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Into the Valley of Death A strategic passage wanted by the Taliban and al-Qaeda, جمهوری اسلامی افغانستان Afghanistan's Korengal Valley is among the deadliest pieces of terrain in the world for U.S. forces. One platoon is considered the tip of the American spear. Its men spend their days in a surreal combination of backbreaking labor - building outposts on rocky ridges - and deadly firefights, while they try to avoid the mistakes the Russians made. Sebastian Junger and photographer Tim Hetherington join the platoon's painfully slow advance, as its soldiers laugh, swear, and run for cover, never knowing which of
them won't make it home.
... "Prison labor is basically what I call it," says a man I know only as Dave. Dave is a counter-insurgency specialist who spends his time at remote outposts, advising and trying to learn. He wears his hair longer than most soldiers, a blond tangle that after two weeks at Restrepo seems impressively styled with dirt. I ask him why the Korengal is so important.
"It's important because of accessibility to Pakistan," he says. "Ultimately, everything is going to Kabul. The Korengal is keeping the Pech River Valley safe, the Pech is keeping Kunar Province stable, and hence what we are hoping is all that takes the pressure off Kabul."
While we are talking, some rounds come in, snapping over our heads and continuing on up the valley. They were aimed at a soldier who had exposed himself above a HESCO. He drops back down, but otherwise, the men hardly seem to notice.
"The enemy doesn't have to be good," Dave adds. "The just have to be lucky from time to time."
The Korengal is so desperately fought over because it is the first leg of a former mujahideen smuggling route that was used to bring in men and weapons from Pakistan during the 1980s. From the Korengal, the mujahideen were able to push west along the high ridges of the Hindu Kush to attack Soviet positions as far away as Kabul. It was called the نورستان Nuristan-Kunar corridor, and American military planners fear that al-Qaeda is trying to revive it. If the Americans simply seal off the valley and go around, Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters currently hiding near the Pakistani towns of Dir and Chitral could use the Korengal as a base of operations to strike deep into eastern Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden is rumored to be in the Chitral area, as are his second in command, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, and a clutch of other foreign fighters. While thousands of poorly trained Taliban recruits martyr themselves in southerrn Afghanistan, bin Laden's most highly trained fighters ready themselves for the next war, which will happen in the East.
In addition to strategic value, the Korengal also has the perfect population in which to root an insurgency. The Korengalis are clannish and violent and have successfully fought off every outside attempt to control them - including the Taliban's in the 1990s. They practice the extremist Wahhabi version of Islam and speak a language that even people in the next valley over cannot understand. That makes it extremely difficult for the American forces to find reliable translators. The Korengalis have terraced the steep slopes of their valley into fertile wheat fields and built stone houses that can withstand earthquakes (and, as it turns out, air strikes), and have set about cutting down the enormous cedar trees that cover the upper elevations of the Abas Ghar. Without access to heavy machinery, they simply grease the mountainsides with cooking oil and let the trees rocket several thousand feet to the valley below.
The timber industry has given the Korengalis a measure of wealth that has made them more or less autonomous in the country. حامد کرزي Hamid Karzai's government tried to force them into the fold regulating the export of timber, but the Taliban quickly offered to help them smuggle it out to Pakistan in return for assistance fighting the Americans. The timber is moved past corrupt border guards or along a maze of mountain tracks and donkey trails that cross the border into Pakistan. The locals call these trails buzrao; some American soldiers refer to them as "rat lines." The routes are almost impossible to monitor because they cross steep, forested mountainsides that provide cover from aircraft. After firefights, the Americans can listen in on Taliban radio communications calling for more ammunition to be brought by donkey along these lines.(-- pgs. 91-92)
But the military has made some headway, right?
By many measures, Afghanistan is falling apart. The Afghan opium crop has flourished in the past two years and now represents 93 percent of the world's supply, with an estimated street value of $38 billion in 2006. That money helps bankroll an insurgency that is now operating virtually within sight of the capital, Kabul. Suicide bombings have risen eightfold in the past two years, including several devastating attacks in Kabul, and as of October, coalition casualties had surpassed those of any previous year. The situation has gotten so bad, in fact, that ethnic and political factions in the northern part of the country have started stockpiling arms in preparation for when the international community decides to pull out. Afghans - who have seen two foreign powers on their soil in 20 years - are well aware that everything has an end point, and that in their country end points are bloodier than most.
The Korengal is widely considered to be the most dangerous valley in northeastern Afghanistan, and Second Platoon is considered the tip of the spear for the American forces there. Nearly one-fifth of all combat in Afghanistan occurs in this valley, and nearly three-quarters of all the bombs dropped by NATO forces in Afghanistan are dropped in the surrounding area. The fighting is on foot and it is deadly, and the zone of American control moves hilltop by hilltop, ridge by ridge, a hundred yards at a time. There is literally no safe place in the Korengal Valley. Men have been shot while asleep in their barracks tents. (-- p. 86)
Oh child, do you know, do you know
where you come from?
From a lake
with white and hungry sea gulls.
Besides the wintry water
she and I built
a red bonfire
wearing away our lips
from kissing each other's souls,
throwing everything into the fire,
burning up our life.
This is the way you arrived in the world.
But in order to see me
and in order to see you one day
she crossed over the seas
and in order to embrace
her small waist
I walked the whole earth,
with wars and mountains,
with sand and spines.
This is the way you arrived in the world.
From so many places you come,
from the water and from the earth,
from the fire and from the snow,
from so far away you walk
toward the two of us,
from the terrible love
that has enchained us,
so we want to know
what you are like, what you say to us,
because you know more about the world than we gave you.
