Friday, February 22, 2008

The three trillion dollar war

From The Times of London
February 23, 2008

The cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts have grown to staggering proportions

Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes

The Bush Administration was wrong about the benefits of the war and it was wrong about the costs of the war. The president and his advisers expected a quick, inexpensive conflict. Instead, we have a war that is costing more than anyone could have imagined.

The cost of direct US military operations - not even including long-term costs such as taking care of wounded veterans - already exceeds the cost of the 12-year war in Vietnam and is more than double the cost of the Korean War.

And, even in the best case scenario, these costs are projected to be almost ten times the cost of the first Gulf War, almost a third more than the cost of the Vietnam War, and twice that of the First World War. The only war in our history which cost more was the Second World War, when 16.3 million U.S. troops fought in a campaign lasting four years, at a total cost (in 2007 dollars, after adjusting for inflation) of about $5 trillion (that's $5 million million, or £2.5 million million). With virtually the entire armed forces committed to fighting the Germans and Japanese, the cost per troop (in today's dollars) was less than $100,000 in 2007 dollars. By contrast, the Iraq war is costing upward of $400,000 per troop.

Most Americans have yet to feel these costs. The price in blood has been paid by our voluntary military and by hired contractors. The price in treasure has, in a sense, been financed entirely by borrowing. Taxes have not been raised to pay for it - in fact, taxes on the rich have actually fallen. Deficit spending gives the illusion that the laws of economics can be repealed, that we can have both guns and butter. But of course the laws are not repealed. The costs of the war are real even if they have been deferred, possibly to another generation.

On the eve of war, there were discussions of the likely costs. Larry Lindsey, President Bush's economic adviser and head of the National Economic Council, suggested that they might reach $200 billion. But this estimate was dismissed as “baloney” by the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. His deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, suggested that postwar reconstruction could pay for itself through increased oil revenues. Mitch Daniels, the Office of Management and Budget director, and Secretary Rumsfeld estimated the costs in the range of $50 to $60 billion, a portion of which they believed would be financed by other countries. (Adjusting for inflation, in 2007 dollars, they were projecting costs of between $57 and $69 billion.) The tone of the entire administration was cavalier, as if the sums involved were minimal.

Even Lindsey, after noting that the war could cost $200 billion, went on to say: “The successful prosecution of the war would be good for the economy.” In retrospect, Lindsey grossly underestimated both the costs of the war itself and the costs to the economy. Assuming that Congress approves the rest of the $200 billion war supplemental requested for fiscal year 2008, as this book goes to press Congress will have appropriated a total of over $845 billion for military operations, reconstruction, embassy costs, enhanced security at US bases, and foreign aid programmes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As the fifth year of the war draws to a close, operating costs (spending on the war itself, what you might call “running expenses”) for 2008 are projected to exceed $12.5 billion a month for Iraq alone, up from $4.4 billion in 2003, and with Afghanistan the total is $16 billion a month. Sixteen billion dollars is equal to the annual budget of the United Nations, or of all but 13 of the US states. Even so, it does not include the $500 billion we already spend per year on the regular expenses of the Defence Department. Nor does it include other hidden expenditures, such as intelligence gathering, or funds mixed in with the budgets of other departments.

Because there are so many costs that the Administration does not count, the total cost of the war is higher than the official number. For example, government officials frequently talk about the lives of our soldiers as priceless. But from a cost perspective, these “priceless” lives show up on the Pentagon ledger simply as $500,000 - the amount paid out to survivors in death benefits and life insurance. After the war began, these were increased from $12,240 to $100,000 (death benefit) and from $250,000 to $400,000 (life insurance). Even these increased amounts are a fraction of what the survivors might have received had these individuals lost their lives in a senseless automobile accident. In areas such as health and safety regulation, the US Government values a life of a young man at the peak of his future earnings capacity in excess of
$7 million - far greater than the amount that the military pays in death benefits. Using this figure, the cost of the nearly 4,000 American troops killed in Iraq adds up to some $28 billion.

