analysts arguing that many of those claiming post-traumatic stress disorder are simply gaming the system in order to secure financial compensation.
Last year, the VA began an aggressive review of PTSD claims, reopening the claims of 72,000 veterans with the most serious PTSD. Rules were changed to require additional approval for PTSD claims. The review of the 72,000 claims ended only when at least one of those veterans received a letter from the VA and blew his brains out. The subsequent outcry drowned out the most important finding of the VA's investigation -- of the 1,000 reviews they completed before halting the program, not one constituted fraud.
The bottom line is that combat experience can be devastating. The experience of killing in combat, of seeing a friend, or civilians killed, is extremely difficult to deal with and the normal reaction is, as I often put it, to go a little bit crazy. Across America, police departments recognize that fact, by making counseling mandatory for any officer who fires his weapon on duty.
For soldiers, we make no such claim. Often, the only readjustment counseling a military veteran receives on the end of a year-long combat tour is a fifteen minute chat, in a group, with a chaplain.
We know the seriousness of the issue. Untreated combat trauma often results in difficulty readjusting to civilian life. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans estimates than one third of the homeless in America are Vietnam veterans. Too many Iraq war veterans are joining them.
In a democracy, we share responsibility not only for the actions of the service members we send to fight, but also for their future. It is not enough to accuse a few veterans of cheating to get compensation, thus tarnishing the service of hundreds of thousands of others.
The young men and women serving in the military today commit their lives to protect the rest of us. When they come home, it's our turn to help them.
Coming Changes at Veterans for Common Sense
In recognition of the enormous challenges faced by returning veterans, and in response to feedback we received from you in our annual membership survey, big changes are planned for VCS in the coming months. With a tighter focus and increased resources, we'll be working to make a big difference for returning veterans. Over the course of the next few weeks, as those changes are implemented, I'll continue to write and keep you up to date.
In the meantime, thank you for your continued support for VCS.
Resource Guide Update
As many of our members know, last year Veterans for Common Sense published the first comprehensive guide for returning veterans. Thanks to the very generous donations we received after our last call support, we'll shortly be printing thousands of the print version of the guide for distribution at a national conference on PTSD hosted by the Department of Health and Human Services. Thanks so much to all of you who gave for this effort.
Before we go to print, we want the guide to be as comprehensive as possible. That's where you come in. If you know of organizations, treatment programs or other resources available for returning veterans, we'd like you to add them to the guide.
Take a look at the current version, and if you see a resource that is missing or can be expanded on, please do so. We've opened it up so any member can post edits to the guide, in the hope that a collaborative effort can build a much more comprehensive resource than our staff can do alone. This effort depends on you.
Check out the guide at http://www.veteransforcommonsense.org/guide.htm. Instructions on how to add a resource are located on the right side of the guide home page.
Letter to the President
As many of you who have been members of VCS for while know, our first major campaigns, in the fall of 2002 and the winter of 03, were letters to the President and the Senate/House leadership.
After some discussion, we've decided its time for another letter to the President, which is something we haven't done in quite a long time. We'll most likely focus on a couple of key areas: first, the treatment of the troops, especially on their return, and the heavy push coming from some think tanks (AEI in particular) to attack PTSD. We'll probably also talk about protection of civilians in Iraq and our concerns about prisoner abuse.
This time, before we draft the letter, I'd like to ask you for input. What do you think should go in it? What are the key points? If you could get into see GWB, what would you ask him?
Featured News: To A Soldier; Arrogant and Out of Touch
Douglas Nelston, a Vietnam veteran, writes an eloquent essay addressing the veterans of today and reflecting on his own experiences in Vietnam.