Like a great storm
the two of us shake
the tree of life
down to the most hidden
fibers of its roots
and you appear now,
singing in the leaves,
on the highest branch
we reached with.
HEARING THAT HIS FRIEND WAS
COMING BACK FROM THE WAR
In old days those who went to fight
In three years had one year's leave.
But in this war the soldiers are never changed.
They must go on fighting til they die on the battlefield.
I thought of you, so weak and indolent,
Hopelessly trying to learn to march and drill.
That a young man should ever come home again
Seemed about as likely as that the sky should fall.
Since I got the news that you were coming back,
Twice I have mounted to the high wall of your
I found your brother mending your horse's stall;
I found your mother sewing your new clothes.
I am half afraid; perhaps it is not true;
Yet I never weary of watching for you on the road.
Each day I go out to the City Gate
With a flask of wine, lest you should come thirsty.
Oh that I could shrink the surface of the World,
So that suddenly I might find you standing at my side!
Wang Chien, Chinese, 756-835
(-- p. 35, adjacent to Wang Shi-chi Watching Geese.
Ch'ien Hsuan, Chinese, ca. 1235-after 1301. Handscroll
in ink, color, and gold on paper)
Lone Survivor The Eyewitness Account of
Operation Redwing and the
Lost Heroes of Seal Team 10
By Marcus Luttrell with
Goodbyes tend to be curt among Navy SEALs. A quick backslap, a friendly bear hug, no one uttering what we're all thinking: Here we go again, guys, going to war, to another trouble spot, another half-assed enemy willing to try their luck against us... they must be out of their minds.(From To Afghanistan ... in a Flying Warehouse, This was payback time for the World Trade Center. We were coming after the guys who did it. If not the actual guys, then their blood brothers, the lunatics who still wished us dead and might try it again, p. 9)
When someone tells you he's in a SEAL team, you know you are in the presence of a very special cat. Myself, I was just born lucky, somehow fluked my way in with a work ethic bequeathed to me by my dad. The rest of those guys are the gods of the U.S. Armed Forces. And in faraway foreign fields, they serve their nation as required, on demand, and mostly without any recognition whatsoever. (-- p. 59)
No recognition, maybe, but plenty of self-congratulation - 386 vacuous pages of it, in fact. Why do people read this awful stuff?
Looking back, I would say that many parts of my life in Oklahoma prepared me for the war in Iraq. Our two-bedroom trailer baked in the Oklahoma sun and froze in the winter, so I was as ready for extreme weather as any American. Growing up on my grandfather's forty-acre farm, I learned to fix just about anything that was broken and make pretty well anything run. I was a private first class when I went to war, but I had farm-boy skills and my officers came to count on them. I was the one they came to, over and over again, to connect air conditioners to generators, hot-wire trucks, run our own wires to Iraqi electricity lines, and assemble plastic explosives.
As a child, I watched many times as J.W. Barker - my third and final stepfather - drank himself into a stupor and beat up my mother. I grew up learning to expect abuse. J.W. loved to bring over his drinking buddies and have them watch while I worked with his guns. I used to bet them on whether I could hit a small target with a .22 rifle. While they tipped back beer I would hang a string from a tree, pull it taut by tying it to an old fire extinguisher on the gournd, stand back fifty paces, and blast through the target nearly everytime. At $10 a pop it was the fastest pocket money I ever earned. And I earned a good bit of it. Growing up, I shot beer bottles, Coke cans, hanging string, and snakes, and I was a fine marksman before joining the army. (From the Prologue, p. 3)
On the impossible odds of AWOL Key acquiring refugee status in Canada:
Some thirty years ago, under the leadership of the late Pierre Trudeau, the Canadian government welcomed draft dodgers from the Vietnam War. The current Canadian government, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has not looked favorably on such refugee claims made by recent deserters of the American army. My case is unusual because I am the first deserter in Canada to argue that I went AWOL after being ordered to take part in a steady stream of human rights violations in Iraq. Still, I am not optimistic about my future, and it is challenging to live in shadows of doubt. (From Epilogue, p. 227)
In fact, Key is not unique in making these arguments. Legions of other U.S. Forces AWOLs continue to make the same unsuccessful bid in Canada each day. Quite apart from the additional stress such claims would add to already overworked immigration tribunals, simply agreeing to hear them would probably create an international diplomatic incident. Developed democracies like the U.S. don't take that sort of insult in stride. Neither should legitimate refugees patiently waiting their turn.
New York Times Magazine
War Dodgers A small group of American soldiers hope
Canada will be a refuge from war just as it was 40
years ago. But Iraq is no Vietnam. Or is it?
By Ben Ehrenreich
... Though the United States Army does issue arrest warrants for deserters, it does not actively track them down; even at home, deserters are most likely to be apprehended if they are picked up for an unrelated offense. According to a State Department spokeswoman, the United States has made no diplomatic efforts to bring deserters home from Canada. And despite the Canadian Supreme Court decision in November, none has yet been deported. But, as (Vietname deserter attorney Jeffry) House puts it, "the machinery is grinding along." At least eight deserters, including (Jeremy) Hinzman, have received Pre-removal Risk Assessment notices, the bureaucratic preludes to actual deportation orders. It's very unlikely, though, that the government will make any move beofre the parliamentary vote in April. Even then, the deserters' supporters say they hope, the government might prefer that this issue disappear. Given the unpopularity of the Iraq war and the Harper administration's narrow hold on power, "the Conservatives have nothing to gain if this issue becomes very public," says Michelle Robidoux of the War Resisters Support Campaign. (-- p. 18)
DISMISSED WITH COSTS:
Brandon David Hughey v. Minister of Citizenship and Immigration (F.C.) (Civil) (By Leave) (32111)
Coram: Bastarache / Abella / Charron
(The application for an extension of time to serve and file the applicants’ reply is granted and the application for leave to appeal is dismissed with costs. / La demande de prorogation de délai pour signifier et déposer la réplique des demandeurs est accordée et la demande d’autorisation d’appel est rejetée avec dépens.)
