Thursday, September 27, 2007

Army is worn too thin; calls force not ready to meet new threats says Army Chief of Staff General Casey

WASHINGTON - The Army's top officer, General George Casey, told Congress yesterday that his branch of the military has been stretched so thin by the war in Iraq that it can not adequately respond to another conflict - one of the strongest warnings yet from a military leader that repeated deployments to war zones in the Middle East have hamstrung the military's ability to deter future aggression.

In his first appearance as Army chief of staff, Casey told the House Armed Services Committee that the Army is "out of balance" and "the current demand for our forces exceeds the sustainable supply. We are consumed with meeting the demands of the current fight and are unable to provide ready forces as rapidly as necessary for other potential contingencies."

Officials said Casey, who appeared along with Army Secretary Pete Geren, personally requested the public hearing - a highly unusual move that military analysts said underscores his growing concern about the health of the Army, America's primary fighting force.

Casey, a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wanted a public forum even though he has ample opportunity to speak to lawmakers in closed-door meetings.

Representative John M. McHugh, a New York Republican, said Casey's blunt testimony was "just downright frightening."

Meanwhile, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates asked Congress for a record-setting $190 billion to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the next year - nearly $50 billion more than anticipated. Most of the money would go to Iraq. If the request is approved, the cost of the 2003 invasion will top $600 billion.

Gates's request is expected to include $17 billion to manufacture thousands of new, heavily armored vehicles designed to withstand the lethal blasts of roadside bombs, the biggest cause of US combat deaths.

Seeking to head off Democrats' maneuvers to attach conditions, including troop withdrawals, on an Iraq spending bill they will send to President Bush, Gates urged the Senate Appropriations Committee "to approve the complete global war on terror request as quickly as possible," without "excessive and counterproductive restrictions."

But Casey, a four-star general who until earlier this year was the top commander in Iraq, made it clear to the House committee that the costs to ongoing military operations is rising, especially in terms of the United States' strategic position in the world.

The strain on the Army has been growing steadily since Bush sent troops into Iraq in 2003 - the longest sustained combat for an all-volunteer American force since the Revolutionary War. The Pentagon and military analysts have documented the signs of the breakdown: serious recruiting problems, an exodus of young officers, and steadily falling readiness rates of nearly every stateside unit.

Casey's testimony yesterday sent a clear message: If President Bush or Congress does not significantly reduce US forces in Iraq soon, the Army will need far more resources - and money - to ensure it is prepared to handle future security threats that the general warned are all but inevitable.

"As we look to the future, national security experts are virtually unanimous in predicting that the next several decades will be ones of persistent conflict," Casey told the panel, citing potential instability caused by globalization, humanitarian crises, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Casey's assessment of the Army's preparedness, however, was far more pessimistic than his predecessor's, General Peter Schoomaker, the former Army chief of staff.

When the same committee in January asked him about the Army's overall condition, Schoomaker answered only that he had "concerns" about the Army's "strategic depth."

Several Pentagon insiders have privately remarked that Casey's apparent alarm about the Army heightened when he returned from nearly three years of duty in Iraq. One civilian military adviser said that Casey was taken aback when informed at a recent meeting that some combat units were heading into battle short of key personnel. After the meeting, the adviser said, Casey took an officer aside and peppered him with questions about exactly which units were affected.

Casey and Geren insisted that the units now deployed to the combat zone are highly trained and outfitted with the proper equipment. However, they said the units of most concern are the ones returning from Iraq or those preparing to deploy without all the proper equipment.

Stocks of equipment the Army has positioned around the world are also growing low because of the war, they said. Replenishing those stockpiles, Casey told the committee, "will give us back our strategic flexibility."

A major risk for the future, however, is that the Army currently spends nearly all of its time training for counterinsurgency operations - "to the detriment of preparedness" for other types of combat, Casey testified. If troops don't continue to train, their skills "will atrophy over time."

Army units are now deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan for 15 months at a time. At current force levels, that allows them 12 months or less back home before being sent overseas again. Casey said yesterday that the cycle allows for "insufficient recovery time."

Compounding the situation, he said, is the fact that part-time soldiers in the Army Reserve and Army National Guard - considered the nation's backup forces in the event of a major conflict - "are performing an operational role for which they were neither originally designed nor resourced."

At the same time, he said, the toll on soldiers' families is even greater, raising serious questions about whether the Army will be able to retain its best soldiers.

