Tuesday, May 29, 2012

More Alleged Military Fraud


Gen. William "Kip" Ward, in a 2008 photo.
Stars and Stripes reported yesterday:
 "Former AFRICOM chief Ward still on active duty pending probe"
STUTTGART, Germany — More than a year after turning over the leadership of U.S. Africa Command, former four-star Gen. William E. Ward remains on active duty pending the outcome of an inspector general’s probe, serving as a special assistant at a reduced rank, Army officials say.
Army spokesman George Wright declined to disclose the nature of the Department of Defense inspector general’s investigation. The agency is responsible for investigating allegations of fraud, waste and abuse.
“Any actions related to those findings and recommendations will be determined by the Army,” Wright said.
Through a spokesman, Ward declined to comment on the probe.
Ward served as the first commander of AFRICOM, which became fully operational in 2008 as the military’s sixth geographic combatant command. He was replaced by Gen. Carter F. Ham in March 2011, shortly before the launch of AFRICOM’s first combat mission in Libya.
Ward, 62, was honored during an April 2011 ceremony at Fort Myer, Va., that had all the pageantry of a farewell and left the impression that Ward’s career was over.
“There was a retirement ceremony, but he had not reached his official retirement date at that time,” Wright said.
Since then, Ward’s service has been kept quiet.
He is serving as a special assistant to the Army’s vice chief of staff, reporting to work at military facilities in the Washington area, Wright said.
“Gen. Ward will remain on active until the investigation is complete,” Wright said in response to a query from Stars and Stripes.
It is unclear when the inspector general’s probe will end. “It should be soon,” Wright said. “I don’t know if it is days, weeks or months.”
Wright said Army officials delayed Ward’s retirement until the probe is finished — an action Wright described as rare but not unprecedented. “As a rule, a general officer may not retire until these matters are finalized.”
Eugene Fidell, who teaches military law at Yale Law School, said the gravity of the investigation could account for the Army’s decision to keep a general on active duty rather than retire him.
“For them to be holding him this way, it may portend military justice action,” Fidell said. “Their life (the military’s) would certainly be easier if he were on active duty. That’s better than having to recall him.”
Because Ward is serving as a special assistant, he no longer qualifies to serve in a four-star capacity, Wright said. Wright said the downgrade is not a demotion.
“Appointments to lieutenant general and general are temporary, and if an officer is not filling a position designated by the president . . . the officer reverts to his last permanent grade,” Wright said in a statement. “General Ward’s last permanent grade is major general.”
According to Army regulations governing officer grade determinations, “An officer is not automatically entitled to retire in the highest grade served on active duty. Instead, an officer is retired in the highest grade served on active duty satisfactorily, as determined by the SA (secretary of the Army) or the secretary’s designee.”
When the investigation is done and Ward retires, he could be returned to four-star status.
“Retired rank for officers who have served as lieutenant general and General are determined by the secretary of Defense,” Wright said. “I can’t say what may happen in the future.”

Brian Banks, ex-football star falsely accused of rape, wants money from state



 LOS ANGELES (AP) — A former high school football star whose rape conviction was thrown out this week plans to file a claim against the state but will not sue the woman who recanted the sexual assault accusation she made a decade ago, his lawyer said.
Brian Banks will seek $100 from the state for every day he was wrongfully incarcerated, Justin Brooks, an attorney with the California Innocence Project, told the Los Angeles Times.
Banks spent five years in prison after pleading no contest to forcible rape. A judge threw out the conviction on Thursday.
Wanetta Gibson was a 15-year-old high school sophomore when she accused Banks of raping her at Long Beach Poly High School. She received a $1.5 million payment from a civil suit brought by her mother against Long Beach schools.
Prosecutors have said they have no immediate plans to charge Gibson, now 24, with making false accusations, saying it would be a tough case to prove. Brooks told the Times that Banks would not file a claim against Gibson.
Police in Long Beach said there is no official investigation into Gibson’s conduct, but officers are “reviewing the matter” and “will be in consultation with the district attorney’s office following the review,” spokeswoman Lisa Massacani told the newspaper.
In a strange turn of events, Gibson, friended Banks on Facebook when he got out of prison.
During an initial meeting with him, she said she had lied; there had been no kidnap and no rape and she offered to help him clear his record, court records state.
But she refused to repeat the story to prosecutors because she feared she would have to return payout from the civil suit.
During a second meeting that was secretly videotaped, she told Banks, “‘I will go through with helping you, but it’s like at the same time all that money they gave us, I mean gave me, I don’t want to have to pay it back,’” according to Freddie Parish, a defense investigator who was at the meeting.
Gibson did not attend Thursday’s hearing and she could not be reached for comment.
Banks, once a star middle linebacker at Long Beach Polytechnic High School, had attracted the interest of such college football powerhouses as the University of Southern California, Ohio State University and the University of Michigan, according to the website Rivals.com, which tracks the recruiting of high school football and basketball players.
Banks said he had verbally agreed to attend USC on a scholarship when he was arrested.
On Thursday he said he still hopes to play professional football.

