Tagged: Afghanistan

US military bombs Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan –


Seems like the old days doesn’t it? All we need is George W’s sad voice giving us the “oops” excuse. Oh well, President Obama learned how to do it pretty well. No doubt he remembers exactly the tone required.

A hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in Kunduz was badly damaged early Saturday after being hit by what appears to have been an American airstrike. At least 19 people were killed, including 12 hospital staff members, and dozens wounded.

The United States military, in a statement, confirmed an airstrike at 2:15 a.m., saying that it had been targeting individuals “who were threatening the force” and that “there may have been collateral damage to a nearby medical facility.”

The airstrike set off fires that were still burning hours later, and a nurse who managed to climb out of the debris described seeing colleagues so badly burned that they had died…

President Ashraf Ghani’s office released a statement Saturday evening saying that Gen. John F. Campbell, the commander of American forces in Afghanistan, had apologized for the strike. In a statement, however, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said blah, blah, blah

Airstrikes resulting in civilian casualties have caused tensions verging on hostility between the Afghan government and the United States for years. The former president, Hamid Karzai, was often in the uncomfortable position of explaining to his countrymen why Afghanistan’s biggest ally was killing innocent Afghans…

Accounts differed as to whether there had been fighting around the hospital that might have precipitated the strike. Two hospital employees, an aide who was wounded in the bombing and a nurse who emerged unscathed, said that there had been no active fighting nearby and no Taliban fighters in the hospital.

But a Kunduz police spokesman, Sayed Sarwar Hussaini, insisted that Taliban fighters had entered the hospital and were using it as a firing position.

Doctors Without Borders, which released the casualty numbers, said 37 people were wounded of whom 19 were hospital staff and 18 were patients or their caregivers, which means mostly family members. The organization described the facility as “very badly damaged.”

In a statement, the aid group accused the American military of continuing the bombing for 30 minutes after receiving phone calls telling military contacts that the hospital was being bombed.

“All parties to the conflict including in Kabul and Washington, were clearly informed of the precise location [GPS Coordinates] of the MSF facilities — hospital, guesthouse, office,” the statement said.

Who do I believe? I’ll take Doctors Without Borders over the Pentagon any day of the week.

RTFA for a long, detailed account of the deaths and destruction.

Agent Orange linked to cancer precursor

Veterans exposed to the powerful and toxic defoliant Agent Orange during the Vietnam War have a significantly increased risk of the precursor state for multiple myeloma, a prospective cohort study now shows.

Exposure to Agent Orange doubled the risk of monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS), as compared with veterans who were not exposed.

The herbicide was used from 1962 to 1972 to destroy vast stretches of jungle canopy, missions known collectively as Operation Ranch Hand…

Agent Orange contained several herbicides, including 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD), a known human carcinogen, as reported online in JAMA Oncology by Ola Landgren, MD, PhD, of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center…

“To our knowledge, our findings provide the first direct scientific evidence for an association between the multiple myeloma precursor, MGUS, and exposure to Agent Orange/TCDD among (Operation) Ranch Hand veterans,” the authors wrote.

“Our observations are important in that they add support to a previous finding that certain pesticides play a role in the development of MGUS,” they added…

In an accompanying editorial, Nikhil C. Munshi, MD, of VA Boston Healthcare System and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, in Boston, noted that the study "now provides further evidence of an association between Agent Orange exposure and development of plasma cell disorder."

"Although this study associated risk of MGUS with Agent Orange exposure, the fact that all multiple myeloma cases originate from MGUS provides the first scientific evidence for a direct link between multiple myeloma and Agent Orange exposure," Munshi wrote.

Munshi pointed out that the Institute of Medicine has identified a predisposition to seven types of malignant neoplasms in veterans exposed to Agent Orange. Four of these, including the one reported by Landgren et al, are B-cell lymphoid neoplasms…

Of course, this means nothing to the reactionary fools who stand around, nowadays, and blather that folks shouldn’t even bring up the name of George W Bush and responsibility for the ever-expanding disaster that now is the Middle East. If newspapers and TV talking heads are willing to forget our nation’s responsibility for death and destruction in the last decade or so – why even bring up our slimy behavior from fifty years ago?