In the six months he has been Army chief of staff, Casey said that he and his wife have talked extensively with commanders and Army families about the pressures of repeated tours. "It was clear to us the families are affected," he said. "It's cumulative."

But he warned that the Pentagon's current system can not sufficiently support the troops or their families. "Army support systems including health, education, and family support systems are straining under the pressures from six years of war," he said.

Given enough resources, Casey predicted, it would take at least three to four years to restore the Army to full strength, including replacing damaged or destroyed equipment, adding tens of thousands more soldiers, and increasing health and other benefits for Army families coping with frequent deployments of loved ones.

But committee members wondered if there is enough time.

"This is foremost a question of strategic risk," said the committee's chairman, Representative Ike Skelton, a Missouri Democrat, noting that the United States has used military force on a dozen occasions over the past 30 years. "In most cases the United States was forced to act with little warning. It will happen again; later we hope, but undoubtedly sooner than we'd like."

By Bryan Bender, Globe Staff | September 27, 2007

Army is worn too thin says Army Chief of Staff General Casey
Calls force not ready to meet new threats

article at Boston Globe
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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

John Cusack interviews Naomi Klein, author of 'The Shock Doctrine; The Rise of Disaster Capitalism'

John Cusack interviews Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, which uses the war in Iraq to pull back the curtain on free market myths and expose the forces that are really driving our economy. She details how the crony capitalists running the Bush administration saw post-invasion Iraq as the perfect proving ground for all their pet free-market policies.

The fantasy was that a privitazied and corporatized Iraq would become a free-market utopia that would spread the gospel of the market throughout the Middle East. Klein's writings on Iraq helped inspire John Cusack to create a stinging new satiric film called War, Inc. The pair recently sat down for a HuffPost video - a lively and insightful conversation about The Shock Doctrine, Iraq, the burgeoning new economy that has sprung up around the war on terror, and Baghdad's Green Zone, which Klein calls "a heavily armed Carnival Cruise ship parked in a sea of despair."

see the interview video here

My thoughts; I've been only slightly attuned to the concepts portrayed in Naomi Klein's new book. Attuned enough though, to recognize the realities of how humans react to 'shock and awe', whether that is the death of a loved one that happens daily to families within communities, whether it is a national disaster/catastrophe as Sept 11, 2001 when the World Trade Towers were hit and came down, whether it is the climate of war, whether it is a tsunamic or hurricane of epic proportions, or whether it is the eroding effects of exposure to the exploitation of abuse in family and/or community situations.

What stands out for me about the premise of Naomi's research and thus, her book, is that she went looking for something she thought she would find to be a truism only to find a larger more ominous truism. It might well be worthwhile for the 'movement' as it calls itself to broaden the message, lose some of the old arguments and develop a strategy, replete with a message to include talking points to address the broader context of the shock doctrine and the rise of disaster capitalism as the underpinnings to what we know is happening all around us, inclusive of why Iraq and why stay, why no relief at the time or now to Hurricane Katrina sufferers, why the mortgage crisis which is upon is will generate an economic disaster for some while supporting the capitalist utopia laboratory Naomi points to in her book.

Beyond the concerns of President Eisenhower in his warnings of military industrial complex, beyond the concepts of marxism, communisim, beyond the concept of corporate America, it seems to me that as long as the 'movement' continues to use old strategies to counter old tensions, it cannot be effective in countering what is already in play now within our country and on the more global stage. I encourage and urge a reading and discussion of Naomi's book and the premise laid out in what she has found in her research.
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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

General Patraeus responds; Sir, I don't know actually (to the question - if we continue Iraq strategy will it make America Safer?)

in exchange at the General Petraeus report to Congress, Sept 11, 2007

Senator Warner: Are you able to say at this time if we continue what you have laid before the congress here, this strategy. Do you feel that that is making America safer?

General Petraeus: Sir, I believe this is indeed the best course of action to achieve our objectives in Iraq.

Warner: Does that make America safer?

General Petraeus: Sir, I don't know actually. I have not sat down and sorted in my own mind what I have focused on and what I have been riveted on is how to accomplish the mission of the multinational force Iraq.

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Two of Seven Soldiers Who Wrote 'NYT' Op-Ed Die in Iraq

Two of Seven Soldiers Who Wrote 'NYT' Op-Ed Die in Iraq

By Greg Mitchell
Published: September 12, 2007 7:25 AM ET

NEW YORK The Op-Ed by seven active duty U.S. soldiers in Iraq questioning the war drew international attention just three weeks ago. Now two of the seven are dead.