Coram: Bastarache / Abella / Charron
New York Times Magazine
'I feel like Dr. Phil with guns.' 'The only reason anyone's listening to me in this
valley right now is 'cause I'm dropping bombs on
them.' 'I ended up killing that woman, and that kid.' 'I've got too many geeking out, wanting to go off
the deep end.'
'We're all to the point of Lord of the Flies.'
In one remote valley in Afghanistan, the counter-
insurgency effort is maddening, bloody - and going
nowhere. Captain Kearney's Quagmire
By Elizabeth Rubin
In the case of the Korengal Valley, the story began about a century ago, when the tribesmen now known as Korengalis were kicked out of the province of Nuristan (immediately north of Kunar province) and settled in the Korengal, which was rich with timber forests and farmland. Over time, they made an alliance with one branch of the large Safi tribe, which once dominated Kunar politics. But downm the road along the Pech River valley, the rest of the Safis opposed the Korengalis.
As the Afghans tell the story, from the moment the Americans arrived in 2001, the Pech Valley timber lords and warlords had their ear. Early on, they led the Americans to drop bombs on the mansion of their biggest rival - Haji Matin. The air strikes killed several members of his family, according to local residents, and the Americans arrested others and sent them to the prison at Bagram Air Base. The Pech Valley fighters working alongside the Americans then pillaged the mansion. And that was that. Haji Matin, already deeply religous, became ideological and joined with Abu Kihlas, a local Arab linked to the foreign jihadis.
By 2007, the Americans understood what happened. Last year, the governor of Nuristan even sat them down with the Korengali elders to try and mediate between the two sides. Nothing came of it. Kearney tried to dig deeper, sending e-amil messages to anthropologists and Afghan experts to get their guidance. He spent hours listening to Haji Zalwar Khan - who acted as the valley's representative to the Americans and the government - talk about history and grievances. Haji Zalwar, a jihadi veteran of the anti-Soviet fight, bore the valley's burden almost alone and had the grim demeanor to prove it. Kearney met as many villagers as possible to learn the names of all the elders and their families. But he inherited a blood feud between the Korengalis and the Americans that he hadn't started, and he was being sucked into its logic.
Last autumn, after five months of grueling foot patrols up and down the mountains, after fruitless encounters with elders who smiled in the morning and were host to insurgents in the evening and after losing friends to enemy fire, Captain Kearney's men could relate to the sullen, jittery rage of their predecessors in the 10th Mountain Division. Many wondered what they were doing out there at all. ...
At the end of the summer, Kearney told his dad, "My boys are gonna go crazy out here." The army sent a shrink, and Kearney got a wake-up call about his own leadership. He discovered that half his men thought he was playing Russian roulette with their lives and the other half thought he stuck too closely to the rules of engagement. "The moral compass of the army is the P.L. and the C.O." - the platoon leader and the commanding officer, Kearney told me. "I told every one of the P.L.s that they have to set that moral standard, that once you slip to the left, you can't pull your guys back in." (-- pgs. 41-42)
New York Times Magazine
She Was Supposed to Be Dead A Vietnam war correspondent disappears for 23 days
By Maggie Jones
When Kate Webb reported from the battlefields of Cambodia, she kept her chestnut hair cropped G.I-short and wore jeans and loose shirts to obscure her breasts. This was 1971. Only a handful of women were full-time correspondents in Vietnam, and even fewer women roughed the front lines next door in Cambodia, where military officers believed foreign women were, at best, a distraction. At worst, they were bad luck.
Bad luck was a virus among foreign-correspondents in Cambodia. Unlike in Vietnam - where Webb arrived four years earlier at age 23 with a philosophy degree, a one-way ticket from Australia, a Remington typewriter, $200 in cash and a whisky-and-cigarette voice so soft people leaned in to hear her - there were no reliable phone lines in Cambodia to call your editor in an emergency. Tehre were no American military hospitals to sew up your bullet wounds; no helicopters to evacuate you when things got bloody. By April 1971, several years before the Killing Fields, at least 16 foreign correspondents were missing and 9 were dead. (-- p. 43)
More about Aussie Kate:
War Torn Stories of War from the Women
Reporters who Covered Vietnam
By Tad Bartimus, Denby Fawcett, Jurate Kazickas,
Edith Lederer, Ann Bryan Mariano, Anne Morrissy
Merick, Laura Palmer, Kate Webb, and Tracy Wood;
Introduction by Gloria Emerson
Poker has long fascinated America's great and good, from politicians to generals to captains of industry. Presidents Roosevelt (both), Truman, Eisenhower and Nixon were all keen players. Nixon was famously good: most of the funding for his first congressional run came from poker winnings. Poker was said to have inspired cold-war tacticians. It is still a useful military motif: recall the playing cards used to represent Saddam Hussein and his most-wanted cohorts. Poker financed a sizeable chunk of Microsoft's start-up costs. Bill Gates once said he learned more about business strategy at the baize than in classrooms - though these days he apparently prefers the more stately game of bridge.
