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Posts tagged ‘Pentagon’

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

Is The Cold War Over?

From Nation of Change
by Robert Reich
27 May 2012

Memorial Day Thoughts on National Defense

We can best honor those who have given their lives for this nation in combat by making sure our military might is proportional to what America needs.

The United States spends more on our military than do China, Russia, Britain, France, Japan, and Germany put together.

With the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, the cost of fighting wars is projected to drop – but the “base” defense budget (the annual cost of paying troops and buying planes, ships, and tanks – not including the costs of actually fighting wars) is scheduled to rise. The base budget is already about 25 percent higher than it was a decade ago, adjusted for inflation.

One big reason: It’s almost impossible to terminate large defense contracts. Defense contractors have cultivated sponsors on Capitol Hill and located their plants and facilities in politically important congressional districts. Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and others have made spending on national defense into America’s biggest jobs program.

So we keep spending billions on Cold War weapons systems like nuclear attack submarines, aircraft carriers, and manned combat fighters that pump up the bottom lines of defense contractors but have nothing to do with 21st-century combat.

For example, the Pentagon says it wants to buy fewer F-35 joint strike fighter planes than had been planned – the single-engine fighter has been plagued by cost overruns and technical glitches – but the contractors and their friends on Capitol Hill promise a fight.

The absence of a budget deal on Capitol Hill is supposed to trigger an automatic across-the-board ten-year cut in the defense budget of nearly $500 billion, starting January.

But Republicans have vowed to restore the cuts. The House Republican budget cuts everything else — yet brings defense spending back up. Mitt Romney’s proposed budget does the same.

Yet even if the scheduled cuts occur, the Pentagon is still projected to spend over $2.7 trillion over the next ten years.

At the very least, hundreds of billions could be saved without jeopardizing the nation’s security by ending weapons systems designed for an age of conventional warfare. We should shrink the F-35 fleet of stealth fighters. Cut the number of deployed strategic nuclear weapons, ballistic missile submarines, and intercontinental ballistic missiles. And take a cleaver to the Navy and Air Force budgets. (Most of the action is with the Army, Marines, and Special Forces.)

Read entire Op Ed at Nation of Change.

Honor Veterans by Ending War

From Nation of Change
by Amy Goodman
24 May 2012

Memorial Day: Honor the Dead, Heal the Wounded, Stop the Wars

Gen. John Allen, commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan, spoke Wednesday at the Pentagon, four stars on each shoulder, his chest bedecked with medals. Allen said the NATO summit in Chicago, which left him feeling “heartened,” “was a powerful signal of international support for the Afghan-led process of reconciliation.” Unlike Allen, many decorated U.S. military veterans left the streets of Chicago after the NATO summit without their medals. They marched on the paramilitarized convention center where the generals and heads of state had gathered and threw their medals at the high fence surrounding the summit. They were joined by women from Afghans for Peace, and an American mother whose son killed himself after his second deployment to Iraq.

Leading thousands of protesters in a peaceful march against NATO’s wars, each veteran climbed to the makeshift stage outside the fenced summit, made a brief statement and threw his or her medals at the gate.

As taps was played, veterans folded an American flag that had flown over NATO military operations in Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia, Afghanistan and Libya and handed it to Mary Kirkland. Her son, Derrick, joined the Army in January 2007, since he was not earning enough to support his wife and child as a cook at an IHOP restaurant. During his second deployment, Mary told me, “he ended up putting a shotgun in his mouth over there in Iraq, and one of his buddies stopped him.” He was transferred to Germany then back to his home base of Fort Lewis, Wash.

“He came back on a Monday after two failed suicide attempts in a three-week period. They kept him overnight at Madigan Army Medical Center at Fort Lewis. He met with a psychiatrist the next day who deemed him to be low to moderate risk for suicide.” Five days later, on Friday, March 19, 2010, he hanged himself. Said his mother, “Derrick was not killed in action; he was killed because of failed mental health care at Fort Lewis.”

