Force Feeding - search results
Force-Feeding Videos Sought by Second GuantÃ¡namo Hunger-Striker Thought to Show ‘Gratuitous Brutality’
US Activist to Undergo “Forced-Feeding” Outside Federal Court in Solidarity with GuantÃ¡namo Prisoners
WASHINGTON - October 17 - WHEN: Friday, October 18, 11 am
WHERE: US District Court - 333 Constitution Ave NW, Wash., D.C
WHAT: Nasal Tube Feeding of Solidarity Hunger Striker
Anti-torture activists will hold a nasal-tube feeding of a long term-faster to dramatize the abusive force-feeding of hunger strikers at Guantánamo and to protest indefinite detention at the prison. The feeding will take place at 11 am, following consideration at 9:30 am by a federal appeals court of a lawsuit arguing that force-feeding at Guantánamo is a violation of human rights and religious liberties.
Andrés Thomas Conteris — on day 103 of a water-only fast — will undergo the nasal tube feeding. “Forced-feeding is torture,” says Conteris, who has lost 57 pounds. “I wish to make visible what the U.S. government is perpetrating against prisoners in Guantánamo and to remind the world that indefinite detention continues.”
Conteris, age 52, has held nasogastric feedings at the White House, in Oakland, California, and at US embassies in Uruguay and Argentina. “The nasal tube feeding feels like endless agony,” says Conteris. “It feels like I’m drowning.”
Beginning last February, more than 100 men at Guantánamo engaged in a hunger strike to protest their indefinite detention. To try to break the protest, the US military subjected dozens of the hunger strikers to nasogastric force-feeding. “The case before the appeals court goes to the heart of the evil of Guantánamo,” says Witness Against Torture organizer Jeremy Varon, “as it argues that the purpose of force-feeding is to sustain an illegal and immoral policy of indefinite detention.”
Sixteen men remain on hunger strike at Guantánamo, all force-fed. Senators Dianne Feinstein and John McCain, the American Medical Association, and the United Nations have all denounced force-feeding.
Prompted by the hunger strike at Guantánamo, President Obama on May 23, 2013 renewed his pledge to close the prison. Since that time, only two prisoners have been freed.
Witness Against Torture – witnesstorture.org
What the Obama Administration's Standard Operating Procedure for Force-Feeding Gitmo Prisoners Looks Like
The story goes like this: India is an economic miracle, a powerhouse of growth. It is a nation that increasingly embodies the spirit of entrepreneurship. And the proof? Until recently, India had year on year 9% GDP growth (or thereabouts).
“We don’t think how our farmers on whose toil we feed manage to sustain themselves; we fail to see how the millions of the poor survive. We look at the state-of-the-art airports, IITs, highways and bridges, the inevitable necessities for the corporate world to spread its tentacles everywhere and thrive, depriving the ordinary people of even the basic necessities of life and believe it is development.” – Sukumaran CV
“Agriculture has been systematically killed over the last few decades. And they are doing deliberately because the World Bank and big business have given the message that this is the only way to grow economically… Sixty percent of the population lives in the villages or in the rural areas and is involved in agriculture, and less than two percent of the annual budget goes to agriculture… When you are not investing in agriculture, you think it is economically backwards, not performing. You are not wanting it to perform. You are ensuring that the price they get today under the MSP (Minimum Support Price) has also being withdrawn. Leave it to the vagaries or the tyranny of the markets… Twenty-five crore people in this country are agricultural landless workers. If we give these people land, these people are also start-ups, these people are also entrepreneurs... But you are only giving these conditions to industry... agriculture has disappeared from the economic radar screen of the country… 70 percent of the population is being completely ignored…”
“When we talk about budgets, it’s going to be populism or reforms. What is reforms? … if you don’t give anything to industry, they call it ‘policy paralysis’. But if you give them all kinds of dole then they think it is growth, they think it is a dream budget. In the last 10 years, we had 36 lakh crore going to the corporates by way of tax exemptions. Where are the jobs? They just created 1.5 crore jobs in the last ten years. Where are the exports? ... The only sector that has performed very well in this country is agriculture. Year after year we are having a bumper harvest. Why can’t we strengthen that sector and stop the population shift from the villages… Why do you want to move the population just because Western economists told us we should follow them. Why? Why can’t India have its own thinking? Why do we have to go with Harvard or Oxford economists who tell us this?”
The National – 23 June 2014
For more than a month Israel sought to wriggle off a hook that should have snared it from the start. Two children, 17 and 16, were shot dead during Nakba Day protests near Ramallah, in which youths threw stones ineffectually at well-protected and distant Israeli military position.
Hundreds of Palestinian children have lost their lives over the years at the end of a sharpshooter’s sights, but the deaths of Nadim Nuwara and Mohammed Abu Al Tahir in Beitunia were not easily forgotten.
Israel’s usual denials – the deaths were faked, video footage was doctored, Israeli soldiers were not responsible, the youths provoked the soldiers, no live ammunition was used – have been discredited one by one. Slowly Israel conceded responsibility, if only by falling into a grudging silence.
A CCTV camera mounted on the outer wall of a carpentry shop provided the most damning evidence: it captured the moments when the two unarmed boys were each hit with a live round, in one case as the youth can be seen walking away from the protest area.
But rather than come to terms with the world as it now is, Israel wants to preserve the way it once was. It believes that through force of will it can keep the tide of accountability at bay in the occupied territories.
There has been no admission of guilt, no search for the guilty soldiers and no reassessment of its policies on crowd control or the use of live fire – let alone on the continuation of the occupation. Instead, 20 soldiers arrived last week at the store in Beitunia, threatened to burn it down, arrested the owner, Fakher Zayed, and ordered he remove the camera that caused so much embarrassment.
According to Israel, the fault lies not with a society where teenage soldiers can choose to swat a Palestinian child as casually as a fly. The problem is with a Palestinian storekeeper, who assumed he could join the modern world.
The nostalgia for a “golden era” of occupation was evident, too, last week in a policy change. Israel has rounded up hundreds of Palestinians in the hunt for three Israeli teenagers missing since June 12. Palestinian cities like Hebron have been under lockdown for days, and several Palestinians youths killed, while soldiers scour the West Bank.
But with the search proving fruitless, Israel’s attorney general approved the reintroduction of the notorious “ticking bomb” procedure.
In doing so, he turned the clock back 15 years to a time when Israel routinely used torture against prisoners. Israel may not have been alone then in using torture, but it was exceptional in flaunting its torture dungeons alongside claims to democratic conduct.
Only in 1999 did the country’s supreme court severely limit the practice, allowing interrogators one exemption – a suspect could be tortured only if he was a ticking bomb, hiding information of an attack whose immediate extraction could save lives.
Now Israel’s law chief has agreed that the Palestinian politicians, journalists and activists swept up in the latest mass arrests will be treated as “ticking bombs”. Israel’s torture cells are back in business.
Israelis have been lulled into a false sense of security by the promise of endless and simple technical solutions to the ever-mounting problems caused by the occupation.
This week, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, hoped to find another “fix” for Palestinians who refuse to remain supine in the face of their oppression.
Mr Netanyahu is racing through a law to force-feed more than 100 Palestinian prisoners who are two months’ into a hunger strike. The inmates demand that Israel end the common practice of holding prisoners for months and sometimes years without charge, in what is blandly termed “administrative detention”.