Sgt. Omar Mora and Sgt. Yance T. Gray died Monday in a vehicle accident in western Baghdad, two of seven U.S. troops killed in the incident which was reported just as Gen. David Petraeus was about to report to Congress on progress in the "surge." The names have just been released.

Gen. Petraeus was questioned about the message of the op-ed in testimony before a Senate committee yesterday.

The controversial Times column on Aug. 19 was called "The War As We Saw It," and expressed skepticism about American gains in Iraq. “To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched,” the group wrote.

It closed: "We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through."

Mora, 28, hailed from Texas City, Texas, and was a native of Ecuador, who had just become a U.S. citizen. He was due to leave Iraq in November and leaves behind a wife and daughter. Gray, 26, had lived in Ismay, Montana, and is also survived by a wife and infant daughter.

The accident in Iraq occurred when a cargo truck the men were riding in overturned.

The Daily News in Galveston interviewed Mora's mother, who confirmed his death and that he was one of the co-authors of the Times piece. The article today relates: "Olga Capetillo said that by the time Mora submitted the editorial, he had grown increasingly depressed. 'I told him God is going to take care of him and take him home,' she said. 'But yesterday is the darkest day for me.'”

One of the other five authors of the Times piece, Staff Sergeant Jeremy Murphy, an Army Ranger and reconnaissance team leader, was shot in the head while the article was being written. He was expected to survive after being flown to a military hospital in the United States.

(The New York Times Op-ed Piece by the Seven Soldiers in Iraq)

The War As We Saw It
By Buddhika Jayamaha, Wesley D. Smith, Jeremy Roebuck, Omar Mora, Edward Sandmeier, Yance T. Gray and Jeremy A. Murphy
The New York Times

Sunday 19 August 2007

Viewed from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. (Obviously, these are our personal views and should not be seen as official within our chain of command.)

The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the "battle space" remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayers' expense.

A few nights ago, for example, we witnessed the death of one American soldier and the critical wounding of two others when a lethal armor-piercing explosive was detonated between an Iraqi Army checkpoint and a police one. Local Iraqis readily testified to American investigators that Iraqi police and Army officers escorted the triggermen and helped plant the bomb. These civilians highlighted their own predicament: had they informed the Americans of the bomb before the incident, the Iraqi Army, the police or the local Shiite militia would have killed their families.

As many grunts will tell you, this is a near-routine event. Reports that a majority of Iraqi Army commanders are now reliable partners can be considered only misleading rhetoric. The truth is that battalion commanders, even if well meaning, have little to no influence over the thousands of obstinate men under them, in an incoherent chain of command, who are really loyal only to their militias.

Similarly, Sunnis, who have been underrepresented in the new Iraqi armed forces, now find themselves forming militias, sometimes with our tacit support. Sunnis recognize that the best guarantee they may have against Shiite militias and the Shiite-dominated government is to form their own armed bands. We arm them to aid in our fight against Al Qaeda.

However, while creating proxies is essential in winning a counterinsurgency, it requires that the proxies are loyal to the center that we claim to support. Armed Sunni tribes have indeed become effective surrogates, but the enduring question is where their loyalties would lie in our absence. The Iraqi government finds itself working at cross purposes with us on this issue because it is justifiably fearful that Sunni militias will turn on it should the Americans leave.

In short, we operate in a bewildering context of determined enemies and questionable allies, one where the balance of forces on the ground remains entirely unclear. (In the course of writing this article, this fact became all too clear: one of us, Staff Sergeant Murphy, an Army Ranger and reconnaissance team leader, was shot in the head during a "time-sensitive target acquisition mission" on Aug. 12; he is expected to survive and is being flown to a military hospital in the United States.) While we have the will and the resources to fight in this context, we are effectively hamstrung because realities on the ground require measures we will always refuse - namely, the widespread use of lethal and brutal force.

Given the situation, it is important not to assess security from an American-centered perspective. The ability of, say, American observers to safely walk down the streets of formerly violent towns is not a resounding indicator of security. What matters is the experience of the local citizenry and the future of our counterinsurgency. When we take this view, we see that a vast majority of Iraqis feel increasingly insecure and view us as an occupation force that has failed to produce normalcy after four years and is increasingly unlikely to do so as we continue to arm each warring side.

Coupling our military strategy to an insistence that the Iraqis meet political benchmarks for reconciliation is also unhelpful. The morass in the government has fueled impatience and confusion while providing no semblance of security to average Iraqis. Leaders are far from arriving at a lasting political settlement. This should not be surprising, since a lasting political solution will not be possible while the military situation remains in constant flux.