Not all famous players have made such good role models. As he partied away the declining years of his career, Errol Flynn incurred some excruciating poker losses, including, on one particularly bad night, a Caribbean island he had hoped to develop into a holiday resort. John Wayne had some shockers too, though in one memorable game he won Lassie from the canine star's desperate owner.
What Nixon, Flynn and Wayne have made of poker today? They would surely have marvelled at the transformation of "the cheater's game" into a multi-billion-dollar industry, pumping out new millionaires almost daily. Even they might have been shocked at the latest season of "High Stakes Poker," a television series in which players buy into each game for $500, 000 apiece and the winner takes home more than $5m.
They might, perhaps, have been disappointed that the game had lost some of its backroom edginess. Miss Obrestad's generation are more likely to put their excess winnings into tax-free bonds than blow them betting on a single round of gold, as Mr Brunson and his Las Vegas pals used to do in their madder moments. Still, those hoping to win over poker's skeptics will find no better example than young Annette, 15. She is stern, sober and chillingly focused on her game. She appears to be exceptionally good at it too. Either that or amazingly lucky. (-- p. 38)
The History Boys In the twilight of his presidency, George W. Bush and his inner circle have been feeding the press with historical parallels: he is Harry Truman - unpopular, besieged, yet ultimately to be vindicated - while Iraq under Saddam was Europe held by Hitler. To a serious student of the past, that's preposterous. Writing just before his untimely death, David Halberstam asserts that Bush's "history," like his war, is based on wishful thinking, arrogance, and a total disdain for the facts.
... You don't hear other members of the current administration citing the lessons of Vietnam much, either, especially Cheney and Karl Rove, both of them gifted at working the bureaucracy for short-range political benefits, both highly partisan and manipulative, both unspeakably narrow and largely uninterested in understanding and learning about the larger world. As Joan Didion pointed out in her brilliant essay on Cheney in The New York Review of Books, it was Rumsfeld and Cheney who explained to Henry Kissinger, not usually slow on the draw when it came to the political impact of foreign policy, that Vietnam was likely to create a vast political backlash against the liberal McGovern forces. The two, relatively junior operators back then, were interested less in what had gone wrong in Vietnam than in getting some political benefit out of it. Cheney still speaks of Vietnam as a noble rather than a tragic endeavor, not that he felt at the time - with his five military deferments - that he needed to be part of that nobility.
Still, it is hard for me to believe that anyone who knew anything about Vietnam, or for that matter the Algerian war, which directly followed Indochina for the French, couldn't see that going into Iraq was, in effect, punching our fist into the largest hornet's nest in the world. As in Vietnam, our military superiority is neutralized by political vulnerabilities. The borders are wide open. We operate quite predictably on marginal military intelligence. The adversary knows exactly where we are at all times, as we do not know where he is. Their weaponry fits an asymmetrical war, and they have the capacity to blend into the daily flow of Iraqi life, as we cannot. Our allies - the good Iraqi people the president likes to talk about - appear to be more and more ambivalent about the idea of a Christian, Caucasian liberation, and they do not seem to share many of our geopolitical goals.
The book that brought me to history some 53 years ago, when I was a junior in college, was Cecil Woodham-Smith's wondrous The Reason Why, the story of why the Light Brigade marched into the Valley of Death, to be senselessly slaughtered, in the Crimean War. It is a tale of such folly and incompetence in leadership (then, in the British military, a man could buy the command of a regiment) that it is not just the story of a battle but an indictment of the entire British Empire. It is a story from the past we read again and again, that the most dangerous time for any nation may be that moment in its history when things are going unusually well, because its leaders become carried away with hubris and a sense of entitlement cloaked as rectitude. The arrogance of power, Senator William Fulbright called it during the Vietnam years. (-- pgs. 124, 168)
It was in some ways predictable that the central player in the system of willed errors and reversals that is the Bush administration would turn out to be its vice-president, Richard B. Cheney. Here was a man with considerable practice in the reversal of his own errors. He was never a star. No one ever called him a natural. He reached public life with every reason to believe that he would continue to both court failure and overcome it, take the lemons he seemed determined to pick for himself and make the lemonade, then spill it, let someone else clean up. The son of two New Deal Democrats, his father a federal civil servant with the Soil Conservation Service in Casper, Wyoming, he more or less happened into a full scholarship to Yale: his high school girlfriend and later wife, Lynne Vincent, introduced him to her part-time employer, a Yale donor named Thomas Stroock who, he later told Nicholas Lemann, 'called Yale and told 'em to take this guy.' The beneficiary of the future Lynne Cheney's networking lasted three semesters, took a year off before risking a fourth, and was asked to leave. (Sample paragaph online)
The $3 Trillion War After wildly lowballing the cost of the Iraq conflict at a mere $50 to $60 billion,
the Bush administration has been concealing the full economic toll. The spending
on military operations is merely the tip of a vast fiscal iceberg. In an excerpt from
their new book, the authors calculate the grim bottom line.
By Joseph E. Stiglitz and Linda J. Bilmes
To understand why the true costs of the war are so much higher than the official estimates, we can start by looking at America’s veterans. No one has suffered more from the administration’s blindness and stinginess. To date, more than 1.6 million American troops have been deployed in the Iraq and Afghanistan operations. More than 4,000 have been killed. More than 65,000 have been wounded or injured, or have contracted a disease. Of the 750,000 troops who have been discharged so far, some 260,000 have been treated at veterans’ medical facilities. Nearly 100,000 have been diagnosed as having mental-health conditions. Another 200,000 have sought counseling and re-adjustment services at walk-in vet centers.
