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Bush Approval Among Military Families Down 50% Since 2004

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Reprinted from RawStory.com 

Support for President Bush and his Iraq war policy is nearly as anemic among US military families as it is in the general population, according to a new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll.

The survey finds that almost 60 percent of the military community — which was defined as active and former service personnel as well as their families — disapprove of the president’s handling of the war. The same percentage of the group disapprove of Bush’s overall performance as president. Meanwhile, only 37 percent of the family members approve of Bush. Among civilians polled, the war garnered support from 32 percent of respondents.

Families that include veterans of wars presided over by the president were found to be just as critical of the war in Iraq as other Americans, with a full 60 percent saying the war was not worth the cost.

“Patience with the war, which has now lasted longer than the U.S. involvement in World War II, is wearing thin — particularly among families who have sent a service member to the conflict,” reports the Los Angeles Times‘ Faye Fiore. “One-quarter say American troops should stay ‘as long as it takes to win.’ Nearly seven in 10 favor a withdrawal within the coming year or ‘right away.'”

The new numbers stand in stark contrast to a poll of military families conducted by the University of Pennsylvania three years ago, in which twice as many individuals approved of the president’s performance.

The poll also finds more support for Democrats than Republicans when it comes to “treatment” of active-duty military personnel, indicating that a “plurality of military-family members, 39 percent, say they believe Democrats are likely to do a better job handling those issues, compared with 35 percent for Republicans,” according to Bloomberg news.

A military sociologist told the Los Angeles Times that flagging support for a president from servicemembers’ families in a time of war wasn’t typical. “You generally expect to see support for the president as commander in chief and for the war, but this is a different kind of war than those we’ve fought in the past, particularly for families,” he said.

One Army mother responding to the poll, whose son was wounded in Iraq, told the Times that she feared casualties in the conflict were for naught.

“I don’t see gains for the people of Iraq…and, oh, my God, so many wonderful young people, and these are the ones who felt they were really doing something, that’s why they signed up,” she said. “I pray to God that they did not die in vain, but I don’t think our president is even sensitive at all to what it’s like to have a child serving over there.”

Complete polling results are available here.

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Petraeus Says Things are Getting Better in Iraq, but are They?

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David Petraeus, Bush’s top American general in Iraq, has expressed his satisfaction on the progress made in Iraq, but said the military was still far from any victory.

“Nobody in uniform is doing victory dances in the end zone,” Petraeus told reporters. Gates said on Wednesday that the violence in Iraq had dropped to levels not seen since the bombing of a Shiite shrine in the central town of Samarra that unleashed brutal Shiite and Sunni conflict nearly two years ago. He said the reduction in violence meant the “goal of a secure, stable and democratic Iraq is within reach”.

But is it?

Petraeus, who in September announced to Congress the first possible elements of an American troop drawdown in Iraq, was more cautious on Thursday when he said, “We work hard to build up on the progress made” but “we have to be careful not to feel too successful.” He went on to add, “Certain days we certainly feel very good but there are still attacks. We have seen continued improvements,” he said, adding that there was “much hard work still to be done and issues to be addressed”.

iCausualities.org, a website dedicated to tracking Iraq casualties, puts the death toll of American troops for November 2007 at 37, down one from 38 in October. However there have been months with lower death totals. January of 2003, August of 2003, September of 2003, February of 2004, March of 2005, and March of 2006, all saw lower troop casualties. Furthermore, the data clearly shows consistent peaks and valleys in troop casualties and violence throughout the last four years. Furthermore, there has been no period of more than six months that shows a consistent downward trend, before violence increased again. As of now, we appear to be in one of the ‘valleys.’ This is to say, the data supports no conclusions regarding violence trends. Maybe this is why Petraeus isn’t counting his chickens just yet.

Just yesterday, there were a series of bombings that rocked several major cities.

Iraqi civilian deaths are pegged at 800,00 to 1,200,000 depending on what source you reference.

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The chart above displays civilian casualty numbers from this year.Although casualties from shootings and bombings is down in the ‘Green Zone’, they appear to be flat or trending up outside of Bagdad. What conclusions can we draw?

