Thursday, April 17, 2008


Roughly one in every five U.S. troops who have survived the bombs and other dangers of Iraq and Afghanistan now suffers from major depression or post-traumatic stress, an independent study said Thursday. It estimated the toll at 300,000 or more.

PAULINE JELINEKAP NewsApr 17, 2008 18:30 EST

As many or more report possible brain injuries from explosions or other head wounds, said the study, the first major survey from outside the government.

Only about half of those with mental health problems have sought treatment. Even fewer of those with head injuries have seen doctors.

Army Surgeon General Eric Schoomaker said the report, from the Rand Corp., was welcome.
"They're helping us to raise the visibility and the attention that's needed by the American public at large," said Schoomaker, a lieutenant general. "They are making this a national debate."


As news broke of the rape of yet another US military contractor employee in Iraq, convened a hearing April 9 to demand that the Justice Department explain why it has failed to prosecute a single sexual assault case in the theater since the Iraq War began.

U.S. Women Working in Iraq Continue to be Sexually Assaulted While Their Rapists Go Free

By Karen Houppert, The NationPosted on April 17, 2008, Printed on April 17, 2008

"American women working in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to be sexually assaulted while their assailants go free," said Senator Bill Nelson, who called the hearing. Because squabbles about who has jurisdiction in these cases have proliferated, Nelson arranged to have representatives from the Defense, State and Justice departments sit down together in front of him. They were forced to listen while the latest victims testified.

Dawn Leamon, who worked for a subsidiary of KBR and had told her story to The Nation a week before, described -- with her back to the packed room and her voice (mostly) steady -- being sodomized and forced to have oral sex with a KBR colleague and a Special Forces soldier two months earlier. When she reported the incident to KBR supervisors, she met a series of obstacles, she said. "They would tell me to stay quiet about it or try to make it seem as if I brought it on myself or lied about it."

Another woman, Mary Beth Kineston, who worked as a commercial trucker for KBR in Iraq, testified that she had been raped in the cab of her truck by a KBR subcontractor employee at night while waiting in line to fill her water tanker truck. She immediately reported the incident to her supervisors; no one did a rape kit test, referred her for medical treatment or even offered to escort her back through the dark to her quarters that night.

Also at the hearing was Jamie Leigh Jones, whose story made the news in December, when she alleged that her 2005 gang rape by Halliburton/KBR co-workers in Iraq was being covered up by the company and the government. Jones, who has formed a nonprofit to support the many other women with similar experiences, says forty employees of US contractors have contacted her with stories of sexual assault or sexual harassment -- and accounts of how Halliburton, KBR and the Cayman Island-based Service Employees International Inc. (SEII), a KBR shell company, either failed to help them or outright obstructed them.

As the number of women coming forward rises, Congress has begun to question why these crimes are not being prosecuted. In fact, there are several laws on the books that would allow these cases to proceed: the problem is not a lack of legal tools but a lack of will. "There is no rational explanation for this," says Scott Horton, a lecturer at Columbia Law School who specializes in the law of armed conflict. Prosecutorial jurisdiction for crimes like the alleged rapes of Jones and Leamon is easily established under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act and the Patriot Act's special maritime and territorial jurisdiction provisions. But somebody has to want to prosecute the cases.

Senator Nelson noted that the Defense Department, which has reported 742 sexual assaults against soldiers and civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, has claimed that it was unable to prosecute cases involving civilians -- like defense contractor employees -- until recently. (Even among those cases where it clearly had jurisdiction, a close look at the DoD's own stats reveals a far from stellar record: among the 684 sexual assault complaints lodged by US soldiers in the Middle East, only eighty-three cases have led to courts-martial. Meanwhile, last year alone, 2,688 sexual assaults were reported globally against women serving in the US Armed Forces; disposition of these cases is pending.)

Worse, those figures represent only the official count. Given that so many women are now coming forward complaining that they have been hushed by their private-military-contractor supervisors, it's clear that the real tally is likely far higher. Even in cases where the victims do report the incidents, most complaints never see the light of day, thanks to the fine print in employee contracts, which compels employees into private arbitration instead of allowing their charges to be heard in a public courtroom. Todd Kelly, a lawyer in Houston who is trying to fight the legality of private arbitration, says his firm alone has fifteen clients with sexual assault, sexual harassment or retaliation complaints (for reporting assault and/or harassment) against Halliburton and its former subsidiary KBR, as well as SEII.

