Archive for the ‘War’ Category

US Special Forces struggle with record rate of suicides

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Click to enlarge – “Have to trust someone to be betrayed. I never did.”

Suicides among U.S. special operations forces, including elite Navy SEALs and Army Rangers, are at record levels, a U.S. military official said on Thursday, citing the effects of more than a decade of “hard combat.”

The number of special operations forces committing suicide has held at record highs for the past two years, said Admiral William McRaven, who leads the Special Operations Command…

It may take a year or more, he said, to assess the effects of sustained combat on special operations units, whose missions range from strikes on militants such as the 2011 SEAL raid that killed al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden to assisting in humanitarian disasters.

He did not provide data on the suicide rate, which the U.S. military has been battling to lower. In 2012, for example, more active duty servicemen and servicewomen across the U.S. armed forces died by suicide – an estimated 350 – than died in combat, a U.S. defense official said.

That trend appears to have held in 2013 although preliminary data is showing a slight improvement, with 284 suicides among active duty forces in the year to December 15, the official added…

Kim Ruocco, who assists the survivors of military members who commit suicide, said members of the closely knit special operations community often fear that disclosing their symptoms will end their careers.

Additionally, the shrinking size of the U.S. armed forces has put additional pressure on soldiers, whose sense of community and self-identity is often closely tied to their military service, said Ruocco, director of suicide prevention programs for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, an advocacy group for military families.

It’s my guess that disclosing fear, suicidal tendencies, any questions of survival will absolutely be interpreted as weakness and inability to make “the mission” more important than life itself. Very few military units have ever developed an understanding of human emotions beyond convincing troops that killing folks is more important than anything else.

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Written by Ed Campbell

April 18, 2014 at 8:00 am

“An epidemic we can’t allow to continue”

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The National Mall between the Capitol and the White House was decorated with over 1,800 miniature flags Thursday, the lawn a sea of little old glories in the cold morning light, snow still on the ground, each flag waving in the spring air a veteran lost to suicide this year alone.

According to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, an average of 22 veterans take their own life each day…The IAVA is in Washington for its yearly action campaign to petition the government on veteran’s issues.

This year, they’re working together with Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont., to introduce the Suicide Prevention for America’s Veterans Act, a bill aimed at reducing the veteran suicide rate by extending eligibility for Veterans Administration health care and mandating a review of mental health care programs the VA offers…

Walsh, who, commanded a Montana National Guard battalion in Iraq, said, “When we returned home, one of my young sergeants died by suicide, so this is very personal to me.”…The Senator called suicide, “an epidemic we cannot allow to continue.”

Walsh and the IAVA are calling on Congress to pass the Suicide Prevention for America’s Veterans Act by Memorial Day.

Considering that it’s taken three months for the “humane” Senate to pass a bill restoring unemployment insurance extended benefits to the longterm unemployed. With nothing in sight from the Congress-cruds in the House of Representatives. I wouldn’t exactly hold my breath waiting for timely action from Congress over veterans committing suicide.

Even easy-peasy vote-getting issues face difficulty confronting the Party of NO and Know-Nothings in our national legislature.

Written by Ed Campbell

March 27, 2014 at 8:00 pm

Great-Power-Politics is back. Whoopee!

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Unless Russia changes course – which seems unlikely anytime soon – the global consequences are apt to be grave. The US and the European Union will impose sanctions, weakening Russia’s economy and the world economy – and stoking even more tension and nationalism. Mistakes on one side or the other could lead to violent disaster. We need only to recall the spiral of hubris and miscalculation that led to the outbreak of World War I, a century ago this year.

As frightening as the Ukraine crisis is, the more general disregard of international law in recent years must not be overlooked. Without diminishing the seriousness of Russia’s recent actions, we should note that they come in the context of repeated violations of international law by the US, the EU, and NATO. Every such violation undermines the fragile edifice of international law, and risks throwing the world into a lawless war of all against all.

The US and its allies have also launched a series of military interventions in recent years in contravention of the United Nations Charter and without the support of the UN Security Council. The US-led NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999 lacked the sanction of international law, and occurred despite the strong objections of Russia, a Serbian ally. Kosovo’s subsequent declaration of independence from Serbia, recognized by the US and most EU members, is a precedent that Russia eagerly cites for its actions in Crimea. The ironies are obvious.

The Kosovo War was followed by the US-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, both of which occurred without the support of the Security Council, and in the case of Iraq, despite vigorous objections within it. The results for both Afghanistan and Iraq have been utterly devastating…

One can add many other US actions, including drone strikes on the territory of sovereign states without their governments’ permission; covert military operations; renditions and torture of terror suspects; and massive spying by the US National Security Agency. When challenged by other countries or UN organizations, the US has brushed aside their objections.

