It is Official- US Government is Funding Al Qaeda and the Taliban –Say WHAT!

Folks, I have been told by various sources that what was about to unfold would be mind-boggling and on the surface unbelievable at first.  This was first related to me at the beginning of the Julian Assange “dust-up”. This recent revelation definitely falls into that category. This is official and it is real. This isn’t some investigative reporter spinning a story or some leftist conspiracy nut weaving a BS tale.  This is an official 236 page report formally delivered to the CONgress. Why is it that we hear from our congressmen about their 40th vote on Obama Care, but no one mentions this? It also actually makes the Snowden revelations and the “serious actions of the bully Putin” seem tame.

Tony Capaccio of Bloomberg News cites a quarterly report to Congress by Special Inspector for Afghan Reconstruction John Sopko. The report reveals Sopko asked the US Army Suspension and Disbarment office to cancel 43 contracts to known Al Qaeda and Taliban supporters. They refused. The reason? The Suspension and Disbarment Office claims it would violate Al Qaeda and Taliban “due process rights.”

Curious, isn’t it? Official terrorist groups have due process rights, but not whistleblowers, Guantanamo detainees, or ordinary Americans subject to continual surveillance by NSA. The intelligence community has been quietly leaking evidence for more than a decade that the US is secretly funding Al Qaeda to promote political instability (and justify continued military intervention) in the Middle East. In the last two years the CIA has been caught red-handed funding and training Al Qaeda militants in Libya and Syria. Some of these revelations came out in the Benghazi hearings. Something I don’t think Daryl Issa envisioned at the start of those hearings.

Based on Sopko’s report, Pentagon support for Al Qaeda and the Taliban is official as of August 1.

How insane is this? The Pentagon is giving Al Qaeda and the Taliban funding, even though Al Qaeda and the Taliban are planning to carry out attacks on US citizens. How can this be happening? It would appear the US government is at war with their own people. Just this week we were informed of credible intelligence of planned attacks globally on US interests by Al Qaeda. So credible that our embassies are being closed in key Middle Eastern areas.

The 236 page quarterly report Sopko submitted to Congress also raises grave concerns about Obama’s request for $10.7 billion in 2014 for Afghan reconstruction projects. All would be carried out by civilian contractors, of which 30-40% would be local Afghan businesses. Sopko argues the Pentagon already fails abysmally in monitoring an existing $32 million program to install bars or gratings in culverts to prevent insurgents from planting roadside bombs in them. He thinks, at bare minimum, according to the report, that the Department of Defense should know how many contracts they have issued under this program. They don’t. Thus is seems pretty obvious they aren’t vetting the contractors, much less monitoring where the money is going.

I don’t know even what to say about this other than SAY WHAT! I am beginning to believe I am in some sort of insane asylum and in a bad medicated nightmare. Am I the only one who finds this utterly insane? If I am not, it begs the question of what the hell is the CONgress and the Administration doing! I recall that the definition of a group of baboons is called a “congress” of baboons. However, I do not think I REALLY want to be led by a congress of baboons! Do you? Time to clean house don’t you think.

Advertisements

Seems Like Too Much Fear and Anxiety

I am reminded in these times of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first inaugural address in which he uttered those famous words; “let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

In today’s noisy background with terrorists, natural disasters, two wars being prosecuted, swine flu, bird flu, global warming, corrupt politicians, and financial gangsters, I try to find a place of quiet to reflect on just what the hell is going on, really!  I also remember “Deep Throat’s” advice, follow the money.

In fact, I make it a daily habit and have reported my findings extensively in my blog. What I know is that since 2007, someone has picked our personal pockets for about $11 Trillion dollars, robbed our national collective treasuries, because I include the EU primarily in the mess, although the GCC states got popped also, for about $20 Trillion collectively.  Add on top of that the cost of the wars and well you see very quickly that all of these events did not just show up on the timeline spontaneously.

It appears that some amount of planning and cooperation has gone into the unfolding of these events.  There are literally hundreds of conspiracy theories, but that is not the focus of my thoughts just now.  My thoughts are centered on how did we let this happen?  I mean collectively we, as Americans and Europeans, sit docile as we are being raped.  Why?

I think the answer comes down to two words, fear and apathy.  Ok, I know I am not saying anything that profound.  However, if you consider that there might be a possibility that those responses were being socially engineered to occur, then that might be another story, wouldn’t it?

I am bringing this all up now because if I am correct in my little theory, then we are collectively about to see the grand finale between now and next spring.  It is just a necessary timing thing.  That means there will be a need to ratchet up the feelings of fear and insecurity.

Some possible coming attractions are:

All out currency war with the yen, dollar, and Euro seeing significant devaluations. Hyperinflation is coming to a country near you.

Red flag minor terrorist attacks in a city near you.

Watch out for inbound asteroids!

Another Trillion plus bailout of the banks will be coming just after the elections.

Official disclosure that there are indeed aliens, lots of them, and they are all not necessarily friendly, so fear all of them, presented in new holographic technology.

Look, I am not a conspiracy nut.  There is just too much disinformation out there to really know anything significantly important.  I am however a lover of patterns.  I have liked patterns ever since my grandfather, whose was a master Indian weaver, taught me the “secret” of the pattern.  Simply stated, if you pay attention closely to the pattern, you will soon see and know what comes next.