The costs to society are obviously far larger than the numbers that show up on the government's budget. Another example of hidden costs is the understating of US military casualties. The Defence Department's casualty statistics focus on casualties that result from hostile (combat) action - as determined by the military. Yet if a soldier is injured or dies in a night-time vehicle accident, this is officially dubbed “non combat related” - even though it may be too unsafe for soldiers to travel during daytime.

In fact, the Pentagon keeps two sets of books. The first is the official casualty list posted on the DOD website. The second, hard-to-find, set of data is available only on a different website and can be obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. This data shows that the total number of soldiers who have been wounded, injured, or suffered from disease is double the number wounded in combat. Some will argue that a percentage of these non-combat injuries might have happened even if the soldiers were not in Iraq. Our new research shows that the majority of these injuries and illnesses can be tied directly to service in the war.

From the unhealthy brew of emergency funding, multiple sets of books, and chronic underestimates of the resources required to prosecute the war, we have attempted to identify how much we have been spending - and how much we will, in the end, likely have to spend. The figure we arrive at is more than $3 trillion. Our calculations are based on conservative assumptions. They are conceptually simple, even if occasionally technically complicated. A $3 trillion figure for the total cost strikes us as judicious, and probably errs on the low side. Needless to say, this number represents the cost only to the United States. It does not reflect the enormous cost to the rest of the world, or to Iraq.

From the beginning, the United Kingdom has played a pivotal role - strategic, military, and political - in the Iraq conflict. Militarily, the UK contributed 46,000 troops, 10 per cent of the total. Unsurprisingly, then, the British experience in Iraq has paralleled that of America: rising casualties, increasing operating costs, poor transparency over where the money is going, overstretched military resources, and scandals over the squalid conditions and inadequate medical care for some severely wounded veterans.

Before the war, Gordon Brown set aside £1 billion for war spending. As of late 2007, the UK had spent an estimated £7 billion in direct operating expenditures in Iraq and Afghanistan (76 per cent of it in Iraq). This includes money from a supplemental “special reserve”, plus additional spending from the Ministry of Defence.

The special reserve comes on top of the UK's regular defence budget. The British system is particularly opaque: funds from the special reserve are “drawn down” by the Ministry of Defence when required, without specific approval by Parliament. As a result, British citizens have little clarity about how much is actually being spent.

In addition, the social costs in the UK are similar to those in the US - families who leave jobs to care for wounded soldiers, and diminished quality of life for those thousands left with disabilities.
By the same token, there are macroeconomic costs to the UK as there have been to America, though the long-term costs may be less, for two reasons. First, Britain did not have the same policy of fiscal profligacy; and second, until 2005, the United Kingdom was a net oil exporter.

We have assumed that British forces in Iraq are reduced to 2,500 this year and remain at that level until 2010. We expect that British forces in Afghanistan will increase slightly, from 7,000 to 8,000 in 2008, and remain stable for three years. The House of Commons Defence Committee has recently found that despite the cut in troop levels, Iraq war costs will increase by 2 per cent this year and personnel costs will decrease by only 5 per cent. Meanwhile, the cost of military operations in Afghanistan is due to rise by 39 per cent. The estimates in our model may be significantly too low if these patterns continue.

Based on assumptions set out in our book, the budgetary cost to the UK of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through 2010 will total more than £18 billion. If we include the social costs, the total impact on the UK will exceed £20 billion.

© Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, 2008. Extracted from The Three Trillion Dollar War, to be published by Allen Lane on February 28 (£20). Copies can be ordered for £18 with free delivery from The Times BooksFirst 0870 1608080.

Joseph Stiglitz was chief economist at the World Bank and won the Nobel Memorial Prize for Economics in 2001. Linda Bilmes is a lecturer in public policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Inquiry into Montana soldier's death continues

Independent Record

The investigation into the death of Pvt. Daren Smith remains ongoing, military officials said last week, adding that such cases take time to resolve because of wartime challenges.

Smith, a Montana soldier who served with a light-infantry unit based out of Fort Polk, La., died in Baghdad on Dec. 13, two months after arriving.

At the time, the Department of Defense attributed Smith's death to a non-combat-related incident, but it hasn't said what the incident was.Noncombat causes could mean anything from accidental death to suicide or homicide.

Samantha Evans, media relations officer at Fort Polk, said Thursday that the case was being handled by the Criminal Investigation Division.