No adequate preparation was made for casualties on this scale. The Department of Veterans Affairs (V.A.) and other agencies have been overwhelmed—both by the need for immediate medical care and by the demand for disability benefits. Already, a quarter of a million returning veterans have applied for disability benefits. Not surprisingly, many disability claims are complex: the average veteran cites five separate disabling medical conditions. The least fortunate among the veterans have suffered unimaginable horrors: brain trauma, amputations, burns, blindness, and spinal damage. Because a greater number of the injured are surviving today, the relative costs of long-term care will be greater than for any previous war. This is the surge the administration doesn’t talk about.
In 2000, the V.A. had a backlog of 228,000 pending compensation claims. Today, owing in part to a rising tide of claims from newly injured military personnel, the number has mounted to more than 400,000. It is now taking the V.A. an average of six months to process an initial claim. About 14 percent of veterans appeal the initial decision, and it then takes the V.A. nearly two years to process the appeal. In the interim, many veterans are left in limbo.
As for medical care, the V.A. is stretched beyond capacity. It has run out of money, and in cities around the country V.A. hospitals are having trouble hiring enough doctors and nurses. In many areas, seriously wounded veterans are being forced to wait more than 30 days just to see a doctor. A study by the Government Accountability Office put its finger on one reason: the V.A. based its forecasts for health-care needs as late as 2005–6 on data for 2002, before the Iraq war began.
The administration’s dishonesty when it comes to casualties and health care has been twofold. First, by failing to take into account the long-term burden of caring for veterans, it has vastly understated the true cost of the Iraq war—by hundreds of billions of dollars, as we’ll see. Second, from the outset the administration has reported casualties in a way intended to downplay the human consequences of the war.
The Pentagon is highly secretive about the total number of casualties. While it reports deaths of service personnel from both combat and noncombat operations, the official tallies list only those wounded in combat. The military has considerable discretion in deciding how a particular case is classified. If the second vehicle in a convoy crashes into the first, which has been blown up by an I.E.D., is it an accident? Or should any killed and wounded be counted as combat casualties? If a helicopter crashes in a night flight because it is too dangerous to fly during the day, should we think of this, too, as just an accident? (-- pgs. 148-150)
Trillion Dollar War
By Joseph E. Stiglitz and Linda J. Bilmes
The vital period in the formation of Britain's policy towards her Army was the period of government by Cromwell's Major-Generals. The people of England were thensubjected to a military dictatorship, they were ruled by Army officers who were professional soldiers, and, who, though admittedly the finest soldiers in the world, usually had no stake in the country, and often were military adventurers. Their government was harsh and arbitrary, and the nation came to detest the very name of the Army.
After the Restoration, nation and Parliament were equally determined that never again should the Army be in the hands of men likely to bring about a military revolution and impose a military dictatorship. With this object, purchase was introduced when a standing Army was formed in 1683. Men were to become officers only if they cold pay down a substantial sum for their commission; that is, if they were men of property with a stake in the country, not military adventurers. As a secondary consideration the purchase price acted as a guarantee of good behaviour, a man dismissed the service forfeited what he had paid. From that date it was the settled policy both of Parliament and of the Crown to draw the officers of the British Army from the class which had everything to lose and nothing to gain from a military revolution. The formation of an Army on the lines of Continental models, offered by professional soldiers, dependent on their pay and looking to the service to make their fortunes, was deliberately avoided. "Parliament has never sought to attract to the command of the army men dependent on their payk, either to hold their place in Society as gentlemen, or to maintain the higher social status assumed by Military officers over the civil community," wrote Clode, the nineteenth-century authority on military administration (see Charles M. Clode, The Administration of Justice under Military and Martial Law, as Applicable to the Army, Navy, Marines, and Auxiliary Forces. 2d ed. rev. and enl. London: J. Murray, 1874. LCCN: ltf91025900. KD6290 .C56 1874). Men of no fortune were not wanted; if they chose to come in it was at their own risk. ... (-- pgs. 22-23)
Improving the Social Security Disability Decision Process Committee on Improving the Disability Decision Process: SSA's Listing of Impairments and Agency Access to Medical Expertise Board on Military and Veterans Health
John D. Stobo, Michael McGeary and David K. Barnes, Editors
Institute of Medicine of the National Academies
The Social Security Administration (SSA) asked the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to study its medical procedures and criteria for determining disability and to make recommendations for improving the timeliness and accuracy of its disability decisions. SSA asked the IOM to help in two broad areas, broken down in to 10 specific tasks (footnote omitted).
First, SSA asked IOM to recommend ways to improve the use of medical expertise in the disability determination process, including how medical expertise can best be provided to support case adjudication by the 54 Disability Determination Services (the state agencies that make the initial disability determinations for SSA, called DDSs) and in appeals hearings held by SSA at 144 hearings offices around the country, as well as advise on the organization and qualifications of supporting medical experts. ...
Under the Social Security Act, an individual is considered to be "disabled" for Social Security purposes if he or she is unable "to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or cab eb expect to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." Further, "[a]n individual shall be determined to be under a disability only if his physical or mental impairment or impairments are such severity that he is not only unable tyo do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy...." (From the Summary, pgs. 1-3)
... The nine examples of Listing-level impairments that the Social Security Administration (SSA)) originally provided to guide decision making included the loss of vision, hearing, or speech; loss of use of two limbs, progressive diseases such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and heart and lung conditions that have resulted in major loss of physical function; terminal cancers; and neurological or mental impairments requiring institutionalization or constant supervision.
