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16 April 2007

2 pathetic snapshots of the fucked-up footshooting pre-doomed lost war in Iraq

Paint is cheap, there's a brick wall near you, this takes about 15 minutes during the dark hours and lasts for months. Maybe the War will end before the message is cleaned off.

Hope springs eternal in the human breast.

Is there anyone out there, from Baghdad to Washington DC, who thinks anything is going right with America's Iraq War? Is there anyone out there who thinks he sees Light At The End Of The Tunnel? Leave a Comment.

A guy who thinks he has a good shot to be the next president of the United States recently made a trip to Baghdad and said Bush's Troop Surge had made walking around downtown Baghdad as safe as wandering around an American city. As he strolled around Baghdad, the guy -- Sen. John McCain -- was wearing a bulletproof vest, was surrounded by 100 armed U.S. soldiers, while helicopters flew overhead to check for rooftop snipers.

America's last total footshooting disaster war without end, Vietnam, made McCain what he is today. Then and now, he was never very bright. He may have other virtues to commend him for the presidency, but brains was never one of them.

Maybe America needs two presidents in a row who aren't very bright. We've had six+ years of Bush. How's that working?

Iraq is a very different war from Vietnam. In Vietnam, we escalated. This is not an escalation, it's a Troop Surge.

The following two stories are tied for most pathetic moment of this foot-shooting pre-lost war. We kill a lot of Iraqis who weren't combat enemies, and we have a machine for deciding if and how much to pay the families of those we killed. The American Civil Liberties Union finally managed to look inside the compensation machine when it won a Freedom of Information lawsuit.

After that, the treatment of our own wounded American soldiers after they get back home and receive treatment from our military hospitals.

What magical miracle is going to make any of this better? What magical miracle will make ordinary Iraqis support the US-led invasion and occupation of their nation?

What magical miracle will improve a sick, corrupt, gasping, wheezing system of medical treatment for our combat veterans? We tell them to risk their lives, we know many will die, we know many will be wounded, we know many will suffer psychiatric disorders for life.

Were we ever serious about treating and healing them?

Not really. They're just expensive "entitlement" bums. It's tax time, and good medical treatment costs a lot.


Reuters AlertNet
source cited: Human Rights Watch
Thursday 12 April 2007

Iraq: US Data on
Civilian Casualties
Raises Serious Concerns

NEW YORK -- US government documents made public by court order raise serious concerns about the number of civilian casualties caused by American soldiers and contractors in Iraq and the standards under which it pays compensation to Iraqi victims, Human Rights Watch said today. The records, which document compensation claims made by the families of Iraqis killed by US troops, were revealed today by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The families of more than 500 Iraqi civilians killed by US soldiers have asked for compensation for their dead relatives, but only around a third has been granted compensation, though they may have later applied for "condolence" payments. The data consists of the claims submitted by the Iraqis requesting compensation and the opinions and memoranda of the Army judge-advocate generals (JAGs) evaluating the cases, though some of the information has been redacted. It is not clear in every case whether the JAG recommendation has been followed. But the documents, revealed under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, paint a grim picture of preventable civilian deaths at the hands of coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and raises serious human rights concerns.

"It's commendable that the US pays compensation to the families of Iraqis killed by American soldiers, but the military should maintain clear and fair standards for making those payments," said Marc Garlasco, senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch. "The US government should also investigate shootings by civilian contractors, compensate for deaths by contractors and hold accountable all personnel who have acted in violation of their duty."

The files made public today by the ACLU document claims submitted to the US Foreign Claims Commissions by surviving Iraqi and Afghan family members of civilians said to have been killed by coalition forces. The ACLU released 496 files: 479 from Iraq, between 2003 and 2006, the majority in 2005; and 17 from Afghanistan, most in 2006, but with one dating back to 2001. The US Army began a process of internal reporting of civilian casualties in Iraq caused by US forces on a systematic basis in 2005, but has never made that data public.

