Archive for the ‘Iraq’ Category

Brain-injured troops face unclear long-term risks

December 4, 2008

Many of the thousands of troops who suffered traumatic brain injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan are at risk of long-term health problems including depression and Alzheimer’s-like dementia, but it’s impossible to predict how high those risks are, researchers say.

About 22 percent of wounded troops have a brain injury, concluded the prestigious Institute of Medicine — and it urged precise steps for studying how these patients fare years later so chances to help aren’t missed.

The Veterans Affairs Department, which requested the report, and the Pentagon already are taking some of the recommended steps. But a report out Thursday highlights the urgency.

By LAURAN NEERGAARD, AP Medical Writer

An Afghan soldier keeps watch at a checkpoint in Kabul in August ...

“I don’t think we really knew how big a hole in scientific knowledge there is about blast-induced brain injuries,” said Dr. George Rutherford of the University of California, San Francisco, the report’s lead researcher.

Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, is a signature injury of the Iraq war. Most do not involve penetrating head wounds but damage hidden inside the skull caused by an explosion’s pressure wave. It can range from a mild concussion to severe injury. And because symptoms may not be immediately apparent, troops may not seek care.

“If you have a gunshot wound to some specific part of your brain, I can tell you the consequences,” Rutherford said. But with blast concussions, it’s not even possible to say “if you have six of these, are you six times more likely to have something bad happen to you than if you’ve had one?”

Returning soldiers have reported headaches, dizziness, memory loss, confusion, irritability, insomnia and depression. The military has said most of the TBI-injured troops recover with treatment.

“There’s clearly a whole bunch of people who have mild TBI who have no negative outcomes,” Rutherford agreed.

Related:
PTSD, psychological health and traumatic brain injuries

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081204/ap_on_he_me/med_brain_injury

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Obama’s Many “Number One” Priorities

December 3, 2008

Remember this simple catchphrase for priorities: “It’s the economy, stupid”?

Many think that should be the watchword for the new President Barack Obama.  But a confusing and dangerous miasma of foreign policy challenges lurks and lurches ahead. Without carefully applied wisdom, the United States could make matters worse on a wide range of international fronts and issues…

President-elect Barack Obama waits to get on his plane with ... 
President-elect Obama with his two Blackberris and some light reading.
(Jeff Haynes/Reuters)

Yesterday, two think tanks said the U.S. should move away from Iraq and work like the devil on the nuclear covetous Mr. Ahmadinejad and Iran.

The Brookings Institution and the Council on Foreign Relations said it is time to make peace in the Middle east as a “top priority.”  For the past six years under President George W. Bush, U.S. foreign policy in the region has been dominated by Iraq, said Martin Indyk, director of the Saban Center at Brookings, and Richard Haass, president of the Council.

Now the two agree the real problem is Iran.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrives at the U.N. ... 
Nuclear aspirant: Mr. Ahmadinejad of Iran

One difficulty with this line of thinking is that, depending on the day, the think tank report one considers, and the newspaper headline, America faces stadium full of “top priorities.”

In Russia, Medvedev and Putin believe they should be tops on the Obama agenda.  Mr. Medvedev even threatened to deploy nuclear armed missiles in Eastern Europe unles and until the U.S. backed off of its missile defense ambitions with Poland and the Czech Republic.

And the Medvedev/Putin thrust cannot be overlooked: the two had no qualms about invading Georgia to get the attention of the U.S. and NATO: and it worked.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visits a ballistic missile ...
Russia’s Medvedev, in front of a startegic Russian missile, said his missile advances will overwhelm U.S. defensive measures in the next few years.
AFP/Pool/File/Dmitry Astakhov

Terrorism could be the number one priority.  Just yesterday the U.S. Director of National Security said in essence that the Pakistani Islamist radical militant group  Lashkar-e-Taiba  blew up Mubai, India, last week, killing nearly 200.

On the same day, yesterday, a group of wise men said the U.S. can expect to face a biological or chemical attack.

Is another 9-11 in America’s future?  And are we ready to defend or respond?

Pakistan itself might lay claim to Mr. Obama’s top priority.  Bankrupt, last weekend rioters ripped through the nations largest city, the Pakistani Army was pinned down by terrorists in the tribal areas, and the nuclear-armed government was under fire from all domestic and international sides over Mumbai.

A Pakistani newspaper wondered yesterday if the Army was about to break with the elected government of mr. Zardari and his Minister Mr. Gilani.

Then there are a few small matters with China, North Korea and you name it.

