Monday, December 14, 2009

Suicides, homelessness, veterans issues

The US military has announced the deaths of 4 US service members in Iraq so far this month. Once of which was Sgt. Ralph Anthony Webb Frietas. Niraj Warikoo (Detroit Free Press) reports, "Frietas was a combat engineer who began active duty in the Marine Corps in August 2004, according to the U.S. Marines. He was promoted to the rank of sergeant in September 2008 and began his tour on Okinawa in June."

The Army again released their suicide data (no, other branches don't appear to have to dislcose) for the month of November which includes: "The Army released suicide data for the month of November today. Among active-duty soldiers, there were 12 potential suicides, all of which are pending determination of the manner of death. For October, the Army reported 16 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers. Since the release of that report, three have been confirmed as suicides, and 13 remain under investigation. There were 147 reported active duty Army suicides from January 2009 through November 2009. Of these, 102 have been confirmed, and 45 are pending determination of manner of death. For the same period in 2008, there were 127 suicides among active-duty soldiers." On this topic, Mark Thompson (Time magazine) reports "Neither the U.S. military nor the American public would tolerate a conflict in which U.S. losses mounted for five straight years. Yet, that's what's happening in the Army's battle with suicides. The recently released figure for November show that 12 soldiers are suspected of taking their own lives, bringing to 147 the total suicides for 2009, the highest since the Army began keeping track in 1980. Last year the Army had 140 suicides. Although Army officials don't blame the spike on repeated deployments to war zones, evidence is mounting to the contrary."

Issues veterans face in civilian life include custody. Lou Michael (Buffalo News) reports on Iraq War veteran Michael D. Hauser's efforts to readjust to civilian life including -- after being left partially paralyzed by a bombing in Iraq -- while attempting to win custody of his daughter:

More and more members of the military are finding themselves in troubled marriages as the country continues at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to figures just released by the Pentagon, the divorce rate among active-duty members continues to rise.
For the federal fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, there were approximately 27,000 divorces. That translates to a 3.6 percent divorce rate among the military’s approximately 765,000 married members. The previous year the rate was 3.4 percent.
Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when the United States started sending troops to Afghanistan, the military divorce rate was 2.6 percent, a full percentage point lower than last year.

Female veterans face many issues similar to the one male veterans face but they also face issues specific to gender (not surprising in a misogynist society). Kimeberly Hefling (AP) reports on some of those issues and also notes these basics, "More than 230,000 American women have fought in those recent wars and at least 120 have died doing so, yet the public still doesn't completely understand their contributions on the modern battlefield. For some, it's a lonely transition as they struggle to find their place. In another AP story, Hefling reports on the issue of homelessness among female veterans and notes that they tend to be "younger than homeless male veterans and more likely to bring children."

Meanwhile in Iraq, Zeina Khodr (Al Jazeera -- link has text and video) files a report on US-run Iraqi prisons:

Zeina Khodr: Adel spent four years as a prisoner in Camp Bucca. Like many others, he was never formally charged. But his bitterness comes more from having been exposed to extremist teachings. He charges the US military showed leniancy to some in prison.

Adel Jasim Mohammed: Extremists had freedom to educate the young detainees. I saw them giving courses using classroom boards on how to use explosives, weapons and how to become suicide bombers. For the Americans we felt it was normal. They did not stop them.

Zeina Khodr: It has been known that some high profile al Qaeda members were held in Camp Bucca. Overpopulated, at some point, 27,000 detainees were held which may have led to little supervision.

Adel Jasim Mohammed: In 2005, an extermist was sent to our camp. At first, Sunnis and Shias rejected his teachings. But we were told that he was imposed by the prison authority. He stayed for a week and recruited 25 of the 34 detainees. They became extremists like him.

US Gen David Quantock ("U.S. Prison Authority in Iraq"): Extremists are tremendously frustrated. When we came up with the model detainee unit, we eliminated or separated individuals by ten. And they had no other access to anyone else. They become -- became tremendously frustrated

Zeina Khodr: US military statistics show 4% of the approximately 100,000 held in different prisons over the years return to violence. While the percentage is relatively low, it is unclear how many of them were involved to begin with.

Hurt Locker

The Hurt Locker is an amazing film directed by Kathryn Bigelow. Susan King (Los Angeles Times) reports: "Sunday was a big day for "The Hurt Locker," the gripping wartime drama about a bomb diffusion unit in Iraq. Within hours, the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. and the American Film Institute both named the independent production the year's best drama. L.A. critics bestowed the film's director, Kathryn Bigelow, with a best director prize as well." Reuters adds, "Separately on Sunday, "The Hurt Locker" was also named one of the year's 10 best movies by the American Film Institute, a Los Angeles-based group that promotes movie conservation and education." As disclosed before, I know and like Kathryn Bigelow and, fingers crossed, this is an Academy Award nominee. She's earned it.

Bonnie reminds that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Spirit of Barack" went up last night. Zach notes Joe Bageant's "The Devil and Mr. Obama" (Information Clearing House):

As you may know, Obama's public approval ratings are taking a beating. Millions of his former cult members have awakened with a splitting hangover to find their pockets turned inside out and eviction notices on the doors of their 4,000 square foot subprime mortgaged cardboard fuck boxes. Many who voted for Obama out of disgust for the Bush regime are now listening to the Republicans again on their car radios as they drive around looking for a suitable place to hide their vehicles from the repo man. Don't construe this as support for the GOP. It's just the standard ping ponging of disappointment and disgust that comes after the honeymoon is over with any administration. Most Americans' party affiliations are the same as they were when Bush was elected. After all, Obama did not get elected on a landslide by any means; he got 51% of the vote.
Right now his approval ratings are in the 40th percentile and would be headed for the basement of the league were it not for the residual effect of the Kool-Aid love fest a year ago. However, millions of American liberals remain faithful, and believe Obama will arise from the dead in the third year and ascend to glory. You will find them at Huffington Post.
This frustrating ping pong game in which the margin of first time, disenchanted and undecided voters are batted back and forth has become the whole of American elections. That makes both the Republican and Democratic parties very happy, since it keeps the game down to fighting the enemy they know, each other, as opposed to being forced to deal with the real issues, or worse yet, an independent or third party candidate who might have a solution or two.

The e-mail address for this site is