On stage, Lance Cpl. Scott Olsen declared: “Today I have with me my Global War on Terror Medal, Operation Iraqi Freedom Medal, National Defense Medal and Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal. These medals, once upon a time, made me feel good about what I was doing. … I came back to reality, and I don’t want these anymore.” Like the riot police flanking the stage, many on horseback, Olsen also wore a helmet. He is recovering from a fractured skull after being shot in the head at close range by a beanbag projectile. He wasn’t shot in Iraq, but by Oakland, Calif., police at Occupy Oakland last fall, where he was protesting. On stage with the veterans were three Afghan women, holding the flag of Afghanistan. Just before they marched, I asked one of them, Suraia Sahar, why she was there: “I’m representing Afghans for Peace. And we’re here to protest NATO and call on all NATO representatives to end this inhumane, illegal, barbaric war against our home country and our people. … It’s the first time an Afghan-led peace movement is now working side by side with a veteran-led peace movement. And so, this is the beginning of something new, something better: reconciliation and peace.”

Read entire story at Nation of Change.

Cost of Guantanamo Bay

From Nation of Change

Cost to House a Captive at Guantanamo Bay is $800,000

by Carol Rosenberg
McClatchy/News Report
Published: Wednesday 9 November 2011

Guards get combat pay, just like troops in Afghanistan, without the risk of being blown up. Some commanders get to bring their families to this war-on-terror deployment. And each captive gets $38.45 worth of food a day.

The Pentagon detention center that started out in January 2002 as a collection of crude open-air cells guarded by Marines in a muddy tent city is today arguably the most expensive prison on Earth, costing taxpayers $800,000 annually for each of the 171 captives by Obama administration reckoning.

That’s more than 30 times the cost of keeping a captive on U.S. soil.

It’s still funded as an open-ended battlefield necessity, although the last prisoner arrived in March 2008. But it functions more like a gated community in an American suburb than a forward-operating base in one of Afghanistan’s violent provinces.

Congress, charged now with cutting $1.5 trillion from the budget by Christmas, provided $139 million to operate the center last year, and has made every effort to keep it open – even as a former deputy commander of the detention center calls it “expensive” and “inefficient.”

“It’s a slow-motion Berlin Airlift – that’s been going on for 10 years,” says retired Army Brig. Gen. Greg Zanetti, a West Point graduate who in 2008 was deputy commander at the detention center.

Both its location and temporary nature drive up costs, says Zanetti. While there, he wrote a secret study that compared the operation to Alcatraz, noting that Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy had closed it in 1963 because it was too expensive.

At Guantanamo, everything comes in by barge or aircraft “from paper clips to bulldozers,” Zanetti says, as well as the revolving guard force. Also, more recently, a massage chair for stressed-out prison camp staff.

Zanetti, now a Seattle-based money manager, was a financial adviser in civilian life before his New Mexico National Guard unit’s call-up to Guantanamo. He has never disputed that America needed the detention center after 9/11 but argues that today it deserves a cost-benefit analysis.

“What complicates the overall command further is you have the lawyers, interrogators and guards all operating under separate budgets and command structures,” he said. “It’s like combining the corporate cultures and budgets of Goldman, Apple and Coke. Business schools would have a field day dissecting the structure of Guantanamo.”

An examination of the expenses shows that now, with no strategy for meeting President Barack Obama’s Jan. 22, 2009 closure order, the military is preparing for the prison’s next decade. Spending is not just aimed at upgrades for the captive population, most in medium security confinement, but also for the revolving staff of 1,850 troops, linguists, intelligence analysts, federal agents and contract laborers.

Commanders are contracting for a new round of capitol improvements, including $2 million worth of new computer equipment to grow storage space under a fast-track, noncompetitive contract with Dell recently posted on a government website.

And that doesn’t include the un-networked laptops the prison provides captives taking a life skills class that includes a resume writing lesson, in case anyone gets to go home.

Read complete article at Nation of Change.

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