The real point is though, that if the pattern exists, then there is a necessity to elevate the sense of helplessness to secure the “final objective”.  This however is predicated on our “conditioned” response to the “events” as they are unfolded.  In this state of anxiety and fear we tend to readily give up our personal freedoms and rights to be “protected”.  What happens if we do not buy it? What if we collectively take FDR’s advice?  Just a thought.  It is late and I have had a lot of coffee.

The Decrees of Fate are Many but the Decrees of Destiny are Few

Destiny can be likened to travelling to a distant city whether or not you wish to make the trip. The way the man gets to the city is his only choice and therefore whatever occurs as a result of his decision is where fate comes in.

When I contemplate all that I am currently observing in the world with wars, natural disasters, and economic hardships, I think about us.  I mean the collective “US”. WE, as mankind have a destiny.  We might not know the ultimate destiny, but we all sense we are moving toward something more.  We sense when we are not moving forward to that destiny, as we collectively sense now.  We have lost what we call  “our spirit” or the “spirit of mankind.”  More realistically we can say it is the collective aspirations of all men.  This universal inspiration sets us apart from all other creatures we are aware of in existence.

I wonder how we allowed ourselves to make the choices we have made or are making.  Would are ancient ancestors look with pride at how far we have progressed or will they be saddened that we are still at war, or that there are still far too many of us hungry, sick, or marred in poverty and victimized on a daily basis?

I also wonder that if our current situation is the decrees of fate that has resulted from the choices we have made, then why do we feel so powerless to change those choices?  Let’s be honest here.  On an individual basis, we all are sickened at how many of our finest young men and women are dying in distant wars we know little about and yet as individuals we do nothing more than lip service on occasion to change it. Why?

We all know that a very few have a vastly disproportionate amount of the collective wealth and they are amassing even more everyday and we know they are not using their wealth in any meaningful way for the betterment of all.  Yet we allow them the continued privilege that such wealth generates.  Why?

I understand the wisdom that a man realizes more readily the depth of his soul when confronted with disaster than while sitting in the lap of luxury, but where are WE right now?  For me it came down to some pretty basic stuff.  Do I really have a soul and do I really have a destiny?  For me, the answer to both questions is yes. While trials and tribulations are the tuition of a soul, we have choices, choices as individuals and collective choices.

I feel I am on fairly solid ground here.  This has nothing to do with religious dogma or belief systems.  I don’t pretend to have even the slightest clue to the “TRUTH”.  I think even most agnostics or atheists you would meet would agree that you cannot rule out the possibilities of some sort of eternal  or dimensional existence.

So why am I rambling about this now?  Is it too much coffee or not enough sleep?  No, it’s the stories of people having their retirement plans so impacted that they must continue to work well past 65, or 4500 children dying every minute of starvation or disease.  It is the agony and pain of women, children, and the elderly caught in the vise grips of war and conflict.  It is the deterioration of our systems of education and infrastructure.  It is 2 million families that will be thrown from their homes in just America this year.

Can WE not do better than this?  What is really stopping us from drinking from the Chalice of Fulfillment?  When will these unnecessary hardships and suffering actually become intolerable to us?  Please do not misunderstand what I am trying to say, I really don’t have any of the answers, only the questions.

I know it is easier for the soul in each of us to devolve rather than evolve, but it seems we are almost severed from that which we call the “spirit of man”.  That same spirit that created England and the Magna Carta.  The same spirit that sparked the French and American Revolution. The same spirit that allowed the world to survive two major global wars.

It seems to me that we should re-empower OURSELVES as individuals. We need to reconnect to our spirit of who we are and then collectively we need to clean this mess up pronto.  What say you?

Pigs are Flyin..Politicians are lyin…and our young men and women are dying.

I don’t know about you, but it seems we have totally lost our common sense and our collective resolve.  Common sense, in fact, seems to be inversely proportional to IQ these days.  We need to stop and rethink this madness.  On the economic front, unemployment essentially remains unchanged, banks are continuing to fail at record pace, foreclosures are again accelerating and states are basically shutting down essential services because a lack of revenue.  Washington passes a financial reform bill that does nothing to attack the very issue that got us in this mess in the first place..Credit Derivative Swaps.  On top of that we have politicians saying that unemployment benefits are the cause because people don’t want to work!!  Are you kidding me!

American families have lost over 10 trillion dollars in asset in the last five years. $10,ooo,ooo,ooo,ooo! During that same period social programs may have cost $450 billion, so why are they trying to focus on unemployment and immigration as economic issues.  The facts are that the tax cuts have the greatest impact on revenues by far!  A stagnant economy and the lack of tax revenues generated have a much greater impact than either of these issues.  When you examine where the so called stimulus money went, there are two eye-opening facts.  First a lot of the money sent to Goldman Sachs, et al seems to have ended up in foreign banks or the FED in reserve accounts and the rest, well… it really hasn’t been released yet!  You combine with the fact we are spending $2 billion a day on war and what does common sense tell you?

