Monday, September 19, 2011

Veterans issues: Burn pits, homeless and jobs

Bill Zlatos (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review) reports on Iraq War veteran Bethany Bugay who now has chronic myelomonocytic leukemia. In Iraq, she worked in the notorius burn pits and she feels that it was this exposure was the source of her cancer. (This isn't an a wild assumption. In testimoney to the Democratic Policy Committee, doctors and veterans repeatedly established connections between the burn pits and various illness -- many of them life threatening.) The Defense Dept insists that their decision to (finally) close burn pits in Iraq in 2010 and to close them in Afghanistan by the end of 2011 prove they are "concerned" (DoD spokesperson Cynthia Smith). And while the government commissions studies, Susan Burke is leading the legal effort:

Some veterans are not waiting for government studies to prove a link. Burke filed a lawsuit last year in U.S. District Court in Maryland on behalf of hundreds of plaintiffs, including the families of three veterans who died of cancer. The plaintiffs were Houston-based contractors Kellogg Brown and Root and its former parent company, Halliburton. They operated many of the burn pits for the military.
"It's an environmental hazard that seriously impacts the health of our active-duty soldiers and veterans," Burke said. "It's led to the permanent destruction of pulmonary function, and it's also led to cancers that have caused death."

Thursday Jessica Jones (NPR's Morning Edition -- link has audio and text) reported on female veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars (there are over 200,000 of them) make up a large percent of today's homeless veterans. And while the national average is "between 3 and 6%," in Fayetteville, home to Fort Bragg, female veterans account for 18% of homeless veterans. Excerpt:

JONES: Siniyai is eight and Clarice is six. Their mother, Shawn McLean, has struggled to find a job since she got out of the Army three years ago. They left their last rental after another resident threatened them. McLean hasn't been able to find a place she and her daughters can afford.

SHAWN MCLEAN: It's hard, not knowing if you're going to be able to feed them, if it's going to rain, if it's going to be too cold outside. It's just hard.

Meanwhile Hilary Gowins (Northwest Herald) reports on young (male) veterans struggle to find employment in the Great Recession? Male? There is a figure for females. As I've noted several times before, one report after another ignores it. Both figures (the one used -- which is men -- and the one not) come from the government's labor board. Equally true, we've had updates every time the labor board issues a monthly employmnet report. So I'm not really sure why someone's using a 2010 figure.

Yesterday economists Linda J. Bilmes and Joseph E. Stiglitz had a column in the Los Angeles Times on the financial costs of the ongoing wars:

Many of these costs were unnecessary. We chose to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan with a small, all-volunteer force, and we supplemented the military presence with a heavy reliance on civilian contractors. These decisions not only placed enormous strain on the troops but dramatically pushed up costs. Recent congressional investigations have shown that roughly 1 of every 4 dollars spent on wartime contracting was wasted or misspent.
To date, the United States has spent more than $2.5 trillion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon spending spree that accompanied it and a battery of new homeland security measures instituted after Sept. 11.
How have we paid for this? Entirely through borrowing.

Bonnie reminds that last night Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Plan." On this week's Law and Disorder Radio -- a weekly hour long program that airs Monday mornings on WBAI and around the country throughout the week and is hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights), topics explored include the medical profession's role in assisting the US military and CIA in torture (guest is Dr. Stephen Soldz) and Guantanamo and its various satellites (guest is CCR's Vince Warren). And we'll close with this from Sherwood Ross' "WHY AMERICA NEEDS TO DISMANTLE ITS 'SECURITY' APPARATUS" (Centre for Global Research):

The best way for America to become more secure may well be to dismantle its vast security apparatus. This means eliminating the Department of Homeland Security, closing down our 800 military bases on foreign soil, and slashing armaments spending by the War Department, the one euphemistically called the Department of Defense but which is, in fact, the spearhead of today’s naked American aggression in six countries. Real security begins with creating a policy of peace, meaning non-intervention, in the affairs of other states. It means when the U.S. sends its sons and daughters abroad on official business, it sends the Peace Corps to help and not the Pentagon to obliterate. It means returning to the lost arts of diplomacy, restoring the State Department to its original relevance; it means scrapping the posture of arrogance that is known as American exceptionalism and not acting as the self-appointed policeman of the world; and it means settling disputes with other nations in the World Court, not on the battlefield; and lastly, and not the least, it means having the courage to put some trust in the organization to keep the peace in whose creation America played so large a role in founding, the United Nations.
“We are not the policeman of mankind,” syndicated columnist Walter Lippmann once remarked. “We are not able to run the world and we shouldn’t pretend that we can. Let us tend to our own business, which is great enough as it is.” This complemented the words of founder Thomas Paine, who wrote in “The American Crisis”, “Not a place on earth might be so happy as America. Her situation is remote from all the wrangling world, and she has nothing to do but to trade with them.”

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