Tag Archives: Afghanistan

Drones: America’s weapon of choice in the war on terror

By Steven R. Maher

“Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” have become the United States’ weapon of choice in the war on terror. Better known as “Predator drones”, these 8,000 remote controlled robots have devastated Al Qaeda, disrupted its chain of command, and played a large role in allowing American troops to be withdrawn from Iraq and now Afghanistan.

“According to data compiled by the New America Foundation from reliable news reports, 337 CIA drone strikes in Pakistan have killed an estimated 1,953 to 3,279 people since 2004, of which 1,526 – 2,649 were reported to be militants,” reports one Internet web site. “This means the average non-militant casualty rate over the life of the program is 18-23 percent. In 2012 it was around 10 percent, down sharply from its peak in 2006 of over 600 percent.”

“”In 2012 the USAF [United States Air Force] trained more drone pilots than ordinary jet pilots for the first time,” says Wikipedia.

What are drones made off and how do they work? What are the moral implications of “targeted killings”?
Primary aircraft

Drones were first used for high altitude surveillance in the 1990s. After 9/11, the drones were modified to include ordnance and automate the military’s “kill chain” – “find, fix, track, target, engage and assess” against high value, fleeting and time sensitive targets.

There is a large amount of Internet drone literature, including the Wikipedia entry and the U.S. Air Force web’s “fact sheets” on the nine drones in usage. Robert Valdes has published on Lafayette.edu an insightful article on drones. In an effort to convey to readers the essence of how drones operate, we boiled down the information available, summarizing data to reduce verbiage. Military acronyms are not used extensively. We concentrated on the RQ-1 predators.
“Following 2001, the RQ-1 Predator became the primary unmanned aircraft used for offensive operations by the USAF and the CIA in Afghanistan and the Pakistani tribal areas,” says Wikipedia.

The MQ1-B is an armed RQ-1. The change in designation came when the reconnaissance-purpose RQ-1 was armed with two Hellfire missiles in 2002, making it a multi-purpose device (hence the “M” re-designation). Not long afterwards, on November 2, 2002, a predator was first used outside the Afghan war drone, to kill in Yemen Qaed Senyan Al-Harthi, the Al-Qaeda commander of the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole.
“The MQ-1’s capabilities make it uniquely qualified to conduct irregular warfare Operations in support of Combatant
Commander objectives,” says the air force.

How it’s built

Operated in clusters of four, the MQ1-B is made by General Atomics Aeronautical at a fiscal 2009 cost of $20 million for four Predators, the ground control station, and the satellite link up.

The MQ-1B is two yards high, nine yards long, and with a wingspan of roughly nineteen yards. It looks smaller than it appears in pictures. Miniaturization and nano-technology allow packing this small device with much hardware.

• The front compartment contains a “Multispectral Targeting System” that includes the Hellfire missile targeting system; an electrical optical infrared system which can see through haze, smoke or clouds; a laser designator; and a laser illuminator. There is also a GPS system and an ice detector. The equipment in this section “paints the target” by shooting a laser beam, which electronically puts a bull’s eye on the object by sending a pulse from the target to the two Hellfire missiles attached to the Predator. A computer generated “firing solution” calculates the distance, trajectory, wind speed, and other variables to hit the target with pinpoint precision.

• The second compartment contains a satellite communications antenna, a videocassette recorder, the de-icer, flight sensors, a receiver/transmitter, a “friend or foe” transponder, an avionics tray, and a communications sensor.

• The next third of the drone consists of a fuel cell, fuel cell assembly, and accessory bay.

• The fourth compartment of the plane contains the engine cooling fan; the oil cooler/radiator; secondary control module; two eight pound battery backups; a power supply; and a four cylinder, 115 horsepower engine similar to the engines used to power snowmobiles. At the rear is a two-blade propeller providing the drive and lift, and attached is a rudder, which is used to navigate the vessel.

The two fuel tanks are rubberized bladders in the fore and aft sections of the Predator, capable of holding 665 pounds (100 gallons) of 100-octane gasoline. The craft is lubricated by 7.6 liters of standard oil. The de-icer operates through microscopic “weeping holes” on the wings through which an ethylene glycol solution drips out to melt ice accumulated at the 25,000 feet altitude at which the MQ-1B flies.

The rib cage, surrounding the Predator like an elongated oval shaped skeleton, is made up of carbon/glass fiber tape and aluminum. The sensor housing and wheels are aluminum, the edges of the wings titanium. Between the rib cage and operating devices is a layer of carbon and quartz fibers with a mix of Kevlar. Further insulating the components are layers of foam and wood laminate; a sturdy fabric is sandwiched between these layers.
Empty of fuel and ammunition, the MQ-1B weighs 1,130 pounds, a very light aircraft. Fueled, armed, locked and loaded with two Hellfire missiles with a 450-pound payload, the Predator weighs 2,250 pounds, still a lightweight.

How it works

A drone can be disassembled into six parts and loaded into a single container, which can be transported to a war drone in a C130 Hercules, or larger transportation aircraft. It can be reassembled in four to eight hours. It takes 82 men or women to operate one four Predator active service unit over a twenty-four hour period. The flight begins, from a minimum 5,000 feet long surfaced runway, when an operator attaches a power cord to the Predator and turns the drone on.

The MQ-1B has a range of 700 miles and a cruising speed of 135 MPH. This means it must be launched from relatively near the war drone. It takes three to operate a drone: a pilot sitting in front of a computer screen using a flight stick to guide the aircraft, and two sensor operators. The pilot can see what the Predator sees in “real time”, i.e., instantaneously.

Once out of line of sight from its take off point, a satellite transfers control to an operator in the continental United States. “[I]f a predator is lost in battle, military personnel can simply ‘crack another one out of the box’ and have it up in the air shortly – and that’s without the trauma of casualties or prisoners normally associated with an aircraft going down,” writes Valdes. For a casualty conscious military, the predators are the perfect weapons; operators are not exposed to enemy fire.

The MQ1-B then flies to a designated target area. There, it can “loiter”, sight unseen, for up to fourteen hours awaiting the arrival of the target. This means the MQ1-B can hover over a selected geographical site, fire at a target, levitate as it records the reaction to the initial strike, and then fire a second shot if the operator deems the people running to the site of the first blast are legitimate military targets.

The ability to “loiter” is critical to drone operation, and is another area being improved. On July 28, 2012 Popular Mechanics reported the success of an experiment to refuel a drone using lasers.
Laser Motive Company beamed via a “wireless extension cord” enough energy to a 17.5-pound drone to keep it aloft 48 hours – 46 hours longer than the drone can usually fly. “You’re plugging a system into a wall, taking that electricity, and converting it to a light and transmitting that light through open air to a receiver, which converts the light back into electricity,” said Laser Motive President Tom Nugent. After the laser beam test ended, the drone’s batteries held more energy than when the test began.

“With larger optics and more expensive lasers, the system’s range could be extended to hundreds of kilometers in a straight line, but the Earth’s atmosphere would limit how far away a drone could be from its power source when flying at lower altitudes,” observed Popular Mechanics. “A scaled up version of the laser charger could keep aircraft aloft indefinitely.”

Most military drones are not battery powered, and the battery size required to power a fully armed 2,250-pound MQ-1B might be considerable. So it might be some time before laser recharging of military drones becomes a reality. But when it does, another one of George Orwell’s predictions in his classic book “1984” will have come true. Orwell wrote that the scientists of the three major world powers would compete to build an “airplane as independent of its base as a ship.”
Borrowed Nixon’s strategy

The utility of drones was not fully exploited during the Presidency of George W. Bush. Until August 2008 the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, was notified in advance of drone strikes. Al-Qaeda sympathizers within the ISI tipped off the terrorists in advance of the strikes. Indeed, Bush appeared to place a higher premium on Pakistani goodwill than he did on killing Al-Qaeda high value targets. According to published reports, in 2005 U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld quashed a plan to capture Al-Qaeda’s number two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Rumsfeld felt that Pakistan would react too negatively.

President Barack H. Obama, as his May 1, 2011 killing of Osama Bin Laden showed, was less concerned about Pakistani goodwill. What Obama did was escalate the drone war dramatically. Obama’s overall strategy in the war against terror was borrowed from Richard M. Nixon’s Vietnam policy, something that went unnoted by mainstream historians, pundits, and columnists, who tend to be left of center.

In 1969 Nixon came to power after his predecessor got involved in a war on the Asian mainland that was draining America’s economy, bitterly dividing the country, and subjecting the United States to severe social strains – a situation comparable to the one Obama faced when he came to office forty years later, absent the financial collapse (in 1968 the U.S. did have a balanced budget).

Nixon advanced the air and naval power of the United States in Vietnam while training an indigenous force to fight the Soviet supported enemy (“Vietnamization”), simultaneous with the withdrawal of American land forces. This culminated in 1972 when Nixon blockaded North Vietnam by mining its ports, and in the controversial “Christmas bombing”, sent massive waves of B-52s to bomb the north into signing the January 1973 Paris peace accords. If Watergate had not happened and the Democratic Congress not cut off aid to South Vietnam in 1975, it is likely Vietnamization would have succeeded.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama has advanced the drones, while pulling back American troops and training local forces to fight Al-Qaeda and its affiliates. The list of drone kills compiled by the conservative web site New America, citing mainstream media reports, is most impressive (see accompanying story).

Obama has turned Afghanistan and Pakistan into an Orwellian nightmare for Al-Qaeda and affiliated groups. At any moment, death may rain down on them from the heavens. Targets of drone strikes don’t know there are Predators miles above them until the bombs start exploding. This has broken open deep fissures within the Jihadist movement, which turned paranoid in a hunt for informers.

“[P]redator strikes took such a toll on Al-Qaeda that militants began turning violently one another out of confusion and distrust,” says Wikipedia. “A senior U.S. counter-terrorism official said: ‘They have started hunting down people who they think are responsible’ for security breaches. ‘People are showing up dead, or disappearing.’”

All this makes it more difficult for Al-Qaeda to mount 9/11 style attacks inside the U.S. homeland. The group’s leaders are too busy trying to avoid Predators to spend the necessary time to organize such spectaculars.
Drone critics

The drone program does have its critics. Some believe that the strikes have killed too many non-combatants and others question targeted killings.

One cause of noncombatant deaths is that Al-Qaeda leaders live with their wives and children. Another is that most Predators are armed with 100-pound Hellfire missiles, ordnance capable of blowing up a tank or bunker. The military is working to reduce this problem by fitting drones with six Griffin missiles, allowing a more discriminate use of deadly force. Indeed, one of the options CIA Chief Leon Panetta gave Obama to kill Osama Bin Laden was to use a Griffin armed drone, an option rejected by Obama because he was not assured of success in hitting Bin Laden as he paced about his Abbottabad compound.

Targeted killings of opposing military leaders are as American as apple pie. Ten weeks after the Declaration of Independence, George Washington ordered a targeted killing when he sent a one-man submarine, the Turtle, to sink the HMS Eagle, the flagship of Admiral Richard Howe. The September 6, 1776 attack failed because the Turtle was unable to attach a depth charge to the Eagle. In April 1943 Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered American fighters to shoot down a plane carrying Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the architect of the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. This attack was successful.

The United Nations charter gives member nations the right to defend themselves. Al-Qaeda started this war. Now, the drones may end Al-Qaeda.

Partial listing of drone attacks

By Steven R. Maher

Below is a partial listing of President Barack H. Obama’s successful drone attacks targeting terrorists during his first four years in office. Most information here was cited on the web site “New America”, which cited the New York Times, Reuters, the BBC, and other mainstream media outlets as the sources of this information.
• January 1 2009 – Drone strikes killed Osama al Kini and Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan, who played central roles in the 1998 African embassy bombings that killed three hundred people. Al Kini was al-Qaeda’s chief of operations in Pakistan and Salim Swedan was his lieutenant.
• April 29, 2009 – Abu Sulayman al Jazairi, an Algerian Qaeda planner who American intelligence officials say they believe helped train operatives for attacks in Europe and the United States, was killed.
• August 5, 2009 – A drone strike killed Baitullah Mehsud, leader of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan.
• September 14, 2009 – Islamic Jihad of Uzbekistan leader Nazimuddin Zalalov, a lieutenant of Osama Bin Laden, was killed by a drone strike.
• December 8, 2009 and December 17, 2012 – Drone strikes killed Saleh al-Somali, al Qaeda’s external operations chief and link between al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan and al Qaeda abroad; and Zuhaib al-Zahibi, an al Qaeda North Wazairistan comander.
• According to documents found in Osama Bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound, on some unknown date in 2009, Saad bin Laden, Osama Bin Laden’s son, was killed in a drone strike.
• Early January, 2010 – Mahmud Mahdi Zeidan, Jordanian Taliban commander was killed in a drone strike.
• February 17, 2010 – A predator killed Sheikh Mansoor, an Egyptian-Canadian al-Qaeda leader
• March 8, 2010 – Sadam Hussein Al Hussami, an al-Qaeda planner and explosives expert with contacts in Al-Qaeda in the Arabaian Pennsiular, the Afghan Taliban, and Pakistani Taliban was killed in a strike.
• May 21, 2010 – A high visibility target, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, al-Qaeda’s no. 3, was killed by a drone.
• August 14, 2010 – Amir Moawia, Taliban commander, killed in a Predator strike.
• September 26, 2010: Sheikh al-Fateh, al-Qaeda chief in Afghanistan and Pakistan, died after a drone attack.
• December 17, 2010 – Drone strike eliminates Ali Marjan, local LeI commander.
• June 3, 2011 – Ilyas Kashmiri, senior al-Qaeda commander in Pakistan, killed by a Predator.
• August 22, 2011 – High value target Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, promoted to be Al-Qaeda’s number two after the death several months early of Osama Bin Liaden, is killed by a drone.
• September 11, 2011 – Drone strike kils Abu Hafs al-Shahri, al-Qaeda’s chief of operations in Pakistan. Nineteen days later another drone kills Aleemullah (Halimullah) a senior Taliban commander.
• September 30, 2011 – American born Al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki is killed by a CIA operated drone.
• October 13, 2011: Janbaz Zadran, the Haqqani network’s third in command, is kiled by a drone.
• October 26, 2011 – A drone strike brings down Taj Gul Mehsud, a Taliban commander.
• October 27, 2011 – Drone strikes kill four Taliban commanders: Muhammad Khan, Hazrat Omar, Miraj Wazir and Ashfaq Wazir.
• January 10, 2012 – Aslam Awan, a senior operations organizer for al-Qaeda from Abbottabad, where Osama Bin Laden was killed by U.S. Navy Seals, is killed in a Predator attack.
• February 9, 2012 – Predator strike kills another high value target, Badar Mansoor, thought to be al-Qaeda’s most senior leader in Pakistan.
• March 13, 2012 – Drones kill two senior Taliban commanders, Shamsullah and Amir Hamza Toji Khel.
• June 4, 2012 – Abu Yahya al-Libi, al Qaeda’s new second-in-command and a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, is killed by drones.
• August 24, 2012 – Badruddin Haqqani, commander of military operations and third-in-command of the Haqqani Network dies after a drone strike.

Those who say “I Support the Troops” should just stop, out of respect for the troops

Illegal Military Foreclosures

By Michael Moore, filmmaker

I don’t support the troops, America, and neither do you. I am writing this as I have just learned of the suicides of two more of our active duty reservists who live here in the Traverse City, Michigan area. That brings the total number of soldier suicides (that I know of) in the past year, in this rural area, to four.

I am tired of the ruse we are playing on these brave citizens in our armed forces. And guess what — a lot of these soldiers and sailors and airmen and Marines see right through the bull**** of those words, “I support the troops!,” spoken by Americans with such false sincerity — false because our actions don’t match our words. These young men and women sign up to risk their very lives to protect us — and this is what they get in return:

1. They get sent off to wars that have NOTHING to do with defending America or saving our lives. They are used as pawns so that the military-industrial complex can make billions of dollars and the rich here can expand their empire. By “supporting the troops,” that means I’m supposed to shut up, don’t ask questions, do nothing to stop the madness, and sit by and watch thousands of them die? Well, I’ve done an awful lot to try and end this. But the only way you can honestly say you support the troops is to work night and day to get them out of these hell holes they’ve been sent to. And what have I done this week to bring the troops home? Nothing. So if I say “I support the troops,” don’t believe me — I clearly don’t support the troops because I’ve got more important things to do today, like return an iPhone that doesn’t work and take my car in for a tune up.

2. While the troops we claim to “support” are serving their country, bankers who say they too “support the troops” foreclose on the actual homes of these soldiers and evict their families while they are overseas! Have I gone and stood in front of the sheriff’s deputy as he is throwing a military family out of their home? No. And there’s your proof that I don’t “support the troops,” because if I did, I would organize mass sit-ins to block the doors of these homes. Instead, I’m having Chilean sea bass tonight.

3. How many of you who say you “support the troops” have visited a VA hospital to bring aid and comfort to the sick and wounded? I haven’t. How many of you have any clue what it’s like to deal with the VA? I don’t. Therefore, you would be safe to say that I don’t “support the troops,” and neither do you.