We get a health care bill that really doesn’t kick in until 2014 or later, with no public option and no regulation of the health care industry per se.  So we get higher rates, denial of services, and cancellation of whole groups of policies such as uninsured children! What does common sense say about that?

We have 150,000 troops in Afghanistan fighting for a corrupt government, not supported outside of Kabul and admittedly there may be only 250 Al Qaeda in the country, so we are fighting the Taliban.  Could someone please explain to me how the Taliban are a threat to the US.  The last time I checked, there has never been a terrorist attack led by the Taliban anywhere outside of the region and I am not aware of any threats by the Taliban to blow up anything in the US.  So who are we really fighting and why? What does common sense tell you about Afghanistan?

We have debates and accusations flying on both sides of the aisle in congress and they do nothing.  Republicans blocking and filibustering everything just to make sure Obama is not effective at the cost of all of us and Democrats are weak kneed and powerless to do anything except blame the previous administration for every problem.  In the meantime, the only activity in Washington is the wave of corruption and sex investigations.  What does common sense tell you about our congress?

What do we do?  Let’s get back to common sense.  I agree with the tea party that we need to throw the bums out, but I would suggest that we extract a promise from every candidate that is not an incumbent.  That promise would be that the first legislative action is a public campaign finance law to be enacted.  No special interest monies allowed.  Period.

Secondly, we need to grab Wall Street by the.. well you know what and both regulate and tax CDS transactions.  Period.

Finally, we need to bring our kids and fathers and mothers and in a lot cases grandfathers home from Afghanistan.  Let Pakistan and Afghanistan deal with their local insurgency and let India worry about the consequences not US.

Finally, we need to take a hard look at the fossil fuel industry.  Reality says we are not going to migrate to alternative and renewable energy sources in the near future.  However, we need to further invest in solar, wind and yes even nuclear energy.  What doesn’t make sense is we are giving subsidies to oil and gas and not alternative energy.  We need to reverse that role and make sure that as the oil and gas industry go for harder and harder sources to recover, that we are sure we have the technology to deal with all of the consequences.  In the gas field we need to find alternatives to hydrofracturing, so called “fracting”, because there is no doubt that such practices are destroying our water tables.

All of these issues seem clear and the common sense approaches are obvious.  We have put convenience and profit before prudence and reasonable solutions.  This is not a Democrat vs. Republican issue.  it is not a liberal vs. conservative issue.  It is a matter of taking our government back from those special interests that have co-opted our representative process.  We can do this, but we must stop taking sides and parroting this or that sensationalism being fomented by paid talking whores and start doing our own thinking and acting on what we know is right.  For example only 11% of us have faith in congress, so we clearly understand the root of the problem.  Now it is just a matter of us doing the next obvious common sense thing.  Throw all of the bums out and no wackos need apply.  We all know the exactly correct people in our communities who should be representing us.  We need to convince them to run for office and support them once they are elected. This November should not be about which party takes the majority.  It should be about sending real statesmen to Washington.

A Deeper Look at Some Disturbing Math

Last week, I did an article concerning the plight of a lot of returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, and for that matter and 35 years later from Vietnam.  The real story, as I dug further,  is even worse than I imagined and none of it is being elevated in MSM. The truth is we are losing more soldiers to suicide on a daily basis after they return than we are losing soldiers on the battle field.  On average 18 per day, every day!  There are, on average, 30 attempted suicides by returning veterans every day. The suicide rate among war veterans is extraordinary, new data reveals reported by The Army Times .

“Of the more than 30,000 suicides in this country each year, fully 20 percent of them are acts by veterans,” said VA Secretary Eric Shinseki at a VA-sponsored suicide prevention conference in January, Inter Press Service reported.

The Times noted that “In general, VA officials said, women attempt suicide more often, but men are more likely to succeed in the attempt.” The report cites access to health care and age — younger veterans are less likely to try — as two major factors in the suicide rate, and notes that the VA is seeking to strengthen its suicide prevention programs.

According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, “Roughly 56 percent of all homeless veterans are African American or Hispanic, despite only accounting for 12.8 percent and 15.4 percent of the U.S. population respectively.” The struggle among veterans to return to everyday life has been documented over the years.

As a veteran of the Vietnam War and a multiple tour medic, I struggled with my demons for several years.  I never sought help or treatment, as so many of us did not.  Any soldier will tell you that “civilians” simply do not have a frame of reference to even begin to understand what a soldier is even coping with as he or she struggles to re-assimilate into civilian society.  Yes friends and family can be sympathetic and empathetic, but they have no frame of reference to say “I understand what you are going through.”

I have had a sense however, that the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan were having even a rougher go of it than my alumni from Vietnam because of two factors.  First, there are a lot higher number of “drafted soldiers” in these campaigns.  No, there isn’t a draft, but so many people were placed into active combat duty because they were serving in the reserves, more than in any other war.

Secondly, there are so many older troops.  These are men and women who are not single, but have families, jobs and careers.  Suddenly they have been yanked from their lives and do three or four tours in combat zones.  Even the term “combat zones” have a very different meaning in these campaigns.  At least in Vietnam, we had some semblance of front lines and combat zones, but not in these campaigns.  No chance to hunker in a “hooch” and get a little R&R.  It is 24/7 on your toes in these campaigns.  The numbers are really showing it too.