Such prisoners, ignorant of their offence, are unable to mount a defence. And as it becomes ever clearer to Palestinian society that Israel is never going to concede Palestinian statehood, things that were once barely tolerated are now seen as unendurable.
Last week, the heads of the World Medical Association urged Israel to halt the legislation, which in a double bill of compulsion will require doctors to sedate and force-feed prisoners to break their hunger strike.
The WMA called the practice “tantamount to torture”. The legislation violates not only the autonomy of the prisoners but the oaths taken by the doctors to work for their patients’ benefit.
The liberal Haaretz newspaper warned that Israel was rushing headlong towards “a new abyss in terms of human rights violations”. And all this to prevent reality pricking the Israeli conscience: that Palestinians would rather risk death than endure the constant indignities of a life under belligerent occupation.
Israelis have yet to realise the dam is soon to burst. They still believe a technical fix is the way to solve ethical dilemmas continuously thrown up by the longest occupation in modern times.
Israel’s technical solutions work to an extent. They confine Palestinians to ever smaller spaces: the prison of Gaza, the city under lockdown, the torture cell, or the doctor’s surgery where a feeding tube can be inserted.
But the craving for self-determination and dignity are more than technical problems. You cannot force-feed a people to still their hunger for freedom.
Belligerent occupations – especially ones where no hope or end is in sight – engender evermore creative and costly forms of resistance, as the hunger strike demonstrates. A physical act of resistance can be temporarily foiled. But the spirit behind it cannot be so easily subdued.
This week, a bipartisan group of senators and the president unveiled their respective plans for much needed and long overdue immigration reform. For the 11 million or so undocumented immigrants who have settled in this country, the path to citizenship being paved for them looks like it will be more tough than fair.An Economic Policy Institute report found that increasing farm workers' wages by 40% would increase US households' food bills by just $16 a year. (Photograph: David Levene)
While we don't yet know how this will all play out, at least there will be a path. For one group of immigrants, however – the farm workers who sustain our food supply – there is reason to fear that what awaits them is not a path to citizenship, but their cemented status as indentured servants.
Most farm work in America is performed by immigrants, most of whom are undocumented and therefore exploitable. The big agribusinesses that hire these immigrants will tell you that they need an unfettered supply of cheap foreign labor, because they cannot find Americans willing to do these jobs.
When you consider what these jobs entail – hours of backbreaking work in terrible and often dangerous conditions, subsistence wages with little or no time off, and none of the protections or perks that most of us enjoy (like paid sick days, for instance) – it's hard to see why anyone with other options would subject themselves to a life that is barely a step above slavery.
In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill into law which introduced some protections for these imported serfs, under what has become known as the guest-worker program. These protections include a minimum wage guarantee, housing that meets an acceptable standard for the duration of the contract, and a guarantee that the worker be paid three-quarters of their full pay should should a season end early.
Most employers would be delighted to get away with all this: being able to hire low-wage workers at will, without the hassle of paying disability insurance or other niceties. But agribusinesses find the guest-worker program's pitiful protections such a burden that they have mounted a relentless campaign to undermine them, and for the most part, work around them anyway; they hire undocumented workers instead.
According to a report compiled by Eric Ruark (pdf), the director of research at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (Fair), as of 2006, only 27% of workers hired by agribusinesses are American citizens, 21% are green card holders, around 1% are part of the guest worker program … and a whopping 51% are unauthorized immigrants.
It's agriculture's worst kept secret that farm owners routinely break the law by hiring undocumented workers, but the crime receives tacit approval from lawmakers sympathetic to the plight of major agribusinesses, which seem to consider cheap labor their right. In South Carolina, for instance, lawmakers passed their version of Arizona's draconian bill, and have mandated that employers use an e-verify system to check the immigration status of employees. Farm workers, however, were exempted from verification.
The agribusiness sector has gotten away with exploitative and illegal practices because of ridiculous threats, like the suggestion that should the supply of cheap labor dry up in the US, they will outsource our food production to China. This idle threat is based on the absurd notion that if they have to pay workers higher wages, somehow there will be fewer people willing to do the jobs. The other scare tactic is spreading talk that if they have to increase their expenditure on labor, those costs will have to be passed on to the American consumer.
Several studies have been conducted, however, that expose these hollow threats for the nonsense that they are. A report by the Congressional Research Service (pdf) found no evidence of a labor shortage in the agricultural sector. On the contrary, it found that between 1994 and 2008, the unemployment rate for farm workers was consistently higher than for all other occupations. In other words, agriculture has had a surplus of available workers for decades.
During this period, the agricultural industry has recorded a nearly 80% average annual increase in profits – more than all other major industries. No doubt, these record profits have something to do with the fact that real wages for farm workers have remained stagnant throughout this time. Finally, a 2011 report by the Economic Policy Institute found that an increase in farm workers' wages of 40% would result in an annual rise in household spending by the American consumer of just $16.
Clearly, the economic argument for allowing one industry a workforce of virtually indentured labor does not hold water. But there is a humanitarian argument to be made, as well, that should be enough to put an end to this exploitative practice immediately. In 2009, the New York Times' Bob Herbert wrote an article about the horrible treatment of farm workers in upstate New York – in this case, hired to feed and care for ducks farmed to be slaughtered for foie gras.
"The routine is brutal and not very sanitary. Each feeding takes about four hours and once the birds are assigned a feeder, no one else can be substituted during the 22 day force feeding period that leads up to the slaughter … Not only do the feeders get no days off during that long stretch, and no overtime for any of the long hours, but they get very little time even to sleep each day. The feeding schedule for the ducks must be rigidly observed.
"When I asked one of the owners, Izzy Yanay, about the lack of a day of rest, he said of the workers: 'This notion that they need to rest is completely futile. They don't like to rest. They want to work seven days.'"
Herbert went on to make the point that we are much more likely to hear complaints about cruelty to ducks by force-feeding than we are about the cruelty to the people hired to feed them. Consumers have long since showed a willingness to pay more for organic meat or chicken because they don't like the idea of animal cruelty.
Are we really not willing to pay a few cents more for farm produce so that human beings are not treated like animals?
It remains to be seen what the bipartisan "gang of eight" senators have in mind specifically for farm workers in any future immigration bill. But one can only hope that they will not give in to bullying by the spoiled agricultural industry, which continues to deny these workers the same rights and protections every other worker in America enjoys.
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“Biotech companies and proponents of conventional, industrial agriculture have touted genetically engineered crops as the key to feeding a more populous, wealthier world, but recent studies show that this promise has fallen flat.”
“Biotech companies and their customers in chemical agriculture have been attempting to sell the benefits of GMOs for two decades. Between exaggerated claims about feeding the world and a dramatic escalation in the use of toxic pesticides, it is no wonder consumers are increasingly skeptical.”
“Seed companies’ investment in improving the yields of GMOs in already high-yielding areas does little to improve food security; it mainly helps line the pockets of seed and chemical companies and producers of corn ethanol. The world’s resources would be better spent focusing on strategies to actually increase food supplies and access to basic resources for the poor small farmers who need it most.”
So much for open discourse based on sound science and reasoned argument.
(all links are in italics)
“It’s scandalous that UK aid money is being used to carve up Africa in the interests of big business. This is the exact opposite of what is needed, which is support to small-scale farmers and fairer distribution of land and resources to give African countries more control over their food systems. Africa can produce enough food to feed its people. The problem is that our food system is geared to the luxury tastes of the richest, not the needs of ordinary people. Here the British government is using aid money to make the problem even worse.”