Here is some ICCC data…

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No one can say if al Qaeda has been quashed. For all we know, there may be another surtge in violence around the corner or worse. What we can conclude from the data I believe is that petraeus is painting a rosie picture for the American people and the administration. The troop surge has resulted in a reduction in casualties overall in Iraq, but this reduction is far from the knockout blow Bush is looking for. I do think that all Americans sincerely hope that the declining casualty trends continue, as I do, but I would not jump to any conclusions right now. Al Qaeda, as demonstrated in Afghanistan, is alive and well. In that country, violence and casualties are on the rise, poppy production is at an all time high, and the civilian landscape is in chaos.

Could it be that Al Qaeda has shifted fronts and is helping the Taliban, knowing we can’t effectively fight this “war  on terror” on both fronts?

It makes for interesting conversation.

Democrats Ready to Fold Once Again on War Funding…

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A quick spine check of the Democratic Party has revealed Jell-O once again…

Reprinted fron the Washington Post

By Jonathan Weisman

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 5, 2007; Page A03  

Facing increasing evidence of military progress in Iraq, some Democratic congressional leaders are eyeing a shift in legislative strategy that would abandon a link between $50 billion in additional war funding sought by President Bush to a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops. Instead, they would tie the measure to political advances by the Iraqi government.

For nearly a year, Democrats have tried unsuccessfully to use war funds to push timelines for troop withdrawals, troop-training requirements, and prescribed periods of rest for weary soldiers and Marines.

Now, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) is examining a new approach, releasing war funds in small increments, with further installments tied to specific performance measures for Iraq’s politicians. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) also is searching for a new approach and has been briefed on the idea of more explicitly tying funds to political progress.

The new thrust has divided Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill, some of whom say they will never approve additional funding for the Iraq war without troop-withdrawal timelines. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) remains skeptical, House Democratic leadership sources said, and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) has vacillated between seeking compromise with Republicans and holding firmly to troop-withdrawal language.

“We’ve been through all that,” Reid said yesterday of the new approach, suggesting the war-funding issue will wait until January. “I just think we need to figure out some way to fund a government and move on to next year.”

The new approach contains considerable political risks for Democrats. If they choose to adopt realistic measurements of political progress, they would be signaling a willingness to leave U.S. combat troops in Iraq far longer than Democratic voters want, said Michael O’Hanlon, a Democratic defense analyst at the Brookings Institution.

None of the leading contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination is likely to embrace that, said O’Hanlon, who suspended his ties to the campaign of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) after he wrote that Bush’s troop buildup was yielding positive results.

On the other hand, the year-long struggle to mandate troop withdrawals shows no sign of progress. War funding will begin running dry by mid-February, leaving Democrats with the choice of withholding money for the war, providing the money without strings attached, or finding a new approach that can win bipartisan support.

The House approved a $50 billion war spending bill last month that would have tied additional funding to a goal of removing all combat troops from Iraq by December 2008, but it fell to a Republican filibuster in the Senate. Bush had promised to veto it anyway.

A separate war funding bill approved in the spring laid out political benchmarks for the Iraqis and demanded that the Bush administration return to Congress in September with an update on progress toward them. It showed that the Iraqi government was woefully short of meeting those goals.

The new approach will get an airing today when USA Todaypublishes an opinion piece by O’Hanlon. He argues that Democrats should receive more credit for the positive changes in Iraq and lays out a fresh set of benchmarks linked to the provision of funds.

O’Hanlon shook up the Iraq debate earlier this year when he co-wrote an opinion piece hailing the progress that has resulted from Bush’s troop buildup. It also suggested that Gen. David H. Petraeus‘s counterinsurgency strategy could stabilize Iraq.

He suggests, for instance, that Congress should judge political progress by how much money the central government in Baghdadis sharing with Iraq’s provinces, and should recognize the ongoing de facto amnesty that Iraq’s government is offering political opponents with the hiring of former insurgents as police officers and soldiers.

Emanuel suggested yesterday that the Bush administration’s diplomatic outreach to Syria, its engagement in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the new intelligence estimate on Iran‘s nuclear capabilities stem in part from the changing political climate brought on by the Democratic Congress.

“Our troops at every step of the way have done an incredible job,” he told reporters. “And at every step of the way, the people that are responsible for a political strategy for Iraq have failed to deliver one. And our views on the funding is that what we need and what we’ve asked for from Day One is a set of benchmarks the Iraqis have to meet for Iraq.”

Business as usual huh? The Democrat’s position and strategy on the war in Iraq has been a disgrace. I am finished with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.  