Oh and there are just a few domestic realities and campaign promises that need our next president’s attention: OPEC and oil, drill or not to drill, schools and education, tax relief, jobs and unemployment,health care, AIDS and the list goes on.

You won’t convince me for a second that the modern miracle of multi-tasking and several Blackberries will resolve this poisonous soup.

America needs to take a deep breath and close its eyes: too much Obama-mania could cause one not to think.

Mr. Obama, the United States, all Americans and all Western allies are in for some very hard work, sacrifices of an unknown nature, and difficult decisions.

Here’s a simple truth: The age of simplicity is over.

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From Wikipedia:

It’s the economy, stupid” was a phrase in American politics widely used during Bill Clinton‘s successful 1992 presidential campaign against George H.W. Bush. For a time, Bush was considered unbeatable because of foreign policy developments such as the end of the Cold War and the Persian Gulf war. The phrase, coined by Clinton campaign strategist James Carville, refers to the notion that Clinton was a better choice because Bush had not adequately addressed the economy, which had recently undergone a recession.

PTSD, psychological health and traumatic brain injuries

December 3, 2008

The number one question we see here at Peace and Freedom is: how can we better help soldiers returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?  Dealing appropriately with psychological health and traumatic brain injuries is the watchword…

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The military finally is getting ahead in the head business — tackling the psychological health and traumatic brain injuries of soldiers and their families in a comprehensive way.

It’s happening at the moment under the leadership of an energetic, Shakespeare-quoting Army psychiatrist, Brig. Gen. Loree K. Sutton. Gen. Sutton holds a medical degree from Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, Calif. She completed her internship and residency in psychiatry at Letterman Army Medical Center in San Francisco.

By Ann Geracimos    
The Washington Times

Brig. Gen. Loree K. Sutton is director of the Defense Centers of Excellence, an arm of the Department of Defense dealing with the health and wellness of soldiers. The department seeks to care for troops before and after they suffer trauma. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)

Above: Brig. Gen. Loree K. Sutton is director of the Defense Centers of Excellence, an arm of the Department of Defense dealing with the health and wellness of soldiers. 

Gen. Sutton, 49, is director of the year-old Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE), an arm of the Department of Defense dealing with health matters. The concept is to find the means of caring for troops and their leaders before, as well as after, service members and their relations suffer the debilitating effects of trauma.

The game plan focuses on building up what is being called “resilience” among the military’s many warrior volunteers as well as providing more and better treatment options for visible and invisible injuries of this type in a totally integrated program for recovery and reintegration. Gen. Sutton describes it as a network “like the Internet — a collaborative global network” functioning in a partnership, which is expected to take four years to put fully in place.

The plan, and its three R’s — resilience, recovery, reintegration — had a big workout at a recent three-day DCoE symposium, “Warrior Resilience Conference: Partnering With the Line,” and attended mainly by service members involved in health matters. Billed as the first of its kind, the event at the Fairfax Marriott at Fair Oaks typified what the organization sees as its mandate: promoting a shift of emphasis in the military away from what is known, in jargon terms, as an “illness-based medical model” toward a “wellness-centric resilience continuum.”

The latter phrase is a mouthful, with good reason, covering as it does a range of approaches that almost directly counter traditional military culture and practices.

“It’s ironic how the military trains us to overcome discomfort but not how to deal with invisible injuries,” Gen. Sutton notes. “As soldiers, we keep a lid on our feelings while we do our job. But nobody tells us when to take the lid off or how to deal with it when we do.”

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/dec
/02/military-marches-toward-wellness/

US soldiers re-enlisting because of poor economy

December 2, 2008

Sgt. Ryan Nyhus spent 14 months patrolling the deadly streets of Baghdad, where five members of his platoon were shot and one died. As bad as that was, he would rather go back there than take his chances in this brutal job market.

Nyhus re-enlisted last Wednesday, and in so doing joined the growing ranks of those choosing to stay in the U.S. military because of the bleak economy.

“In the Army, you’re always guaranteed a steady paycheck and a job,” said the 21-year-old Nyhus. “Deploying’s something that’s going to happen. That’s a fact of life in the Army — a fact of life in the infantry.”

By JOHN MILBURN and STEPHEN MANNING, Associated Press Writers

A U.S. Army soldier from Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry ...
A U.S. Army soldier from Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment searches a building as his platoon leader meets with Iraqi police and security volunteers in Baqouba, 35 miles (60 kilometers) northeast of Baghdad, Iraq on Sunday, Nov. 30, 2008.(AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

In 2008, as the stock market cratered and the housing market collapsed, more young members of the Army, Air Force and Navy decided to re-up. While several factors might explain the rise in re-enlistments, including a decline in violence in Iraq, Pentagon officials acknowledge that bad news for the economy is usually good news for the military.