“This is an extension of what the Gates Foundation has been doing for several years – working with the US government and agribusiness giants like Monsanto to corporatize Africa’s genetic riches for the benefit of outsiders. Don’t Bill and Melinda realize that such colonialism is no longer in fashion? It’s time to support African farmers’ self-determination.”
According to Mathew Holehouse in the UK’s Telegraph newspaper (here), former UK Environment Minister Owen Paterson will this week accuse the European Union and Greenpeace of condemning people in the developing world to death by refusing to accept genetically modified crops. Speaking in Pretoria, South Africa, on Tuesday, Paterson will warn that a food revolution that could save Africa from hunger is being held back and that the world is on the cusp of a green revolution, of the kind that fed a billion people in the 1960s and 1970s as the world’s population soared.
"This is also a time, however, of great mischief, in which many individuals and even governments are turning their backs on progress. Not since the original Luddites smashed cotton mill machinery in early 19th century England, have we seen such an organised, fanatical antagonism to progress and science. These enemies of the Green Revolution call themselves ‘progressive’, but their agenda could hardly be more backward-looking and regressive… their policies would condemn billions to hunger, poverty and underdevelopment. And their insistence on mandating primitive, inefficient farming techniques would decimate the earth’s remaining wild spaces, devastate species and biodiversity, and leave our natural ecology poorer as a result.”
“We don’t have a goal of developing GM products here or to import them. We can feed ourselves with normal, common, not genetically modified products. If the Americans like to eat such products, let them eat them. We don’t need to do that; we have enough space and opportunities to produce organic food.” (see here)
“We strongly object that the image of the poor and hungry from our countries is being used by giant multinational corporations to push a technology that is neither safe, environmentally friendly nor economically beneficial to us. We do not believe that such companies or gene technologies will help our farmers to produce the food that is needed in the 21st century. On the contrary, we think it will destroy the diversity, the local knowledge and the sustainable agricultural systems that our farmers have developed for millennia, and that it will thus undermine our capacity to feed ourselves.”
“… the statements that they [supporters of GMOs] use such as “thousands die of hunger daily in India” are irresponsible and baseless scare-mongering with a view to projecting GM as the only answer. When our people go hungry, or suffer from malnutrition, it is not for lack of food, it is because their right to safe and nutritious food that is culturally connected has been blocked. That is why it is not a technological fix problem and GM has no place in it.”
“The problem is that the poor have no money to buy food and increasingly, no access to land on which to grow it… GM is a dangerous distraction from real solutions and claims that GM can help feed the world can be viewed as exploitation of the suffering of the hungry. GM crops do not increase yield. Nor are there any GM crops that are better than non-GM crops at tolerating poor soils or challenging climate conditions. Thus it is difficult to see how GM can contribute to solving world hunger… The two major GM crops, soy and maize, mostly go into animal feed for intensive livestock operations, biofuels to power cars, and processed human food – products for wealthy nations that have nothing to do with meeting the basic food needs of the poor and hungry.”
"In the morning, you make porridge from maize and send the kids to school. For lunch, boiled maize and a few green beans. In the evening, ugali, [a staple dough-like maize dish, served with meat]… [today] it’s a monoculture diet, being driven by the food system – it’s an injustice.” (see here and here for the sources that quote Maingi and other commentators mentioned below).
“It’s a system designed to benefit agribusinesses and not small-scale farmers.”
“What the World Bank has done, the International Monetary fund, what AGRA and Bill Gates are doing, it’s actually pretty wrong. The farmer himself should not be starving”.
“… take capitalism and business out of farming in Africa. The West should invest in indigenous knowledge and agro-ecology, education and infrastructure and stand in solidarity with the food sovereignty movement.” Daniel Maingi, Growth Partners for Africa.
“The “economic therapy” imposed under IMF-World Bank jurisdiction is in large part responsible for triggering famine and social devastation in Ethiopia and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, wreaking the peasant economy and impoverishing millions of people. With the complicity of branches of the US government, it has also opened the door for the appropriation of traditional seeds and landraces by US biotech corporations, which behind the scenes have been peddling the adoption of their own genetically modified seeds under the disguise of emergency aid and famine relief. Moreover, under WTO rules, the agri-biotech conglomerates can manipulate market forces to their advantage as well as exact royalties from farmers. The WTO provides legitimacy to the food giants to dismantle State programmes including emergency grain stocks, seed banks, extension services and agricultural credit, etc.), plunder peasant economies and trigger the outbreak of periodic famines.” See the full article (‘Sowing the Seeds of Famine in Ethiopia’) from which this extract is taken here.
For years, homeowners have been battling Wall Street in an attempt to recover some portion of their massive losses from the housing Ponzi scheme. But progress has been slow, as they have been outgunned and out-spent by the banking titans.
In June, however, the banks may have met their match, as some equally powerful titans strode onto the stage. Investors led by BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, and PIMCO, the world’s largest bond-fund manager, have sued some of the world’s largest banks for breach of fiduciary duty as trustees of their investment funds. The investors are seeking damages for losses surpassing $250 billion. That is the equivalent of one million homeowners with $250,000 in damages suing at one time.
The defendants are the so-called trust banks that oversee payments and enforce terms on more than $2 trillion in residential mortgage securities. They include units of Deutsche Bank AG, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, HSBC Holdings PLC, and Bank of New York Mellon Corp. Six nearly identical complaints charge the trust banks with breach of their duty to force lenders and sponsors of the mortgage-backed securities to repurchase defective loans.
Why the investors are only now suing is complicated, but it involves a recent court decision on the statute of limitations. Why the trust banks failed to sue the lenders evidently involves the cozy relationship between lenders and trustees. The trustees also securitized loans in pools where they were not trustees. If they had started filing suit demanding repurchases, they might wind up suedon other deals in retaliation. Better to ignore the repurchase provisions of the pooling and servicing agreements and let the investors take the losses—better, at least, until they sued.
Beyond the legal issues are the implications for the solvency of the banking system itself. Can even the largest banks withstand a $250 billion iceberg? The sum is more than 40 times the $6 billion “London Whale” that shook JPMorganChase to its foundations.
Who Will Pay – the Banks or the Depositors?
The world’s largest banks are considered “too big to fail” for a reason. The fractional reserve banking scheme is a form of shell game, which depends on “liquidity” borrowed at very low interest from other banks or the money market. When Lehman Brothers went bankrupt in 2008, triggering a run on the money market, the whole interconnected shadow banking system nearly went down with it.
Congress then came to the rescue with a taxpayer bailout, and the Federal Reserve followed with its quantitative easing fire hose. But in 2010, the Dodd Frank Act said there would be no more government bailouts. Instead, the banks were to save themselves with “bail ins,” meaning they were to recapitalize themselves by confiscating a portion of the funds of their creditors – including not only their shareholders and bondholders but the largest class of creditor of any bank, their depositors.
Theoretically, deposits under $250,000 are protected by FDIC deposit insurance. But the FDIC fund contains only about $47 billion – a mere 20% of the Black Rock/PIMCO damage claims. Before 2010, the FDIC could borrow from the Treasury if it ran short of money. But since the Dodd Frank Act eliminates government bailouts, the availability of Treasury funds for that purpose is now in doubt.
When depositors open their online accounts and see that their balances have shrunk or disappeared, a run on the banks is likely. And since banks rely on each other for liquidity, the banking system as we know it could collapse. The result could be drastic deleveraging, erasing trillions of dollars in national wealth.