Monday, May 28, 2012

As We Celebrate Memorial Day, Let us Remember Why we Serve!?




To the men and women in uniform, veterans and fallen comrades:
 "Thank you, for serving our country, preserving our freedom, 
Our liberties and our pursuit of happiness!! 
May God Bless America and those 
Who are willing to sacrifice
 Their lives for 
America!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Memorial Day Poem



Decoration Day
    Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Sleep, comrades, sleep and rest
On this Field of the Grounded Arms,
Where foes no more molest,
Nor sentry's shot alarms!

Ye have slept on the ground before,
And started to your feet
At the cannon's sudden roar,
Or the drum's redoubling beat.

But in this camp of Death
No sound your slumber breaks;
Here is no fevered breath,
No wound that bleeds and aches.

All is repose and peace,
Untrampled lies the sod;
The shouts of battle cease,
It is the Truce of God!

Rest, comrades, rest and sleep!
The thoughts of men shall be
As sentinels to keep
Your rest from danger free.

Your silent tents of green
We deck with fragrant flowers
Yours has the suffering been,
The memory shall be ours.

    

Saturday, May 26, 2012

African American who broke the color barrier at Naval Academy dies at 85



Yesterday the examiner.com reported: America has lost another hero; Lieutenant Commander Wesley A. Brown died on May 22, 2012. He was 85 years old.

 The Military Times reports that,
An academy spokesman did not know where Brown died, and a cause of death was not immediately known Wednesday.

Lieutenant Commander Brown was born on April 3, 1927 in Baltimore, Maryland. He graduated from Dunbar High School in Washington D.C., where he was the Cadet Corps Battalion Commander during his senior year.

He was the sixth African-American to attend the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) in Annapolis, Maryland. However, he was the first to graduate.

He was nominated for admission to the Naval Academy by New York Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Once Brown was appointed, he entered the USNA on June 30, 1945 and graduated on June 3, 1949.

He ran varsity track while at the Naval Academy and was a cross-country team-mate of Jimmy Carter. The former President wrote a letter to Brown in 1989 giving him encouragement to "hang in there."

Navy historian Robert J. Schneller Jr. wrote a book about Brown called, "Breaking the Color Barrier: The U.S. Naval Academy's First Black Midshipmen and the Struggle for Racial Equality."

Schneller said in a 2005 interview,
That upperclassmen would give Brown excessive demerits for allegedly not maintaining his uniform properly, and some classmates would not sit next to him in the cafeteria.

Brown told the Baltimore Sun in a 2005 interview,
He learned not to be frustrated when faced by a situation that couldn't be changed.
When I came to the academy, I learned that there were all kinds of prejudices - against Jews, Catholics, even the Irish - and I looked around and thought that these prejudices were instilled in them by their families, and they could not be blamed for feeling the way they did.

Brown was a veteran of the Korean Conflict, and Vietnam War. He retired at the rank of Lieutenant Commander in June 1969 from the Navy's Civil Engineer Corps.

His career spanned 20 years with the Navy, and it's reported during that time,
He built houses in Hawaii, roads in Liberia, waterfront facilities in the Philippines, and a seawater conversion plant in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

In 1988 he retired from Howard University, where he worked as a civilian service employee. In 2008 the Naval Academy honored Brown by having a field house built and named after him.