Obviously, US military contractors have an interest in avoiding the bad publicity that would follow if these complaints were not kept secret. With huge sums hanging in the balance -- KBR has an estimated $16 billion in contracts -- the stakes are high.

But such a financial incentive cannot explain why the Justice Department has failed to act. Although it has the authority to pursue criminal cases involving US military contractor employees, it has hemmed and hawed over even the tiny fraction of cases that have made their way through the maze of obstacles to land in the Justice Department's offices. Grilling Justice about these twenty-four civilian sexual assault cases, Senator Nelson demanded to know exactly how many cases Justice was pursuing -- and whether there had been a single conviction. "I don't know of any convictions for sexual assault," admitted Sigal Mandelker, deputy assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division. But, she stammered, "we do have active investigations ... somewhere about ... somewhere upwards of ... somewhere between four and six, I believe is the number." (Leamon's attorney just learned that the department is initiating an investigation into her case.)

At the hearing, Nelson dryly observed that there was a very quick way to make sure US contractors did not force employees into private arbitration, and an easy way to force contractors to follow established protocols for sexual assault and harassment: "This might be something you want to require and include in your contracts -- before you award them," he said. To which, in quick succession, the Defense, State and Justice department representatives responded that, well, they couldn't respond because this was, er, beyond their area of expertise.


Vice President Dick Cheney, one of the main architects of the war with Iraq, was telling jokes and laughing it up at the Radio/TV correspondents dinner, while 73 Iraqis were killed and another 109 wounded.

At least 73 Iraqis were killed and another 109 were wounded during the latest attacks, which included a suicide bombing in a small village in northern Iraq. No Coalition deaths were reported. Meanwhile, a border clash left several Turkish soldiers killed or injured.

Near Tuz Khormato in the village of al-Bu Mohammed, at least 50 people were killed and 55 more were wounded when a suicide bomber blew up his explosives at a funeral for two Awakening Council (Sahwa) members killed a day earlier. The older bomber was dressed in traditional garb and allowed to enter the funeral freely.

An unmanned U.S. drone plane killed two men carrying AK-47s in Sadr City. U.S. forces killed at least three other suspects during clashes. Meanwhile, hospital officials reported receiving nine bodies and treating 36 wounded after air strikes.

In Baghdad, a roadside bomb killed two policemen and wounded ten more near a bridge in an eastern district. Two civilians were wounded during a bombing on Sina Street.

In Zayouna, three civilians were wounded during a drive-by shooting. Also, roadside bombs blasted U.S. patrols in Abu Dsheer and Bayaa, but no casualties were as yet reported.

In Mosul, an Iraqi soldier was killed during clashes. Gunmen hurled a grenade at a police patrol; three people were wounded. A female body was found yesterday, and three more today.
Three suspects were killed during a raid in Tal Afar.

Also, one Turkish soldier was killed and seven more were wounded during clashes with Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels on the Turkish side of the border.


FRESNO, Calif. (April 17) - Forced to leave the combat zone after his two brothers died in the Iraq war, Army Spc. Jason Hubbard faced another battle once he returned home: The military cut off his family's health care, stopped his G.I. educational subsidies and wanted him to repay his sign-up bonus.

By GARANCE BURKE,APPosted: 2008-04-17 12:26:22Filed Under: Nation News, Politics News

Click on link to read full story.

Editor's note: This is a followup to a story posted earlier. I find it beyond contempt how callous the Bush administration is about our veterans.


The Department of Defense has released the identities of some of the US soldiers who have been killed in Iraq. Reminder: Click on part in "BLUE" for more details. Here they are:

Latest Coalition Fatalities
04/16/08 MNF: Marines attacked by IED: MNF: Marines attacked by IED
Two Multi-National Force – West Marines were killed in action April 14 when their vehicle was attacked by an enemy force with an improvised explosive device in al Anbar Province.