The Iraqi government is run by the main coalition partners of the Shiite-dominated United Iraqi Alliance, with Kurds as minority members. The Shiite clerical establishment formed the alliance to make sure its people did not succumb to the same mistake as in 1920: rebelling against the occupying Western force (then the British) and losing what they believed was their inherent right to rule Iraq as the majority. The qualified and reluctant welcome we received from the Shiites since the invasion has to be seen in that historical context. They saw in us something useful for the moment.

Now that moment is passing, as the Shiites have achieved what they believe is rightfully theirs. Their next task is to figure out how best to consolidate the gains, because reconciliation without consolidation risks losing it all. Washington's insistence that the Iraqis correct the three gravest mistakes we made - de-Baathification, the dismantling of the Iraqi Army and the creation of a loose federalist system of government - places us at cross purposes with the government we have committed to support.

Political reconciliation in Iraq will occur, but not at our insistence or in ways that meet our benchmarks. It will happen on Iraqi terms when the reality on the battlefield is congruent with that in the political sphere. There will be no magnanimous solutions that please every party the way we expect, and there will be winners and losers. The choice we have left is to decide which side we will take. Trying to please every party in the conflict - as we do now - will only ensure we are hated by all in the long run.

At the same time, the most important front in the counterinsurgency, improving basic social and economic conditions, is the one on which we have failed most miserably. Two million Iraqis are in refugee camps in bordering countries. Close to two million more are internally displaced and now fill many urban slums. Cities lack regular electricity, telephone services and sanitation. "Lucky" Iraqis live in gated communities barricaded with concrete blast walls that provide them with a sense of communal claustrophobia rather than any sense of security we would consider normal.

In a lawless environment where men with guns rule the streets, engaging in the banalities of life has become a death-defying act. Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, "We need security, not free food."

In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are - an army of occupation - and force our withdrawal.

Until that happens, it would be prudent for us to increasingly let Iraqis take center stage in all matters, to come up with a nuanced policy in which we assist them from the margins but let them resolve their differences as they see fit. This suggestion is not meant to be defeatist, but rather to highlight our pursuit of incompatible policies to absurd ends without recognizing the incongruities.

We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.

Buddhika Jayamaha is an Army specialist. Wesley D. Smith is a sergeant. Jeremy Roebuck is a sergeant. Omar Mora is a sergeant. Edward Sandmeier is a sergeant. Yance T. Gray is a staff sergeant. Jeremy A. Murphy is a staff sergeant.
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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Soldier Brian Rand Suicides. Never had a chance to see a psychiatrist. Instead the Army deployed him to Iraq a second time.

Soldier's Tragic Suicide Just One of Dozens
By Aaron Glantz
Inter Press Service

Monday 10 September 2007

San Francisco - Dane and April Somdahl own the Alien Art tattoo parlor on Camp Lejeune Boulevard - just outside the sprawling Marine Corps base of the same name in Jacksonville, North Carolina.

In an interview from the back of her shop, April talked about how her customers' tastes have changed since George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

As the war approached, she said, "The most popular tattoos were eagles and United States flags. Those were coming in so often and, you know, everybody was like 'I gotta get my flag.'"

Then, a year into the war, the Somdahls noticed a new wave of Marines coming in to get information from their military dog tags tattooed onto their bodies. Most said they wanted so called "meat tags" so their bodies could be identified when they die.

"We went through over a year of meat tags, but then that passed too," she said. "Now we are seeing a lot of memorial tattoos. Even the wives are getting memorial tattoos - moms and dads in their fifties too. And in a lot of cases they're getting their first tattoos. And they're saying 'We didn't think we would ever get a tattoo, but this one is to remember my son.'"

Because of the changing needs of their clientèle, the Somdahls no longer blast rock and roll music inside the shop. Instead, the artists work in silence.

"The mood has died," April told IPS.

"For our employees to do tattoos of photos of fallen heroes, fallen friends, it plays hard on them," she said. "It makes it so our artists are depressed. The tattoo isn't done just for decoration or just for fun anymore. The tattoo has become a solid symbol of their feelings and a lot of it dealing with the war."

The mood is particularly heavy because the Somdahls have had a death in their own family. On Feb. 20, April's younger brother, Sergeant Brian Jason Rand, shot himself under the Cumberland River Centre Pavilion in Clarksville outside Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Officials at Fort Campbell refused to comment on Brian Rand's suicide, saying they don't discuss individual soldier's deaths. But the military brass has been investigating what seems like an increasing trend of soldiers taking their own lives.