The Associated Press reported in November 2007 that one in four homeless people across the nation is likely to be a veteran, even though veterans constitute a mere 11 percent of overall adults in the United States.  “And homelessness is not just a problem among middle-age and elderly veterans,” AP added. “Younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are trickling into shelters and soup kitchens seeking services, treatment or help with finding a job.” Homelessness among women who served in Afghanistan and Iraq is on the rise.

The Boston Globe reported last year that “number of female service members who have become homeless after leaving the military has jumped dramatically in recent years.” One in ten homeless veterans under 45 years of age is a woman, statistics showed in July of 2009. “Some of the first homeless vets that walked into our office were single moms,” Paul Rieckhoff, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America’s executive director and founder, told the Globe.

Troubling new data show there is an average of 950 suicide attempts each month by veterans who are receiving some type of treatment from the Veterans Affairs Department. Seven percent of the attempts are successful, and 11 percent of those who don’t succeed on the first attempt try again within nine months. The numbers, which come at a time when VA is strengthening its suicide prevention programs, show about 18 veteran suicides a day, about five by veterans who are receiving VA care.

Access to care appears to be a key factor, officials said, noting that once a veteran is inside the VA care program, screening programs are in place to identify those with problems, and special efforts are made to track those considered at high risk, such as monitoring whether they are keeping appointments.

A key part of the new data shows the suicide rate is lower for veterans aged 18 to 29 who are using VA health care services than those who are not. That leads VA officials to believe that about 250 lives have been saved each year as a result of VA treatment. VA’s suicide hotline has been receiving about 10,000 calls a month from current and former service members. The number is 1-800-273-8255. Service members and veterans should push 1 for veterans’ services.  Dr. Janet Kemp, VA’s national suicide prevention coordinator, credits the hotline with rescuing 7,000 veterans who were in the act of suicide — in addition to referrals, counseling and other help.

”We have now nearly two million vets of Iraq and Afghanistan and we still haven’t seen the type of mobilization of resources necessary to handle an epidemic of veteran suicides,” Aaron Glantz, an editor at New America Media editor and author of “The War Comes Home”, told IPS.  ”With [President Barack] Obama surging in Afghanistan coupled with his unwillingness to withdraw speedily from Iraq, it means we have more veterans who have served more and more tours and as a result we have an escalating number of people coming home with PTSD, depression and other mental health issues,” Glantz continued.

Health officials have pointed to the multiple tours of duty served by many U.S. soldiers deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq as one of the stresses placed on military personnel that differs from previous wars fought by the U.S.  “The unfortunate truth is that the real challenge begins when these service men and women return home and readjust to day-to-day life,” said Rep. Michael McMahon, co-founder of the Congressional Invisible Wounds Caucus.

“The Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs must be prepared with the appropriate staff and funding to conduct post-deployment psychological screenings with a mental health professional for all service men and women,” he said. “Evidently, the paper questionnaires currently in use simply do not suffice. How many more young men and women must die before we provide the necessary mental health care?”  The VA estimated that in 2005, the suicide rate per 100,000 veterans among men ages 18-29 was 44.99, but jumped to 56.77 in 2007.

FAQ about Homeless Veterans

Who are homeless veterans?

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) states the nation’s homeless veterans are predominantly male, with roughly five percent being female. The majority of them are single; come from urban areas; and suffer from mental illness, alcohol and/or substance abuse, or co-occurring disorders. About one-third of the adult homeless population are veterans.

America’s homeless veterans have served in World War II, the Korean War, Cold War, Vietnam War, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq (OEF/OIF), and the military’s anti-drug cultivation efforts in South America. Nearly half of homeless veterans served during the Vietnam era. Two-thirds served our country for at least three years, and one-third were stationed in a war zone.

How many homeless veterans are there?

Although flawless counts are impossible to come by – the transient nature of homeless populations presents a major difficulty – VA estimates that 107,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. Over the course of a year, approximately twice that many experience homelessness. Only eight percent of the general population can claim veteran status, but nearly one-fifth of the homeless population are veterans.

Why are veterans homeless?

In addition to the complex set of factors influencing all homelessness – extreme shortage of affordable housing, livable income and access to health care – a large number of displaced and at-risk veterans live with lingering effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse, which are compounded by a lack of family and social support networks.

A top priority for homeless veterans is secure, safe, clean housing that offers a supportive environment free of drugs and alcohol. Although “most homeless people are single, unaffiliated men… most housing money in existing federal homelessness programs, in contrast, is devoted to helping homeless families or homeless women with dependant children,” as is stated in the study “Is Homelessness a Housing Problem?” (Understanding Homelessness: New Policy and Research Perspectives, Fannie Mae Foundation, 1997).

Doesn’t VA take care of homeless veterans?

To a certain extent, yes, but VA’s specialized homeless programs served more than 92,000 veterans in 2009, which is highly commendable. This still leaves well over 100,000 more veterans, however, who must seek assistance from local government agencies and community- and faith-based service organizations.