Some pundits say the global economy would then come crashing down. But in a thought-provoking March 2014 article called “American Delusionalism, or Why History Matters,” John Michael Greer disagrees. He notes that historically, governments have responded by modifying their financial systems:
Massive credit collapses that erase very large sums of notional wealth and impact the global economy are hardly a new phenomenon . . . but one thing that has never happened as a result of any of them is the sort of self-feeding, irrevocable plunge into the abyss that current fast-crash theories require.
The reason for this is that credit is merely one way by which a society manages the distribution of goods and services. . . . A credit collapse . . . doesn’t make the energy, raw materials, and labor vanish into some fiscal equivalent of a black hole; they’re all still there, in whatever quantities they were before the credit collapse, and all that’s needed is some new way to allocate them to the production of goods and services.
This, in turn, governments promptly provide. In 1933, for example, faced with the most severe credit collapse in American history, Franklin Roosevelt temporarily nationalized the entire US banking system, seized nearly all the privately held gold in the country, unilaterally changed the national debt from “payable in gold” to “payable in Federal Reserve notes” (which amounted to a technical default), and launched a series of other emergency measures. The credit collapse came to a screeching halt, famously, in less than a hundred days. Other nations facing the same crisis took equally drastic measures, with similar results. . . .
Faced with a severe crisis, governments can slap on wage and price controls, freeze currency exchanges, impose rationing, raise trade barriers, default on their debts, nationalize whole industries, issue new currencies, allocate goods and services by fiat, and impose martial law to make sure the new economic rules are followed to the letter, if necessary, at gunpoint. Again, these aren’t theoretical possibilities; every one of them has actually been used by more than one government faced by a major economic crisis in the last century and a half.
That historical review is grounds for optimism, but confiscation of assets and enforcement at gunpoint are still not the most desirable outcomes. Better would be to have an alternative system in place and ready to implement before the boom drops.
The Better Mousetrap
North Dakota has established an effective alternative model that other states might do well to emulate. In 1919, the state legislature pulled its funds out of Wall Street banks and put them into the state’s own publicly-owned bank, establishing financial sovereignty for the state. The Bank of North Dakota has not only protected the state’s financial interests but has been a moneymaker for it ever since.
On a national level, when the Wall Street credit system fails, the government can turn to the innovative model devised by our colonial forebears and start issuing its own currency and credit—a power now usurped by private banks but written into the US Constitution as belonging to Congress.
The chief problem with the paper scrip of the colonial governments was the tendency to print and spend too much. The Pennsylvania colonists corrected that systemic flaw by establishing a publicly-owned bank, which lent money to farmers and tradespeople at interest. To get the funds into circulation to cover the interest, some extra scrip was printed and spent on government services. The money supply thus expanded and contracted naturally, not at the whim of government officials but in response to seasonal demands for credit. The interest returned to public coffers, to be spent on the common weal.
The result was a system of money and credit that was sustainable without taxes, price inflation or government debt – not to mention without credit default swaps, interest rate swaps, central bank manipulation, slicing and dicing of mortgages, rehypothecation in the repo market, and the assorted other fraudulent schemes underpinning our “systemically risky” banking system today.
Relief for Homeowners?
Will the BlackRock/PIMCO suit help homeowners? Not directly. But it will get some big guns on the scene, with the ability to do all sorts of discovery, and the staff to deal with the results.
Fraud is grounds for rescission, restitution and punitive damages. The homeowners may not have been parties to the pooling and servicing agreements governing the investor trusts, but if the whole business model is proven to be fraudulent, they could still make a case for damages.
In the end, however, it may be the titans themselves who take each other down, clearing the way for a new phoenix to rise from the ashes.
Ellen Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books including the best-selling Web of Debt. In The Public Bank Solution, her latest book, she explores successful public banking models historically and globally. Her websites are http://EllenBrown.com, http://PublicBankSolution.com, and http://PublicBankingInstitute.org.
- painful extended period shackling;
- exposure to extreme heat and cold;
- abusive treatment while naked, hooded or blindfolded;
- waterboarding numerous times;
- isolation in tiny cells;
- other times in overcrowded ones forcing detainees to sleep in shifts;
- permanent trauma-creating torture and ill-treatment;
- severe beatings;
- continuous blaring noises or music;
- 24-hour bright light or total darkness;
- extended sleep deprivation periods;
- painful stress positions for long periods;
- being sodomized;
- denied food, too little, or inedible kinds;
- painful force-feeding for hunger strikers;
- prisoners experiencing it call it torture;
- denied medical care;
- forced confessions for crimes not committed;
- hung from steel bars in cells or metal hooks in interrogation rooms for extended periods;
- kept in tubs of ice water creating hypothermia;
- threatened with or attacked by dogs;
- electro-shocking; and
- other physical and psychological cruel, abusive and degrading treatment.
Human rights activists and dozens of organizations have pledged to launch a global day of protest in dozens of cities around the world to highlight the inaction of the Obama administration since the president delivered his last major speech on the issue on May 23, 2013. Despite the president’s apparent moral reservations over the on-going torture, force-feeding, and indefinite detention of prisoners in the facility, only 12 men have been released from custody in the last twelve months.
The facility in Guantánamo opened its doors in 2002 under the Bush administration, and was built on a 45-square-mile slice of Cuba that was leased to the United States over a century ago. The facility had an estimated 779 detainees at its peak, and most have been released without charges, while 154 remain in custody, nearly all of whom have never been charged with a crime or given due process.
In 2010, the administration assembled a task force charged with reviewing the cases of Guantánamo detainees. Although the Periodic Review Board assembled by the US government has cleared 77 inmates for release, they all remain in custody. 56 of the men are from Yemen, and the administration is unwilling to release them on the basis of their nationality over fears that the security situation in Yemen remains too unstable.
Some 40 detainees have bravely continued their hunger strike to protest their illegal detention, despite the punishment and excoriating pain of force-feeding, which is condemned by international medical associations and advocacy groups. Independent assessments from NGOs and legal experts tend to be unanimous in their belief the evidence used to implicate Guantánamo detainees is extraordinarily thin, and that the vast majority of those in custody are not extremists.
If the economy really is "getting better", then why are nearly 50 million Americans dealing with food insecurity? In 1854, Henry David Thoreau observed that "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation". The same could be said of our time. In America today, most people are quietly scratching and clawing their way from [...]
According to a stunning new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nearly a third of all food produced in the United States gets wasted. We are probably the most wasteful society in the history of the planet, and we are also one of the most gluttonous. More than 35 percent of all Americans are [...]
Why is the Fed tapering? Paul Craig Roberts and Dave Kranzler On January 17, 2014, we explained “The Hows and Whys of Gold Price Manipulation.” http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2014/01/17/hows-whys-gold-price-manipulation/ In former times, the rise in the gold price was held down by central…
"Sending up the count" is something that's done when troops are out somewhere dark and dangerous, and the leader, normally up in front, wants to make sure everyone's still there. The leader whispers, "send up the count" to the next person, who whispers it to the next person, who whispers it to the next person and so on until it gets to the last person in line. That person starts the whispering back forward again, only this time, they start off by tapping the shoulder of the person in front of them saying "one". The next person taps the shoulder of the person in front of them and says "two". This continues until the person behind the leader in front taps the leader's shoulder with the number of people behind the first person in line.