She had no new information on the case and referred all questions to military investigators.

"We don't have anything to do with that," she said. "We don't have any investigative resources here that would help us conclude what happened over there in Iraq."

Chris Grey, chief of public affairs for the U.S. Army's Criminal Investigation Com-mand, based outside Washington, D.C., said Friday that the investigation continues and may take time to resolve."

It's an open investigation," Grey said. "You can't compare these types of investigations to a typical American city. Depending on the circumstances, you have various factors you don't see in a lot of investigations."

Grey said logistics, time and distance often add to the challenges of completing an investigation in a case that occurred in a war zone. Soldiers are a mobile unit, he said, and are rarely in one place for very long.

Grey added that simply because the case had been turned over the Criminal Investigation Division doesn't necessarily mean a crime had occurred.

However, Grey couldn't say what factors may have played a hand in Smith's death."

We won't quit until we have all the answers," Grey said. "But it takes time. Every case is different."

Smith was born in Butte and lived there until he reached middle school, when he moved to Helena. He graduated from Helena High School in 2006 and completed a semester at the University of Montana-Helena.

Smith joined the Army in March 2007 and arrived at Fort Polk in August before deploying to Iraq.

Published on Sunday, February 17, 2008.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

IG: Families not told in friendly fire cases

By Andrew Tilghman - Staff writerPosted : Monday Feb 18, 2008 13:25:32 EST

Friendly fire incidents have caused six Marine deaths and at least 85 other casualties since the beginning of the war in Iraq — a total that is roughly 1 percent of the Corps’ 9,000 reported casualties, according to a report from the Inspector General of the Marine Corps.

In all but four of those 91 cases, the Corps failed to promptly notify the Marine’s family that the casualty resulted from friendly fire, according to the report, obtained by Marine Corps Times under the Freedom of Information Act.

While the 25-page report was just released publicly, it was completed in October and distributed internally among senior Marine officials.

The report resulted in the creation of a Corps-wide “Combat Casualty Cell” in December, when responsibility for all casualty notifications was centralized in the Personal and Family Readiness Division office in Quantico, Va. The office doubled its staff from 11 to 22 to handle the new duties.
Previously, the Corps expected individual commanders to notify families when friendly fire investigations began.

“The IG found a disturbing lack of understanding and compliance” with the rule requiring commanders to send family members formal letters updating them on the status of investigations, the report said. The failures between 2003 and 2007 to properly notify family members resulted from “unclear procedures, outdated directives and a confusing chain of command,” but not from “negligence, personal indifference or professional incompetence,” according to the report.

Military policies for full-disclosure of friendly fire incidents came under scrutiny after the death of Army Cpl. Pat Tillman in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004.

Tillman, a former safety for the Arizona Cardinals, turned down a multimillion-dollar National Football League contract to join the Army after Sept. 11, 2001. Army officials initially told Tillman’s family that he was killed by enemy fire, but the family later learned he was mistakenly killed by another Army Ranger.

Policy change lauded

Families of fallen service members say full and timely disclosure about casualties is a welcome policy change.

“People can handle the truth. People can find peace with circumstances of the loss if they are given accurate and honest information in a supportive and compassionate way,” said Bonnie Carroll, chairman of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, an advocacy group for families of fallen service members.

“The steps by the Marine Corps and the Army leadership to ensure that families are given honest information have made a tremendous difference in the families’ ability to cope with the loss,” Carroll said.

The only cases in which a Marine’s family was promptly notified about the results of a friendly fire investigation involved four Marines who were killed in action. In all other cases of friendly fire casualties, families were either not notified at all or not notified until the Corps’ Inspector General launched its investigation last year, the report said.

Sixteen of the injuries were listed as “SI,” or serious injury, which included a Marine who was shot in the arm and abdomen during a combat operation and another who was struck by an artillery round after the wrong grid point was identified as an enemy target.

In 65 of the friendly fire incidents, the injuries were categorized as “NSI,” or not a serious injury, such as a shrapnel wound to the leg.

In two deaths resulting from friendly fire — those of Lance Cpls. Robert Zurheide and Brad Shuder, who were killed by a misguided artillery round on April 12, 2004 — their families were not told that the cause was friendly fire until July 2007, after the IG began its investigation, according to the report.