Since 1987, VA’s programs for homeless veterans have emphasized collaboration with such community service providers to help expand services to more veterans in crisis. These partnerships are credited with reducing the number of homeless veterans by more than half over the past six years. More information about VA homeless programs and initiatives can be found here.

What services do veterans need?

Veterans need a coordinated effort that provides secure housing, nutritional meals, basic physical health care, substance abuse care and aftercare, mental health counseling, personal development and empowerment. Additionally, veterans need job assessment, training and placement assistance. NCHV strongly believes that all programs to assist homeless veterans must focus on helping them obtain and sustain employment.

What seems to work best?

The most effective programs for homeless and at-risk veterans are community-based, nonprofit, “veterans helping veterans” groups. Programs that seem to work best feature transitional housing with the camaraderie of living in structured, substance-free environments with fellow veterans who are succeeding at bettering themselves.

Government money, while important, is currently limited, and available services are often at capacity. It is critical, therefore, that community groups reach out to help provide the support, resources and opportunities most Americans take for granted: housing, employment and health care.

VA has approximately 4,000 agreements with community partners nationwide. These types of partnerships have demonstrated that groups are most successful when they work in collaboration with federal, state and local government agencies; other homeless providers; and veteran service organizations. Veterans who participate in these collaborative programs are afforded more services and have higher chances of becoming tax-paying, productive citizens again.

These numbers are so disturbing that we all have to intervene.  Of all of the issues we are facing as a nation, this issue should have a top priority.  They are our sons and daughters.  As families, I know that they also are at a loose as to how to deal with the problem.  But this definitely an issue we can deal with in our local communities.  We just have to care and then find out how to act. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans suggests the following guidelines.

What can I do?

  • Determine the need in your community. Visit with homeless veteran providers. Contact your mayor’s office for a list of providers, or search the NCHV database.
  • Involve others. If you are not already part of an organization, align yourself with a few other people who are interested in attacking this issue.
  • Participate in local homeless coalitions. Chances are, there is one in your community. If not, this could be the time to bring people together around this critical need.
  • Make a donation to your local homeless veteran provider.
  • Contact your elected officials. Discuss what is being done in your community for homeless veterans.

In a world where we seem insignificant and helpless most of the time to affect a positive outcome, this is one area where we are empowered.  Get to know the situation in your community. Find out how you can volunteer.  My personal example was to identify the homeless veterans in our area.  The next step was to insure they are got enrolled for VA care.  Then it was to make sure they sought the care they needed.  We did a few fund raisers and bought a van to make sure they all could have transportation to the VA hospital.  We were just a few folks who cared, but I think we made a big difference in people’s lives.  You can do the same.

Some Very Disturbing and Shameful Math

Lost in the hoopla concerning the financial markets and volcanoes and their economic impacts is a truly sad and disturbing story.  It is a story about heroes and people who have made the most important sacrifices for our freedom.  These are the veterans of the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  Some of those veterans have completed three or four tours of combat.  This is especially true in the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns.  In Vietnam, two tours were the norm and three and four tours were rare exceptions involving people with critically needed skills.  I did two tours in Vietnam, but a third was not allowed.

But the story today is about how these people are being cared for AFTER their service.  The disturbing math is obvious from the following stories that have been posted lately.  I think the most important facts just aren’t adding up.

For example, one story talks about the fact that of 100,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, 31% of them are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorders and a slightly larger number from the residuals of head injuries.  That is about 31,000 veterans.  However the second story is telling a more disturbing story that 22,000 of these soldiers are imprisoned for “personality disorders (PD)” and only released from confinement if they sign a PD discharge which then denies them of care or benefits.  If I do my math right that means 22% of the people who have served often multiple tours and in the illustrated case 12 years of service are imprisoned and subjected to ridicule and psychological abuse until they acquiesce and sign PD discharges.  You be the judge of the facts.

This from the Chicago Tribune:

Corey Gibson’s right leg bounces when he sits. At 29 he sleeps fitfully, with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle mounted above his bed. “That’s my sense of security,” he says. Laurie Emmer, a 47-year-old mother of four, shuns crowds and strangers. She always sits facing the restaurant door when she goes out to eat and, before sitting down, makes sure to identify the quickest route out. And Eric Johnson, 62, who revisits Vietnam nearly every night in his head, escapes the demons who rob him of sleep by patrolling the streets of his South Side neighborhood with his yellow Labrador retriever, Che.

The veterans come from different generations and different wars, yet they share a common and increasingly costly wartime affliction — post-traumatic stress disorder and other forms of psychological damage. Last year, mental illnesses accounted for 35 percent of the $22 billion spent on disability payments to veterans who served in the Vietnam, Persian Gulf and “global war on terror” eras, according to a Tribune analysis.

Compensating veterans with psychological scars has helped fuel a 76 percent surge in service-related disability costs since 2003, the Tribune found, burdening an already overwhelmed system and underscoring the reality that the biggest costs of war are not often immediate or visible. Studies suggest costs will continue to soar. The percentage of military evacuations from Iraq and Afghanistan that were attributed to mental disorders has increased sharply in the last four years, a recent Defense Department study shows. Another survey of about 100,000 Afghanistan and Iraq veterans found that 31 percent had been diagnosed with mental health or psychosocial problems. “When you look at the epidemic of PTSD, you see the future,” said Harvard University‘s Linda Bilmes, co-author of the 2008 book “The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict.”