Group Says Wearing Their ‘Peace Shirts’ on Campus Verbally Attacked by Pro-War Advocates…

 swa.jpgStudents at Cocoa Beach Jr./Sr. High are waging a war on peace by verbally attacking a group of ‘peace’ advocates.

Sophomore Skylar Stains decided to have ‘Peace Shirt Thursdays’ for her and her friend, Lauren Lorraine. They started wearing peace shirts and recruited other friends to wear them. Now, the “Peace Shirt Coalition” as they call themselves, has close to 30 students from all grades.

“We’ve worn handmade peace shirts every Thursday since the first week of school, without fail,” says Skylar Stains.

However, what started out as a light-hearted gesture soon started to be taken out of context. Students started approaching the group members and yelling obscene things at them. 

The heckling began early in the school year, according to group members. They say they were putting small posters promoting peace on friends’ lockers with their permission. They thought it was OK, because the cheerleaders and football players had signs on theirs. Eventually, though, group members say they were told by the school’s administration they could no longer hang up the posters.

“People just turned on us like that,” she said. “At least 10 boys stood up and yelled things at me at once, and we couldn’t even walk through the halls without a harsh comment being made.”

“People tore them down and drew swastikas and ‘white power’ stuff on them,” Lauren said, referring to the posters.

Skylar had similar things written on her posters.

“Someone taped an ‘I Love Bush’ sign over my ‘Wage Peace’ sign,” she said. “So I tore it down, threw it away, and the whole commons starting booing.

Someone also hung a sign that said, “I Love America, Because America Loves War.”

Lori Masterson, assistant principal at Cocoa Beach Jr./Sr. High, said all students have the opportunity to form clubs and organizations on campus, but those wishing to do so must identify a sponsor and bring their written proposal to the principal outlining what the proposed group’s purpose and goals are.

“As of this writing, to my knowledge, no one has submitted a written proposal with an identified sponsor for a peace club,” Masterson said in an e-mailed statement.

But peace group members say they have submitted a written proposal and had a written sponsor.

As you might have expected, they were turned down.

Skylar and Lauren said that despite the backlash, the T-shirts and posters originally had nothing to do with politics, but the outburst from opposing groups have turned it into a political issue.

“People just kept putting words into our mouths, like we said this or that about current politics,” Lauren said. “But we didn’t say anything.”

Soon, a second group started to wear Confederate flag shirts to oppose the peace group, Skylar said. She saw shirts with sayings such as “This is America, get used to it,” and “If peace is the answer; it must be a stupid question.”

“Now there are even ‘support our troops’ kids who don’t like us because I guess they think you can’t say peace and support the troops at the same time,” Lauren said.

Skylar later passed out yellow ribbons for her group to wear to show they support the troops as well as peace.

However, Cocoa Beach Jr./Sr. High sophomores Lydia Pace and Joseph Marianetti say the Confederate shirts they wear express support for the troops in Iraq, and nothing more. Joseph said the shirts have nothing to do with racism.

For the troops in Iraq? What?

“Someone took something that stood for peace and twisted it” in regards to the swastikas (drawn by a third group) and the Confederate flag, he said.

On John Lennon’s birthday, the group held an honorary Peace Shirt day and was confronted even more than usual, eventually causing some group members, including Cheyenne, to break down in tears.

The peace group members say their shirts continue to draw negative comments from some students, but point out that other school groups don’t receive similar treatment.

“Since peace is causing other problems, the peace kids are being punished,” Skylar said.

Do you think there’s a bunch of fat, white, old time, stuff shirt, war-hawk, racist, conservatives in Cocoa Beach, teaching their kids to be hate mongers?

I believe so.

Look at the demographics and draw your own conclusion…

The People and Families of Cocoa Beach

In Cocoa Beach, about 54% of adults are married. Lots of people in Cocoa Beach live independently, in one-person housing.

Among adults, males are better represented than women in the city. People 65 and older make up an important part of the community in Cocoa Beach.

Wealth and Education

In 2000, Cocoa Beach had a median family income of $51,795. Cocoa Beach isn’t a place with a large population of people in poverty. The city, compared to most cities like it, can boast of a large population of high-income unmarried people.

Political Inclinations

In the 2004 Presidential fund-raising sweepstakes, George W. Bush came out ahead among Cocoa Beach residents, with $8,770. Residents gave more to the Republican party than any of the others.