 Brown told The Baltimore Sun in the same year,
I believe this is symbolic, some of the Navy policies, procedures in the past, have not been the kind that African-Americans were in favor of. And I think this indicates their dedication to diversity in general.

The notable accomplishments of Lieutenant Commander Brown are listed below.
Locations of Service: Republic of the Philippines, Korea, Vietnam and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

He received the 2009 National Society of Black Engineers Golden Torch Legacy Award-First Honoree.

His Medals includes: American Theater Ribbon and World War II Victory Medal.

Coping with Traumatic Stress Reactions


The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

When trauma survivors take direct action to cope with their stress reactions, they put themselves in a position of power. Active coping with the trauma makes you begin to feel less helpless.
  • Active coping means accepting the impact of trauma on your life and taking direct action to improve things.
  • Active coping occurs even when there is no crisis. Active coping is a way of responding to everyday life. It is a habit that must be made stronger.

Know that recovery is a process

Following exposure to a trauma most people experience stress reactions. Understand that recovering from the trauma is a process and takes time. Knowing this will help you feel more in control.
  • Having an ongoing response to the trauma is normal.
  • Recovery is an ongoing, daily process. It happens little by little. It is not a matter of being cured all of a sudden.
  • Healing doesn't mean forgetting traumatic events. It doesn't mean you will have no pain or bad feelings when thinking about them.
  • Healing may mean fewer symptoms and symptoms that bother you less.
  • Healing means more confidence that you will be able to cope with your memories and symptoms. You will be better able to manage your feelings.

Positive coping actions

Certain actions can help to reduce your distressing symptoms and make things better. Plus, these actions can result in changes that last into the future. Here are some positive coping methods:

Learn about trauma and PTSD

It is useful for trauma survivors to learn more about common reactions to trauma and about PTSD. Find out what is normal. Find out what the signs are that you may need assistance from others. When you learn that the symptoms of PTSD are common, you realize that you are not alone, weak, or crazy. It helps to know your problems are shared by hundreds of thousands of others. When you seek treatment and begin to understand your response to trauma, you will be better able to cope with the symptoms of PTSD.

Talk to others for support

When survivors talk about their problems with others, something helpful often results. It is important not to isolate yourself. Instead make efforts to be with others. Of course, you must choose your support people with care. You must also ask them clearly for what you need. With support from others, you may feel less alone and more understood. You may also get concrete help with a problem you have.

Practice relaxation methods

Try some different ways to relax, including:
  • Muscle relaxation exercises
  • Breathing exercises
  • Meditation
  • Swimming, stretching, yoga
  • Prayer
  • Listening to quiet music
  • Spending time in nature
While relaxation techniques can be helpful, in a few people they can sometimes increase distress at first. This can happen when you focus attention on disturbing physical sensations and you reduce contact with the outside world. Most often, continuing with relaxation in small amounts that you can handle will help reduce negative reactions. You may want to try mixing relaxation in with music, walking, or other activities.

Distract yourself with positive activities

Pleasant recreational or work activities help distract a person from his or her memories and reactions. For example, art has been a way for many trauma survivors to express their feelings in a positive, creative way. Pleasant activities can improve your mood, limit the harm caused by PTSD, and help you rebuild your life.

Talking to your doctor or a counselor about trauma and PTSD

Part of taking care of yourself means using the helping resources around you. If efforts at coping don't seem to work, you may become fearful or depressed. If your PTSD symptoms don't begin to go away or get worse over time, it is important to reach out and call a counselor who can help turn things around. Your family doctor can also refer you to a specialist who can treat PTSD. Talk to your doctor about your trauma and your PTSD symptoms. That way, he or she can take care of your health better.
Many with PTSD have found treatment with medicines to be helpful for some symptoms. By taking medicines, some survivors of trauma are able to improve their sleep, anxiety, irritability, and anger. It can also reduce urges to drink or use drugs.

Coping with the symptoms of PTSD

Here are some direct ways to cope with these specific PTSD symptoms:

Unwanted distressing memories, images, or thoughts

  • Remind yourself that they are just that, memories.
  • Remind yourself that it's natural to have some memories of the trauma(s).
  • Talk about them to someone you trust.
  • Remember that, although reminders of trauma can feel overwhelming, they often lessen with time.