In fact, the Pentagon just completed its strongest recruiting year in four years.

“We do benefit when things look less positive in civil society,” said David Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. “What difficult economic times give us, I think, is an opening to make our case to people who we might not otherwise have.”

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081202/ap_on_re_us/m
eltdown_choosing_war;_ylt=AobfPtsZi
ED.Sl0zcsAzhmms0NUE

Experts Warn Barack Obama of ‘Hornet’s Nest’ in Middle East, Including Nuclear Iran

December 2, 2008

Iran poses the greatest foreign policy challenge to the new president with Tehran on course to produce a nuclear bomb in the first year of an Obama administration, an unprecedented coalition of top think tanks warned yesterday.

Barack Obama must follow through on his promises of direct talks with Tehran and engage the Middle East region as a whole if he is to halt a looming crisis that could be revisited on the United States, the experts warned.

President-elect Barack Obama waits to get on his plane with ... 
President-elect Obama with his two BlackBerries….
.(Jeff Haynes/Reuters)

“Diplomacy is not guaranteed to work: it is not,” Richard Hass, one of the authors said. “But the other options – military action or living with an Iranian weapon are sufficiently unattractive for it to warrant serious commitment.”

The warnings came in a report called “Restoring the Balance,” a Middle East strategy for the incoming president drafted by the Council for Foreign Relations and the Brookings Institution. Gary Samore, one of the authors, said the level of alarm over the “hornet’s nest” facing the new president in the Middle East, and the need for the swift adoption of previously untested approach, had inspired the unprecedented decision to write policy for him. “New administrations can choose new policies but they can’t choose next contexts,” Mr. Samore said. “This is what they inherit.”

By

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world
/us_and_americas/us_elections/article5275647.ece

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrives at the U.N. ... 
Ahmadinejad

Related:
 Obama’s Many “Number One” Priorities

‘Chemical Ali’ sentenced to death in Iraq

December 2, 2008

The man who attempted to eliminate Iraq’s minority Kurds with chemical weapons, “Chemical Ali,” has been sentenced to die by an Iraqi court.

Ali Hassan Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti (Arabic: علي حسن عبد المجيد التكريتيtransliteration: ʿAlī Ḥasan ʿAbd al-Majīd al-Tikrītī, born 1941) is a former Ba’athist Iraqi Defense Minister, Interior Minister, military commander and chief of the Iraqi Intelligence Service. He was also the governor of occupied Kuwait during the Gulf War.

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A first cousin of former President of Iraq Saddam Hussein, he became notorious in the 1980s and 1990s for his role in the Iraqi government’s campaigns against internal opposition forces, namely from its ethnic Kurdish rebels of the north, and the Shia religious dissidents of the south. Repressive measures included deportations of the population and mass killings; al-Majid was dubbed “Chemical Ali” by Iraqi Kurds for his use of chemical weapons in attacks against them.

A special Iraqi court sentenced Saddam Hussein‘s notorious cousin, “Chemical Ali” Hassan al-Majid, to death Tuesday after convicting him of crimes against humanity for his part in crushing the 1991 Shiite uprising in southern Iraq.

Al-Majid already faces death by hanging after being convicted last year for his role in the killing of tens of thousands of Kurds in a crackdown in the late 1980s. But that execution has been delayed by legal wrangling.

In this Jan. 8, 2007 file photo, Saddam Hussein's cousin Ali ... 
In this Jan. 8, 2007 file photo, Saddam Hussein’s cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as ‘Chemical Ali,’ for his alleged use of chemical weapons against Iraqi Kurds, listens to prosecution evidence during the Operation Anfal trial, in Baghdad, Iraq. A special Iraqi court has sentenced Saddam Hussein’s cousin, known as ‘Chemical Ali,’ to death for his role in the 1991 suppression of a Shiite uprising Tuesday, Dec, 2, 2008. Ali Hassan al-Majid already faces death by hanging after being convicted last year for his role in the killing of tens of thousands of Kurds in a crackdown in the late 1980s. But that execution has been delayed by legal wrangling.(AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic, Pool)

Former Baath party official Abdul-Ghani Abdul-Ghafur also received a death sentence at the end of the trial, which began in August 2007. He shouted, “Down with the Persian-U.S. occupation!” as the sentence was read.