Subsequently, the concept of disability has changed in recognition that disability, as distinct from impairment, is not just inherent in the individual and his or her medical condition but is the result of the interaction between the person with impairments and features of the socioeconomic environment in which the person lives, such as the presence or lack or accessible transportation and practical workplace accommodations. Under this concept, two people with the same impairment might have quite different degrees of work disability. For example, a person with an injury that permanently limits use of an arm, who is 55 years old, has limited education and has a work history of manual labor, would be very disabled, while a person with the same impairment with a law degree may not be disabled at all. Similarly, two people with impairments of quite different severity might be equally disabled from working. (emphasis added) (From Chapter 2, Evolving Concepts of Disability, pgs. 18-19)
In addition to long claim-processing time, there has been an overall upward trend in disability claim filings since 1989 and a corresponding increase in case backlogs. At the DDS initial claim level, case backlogs that totaled less than 300,000 in the late 1980s were nearly 625,000 by 2004. At the ALJ hearing level, the increase has been even more dramatic - from less than 200,000 to more than 700,000. By the end of FY 2006, the initial backlog had fallen by 11 percent to 555,000 but the queue for ALJ hearings had grown by 13 percent to 715,000. (footnotes and citations omitted) (From Claim-Processing Time, p. 58)
All DDSs throughout the country operate under the same federal procedures for making disability decisions for SSA, yet there is considerable variation among states in decision outcomes. In 2004, the percentage of initial claims allowed by individual state DDSs varied widely, from around 25 percent in low-allowance-rate states such as Tennessee and Mississippi to more than 50 percent in high-allowance-rate states such as Hawaii, New Jersey, and New Hampshire. There is also wide variation in the bases for allowances. (emphasis added) In 2003, initial claims were allowed based on meeting the Listings in less than 35 percent of the initial favorable decisions in New York, Vermont, and Minnesota. But the same basis was used for allowance in more than 55 percent of the initial favorable decisions in Illinois, South Dakota, Indiana, and Oklahoma. In North Dakota, the figure was 65 percent. States like Indiana and Washington found imnpairments equivalent to the Listings in only 2-3 percent of the allowances. In contrast, Vermont found impairments equivalent to the Listings in more than 21 percent of its allowances.
The percentage of allowances based on the Listings varies less across states in some conditions than in others. The percentage of allowances made for malignant neoplastic disease ranges between 85 and 98 percent across DDSs. The range is much wider for mental disorders. The percentage of allowances for mental disorders based on the Listings varies between 36 and 86 percent.
Variability in decision-making not limited to allowances. ...
There are also significant state-to-state variations in procedures and administrative arrangements. (emphasis added) ...
ALJs, who decide disability appeals throughout the country, also operate under the same federal rules in making disability decisions. However, data about hearing decision outcomes on a state-by-state basis show considerable variation in outcomes. ...
A claimant cannot be awarded disability benefits unless there is a medical basis for his or her impairment. Therefore, SSA relies heavily on medical expertise for claims adjudication. However, not all DDSs or regional appeals offices have access to a full range of medical expertise. ...
At the field office level, states do not have formal or systematic quality assurance procedures for evaluation of medical information collected on applications for disability. ...
As summarized by the Social Security Advisory Board (SSAB, 2006:7-8):
Over the years policy makers and administrators have identified many factors, in addition to the inherent subjectivity of the statutory definition of disability, that may affect the consistency of disability decision making. ... (From Variability in Decision Making, pgs. 58- 61)
External Input Affecting the Listings
No matter how reliable and valide the Listings may be at any given moment, they are constantly affected by external developments. These include changes in disease patterns, advances in scientific knowledge and medical practice, advances in assistive technologies, and changes in the workplace affecting workers in terms of job requirements and potential sources of injury.
The most common devices that government agencies use to ensure that evidence-based regulations are kept current are:
. feedback from the regulatory process
. staff research
. external advisory committees
SSA has expanded regulatory feedback in recent years by sponsoring policy conferences and using advanced notices of proposed rulemaking (ANPRAMs). At policy conferences, medical specialists present the latest research and medical practices and interact with beneficiaries, advocates, and SSA disability officials. ANPRMs solicit suggestions from all interested parties on how the Listings should be revised. The committee supports these efforts to incorporate more public and professional input into the Listings revisions process.
The Office of Medical Policy, the staff component of the SSA Office of Disability Programs, is responsible for maintaining the Listings. Currently, the Office of Medical Policy has seven medical officers, who are charged with keeping abreast of the medical literature, such as the results of clinical trials, research on outcomes, and practice guidlines. Five are physicians with expertise in psychiatry, physical medicine and rehabilitation, neurology, and pediatrics. In addition, there is a speech and language pathologist and a psychologist. This office is small and does not have experts in all the major specialties (although it can draw on the advice of specialists in the federal DDS), so its ability to supply the necessary medical expertise to the Listings revision process is limited.
RECOMMENDATION 4. SSA should ensure that its Office of Medical Policy has the expertise relevant to the full range of listed impairments and has the resources to stay knowledgeable concerning new developments in medicine and rehabilitation, for example, by conducting systematic literature review on a periodic basis. (-- pgs. 102-103)
Unfortunately, appropriate and necessary medical care and treatment for serious disorders is not readily availble to everyone. For individuals who do not receive treatment, thse listings may not apply. As SSA notes in the preface to the cardiovascular listings, "If you do not receive treatment, you cannot show an impairment that meets the criteria of most of these listings."