The Tribune’s analysis of claim records from the Department of Veterans Affairs found that vets’ psychological wounds are by far the most expensive type of disability. Compensating wartime veterans since Vietnam for PTSD and other mental conditions is four to five times costlier than the average for all disability categories, the Tribune found. Victims of PTSD also are more likely to suffer other serious and costly health problems than other disabled veterans. In short, they are sicker.

Gibson, Emmer and Johnson represent veterans at different stages of an evolving psychological struggle.
Johnson is a reminder that psychological damage can consume an adult life — in his case, 40 years. Johnson left South Vietnam in 1970, returning to Chicago after a year of tracking and killing the enemy in the jungle. He says he was ill-prepared for an abrupt transition to civilian life.

“I felt stripped naked without a gun,” said the burly, dreadlocked Johnson, who after his return would wear twin shoulder holsters carrying .45 automatics. When Johnson showered, he always took a gun, sealed in a plastic bag. He slept with a gun under his pillow. His first wife, Cookie, knew not to shake him awake or touch his feet. For years he couldn’t acknowledge he had a problem, but in 1979, Johnson was diagnosed with PTSD.

The VA spent an estimated $5.6 billion last year compensating Vietnam veterans like Johnson for mental disorders, according to the Tribune analysis. That’s $4 of every $10 paid to disabled veterans from that war. Johnson also reflects the reality that compensation payments to Vietnam veterans with psychological damage are, on average, 134 percent higher than payments to other disabled Vietnam vets. Johnson receives compensation for diabetes, high blood pressure, an intestinal disorder and a back injury sustained during a helicopter crash in Vietnam, in addition to PTSD.

PTSD has changed Johnson, a guarded man who is slow to trust strangers and rarely socializes. He ignores holidays and birthdays (including his own) and avoids family functions. The night terrors of Vietnam have receded but not gone away. Johnson still returns to Vietnam nearly every night.  Johnson’s second wife, Erma, has learned to recognize and deal with the enemy he’s chasing in his dreams. “She’ll wake me up and say, ‘Don’t go — I got him,'” he said.  A retired postal worker who worked through his injuries, Johnson said he does not drink or take drugs, beyond pain relievers for his back and legs and medications to treat his diabetes. “Mentally, I’m a survivor,” he said with a smile. “I’m more fortunate than the average veteran because I’ve figured a few things out.”

Gibson is today where Johnson was in 1970. Volatile and solitary, Gibson tallies his losses after his tour of duty in Iraq — his fiancée; three jobs from which he was fired; an active, engaging life that seems forever lost.

Gibson is part of a generation of younger vets whose problems are only starting to emerge. Last year, veterans of the war-on-terror era received $329 million in disability payments related to mental disorders, or 34 percent of the money paid to all disabled vets from the same era.  A paramedic from Terre Haute, Ind., Gibson signed up in 1999 for a five-year stint with the Army’s 555th Forward Surgical Team, whose job was to penetrate deep into the battlefield and provide emergency treatment for wounded soldiers advancing to the front. He entered Iraq in March 2003.

Gibson chooses not to dwell on what happened in Iraq, other than brief mentions of mortar attacks, taking prisoners and being blown from a truck during an attack on the way to Baghdad. When he returned home in 2004, “My fiancée knew right away. ‘You’ve changed, you’re different,’ she kept saying,” he said. There were night terrors and flashbacks. He became hypersensitive to perceived slights. “It doesn’t help that I’m a male nurse,” he said.

Gibson sleeps little and spends a lot of time alone, walking the neighborhood with his dog, Gibby. One night, while his fiancée slept with her head resting on his chest, Gibson had a terrible nightmare and curled his body, putting her in a powerful headlock. She pounded on his chest to wake him up. Soon after, she left him, Gibson said.

He has been diagnosed with PTSD but also complains of other troubles, such as dizziness, a loss of long-term memory and back pain, which he says stems from his being thrown from the truck. After returning in 2004, he often slept less than an hour a night until he bought and mounted the rifle above his bed. “My sleep went from 45 minutes a night to about two hours,” he said. He calls the gun “an extension of my arm.” Gibson, who receives compensation for PTSD, recently filed a claim with the VA for traumatic brain injury. He spends most of his time at home, on his computer or watching videos. The shades are drawn.

Emmer, a retired Army sergeant, is among about a quarter-million women who have served in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to the Department of Defense. But the number that speaks to Emmer’s life-changing experiences is $50 million, the amount spent last year by the VA to compensate all female veterans from the war-on-terror era for psychological damage, according to the Tribune’s analysis.

A medic in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, Emmer waited 20 years to get an overseas combat assignment. Within a couple months of arriving in Afghanistan, her career as a skilled medic began to unravel. Emmer reported being raped by a coalition officer in Kandahar Province in spring 2003. In a separate incident, she injured her head falling off a military vehicle.