A new 24-hour hot line for family members seeking information about a casualty report or incident investigation was set up in December as part of the new procedures at the Personal and Family Readiness Division. It is (800) 847-1597.

‘You can’t bring him back’

Such a hot line was not available for Glenn Shuder, who remembers the day, April 13, 2004, when a Marine officer and Navy chaplain showed up on his doorstep near Sacramento, Calif., and a told him and his wife that their son, Brad, 21, had been killed near Fallujah while serving with 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines.

“They never told us what actually happened. They said it was hostile fire. We sort of kind of left it at that. I guess with all the shock and grief, we just went on,” Shuder said in a telephone interview Feb. 6.

About six months later, the Shuders met informally with several junior Marines who served with their son. The Marines told them that their son had not been killed by enemy fire, but was struck by an artillery round misfired by other Marines. Brad Shuder and Zurheide were killed, while several others were injured.

The Shuders made no effort to contact their son’s command for confirmation or explanation.
“We didn’t know who to contact. We had no access; there was no information that came to us for how to do this. It was six months later, and I just didn’t want to known about it,” Shuder said.

“My wife and I talked about it and she said, ‘What’s it going to change? You can’t bring him back. He’s dead.’ So we sort of didn’t pursue it.”

According to the Marine Corps’ procedures at the time, Lance Cpl. Shuder’s commander should have written the parents a letter informing them that the Corps had initiated a friendly fire investigation. After the investigation was complete, the results should have been reported to them.

Instead, the Shuders heard nothing from the Corps until last year, after members of Congress began inquiring about the Corps’ policies for disclosing the existence and results of friendly fire incidents.

More than three years after Brad Shuder’s death, the Inspector General’s review found that the Marine Corps had never notified his family that he had not been killed by enemy fire, as the family was initially told.

In July 2007, a general and several other high-ranking Marines from Camp Pendleton, Calif., went to the Shuders’ home and gave them a complete explanation. The Shuders listened, but asked few questions.

Glenn Shuder said the circumstances of his son’s death have not changed the nature of his grief. But he does sometimes think about the Marine, whose name he does not know, who misfired the fatal artillery round.

“It’s the fog of war, and things happen. I completely understand that,” he said. “The individual who made that mistake knows what he did, and it’s something he has to live with for the rest of his life.”

--submitted by Patti Woodard

Army Hazing Victim Dies in Moscow

February 18th, 2008 •

Filed Under: All NewsFeaturedRepression

Roman Rudakov, an army private who suffered serious injuries after hazing from fellow soldiers and officers, died in Moscow on February 13th after over a year of hospitalization. Rudakov, 21, was bullied, beaten and humiliated during his mandatory military service in the Russian armed forces.

The soldier’s struggle is far from an isolated case. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, some 500-1000 conscripts died of non-combat related injuries, including hazing and suicide in 2007. Unofficial estimates from human rights groups like the St. Petersburg-based Soldiers’ Mothers run even higher.

The secrecy and slow response of the Russian military to Rudakov’s condition are similarly typical. Officials first denied that he was harassed, then hid critical medical records. When Germany, France and Israel offered to help with the private’s medical treatment, Russia flat-out refused.

Finally, little has changed in the armed forces since Rudakov was first hospitalized in the fall of 2006. There is doubt that his death will have any effect on how the military treats its conscripts.

Read the full story from Yezhednevny Zhurnal:

Without An Answer
February 13, 2008. 15:28
Yezhednevny Zhurnal

On Tuesday, after an operation, Private Roman Rudakov, a victim of bullying in the army, died in the intensive care unit of the Burdenko hospital, where he had spent over a year.

Over the course of many months, he was waiting on an intestinal and kidney transplant operation. He was 21 years old, and he died slowly and painfully. According to his sister, he said this of the doctors treating him: “they are simply waiting for my death.”

When Roman Rudakov’s story first appeared in the media, Sergei Ivanov, then the minister of Defense, publicly said that Roman had a “rare blood disease.” – and no manner of “bullying.”