Sudden feelings of anxiety or panic

Traumatic stress reactions often include feeling your heart pounding and feeling lightheaded or spacey. This is usually caused by rapid breathing. If this happens, remember that:
  • These reactions are not dangerous. If you had them while exercising, they most likely would not worry you.
  • These feelings often come with scary thoughts that are not true. For example, you may think, "I'm going to die," "I'm having a heart attack," or "I will lose control." It is the scary thoughts that make these reactions so upsetting.
  • Slowing down your breathing may help.
  • The sensations will pass soon and then you can go on with what you were doing.
Each time you respond in these positive ways to your anxiety or panic, you will be working toward making it happen less often. Practice will make it easier to cope.

Feeling like the trauma is happening again (flashbacks)

  • Keep your eyes open. Look around you and notice where you are.
  • Talk to yourself. Remind yourself where you are, what year you're in, and that you are safe. The trauma happened in the past, and you are in the present.
  • Get up and move around. Have a drink of water and wash your hands.
  • Call someone you trust and tell them what is happening.
  • Remind yourself that this is a common response after trauma.
  • Tell your counselor or doctor about the flashback(s).

Dreams and nightmares related to the trauma

  • If you wake up from a nightmare in a panic, remind yourself that you are reacting to a dream. Having the dream is why you are in a panic, not because there is real danger now.
  • You may want to get up out of bed, regroup, and orient yourself to the here and now.
  • Engage in a pleasant, calming activity. For example, listen to some soothing music.
  • Talk to someone if possible.
  • Talk to your doctor about your nightmares. Certain medicines can be helpful.

Difficulty falling or staying asleep

  • Keep to a regular bedtime schedule.
  • Avoid heavy exercise for the few hours just before going to bed.
  • Avoid using your sleeping area for anything other than sleeping or sex.
  • Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine. These harm your ability to sleep.
  • Do not lie in bed thinking or worrying. Get up and enjoy something soothing or pleasant. Read a calming book, drink a glass of warm milk or herbal tea, or do a quiet hobby.

Irritability, anger, and rage

  • Take a time out to cool off or think things over. Walk away from the situation.
  • Get in the habit of exercise daily. Exercise reduces body tension and relieves stress.
  • Remember that staying angry doesn't work. It actually increases your stress and can cause health problems.
  • Talk to your counselor or doctor about your anger. Take classes in how to manage anger.
  • If you blow up at family members or friends, find time as soon as you can to talk to them about it. Let them know how you feel and what you are doing to cope with your reactions.

Difficulty concentrating or staying focused

  • Slow down. Give yourself time to focus on what it is you need to learn or do.
  • Write things down. Making "to do" lists may be helpful.
  • Break tasks down into small do-able chunks.
  • Plan a realistic number of events or tasks for each day.
  • You may be depressed. Many people who are depressed have trouble concentrating. Again, this is something you can discuss with your counselor, doctor, or someone close to you.

Trouble feeling or expressing positive emotions

  • Remember that this is a common reaction to trauma. You are not doing this on purpose. You should not feel guilty for something you do not want to happen and cannot control.
  • Make sure to keep taking part in activities that you enjoy or used to enjoy. Even if you don't think you will enjoy something, once you get into it, you may well start having feelings of pleasure.
  • Take steps to let your loved ones know that you care. You can express your caring in little ways: write a card, leave a small gift, or phone someone and say hello.

A Final Word

Try using all these ways of coping to find which ones are helpful to you. Then practice them. Like other skills, they work better with practice. Be aware that there are also behaviors that DON'T help. Learn more about these negative coping methods that you should avoid in our Self-Help and Coping section. You will also find information there about lifestyle changes that can help you cope with PTSD.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Students, Professor Help File Lawsuit on Behalf of Plaintiffs Seeking to Overturn Military Ban on Women in Combat




A federal lawsuit inspired by a University of Virginia School of Law project was filed Wednesday against top U.S. military officials to seek the reversal of military policies banning women from serving in combat roles.   http://www.law.virginia.edu/html/news/2012_spr/combat_exclusion.htm

The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, alleges that the Defense Department and U.S. Army are violating the law and infringing upon the constitutional rights of military servicewomen by excluding them from certain ground combat units and other positions solely on the basis of their sex.