Today, the combination of PTSD and traumatic brain injury, or TBI, has enveloped Emmer in a light fog marked by physical imbalance, disorientation, anxiety and a round-the-clock headache. As a result of her injuries, Emmer is at a higher risk of stroke and early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The ultimate costs of her maladies are unknown.

A pleasant woman with a boyish smile, Emmer appears on her front porch nearly every morning to plant the American flag and reappears to remove it at sundown. There is little physical evidence to suggest she is a severely wounded veteran. But these days, when Emmer leaves the house, she writes down where she is going and why for fear that she’ll forget.

“Unless you lose a limb, I don’t think other injuries resonate with the public,” Emmer said in the living room of her Civil War-era home in rural Sycamore. “Relatives wonder if we’re just making this stuff up, to get free money.” She still longs to jump out of airplanes, which she did about 60 times during her 23-year military career with the 82nd. But that won’t happen. Emmer said she wants to go back to college and get a degree in history, so she can be a substitute teacher. But her doctor has advised against it, saying college might be too stressful. Emmer, who has two children enlisted in the military, is determined to regain much of her old self. She finds support in other veterans “on the roller coaster” who are working toward the same goal. “They want the old normal back,” she said. tmjones@tribune.com
jgrotto@tribune.com

Caring for soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental illnesses is costing the federal government billions of dollars a year, and will continue to do so for years to come. According to an analysis of Department of Veterans Affairs’ records by the Chicago Tribune, the VA spent $5.6 billion last year to treat mental disabilities. While these costs included treating veterans from previous wars, such as Vietnam and the Persian Gulf, the ballooning expenses have been driven largely by soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

One military survey of about 100,000 veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars showed that 31% had been diagnosed with mental health or psychosocial problems. But the following story casts a very disturbing light on things and how our military is dealing with this overwhelming situation.

By Sherwood Ross – BLN Contributing Writer

An army sergeant who had received 22 honors including a Combat Action Badge prior to being wounded in Iraq by a mortar shell was told he was faking his medical symptoms and subjected to abusive treatment until he agreed to a “personality disorder”(PD) discharge.

After a doctor with the First Cavalry division wrote he was out for “secondary gain,” Chuck Luther was imprisoned in a six- by eight-foot  isolation chamber, ridiculed by the guards, denied regular meals and showers and kept awake by perpetual lights and blasting heavy metal music—abuses similar to the punishments inflicted on terrorist suspects by the CIA.

“They told me I wasn’t a real soldier, that I was a piece of crap. All I wanted was to be treated for my injuries,” 12-year veteran Luther told reporter Joshua Kors of “The Nation” magazine (April 26th). “Now suddenly I’m not a soldier. I’m a prisoner, by my own people. I felt like a caged animal in that room. That’s when I started to lose it.” The article is called “Disposable Soldiers: How the Pentagon is Cheating Wounded Vets.”

Luther had been seven months into his deployment at Camp Taji, 20 miles north of Baghdad, when a mortal shell exploded at the base of his guard tower that knocked him down, slamming his head into the concrete. “I remember laying there in a daze, looking around, trying to figure out where I was at,” he said. Luther suffered permanent hearing loss in his right ear, tinnitus, agonizing headaches behind his right eye, severe nosebleeds, and shoulder pain.

The sergeant took a Chapter 5-13 PD discharge in order to escape his confinement, becoming one of 22,600 soldiers so separated since 2001, a discharge that relieves the Pentagon of the responsibility and cost of long-term care for the wounded. An Army major told Luther to sign the discharge papers or “you’re going to be here a lot longer.” Luther recalled, “They had me broke down. At that point, I just wanted to get home.” Many of the PD discharge recipients are soldiers who have served two and three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, author Kors writes.

Sgt. Angel Sandoval, who served under Luther, said Luther’s insistence on his wearing ceramic plates strapped to his bulletproof vest saved his life and described Luther as “one of the greatest leaders I had.” Yet this is the man the Army imprisoned when he requested medical treatment. “This should have been resolved during the Bush administration. And it should have been stopped now by the Obama administration,” Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, is quoted as saying about PD discharges. “The fact that it hasn’t is a national disgrace.”

Luther’s case is no isolated example, writes Kors, noting that in the past three years “The Nation” has uncovered more than two dozen such cases. “All the soldiers were examined, deemed physically and psychologically fit, then welcomed into the military. All performed honorably before being wounded during service…Yet after seeking treatment for their wounds, each soldier was diagnosed with a pre-existing personality disorder, then discharged and denied benefits,” Kors writes.

This past December, he reports, VA doctors found Luther to be suffering from migraine headaches, vision problems, dizziness, nausea, difficulty hearing, numbness, anxiety and irritability—and diagnosed him with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, declaring the veteran 80 percent disabled. The diagnosis cleared the way for the sergeant to receive disability benefits and lifetime medical care.

With his health improving, Luther has vowed to fight the military on behalf of other soldiers who got a raw deal like himself.  He founded Disposable Warriors, a one-soldier operation near Fort Hood, Texas,  that assists soldiers fighting their discharge and those appealing their disability rating, Kors reports. Luther says the base had 12 suicides last year as of June 2nd but reported only two. Luther is quoted in a November 21, 2009, article on “Truthout” as saying there is only one mental health professional for every 1,263 soldiers “and that is the first failure.”