Almost immediately it became apparent that this wasn’t so: Rudakov genuinely suffers from a blood condition, but “bullying” was also present. Medical documents and witness testimony soon surfaced and made it clear that Roman was regularly beaten in the unit where he served.

In September 2006, an alleged blow to the stomach injured the vessels of his small intestine, after which the youth began to suffer tissue necrosis. After that, Rudakov was given directions to the Sosnovoborsky hospital, and he was sent on foot, without money, to the doctors.

The distance between the Pesochnoye village, where Rudakov was serving, and the Sosnovoborsky hospital is more than 80 kilometers. Later, his small intestine was removed in St. Petersburg, and it was then when the story really became publicly known.

The “Soldiers’ Mothers” found the dying soldier on a hospital bed and raised a racket.

Political movements and human rights activists rose to Roman’s defense, led protest actions, wrote complaints. Rudakov was transferred to Moscow to the Burdenko hospital.

Then there was the court, where Private First Class Maxim Lomonin, [a fellow recruit] was made the scapegoat, even though Roman said that he was beaten by officers. Lomonin was given a 3 year sentence (suspended).

Afterwards, everyone forgot about Rudakov: infrequent reports that his condition was worsening appeared in the media, and that was it. Only the “Soldier’s Mothers” were following Roman’s fate, and there was nothing they could do.

The military exerted such efforts to hide any information about this story, that it’s unclear to this day whether or not anything could have been done to save Roman. Why was the operation postponed for so long? Is is true that they couldn’t find a donor (or didn’t want to)? And what did Roman Rudakov die of – according to relatives, an operation was attempted, but they don’t really know anything. There are many questions.

Translated by

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Bayh Challenges Comment by Army General

By KIMBERLY HEFLING Associated Press Writer
4:54 PM CST, February 15, 2008

WASHINGTON - A Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee said Friday it was inappropriate for the Army's surgeon general to compare the overdose deaths of injured soldiers in the military's care to that of actor Heath Ledger.

Earlier this month, Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Eric B. Schoomaker made reference to the 28-year-old "Brokeback Mountain" star's death as he discussed the overdose deaths of some troops in the Army's "warrior transition units." The units give wounded troops coordinated medical care, financial advice, legal help and other services as they make the adjustments necessary either to return to active duty or re-enter civilian life.

"This isn't restricted to the military, alone, as we all saw the unfortunate death of one of our leading actors recently," Schoomaker told Pentagon reporters. His comments came a day after it was announced that Ledger had died Jan. 22 from an accidental overdose -- the effect of taking several types of painkillers and sedatives.

Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., told reporters during a conference call Friday that likening Ledger's death to the deaths by overdose of wounded soldiers was not appropriate because Ledger was not injured in combat."He didn't have a traumatic brain injury," Bayh said. "He wasn't, as far as I know, under a physician's care or residing in a unit designed to protect him and treat him or given by his own caregivers potentially lethal doses of medication and left to self medicate himself when he had a traumatic brain injury."

Said Bayh, "I just think that analogy is inappropriate and I hope it will stop."The senator pushed for an investigation following the death of Sgt. Gerald Cassidy, a member of the Indiana National Guard. Cassidy, who was in one of the transition units, was found dead in his room Sept. 21 at Fort Knox, Ky., about 15 months after being wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

An autopsy later determined he had been dead for hours and might have been unconscious for days before he was found alone. The Army Criminal Investigation Command determined the death was accidental and caused by a multidrug toxicity complicated by severe atherosclerotic coronary arterial disease.

Paul Boyce, an Army spokesman, said Friday that Schoomaker's intent by the comments was to educate about the growing health risk of overdoses in the military population and the American population as a whole.

Bayh and other Democratic senators on the conference call praised changes that have been made since shoddy outpatient housing and bureaucratic delays were exposed last year at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. But Bayh said the focus has been too heavily placed on Walter Reed. He said the entire system should be reformed.

Also Friday, Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, announced that he was told by the Veterans Affairs Department that veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder while on active duty will automatically have the diagnosis recognized by the VA. The decision could eliminate a hurdle for some veterans as they seek compensation.