We do this especially at night, when we can't see to the end of the line, or even see the next person. We do this to make sure all is well. We do this to make sure everyone knows that whoever's supposed to be there, front and back, is there. We do this to make sure those on the team are still with the team. And if someone is missing, we find them and bring them back into the group. [Emphasis mine]
In the last month, four Canadian Combat Veterans - who having survived deployment - have died at home, within days of each other. Now add one more, as in the last few days, another young Canadian Soldier ended his own life. Although each death is being investigated, (as are the other 70+ still being investigated) initial reports are calling these deaths suicide. I read somewhere the other day that since the current phase of this ongoing Global War On Terror, Canada has lost more than one hundred Veterans to suicide. Quite apart from the huge gaping holes left within those families, those communities, that number is beyond staggering when you consider that thus far in Afghanistan, 158 Canadian losses have occurred in the sandbox due to enemy action. In the US, various statistics claim that we lose 22 Veterans a day to suicide now outpacing Combat fatalities.
Those are just the ones we hear about. These numbers, which represent a horrific new 'normal' for their families after such a devastating loss, tell me that we are failing our Military men and women.
Veterans Day (US) and Remembrance Day(Commonwealth countries) may be over for another year, but we cannot just return to 'business as usual'. WE - yes, all of us - bear responsibility: our Military leadership; our politicians; our mainstream media, and yes, we civilians are failing our Military.
From where I sit, a very basic question arises: How can we fix this?
Dated 2009, I found this from the US:
September 23, 2009
The Sergeant and suicide prevention
The theme for this year’s “Suicide Prevention Awareness Month” is “Improving our Soldiers and Families Health: A Healthy Force Combating High Risk Behaviors.” At the conclusion of this article, there are many resources/links.
I was saddened (but not surprised) to learn of the difficulties and problems some of the soldiers experience while deployed. I can cite many articles about the deployment cycle and its’ affect on the military, it is worth mentioning however that difficulties such as depression, suicide, aggression (some of the symptoms of PTSD) aren’t necessarily exclusive to the ‘multi-deployed’, often, it can be ‘first time’ deployers. In fact, the military is studying the ‘mind set’ of the multi-deployed v. first or second timers to examine the element that helps them cope with extreme psychological pressures and extreme battle fatigue (both mental and physical).
My son is on his fourth deployment, a platoon sergeant (SFC) with approximately 70% ‘first time’ deployers. He is extremely proactive, carefully observing, listening and taking care of his men or any others who seek or need help. The NCO is almost always the first line of defense for troops who are experiencing hardships. I know my son has moved the earth and stars to intervene on the behalf of a trooper in trouble. He is also the same one who will allow the Private on duty with him to catch some ‘sleep’ during 24 hour CQ (Desk/phone duty in the company headquarters/on base) instead of the other way around because he remembers what it was like to be the ‘sleep-less’ private.
He asks much from his men but makes sure he gives them the training, tools and personal time they need to achieve the unit’s mission objectives and succeed as individuals.
While in the process of completing this article, I read an excellent article “Going Beyond the Book Answer: How to Be a Better Leader, written by Specialist Ben Hutto. In the article, Spc Hutto writes:
“Army leadership, as I learned it for my promotion board, is the ability to influence others by providing purpose, direction and motivation in order to accomplish the mission and improve the organization.” [Emphasis mine]
He talks about ‘leadership by the book’, and states how “the best NCOs are able to communicate the “purpose” behind a command or task no matter how mundane or difficult. ...
There is much more here, with an extensive list of Military resources available. What strikes me as I read this, and as I listen to our men and women today, is that even with all these programmes in place, something is missing, and to this civilian the missing ingredient is leadership. In the last few weeks I have seen videos from both the US Military and Canadian Military leadership as a response to the ongoing - and most recent - crisis within the Military community. Take a look here and here.
All well and good, but as the article linked above clearly shows, part of the solution to current issues is about leadership that is connected to our Troops.
I asked a Military Veteran (Platoon Sargeant in the Army) friend where we should begin. The truth he gave me is universal and, even to this civilian, makes sense:
The only thing that is going to fix this is good leadership. F******' know your troops.Know when they're out of character and figure out why....[...] If a soldier has any doubt that they can tell their leader anything they need to, that leader is wrong.. [...]
If you're going to be in charge, BE in charge. It's like I've said MANY many times: the way to "fix" this is good old fashioned leadership, but the Army doesn't allow time for that anymore.
It means returning to the old climate, where leaders led, and trained rather than sat in a bunch of CYA, meaningless politically correct powerpoints. Those briefings are knee jerk reactions to the need "to do something," by those that have no clue what really can be done.
And that real leadership I've preached so often goes against the political correctness and professional managers the out of touch generals are pushing, so they are even further out of touch with any real means of doing something.
[Yes, real leadership is teaching] ...knowing when to break s***, and when to turn it off and protect your kids.
This simple concept of leadership is not new, and to this day, real leaders understand what their role is. Just this last weekend, I found another article about leadership. While this compelling article is addressing corporate leadership, it IS written by a Veteran, and it is directly related to leadership within our Military. Every aspect echoes what the Veteran above has told me, and adds weight to how crucial leadership is to our men and women within our Military:
Care, and make sure — without being too obvious or hackneyed — that your people know you care. Fight for them, even occasionally when you know you will lose … it engenders loyalty, and sometimes you need that to hold them together when the “big” reasons for all they’re giving just aren’t enough.No one will follow you until they know you care. You have to be demonstrative enough that they know you’re invested — not just in the shared mission you’re pursuing together — but in their fate and future. Know their stories. Know the texture of their lives. Know what makes them tick....
Go read Reflections on Leadership here.
We are losing our men and women who know what leadership really is, and who are committed to the values of leadership. I came across another column, also written by a Veteran, which painfully demonstrates the disconnect that so obviously exists between our Military community and the rest of society.
Sunday, December 15, 2013
We are the expendable and the forgotten. I want to be your voice, but I wish I was able to be someone elses voice. I loved him like a brother. Deployed with him. Slept five feet from him. Taught him to surf. Laughed my ass off when he came down to the beach from the parking lot with Scottish, both with their wetsuits on backwards, looking like they lovingly got each other dressed without their grranimals for the first time. What could have been saved with the ringing of a phone and a hello instead ended with a gunshot in Warner-Robbins without the chance to say goodbye.
When we leave the life we know and try and build something new for ourselves, we miss the brotherhood, the way that your life depends on the man or woman to your left or right. We miss the hugs that the family we were thrown into and grew to love are now replaced by empty memories of better times and the jokes that only made sense to the people who were closer than family could only get away with telling....
One veteran dies by their own hands every 65 minutes. That is 22 a day. One active duty Soldier kills themselves every 25 hours. I do this for them. I do this for you....
For the enormity of the pain of the loss, that most of us will never understand, go read the rest of this one.
Epic failure by all of us. Again: How can we fix this?
Yes, I do mean all of us, since we as civilians must speak out, stop enabling the failure of our politicians and the Military Chain of Command to adequately support our Military.
Let's start with the politicians. To anybody who is half wake, even the casual observers, it is no surprise, not news, that our current batch of politicians are failing to fulfill their duty - as OUR elected representatives - as they daily fail to meet the sacred obligation we all have to our Military community: our Active Duty; our Veterans; our Military families.
As the most recent headlines have shone a spotlight on the Canadian losses, our politicians have rushed to the media to express their concern about what they are calling 'troubling losses'.
Read this, an article that pulls no punches about politician's hypocrisy.