04/16/08 DoD Identifies Army Casualty: DoD Identifies Army Casualty
Spc. Arturo Huerta-Cruz, 23, of Clearwater, Fla., died April 14 in Tuz, Iraq, of wounds sustained when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 10th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team...

04/16/08 DoD Identifies Army Casualty: DoD Identifies Army Casualty
Sgt. Joseph A. Richard III, 27, of Lafayette, La., died April 14 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds sustained when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 4th Brigade Special Troops Battalion...

04/15/08 DoD Identifies Marine Casualties (2 0f 2): DoD Identifies Marine Casualties (2 0f 2)
Cpl. Richard J. Nelson, 23, of Racine, Wis...died April 14 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. They were both assigned to Marine Forces Reserve’s 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division..

04/15/08 DoD Identifies Marine Casualties (1 0f 2): DoD Identifies Marine Casualties (1 0f 2)
Cpl. Richard J. Nelson, 23, of Racine, Wis...died April 14 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. They were both assigned to Marine Forces Reserve’s 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division..


Mental health injuries scar 300,000 troops
Only half of vets have sought help for depression, post-traumatic stress

The Associated Press
updated 10:26 a.m. CT, Thurs., April. 17, 2008

WASHINGTON - Some 300,000 U.S. troops are suffering from major depression or post traumatic stress from serving in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and 320,000 received brain injuries, a new study estimates.

Only about half have sought treatment, said the study released Thursday by the RAND Corporation.

“There is a major health crisis facing those men and women who have served our nation in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Terri Tanielian, the project’s co-leader and a researcher at the nonprofit RAND.

“Unless they receive appropriate and effective care for these mental health conditions, there will be long-term consequences for them and for the nation,” she said in an interview with The Associated Press.

The 500-page study is the first large-scale, private assessment of its kind — including a survey of 1,965 service members across the country, from all branches of the armed forces and including those still in the military as well veterans who have left the services.

Its results appear consistent with a number of mental health reports from within the government, though the Defense Department has not released the number of people it has diagnosed or who are being treated for mental problems. The Department of Veterans Affairs said this month that its records show about 120,000 who served in the two wars and are no longer in the military have been diagnosed with mental health problems. Of the 120,000, approximately 60,000 are suffering from PTSD, the VA said.

Veterans Affairs is responsible for care of service members after they have left the service, while the Defense Department covers active duty and reservist needs. The lack of information from the Pentagon was one motivation for the RAND study, Tanielian said.

Problems affect more than 18 percent of troopsThe most prominent and detailed military study on mental health that is released is the Army’s survey of soldiers at the warfront. Officials said last month that it’s most recent one, done last fall, found 18.2 percent of soldiers suffered a mental health problem such as depression, anxiety or acute stress in 2007 compared with 20.5 percent the previous year.

Click on link for full story.


Suicide bomber kills at least 45 in northern IraqBomber blows himself up in crowd of mourners in Bu Mohammed village, 120 km south of Kirkuk.

Editorial comment: What is it going to take before the mainstream media starts covering the growing violence in Iraq?

It is a total disgrace how the mainstream press in the United States has turned their back on what is happening in Iraq.

Bill Corcoran, editor of CORKSPHERE

KIRKUK, Iraq - A suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowd of mourners in northern Iraq on Thursday, killing at least 45 people, a local police officer said.

The bomber detonated his suicide vest in the crowd in the Sunni Arab village of Bu Mohammed, 120 kilometres (75 miles) south of the oil city of Kirkuk, police Captain Abdallah Jassim said.
Jassim said the attack happened at around 11:00 am (0800 GMT).

He said the crowd had gathered to present their condolences at a meeting organised in the village to mourn the deaths of two members of a local group fighting Al-Qaeda in Iraq. The two were killed two days ago, he said.

Tens of thousands of Sunni Arabs have formed local groups across Iraq backed by the US military to battle against Al-Qaeda militants.

These groups, mostly former allies of Al-Qaeda, have been increasingly targeted by the jihadist group in the past several months.


Dozens die in Iraqi funeral blast
At least 45 killed in third major bombing in country's north since Monday

MSNBC News Services


BAGHDAD - A suicide bomber struck a funeral in northern Iraq on Thursday, killing at least 45 mourners in the latest attack in a region where al-Qaida militants have regrouped, police said.