The documents show 164 incidents resulted in cash payments to family members; in around half of those cases, the United States accepted responsibility for the death and offered a "compensation payment." In the other half, US authorities issued discretionary "condolence" payments, capped at $2,500, "as an expression of sympathy" but "without reference to fault."

In a very few cases, incidents have been forwarded for further investigation, suggesting there are concerns of willful violations of military rules or laws. In numerous cases where compensation payments were made, the deaths of many Iraqis were determined by the US military as being due to the "negligent" actions of American soldiers.

Cases where Iraqis were killed by soldiers traveling in US military convoys illustrate the confusion in US policy, which states that deaths in "combat" are not eligible for compensation. One Iraqi family was granted payment for a relative killed because US soldiers fired to clear the road -- a violation of the Rules of Engagement, according to the notes of a judge-advocate general in the case file, as well as to another JAG consulted by Human Rights Watch. But similar claims were denied on the basis of opinions by other JAGs that clearing the road ahead of a convoy is a legitimate combat action and therefore not open to payment. Such contradictory statements show the lack of uniformity in the system and inconsistent interpretation by military lawyers.

Other claims are denied, even if witnesses corroborate a claim of death, because the incident is not found in the military's "significant actions" database, in which soldiers are supposed to log combat actions and civilian casualties after returning from mission. The database should not be used in this way as it is likely to be flawed. There are many cases, such as killings by fire from a moving convoy, in which US soldiers do not and cannot know that they have caused a death, and therefore cannot report it. There is also the possibility of the military simply not reporting incidents.

Human Rights Watch is also concerned by the air of impunity surrounding civilian contractors employed by the US government. Although the claims process covers Department of Defense employees, claims against contractors are denied out of hand on the grounds that they "are not government employees."

"It's shocking that the US government doesn't compensate the deaths of civilians caused by their hired guns," Garlasco said. "Contractors operating under the US military umbrella, as well as soldiers, should be held accountable when they kill Iraqi civilians without any justification."

While the documents show the US military is now performing a body count of civilians killed by its forces ? though it is likely at least some civilian casualties are still not tallied ? it is not applying lessons learned across the board to improve the security of civilians. The two actions the documents most frequently cite in the deaths of Iraqi civilians are killings at checkpoints and in convoy actions. The US Army has improved its checkpoint procedures, but has yet to reform the way troops can fire from moving convoys. While military convoys are at serious risk from suicide bombers, roadside explosive devices and other attacks, the US army should urgently review its procedures to ensure that harm to civilians is minimized, Human Rights Watch said.

"Reforming convoy procedures to cut down on 'drive-by shootings' while fighting a violent insurgency obviously presents the army with a formidable challenge," Garlasco said. "But while the US military has a right to defend itself from attack, it also has a legal and moral obligation to protect civilians."

Human Rights Watch called on the US government and the US Armed Forces:

* To create uniform standards for determining compensation claims for civilian casualties in Iraq caused by coalition forces, and make public all data collected on the deaths of Iraqi civilians at the hands of coalition forces, including contractors;

* Not to automatically disqualify claims for deaths which are not entered into the "significant actions" database; ? To investigate civilian deaths at the hands of contractors and create effective means of holding contractors to account; and,

* To use the civilian casualty data to apply lessons learned that will enhance civilian protections.

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Reuters and AlertNet are not responsible for the content of this article or for any external internet sites. The views expressed are the author's alone.


The New York Times
Sunday 15 April 2007

Military Medical Care Panel
Hears Frustrations
of Soldiers Wounded in Iraq

[image] Marc A. Giammatteo, Jose R. Ramos and Tammy Edwards, members of the panel investigating the quality of medical care for returning veterans.

Published: April 15, 2007

WASHINGTON, April 14 — Wounded soldiers and veterans poured out their frustrations with the military health care system on Saturday, telling a presidential commission that they had often had difficulty getting care because military doctors were overwhelmed by the needs of service members injured in Iraq.