As politicians loudly proclaim that they are 'bringing the Troops home' and that 'Combat is over' (nary a whisper of the word 'Victory,' have you noticed?) our Troops and our Veterans are used as pawns in political gamesmanship. It is our Veterans and their families who are bearing the brunt of budget cuts, in all our countries. Yes, the various Defence Departments may have publicised transitional programs as a measure of how they support the Troops, which is better than nothing, I suppose, since according to a survey released in September, Canadian employers - for example - 'have little interest in hiring Veterans.'. Meanwhile, the Canadian government is proposing to close Veterans Affairs Offices across the country.
From CBC, comes this from November 29, of an interview with retired Colonel, and former Veterans' Ombudsman, Pat Strogan. Hard to miss his message of our failure to our Veterans:
As Stogran says "this is not news" to those of us paying attention over the years. Neither is it news that politicians persist in pointing to the millions of dollars that have been designated to supporting our Troops and Veterans.
The fact is, politicians can puff out their self-righteous chests and claim how much they do for our Troops and Veterans, how much money they profess to be throwing at support, but obviously whatever they, and the Military, are doing is not working. Period. Don't take my word for it. Watch the video above, and read what one of the most recent grieving families has to say about the Military "dropping the ball."
"Dropping the ball" by both politicians and Military is not unique to Canada. I read recently that in the UK (for example) Falkland Island Veteran suicides now outnumber those we lost in Combat, and then I read that within the current Troops/Veterans that more British soldiers commit suicide than die in battle.
From the US, headlines like this, this, this and this bear witness to the price that our Veterans are expected to continue to pay once they return from Combat.
Canada's Duty to its veterans is to act, not just talk.
It is my belief that it is the sacred duty of each of our countries to honour the Service by our Troops.
The FACTS clearly demonstrate the Canadian government is failing our current Troops and Veterans, and our Military families.
Yes, it is true that there ARE official resources available in Canada, such as Canadian Forces Members Assistance Programme, found within the official site of Veterans Affairs Canada, and they also have a page that lists the Guide to Benefits, Programs, and Services for CAF Members and their Families
They also list a 24 Hour Crisis Line Help Line
Despite all these services, clearly, the crisis is going unanswered for some seeking help.. What about the families? Regular readers here know well that I also always acknowledge that the family also serves. As one Military Wife told me recently: As a Military family, there is no personal life; there is only the Military life. For those families, there is the Family Information Line - which supports the 'Military Families: The Strength Behind the Uniform'. All terrific, of course, and the absolute minimum we should be doing. But the numbers of suicide (both those we know of, and those we do not) tell me that these programmes are not helping everybody, and that many, many - who we may only hear about when disaster strikes - are falling through the bureaucratic cracks.
Over the years I have heard - first-hand - from deployed Troops, and now Veterans, of how they feel our Military leadership, and their political bosses, are failing them.
You may remember back in 2010 I shared an open letter here written by a Military Wife who chose to be called "Anonymous". She wrote, in part:
To the American Public From a Military Spouse An Open Letter (to anyone who can help) Written by: A Military Spouse December 14, 2009
This is a open letter to the Commander in Chief, First Lady Michelle Obama, the leaders of our Armed Forces, and the American Public. If it moves you, contact your elected officials.
News stations count the casualties of the War on Terrorism; by using body counts. Those numbers represent the service members who have not come home breathing to their family members. What about those that came home breathing, but dead inside? Those who suffer daily from some form, or extreme of Depression, PTSD, TBI, or any other of a half dozen syndromes? What about the families left behind whose soldiers are not getting the medical and mental health treatment the government has promised?
Our leaders stand in front of the American public and talk about how much the war is costing, and how much help is available to our returning soldiers and their families. We throw billions upon billions of dollars to artificially hold up the banking system and the value of our dollar. Yet, we sit by and do nothing while our American families fall apart.
I am the spouse of an Active Duty Soldier;
I have held up my end of the bargain; the Military and American Government has not. I was on the front lines during the initial invasion. My husband’s military unit deployed on the day the war started in March of 2003...
I have watched as the man I married has died inside. I have waited for him to work through his demons. ...I have asked for help from the military; I have sought help in the laws written to protect my family. I have received none....
There is much more from this "anonymous" Military spouse here.
I wish I could tell you that "Anonymous" from 2010 was just an anomoly, but I know she is not.
Over the past decade or so since I started writing on Military matters, I have come to know and love more than a few of the Military and Veteran Families from this current Global War On Terror. These families are some of the most amazing people it is my privilege to know, and yes, they do share their thoughts with me. It is through them that I see and hear what life is really like for these "Girls Behind the Men Behind the Guns." That poem, written about the women in a long ago war, reminds us that the issues faced by women then and now, and their families, are timeless and universal. (Yes, I did write a column on that very topic long ago, but I can't find it now.)
FACT is that today Military Wives (of both Active Duty and Veterans) do sometimes fall through the bureaucratic cracks, and as they fall not yards of red tape, nor government-sanctioned organisations, can provide a lifeline. From one long-time reader I recently got this (and yes, I DO have her permission to share) :
[...] Behind every soldier/veteran who suffers in silence with "invisible" wounds called PTSD there is a family and loved ones who suffers in silence as well. We have all read and heard about men who were soldiers who took their own lives in the last two weeks. We are angry, upset, and want to find a way to help stop even one more soldier or veteran from taking their lives again. As we try to find away to help soldiers/veterans we also need to keep in mind their families and loved ones.
It is near impossible to do if you are a wife of a soldier who is still serving...the unwritten rule is wives are seen but are not to speak. We too suffer in silence literally and there is not much help out there for us or loved ones of soldiers dealing with PTSD....
I'm very glad there are many programs for soldiers who suffer from OSI/PTSD but there needs to be something for the families of soldiers. We have issues/concerns/problems at 3 am that keep us awake and there is no one we can talk to. OSI/PTSD doesn't only come up during business hours and civilian crisis lines are not equipped to understand nor offer much help/advice. I am not the only military wife who also suffers in silence nor is our family the only one who suffer in silence! We need support as well. There needs to be help for wives/families of soldiers still serving and for families whose soldiers are no longer serving. How many suicides will it take for someone to start helping us!...
Wives can only seek out so much help. They have to be careful not to draw attention to their husband's PTSD for fear the military will catch on and put their husband's military career at risk. To this day being an active soldier seeking treatment for PTSD you run a very high chance of ending your military career even if your PTSD is considered mild. Your personal life is not personal when you are a Military family.
The soldier can lose his job for doing what his employer, the government, is asking him to do: seek help for his PTSD.
FACT: although this Wife is anonymous, I have heard over the years of more than a few Troops afraid of seeking help because it is a "career killer." I may not be directly connected to our Military in this current GWOT (although I do come from a family with centuries of Military service, and have been directly affected by the generational ripples of suicide.) I have heard many times over these last few years of how reaching out to access help has resulted in an extremely negative career impact. There is a stigma that kicks a Soldier (or his family) who reaches out for help from the official Military programmes.
Given the escalating number of suicides, I asked another Military Wife - a long time friend - for her thoughts on what needs to be done to fix our struggling Military families. From her I got this (again shared with permission):
A veteran should get every stinking possible piece of assistance to make sure they are at peace with the wars they have had to endure.