Officials said the bomber blew himself up at a funeral in the town of Albu Mohammed for two slain members of the local Awakening Council. Such U.S.-funded groups of Sunni tribesmen have turned against al-Qaida militants.

At least 50 other people were wounded in the attack, police said.

Northern Iraq has seen an upsurge in bombings this week, including one that killed 40 people in the town of Baqouba, the capital of Diyala province, on Tuesday.

U.S. and Iraqi authorities say al-Qaida militants have moved into the north after being pushed out of western Anbar province and Baghdad.

Al-Qaida militants are thought to be behind many attacks on funerals, which are often held with little security. The group also a history of striking with car bombs near government targets and civilian crowds.

The spate of bombings this week in the north could signal a new campaign by Sunni Arab militants. On Monday, a suicide attacker and two car bombs killed 18 people in northern areas where al-Qaida is active.

While the U.S. military says security has improved in the north, the strikes have been a reminder of the instability there at a time when attention has been focused mainly on fighting in Shiite areas that erupted late last month.

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.



US needs more war funds by June-Bush budget chief
Richard CowanReuters North American News Service
Apr 16, 2008 13:10 EST

Source: Reuters North American News Service

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House Wednesday warned that Congress must approve additional money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by the end of May or risk the start of Defense Department layoff notices.
"Congress needs to fund our troops by Memorial Day," White House Budget Director Jim Nussle told the Senate Appropriations Committee. "Failure to act quickly could result in an unfortunate replay of last December, when furlough warnings were issued" by the Pentagon, Nussle added.
The Republican budget director was referring to layoff warnings for some noncombat personnel at the end of 2007, just before Congress finished work on $70 billion in additional money for the wars.
That $70 billion was a portion of about $172 billion requested early last year by President Bush for combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Assuming Congress gives Bush the remaining $102 billion for the two conflicts this year, total U.S. war funding since 2001 would total $752 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
In his testimony to the Senate panel, Nussle reiterated warnings that Congress should not load up the war-funds bill with additional spending on domestic programs.
"The president has made clear that he will veto any attempt to hijack this much needed troop funding bill," Nussle said.
But Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat and outspoken opponent of the Iraq war, said the Bush administration budget request "reveals no evidence of funding to bolster our country's economy or to help Americans deal with lost jobs, mortgage foreclosures and the rising cost of living."
Byrd and his fellow Democrats are considering a new economic stimulus plan that could cost at least $30 billion, according to congressional aides. It is not yet clear whether all or part of such an initiative would be attached to the must-do money bill for Iraq and Afghanistan.
Democrats also are weighing what kind of war-related conditions to attach to the funding bill, such as mandatory rest time for combat soldiers or timetables for withdrawing U.S. combat troops from Iraq.
A growing number of Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Appropriations Committee voiced frustration that U.S. taxpayers were paying for Iraqi reconstruction while Baghdad ran a budget surplus.
Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire suggested the possibility of requiring Iraq to spend $1 for every dollar the U.S. spends on rebuilding Iraq.
With this major war-funding bill moving through Congress in coming weeks, there have been questions in the Senate over whether the 90-year-old Byrd, who has had health problems recently, has the stamina to remain as chairman of the Appropriations Committee.


South Carolina reservists preparing for Iraq
Staff reportPosted : Wednesday Apr 16, 2008 16:04:03 EDT

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — A South Carolina-based Reserve company will head to California next month to begin preparing for a seven-month tour in Iraq.
Fox Company, 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marine Division will be mobilized April 21, said 1st Sgt. Anthony Page. The company of about 140 Marines will head west in May for Mojave Viper training at Twentynine Palms.
Fox Company will deploy to Anbar province in September with its light armored vehicles, Page said. The company will join other units from 1st LAR and take part in counter-insurgency operations in the province.
The company was last activated in June 2004 and deployed to Djibouti.