“Shut up, you dirty Baathist,” snapped chief judge Mohammed Oreibi al-Khalifa, referring to Saddam’s mostly Sunni Baath party.

The trial was one of five convened against former leaders of Saddam’s regime, which was ousted in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Two are still ongoing.

In the first trial, Saddam was convicted of crimes in the killing of more than 140 Shiites after an assassination attempt against him in Dujail.

He was hanged in December 2006.

After Saddam’s defeat in the 1991 Gulf War, Shiites in southern Iraq and Kurds in the north rose up against his regime and seized control of 14 of the country’s 18 provinces. U.S. troops created a safe haven for the Kurds in three northern provinces, preventing Saddam from attacking.

read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081202/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_iraq_
trial;_ylt=AkKrDd9GQv9MFU1wLfRUOdKs0NUE

One Man’s Military-Industrial-Media Complex

November 30, 2008

In the spring of 2007 a tiny military contractor with a slender track record went shopping for a precious Beltway commodity.
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The company, Defense Solutions, sought the services of a retired general with national stature, someone who could open doors at the highest levels of government and help it win a huge prize: the right to supply Iraq with thousands of armored vehicles.

Access like this does not come cheap, but it was an opportunity potentially worth billions in sales, and Defense Solutions soon found its man. The company signed Barry R. McCaffrey, a retired four-star Army general and military analyst for NBC News, to a consulting contract starting June 15, 2007.

Four days later the general swung into action. He sent a personal note and 15-page briefing packet to David H. Petraeus, the commanding general in Iraq, strongly recommending Defense Solutions and its offer to supply Iraq with 5,000 armored vehicles from Eastern Europe. “No other proposal is quicker, less costly, or more certain to succeed,” he said.

By DAVID BARSTOW
The New York Times

Above: Barry R. McCaffrey is among the retired military officers working as network analysts.
Artwork by the New York Times

Thus, within days of hiring General McCaffrey, the Defense Solutions sales pitch was in the hands of the American commander with the greatest influence over Iraq’s expanding military.

“That’s what I pay him for,” Timothy D. Ringgold, chief executive of Defense Solutions, said in an interview.

General McCaffrey did not mention his new contract with Defense Solutions in his letter to General Petraeus. Nor did he disclose it when he went on CNBC that same week and praised the commander Defense Solutions was now counting on for help — “He’s got the heart of a lion” — or when he told Congress the next month that it should immediately supply Iraq with large numbers of armored vehicles and other equipment.

He had made similar arguments before he was hired by Defense Solutions, but this time he went further. In his testimony to Congress, General McCaffrey criticized a Pentagon plan to supply Iraq with several hundred armored vehicles made in the United States by a competitor of Defense Solutions. He called the plan “not in the right ballpark” and urged Congress to instead equip Iraq with 5,000 armored vehicles.

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/30/washin
gton/30general.html?_r=1&hp

Obama’s strong-willed national security team

November 30, 2008
With Clinton as secretary of State, retired Marine Gen. James Jones Jr. as national security advisor and Gates remaining in Defense, Obama will have a choice among often starkly differing views.
By Paul Richter
The Los Angeles Times
November 30, 2008
Reporting from Washington — President-elect Barack Obama says he wants to lead an administration where strong-willed senior officials are ready to argue forcefully for differing points of view.

It appears that in two months, he’ll get his wish, and then some.

Obama’s new national security team is led by three veteran officials who have differed with each other — and with the president-elect — on the full menu of security issues, including Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, nuclear weapons and Arab-Israel conflict.

The president-elect is expected on Monday to begin introducing a team that includes Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), whom he has chosen as secretary of State; retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones Jr., tapped to be the new national security advisor; and Robert M. Gates, who has agreed to stay on as Defense secretary.

Clinton, Gates, Jones

Carolyn Kaster / AP; Roslan Rahman / AFP/Getty Images; Dennis Cook / AP
THE TEAM: No longer a rival, Clinton and Obama hold similar positions on many issues. Gates, center, is admired by the Obama team despite significant differences over nuclear weapons policy. Jones has separated himself from the Obama playbook on a few issues, including troop withdrawal.

Their collaboration isn’t likely to be as contentious as the first-term Bush administration battles between Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Vice President Dick Cheney. Clinton, Gates and Jones have worked smoothly, with the only visible clashes coming between Clinton and Gates’ deputies over Iraq.

But Obama will have some clear choices among their views, which differ in nuance in some cases and more starkly in others. Obama appears to be determined to keep them in line; advisors say he believes the Pentagon has become too strong in the Bush years, and he wants to reassert White House control.