International law itself is at a crossroads. The US, Russia, the EU, and NATO cite it when it is to their advantage and disregard it when they deem it a nuisance. Again, this is not to justify Russia’s unacceptable actions; rather, it is to add them to the sequence of actions contrary to international law.

The point of this post is not to endorse Jeffrey Sachs’ particular analysis of any piece of history. Though I often agree — I sometimes disagree. The man has spent a creative political life in a quest for regional and global solutions to the problems politicians continue to create, re-invent.

His understanding of the benefits of International Law is one that isn’t challenged by anyone short of the sort of self-assured maniacs we have managed to throw up from one or another crisis-demented country every couple of generations. Some are obvious threats from the beginning of their political careers. Some – unfortunately – have spent sufficient time in academia, finance or the upper strata of class society to ooze calm and deadly solutions worthy of Solomon or Kissinger or Churchill. Butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths.

We continue to die to satisfy their vision of political economy, nationalism and this week’s omelet.

Written by Ed Campbell

March 25, 2014 at 8:00 am

Baltic fishermen find the oldest message in a bottle

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A postcard dated May 17, 1913, and found in a bottle by German fishermen appears to be the oldest such message ever found.

Konrad Fischer, captain of a fishing boat from Schleswig-Holstein, told Kieler Nachrichten, a local newspaper, that he was about to throw the bottle back in the sea when someone told him it was not empty, the Local.de reported.

“When I saw the date I got really excited,” he said.

The postcard, from Denmark, had German stamps on it. It was signed by Richard Platz and addressed to his own home in Berlin with a message asking the finder to put it in the mail.

The Guinness Book of World Records lists the oldest previous message in a bottle as 97 years, found in 2012.

Fischer said his previous finds during his 50 years as a fisherman have been more alarming, including mines, bombs, torpedoes and a body.

Another reporter researching the story discovered that Richard Platz from Berlin – died in the First World War.

Written by Ed Campbell

March 9, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Pic of the Day

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Charge of the McCain Brigade

Give John McCain a sabre and he can solve any problem!

Written by Ed Campbell

March 3, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Japan’s resurgent nationalism pours salt on the wounds of war

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Nanjing Massacre
Verdict of the International Military Tribunal

A Japanese cabinet member visited a shrine seen by critics as a symbol of Tokyo’s wartime aggression on Wednesday, pouring salt on a fresh wound after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s pilgrimage there last week drew sharp criticism from China and South Korea.

Internal Affairs Minister Yoshitaka Shindo said he thought his visit to the Yasukuni Shrine was unlikely to become a diplomatic issue…

But Beijing and Seoul have repeatedly expressed anger over politicians’ visits to Yasukuni, where Japanese leaders convicted as war criminals by an Allied tribunal after World War Two are honored along with those who died in battle.

Both China and Korea suffered under Japanese rule, with parts of China occupied from the 1930s and Korea colonized from 1910 to 1945. Japanese leaders have apologized in the past but many in China and South Korea doubt the sincerity of the apologies, partly because of contradictory remarks by politicians.

China condemned Wednesday’s visit, which it said exposed Japan’s war crimes and attempts to “challenge the outcomes of the world’s anti-fascist war“…

Underscoring the deteriorating ties between Asia’s two biggest economies, China said its leaders would not meet Abe after he visited Yasukuni on Thursday, the first visit by a serving Japanese prime minister since 2006.

The quality of Reuters commentary continues to deteriorate. They end the article with one of those fatuous boilerplate sentences famous in diplomatic annals: “Experts see his visit as an attempt to recast Japan’s wartime past in a less apologetic light and revive national pride.”

Which experts, working for which governments — and what sort of national pride is raised by visiting a memorial best-known even in Japan as important to the nation’s greed and brutality to all other Asian nations? There are beaucoup alternatives popular among the Japanese people.

Can you imagine Angela Merkel or Giorgio Napolitano paying a visit of remembrance to Hitler’s bunker or the Esso station in Milan where Mussolini’s body was laid out for the public to spit on. Do you think President Obama should wander through Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, North Carolina to visit Jesse Helms’ grave? The last and most unrepentant racist elected to the US Senate on a platform of opposing civil rights for non-white Americans – forever!

Right-wing nationalism in Japan only means one policy in the last century of Asian history. Military might and political will commanded to serve Japanese corporate Zaibatsu.