The lawsuit was brought through the efforts of the Molly Pitcher Project, a group of Virginia Law students led by Professor Anne Coughlin who explored whether the combat exclusion policies could be challenged in court, whether the policies have a detrimental effect on servicewomen and whether those women wanted to seek legal redress. (More)

"The ultimate objective of the Molly Pitcher Project is to open the profession of combat arms to women on an equal basis to men," Coughlin said. "We want to eliminate this last vestige of formal discrimination against women by the federal government, and ensure that women in the military have the same opportunities and the same obligations as men. No other employer in the country may tell a woman that she is barred from the job merely because she is a woman.  It is time for the Pentagon to stop relying on sex as a proxy for fitness to serve."

The project reached out to a number of stakeholders, Coughlin said, and servicewomen began to step forward to discuss their experiences under the policies.

"At that point, we recognized immediately that we needed to retain the services of experienced and sophisticated lawyers," Coughlin said. "As soon as women came forward with legal claims and told us that they were concerned about their rights and their futures under the current policies, we knew that we were obliged to bring on board the best counsel that we could find."

In the initial phase of the project, former U.S. Air Force Major and F-16 fighter pilot Tally Parham '96, provided counsel for the effort.  Then, as the project moved towards litigation in the District of Columbia, the law firm Covington & Burling took the case on a pro bono basis. Christopher Sipes, a lecturer at Virginia Law and a partner in the firm, is serving on the legal team.

The lawsuit seeks a declaratory judgment that the Defense Department and Army combat exclusion policies are illegal and unconstitutional because they violate the plaintiffs' right to equal protection under the Fifth Amendment, and they violate the Administrative Procedure Act. The lawsuit also seeks a permanent injunction against any further enforcement of the military's combat exclusion policies and a mandate requiring the military to make all assignments and training decisions without regard to sex.

Attorneys from Covington & Burling filed the claim on behalf of two decorated U.S. Army Reserve officers, Command Sgt. Maj. Jane P. Baldwin of Tallahassee, Fla., and Col. Ellen L. Haring of Bristow, Va., who allege that their careers were and continue to be held back because of the military's combat exclusion policies.

Baldwin, who began her military service in 1987, has held multiple positions in the Army Reserve and has been deployed to South Korea and Iraq.

"The combat exclusion policies affected Command Sgt. Maj. Baldwin's career choices and opportunities," the complaint says. "In particular, the career options available to Command Sgt. Maj. Baldwin, as compared to a man who graduated in her peer group, have been limited from the outset of her career."

As a direct result of the policies, Baldwin was prevented from applying to two separate positions. One of these, a combat-coded post, was a first sergeant position in a new unit in Florida. Baldwin had extensive experience building up a new Army Reserve unit, having built a unit from the ground up while serving as a first sergeant at Company E, Small Arms Readiness Group at Fort Dix, N.J.

"This experience made her well-suited to the First Sergeant position available at 344th Engineer Company (SAPPERS)," the complaint says. "Despite this background and expertise, she was not even permitted to apply for the position because the DOD Policy and the Army Policy exclude her from consideration solely because of her sex."

Also as a result of the policies, Baldwin was banned from applying for a civilian position as a unit administrator with the 344th Engineer Company.

"There is no rational basis for banning Command Sgt. Maj. Baldwin from applying for positions for which her background and expertise is well suited, on the sole basis that she is a woman," the complaint says. "The DOD Policy and the Army Policy have generally prevented Command Sgt. Maj. Baldwin from pursuing her career in the Army Reserve to the full extent of her capabilities, qualifications, and potential."

Haring has served 28 years with the Army, holding positions including platoon leader, commander, executive officer and bridge commander. Also, she served for three years as an associate professor at the Army's Command and General Staff College. She is currently serving on the Joint Staff as a Joint Concept Officer for the Joint and Coalition Warfighting Center in Suffolk, Va.

The combat exclusion policies have affected Haring's career choices and opportunities from the outset of her career, the complaint alleges.

"Specifically, from the beginning of her military career, her options were limited to support positions with no possibility to compete within the combat arms," the complaint says.