Some American supporters of Israel have already been buzzing over the potential for conflict between Clinton and Jones on Arab-Israeli issues.

Jones, an admired former Marine commandant and supreme allied commander of NATO, was appointed last November as a Bush administration envoy charged with trying to improve the often dysfunctional Palestinian security forces. As part of that assignment, he drafted a report that caused a stir in Israel by criticizing the Israeli Defense Forces’ activities in the Palestinian territories.

Read the rest:
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/washingtondc/la-na-security30-2008nov30,0,7160819.story

U.S. Military Adjusts Toward Confidence in Obama

November 30, 2008

Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, went unarmed into his first meeting with the new commander in chief — no aides, no PowerPoint presentation, no briefing books. Summoned nine days ago to President-elect Barack Obama‘s Chicago transition office, Mullen showed up with just a pad, a pen and a desire to take the measure of his incoming boss. 

 

By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 30, 2008; Page A01

Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen speaks with The Associated ... 
Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen speaks with The Associated Press during an interview at the Pentagon, Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2008. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

There was little talk of exiting Iraq or beefing up the U.S. force in Afghanistan; the one-on-one, 45-minute conversation ranged from the personal to the philosophical. Mullen came away with what he wanted: a view of the next president as a non-ideological pragmatist who was willing to both listen and lead. After the meeting, the chairman “felt very good, very positive,” according to Mullen spokesman Capt. John Kirby.

As Obama prepares to announce his national security team tomorrow, he faces a military that has long mistrusted Democrats and is particularly wary of a young, intellectual leader with no experience in uniform, who once called Iraq a “dumb” war. Military leaders have all heard his pledge to withdraw most combat forces from Iraq within 16 months — sooner than commanders on the ground have recommended — and his implied criticism of the Afghanistan war effort during the Bush administration.

But so far, Obama appears to be going out of his way to reassure them that he will do nothing rash and will seek their advice, even while making clear that he may not always take it. He has demonstrated an ability to speak the lingo, talk about “mission plans” and “tasking,” and to differentiate between strategy and tactics, a distinction Republican nominee John McCain accused him of misunderstanding during the campaign.

Obama has been careful to separate his criticism of Bush policy from his praise of the military’s valor and performance, while Michelle Obama‘s public expressions of concern for military families have gone over well. But most important, according to several senior officers and civilian Pentagon officials who would speak about their incoming leader only on the condition of anonymity, is the expectation of renewed respect for the chain of command and greater realism about U.S. military goals and capabilities, which many found lacking during the Bush years.

“Open and serious debate versus ideological certitude will be a great relief to the military leaders,” said retired Maj. Gen. William L. Nash of the Council on Foreign Relations. Senior officers are aware that few in their ranks voiced misgivings over the Iraq war, but they counter that they were not encouraged to do so by the Bush White House or the Pentagon under Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/w
p-dyn/content/article/2008/11/29
/AR2008112901912.html?hpid=topnews

Military Bases Brace for Surge in PTSD, Stress-Related Disorders

November 29, 2008

Some 15,000 soldiers are heading home to this sprawling base after spending more than a year at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and military health officials are bracing for a surge in brain injuries and psychological problems among those troops.

By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer

Facing prospects that one in five of the 101st Airborne Division soldiers will suffer from stress-related disorders, the base has nearly doubled its psychological health staff. Army leaders are hoping to use the base’s experiences to assess the long-term impact of repeated deployments.

The three 101st Airborne combat brigades, which have begun arriving home, have gone through at least three tours in Iraq. The 3rd Brigade also served seven months in Afghanistan, early in the war. Next spring, the 4th Brigade will return from a 15-month tour in Afghanistan. So far, roughly 10,000 soldiers have come back; the remainder are expected by the end of January.

Army leaders say they will closely watch Fort Campbell to determine the proper medical staffing levels needed to aid soldiers who have endured repeated rotations in the two war zones.

“I don’t know what to expect. I don’t think anybody knows,” said Gen. Peter Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the Army, as he flew back to Washington from a recent tour of the base’s medical facilities. “That’s why I want to see numbers from the 101st’s third deployment.”

What happens with the 101st Airborne, he said, will let the Army help other bases ready for similar homecomings in the next year or two, when multiple brigades from the 4th Infantry Division and the 1st Cavalry Division return.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081129/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/sol
dier_stress;_ylt=AmE8_PG3c.WU2jnAbvUzG3Ss0NUE