Tom Halsted wrote this week regarding an email he received from a soldier in Iraq about Dick Cheney's worst day.
http://www.veteransforcommonsense.org/index.cfm?Page=Article&ID=67 We Need Your Support
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With highest regards,
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For one Marine, torture came home
Message: The tragedy of untreated or minimally treated PTSDArticle Title: For one Marine, torture came home
ABOUT A YEAR and a half ago, a 40-year-old former Marine sergeant named Jeffrey Lehner, recently returned from Afghanistan, phoned and asked to meet with me. Since his return he had been living with his father, a retired pharmacist, in the Santa Barbara home where he was raised. I first heard about Jeff from an acquaintance of mine who was dating him and who told me that he was deeply distressed about what he had seen on his tours in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle East.
We met for lunch at a restaurant on Canon Perdido in downtown Santa Barbara. Jeff was focused, articulate and as handsome as a movie star. He was quite wound-up, but utterly lucid.
There was no way I could have known that day the depths of Jeff's unhappiness, no way I could have predicted the tragedy that would follow. I listened closely to his story and, while I was surprised by what I heard, I had no particular reason to disbelieve him.
He had joined the Marines enthusiastically, he told me, and served as a flight mechanic for eight years. Not long after 9/11, he began helping to fly materials into Afghanistan with the first wave of U.S. troops.
In the beginning, Jeff supported the administration's policies in the region. But over time, that began to change. As we talked, Jeff brought out an album of photos from Afghanistan. He pointed to a series of photographs of a trailer and several huts behind a barbed-wire fence; these were taken, he said, outside a U.S. military camp not far from the Kandahar airport. He told me that young Afghans — some visible in blue jumpsuits in his photos — had been rounded up and brought to the site by a CIA special operations team. The CIA officers made no great secret of what they were doing, he said, but were dismissive of the Marines and pulled rank when challenged.
Jeff said he had been told by soldiers who had been present that the detainees were being interrogated and tortured, and that they were sometimes given psychotropic drugs. Some, he believed, had died in custody. What disturbed him most, he said, was that the detainees were not Taliban fighters or associates of Osama bin Laden. "By the time we got there," Jeff said, "the serious fighters were long gone."
Jeff had other stories to tell as well. He said the CIA team had put detainees in cargo containers aboard planes and interrogated them while circling in the air. He'd been on board some of these flights, he said, and was deeply disturbed by what he'd seen.
Was Jeff telling me the truth? As a reporter who writes investigative articles, I get calls frequently from people with unusual stories — sometimes spot-on accurate ones, sometimes personal vendettas and sometimes paranoid, crazy stories. Jeff seemed truthful, and he had told the same stories almost verbatim to several friends and family members. But I was worried because at the time, I hadn't heard about such abuses in Afghanistan, and Jeff's stories were hard to verify.
More worrisome, Jeff was seeking treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, and I wondered whether he could withstand the scrutiny his allegations would generate.
PTSD's symptoms can include anxiety, deeply frightening thoughts, a sense of helplessness or flashbacks. Jeff's case apparently stemmed, according to Jim Nolan, a fellow veteran and a friend from Jeff's PTSD support group, from witnessing the "unspeakable," and from his inability to stop what he knew to be morally wrong.
His case was compounded, his friends said, by strong feelings of "survivor's guilt" involving the crash of a KC-130 transport plane into a mountain in January 2002 — killing eight men in his unit. He'd been scheduled to be on the flight and had been reassigned at the last minute. As part of the ground crew that attended to the plane's maintenance, he blamed himself. Afterward, he went to the debris site to recover remains. He found his fellow soldiers' bodies unrecognizable. He also told me he was deeply shaken by the collateral damage he saw to civilians from U.S. air attacks — especially the shrapnel wounding of so many Afghan children.
Jeff told me that he often couldn't sleep at night, thinking about what he had seen and heard. He had gone to Afghanistan a social drinker but came home, like so many veterans, a problem drinker. And he admitted self-medicating with drugs. He was seeking help — and just days after we met, he drove 100 miles to enter a treatment program in Los Angeles. But the Veterans Affairs hospital's PTSD ward was full, he told me, so he was placed in a lockdown ward for schizophrenics, which only aggravated his isolation and despair.