At the mid-point of her career, Haring switched her specialty to civil affairs so she could become a supporting member of Special Operations. Yet when she applied to a non-combat support position in Special Operations Command, she was passed over for the position and it was awarded instead to a lower-ranked Special Forces–qualified male.

"Accordingly, despite her other qualifications and her association with the Special Operations community, Col. Haring's lack of Special Forces branch qualification — a direct result of the combat exclusion policies — impacted her ability to obtain the job," the complaint says.

The Defense Department's combat exclusion policy specifically bans women from assignment to units below the battalion level whose primary mission is to engage in direct ground combat and from assignments in closed military occupational specialties, such as infantry, as well as assignments to units engaged in long-range reconnaissance operations and special operations forces missions.

"These bans exclude women from thousands of positions in the armed forces, no matter how qualified the women may be as individuals," the complaint says. "Women are excluded from officers occupations in armor, infantry, and special forces; and female warrant officers are prohibited from serving in Special Forces. Enlisted women are excluded from serving in certain infantry specialties, combat engineer, field artillery specialties, special forces, armor specialties, and armor or artillery mechanical maintenance specialties."

Additionally, the Defense Department's policy allows the exclusion of women "where job related physical requirements would necessarily exclude the vast majority of Service members," though it does not define the physical requirements for these specialties. The policy also says women may be excluded from assignments where "the costs of appropriate berthing and privacy arrangements are prohibitive."

As a result of these policies, the complaint alleges, women are systematically hindered in their ability to pursue careers in the military that are associated with promotion to top officer grades and other career-enhancing assignments.

"The material impact of this 'structural barrier' is stark; as of 2006, 80 percent of general officers in the Army, ranks 0-7 and above, 'came from combat arms occupations,'" the complaint says. "These are the precise occupations that the DOD and Army policies formally close to women with no rational reason."

Women constitute roughly 14.5 percent of the 1.4 million active military personnel, and have served in key roles in Afghanistan and Iraq, including as fighter, bomber, attack and helicopter pilots; in ground support positions; and by manning checkpoints to conduct searches of Afghan and Iraqi women.

"The DOD and Army polices were developed at a time when wars were fought on a linear battlefield," the complaint says. "The linear battlefield no longer exists. Rather, the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan are nonlinear, containing no 'forward area' as contemplated in the [1994 memo articulating the direct ground exclusion rule]."

Indeed, the complaint points out, many servicewomen have been "regularly and deliberately" exposed to combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 800 military women have been wounded and 130 women have been killed.
"Although the DOD and Army policies formally prohibit women from being assigned to ground units, Army officials have deliberately circumvented this restriction in practice by 'attaching' women to ground combat units," the complaint says. "There is no practical difference, in terms of the work that servicewomen do, between 'assigning' women to ground combat units and 'attaching' women to a ground combat unit."

Rising third-year law student Rebecca Cohn, a member of the Molly Pitcher Project, said she is excited and optimistic about seeing the case move forward.

"This has been a long time coming — women have been fighting in ground combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, performing with utmost valor and professionalism while receiving no formal recognition," she said. "I am so proud of the students, attorneys and military women involved. The time is right for change."

Kyle Mallinak, another member of the project and rising third-year law student, said the lawsuit represents a step toward a time when "all soldiers, male and female, can be judged on their individual capabilities rather than crude stereotypes."

"Not all women are capable of meeting the military's standards for ground combat, but all female servicewomen deserve the right to test themselves against those standards," he said. "This will not be an easy case, but we have complete confidence in the counsel at Covington & Burling and we are secure in the knowledge that we are on the right side of history. The question is no longer whether the combat exclusion policy will end, but when."

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

REP. JOHN LEWIS AMENDMENT DEMANDING AN ACCOUNTING FOR THE COST OF WAR IS PART OF THE DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT



On May 18, Congressman John Lewis issued the following press release: 

WASHINGTON--Long-time peace advocate, Rep. John Lewis scored a victory today by gaining the inclusion of his Cost of War Act H.R. 3088 as an amendment passed en bloc as part of the Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013. The Congressman made this statement on the House floor in support of his amendment today:

Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of the en bloc amendment, which includes my amendment. It requires that the Secretary of Defense, the IRS, and Commerce calculate the total cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to each American taxpayer. My amendment is about truth and transparency. Americans need to know how their taxes are being spent, so we can make informed decisions about our budget. Even if you do not oppose war, don’t you want to know what it costs you, your children, your grandchildren, and your great-grandchildren? For too long, there has been a big, fat blank check for war. We need to be honest with ourselves. We need to be honest with each other. Mr. Chairman, I hope all of my colleagues will support the Lewis amendment and this en bloc package.”