American conservatives have become a breed apart from their own history. There was a time when man-made disasters were worth considering in the intellectual lexicon of politics. Not anymore, man. The murder of tens of thousands stretching from Southeast Asia through Iraq and beyond mean nothing to fools with no conscience. The additional social burden of the slow murder of our own veterans is ignored as collateral damage from the heroic task of American justice.


Psychologists end collaboration with “national security” interrogations

So, why is Gitmo an exception?

The American Psychological Association…overwhelmingly approved a new ban on any involvement by psychologists in national security interrogations conducted by the United States government, even noncoercive interrogations now conducted by the Obama administration…

The vote followed an emotional debate in which several members said the ban was needed to restore the organization’s reputation after a scathing independent investigation ordered by the association’s board.

That investigation, conducted by David Hoffman, a Chicago lawyer, found that some officers of the association and other prominent psychologists colluded with government officials during the Bush administration to make sure that association policies did not prevent psychologists from involvement in the harsh interrogation programs conducted by the C.I.A. and the Pentagon.

The ban was approved by the association’s council by a vote of 156 to 1. Seven council members abstained, while one was recused…

The final vote was met by a standing ovation by many of the council members, as well as the large crowd of observers, which included anti-torture activists and psychology graduate students who had come to the meeting to support the ban. Some wore T-shirts proclaiming “First, Do No Harm,” a reference to the physicians’ Hippocratic oath.

RTFA for all the gory details. I think it stands as mute testimony for the sentiment solidly rooted in many Americans that war criminals like George W Bush and Dick Cheney should stand trial for their crimes.

Members of the APA have been expelled for their role in torture. I think that body would support their prosecution. I hope so, anyway.

Psychologists are also still assigned at the American military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where they oversee “voluntary” interrogations of detainees.

Omar Khadr in his own words

Omar Khadr is standing in his bedroom looking out at the backyard.

It is his second morning of freedom after nearly 13 years behind bars, and he’s embarrassed because he doesn’t know how to open the window…

Open a window. Open a bank account. Get a driver’s license. Get a library card. There are so many small skills to be learned by a man who has loomed large since he was shot and captured in Afghanistan at the age of 15 – a man who has never been allowed to speak publicly.

For the first time since being granted bail earlier this month, Khadr spoke over two days in exclusive interviews for the Toronto Star and a documentary that will air…on the CBC.

Until now, Khadr has existed in caricature drawn and defined by others: victim, killer, child, detainee, political pawn, terrorist, pacifist; he has been compared both to South African freedom fighter Nelson Mandela and serial murderer Paul Bernardo.

Michelle Shephard and the Toronto STAR knocked it out of the park. Real journalism, a challenging interview and story. Not because of the difficulty in the subject learning again how to communicate in a free society. Difficulty in accessing print, video, the means of communication in modern society that still hasn’t agreed to free speech.

And maybe more.

There is a great body of growing discussion here in the United States – and around the world – about what must be a revised Western policy in the cradle of the Fertile Crescent, the seat of civilization. Do we continue choosing sides in wars between Sunni and Shia? How do we compensate families for the hundreds of thousands of innocents killed by a war founded on base political lies? How can we rebuild what we have crushed – and prevent the ongoing descent into civil war from resuming?

Educated journalists and politicians take the questions back to World War 1 when the Brits and French decided to remake history and national borders, creating new nations, relegating others to poverty, turning a region into a political desert to be mined for minerals and oil.

Still, the crushing blow that smashed all hope for millions was delivered by a red-white-and-blue blitzkrieg worthy of any army of Panzer Divisions. The “reasonable” among us say we have acquired full responsibility for the United States to care for the region like another territorial property. Bring a halt to civil wars. Rebuild.