4. Who amongst you big enthusiastic “supporters of the troops” can tell me the approximate number of service women who have been raped while in the military? Answer: 19,000 (mostly) female troops are raped or sexually assaulted every year by fellow American troops. What have you or I done to bring these criminals to justice? What’s that you say — out of sight, out of mind? These women have suffered, and I’ve done nothing. So don’t ever let me get away with telling you I “support the troops” because, sadly, I don’t. And neither do you.

5. Help a homeless vet today? How ’bout yesterday? Last week? Last year? Ever? But I thought you “support the troops!”? The number of homeless veterans is staggering — on any given night, at least 60,000 veterans are sleeping on the streets of the country that proudly “supports the troops.” This is disgraceful and shameful, isn’t it? And it exposes all those “troop supporters” who always vote against social programs that would help these veterans. Tonight there are at least 12,700 Iraq/Afghanistan veterans homeless and sleeping on the street. I’ve never lent a helping hand to one of the many vets I’ve seen sleeping on the street. I can’t bear to look, and I walk past them very quickly. That’s called not “supporting the troops,” which, I guess, I don’t — and neither do you.

6. And you know, the beautiful thing about all this “support” you and I have been giving the troops — they feel this love and support so much, a record number of them are killing themselves every single week. In fact, there are now more soldiers killing themselves than soldiers being killed in combat (323suicides in 2012 through November vs. about 210 combat deaths). Yes, you are more likely to die by your own hand in the United States military than by al Qaeda or the Taliban. And an estimated eighteen veterans kill themselves each day, or one in five of all U.S. suicides — though no one really knows because we don’t bother to keep track. Now, that’s what I call support! These troops are really feeling the love, people! Lemme hear you say it again: “I support the troops!” Louder! “I SUPPORT THE TROOPS!!” There, that’s better. I’m sure they heard us. Don’t forget to fly our flag, wear your flag lapel pin, and never, ever let a service member pass you by without saying, “Thank you for your service!” I’m sure that’s all they need to keep from putting a bullet in their heads. Do your best to keep your “support” up for the troops because, God knows, I certainly can’t any longer.

I don’t “support the troops” or any of those other hollow and hypocritical platitudes uttered by Republicans and frightened Democrats. Here’s what I do support: I support them coming home. I support them being treated well. I support peace, and I beg any young person reading this who’s thinking of joining the armed forces to please reconsider. Our war department has done little to show you they won’t recklessly put your young life in harm’s way for a cause that has nothing to do with what you signed up for. They will not help you once they’ve used you and spit you back into society. If you’re a woman, they will not protect you from rapists in their ranks. And because you have a conscience and you know right from wrong, you do not want yourself being used to kill civilians in other countries who never did anything to hurt us. We are currently involved in at least a half-dozen military actions around the world. Don’t become the next statistic so that General Electric can post another record profit — while paying no taxes — taxes that otherwise would be paying for the artificial leg that they’ve kept you waiting for months to receive.

I support you, and will try to do more to be there for you. And the best way you can support me — and the ideals our country says it believes in — is to get out of the military as soon as you can and never look back.

And please, next time some “supporter of the troops” says to you with that concerned look on their face, “I thank you for your service,” you have my permission to punch their lights out (figuratively speaking, of course).

(There is something I’ve done to support the troops — other than help lead the effort to stop these senseless wars. At the movie theater I run in Michigan, I became the first person in town to institute an affirmative action plan for hiring returning Iraq/Afghanistan vets. I am working to get more businesses in town to join with me in this effort to find jobs for these returning soldiers. I also let all service members in to the movies for free, every day.)


The high cost of historical ignorance

By Paul S. Ropp

Ignorance of world history should be a crime for politicians. Why? Because historical ignorance has led to some of the worst disasters in American foreign policy. In the 1960s, for example, the US sent 500,000 troops to the small country of Vietnam in order to “contain China” and to maintain the independence and “democracy” of South Vietnam.

In fact, South Vietnam was no democracy, and Vietnam was a proudly nationalistic country that had successfully contained China, quite by itself, for 2000 years. With neighboring Laos and Cambodia, it had fiercely resisted French and Japanese imperialism in modern times. And all three countries retained a profound sense of national pride and a profound hatred for Western or Japanese armies.

Consequently United States troops were widely seen in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia as a richer version of the racist and rapacious French and Japanese. Yet American leaders, blindly ignorant of Asian history and Asian nationalism, and fearing the “soft on communism” charge in domestic politics, sent 57,000 young Americans to their early deaths, and killed between one and two million Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians, mostly civilians. This death and devastation was a direct result of our profound ignorance of the history and cultures of Asia.

More recently, and more disastrously for the US national interest, George W. Bush felt emboldened by the 9/11 terrorist attacks to launch an invasion of Iraq in 2003, even though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. With no knowledge and no curiosity about the history of the Middle East, Bush assumed that just because Saddam Hussein was a nasty dictator, American troops would be welcomed in Baghdad, and American-style democracy would be warmly embraced by all parties.

The history of western imperialism in the Middle East is as shameful, and as relevant today, as the history of western imperialism in Asia. After World War I, the British arbitrarily drew the boundaries of Iraq, deliberately combining three hostile groups—Sunnis, Shi’ites and Kurds—to guarantee a weak and unstable oil-rich country that could be manipulated and dominated by the West.

Because Saddam Hussein brutally imposed Sunni control over the Shi’ites and Kurds, it was clear to all historians that his overthrow would seriously weaken Iraq and unleash lethal tensions pitting revenge-seeking Shi’ites in the south and independence-seeking Kurds in the north against the former Sunni power-holders.

Ignoring the history of Iraq, Bush wildly exaggerated Saddam’s military power, quickly destroyed the country’s modern infrastructure, and then failed to provide even a semblance of law and order, or the massive reconstruction effort so desperately needed following the “shock and awe” of the American assault. The Saddam regime’s sudden collapse proved he was never a serious military threat to American interests. The looting of the Iraqi national museum and the torture photos from Abu-Ghraib Prison became symbols the world over of American ignorance, arrogance and hypocrisy.

When no weapons of mass destruction could be found in Iraq, the war rationale was changed to democratization, despite the fact that nothing is less democratic or more subversive of democratic values than a foreign military invasion. The Bush war in Iraq has empowered Iran as many Middle Eastern experts predicted, and has inspired both Iran and North Korea to accelerate, not abandon, their nuclear development. The sectarian tensions and continuing violence in Iraq today are a direct result of the Bush administration’s reckless invasion in 2003.

The Bush war in Iraq has killed some 4000 Americans and over 100,000 Iraqis, and seriously wounded over 20,000 Americans and untold numbers of Iraqis. Over 2 million Iraqis, mostly middle class professionals, have fled the war-torn country, and the industrial infrastructure of Iraq has still not been restored to pre-war levels. The financial costs of health care for Iraq war veterans, the interest on the money borrowed to fight the war, and the damage to America’s moral standing in the world will be a burden on the US for generations to come.

Americans like to focus on the future, not on the past. But ignoring the past leaves us blind to the moral, political and financial costs of our past mistakes, and all too likely to repeat those mistakes in the future. Beware of American politicians who combine arrogance and ignorance of world history. They are a greater threat to our national security, prosperity and power than any external enemies.

Improve the lives of War Dogs! Please help!

From a “friend”:

As an animal lover, I was outraged when I read this:

Experts estimate that the average War Dog saves 150 soldiers lives during his tenure of service. Currently war dogs are considered equipment provided to their “human” soldier handlers but while their handlers return home to their families these dogs are classified as “Excess Equipment” and left behind like junk.

Unless a dog is adopted as a pet and the adoptive owner pays ALL the expenses to bring the dog home, it will be left behind. PLEASE contact President Obama, Dept. of War, your Congresswoman/man and ask them to change the laws/help these brave animals!


Improve Retired War Dog Adoption!

Retired Military Working Dogs have no “return to home station” benefits even though for the time of their service they are commonly considered “military members.” As it now stands, retired OCONUS (OVERSEAS) MWDs must be transported at adoptive owner’s expense as a pet!

Air Force Major General Mary Kay Hertog explained that adopters must bear the brunt of transport for adopted dogs returning from overseas because, “Once that dog is adopted, it becomes a pet, and therefore loses its MWD status.” The General added, “So it would be fraud, waste and abuse for the DOD to transport that pet.”

Experts estimate that the average MWD saves 150 soldier lives during his tenure of service. This is a laudable feat which should be recognized in an official capacity

Several organizations including US War Dog Association are asking Congress to amend H.R. 5314 (Public Law 106-446, 106th Congress) to include the following three changes:

Provide for authorized DoD Transport of retiring MWDs stationed at permanent OCONUS bases who are adoption suitable or already adopted back to CONUS (continental United States) via military transport.

Grant an official reclassification of current active duty MWD from “Equipment” to “MWD Troop/Soldier”. This change is necessary in order to undergird the reclassification of a retiring MWD from the current “Excess Equipment” to “MWD Veteran” or “Military K9 Veteran.”

Mandate the creation and establishment of a DoD recognized Commendation and Medal for Meritorious MWD Service for Active Duty MWDs.

Let the President, DoD, and Congress know how you feel about this issue!

Disabled veteran returns to life of service!


Corporal Matthew Boisvert Receives Fellowship to Volunteer with NEADS

LOWELL – After returning from his second tour in Iraq, Marine Corporal Mathew Boisvert was unsure how to continue his life of service here at home. Having lost a leg and the use of his hand in an IED blast, he was forced to give up his military career. Corporal Boisvert struggled to find a civilian equivalent to the sense of respect, trust and integrity he developed in the Marines. Then, he found The Mission Continues.

The Mission Continues Fellowship Program provides post-9/11 wounded and disabled veterans the opportunity to regain purpose in their lives after the military service has ended.  Veterans learn to translate their military experiences into civilian skill sets, while earning a modest living stipend.  A typical fellowship covers 28 weeks, during which the Fellow serves his or her community through a local charitable organization. 

Boisvert received a Mission Continues Fellowship to volunteer with National Education for Assistance Dog Services (NEADS), a non-profit that trains service dogs for veterans and disabled Americans. The project gave him a new purpose by uniting two of his most fundamental passions – the rehabilitation of shelter dogs and service to his fellow veterans.

In the future, Boisvert hopes to pursue a degree in applied animal behavior and open his own animal rescue shelter. His fellowship with NEADS provides the hands-on experience necessary to make that dream a reality. “After going through these life lessons and becoming part of the community again, you look at the world in a different way,” Matthew says, “I want to make things better for people.”

About The Mission Continues
The Mission Continues is a national nonprofit organization with a mission to build an America where every returning veteran can serve again as a citizen leader.  Founded in 2007 when Navy SEAL Eric Greitens returned from Iraq, the organization offers paid service fellowships to wounded and disabled veterans, awarding 156 fellowships in 25 states to date.  In addition, The Mission Continues has mobilized nearly 17,000 civilian and veteran volunteers to complete over 300 service projects across the nation.  For more information about The Mission Continues, please visit www.missioncontinues.org.

A note from someone who knows …

Please visit http://www.gilgitbaltistan.us to learn more about the region where Greg Mortenson started his school projects.

We, the natives of Gilgit-Baltistan, a region of former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, do have lots of respect for Mortenson for providing education to girls in that area. The region has one of the lowest per capita incomes and one of the lowest literacy rates. Without support of NGOs like CAI and AKDN, education would be a dream for the majority, as more than half of the locals live below the poverty line.

Since the Pakistan government has failed to provide for the educational needs of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, it is people like Mortenson who became the hope for us.

– Senge H. Sering

Author Greg Mortenson cancels May 3 speaking engagement in Worcester

By Rosalie Tirella

In this issue of InCity Times, we ran a promotion, re: Greg Mortenson’s May 3 speaking enagement at Mechanics Hall. After we went to press – and could not make any changes to the paper – we got this note from the UCC (see below). We did not see the Sixty Minutes piece on Mortenson.

In our humble opinion, if the author has accomplished only half of what he claims to have achieved, he is still a great man. I saw a TV news report a few years ago – I think it was a 60 Minutes piece – on Mortenson and all the great schools he was allegedly building in Afghanistan, etc. I was impressed! I still am. Maybe he hasn’t built as many schools as he claimed, but the guy HAS built lots of schools in the Mid East, poor girls there are being educated in his schools and he has shone a bright light on this important issue – educating girls in developing countries is the key to their human rights – for all the world to see.

As far as I can see, the world still needs people who will sit down and have three cups of teas – that is, build friendships gradually and respectfully – with people in Afghanistan and Pakistan, etc – not go in, as we and NATO have done, half-cocked blowing everybody’s brains out. The Mid East needs folks who will support girls and education for girls. They need more activists like Mortenson – not fewer.

As far as the way the guy has handled money – not so good. But he did tell NPR he was saving millions of dollars to provide a huge nest egg for his charity so that when he dies the important work of educating poor girls in the Mid East – the only way their society will begin to see them as full human beings and not chatel  – will continue.


Press release received by ICT:

The United Church of Christ – Massachusetts Conference (MACUCC), sponsor of an upcoming appearance by author Greg Mortenson in Worcester on May 3, announced today that Mortenson has withdrawn from his planned engagement due to health concerns.

Mortenson, who was the subject of a highly critical segment aired on April 17th’s “Sixty Minutes” program, announced recently that he is suffering from a hole in his heart which is reportedly due to be surgically repaired in Bozeman, MT, this week. Given the surgery and recuperation time, Mortenson’s agent said it was impossible for him to fulfill his engagement at Worcester’s Mechanics Hall on May 3.

Susan Dickerman, Associate Conference Minister for Leadership Development for the MACUCC, said, “The Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ is deeply concerned about the allegations made by CBS during its “Sixty Minutes” broadcast. Our decision to sponsor Greg Mortenson’s appearance in Worcester focused on providing an opportunity for laity and clergy to be inspired and challenged by Mortenson’s work in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to share with him their questions and concerns. We regret Mr. Mortenson’s illness and inability to fulfill his contract, and will offer full refunds of ticket purchases to all ticket holders.” Those holding tickets should contact the Mechanics Hall Box Office for a refund at 508-752-0888, no later than May 5th.

The Massachusetts Conference of the UCC includes 386 churches with over 73,000 members, and is one of 39 regional bodies of the UCC, which has 5,300 churches and 1.1 million members. The United Church of Christ traces its roots to the Pilgrims and Puritans who founded this country, and founded the nation’s first public schools and universities. The UCC remains a strong advocate for equality in public schools today.

InCity Times book review

Obama’s Wars By Bob Woodward

Reviewed by Steven R. Maher

If you have a relative in the armed services or a friend who is a political aficionado, “Obama’s Wars” would make a nifty gift. It’s the latest inside look at Presidential decision making by Bob Woodward, whose previous books include “Bush at War” and “Plan of Attack.”

In these books Woodward interviews the President, major political figures, generals, and other participants. He tries as much as possible to have his sources confirm each other’s accounts, so as to ensure historical accuracy. Woodward goes to lengths at being impartial. This truly is the first draft of history.

Woodward first rose to national prominence in the early 1970s as part of a two man team of investigative reporters for the Washington Post, exposing the seamy side of the Nixon presidency in the Watergate scandal. Nixon was forced to resign to avoid being impeached.

Thoughtful man

The Obama who emerges in these pages is a deeply thoughtful man who gives due consideration to the consequences of his decisions. Continue reading InCity Times book review

Let there be peace on earth!

By Michael True

“The same war continues,” Denise Levertov wrote, in “Life at War.” Her lament is more appropriate for 2011 than as it was when she wrote the poem forty-five years ago.

Columnists and academics, including Andrew Bacevich, Boston University, are finally acknowledging facts familiar to anyone “awake” regarding failed U.S. policies, wasted lives and resources during this period, Willfully ignoring such facts, as Professor Bacevich wrote, “is to become complicit in the destruction of what most Americans profess to hold dear.”

At the beginning of this New Year, consequences of “life at war” stare us in the face: the victimization of military and civilian populations and a huge national debt, Continue reading Let there be peace on earth!

Never Forget: Bad Wars Aren’t Possible Unless Good People Back Them

By Michael Moore

We invaded Iraq because most Americans — including good liberals like Al Franken, Nicholas Kristof & Bill Keller of the New York Times, David Remnick of the New Yorker, the editors of the Atlantic and the New Republic, Harvey Weinstein, Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer and John Kerry — wanted to.

Of course, the actual blame for the war goes to Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz because they ordered the “precision” bombing, the invasion, the occupation, and the theft of our national treasury. I have no doubt that history will record that they committed the undisputed Crime of the (young) Century.

But how did they get away with it, considering they’d lost the presidential election by 543,895 votes? They also knew that the majority of the country probably wouldn’t back them in such a war (a Newsweek poll in October 2002 showed 61% thought it was “very important” for Bush to get formal approval from the United Nations for war — but that never happened). So how did they pull it off?

They did it by getting liberal voices to support their war. They did it by creating the look of bipartisanship. And they convinced other countries’ leaders like Tony Blair to get on board and make it look like it wasn’t just our intelligence agencies cooking the evidence. Continue reading Never Forget: Bad Wars Aren’t Possible Unless Good People Back Them