Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘military’

He Spoke Up About Bombing

Excerpt from Paging Dr. Leff: Pride, Patriotism & Protest.

arnieinuniformudorn1969074In late 1969 and early 1970, Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base was the second busiest airport in the world, next to Tan Sim Nhut Air Force Base in Saigon. It wasn’t the second busiest with the number of people passing through, but with the number of flights taking off and landing. They weren’t flying for recreation or sightseeing; they were reconnaissance planes and bombers – lots of bombers. They left the field weighed down like heavyweight fighters and returned like featherweights. It was methodical, like clockwork: day in and day out, hour after hour.

A few weeks after his arrival at Udorn, Dr. Leff began to get a feel for his clientele. There were three groups he attended and with whom he became intimately acquainted. The first was the United States Air Force personnel, which numbered about 5,000. The second group was the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) and contract personnel (mercenaries) who were employed by Air America. The third contingent consisted of Royal Laotian Army soldiers who were wounded in the war against the communist Pathet Lao across the border in Laos, protected by the Thai military and treated at Udorn.

The U.S. was supposedly not at war with Laos, but was nonetheless bombing their villages, giving their government military weapons and ammunition and supporting the Royal Laotian Army with money, surveillance, and medical care. The U.S. Air Force was bombing villages that contained nothing but villagers. Intelligence officers ordered changes in the captions on reconnaissance pictures. When questioned, pilots would quote the party line and say they were bombing communist strongholds.

It was common knowledge on the base that their primary mission was to destroy any communist stronghold in Laos. Legality, civilian deaths, and the Geneva Convention were all collateral damage to the mission. The goal was the priority, not the process.

Captain Leff couldn’t help but get a strong whiff of these realities. His patients told him what was going on. He had eyes and ears and could see and hear the stories, the bravado from the pilots; the detached, cold expressions of the Air America personnel. On the rare occasions he visited the officer’s club, his ears were bombarded with the sickening boasts of pilots talking about how many people they had killed that day and how many bombs they had dropped on the bastards. He heard stories from the flight surgeons that did air time over Laos that made his skin crawl. He had arrived in August as a patriotic serviceman; by September, his patriotism had been bruised, bloodied and battered.

“Within three months time, I knew the war was all hocus pocus,” Captain Leff recalled. “People were lying left and right. It was all so obvious. By that time, I had made friends with a number of GIs, both stripers and officers, who had the same hit on this mess as I did. So, I wrote a letter. I wrote a letter to the Chairman of the foreign relations committee of the U.S. Senate, J. W. Fulbright. It wasn’t complicated; it just said, ‘I don’t understand. What is this war in Laos all about? How can we have this secret war?’ I never expected to hear from him. Even though military personnel are allowed to write congressional letters, I had a strong feeling that the Air Force was reading my mail and wasn’t sure if he’d even get it. I didn’t give any details. I sent it on November 11, 1969. On December 10th, I received his reply. I was shocked. It was a personal reply, not a form letter. He said he was doing all he could to stop the war on Laos and appreciated my concern. In the beginning of 1970, I sent him another letter with more detail and said I’d be glad to speak to his commission. Again, he replied and said they would take me up on my offer when I returned to the States.”

Dr. Leff had just opened a Pandora’s Box of deceit, corruption, and legitimate paranoia.

More at Paging Dr. Leff: Pride, Patriotism & Protest

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Memorial Day “Holiday”

Memorial Day – “a legal holiday in the U.S. in memory of the dead servicemen of all wars.”

That’s how Webster’s defines Memorial Day, but is that what takes place? Has this day of remembrance become just another holiday; another three-day weekend; a day of forgetting?

Memorial Day can be a powerful reminder and opportunity for honoring and remembering our dead; for paying homage to those who died believing that their lives made a difference; that their lives were sacrificed for the benefit of others.

In many respects, those who have died for this experiment in democracy are still living. They’re living in the water we drink, the food we grow, the ballot we cast, the policies we protest, the pains, sorrows and struggles of everyday life.

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I respect the men and women who fought to end slavery in the Civil War and those, like my grandfather William, who fought in World War I, believing it would be “the war to end all wars”. I remember and give thanks to my father-in-law, who fought during World War II against the Nazis and lost his parents, grandparents, family and friends in the concentration camps. I thank my father, who went away for years to an unknown fate to stop the dictatorships of German and Japanese governments during the second world war. And I remember and honor all those who died in Lebanon, Panama, Viet Nam, on 9-11, Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as those who returned from those conflicts and died from resulting disease, addiction or suicide.