Perhaps that is best for the people there. But, send the tab to those politicians who voted for Bush’s War in the first place. Pass a special tax on Americans who re-elected George the Little – and, so far, haven’t charged him and Dick Cheney for their war crimes.

Psychologists secretly aided Bush torture program


The leading American professional group for psychologists secretly worked with the Bush administration to help justify the post-9/11 US detainee torture program, according to a watchdog analysis…

The report, written by six leading health professionals and human rights activists, is the first to examine the alleged complicity of the American Psychological Association (APA) in the “enhanced interrogation” program.

Based on an analysis of more than 600 newly disclosed emails, the report found that the APA coordinated with Bush-era government officials – namely in the CIA, White House and Department of Defense – to help ethically justify the interrogation policy in 2004 and 2005, when the program came under increased scrutiny for prisoner abuse by US military personnel at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

A series of clandestine meetings with US officials led to the creation of “an APA ethics policy in national security interrogations which comported with then-classified legal guidance authorizing the CIA torture program,” the report’s authors found…

In secret opinions, the US Department of Justice argued that the torture program did not constitute torture and was therefore legal, since they were being monitored by medical professionals.

…The report says the APA passed “extraordinary policy recommendations”, in which the association reaffirmed that its members could be involved in the interrogation program, without violating APA ethical codes.

Additionally, the APA permitted research on “individuals involved in interrogation processes” without their consent; according to the report’s authors, such a policy turned against decades of medical ethics prohibitions…

Donna McKay, the executive director of Physicians for Human Rights…an organization with which all of the report’s authors have been affiliated at some point, said in a statement issued on Thursday: “This calculated undermining of professional ethics is unprecedented in the history of US medical practice and shows how the CIA torture program corrupted other institutions in our society.”

An accomplishment in its own right. The United States as a nation, government institutions, corporate entities and banks in particular, has descended steadily in all global ranking for corruption. A process that probably started with the VietNam War, nudged along by the Reagan years, and put into high gear by the Bush Administration.

We’ve posted before about individual shrink-wrapped programs designed to aid and abet torture programs run by the United States government. This is the first wholesale exposure of professional bodies complicit in torture on behalf of the American government.

Not a surprise to me.

Surviving Vietnam Vets straining the VA system

absent friends

The struggles veterans face in accessing healthcare are a harbinger for all American medicine, and the problem won’t be resolved without adequate funding, said Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald.

“VA is the canary in the coal mine. We learn about the problems in American medicine before American medicine,” McDonald told a roomful of reporters at the annual conference of the Association of Health Care Journalists…

McDonald joined the VA last summer in the wake of an exploding controversy. Earlier in 2014, staff at a Phoenix VA hospital were found to have falsified scheduling records in order to mask extended delays in appointments. Hundreds of veterans were waiting months for appointments and some deaths were blamed on the delays.

Since his confirmation, McDonald — formerly the CEO of Procter and Gamble — has tried to turn around the agency’s image as mired in bureaucracy and more responsive to administrative edicts than veterans’ economic and healthcare needs.

McDonald blamed last year’s failures in access primarily on the growth of the aging veteran population, specifically Vietnam veterans. He also cautioned that the agency hasn’t yet seen “peak demand” from the veterans of Middle Eastern wars.

“If we don’t get ready today for what could happen many years from now with Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, we’re going to have another crisis.”

The key to avoiding future problems is adequate funding now, said McDonald…

This puts him in a difficult place, as the department must provide legislatively mandated benefits to all eligible veterans on a budget that isn’t necessarily tied to their numbers or needs

The number of veterans is declining but that population is also getting older, said McDonald. Since older people have more health issues, the number of claims and issues per claim has dramatically increased…

Other factors creating strain on veterans health centers include: the number of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan; new requirements to assess and treat exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War; the lack of limits on the appeals process; and increased survival on the battlefield that leaves more veterans with severe disabilities…

Like every “good” American War, the Clown Show in Congress ran everything through as an unfunded mandate. Little or no provision was made for the survivors of our wars – whether they are veterans of the US Military or [perish the thought] civilian survivors of our pacification.