On Thursday, the Army said there have been 11 deaths not due to natural causes between June and Feb. 5 in the special transition units. The 11 deaths included four suicides, three accidental overdoses of prescribed medications, three deaths still under investigation and one motor vehicle accident, the Army said.

___Associated Press writer Pauline Jelinek contributed to this report.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Army: 3 ODs, 4 suicides in unit for wounded

By Pauline Jelinek - The Associated Press
Posted : Friday Feb 15, 2008 9:41:05 EST

There have been at least three accidental drug overdoses and four suicides among soldiers in special units the Army set up last summer to help war-wounded troops, officials said late Thursday.

A team of pharmacists and other military officials met early this week at the Pentagon to look into the deaths in so-called “warrior transition units” — established to give sick, injured and wounded troops coordinated medical care, financial advice, legal help and other services as they attempt to make the transition toward either a return to uniform or back into civilian life.

The Army said officials had determined that among those troops there have been 11 deaths that were not due to natural causes between June and Feb. 5.

That included four suicides, three accidental overdoses of prescribed medications, three deaths still under investigation and one motor vehicle accident, the Army said.

“Army medical and safety professionals continue to remind soldiers and their families of the importance of prescription-drug safety precautions, including following the printed directions and information for each medicine,” the Army said of the overdoses in a statement Thursday.

Noting the death of actor Heath Ledger, Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Eric B. Schoomaker last week first disclosed the issue of drug overdoses in the 35 special transition units, which care for more than 9,500 soldiers.

“This isn’t restricted to the military, alone, as we all saw the unfortunate death of one of our leading actors recently,” Schoomaker told Pentagon reporters. He made his comments the day after The New York medical examiner announced that Ledger, the 28-year-old “Brokeback Mountain” star, died Jan. 22 from an accidental overdose — the effects of taking several types of painkillers and sedatives.

Schoomaker didn’t have statistics with him at the time and said he didn’t know whether the number of overdoses among soldiers was on the rise. He said the series of deaths in the new units was noticed and getting attention partly because the units concentrate the Army’s temporarily disabled and ill troops into special groups, thus making it possible for leaders to track and tabulate their health issues more closely and carefully than ever before.

He made the comment about overdoses when asked to comment on recent Army suicide figures. Preliminary figures show that, as of last month, officials had confirmed 89 suicides last year among all active duty and activated National Guard and Reserve — and that another 32 deaths were still under investigation. If all are confirmed, the total of 121 would be nearly a 20 percent increase over 2006.

Statistics show accidental overdoses have become a national problem, with the deaths from accidental ingestion of multiple prescription drugs now exceeding deaths from illegal drugs, Schoomaker said.

The transition units are part of deep and numerous changes the Army has made in its medical system since shoddy outpatient housing and bureaucratic delays were exposed last year at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Soldier, After Bipolar Treatment and Suicide Attempts, Sent Back to War Zone

Published: February 11, 2008
7:30 AM ET

FORT CARSON A Fort Carson soldier who says he was in treatment at Cedar Springs Hospital for bipolar disorder and alcohol abuse was released early and ordered to deploy to the Middle East with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team.

The 28-year-old specialist spent 31 days in Kuwait and was returned to Fort Carson on Dec. 31 after health care professionals in Kuwait concurred that his symptoms met criteria for bipolar disorder and “some paranoia and possible homicidal tendencies,” according to e-mails obtained by a Denver newspaper.

The soldier, who asked not to be identified because of the stigma surrounding mental illness and because he will seek employment when he leaves the Army, said he checked himself into Cedar Springs on Nov. 9 or Nov. 10 after he attempted suicide while under the influence of alcohol. He said his treatment was supposed to end Dec. 10, but his commanding officers showed up at the hospital Nov. 29 and ordered him to leave.

“I was pulled out to deploy,” said the soldier, who has three years in the Army and has served a tour in Iraq.

Soldiers from Fort Carson and across the country have complained they were sent to combat zones despite medical conditions that should have prevented their deployment. Late last year, Fort Carson said it sent 79 soldiers who were considered medical “no-gos” overseas. Officials said the soldiers were placed in light-duty jobs and are receiving treatment there. So far, at least six soldiers have been returned.