Cocoa Beach Housing

In Cocoa Beach, 71% of the houses and apartments are occupied by the owners, not rented out. The city sports a large amount of seasonal housing, typically for vacation or part-time use.

Commuting

In Cocoa Beach, 91% of commuters drive to work.

Stand tall against the rednecks Skylar. If you need any help on the blogs, we’re here for you. Anyone who wears a Swastika or a Confederate Flag shirt is a pinhead who endorses violence and racial hatred. They are as ignorant and foolish as our current president, who I believe also endorses these very things. 

Don’t be naive Skylar. What you are doing is political, just be sure to defend your position. The legion of ‘The Stupid’ that is the Republican party and its sorted conservative knuckleheads will not give up easily because most of these people are patently stubborn and intellectually rigid by default.

Good luck.  

Wounded Warriors Still Can’t Get Help from VA…

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Ty Ziegel once was a bright eyed young man with his whole life in front of him. His once boyish face is now burned beyond recognition by a suicide bomber’s attack in Iraq around Christmas 2004.

He lost part of his skull in the blast and part of his brain was damaged. Half of his left arm was amputated and some of the fingers were blown off his right hand.

Sounds like a no-brainer for VA benefits right?

Wrong. 

His next battle would be with the VA when he returned home as a wounded warrior. 

In an inteview with CNN he said, “Sometimes, you get lost in the system.”

“I feel like a Social Security number. I don’t feel like Tyler Ziegel.”

His story is in many that exemplifies how the VA is simply ignoring wounded vets from Iraq. Many wounded veterans return home feeling that the VA has abandoned them. 

“The VA system is not ready, and they simply don’t have time to catch up,” said Tammy Duckworth, a wounded veteran who heads up the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs. 

VA Acting Secretary Gordon Mansfield said cases like Ziegel’s are rare. The majority of veterans are moving through the process and “being taken care of.” 

But are they?

More than 28,500 troops have been wounded in Operation Iraqi Freedom, including about 8,500 that have needed air transport, according to the U.S. military. A recent Harvard study found that the cost of caring for those wounded over the course of their lifetime could ultimately cost more than $660 billion.

In Ziegel’s case, he spent nearly two years recovering at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas. Once he got out of the hospital, he was unable to hold a job. He anticipated receiving a monthly VA disability check sufficient to cover his small-town lifestyle in Washington, Illinois, but the check was much less than expected.

After many inquiries, Ziegel finally received a letter from the VA that rated his injuries: 80 percent for facial disfigurement, 60 percent for left arm amputation, a mere 10 percent for head trauma and nothing for his left lobe brain injury, right eye blindness and jaw fracture.

“I’m not expecting to live in the lap of luxury,” he added. “But I am asking them to make it comfortable to raise a family and not have to struggle.”

Miraculously, within 48 hours of telling his story to CNN this summer, the Office of then-VA Secretary Jim Nicholson acted on Ziegel’s case. The VA changed his head trauma injury, once rated at 10 percent, to traumatic brain injury rated at 100 percent, substantially increasing his monthly disability check.

My question is, why does it take bad publicity on CNN for our government to take proper care of our war veterans?

You have to wonder about the fact that maybe this country won’t remember in five years that there are war wounded that need to be helped, and that their president and the VA don’t seem to be advocates for substantial change in the benefit system for vets.

Garrett Anderson with the Illinois National Guard, for example, has been fighting the VA since October 15, 2005. Shrapnel tore through his head and body after a roadside bomb blew up the truck he was driving. He lost his right arm.

The VA initially rejected his claim, saying his severe shrapnel wounds were “not service connected.”

“Who would want to tell an Iraqi or Afghanistan soldier who was blown up by an IED that his wounds were not caused by his service over there?” said Anderson’s wife, Sam.

After pressure from Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the VA acted on Anderson’s case. He has since been awarded compensation for a traumatic brain injury.

It is an outrage that that the VA system operates in a way that it takes people of power to get proper care to vets. 

In July, President Bush and a commission appointed to review the care of veterans returning from war announced the need for a complete overhaul of the disability ratings system, which dates back to World War II. The VA is now considering action on the commission’s recommendations.

However, no real change is happening.

We feed the war machine at the drop of a hat, but we never consider that the war machine comes home and that it also needs feeding there. 

I guess Americans just continue to pursue the path of least resistance…it’s easier to destroy than it is to repair, and when the destruction is in Iraq and the things that need repair aren’t in your living room, we can conveniently ignore them.