Posted by Daniel Hershberger | | Posted On Friday, January 15, 2010 at 10:26 AM
4th Annual International Commemoration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Heidelberg's Rhein-Neckar Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) with the Deutsch-Amerikanishes Institut (DAI) (German American Institute) of Heidelberg will jointly sponsor the 24th annual international commemoration of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on Saturday, 23 January 2010.
The program will be held at the Providenz Kirche (Providence Church) in Heidelberg at Hauptstrasse 90a. The commemoration program will start at 6:00 p.m. and features American and international guest speakers as well as spiritual and gospel songs. The theme for this year's program will be "A Dream Fulfilled?... Moving Towards Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's., Promised Land."
The U.S. keynote speaker will be the Reverend Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou, Senior Minister of Lemuel Haynes Congregational Church. Rev. Sekou founded the Interfaith Worker Justice Center for New Orleans in response to the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina. He authored the critically acclaimed "Urban Souls," which explored the roots of hip-hop culture. Rev. Sekou is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and Freeman fellow with the Fellowship of Reconciliation. A German speaker for the program has not been named.
The program will feature gospel music by the Benjamin Franklin Village Chapel Gospel Choir of Mannheim and the Pan African Organization's Manita Choir.
A reception will immediately follow the program at the Adolf Winter Saal at Plöck 16-18 in Heidelberg. The entire event is open to the public and is free.
Further information is available from NAACP Rhein-Neckar Branch President, Calvin Robinson, at 0621-9766327, or from the International Commemoration Program Chair, Michael AlliMadi, at 06221-182923.
*The Rhein-Neckar Branch, NAACP, is a U.S. Army Garrison, Heidelberg, Private Organization.
Submitted by Rhein-Neckar Branch, NAACP, Publicity Committee member, Malcolm Carpenter, Tel: 06203-81214/85010
The new La Crosse County Veterans Court Initiative kicked off Monday with a courthouse ceremony recognizing mentors who will assist veterans in the legal system.
“This is a pioneer effort,” Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson said in an online video. “Not only for Wisconsin but across the country.”
Under the program, any veteran involved in an incident with local law enforcement will be assigned a mentor who also is a veteran, initiative chairman and county Circuit Judge Todd Bjerke said.
The mentor can discuss options on applying for veterans benefits and then get the person to meet with the county Veterans Service officer and do follow-up screenings for potential mental health issues.
Several mentors were sworn in Monday and will work to recruit and train additional mentors.
A large number of veterans suffer from mental health problems associated with military service, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain or blast injury and suicidal thoughts, Bjerke said.
If diagnosed with a mental health issue, the person most likely would qualify for Veterans Administration benefits, and a treatment plan can be developed.
“The courts would view the diagnosis and treatment for the veteran as a significant factor when resolving cases,” Bjerke said.
The initiative’s founders — mostly veterans, both professionals and nonprofessionals — decided to go with a trained mentor system after studying other veterans courts.
For more information on how to apply to be a mentor, call (608) 785-9719.
In the age of quick of access to great quantities of information, it can be hard to know what information is accurate. For a soldier looking into his or her rights in the military, it can be difficult to find out the difference between truth, opinion and myth. With all of the sources of information, from asking Google or About.com to asking a buddy or a superior, the range of answers regarding a given question can be completely contradictory.
Take discharges, for example. In browsing the web, and in having talked with a good number of soldiers, one of the common answers given to someone asking about the possibility of a discharge before their ETS date is that such a thing simply does not exist. Some of the answers belittle the person for asking such a question. "You signed up for this, you can't get out now!" or "Suck it up, man up, and do it!" are common responses, often followed by accusations of cowardice or treason. It is because of this false assumed knowledge that many soldiers feel trapped in their current situation, and that they have no right or ability to find the information and help they need.
While this information is false and there are discharges available, the idea behind the information has some truth to it, which is that it is not simple or easy to be discharged early from military service. Such an answer would also not be accurate. Important here is finding an honest and accurate source of information, such as the Military Counseling Network and the GI Rights Hotline, where help can be found to see what the military regs have to say about a specific situation. A soldier may have more options than they think, and may have more options than even their command is telling them.
For instance, did you know..
..that you can be honorably discharged before your ETS date?
Regulations cover every type of discharge that exists, and these are regulations that your superiors are required to follow.
..you don't need to be a pacifist to be discharged as a conscientious objector?
The Supreme Court case of Gillete vs. US stated that "use of force in defense of home and family, or in defense against immediate act of aggressive violence toward other persons in the community" does not disqualify applicants for conscientious objection.
..you can be discharged if you have a persistent medical or psychological condition that makes service difficult? A disability or the inability to perform duties is obviously not helpful for the person who is disabled, but it is also a hinderance, and sometimes downright dangerous, for the Military to need to depend on injured soldiers to complete the mission.
..you are allowed to consult with a congressional office, lawyer or civilian counselor? Outside help can be very important, and let your command know that their are people on the outside who care and are concerned about your situation.
Information is truly empowering, and can help you or a soldier you know take more control of their situation. To find out more and to get informed, contact the Military Counseling Network in Germany and the GI Rights Hotline in the States.
Posted by Daniel Hershberger | | Posted On at 8:55 AM
San Diego Union-Tribune
"The solider-warrior could kill his collective enemy, which now included women and children, without ever seeing them. The cries of the wounded and dying went unheard by those who inflicted the pain. A man might slay hundreds and never see their blood flow......
Less than a century after the Civil War ended, a single bomb, delivered miles above its target, would take the lives of more than 100,000 people, almost all civilians. The moral distance between this event and the tribal warrior facing a single opponent is far greater than even the thousands of years and transformations of culture that separate them....
The combatants in moder warfare pitch bombs from 20,000 feet in the morning, causing untold suffering to a civilian population, and then eat hamburgers for dinner hundreds of miles away from the drop zone. The prehistoric warrior met his foe in a direct struggle of sinew, muscle, and spirit. If flesh was torn or bone broken he felt it give way under his hand. And though death was more rare than common (perhaps because he felt the pulse of life and the nearness of death under his fingers), he also had to live his days remembering the man's eyes whose skull he crushed."
In Search of the Warrior Spirit.
"To fight from a distance is instinctive in man. From the first day he has worked to this end, and he continues to do so."
-Ardant du Picq Battle Studies
The picture above is the SWORDS robot developed by the Army and Foster-Miller, a robotics firm bought in November by QinetiQ Group PLC, which is a partnership between the British Ministry of Defence and the Washington holding company The Carlyle Group.
SWORDS is the next effort in fighting from a distance, a distance that brings with it an increasing ability to kill. Lt. Col. Dave Grossman writes in his 1996 book On Killing that despite the portrayal in our popular culture of violence being easy, “There is within most men an intense resistance to killing their fellow man. A resistance so strong that, in many circumstances, soldiers on the battlefield will die before they can overcome it.”
One of the most effective solutions to this quandary, the military has discovered, is to introduce distance into the equation. Studies show that the farther the would-be killer is from the victim, the easier it is to pull the trigger. Death and suffering become more sanitized—the humanity of the enemy can be more easily denied. By giving the Army and Marines the capability to kill from greater distances, armed robots will make it easier for soldiers to take life without troubling their consciences.Contrary to the ability of the human soldier to be transformed by what he/she experiences on the battlefield, a transformation that is a profound testament to the human conscience, automated robots programmed to decide between friend and foe will not have the ability to be moved by seeing in the "enemy" a father, mother, brother, or sister. Rather than becoming a conscience objector, such machines allow persons to take life without troubling the conscience.
The Military Counseling Network:
Free counseling about military discharges, GI Rights, conscientious objection and getting out.
Afghanistan by the Numbersfrom:
Measuring a War Gone to Hell
By Tom Engelhardt
For the whole story, which first appeared on the TomDispatch website.
(All figures cited below are linked to their sources. If a figure has no link, just click on the nearest previous link.)
Annual funding for U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan, 2002: $20.8 billion.
Annual funding for U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan, 2009: $60.2 billion.
Total funds for U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan, 2002-2009: $228.2 billion.
War-fighting funds requested by the Obama administration for 2010: $68 billion (a figure which will, for the first time since 2003, exceed funds requested for Iraq).
Funds recently requested by U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry for non-military spending in Afghanistan, 2010: $2.5 billion
Funds spent since 2001 on Afghan "reconstruction": $38 billion ("more than half of it on training and equipping Afghan security forces").
Percentage of U.S. funding in Afghanistan that has gone for military purposes: Nearly 90%.
Estimated U.S. funds needed to support and upgrade Afghan forces for the next decade: $4 billion a year ("with a like sum for development") according to former Assistant Secretary of Defense Bing West. (According to the Brookings Institution's Michael O'Hanlon, "It's a reasonable guess that for 20 years, we essentially will have to fund half the Afghan budget.")
Afghan gross national product: $23 billion ("the size of Boise" Idaho's, writes columnist George Will) -- about $3 billion of it from opium production.
Annual budget of the Afghan government: $600 million.
Maintenance cost for the force of 450,000 Afghan soldiers and police U.S. generals dream of creating: approximately 500% of the Afghan budget.
Amount spent on police "mentoring and training" since 2001: $10 billion.
Percentage of the more than 400 Afghan National Police units "still incapable of running their operations independently": 75% (2008 figures).
Cost of the latest upgrade of Bagram Air Base (an old Soviet base that has become the largest American base in Afghanistan): $220 million.
Cost of a single recent Pentagon contract to DynCorp International Inc. and Fluor Corporation "to build and support U.S. military bases throughout Afghanistan": up to $15 billion.
Number of American troops killed in Afghanistan, 2001: 12.
Number of American troops killed in Afghanistan, 2009 (through September 7th): 186
Total number of coalition (NATO and American) deaths in 2009 thus far: 311, making this the deadliest year for those forces since the war began.
Number of Lithuanian troops killed in Afghanistan: 1
Two worst months of the Afghan War in terms of coalition deaths: July (71) and August (74) 2009.
U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, 2002: 5,200.
Expected U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, December 2009: 68,000.
Percentage rise in Taliban attacks on coalition forces using Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in 2009 (compared to the same period in 2008): 114%.
Rise in Coalition deaths from IED attacks in July 2009 (compared to July 2008): six-fold.
Percentage increase in overall Taliban attacks in the first five months of 2009 (compared to the same period in 2008): 59%.
Number of U.S. regional command centers in Afghanistan: 4 (at Kandahar, Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif, and Bagram).
Number of U.S. prisons and holding centers: approximately 36 "overcrowded and often violent sites" with 15,000 detainees.
Number of U.S. bases: at least 74 in northern Afghanistan alone, with more being built. (The total number of U.S. bases in Afghanistan seems not to be available.)
Estimated cost per troop of maintaining U.S. forces in Afghanistan when compared to Iraq: 30% higher.
Number of gallons of fuel per day used by the U.S. Marines in Afghanistan: 800,000.
Cost of a single gallon of gas delivered to the Afghan war zone on long, cumbersome, and dangerously embattled supply lines: Up to $100.
Number of gallons of fuel used to keep Marine tents cool in the Afghan summer and warm in winter: 448,000 gallons.
Number of troops from Georgia (not the U.S. state, but the country) being prepared by U.S. Marine trainers to be dispatched to Afghanistan to fight in spring 2010: 750.
Number of Colombian commandos to be sent to Afghanistan: Unknown, but Colombian commandos, trained by U.S. Special Forces and financed by the U.S. government, are reportedly to be dispatched there to fight alongside U.S. troops. (Note that both Georgia and Colombia are dependent on U.S. aid and support. Note also that neither the Georgians nor the Colombians would assumedly be bound by the sort of restrictive fighting rules that limit the actions of some NATO forces in Afghanistan.)
Percentage of American spy planes and unmanned aerial vehicles now devoted to Afghanistan: 66% (33% are in Iraq).
Number of American bombs dropped in Afghanistan in the first six months of 2009: 2,011 (a fall of 24% from the previous year, thanks evidently to a directive from U.S. commanding general in Afghanistan, Stanley A. McChrystal, limiting air attacks when civilians might be present).
Number of Afghan civilian deaths recorded by the U.N. January-July 2009: 1,013, a rise of 24% from the same period in 2008. (Unfortunately, Afghan deaths are generally covered sparingly, on an incident by incident basis, as in the deaths of an Afghan family traveling to a wedding party in August, assumedly due to a Taliban-planted IED, or the recent controversial U.S. bombing of two stolen oil tankers in Kunduz Province in which many civilians seem to have died. Anything like the total number of Afghans killed in these years remains unknown, but what numbers we have are undoubtedly undercounts.)
Number of additional troops General McChrystal is expected to recommend that President Obama send to Afghanistan in the coming months: 21,000 to 45,000, according to the McClatchy Newspapers; 10,000 to 15,000 ("described as a high-risk option"), 25,000 ("a medium-risk option"), 45,000 ("a low-risk option"), according to the New York Times; fewer than 10,000, according to the Associated Press.
Number of support troops Defense Department officials are planning to replace with "trigger-pullers" (combat troops) in the coming months, effectively an escalation in place: 6,000-14,000. ("The changes will not offset the potential need for additional troops in the future, but could reduce the size of any request... officials said.")
Number of additional NATO forces General McChrystal will reportedly ask for: 20,000.
Optimal number of additional Afghan National Army (ANA) troops to be trained by 2012, according to reports on General McChrystal's draft plan: 162,000. (According to Naval Postgraduate School professor Thomas H. Johnson and retired Foreign Service officer M. Chris Mason,"[T]he U.S. military touts 91,000 ANA soldiers as 'trained and equipped,' knowing full well that barely 39,000 are still in the ranks and present for duty.")
Percentage of Americans opposed to the war in Afghanistan: 57%, according to the latest CNN poll, an 11% rise since April. Only 42% now support the war.
Percentage of Republicans who support the war: 70%, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Percentage of Americans who approve of President's Obama's handling of the war: 48%, according to the latest CBS poll, a drop of 8 points since April. (Support for increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan is now at just 25%, down 14% from April.)
Percentage of British who feel their forces should be withdrawn from Afghanistan: 59%.
Percentage of Germans opposed to that country's 4,000 troop commitment to Afghanistan: More than 70%.
The Presidential Election
Estimated cost of staging the 2009 Afghan presidential election: $500 million.
Number of complaints of voting irregularities: More than 2,500 and still climbing, 691 of them described as "serious charges."
Number of members of the "Independent Election Commission" not appointed by Afghan President (and presidential candidate) Hamid Karzai: 0.
Cost of blank voting-registration cards in Ghazni Province in May 2009: $200 for 200 blank registration cards.
Cost of such a card purchased by "an undercover Afghan journalist working for the BBC" this fall: $8.
Number of voter registration cards (not including fakes) reportedly distributed countrywide: 17 million or almost twice the estimated number of eligible voters.
Number of ballots cast at the Hajji Janat Gul High School polling place, half an hour from the center of Kabul: 600.
Number of votes recorded for Karzai at that polling station: 996. (Number of votes for other candidates: 5.)
Number of ballots marked for Karzai and shipped to Kabul from 45 polling sites in Shorabak District in Southern Afghanistan that were shut down by local officials connected to Karzai before voting could begin: 23,900.
Number of fake polling sites set up by backers of Karzai where no one voted but hundreds of thousands of votes were recorded: as many as 800, according to the New York Times. (Another 800 actual polling sites were taken over by Karzai supporters "to fraudulently report tens of thousands of additional ballots for Mr. Karzai.")
Number of ballots in Karzai's home province, Kandahar, where an estimated 25,000 Afghans actually voted, submitted to be counted: approximately 350,000.
Number of military contractors hired by the Pentagon in Afghanistan by the end of June 2009: Almost 74,000, nearly two-thirds of them local hires, a 9% rise over the previous three months.
Percentage of the Pentagon's force in Afghanistan made up of contractors in March 2009: 57%.
Ranking for the percentage of contractors used by the Pentagon in Afghanistan: highest in any conflict in U.S. history.
Diplomats and the Civilian Surge
Cost of new "crash" program to expand the U.S. "diplomatic presence" in Afghanistan and Pakistan: $1 billion. ($736 million of which is slated for the construction of a massive new embassy/regional headquarters in Islamabad, Pakistan.)
Number of additional U.S. government personnel reportedly slated to be sent to Pakistan to augment the 750 civilians already there: almost 1,000.
Expected number of U.S. government civilians to be posted at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan by the end of 2009: 976. (There were 562 at the end of 2008 and there are now reportedly more than 1,000 diplomats, staff, and Afghan nationals already working there.)
Estimated total number of civilians to be assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul as part of a proposed ongoing "civilian surge" by 2011: 1,350 (800 to be posted in Kabul, 550 outside the capital).
Cost of the State Department's five-year contract with Xe Services (formerly Blackwater) to provide security for U.S. diplomats in Afghanistan: $210 million.
Cost of the State Department's contract with ArmorGroup North America, a subsidiary of U.S.-based Wackenhutt Services Inc., to guard the U.S. Embassy in Kabul: $189 million.
Number of private guards provided by ArmorGroup North America: 450, based at Camp Sullivan, several miles from the embassy compound where they reportedly engaged in Lord of the Flies-style behavior.
The Metrics of Success
Defense Secretary Robert Gates on success in Afghanistan: It will take "a few years" to defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
Admiral "Mike" Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Meet the Press: "I believe we've got to start to turn this thing around from a security standpoint in the next 12 to 18 months." (He would not directly answer the "how long" question.)
Senate Foreign Relations Committee report on the Afghan War: "None of the civilian officials or military officers interviewed in Afghanistan and elsewhere expected substantial progress in the short term. They talked in terms of years two, five and 10... Military officials believe the Afghanistan mission can only succeed if troops are there far longer -- anywhere from five years to 12 years."
Military experts cited by Walter Pincus of the Washington Post warn: "[T]he United States is taking on security and political commitments that will last at least a decade and a cost that will probably eclipse that of the Iraq war.