An e-mail sent Jan. 3 by Capt. Scot Tebo, the brigade surgeon, says the 3rd Brigade Combat Team had “been having issues reaching deployable strength” and that some “borderline” soldiers were sent overseas.

Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, was outraged.“If he’s an inpatient in a hospital, they should have never taken him out. The chain of command needs to be held accountable for this. Washington needs to get involved at the Pentagon to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

“First, we had the planeload of wounded, injured and ill being forced back to the war zone. And now we have soldiers forcibly removed from mental hospitals. The level of outrage is off the Richter scale.”

The soldier said that on Nov. 29, he was called to the office at Cedar Springs. His squad leader, his platoon leader, his Army Substance Abuse Program counselor and two counselors from Cedar Springs “came and ambushed me.”

He said an Army alcohol counselor told him alcoholism and anxiety could not stop him from being deployed. “They said, ‘You know what? Tough it out. All of us like to drink.’”

In the December e-mail, Tebo tells brigade leaders: “Evidently, while at Cedar Springs, he was started on psychiatric medications that should have made him non-deployable, but somehow no one was notified. He may have been pending a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, but that information was not passed on at discharge. He deployed with his unit and has not been doing well here.”

In Kuwait, the soldier isolated himself. He said he had “racing thoughts” and couldn’t keep still.

“I was ... burning my fingertips with cigarettes, just anything to keep my mind off of things,” the soldier said.

“I had homicidal thoughts. I don’t know at the time if I intended on doing anything. But at the time, it was there, I had homicidal and suicidal thoughts.”

Since his return, he has been in treatment. He said his medical record contains a permanent profile for bipolar disorder, an illness that makes him unfit for military service. He is undergoing the process to be medically discharged from the Army.


Saturday, February 09, 2008

Ft. Carson Soldiers In Court, Accused Of Murder

Reporter: Stephanie RossEmail Address:

Fort Carson soldiers Bruce Bastien and Louis Bressler were in court Friday for a preliminary hearing for the murder of another soldier, Robert James, in August.

The two are also suspected in the murder of Kevin Shields, also a soldier at Fort Carson.

Detective Derek Graham of the Colorado Springs Police department took the stand and described the evening of August 3rd, 2007, into the morning of August 4th, when police found the body of Robert James in the Bank of the Broadmoor parking lot.

James was shot multiple times and the testimony of Detective Graham describes two gun shots to James' throat and one shot to the top of his head. It was described as execution style. The prosecution showed graphic photos of the body and the gunshot wounds in court.

The prosecution also began to pull out similarities between this murder and another murder that police were investigating involving the death of Kevin Sheilds. The detective testified that the same style of gun was used in both homicides and the manner was similar.

The detective also described an interview he conducted with Bruce Bastien where he told police that Bressler had shot James after he had told Bastien that they should rob him. In his testimony he said that Bastien had said that he did not know that Bressler was going to shoot and kill James.

After hearing testimony, the judge decided not to consolidate the murders.

Bastien and Bressler will be back in court in March, at which time they are expected to enter a plea.

--submitted by Patti Woodard

More details can be found here.

Monday, February 04, 2008

High Rate of Soldier Suicide

The number of American soldiers who try to commit suicide is at an all time high, according to an independent study. And one Colorado Springs man says he may know why. Richard "Singe" Stites says his son, who was in the Army, took his own life seven years ago.

Private Nolan Edward Stites began his military career at Fort Carson. He began his training while he was still in high school.

Private Nolan was then transferred to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. It was there that he killed himself. He was just two days shy of his 19Th birthday.

According to Private Nolan's father, Nolan was not a sad kid.

His father called him a perfectionist. "He loved the outdoors. He was an expert marksman with all types of firearms and he was a good student", said Richard Stites.

Private Nolan also loved his country and knew at a ripe age he wanted to join the Army. But when he finally did, his dad says, his life crumbled beneath him.

"He lost his appetite and had trouble sleeping", said Richard Stites.

Private Nolan was depressed and told his dad he felt like killing himself. So Richard Stites ordered his son to seek help.

"The two main things that happen to people when they die from suicide is a feeling of not belonging and of being a burden", said Richard Stites.

The Army, Richard Stites believes, did not treat his son with compassion nor get him appropriate help. "I feel I never got the truth", said Richard Stites.