After opening Disposable Warriors, Luther found a threatening note on his car windshield that read: “Back off or you and your family will pay!!” Whoever wrote that note doesn’t know Chuck Luther very well.

We cannot and must not forget these brave men and women who have sacrificed themselves for us.  I personally did a lot of healing when I saw how much more respect our country and its people showed to the returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.  I remember the yellow ribbons and the bumper stickers.  Somehow these shows of support healed my experiences of returning to SF and getting off the plane to experience people spitting on me.  I was once again proud of being a medic and a soldier and my service.

However, the reality of what is going on now within our military concerning these individuals cannot and should not be tolerated by any of us.  We should all be outraged by these actions.  If you know any of these people or their families, support them.  Get involved.  Write your CONgress members and let them know there should not be a SINGLE soldier confined for PD.  NOT A SINGLE ONE! PD is a medical condition and should be treated as such.  This is a cost management exercise and damn the costs.  If we can spend trillions bailing out fat cat banksters, we can certainly spend billions taking care of those brave individuals who fight for our peace and security.

Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, We Really Don’t Get It At All

The President announces his strategy, whom many thought was going to be something different, and it sure looks a lot like SOSDF.  We have woefully misread and misunderstood the Middle East for the last thirty years.  As a general public, we apply a US centric view and to me that is understandable, as we are so gullible to the MSM pander and how many of us really take the time or for that matter know where to look for international news.  But the State Department, the CIA?  Come on, these guys are supposed to be professionals, experts in language and culture.  How do they wind up looking like blind men describing the elephant?

There are those who think they belong to the US intelligentsia who  state it is all about oil and they apply that rationale equally to Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan.  But close examination reveals that theory just does not apply.  The really elite morons will say that Afghanistan is really Smackistan and it that case it is about controlling the opium trade.  Again, that is really a myopic and simplistic view.  All three regions are embroiled in very complex political agendas and each have their own regional issues in which we have no business muddling in.

Bush and the chain rattling apparition known as the Cheney ghost must have repeated the word terrorist 1 million times during their “service” to our country.  I have been sitting in Kuwait for nearly three years now, watching the circus from a ringside seat and I think it is time I weighed in on this a bit.  It just is getting pathetically sad.

Let us first look at Iraq.  Bush et al insisted that Saddam was a threat, WMDs yadda yadda.  We tacitly had pre-signaled Saddam that his foray into Kuwait would not be reacted too, and then we used that effort to insert the US forces into the region.  While that was viewed very positively by Kuwait, and some of the other GCC countries, from a strategic point of view it may not have been well thought out.  Why?  Because Saddam was the only barrier to all of the GCC in relation to Iran.  By unseating Saddam, we allowed Iran to become a center of power by default and that has created more concern about regional security.While our military basically raced to Bagdad, we did not secure Southern Iraq and Iran literally swept in behind us.  By the time we realized this, we had already dissolved the Iraq forces and could not stabilize the South.  Eliminating the Baathist made this mistake even worse.  The rest is as we say history.

In the case of Iran, we have misread Iran’s intention for nearly thirty years now.  The Iranian population is very sophisticated and politically very savvy.  They are also a very proud people.  To say we can dictate to Iran is to not understand that even the most educated and influential peoples of Iran will always defend their sovereignty first, and therefore stand in support of even a radical government against embargos and sanctions.  We have in fact, taken the impetus to seek more moderate government and weakened those efforts because of the actions we have taken that effect ALL Iranians.  We are losing the support of the educated moderates because of these actions, and therefore we are defeating our goals, not enhancing our chances to “persuade” a more international basis for multi-lateral relationships with Iran.  Iran reacts by supporting the Shi’ite radicals, Al Qaeda, and Sunni Jihadist in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in addition to defiantly INCREASING their nuclear ambitions.

In Afghanistan, we have learned nothing from 3000 years of history.  That lesson is simple, there is NO military solution for the issues.  From Alexander the Great to the Brits and the Russians, NO ONE has ever waged a successful military campaign in Afghanistan.  Today, by our own intelligence knowledge there are about 200 Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and about 400 in Pakistan, and we now have nearly 200,000 combined forces and haven’t secured a damn thing.  We have them outgunned 1000:1 and are losing. WTFO.  Then you have the issues of a corrupt inept government, based on cronyism and nepotism and the issue of the Taliban.  What most people don’t realize is the Taliban’s interest are ONLY regional.  they are Pashtun and have tribally occupied the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan for thousands of years.  They will never participate in an Afghan or Pakistani government scheme and they will defend their homeland to their last breath, whether those threats are Western, Afghani, or Pakistani.  The other side of that coin is they will never threaten anyone outside of their regions.  It is up to the people of the region to decide, not anyone else.

The President’s efforts, while still myopic are at least a tiny step in the right direction, but still are very clumsy.  Get educated, have a more informed opinion of the region and then encourage our representatives to have a more sophisticated approach to these issues.  It sure beats the hell of more Americans, Iraqis, Afghans, Pakistani, NATO troops and countless innocents from dying.  Not to mention bankrupting the US.

Here is Uncle Willie’s thought for the day: