How 55,000 Female Veterans Ended Up On The Streets

“They’re heroes to many in the US, but after the jubilant homecoming parades for those returning from war, what happens next? Well, an estimated 55,000 veterans are now homeless; and that’s just the women.”

JourneyMan Pictures – “In Iraq I was on suicide watch”, explains Tracy Orona, a veteran of the Iraq war. Coming home she went from suicide watch to fending for herself. Without treatment her disturbing dreams, insomnia and inability to handle normal life drove her to drink two bottles of tequila a day and ruined her marriage. Her story reflects countless others of those living on the streets, in cars and on other people’s couches. “They don’t want to got to a shelter. They want to be in a female veteran program. They need counseling”, stresses Joe Leal from the organisation Vet Hunters. The most frightening aspect of this story is why they need counselling. As psychologist Dr Lori Katz explains, “The number one reason why female veterans are homeless is because of untreated sexual trauma.” As many as three quarters of them say they were sexually assaulted in the military, leaving them unable to return to normal life and ultimately homeless. So why have they been forced to swap one battle abroad for another one in the country they served?

Diary of a Disgraced Soldier

Through Diary of a Disgraced Soldier  Martin uses his creative energies to work through the nightmares he brought back from Iraq.

My Life as a ‘Disgraced Soldier’

You may not know who I am but you may have heard my voice on TV a few years ago. It was 2006 when a video spread around the world of British soldiers beating Iraqi youth in Al Amara, Iraq, during Operation Telic 3. A corporal in Her Majesty’s 1st Light Infantry Battalion, I was behind the camera, filming the 2004 incident.

 HuffPo- “Those two minutes of video ruined my life. I still have a tough time watching it today and can’t believe what I said. I was a different person. I’m not trying to excuse my comments — they were inappropriate and regrettable — but I want to explain them. During the riots on the streets of Al Amara, we soldiers didn’t have food. We didn’t have water. We were working non-stop. Going through these conditions brought out the worst in me. I wouldn’t wish that situation on anyone.

I was a disgraced soldier in the public eye, thanks to the British tabloids and the British government, which used me as a scapegoat. But I was not a disgraceful soldier. I loved the army and would have done anything for my country, having served honorably for about 12 years. Shortly after the military cleared me of any wrongdoing in 2007, I left the military. I had served two tours in Northern Ireland and a tour in Sierra Leone; I had seen enough of war.

And especially that war, I felt like I had been put in an unacceptable situation in Iraq. I shouldn’t have been in Iraq. No foreign troops (British, American, etc.) should have been in that country. I didn’t join the Army to fight against children but that’s what I did. It’s not something you often hear about in the media, but the enemy in Iraq uses women and children to fight for them. The youth in Al Amara were throwing grenades at us. It’s sickening and I felt shame and guilt for having to fight children.

After the scandal broke, I decided to leave the Army. I approached some filmmakers in my hometown in Cornwall to help document what I went through. They followed me for 18 months, from the time I got out of the military. During this time I kept video diaries to chart my thoughts and feelings, and through this process my emotional frustrations came across -I would be fine one minute and then red with anger the next. In November 2009, they released a 68-minute documentary titled Diary of a Disgraced Soldier. It was greatly received at the 2009 Cornwall Film Festival. Making the documentary has been a cathartic process that may well have saved my life…” Full Article

Full Documentary

Voices of Nonviolence: Little Town of Bethlehem

Source – “Little Town of Bethlehem examines the struggle to promote equality through nonviolent engagement in the midst of incredible violence that has dehumanized all sides. Sami’s story begins as a young boy living in the Israeli-occupied West Bank; Yonatan’s starts on an Israeli military base; and Ahmad’s begins in a Palestinian refugee camp. 

Their three stories are interwoven through the major events of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, starting with the 1972 massacre at the Munich Olympics and following through the first Intifada, suicide bombings in Israel, the Oslo Accords, the assassination of Yitzchak Rabin, and the second Intifada. Sami, Yonatan, and Ahmad each describe the events from their unique perspective, interjecting personal reflections and explaining how these events led them to become involved in the nonviolence movement.

In Bethlehem, the city where it is said that God became man, Sami just wants to be seen as human. First learning about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a teen, he began lecturing about nonviolence in high school. Later, Sami traveled to India to learn more about Gandhi. As the result of his discoveries, he founded the organization Holy Land Trust to promote nonviolence in the Palestinian community.

“When you struggle together, you change the paradigm. There’s still struggle…but it’s not This Side or That Side. You are struggling together to find the solution. And in that, there is very real HOPE…”

Yonatan embraced his father’s legacy as a pilot in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and fulfilled his own dream of becoming an IDF helicopter pilot. However, his journey led him to the astonishing decision to join with 26 other IDF pilots who publicly refused to participate in missions that would lead to civilian casualties. Co-founding the organization Combatants for Peace, made up of former Israeli and Palestinian combatants, Yonatan struggles to reconcile his love for his country with his growing opposition to the Israeli occupation.

After studying in Spain, Ahmad returned to Bethlehem to become a nonviolence trainer. Despite the daily challenges of living in a refugee camp, Ahmad remains committed to his community and risks his life and livelihood in nonviolent actions to bring an end to oppression.

For their work, Sami and Ahmad have been labeled as “Israeli collaborators” by some within the Palestinian community, and are seen as a threat to security by the Israeli military. By refusing to participate in offensive military actions against Palestinian civilians, Yonatan has been branded a traitor by some Israelis and can no longer work in his homeland.

All three men have had their lives threatened by members of their own communities as a result of their work. Sami, Yonatan, and Ahmad continue to embrace their common humanity and equality for all, daring to have the hope that peace in the Holy Land can be achieved through nonviolent struggle…

“They did it by discovering common ground in the nonviolence movement…”

Discussions on nonviolence -

The Square

I watched the documentary, “The Square” on Netflix today and was absolutely blown away by it.  It is a very complex documentary and it touches on issues that every one fighting to make a change in this world can probably relate to: Disorganization, facing overwhelming odds, risk of imprisonment, death…renewal and hope for a better world. I will give fair warning tho – this isn’t for the faint of heart or those who can’t focus on subtitles. It is POWERFUL in so many ways...it is sickening, discouraging, harsh, beautiful, terrifying uplifting, inspiring…what an emotional roller-coaster. I get chills all over again even now as I am sifting through the YT clips to share.

The one thing that struck me more than anything as I was watching, was just how right the ideas behind the Common Ground movement are. No matter what some of our differences may be, it is absolutely imperative that we start learning to look past them and turn our focus to what we have in common with each other. The whole world seems to be edging towards a roaring, revolutionary period as more of US, the peons of the world, get fed up with being stomped on by more and more of THEM – the current power-system holders. As things stand worldwide, THEY can stomp us with sheer force in 2 heartbeats…WE can only stand strong and “win” if we stand arm in arm, tight…Together…

“The Square movie is a documentary about the Egyptian revolution behind the headlines. Follow a group of activists in Tahrir Square, risking their lives to build a new society of conscience…”

“If you take out people & put people just like them from the same circle, from the same regime, then you didn’t take down the regime, you took down people…”

“Our main problem as revolutionaries, most of the time we only object and say, “No” and we never offer alternatives…”

Filming “The Square”

Syria’s Children On The Frontline

 Truthloader- “The Syrian civil war has changed lives on both sides of the conflict irreversibly but while we often hear the stories about violence involving opposition fighters, the Syrian Arab Army and various extremist groups, one side of the story remains untold – the lives of Syria’s children. Marcel Mettelsiefen, the journalist and filmmaker behind Children On The Frontline, spoke to us about the kids he filmed in opposition held areas of Aleppo and the drastic changes the war has forced on their lives…”

The documentary will be broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK on 22/01/2014 at 10PM GMT. After that it will be available on 4oD.

Common Ground: Can We All Agree?

Common Ground – “Very few would disagree with the assertion that our current system has us headed for a disaster. However not everyone agrees on what that disaster will look like, and it’s virtually impossible to get people to agree on the solution. As a result forming a unified front to face these challenges has been next to impossible.

The Common Ground is an approach designed to deal with this issue.

1470073_474630485991476_1246608524_n

Continue reading

Autonomous ‘Killer Robots’ Could Replace Drones Soon

RT“What was science fiction a couple of decades ago is now everyday reality. But it’s not only computers and smartphones — the progress has brought us new war machines — unmanned drones striking from the skies are no surprise for anyone today. But what has the progress of warfare prepared for us in the coming years?” 

Jody Williams is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning woman, who has fought against landmines — and won. Now she is on a crusade against the new deadly threat — killer robots.

20 Years of NAFTA Show Why TPP Must Be Stopped

Excerpts, The Raw Story – ” The post-NAFTA era has been marked by growing inequality, declining job security and new leverage for corporations to attack government regulations enacted in the public interest.

But it wasn’t supposed to be that way. Back in 1986, when the leaders of the US, Canada and Mexico began talks on a regional trade deal that eight years later would culminate in the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), they sold the pact to the public as an economic win-win for all parties involved.

On signing the treaty in 1994, then-President Bill Clinton said, “NAFTA means jobs. American jobs, and good-paying American jobs. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t support this agreement.” He promised that NAFTA would result in “an export boom to Mexico,” and claimed that such trade deals “transcend ideology” because support for them “is so uniform that it unites people in both parties.”

Twenty years later, we can test how those claims panned out in the real world. And Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch did just that, releasing a comprehensive study of NAFTA’s impacts…

Shortly after NAFTA, we did a very detailed dig to find all the promises of US producers who made very specific claims before the treaty was signed that ‘if NAFTA passes, we will add X number of jobs.’ So we went and looked at the federal government’s Trade Adjustment Assistance database and we found that company after company — big US manufacturers like Chrysler, GE, Caterpillar — that promised to create specific numbers of US jobs instead were offshoring thousands and thousands of US jobs to Mexico, and then they were bringing the product back into the country and selling it. It was still their US brand name, but made with much lower wages in Mexico.

The trade data are very telling. The year before NAFTA, the United States had a small trade deficit with Canada — about $20 billion dollars — and a slight surplus of $2 billion dollars with Mexico. Now, 20 years later, we have almost a $200 billion dollar trade deficit with those countries. So the surplus with Mexico turned into a huge, huge deficit, as all those companies relocated there to produce goods with lower wages.

And this Trade Adjustment Assistance database is really fascinating. There are 845,000 specific US workers who are certified under just this one narrow program as having lost their jobs since NAFTA to trade with Mexico and Canada. And you’d be surprised at the kinds of companies you see. In the beginning it was a huge wipeout of the auto sector, textiles and apparel, and appliances. But now it’s computers, it’s clean manufacturing of computer chips, high-end electronics, aircraft – these are high-end, high-tech, well-trained, well-paid jobs. The so-called jobs of the future are all being offshored.

Even if you didn’t lose a job, what we’ve found with this study, and, more importantly, what economists, including those who supported NAFTA originally, found is that shifting a million well-paying jobs out has an effect economy-wide on wage levels and on income inequality.” Full Article on The Raw Story

Related Content & Links

The Council of Canadians – “The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is 12-nation (and counting) free trade and corporate rights deal that is being led by the United States but also includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Thailand, The Philippines and South Korea have also expressed interest in joining the talks, which would eclipse the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the ways democracy would be constrained in the interests of multinational corporations.

Of the 26 chapters currently being negotiated in the TPP, only two have to do with trade. The other 24 deal with issues as diverse as how a government regulates corporate activity, what Crown corporations can and cannot do, how long pharmaceutical patents or copyright terms should be, how the Internet is governed, the sharing of personal information across borders, banking and taxation rules, and when a company or investor should be compensated when environmental or public health policies interfere with profits.

The TPP is also considered a geopolitical weapon of the U.S. government, which is trying to isolate China in the Asia-Pacific region, and to block alternative, and more successful, forms of development than the “free trade” model has to offer. But the TPP is being resisted by people across all participating countries because of how it will lock-in a myopic type of corporate globalization that is the main cause of runaway climate change and which has done little to create good, sustainable jobs or reduce poverty worldwide. People working across borders fought and defeated the Free Trade Area of the Americas. Our goal is to make sure the TPP suffers the same fate.”

via MÉDECINS SANS FRONTIÈRES (MSF)

Trans-Pacific Partnership

The most harmful trade pact ever for access to medicines.

While I was searching for more information on the TPP and work that is being done at our local Santa Teresa point of entry, I came across this interesting pdf from the White House…

U.S. – Mexico
21st Century Border Management

Realizing the Strategic
National Value of our Trade,
Tourism and Ports of Entry
with Mexico

“A renewed focus by the United States and Mexico on economic cooperation and efforts by Congress to facilitate legitimate trade and tourism with Mexico offer a number of opportunities. The proposed Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 proposes the addition of 3,500 additional Customs and Border Protection officers to staff the ports of entry to be funded by a newly created Comprehensive Immigration Reform Trust Fund. In addition, S. 178 and H.R. 1108, the Cross Border Trade Enhancement Act of 2013, aim to facilitate enhanced staffing but also infrastructure improvements at ports of entry via alternative financing mechanisms such as public-private partnerships. Legislation such as this is necessary in order for the United States to take full advantage of NAFTA’s potential as well as the next generation of trade agreements, including the Trans Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which have the potential to significantly enhance North American competitiveness for decades to come.” Full Report Available Here

More information on the planning/development and work along the US-MX border can also be found here -

The Veterans’ Bonus March of 1932

December 5th, 1932

“This march happened in one of the worst years of the Great Depression. The veterans — some of whom brought their entire families with them to Washington DC — were not greedy men. On the contrary, they were desperate men, desperate to keep their families fed and alive. Many of these men were unemployed in a time before food stamps and public assistance. 

Simply put, if they did not work, they did not eat. And more important to many of them, their families did not eat.

So what bonus were they marching for? Well, as World War I veterans, the United States Government had promised them a bonus of several thousand dollars, payable in 1945. A relative few veterans, being hungry, hopeless and seeing no other possible help in sight, put together this march. As word spread to other veterans across the country, the numbers heading to the Capital grew and grew.

There were a few historic figures taking part in the episode — General Douglas MacArthur, Major George S. Patton and Major Eisenhower forced the veterans out of Washington at gunpoint, effectively destroying President Hoover’s hope for a second term. 

Supporting the veterans was America’s most decorated military officer of the day, Smedley Butler (Marine General, retired). As an aside, Butler would go on to write a book — War is a Racket — condemning several of the campaigns he had taken part in, and condemning the practice war itself.

This film clip is from the last half of episode two of the six part PBS/BBC2 series “The Great Depression.” It is an important and overlooked piece of American history which needs to be shared.”

Israel to Demolish Bedouin Village for National-Religious Jewish Town

“…few North American Jews understand that their donations are leading to the dispossession of Bedouin-Palestinians and the razing of their homes…” 

RT – “The Israeli government voted on Sunday to raze a Bedouin-Palestinian village of 500 citizens to clear space for a Jewish town, prompting yet more protests against Israel’s unabated policy of settlement construction.

The government ministers moved to evict residents from the Bedouin village Umm al-Hiran in accordance with the terms of the so-called “Prawer plan,” which calls for the resettlement of large numbers of Bedouin villages. 

The Bedouins have been offered alternative sites to which to relocate, but they plan to hold protests against what they claim is “discriminatory treatment by the state,” as quoted by Haaretz, the Israeli daily.

Liberal Israeli publications have harshly denounced the treatment of the Bedouins, who are being displaced by the very military that some of them proudly served.

“These are Israeli citizens – citizens in a ‘democratic’ state, some of whom have even served the country militarily – who are now having their homes destroyed,” David Harris-Gershon wrote in his blog for the Tikkun Daily.

The Israeli government’s reasoning for demolishing Umm al-Hiran is that the villagers never received ‘official’ zoning rights to settle the land. However, critics say Israel refused to give a stamp of approval to the village, despite ordering villagers to settle the site in 1956.” Full Story

“The amount of settlements is huge and probably irreversible, and the signal that the Israeli government is sending to the Palestinians, to the rest of the Middle East, to the world, by continuing even aggressively to settle – it is a very negative signal, because if now the talks will not conclude in an agreement, it won’t be called a ‘peace agreement’, when we will meet next time to talk with the Palestinians,” Alon Liel, former director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry ” 

“Arab–Bedouin citizens of Israel have been living in Umm al-Hieran since 1956, when the Israeli civil administration moved them to this hill in the Naqab (Negev). Now, the state wants to move them out — and replace their village with the distinctively Jewish town “Hiran.” The Hiran “nucleus”, a group of 30 families that would form the core of this new Jewish settlement has already moved to a nearby camp in Yatir forest, where they await the demolition of Umm al-Hieran.

The film is a co-production of Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality in the Negev (NCF), and part of a two-year EU-funded partnership to protect the rights of the Arab Bedouin in the Naqab.”

America’s Private Sector Army

Prior to the Iraq war, most people wouldn’t have heard of the private military companies (PMCs) that provide their services to the USA. Then came the the headlines, thick and fast, as the heavy involvement of PMCs such as Blackwater led to controversy. 

Excerpts, The Kernel - “The number of contractors used is staggering. In 2010 there were 94,413 contractors in Afghanistan, compared with 91,600 US troops.

MERCENARIES IN EVERYTHING BUT NAME

Most PMCs provide logistical support, but one stands out above all others: Blackwater. Described by some as a “private army”, they differ from modern day military units such as the British Army’s Brigade of Gurkhas and the French Foreign Legion, in that they are an autonomous company providing military services. Mercenaries in everything but name. Blackwater in particular stands out for their boots-on-the ground provision of “security guards” who look, smell and operate like any other combat soldier.

Blackwater, now called Academi, became known for a string of controversial incidents involving its personnel. Now that Middle Eastern occupations are winding down and court cases have been settled, Blackwater has managed to slip under the radar again. But it still exists, albeit with a new name, and is as influential as ever.

In the sixteen years of its existence, Blackwater has changed the face of modern warfare. How did they do it, what are they doing now and what does their continued existence mean for the future?

In explaining his vision for Blackwater, its founder Erik Prince famously stated:

“We are trying to do for the national security apparatus what FedEx did for the Postal Service.” 

Blackwater started out by offering training services to the military and landed a major contract to train Navy personnel following the 2000 bombing of USS Cole of the coast of Yemen.

With their reputation established, Blackwater began to hoover up government contracts as the War on Terror progressed. At first they provided security to secret CIA bases, then they became the default private security force for the raft of diplomats and State Department employees who found themselves involved in occupied Iraq. Blackwater proudly remind people that “not one State Department employee was killed while we were protecting them”. No officials may have been killed but a number of innocent Iraqis did, at the barrel of Blackwater guns.

The US military has long had a reputation for financial ineptitude when it come to hardware acquisition. It’s a reputation that has persisted with their procurement of contract services. At the height of the Iraq war, sergeants in the military were getting paid one-sixth of their counterparts from Blackwater. This problem of capitalism colliding with patriotism was so serious that Defense Secretary Robert Gates considered asking US troops to sign a non-compete clause…

…The largest incident branded on Blackwater’s reputation is what has become known as The Blackwater Baghdad shootings. On September sixteenth 2007, Blackwater military contractors shot and killed seventeen Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square, Baghdad…

“They became a symbol of what was seen as an occupying force. They are always heavily armed with machine-guns, and wear body armour and wraparound sunglasses. Usually they are beefy men with goatees, covered in tattoos. They swagger around like something out of a movie. Their presence here has been deeply damaging.”

Blackwater has become a destination of choice for ex-public servants looking for a cushy retirement, resulting in the company having even stronger ties to the centres of American power post-Iraq than pre-Iraq. The board of directors now includes Bobby Ray Inman, the former head of the National Security Agency and Jack Quinn, the former White House Counsel to President Bill Clinton. 

Lessons have learned by both the Government and private companies from their flirtation over the last couple of decades and the legacy will have repercussions on future conflicts. The Government has found a way to patch up their military personnel shortcomings with off-the-shelf and adaptable solutions: no need for the tedium of training youngsters and paying out pension plans.

By buying up experienced Army personnel, Blackwater have made themselves indispensable as a training institution for America’s elite troops. And next time the US goes gung-ho into another country? The contractors will be ready. Academi have developed and manufactured their own infantry mobility vehicle called The Grizzly APC. They were too late to the military hardware party this time around but they have all the pieces in place to take an even greater role in the USA’s next major conflict.” Full Article on The Kernel

 

 

“Capital Shield 2014″ Drill

Interesting…make of it what you will…

US ARMY – WASHINGTON (Sept. 30, 2013) “Emergency vehicles and first responders are once again in action in the National Capital Region and will be thru Oct. 3.

Photo via End The Fed

They are participating in “Capital Shield 2014.”

CS 14 is a joint training exercise in the NCR that is hosted by the Joint Force Headquarters – National Capital Region. It brings federal, state, local and municipal agencies together to realistically test inter-agency operability during a crisis impacting the District of Columbia, Virginia, and Maryland. It also trains and prepares the Department of Defense to provide defense support to civil authorities and employ appropriate force protection measures as requested.

“Because we are all regional partners it’s nice to be able to pick up the Phone and KNOW the other person on the end of the line when you are in need of some help,” said Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Battalion Chief Paul Ruwe. “It’s a lesson learned from 9/11. We had good regional contact with the FBI Washington office, and that really helped after the attack on the Pentagon.”

Ruwe is the Incident commander at the Lorton Training site, Lorton Va., and said the training site will be very busy over the next few days.

More than 38 participating agencies from DOD and Capital region response agencies will perform mock mass casualty rescues, Defense Support to civil agency technical rescues and law enforcement tactical responses. The goal of the exercise is to ensure government agencies at every level are prepared to coordinate action to protect the public in the event of an actual disaster in the National Capital Region.

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Please visit the Capital Shield 2014 website at http://www.mdwhome.mdw.army.mil/capital-shield.”;

Original Source: End The Fed

Oil May Fuel Militarization of the Arctic Region

As world powers team up to secure the ecology in the Arctic, the rivalry over its rich oil and gas resources is heating up. Michel Chossudovsky from the Centre for Research on Globalization explains that the battle for the North Pole is high on the global military agenda. 

Originally aired on RT, September 24, 2013
http://youtu.be/-zgkr6Dnshs