There is a way to do 24/7 help. At no cost to the veteran. I did it, and it ended up becoming the Vet Hut Resource Centers locally here. Just gather up some volunteer-friends, and make a phone tree. Take the phone tree to the local VA-type deal you have, and let them know your group is willing to be a 24/7 crisis call group to aide veterans who suffer from PTSD and suicidal problems.
Then leave it with your version of the VFW and the American Legion (or whatever your local equivalent is) and so forth, until all groups of veteran support centers have the phone tree. Then be prepared for the phone to never ever ever stop ringing.
IT WORKS THOUGH! Then, when the calls are too many, you take ALL that statistical information you have gathered about the number of calls, durations, and crisis problems without mentioning names etc, and go to your local veteran support centers and show them IN THEIR FACE how vital a small office of round-the-clock crisis call support is for the suffering veterans. Not just ideas. Empirical theoretical studies that proved successful. It does work. The only problem is finding volunteers to actually answer the phone constantly.
This workable plan echoes what the first Military Wife quoted above calls for.
Pretty basic, huh, and doesn't require a gazillion dollars. I have seen this ingenuity, and this front-line commitment to 'knowing your Troops, looking out for them' extend into the Veteran community, and their families. too. Just as in a Combat zone it is a matter of life and death to know that you can count on the battle buddy to your left and your right to 'cover your six,' so I see Veterans and families applying that after deployment. Veterans - sick and tired of waiting for governments' broken promises/contracts to be honoured - have created support groups specifically designed and run by Veterans - for Veterans.
In Canada, for example, there are Veteran groups that reach out in the way only a fellow Veteran can, as they continue their battles on the home-front. There is:
The Canadian Veterans Advocacy
Their name says it all, as they advocate, both in front of the mainstream media, and behind the scenes among the politicians, for all Veterans. I also found a very informative article in the Ottawa Citizen where they quote directly from CVA on the history and meaning of our sacred obligation to our Veterans.
Veterans sharing their common experiences, and solutions, to the issues they all face.
VETS - Veterans Emergency Transition Services
"...formed to reach out and help the many of Canada’s veterans who had not made successful transitions from their military careers to healthy civilian lives...."
Our Duty - which also has a petition that I urge you to sign, calling on the government to give our Veterans the support they have earned.
These are but a small sampling of Veteran-led groups in Canada that talk MilSpeak.
These groups DO work, DO pick up the dropped ball that governments and Military bureaucracies fumble. The Military Veteran friend quoted above reinforces the bond found among Veteran groups:
Sadly this generation ignores the most obvious “support groups” already established. In an electronic world, VFW’s and American Legions are brick and mortar gathering places for Veterans It’s not all cheap beer and war stories, but an employment network of established Veterans that made their way through the post-Military world. It is just sitting in the company of those that “know” without saying a word, what a Veteran has been through, and is going through, even if the overt topic is an argument about the Iron Bowl, Superbowl, NASCAR, World Series, or World Cup.
For several years now, in Canada, Equitas has been pursuing a class action suit representing Veterans who have been severely short-changed under the New Veterans Charter of 2006. All Canadians who support our Troops, our Veterans and their families should check that site out. Let it be noted that the Canadian federal government has spent thousands of dollars, in legal fees, fighting this lawsuit; money that could have helped a lot of Veterans. However, also comes news, recently, of an individual Soldier who has submitted his own $20-million statement of claim with the Federal Court. [ He...] alleges the Canadian military did not adequately address his post-traumatic stress disorder.
How sad is this that our Veterans have to fight the governments when they return home. Sure, the politicians may say they "support our Troops" but talk is cheap. In the week prior to Remembrance Day, Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberals, challenged the Prime Minister to honour our commitments to Veterans.
Our politicians continue to fail our Veterans, and our Veterans continue to do at home what they did in the sandbox: fight for rights, but now they are fighting for their own rights. I came across a stunning statistic out of the US which claimed huge numbers of homeless and hungry Veterans. How can this be, that in NYC, for example and according to a recent article, thousands of Veterans are having to eat at soup kitchens??? That is just one city, and I have no way of verifying the truth of their claims. However, I wrote back in October of how the cuts to Military budgets in the UK are swelling the number of homeless Veterans there. Again, at least one volunteer group is working tirelessly to address that very real issue: Soldiers Off the Street.
Thank God there are these volunteer groups throughout Canada, the US and the UK who stand up for each other, while the fat-cat politicians obviously remain sitting down on their job. Something in the system is very broken, and regardless of the actual number, if there is even one Veteran living on the streets, that is an epic fail, in my opinion.
So what about the current batch of politicians who appear to be clueless about Military matters, and whose ignorance woefully fails our Troops and our Veterans? As things stand right now, not one of the leaders in the UK, Canada, or the US has served in our Military. They have no clue what it means to BE a Veteran. As I have watched our Troops and Veterans in the Global War on Terror, I have been anticipating that some of them would enter the political arena, but this is proving to be a very slow process. In Canada, as of May 2013, out of 4,210 Parliamentarians, a paltry 14 are listed as having Military Service (and one of those is an Honorary.) That is 0.3325416% in control of our Defence Department, all our Military policies..
From the US, I found this dated 2012:
And yes, there was this underneath the graph:
Military service by politicians is quickly nearing zero. Perhaps this is why many of our politicians are so trigger-happy these days. No one has fought and no one knows just what they are doing when they commit our soldiers overseas.
Ya think? What this underscores for me is that we need more politicians who ARE Veterans, who know what being in the Military actually means. When I was discussing this with another Veteran friend, they were quick to remind me of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan both being non-Veterans. Good point, but I would also suggest that both of those leaders, even as civilians, demonstrated their governmental, bureaucratic support for our Troops and Veterans. The Troops then knew they were supported. The world was a very different place then. Unlike today, where our political leaders continue to prove that they don't *get it*, even as they pay lip service to 'support the Troops' when absolutely necessary, it seems to me that Troops from the Reagan/Thatcher era never doubted the support from those leaders. It also seems to me, through the lens of hindsight, that Reagan and Thatcher were smart enough to listen to our Military leaders and defer to their expertise and experience (unlike the current crop of political leaders.)
As another Veteran friend (yes, I know a few!) pointed out to me recently: another part of the difference is the very low fatality rate in our current and recent wars. These low fatality rates are in large part due to military successes in trauma treatment, so that fewer troops have been killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan than on single days of earlier wars.
This obviously means that we have more Veterans, returning as Wounded Warriors, who have earned all the benefits that we as a society are obligated to provide. Our Veterans today, who would most assuredly have died in previous wars, are more visible, and yes, they are dealing with long-term issues that we, as a society, are failing to adequately and effectively address..
One of those issues is the terrible belief by some of our Troops and Veterans that the only option they have is to choose suicide.
As I heard somewhere recently: suicide is a symptom that becomes an unacceptable solution.
The Veteran friend initially quoted above had this to say about suicidal Veterans:
The reality is that suicidal veterans sometimes get raided because they admit they have a gun, who the hell is going to call that line?
Suicide is not prevented by strangers. It's prevented by friends, who notice their friend needs help, before it becomes suicidal ideation.
Powerpoints can’t fix this. Generals can’t fix this. Only individuals can fix this.
Too often civilians and even fellow veterans say and do all the wrong things. When a veteran’s life begins to derail, often those around him withdraw, making it worse. Often, those “friends” he had before the war, suddenly have nothing in common with him. Instead of just listening, they’re more concerned with their own, in his eyes, trivial, problems.