Speaking from experience, the soldiers and veterans described the military health care system as a labyrinth, said their families had been swamped with paperwork and complained that some care providers lacked compassion.

Marc A. Giammatteo, who has undergone more than 30 operations to repair a leg torn apart by a rocket-propelled grenade in Iraq, said the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, in Washington, had been inundated with wounded members of the armed forces who surpassed its capacity.

Mr. Giammatteo, a West Point graduate and former Army captain, said he had observed a “lack of caring or compassion in some of the work force” at Walter Reed.

“On several occasions,” Mr. Giammatteo said, “I, and others I have spoken to, felt that we were being judged as if we chose our nation’s foreign policy and, as a result, received little if any assistance. Some individuals, most of whom are civilian workers and do not wear the uniform, judge the wounded unfairly and treat them similarly, adopting a ‘Can’t help you, you’re on your own’ attitude.”

Mr. Giammatteo, a member of the commission, testified at the first meeting of the panel on Saturday.

President Bush created the nine-member panel on March 6 to investigate the care that wounded troops receive when they return from the battlefield. Former Senator Bob Dole, a Republican, and Donna E. Shalala, who was secretary of health and human services in the Clinton administration, are co-chairmen of the panel, known officially as the President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors.

The panel plans to hold several hearings around the country and is supposed to issue its report, with recommendations, by June 30. The deadline can be extended to July 31 if necessary.

Dr. John H. Chiles, a retired colonel who was chief of anesthesiology at Walter Reed and chief of staff at the United States Army hospital in Baghdad, said the military medical system was “underfunded, understaffed and overwhelmed.”

Jose R. Ramos, a hospital corpsman who lost his arm in combat in Iraq, said he received first-class care at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. But he said he had often been frustrated in seeking care at Walter Reed and at a local veterans hospital.

Mr. Ramos, a commission member, said he had been thwarted by the “military bureaucracy.”

At Walter Reed, Mr. Ramos said, he experienced long delays because of “the sheer numbers of patients each doctor must keep track of.”

“It was rare that I ever saw the same doctor,” Mr. Ramos reported. “I constantly had to re-explain my symptoms and medical history.”

Moreover, Mr. Ramos said, the transition from Walter Reed to the Department of Veterans Affairs was a struggle.

“Three different times I had to gather all my medical information and resubmit a package because three different times the V.A. managed to lose it,” Mr. Ramos said. “Even after I was medically retired, the V.A. had no idea that I was an amputee.”

In an interview, Mr. Ramos recalled how he informed his doctor at the V.A. that he had an artificial limb: “I knocked on my carbon-fiber arm and said, ‘I’m missing an arm, buddy.’ ”

Mr. Dole, the Republican presidential nominee in 1996, said military medicine had made great strides since he was wounded in action in Italy 62 years ago, on April 14, 1945. Of the commission’s work, he said, “This is not going to be a witch hunt or a whitewash.”

Tammy Edwards, another commission member, said she faced a never-ending “battle with paperwork” as she tried to get care for her husband, Staff Sgt. Christopher Edwards, who was severely burned in Iraq when a 500-pound bomb exploded under his vehicle.

After getting out of the intensive care unit at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Ms. Edwards said, her husband faced a new problem. “He was not receiving any mental health services and had fallen into a deep depression,” she said. “He felt that he would be stuck in the hospital forever. His pain was so intense that he would often ask me why we did not let him die in the first place.”

Ms. Edwards said the armed forces should focus on “healing the family unit as a whole.”

“Family members are often overlooked,” Ms. Edwards said.

Richard F. Weidman, executive director of Vietnam Veterans of America, a nonprofit group with 60,000 members, said, “What happened at Walter Reed was not an aberration.” It resulted, he said, from a policy of “taking care of our soldiers on the cheap.”

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