Richard Stites said he was told by his son's peers that their drill sergeant made Private Nolan feel foolish for being depressed. "Whatever was wrong with him, the treatment he received for 15 days, having my son running around in front of his peers with out his belt and boot laces, being made fun of, exacerbated the problem tremendously", said Richard Stites.

Richard Stites says there are probably hundreds of reasons why men and women in the military take their lives. But one of them he believes is because they're too embarrassed to come forward. "There's that stigma. They're afraid to get help", said Richard Stites.

Second, he believes soldiers being deployed time after time is simply unhealthy.

Last year, more than 2,000 soldiers tried to end their lives. Compare that to 2001, when nearly 500 soldiers attempted suicide.

Military Sexual Predator Shipped to Phoenix Area for 2 years Without Accountability

What do Zero Tolerance and Undue Command Influence Have in Common?

They were supposed to be the military’s answer once again to another sexual abuse scandal within the services. There have been over 22 Congressional Task Forces without significant change to any genuine and real policies to dramatically decrease sexual predator lack of accountability in the US military services.

Dimly in the shadow of the Lauterbach case, this young raped female Marine who became pregnant from her rape, faced down Marine leadership and gang mob mentality demanded her rapist be held accountable as the leadership said, “her rape was not violent.”

Maria Lauterbach and her 8 month (in womb) son was brutally murdered. One would hope the military and government has NOW gotten it, and stop going after the courageous victims who stand up and speak out! That the military gets these victims are pin pointing what they can’t do, point out the abusers. But, that is not so, the US Air Force in an attempt to have little press coverage of a sexual predator among their ranks, and who they simply shipped across country without accountability is beginning a trial under the cover of the Super Bowl in Phoenix, Arizona at Luke Air Force Base the week of Feb 6th.

This case deals with an Air Force married recruiter Sgt Deveau who while in Maine allegedly sexually groomed and manipulated multiple young recruitees, and personnel ignoring other military policies for his own gratification.

One wonders if the Air Force failed Sgt Deveau or IF Sgt Deveau failed the Air Force by not living up to the policies of the Aberdeen Proving Ground Rape Scandal in which Recruiters of Recruits wrongfully used of chain of command power of Undue Command Influence to prey upon young recruits sexually. Using duress and coercion Deveau of his authority knowing the less then lackluster prosecution record of the US military for sexual abuse crimes, decided his own sexual exploits were far more important then following any current military policy previously on the books.

Sgt Deveau’s abuses while in Maine of untold young women has resulted in bringing 2 to 3 young women in as witnesses, the tracking down of many other victims for testimony have been determined to be irrelevant by the Air Force.

As Deveau kept abusing Maine’s daughters in the style of the military services—the Air Force transferred Sgt Deveau to Luke Air Force Base without warning to Arizona citizens.

As one of the victims spoke out, she was treated abusively in the military time and again, but refusing to back down and she is forcing the trial the Air Force doesn’t want to occur.

Instead the Air Force is systematically going after the women victims set to testify by bringing in hostile witnesses. At this time it is not known if the Air Force prosecutors will bring authentic expert witnesses on behalf of the victim to counter the attacks of the hostile witnesses. It remains a systemic problem that the military goes after victims rather then predators who continue to groom to abuse. It appears time and again, the government and military selective prosecution of predators and they still refuse to honor their own military policies such as Zero Tolerance and Undue Command Influence that put only one of dozens of Army predators in prison for 25 years.

The two witnesses are set to testify had have already suffered re-traumatization from ongoing harassment by the military legal counsels in questioning and in bringing hostile witnesses against them.

We are asking for press to help in bringing a leveling playing field to this situation by demonstrating an interest in this case. If you want to really know what Lauterbach and all military survivors go through after reporting these crimes - look into this case.

We need your help to be supportive of these young women, and hold fully accountable the alleged sexual predator Sgt Deveau and the leadership that allows the gang mob mentality to take over.

Please contact me if interested in this case. I will put you in contact with the families. They have been financially ruined due to these issues.

Rev. Dorothy Mackey Executive Director of STAAAMP, Survivors Take Action Against Abuse by Military Personnel, contact