Death toll mounts in clashes across IraqLatest spate of bombings undermines US assertion that Sunni insurgency waning 37 min ago view video here:

Clashes between security forces and Shiite fighters in Baghdad's Sadr City killed two people and injured 18 on Wednesday. In the southern port city of Basra, the British military launched an offensive after militiamen attacked an Iraqi army patrol in the Haiyaniah district.
Basra has seen some of the country's fiercest fighting since a government offensive against militia fighters there began on March 25.Today's violence comes after yesterday's multiple bombings in the northern and central parts of the country, which killed at least 60 people and undermined the US's assertion that the Sunni insurgency is waning.


FRESNO, Calif. - Forced to leave the combat zone after his two brothers died in the Iraq war, Army Spc. Jason Hubbard faced another battle once he returned home: The military cut off his family's health care, stopped his G.I. educational subsidies and wanted him to repay his sign-up bonus.


It wasn't until Hubbard petitioned his local congressman that he was able to restore some of his benefits.

Now that congressman, Rep. Devin Nunes, plans to join three other lawmakers in introducing a bill that would ensure basic benefits to all soldiers who are discharged under an Army policy governing sole surviving siblings and children of soldiers killed in combat. The rule is a holdover from World War II meant to protect the rights of service people who have lost a family member to war.

"I felt as if in some ways I was being punished for leaving even though it was under these difficult circumstances," Hubbard told The Associated Press. "The situation that happened to me is not a one-time thing. It's going to happen to other people, and to have a law in place is going to ease their tragedy in some way."

Pair enlisted after brother's deathHubbard, 33, and his youngest brother, Nathan, enlisted while they were still grieving for their brother, Marine Lance Cpl. Jared Hubbard, who was 22 when he was killed in a 2004 bomb explosion in Ramadi.

At their request, the pair were assigned to the same unit, the 3rd Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii, and deployed to Iraq the next year.

In August, 21-year-old Cpl. Nathan died when his Black Hawk helicopter crashed near Kirkuk. Jason was part of the team assigned to remove his comrades' bodies from the wreckage.

Hubbard accompanied his little brother's body on a military aircraft to Kuwait, then on to California. He kept steady during Nathan's burial at Clovis Cemetery, standing in dress uniform between his younger brothers' graves as hundreds sobbed in the heat.

But Hubbard broke his silence when he found his wife, pregnant with their second child, had been cut off from the transitional health care the family needed to ease back to civilian life after he was discharged in October.

"This is a man who asked for nothing and gave a lot," said Nunes, R-Calif., who represents Hubbard's hometown of Clovis, a city of 90,000 next to Fresno. "Jason is one person who obviously has suffered tremendously and has given the ultimate sacrifice. One person is too many to have this happen to."

Hubbard went to Nunes, who began advocating for the former soldier in December, after hearing the Army was demanding that he repay $6,000 from his enlistment bonus and was denying him up to $40,000 in educational benefits under the GI bill.

After speaking with Army Secretary Pete Geren, Nunes got the repayment waived, and a military health policy restored for Hubbard's wife.

But the policy mandated that she be treated at a nearby base, and doctors at the Lemoore Naval Air Station warned that the 45-mile trip could put her and the fetus in danger. Hubbard said doctors offered alternative treatment at a hospital five hours away.

Meanwhile, Hubbard and his 2-year-old son went without any coverage for a few months.
The Hubbard Act, scheduled to be introduced Wednesday, would for the first time detail the rights of sole survivors, and extend to them a number of benefits already offered to other soldiers honorably discharged from military service.

Legislative actionThe bill — co-sponsored by Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga. — would waive payback of their enlistment bonuses, allow them to participate in G.I. educational programs, give them separation pay and access to transitional health care.

Meanwhile, Hubbard, his wife Linnea and his son Elijah, have permanent health coverage now that he is once again working as a Fresno County sheriff's deputy, the job he left in 2004 to serve in Iraq.

The Army will adopt to any changes in policy springing from the legislation, said Army spokesman Maj. Nathan Banks.

"Foremost the Army itself sympathizes with him for the loss of his brothers," Banks said. "We will do everything within our means to rectify this issue. He is still one of ours."

Hubbard's father, Jeff, said that resolving the family's bureaucratic difficulties would provide some comfort, but would not help lessen their pain.
"We're still very much deeply involved in a grieving process. We're pretty whacked," he said. "This doesn't relate back to the loss of our boys, it can't, but we would consider it a positive accomplishment."