Written by Ed Campbell

January 2, 2014 at 8:00 am

The best photographs of 2013 – from The GUARDIAN

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Click to enlargeSebastiano Tomado/Rex

Female fighter in Syria. ‘Her name is Fadwa. She’s 20 years old, a widow with three children. Every time I asked the women of the Free Syrian Army why they decided to fight, the answer was: “My husband died on the front lines, I will die on the front lines, may God help us.”

Written by Ed Campbell

December 26, 2013 at 8:00 am

Remembering absent friends

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I presume these Canadian troops are marching away from a memorial to those who fell during the liberation of Belgium during World War 2. Yes, I remember all of those days.

My best friend died a few years back. He was the most decorated soldier from our home state in WW2. He had 16 months in hospital to reflect upon how he got there – not just the German soldier who threw a hand grenade at him at the liberation of a death camp; but, the corporate and political creeps who helped scum like Hitler into power.

We learned a lot together over the years. Both of our families came to the US from Canada, btw. His family from Montreal and mine from PEI.

I salute you, too, Clyde.

Thanks, Mister Justin

Written by Ed Campbell

November 10, 2013 at 2:00 pm

US invasion of Afghanistan began 12 years ago – today!

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Operation Enduring Freedom, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, began 12 years ago Monday…There are still 54,000 American troops in Afghanistan and the number of coalition bases has gone from a high of 800 to about 100, Stars and Stripes reported…

Discussion and media interest about Afghanistan have faded since President Obama ordered a troop surge three years ago, but a White House spokesman declined to discuss whether Obama is avoiding public discussion, Stars and Stripes said.

A. Trevor Thrall, a professor at George Mason University, said this isn’t the first time a president has tried to avoid news out of Afghanistan, the report said.

George W. Bush stopped talking about Afghanistan almost immediately after he shifted focus to Iraq,” Thrall said. “Afghanistan was truly a forgotten war [when] Obama took over and it became it again after the surge was over. The result is the public really has no idea what’s going on there.”

Troops still in Afghanistan told Stars and Stripes they have mixed feelings about the lack of attention.

“It’s kind of sad, because I think some people are a little more occupied with the latest TV show,” said Lt. Uriel Macias, a Navy reservist assigned to a stability operations team in Kabul. “But what is often forgotten is that we are still losing people all the time.”

Of course, we could have left a long time ago – just as we could have stayed out of Iraq altogether. But, that not only would have required reason and objectivity among our elected officials in the White House and Congress – it would have required courage in the face of right-wing chickenhawks, war-lovers and profiteers.

Not especially likely in the Land of Liberty.

Written by Ed Campbell

October 7, 2013 at 2:00 pm

What you didn’t know about the Chemical Weapons Convention

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The 16-year-old Chemical Weapons Convention has been in the spotlight since Syria decided to join in an apparent bid to avoid US-led military intervention over the government’s alleged use of chemical weapons. But here are some lesser known facts about the origins of the treaty, whom it covers, what it covers – and who has complied with its obligations…

Between April 1997, when the convention came into force, and July 2013, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons – which polices the convention – conducted more than 5,000 inspections in 86 out of the 189 countries that are party to the convention. But the OPCW can’t do much to enforce compliance, outside recommending measures to states or referring matters to the UN General Assembly or Security Council.

Seven state parties have declared chemical weapons stockpiles totalling over 70,000 tonnes, and so far some 80% of this has been destroyed…But only three countries – Albania, India and a third party widely believed to be South Korea – have destroyed all their stockpiles.

The countries with the biggest declared stockpiles, the United States and Russia, failed to meet deadlines for their total destruction in April 2007 and April 2012. The deadlines have now been extended once again…

The US currently has a stockpile of some 3,000 tonnes of chemical agents – three times the amount Western powers say Syria possesses.

There are some contentious exclusions from the CWC, such as white phosphorus – which if used as smoke (to camouflage movement) is not considered a chemical weapon despite its potential toxic effects. Napalm and dynamite are excluded because their primary destructive effects are considered to be incendiary and not chemical.

The CWC’s remit also does not include biological weapons – weaponisable bio-agents such as bacteria, viruses or fungi – which is covered by the Biological Weapons Convention.

Because of foot-dragging by the US and the Soviet Union, it took a couple decades for the proposed treaty to make it to reality in 1997. All the breast-beating we still hear from our elected officials about the plastic halo they think we deserve for starting to destroy our chemical weapons, we remain responsible for most of the nuclear arsenal remaining in the world, a significant chunk of land mines.

Los Alamos National Labs avoided most of the effects of the sequester stupidity because they – and the nuclear welfare program at Pantex in Amarillo, Texas – are busy upgrading the triggers on our nuclear stockpile of death and destruction.

Written by Ed Campbell

September 14, 2013 at 2:00 am


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