The latest iteration of Know-Nothing Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats in DC talk a great game about caring for our veterans while doing as little as possible.

Pentagon maintains ties to creepy helicopter firms — why?

Afghan Air Force [sic] Mi-17s

After almost four years of allegations that two related helicopter companies in Lithuania and Russia were doing substandard work and should be banned from new contracts, the Pentagon continued to give them business, according to interviews and documents seen by Reuters.

As recently as last month, an Army planning document shows, the service was weighing contracting helicopter overhauls from the firms, which have been the subject of multiple internal warnings and two Defense Department Inspector General reports…

The Pentagon has been working with Lithuanian company Aviabaltika and a sister Russian firm, the St. Petersburg Aircraft Repair Company (SPARC), for more than a decade to buy spare parts and overhaul Russian Mi-17 helicopters.

Pentagon officials say the Mi-17 helicopters are crucial to the ability of the Afghanistan military to conduct counter-terrorism and anti-narcotics mission as U.S. troops leave, since local pilots have a long history with the rugged aircraft. They have also been supplied to U.S. allies Pakistan and Iraq.

Criticism of the two companies, which are run by the same person and described as a single entity, AVB/SPARC, in Pentagon documents, grew in recent months while the Army continues a review of allegations of overcharging, blocked access to outside quality inspectors and improper advance payments

The scrutiny of AVB/SPARC comes amid a broader backlash against the Army’s more than $1 billion Mi-17 program. Congressional and human rights critics say the program has put the Pentagon in bed with questionable business partners, and they are pressuring the Obama administration to wind it down.

RTFA for all the gory details. In an honest business environment – as scarce as that may seem in headlines about the US economy – these creepy firms might be on the block for sale as scrap and salvage. In practice, most public companies in the United States had better be on the straight and narrow for – even though conservative politicians try like hell to reinvent the mythical Free Market of the 19th Century – oversight and regulation still exists in sufficient enough form to catch a portion of the crooks in business.

Admittedly, the honesty patrol has a harder time with the US government and the Pentagon in particular; but, then, that’s what this investigative piece is all about, eh?

US Military has no problem wasting $25 million on a useless project

Afghan poppy field
Could you teach me to grow these here poppies back in Texas?

A U.S. military investigation found no wrongdoing in a decision to keep building a $25 million regional headquarters in Afghanistan that local commanders said they didn’t need or want.

The 64,000-square-foot command headquarters in Helmand province, approved as part of a surge of U.S. troops to Afghanistan in 2009, has a war room, a briefing theater and enough office space for 1,500 people.

The special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, John Sopko, criticized the project in July, saying he was “deeply troubled that the military may have spent taxpayer funds on a construction project that should have been stopped.”

Army Major General James Richardson, a deputy commander of United States Forces-Afghanistan, found “no evidence” that proceeding with construction amounted to any “violation of law or regulation,” according to a memo obtained yesterday on his investigation of the project at the request of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Sopko had said the headquarters risked becoming a “white elephant” to the Afghan government when most U.S. and allied forces depart by the end of next year. The inspector general has issued a stream of reports that he says show waste and mismanagement of U.S. spending in the country.

As early as April 2010, the local Marine commander of the region found the project “was no longer necessary to execute the mission” and requested its cancellation

Not that the Pentagon and their overseers – the real ones in the military-industrial complex, not the incompetents in Congress – have any problem with cost overruns or producing structures and devices of no value whatsoever. After all, the worst case scenario – for them – is a minimal cost-plus structure. And the average American politician like the average American voter never has caught on to programs with costs inflated – since the guaranteed profit is based on “costs”.

US invasion of Afghanistan began 12 years ago – today!

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.