Though Memorial Day honors those who have died during wartime, let us not forget the military women and men who have died outside of conflict; those who have died while training; while in transport; during missions of peace and rescue; and at home from illness, accident, governmental disregard or neglect.

Before we can ever proclaim, “Never again!” we must exclaim, “Never forget!” Never forget the soldiers and civilians who have perished. Let us honor they’re memory, by keeping them in our hearts and doing everything possible to prevent and end the wars that have caused such great sorrow and suffering. Take some time to bring out pictures, tell stories, make a toast, thank those still living and recommit our selves to the peaceful resolution of conflict.
Memorial Day reminds us that blood and tears are the same in any language. Every life is precious and every loss must be remembered, mourned and honored.

These thoughts and reflections are an excerpt from Good Grief: Love, Loss & Laughter.

Also see: Paging Dr. Leff: Pride, Patriotism and Protest.

Women Come Marching Home

Service_DVDinhouse_V2.inddService: When Women Come Marching Home
A film by Marcia Rock and Patricia Lee Stotter
US, 2012, 55 minutes, Color, DVD, English
From Women Make Movies

Women make up 15 percent of today’s military. That number is expected to double in 10 years. SERVICE highlights the resourcefulness of seven amazing women who represent the first wave of mothers, daughters and sisters returning home from the frontless wars of Iraq and Afghanistan. Portraying the courage of women veterans as they transition from active duty to their civilian lives, this powerful film describes the horrific traumas they have faced, the inadequate care they often receive on return, and the large and small accomplishments they work mightily to achieve.

These are the stories we hear about from men returning from war, but rarely from women veterans. Through compelling portraits, we watch these women wrestle with prostheses, homelessness, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Military Sexual Trauma. The documentary takes the audience on a journey from the deserts of Afghanistan and Iraq to rural Tennessee and urban New York City, from coping with amputations, to flashbacks, triggers and depression to ways to support other vets. An eye-opening look at the specific challenges facing women veterans with a special focus on the disabled, SERVICE can be used for courses in military studies, women’s studies, peace and conflict courses and veteran support groups.

See more about women making movies at: Women Make Movies

Held In Hell

W1312EAIAR3It took Miriam Isaura López Vargas several weeks to piece together what happened to her.

On Feb. 2, 2011, the 30-year-old mother of four had just dropped three of her children off at school when two masked men forced her into a van, blindfolded her and tied her hands. The men drove her to military barracks 50 miles away.

Soldiers raped and otherwise tortured her repeatedly, trying to force her to “confess” to drug trafficking and incriminate other detainees, unknown to Miriam. She was held in this hell, without charges, for 8 months before being released.

Urge Mexico’s Attorney General to conduct a full, prompt and impartial investigation into the torture of Miriam López.

Miriam is not alone. Torture cases have skyrocketed in Mexico.

According to Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission Reports, torture and ill-treatment rose an astounding 500 percent in Mexico from 2005 to 2012.

Miriam has identified those responsible, yet no charges have been filed. Even if charges were filed, convictions for such crimes are rare.

December 15 is a key day for Miriam’s case: it marks two years since she filed an official complaint and yet there is very little progress.

Who do you turn to when government soldiers rape with impunity? The massive global human rights force of Amnesty International.

Miriam is one of 10 urgent human rights cases highlighted in Amnesty International’s 2013 Write for Rights campaign, the world’s largest and most effective letter-writing event.

Together, we’ve helped free enough prisoners of conscience to fill Madison Square Garden – twice.

Today, I’m asking you to help Miriam live free from fear. Make your voice heard – demand justice for Miriam.

In solidarity,

Jasmine Heiss
Campaigner, Individuals and Communities at Risk
Amnesty International USA

A Dangerous Deafness

Gabriel —

This month, a shocking Department of Defense report estimated that 26,000 sexual assaults took place in the military last year. This is disgraceful: one sexual assault is too many.

But still thousands of rapes in the military are never reported, let alone brought to trial. There is a dangerous deafness to sexual assault in the military and many survivors suffer in silence.