Last month, the Army issued a document called the "Army Suicide Event Report, 2006" showing suicides were at their highest point in 26 years.

"There was a significant relationship between suicide attempts and number of days deployed" in Iraq, Afghanistan or nearby countries where troops are participating in the war effort, the report said. The same pattern seemed to hold true for those who not only attempted, but succeeded in killing themselves.

The Army confirmed 99 suicides among active duty soldiers during 2006, up from 88 the year before.

Brian Jason Rand was born Dec. 9, 1980 into a military family on base at Camp Lejeune. Throughout his life, he had always been in and around the military. He had deployed twice to Iraq, returning for the final time on Jan. 2, 2007.

It was during his first tour that April noticed a change. She chatted with him every evening over the internet. In the afternoon, while it was nighttime in Baghdad, she would sit in front of her computer in North Carolina, hook up a microphone and talk with her brother, trying to keep his spirits up.

But she could tell her brother was having an emotional meltdown.

"He would say 'April, I'm having terrible nightmares'," she said. "He told me about nightmares about dead Iraqis, their souls and spirits haunting him, following him, telling him to do stuff, and it got scarier and scarier."

April said she talked Brian to sleep nearly every night during his deployment - trying to keep him alive by giving him something to live for.

"I would talk to him in a very quiet voice and make sure not to make any sudden noises," she said. "I would tell him the grass is still green over here. The sky is still blue. Just close your eyes and picture the lawn that we laid on staring up at that sky. And it's still there. When you get back, when your job is done, when you do everything that they ask you to do, come back to me and we'll lay on the grass and we'll stare at the sky and we don't have to talk about anything."

But when Brian returned home from Iraq it wasn't the end of the story. He was emotionally unstable. His family said he knew he had problems and sought help from the military.

After he retuned from Iraq, for example, he filled out a post-deployment health assessment form, admitting to combat-related nightmares, depression and mood swings.

"When someone checks 'yes' to these types of things, clearly they should be evaluated for mental help," his widow, Dena Rand, told Clarksville's Leaf Chronicle newspaper, "but according to them, he never requested help."

Brian Rand never had a chance to see a psychiatrist. Instead of giving him the help he needed, the Army deployed him to Iraq a second time.

"We didn't have very many phone conversations at all during his last deployment," his sister April said. "The phone calls only came when he was spiraling out of control so it was very difficult to figure out what he was trying to communicate."

When he returned Fort Campbell for the final time in January 2007, his family said he had completely changed.

"He'd flip on a dime," Dena Rand recalled, describing scenarios, in public and private, which made him paranoid and agitated.

The Leaf Chronicle reported Dena Rand said her husband "was either intensely happy or desperately sad; there was no middle ground, which was nothing like the man she married, whom she described as a gentle person who would 'drop anything he was doing to help anyone.'"

On Feb. 8, Dena called the police when Jason started screaming at his stepdaughter, Cheyanne.

"Mrs. Rand stated that her husband was yelling at her daughter," Officer Mathew Campbell wrote in his report for the Clarksville police department. "Mrs. Rand went upstairs to make him stop and she stated that he turned and smacked her in the face. Mr. Rand was gone upon arrival."

About the same time, Jason called his sister, April.

"He said, 'Oh, I can see everything April. It all makes perfect sense now. I know what I have to do and it makes so much sense. I have to die. I have to leave the physical realm and leave earth and go up in heaven and be part of the Army of God and I've got to stop this war and save my guys here. And the best way I can do that is to do it up in heaven 'cause I can't do anything while I'm down here.'"

April told me she tried to talk her brother out of suicide. She mentioned that Dena was pregnant with their first child together. That child is going to need a father, she argued.

But Brian wouldn't listen.

"He said the baby will be fine," April said. "The baby will be taken care of ... and then he started talking about his favourite music and then from his favourite music he goes to saying 'You're going to have to know this. You're going to have to know my favourite movie. When I am gone you're going to want to watch my favourite movie, April. My favorite movie is Mousetrap.'"

Less than two weeks later, on Feb. 20, the Clarksville police department received a call about a body lying facedown under an entertainment pavilion on the banks of the Cumberland River, with a shotgun beside it.

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Friday, September 7, 2007

Families Cracking Under War Pressure

U.S. military families have become the unseen victims of the war in Iraq, with those left behind suffering when Soldiers go off to fight and when they finally return home.