The Cost of War Act is a measure which creates openness and transparency around spending for war, which is often not clearly defined in the federal budget. This bill was named bill of the day by PopVox and featured in an EPI blog. This legislation simply requires the Department of Defense to work with the Internal Revenue Service to calculate and post on their websites the cost of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya paid by every American taxpayer.

A few weeks ago, Rep. Lewis sponsored a staff briefing in conjunction with the Institute for Economics& Peace to discuss their recent report: Economics Consequences of War on the U.S. Economy. During the briefing, we learned that the U.S. is still paying out benefits for the Civil War, and that the institute estimates around 8 percent of the US GDP is spent on war-related costs.

During debate, the Congressman was given only one-minute to discuss his bill. The longer more expository version of the statement was included in the Congressional Record and is also attached to this document along with the text of the bill.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Soldier Faces Murder Charges in Iraq Deaths


Sgt John Russell

Military.com reported yesterday - The Army says murder charges have been filed against a sergeant accused of killing five other soldiers in May 2009 at a mental health clinic in Iraq.
The charges against Sgt. John Russell were listed in a statement Friday from Joint Base Lewis-McChord. He faces five charges of premeditated murder, one of aggravated assault and one of attempted murder.
If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
The charges result from an investigation into the shooting at the Camp Liberty Combat Stress Center near Baghdad.
No date for the court-martial has been set. Russell is being held at the base about 40 miles south of Seattle.
While in Iraq, his Bamberg, Germany-based unit was assigned to a unit from JBLM.
Russell is from Sherman, Texas, and is now about 47 years old, said Lt. Col. Gary Dangerfield. The delay since the incident has been filled with the process of determining whether Russell is fit to stand trial.
Russell has an Army defense attorney but it is standard procedure for them not to comment to the media, Dangerfield said.
The shooting was one of the worst instances of soldier-on-soldier violence in the Iraq war and raised questions about the mental health problems for soldiers caused by repeated tours of duty.
"I don't know of any other worse blue-on-blue in Iraq," Dangerfield said.
A hearing on possible charges was held in August 2009 at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Two evaluations presented during that hearing said Russell suffered from severe depression with psychotic features and chronic post-traumatic stress disorder. A March 2011 evaluation said the major depression with psychotic features was in partial remission.
Russell was nearing the end of his third tour when his behavior changed, members of his unit testified in 2009. They said he became more distant in the days before the May 11, 2009, attack, and that he seemed paranoid that his unit was trying to end his career.
On May 8, Russell sought help at a combat stress clinic at Camp Stryker, where his unit was located. On May 10 Russell was referred to the Camp Liberty clinic, where he received counseling and prescription medication to treat his symptoms.
Witnesses said the following day they saw Russell crying and talking about hurting himself. He went back to the Camp Liberty clinic, where a doctor told him he needed to get help or he would hurt himself. Russell tried to surrender to military police to lock him up so he wouldn't hurt himself or others, witnesses said.
Military prosecutors say Russell left the clinic and later returned with a rifle he took from his unit headquarters and began firing. He was arrested afterward.
Killed in the shooting were Navy Cmdr. Charles Springle, 52, of Wilmington, N.C., and four Army service members: Pfc. Michael Edward Yates Jr., 19, of Federalsburg, Md.; Dr. Matthew Houseal, of Amarillo, Texas; Sgt. Christian E. Bueno-Galdos, 25, of Paterson, N.J.; and Spc. Jacob D. Barton, 20, of Lenox, Mo.
Russell deployed to Iraq with the 370th Engineer Company, 54th Engineer Battalion from Bamberg, Germany. In Iraq the 54th was assigned to the 555th Engineer Brigade, based at Lewis-McChord, which is responsible for the court martial.