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Stand with Victims of Military Sexual Assault: Add your name to join the fight to fix the military’s response to sexual assaults.

Democrats in Congress are taking a stand to better protect our service men and women — but they need our support to ensure that independent prosecutors are deciding whether to prosecute sexual assault cases.

Will you step up and add your name in support of the Military Justice Improvement Act?

http://dccc.org/Stand-With-The-Victims

Thank you for being a part of this.

Kelly

Kelly Ward
DCCC

Health Care for Raped Soldiers

Dear Gabriel,

This is shocking, even for our U.S. Congress.

If a female employee of the U.S. State Department is raped while serving abroad in Afghanistan, her federal health plan will pay for an abortion should she become pregnant. However if a woman serving abroad as a member of the U.S. military is raped, her military health plan will NOT provide for an abortion if she becomes pregnant as a result of that violent and reprehensible act.

According to a report earlier this year from Mother Jones, the Pentagon has an even more drastic policy on access to abortion than the Hyde Amendment which bans the use of federal funds for abortion care unless a woman has been the victim of rape, incest or she could literally die unless she her pregnancy is terminated.

This disparity is so unsettling that the Senate passed out of committee the “Shaheen Amendment” to give women in the military the same rights to affordable reproductive health services as the civilians they protect. But if passed by the full Senate, the extremists in Congress will try to block this proposal from the National Defense Authorization Act when it comes up for a vote in the House. The only way we can hope to stop it is with massive public pushback.

Click here to sign this petition automatically.

According to Kate Sheppard’s report in Mother Jones,2 there are 200,000 women serving on active duty in our military and in 2011 alone there were 471 reported instances of rape. But with the Pentagon itself estimating that only 13.5% of rapes are officially reported, that means around 3,500 service members are raped per year.

Women who are serving on military bases abroad can’t simply go to their local Planned Parenthood should they seek an abortion after finding themselves pregnant as a result of rape. And if there hasn’t been a formal finding of rape, a rape survivor in the military can’t even pay to have the procedure done in the medical facility on base. Many women serving in our armed forces are stationed in foreign countries where safe abortion care is not easily obtained outside our military bases. And it may not be possible or affordable for a raped woman soldier to travel to the United States in order to receive the care she needs. Our policies need to be reformed to ensure that women in the military who have been raped have access to the medical care they need.

As Senator Jean Shaheen who introduced the change to this heinous policy explained to Mother Jones, “Most of the women affected here are enlisted women who are making about $18,000 a year. They’re young, they don’t have access to a lot of resources. Many of them are overseas.”

A handful of Republicans in the Senate realized that protecting rape survivors is not a partisan issue and joined Democrats to pass this bill out of committee and work to provide relief to women in our armed services. But their colleagues in the House will not join them in helping to pass this much needed bill unless we force them to take action. We need to tell Republicans as well as anti-choice Democrats in the House (including the so-called Stupak Democrats who voted against women’s reproductive health in the Affordable Care Act)3 that we cannot let this policy stand.

CREDO is a staunch supporter of a woman’s right to choose and we will continue to work for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment. But until then, even in our polarized Congress which is packed with anti-choice zealots, there are some lines that Republicans and anti-choice Democrats should be very afraid to cross. This is one of them. We cannot stand by and let women serving in the U.S. military be subjected to a stricter standard for abortion access than the already horribly restrictive Hyde Amendment.

Click below to automatically sign the petition:
http://act.credoaction.com/r/?r=6900213&p=military_choice&id=51136-266627-EiedzDx&t=10

This is one we can win if enough of us speak out. Thank you for taking action.

Becky Bond, Political Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets

Lives On The Line

Dear Gabriel,

Our military women put their lives on the line for our country and they deserve the same care and benefits as other women.

But I was shocked to learn that if servicewoman is raped and become pregnant, our government forces the servicewoman to pay out of her own pocket. This law is unfair, indefensible and must be changed.

Military women, wives and daughters should have the same insurance coverage as federal employees, when facing a pregnancy caused by rape, so that they too can make the decision that is best for them and their families.

This kind of injustice cannot stand. Urge Congress to change this unfair policy and ensure no servicewoman is denied the health care she needs!

Thank you for taking action,

Ellen B.
Care2 and ThePetitionSite Team

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