But, when veterans see broken promises, such as promises that “getting help won’t be held against you,” while those that do get help get screwed by the very military that makes the promise, they’re not going to get help. And getting (real) help isn’t seeing a shrink that has never been there, done that. It is finding someone that can help him find his own way through the challenges he’s facing, those challenges that seem to be becoming insurmountable.
Veterans are withdrawing from society, because increasingly society is self-absorbed and disconnected from what is important to our veterans.
A column from War On Terror News in 2009 reminds that this is not a recent phenomenon, but that within the GWOT environment, we must find solutions:
June 09, 2009
Victimizing Our Veterans: Suicidal StrugglesAs the Army struggles to stem the tide of rising suicides, it seems to be at a loss to how to overcome the stigmas attached to seeking help for the underlying causes. It seems to understand that the Warrior Culture is adverse to asking for help but while the leadership is truly seeking a means to turn the tide that has brought suicide rates up to the same level as the civilian population, it has not realized the self-destructive tactic of encouraging victimization.
The military leadership continues to search with noble motivation for a solution, currently encouraging Soldiers to demonstrate strength by admitting mental wounds. But it describes the symptoms of PTSD and depression as causes of suicide. It describes these as mental illnesses, even as it has created less boring mandatory briefings for the troops to endure. Shrinks continue to prescribe medications to overcome chemical inbalances that lead to the symptoms, not the causes.
It has however realized that the illnesses which are symptoms are caused by feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, but not what the root causes are. The Military creates Warriors capable, motivated, and ready to overcome all challenges, but military life and tours of duty can be a challenge to overcoming those challenges. Too often, the military's answer to a challenge is to add paperwork, briefings, and responsibilities to all Troops when it identifies that the Troops are buckling under the burdens.
The military has a habit of taking a simple, successful program and developing it into a cumbersome, complicated problem. There are so many examples of this that it becomes redundant to point to AAR's, OER's, Counseling Statements, NCOER's, and weeks upon weeks of mandatory briefings. Each of these has a noble, positive purpose that once discovered was forcefed into a paperwork feeding frenzy that destroy the purpose itself in too many cases.
Muttered too often these days is "If I have to sit through one more 'suicide awareness' briefing, I'm going to kill myself." Those uttering such phrases are not suicidal but would prefer to train and tired of the training distractors that eat up their time. They are often fans of their own sarcastic irony, even as they often realize the danger of being referred to a shrink for their "suicidal tendencies."
Yet, the Army has more than once not only cancelled training, but also pulled Troops out of the field, during training exercises in knee-jerk reaction to correct issues. In Roughneck Nine-One, SFC Antenori tells of just such an event from approximately 2002, as Fort Bragg responded to a rash of negative actions by returning Troops that led to his SF team being brought back in at the very climax of an exercise. More recently, FT Campbell Troops were stood down for 3 straight days of "suicide awareness."
Overcoming depression for a Warrior is not a matter of victimizing the Warrior. It is not a matter of taking pills. It is not a matter of justifying their feelings. For a Warrior, it is a plan of action to overcome the challenges that have led to the loss of control. [Emphasis mine] A Warrior often trudges through the bogs of mud mentally and physically, despite conditions that would cause others to quit. As the upper eschelons see the Warrior successfully complete extraordinary missions, it adds to the taskings, it adds to the weight a Warrior must physically and mentally carry....
I could copy and paste all of this article, but instead would suggest you go read it here. For all the commonsense within it, it would be really helpful if some Generals also read it:
But with the advancement of communications, a General can watch a squad level engagement on the other side of the world in real time. The danger comes in when he tries to command that battle from the safety of his office....
Leadership, again. From where I sit, it is lack of leadership, both in the Military and governments that is sorely lacking. Our Troops, our Veterans and their families are paying the price.
Not only our Troops, but our Veterans, are missing the 'old style' leadership; leadership that undoubtedly saves their lives while in Combat, and can certainly save their lives once they become Veterans.
Today we see the old school Military leadership being deliberately being purged, as our politicians continue to declare - ignorantly and shortsightedly in my opinion - that "war is over." NO, it is not.
Still, our Military leaders, who know Combat first-hand, are leaving. Don't believe me? Take a look:
DISTURBING: The List Of Purged Military High Officers Under Obama
And there is this: [US] Army will cut almost 2,000 captains, majors
Where does all this leave our Veterans? In the same place as they were in the front-lines of the GWOT: relying on their battle buddies from the sandbox, the battle buddies who have been there, done that, and know what hell they have survived.
As another Veteran friend of mine recently commented: We are not broken. We are changed.
Who better to understand, and address those changes than another Veteran? As the politicians, and the Military leadership who has perhaps never seen Combat continue in their failure to understand, and implement, real help that could save lives, our Veterans are 'sending up the count', and adapting what worked in Combat into their post-combat lives.
Take a look at what Sgt Brian Harding has to say..
"We are reaching out to find guys who maybe have fallen through the cracks."
To this civilian, that even one of our Troops, our Veterans falls through the cracks is unacceptable.
I recently heard Canadian former chief of defence staff Rick Hillier interviewed on CBC radio, and his insights reinforce what Sgt Brian Harding and any other Veteran I know has said:
Hillier, who also served in Afghanistan as the commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Kabul in 2004, said he suffered only minuscule symptoms of PTSD when he returned home, having the occasional dream or waking up at night.
He credits his strong circle of friends and family for making him feel healthy and comfortable upon his return, but warns that not all soldiers are so lucky.
His final message to troops is to not be alone this holiday season.
"Don't be alone. Do not be alone over this period of time.
"If you've got a problem, we learned long ago in combat that there is no embarrassment in admitting a weakness. No embarrassment in approaching somebody else," Hillier said.
"You know, we entrust our battle buddies with our very lives on the battlefield, this is now a different battlefield, so trust them. Go talk to your battle buddies. Talk to them and tell them you've got a problem. [Emphasis mine]
There is much more here, which includes a link to the radio interview I mentioned above. If you haven't read Rick Hillier's biography, A Soldier First: Bullets, Bureaucrats and the Politics of War, I highly recommend it.
As Pat Strogan says in the video above, these issues faced by our Troops and our Veterans are not just 'flavours of the day...there will be more suicides.' These issues our Troops and Veterans face on a daily basis MUST be addressed in the months and years to come. To do any less is to dishonour each and every one of our Military and their families. It is an epic fail by all of us.
Weeks ago, as I decided to write this column, I planned only to write a one-off. However, I have been reminded of the enormity of the failure of all of us to actively 'Support OUR Troops'... I deliberately say 'all of us' because from where I sit, there is more than enough failure to go around for all of us.
Despite my familial ties to our Military, and my close 'family' ties to many in the current Global War On Terror, as a civilian, no, I do not have the authority of our men and women who have risked and sometimes given all in Combat; nor would I ever claim such authority. However, after years of caring about our Troops, our Veterans, and our Military families - of watching and listening to them - I maintain my belief that we as civilians do have an irrefutable responsibility to stand with them.
We all must listen, learn and be educated by those most knowledgeable, our Combat Veterans. If we truly mean to respect and honour the Service and Sacrifice of our Troops, Veterans and their families, we need to do more than pay lip service. To say we 'support the Troops' is not enough. We ALL need to walk the walk. We need to demand our politicians also honour our Military Family. We need to address this 'unacceptable solution,' which - even during the course of my researching and writing this one article - has claimed more lives from our Military Family.
WE must not fail. Period.
[cross-posted from Assoluta Tranquillita ]