Jeff left the hospital after a day. He got in touch with Dr. Sharon Rapp, who is the only psychologist trained in treating post-traumatic stress for all returning veterans who live between L.A. and San Francisco, according to the Santa Barbara VA office. Rapp, who is by all accounts a gifted and dedicated therapist, placed him in a PTSD group with about 10 Vietnam veterans who took Jeff under their wing. But it became increasingly clear that he, like so many veterans, needed far more than outpatient and group therapy.
At the time Jeff told me his story, I didn't quite know what to do with it. Such allegations were not yet being reported — and many Americans would probably have found his accusations unimaginable. For multiple reasons, I put his story on the back burner. I continued to stay in touch with Jeff — and occasionally spoke with his father, Ed, who invariably answered the phone — as I ruminated on his troubling tale.
However, late last year, details about secret prisons began to appear. Human Rights Watch, for instance, reported that a number of men being held at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had given their lawyers "consistent accounts" of being held and tortured at a secret American-run prison in Afghanistan. I decided it was time to call Jeff and meet again.
It was early December. Jeff was still living in his father's home off Old San Marcos Road. He'd broken up with my friend and another woman to whom he had been briefly engaged, and he was struggling to stay sober.
But by the time I called, it was too late. The day I phoned, Jeff had quarreled with his father. That afternoon, they held an unscheduled counseling session with Rapp. According to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department, Rapp was so concerned after their meeting that she phoned the Lehner house about 6 p.m. Ed answered, spoke with her and then called his son to take the phone. At that point, the line suddenly turned to static. Fearing the worst, Rapp called the police.
The worst proved to be the case. The police found two bodies, and quickly labeled the case a murder-suicide. Ed Lehner, they said, had died from multiple gunshot wounds, and Jeff from a single, self-inflicted wound to the head.
The irony was that after eight years in the military, the first and only person Jeff Lehner killed was his father.
Nolan, who said he returned from Vietnam in emotional tatters, was not entirely surprised by the turn of events. According to Nolan, Jeff's relationship with his father, a soft-spoken man with diabetes, had strains predating his Marine years, and it had deteriorated as Jeff's dependency on him deepened. "He had talked about suicide a couple of times during our meetings," Nolan said, "as all of us had at one time or another. It's about a loss of respect. When you lose respect between family members, there's nothing but anger left, and that's how the rage works in you."
There are ways to deal with the rage, of course, but treatment of returning veterans is woefully inadequate, owing to a lack of funding. Although the VA acknowledges PTSD as a serious problem for returning veterans, VA hospitals around the country have sharply reduced their inpatient psychiatric beds, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Suicide, meanwhile, is an enormous and growing concern. Statistics are hard to come by, but some estimate that although 58,000 veterans died in combat in Vietnam, more than that took their own lives after returning home. In a 1987 CDC study, the suicide rate for Vietnam vets was 65% higher than that of civilians. The Army estimates that the suicide rate among Iraq veterans is one-third higher than the historical wartime average, owing to the psychological strains of no-holds-barred insurgency warfare. That means we're looking at a future blizzard of suicides without an adequate VA program in place to address the crisis.
Without Jeff and the further details he could have provided, I doubt I will ever know for certain whether all his Afghanistan stories are true. But no matter what you believe when you read this, the story of Jeff's life and death raises issues we must grapple with if we're going to continue sending troops into insurgencies and guerrilla war zones. Thirty years after Vietnam, we seem to have learned very little.
Of course, I feel badly now that I didn't spend more time with Jeff or try harder to get his story published while he was alive.
He had such a dazzling smile — the type you knew was destined for great things.
ANN LOUISE BARDACH writes the Interrogation column for Slate and is the author of "Cuba Confidential, Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana." Her article on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's ties to the tabloids was a finalist for last year's PEN USA journalism award.
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