Variable access to quality health care services throughout the country is an unfortunate fact, but is beyond the capacity of SSA to remedy. Observation of a patient's response to medical treatment is a standard medical pracctice and legitimate way for SSA to evaluate impairment severity in its rules. The fact that all applicants may not be able to document impairment severity this way does not make it any less valuable as a method to assess impairment severity in those who can, especially given that the Listings are only a screening to identify obvious allowances.
Ideally, individuals applying for disability benefits would be evaluated and receive the medical, vocational rehabilitation, and employment services that would enable them to resume working gainfully. Instead, in the current system, many individuals with remediable work limitations are not eligible for medical care or vocational rehabilitation until after they have completed the process of qualifying for cash benefits. At that point, they may become eligible for Medicaid if they are SSI recipients (unless they have already qualified under other criteria, such as those for the Children with Special Health Care Needs program). SSDI beneficiaries must wait for two years to be eligible for Medicare. Only then may these individuals be able to obtain the medical care they need.
This requirement obviously disadvantages poor people and others without adequate health care coverage, but any unfairness is the result of the social and political system that created these inequities, not SSA's Listings, which is meant to be the most efficient method available for easily identifying obvious allowance cases. (emphasis added) (From Adaptability of the Listings, pgs. 105-106)
Estimated Average Monthly Social Security Benefits Payable in January 2008:
Disabled Worker, Spouse and One or More Children $1,690
All Disabled Workers $1,004
With the passage of the 1956 legislation that first added disability income benefits to the Social Security program came marked changes upon the private insurance sector. Similar to the intent of the initial Social Security retirement and old-age legislation, Social Security disability benefits were intended to be only a "floor of coverage." As the years passed, this proved not to be the case as far as Social Security disability benefits were concerned. The initial 1956 legislation provided disability coverage for only those disabilities that occurred over age 50, lasted more than 12 months, and were expected to be total and permanent. The level of benefits was modest, and individual insurers of disability income essentially ignored potential benefits from this source in their underwriting limits. Then in teh 1960s, the program was expanded to cover all Social Security covered workers, regardless of age, and the period at which benefits could become payable was reduced from one year to six months. Later on in the 1960s and continuing at a more rapid rate throughout the 1970s, Congress passed a series of bills that increased the level of benefit payments under the Social Security program, including disability income. With such an expansion of government benefits, it was no longer possible for private insurers to ignore the potential benefit payments from Social Security disability because of the dangers of overinsurance. (Chapter 20, Governmental Disability Programs, p. 183)
The economic climate in which we operate and the level of unemployment will continue to have a direct impact upon disability income results. Will double-digit inflation prove to be an acceptable norm in our economy? If this proves to be the case, ti will have a direct effect on expense rates, product design, and the general stability of in-force business. Inflationary periods tend to to increase lapses and policy makeovers, since the contract fails to cover the insurer's income needs after a short period of time. We will continue to experience periodic recessions, some steeper than others, with generally the same effect on our business as in the past. Morbidity will increase during recessionary periods, and the steeper the recession, the higher the morbidity. A true economic depression will have financial consequences similar to those of the 1930s depression. The volatility of disability experience is so directly tied to the economy and unemployment that adverse financial consequences cannot be avoided. (emphasis added) The successful disability manager is the one who can significantly blunt such adverse effects. (From Chapter 22, Disability Income Future, p. 199)
Speculating on Truman's motives is a risky business. It attempts to apply calm hindsight to a situation that was dizzying in its complexity and that above all, found Truman trying to come up to speed on a program of which he had previously been largely unaware. Still, the decision to use atomic weapons against Japan is so significant that it is necessary to try to understand what forces produced it. Though no such inquiry can produce a single, neat answer, an investigation has much to reveal about the origins and historical implications of Truman's decision.
Proponents of dropping the bomb argue that, however vast its death toll, it seemed a swift and sure way in a bloody wartime situation to end the war with Japan and avoid greater losses. Critics range from those who accuse Truman of having acted rashly, due to his inferior foreign policy skill relative to that of his predecessor, to those who think that the vast summs spent on the Manhattan Project pressured the fledgling president to deliver on its work. This dark suspicion was fueled by Truman
s own words announcing the bombing of Hiroshima. "We have spent," Truman declared proudly, "two billion dollars ont he greatest scientific gamble in history - and won."(footnote omitted)
That Truman included this price tag in his first words of announcement implies that the cost was at least part of his calculation - that had the government gambled and lost, there would have been as much discredit to go around as there was glory for the success. The suspicion that the cost of the Manhattan Project played a role in the decision about the bombing was held not only by critics at the historical fringe but by Truman's secretary of war, Stimson and Adiral Leahy. (From The Arsenal of Democracy, pgs. 65-66)
About the book and the development of America's military industrial complex now controlling even the Executive branch:
In his now legendary 1961 farewell address, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of "the disastrous rise of misplaced power" that could result from the increasing influence of what he called the "military industrial complex." Nearly two centuries earlier, another general-turned-president George Washington, had warned that "overgrown military establishments" were antithetical to republican liberties. Today, with an exploding defense budget, millions of Americans employed in the defense sector, and more than eight hundred U.S. military bases in 130 countries, the worst fears of Washington and Eisenhower have come to pass.
Surveying a scorched landscape of America's military adventures and misadventures, Jarecki's groundbreaking account includes interviews with a "who's-who" of leading figures in the Bush administration, Congress, the military, academia, and the defense industry, including Republican presidential candidate John McCain, Colin Powell's former chief of staff Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, and long-time Pentagon reformer Franklin "Chuck" Spinney. Their insights expose the deepest roots of American war-making, revealing how the "Arsenal of Democracy" that crucially secured American victory in WWII also unleashed the tangled web of corruption America now faces. From the republic's earliest episodes of war to the use of the atom bomb against Japan to the passage of the 1947 National Security Act to the Cold War's creation of an elaborate system of military-industrial-congressional collusion, American democracy has drifted perilously from the intent of its founding. As Jarecki powerfully argues, only concerted action by the American people can, and must, compel the nation back on cours. (emphasis added) (From the jacket flaps)
Thirteen Russian soldiers in bulky winter uniforms and high boots are scattered about a pocked, blood-splashed slope lined with loose rocks and the litter of war: shell casings, crumpled metal, a boot that holds the lower part of a leg...The scene might be a revised version of the end of Gance's J'accuse, when the dead soldiers from the First World War rise from their graves, but these Russian conscripts, slaughtered in the Soviet Union's own late folly of a colonial war, were never buried. A few still have their helmets on. The head of one kneeling figure, talking animatedly, foams with his red brain matter. The atmosphere is warm, convivial, fraternal. Some slouch, leaning on an elbow, or sit, chatting, their opened skulls and destroyed hands on view. One man bends over another who lies on his side as if asleep, perhaps encouraging him to sit up. Three men are horsing around: one with a huge wound in his belly straddles another, lying prone, who is laughing at a third man, on his knees, who playfully dangles before him a strip of flesh. One soldier, helmeted, legless, has turned to a comrade some distance away, an alert smile on his face. Below him are two who don't seem quite up to the resurrection and lie supine, their bloodied heads hanging down the stony incline.
Engulfed by the image, which is so accusatory, one could fatasize that the soldiers might turn and talk to us. But no, no one is looking out of the picture. There's no threat of protest. They are not about to yell at us to bring a halt to that abomination which is war. They haven't come back to life in order to stagger off to denounce the war-makers who sent them to kill and be killed. And they are not represented as terrifying to others, for among them (far left) sits a white-garbed Afghan scavenger, entirely absorbed in going through somebody's kit bag, of whom they take no note, and entering the picture above them (top right) on the path winding down the slope are two Afghans, perhaps soldiers themselves, who, it would seem from the Kalashnikovs collected near their feet, have already stripped the dead soldiers of their weapons. These dead are supremely uninterested in the living: in those who took their lives; in witnesses - and in us. Why should they seek our gaze? What would they have to say to us? "We" - this "we" is everyone who has never experienced anything like what they went through - don't understand. We don't get it. We truly can't imagine what it was it was like. We can't imagine how dreadful, how terrifying war is; and how normal it becomes. Can't understand, can't imagine. That's what every soldier, and every journalist and aid worker and independent observer who has put in time under fire, and had the luck to elude the death that struck down others nearby, stubbornly feels. And they are right. (Closing paragraphs, pgs. 124-126)
These are the stories of brave women who fought to follow their hearts. Their devotion to virginity may oppose our modern notion about powerful women, but in the world they inhabited, taking a vow of chastity was not a passive act; it was a rebellion against the conventions and men that ruled them. These early saints were not swayed from their ideals or turned away from their goals, even under the threat of violence. They met their fierce punishment with smiling grace rather than fear.
Miraculous events helped the virgins through their battles. They became unmovable, fireproof, and airborne. They lost eyes, breasts, and beauty, and then regained them. Saint Margaret emerged from a dragon's belly unharmed, and Saint Agnes grew long hair to defend her modesty as she was led naked through the streets to a brothel. During their lives such miracles caused these women to be condemned as witches and heretics; after their deaths, the miracles led to their canonization as saints.
Many texts question the existence of some of these women, but whether they are mythical characters or heroines of history, they still have admirers around the world. Girls wear wreaths of candles on Saint Lucy's day, and eat hard-boiled eggs on the eve of Saint Agnes's feast day so they may dream of future suitors.
These virgin saints are examples of strength and courage for all women. We may take comfort in the thought that they may be watching over us, protecting us from illness, bad eyesight, difficult childbirth, fire, or cumbersome husbands. (From the Introduction)
Prepositions for Remembrance Day
By Jon Furberg, a formidable English instructor at Vancouver Community College (VCC), Langara Campus, who contended, alas, in vain against the milk-fed presses of the wintry east grown fatuous, lazy on Canada Council grants while western poets languished. Yet another who left too soon.
down in history
through layers of bones,
shells of feasting, and also
rifle shells, casings from
heavy artillery - history
a succession of wars, their causes
and means, and the manner
of their ends - in bodies
twisted beyond number
but down on the street
two old men meet and embrace.
How excellent! their bodies
rocking in bent arms -
hats, canes, shoes askew
in a little jig of recognition,
gratitutde, even love,
you've seen it, tough sinew
of legs rocking down
to knotted feet
down the street in peace
to the beer parlour,
down on nothing but luck,
essentials - enough cash
for more of what we need.
Food, drink, talk - it is
one another's company they keep
in passing: We must have
a long talk right now,
very long and lively.
old men drinking the evening
down, drinking down history.
And very old women
who still laugh
passing on. passing down.
the old warriors wink
and smile, then they cry
and don't know why,
but the ladies do, they know
why they cry, old flowers
along the wall wearing red hats
and so resemble poppies, sacred
flower of this day's lapel -
glasses full of amber emptied
down the holy tube
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