Anthony H. Cordesman, a member of a "team" put together by U.S. commanding general in Afghanistan Stanley A. McChrystal to assess war strategy, and a national security expert for the Center for Strategic and International Studies: "told reporters recently that even with military gains in the next 12 to 18 months, it would take years to reduce sharply the threat from the Taliban and other insurgent forces."
Robert Dreyfuss of the Nation summarizing the opinions of a panel of experts on the Afghan War, including Bruce Riedel, a 30-year CIA veteran and adviser to four presidents, who chaired President Obama's Afghan task force, two McChrystal task force members, Kim Kagan and Cordesman, and the Brooking Institution's Michael O'Hanlon: "(1) A significant escalation of the war will be necessary to avoid utter defeat. (2) Even if tens of thousands of troops are added to the US occupation, it won't be possible to determine if the US/NATO effort is succeeding until eighteen months later. (3) Even if the United States turns the tide in Afghanistan, no significant drawdown of US forces will take place until five years have passed." (Riedel commented: "Anyone who thinks that in 12 to 18 months we're going to be anywhere close to victory is living in a fantasy.")
New chief of staff of the British Army, General Sir David Richards: "The Army's role will evolve, but the whole process might take as long as 30 to 40 years." (After much criticism, he retracted the statement.)
New NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen: NATO's mission in Afghanistan will last "as long as it takes" to ensure that the country is secure.
Afghanistan by the Numbers
Cost of a Kalashnikov rifle in Afghanistan today: $400-600.
Cost of a Kalakov (the Afghan name for a new model of Kalashnikov): $1,100. (For a $150 surcharge, you can have it delivered to southern Afghanistan.)
Cost of a kilo of heroin in Afghanistan: $2,500. (Cost of that same kilo in Moscow: an estimated $100,000.)
Cost in police bribes of getting contraband into or out of Afghanistan: "$20 on each weapon, $100 for a kilo of heroin and $1,000 for each thousand kilos of hashish."
Afghanistan's ranking among the globe's "weakest states," according to the Brookings Institution: second weakest. (It is also regularly referred to as the world's fourth poorest country.)
Unemployment rate in Afghanistan, according to the CIA World Factbook: 40% (2008 figures).
Monthly wage for Afghan National Police: $110 (less than $4 per day).
Daily wage Taliban reputedly pays its fighters: $4-8. (Often the only "job" available.)
How long it may take to get a case through a government court (with bribes): 4-5 years.
How long it may take to get a case through a Taliban court (without bribes): 1 day.
Number of registered Afghan refugees still in Iran and Pakistan: 3 million.
Number of al-Qaeda base camps estimated to be in Afghanistan today: 0. (All reputable experts seem agreed on this.)
The Next War
The price tag the Obama administration's budget team reportedly put on U.S. future wars almost every year through 2019: More than $100 billion a year.
The cost of equipping seven Army brigades with a Boeing advanced coordinated system of hand-held drones, robots, sensors, and other battlefield surveillance equipment over the next two years: $2 billion.
Date when all 73 Army active and reserve brigades will be equipped with the system: 2025.
What Can't Be Measured
Here's a conundrum to be considered and filed away under the rubric "impossible to measure" as you leave the world of Afghan War metrics: The U.S. continues to struggle to train Afghan police and soldiers who will actually turn out and fight with discipline (see above). In the meantime, as a recent Washington Post piece by Karen DeYoung indicated, the Taliban regularly turn out fighters who are reportedly using ever more sophisticated and tenacious fire-and-maneuver techniques against the overwhelming firepower of U.S. and NATO forces. ("To many of the Americans, it appeared as if the insurgents had attended something akin to the U.S. Army's Ranger school, which teaches soldiers how to fight in small groups in austere environments."
Both groups are, of course, Afghans. It might be worth considering why "their" Afghans are the fierce fighters of history books and legend and ours, despite billions of dollars and massive training efforts, are not. This puzzling situation had its parallel in Vietnam decades ago when American military advisors regularly claimed they would give up a division of U.S.-trained South Vietnamese forces for a single battalion of "VC."
Here's something to carry away with you: Life is invariably hard when you set up your massive embassies, your regional command centers, your election advisors, your private security guards, your military trainers and advisors, your diplomats and civilian enablers and then try to come up with a formula for motivating the locals to do your bidding.
Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com. He is the author of The End of Victory Culture, a history of the Cold War and beyond, as well as of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing. He also edited The World According to TomDispatch: America in the New Age of Empire (Verso, 2008), an alternative history of the mad Bush years.
Copyright 2009 Tom Engelhardt