"I don't know one military family that is still together or anything like they were before the Soldier in the family went to war," 30-year-old Mylinda, whose husband was among the first Marines to be deployed in Iraq, told AFP.

Mylinda's husband returned home from Iraq around a year ago after "we both decided then that he should leave the military because otherwise he would have had to go back," she said.

"We did pretty well when he first got back, but he never spoke about Iraq.

"I could see he was unhappy and he lost self-confidence when he left the military and couldn't find a job," she said.

Deployment News and Resources

But then came the bombshell.

"In March, he said he didn't want to be married any more," Mylinda said.

The majority of Iraq veterans who took part in a recent study acknowledged having "some family problem at least once a week," said Dr Steven Sayers of the Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Center in Philadelphia.

"About three-quarters of the veterans acknowledged having some family problem at least once a week. About half were unsure of their role or responsibility in the household," he said.

"It could be that being depressed, they are too self-critical, and that may complicate the task of being reintegrated into the family," Sayers said, adding that all the veterans sampled for the study had shown signs of depression or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

PTSD News and Resources

Children are among those who suffer most, both during their parent's deployment and after they return.

A study conducted for the Pentagon earlier this year showed that child abuse rose 42 percent and neglect doubled when a parent is deployed to a combat zone.

Retrospectively, Mylinda acknowledged that she was not "in control" of her family when her husband was in Iraq.

"I remember thinking I was in control of everything, but now I look back at events and things that happened, and I think maybe I wasn't," she said.

"I let my oldest, who was seven, do a lot of things I wouldn't usually approve of him doing -- riding his bike around town by himself, going off with friends unsupervised. Now he tells me the things he did, and I think: 'But I would never let you do that.'"

Dr Wendy Lane, head of the child protection team at the University of Maryland, blamed maltreatment and neglect by the parent left at home on severe stress.

"Child neglect and abuse are often the result of stress and the absence of social support," Lane told AFP.

"Having a spouse deployed is bound to be stressful, and it also removes that social support -- having someone to help with childcare responsibilities, to talk to about life's stress so that you don't take it out on your children," she said.

Mylinda said her children were angered and hurt by their parents' separation.

"The kids had a really hard time with it. My oldest was mad about it," she said. "But I don't think they associated it with Iraq ... They pretty much blamed themselves."

Pentagon official Lieutenant Colonel Les Melnyk told AFP that it was "difficult if not impossible" to determine if a military family's divorce or separation was due to deployment.

But, added Melnyk: "Strong marriages can weather a deployment, weak ones will be tested."

Although Melnyk and Sayers pointed to a number of programs and counselling available to Soldiers and their families, Mylinda said she and her children were not offered any help.

"My husband got all kinds of different classes and courses. He was able to talk to a lot of people on the boat coming back from Iraq -- about marriage, about family. But we didn't get anything," said Mylinda.

Mylinda's mother -- herself the wife of a veteran of the 1990s' Desert Storm campaign in Iraq -- blasted the US military for failing to adequately train Soldiers for combat and life after the armed forces.

"When an army recruiter came to the school where I taught, I did everything I could to keep kids from joining. I had seen too many people go off to fight in Desert Storm and then come back, changed for the worse," she said, asking not to be named.

"When we were in the military, it was a good, strong group of men that knew what they had to do and how to do it," she said.

"Now, you have boy scouts fighting over there. They get kids out of high school, put them in boot camp and then send them to fight.

"When they get out, all they know how to do is kill someone."

from website

(The comparison by the Mylinda's mother reflects an earlier generation and perhaps an earlier time in military life. It seems to me that Vietnam war also sent kids straight out of high school (via military draft) to train them up to be sent to Iraq to kill and return home with little to nothing in the way of debriefing, re-acclimation, reintegration. Nonetheless, there is a strong ring of truth to what she shares, enough so that I wanted to call attention to it.

For our family, where I was raised a military brat, it reflects an earlier generation and time in military life - post Korean War and pre Vietnam war. See the dvd 'Brats, Our Journey Home' for an accurate and fair representation of growing up a 'military brat'. But for me, when I graduated high school, married my high school sweetheart who was drafted by lottery and sent to Vietnam, military life wasn't what I grew up with or knew. Now, with Iraq war, and 2 in our family who are returning Iraq veterans; one is leaving for second deployment to Iraq next month -- military life has changed considerably and I can only describe it as exploitation with extreme callousness of what were and are some fine military values in honor, courage, service, duty --- integrity.

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