Monday, December 28, 2009

Think About It: Our Real Enemies

"Our real enemies are not in some distant land. They're not people whose names we don't know and cultures we don't understand ... The enemy is a system that wages war when it's profitable ... the CEOs who lay us off from our jobs when it's profitable ... the insurance companies who deny us health care when it's profitable ... the banks who take away our homes when it's profitable. Our enemies are not five thousand miles away. They are right here at home."

--Mike Prysner, Iraq War Veteran

December 28, 2009 at 01:17 PM in Afghanistan, Corporatism, Iraq War, Veterans | Permalink | Comments (6)

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Rep. Martin Heinrich Will Deliver Your Holiday Card(s) to Vets & Troops

Holidaycards

Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01) announced his “Holiday Cards for Our Troops” program in a statement released by his office. Congressman Heinrich is collecting cards for service members recovering from injuries and stationed away from their families this holiday season. He will then hand-deliver the cards to patients at the Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center in Albuquerque. Rep. Heinrich is also partnering with United Service Organizations (USO) to send holiday cards to troops stationed overseas. Cards collected by Rep. Heinrich will be included in troop-support packages and sent to Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The holiday season can be a difficult time of year for the men and women who serve our country,” said Rep. Heinrich. “Being away from friends, family and the comfort of tradition during the holidays is an incredible sacrifice. Having spent time with our service members, I know how much it means to them to hear from folks at home. Thoughtful words of encouragement and support from our community can make a huge difference in boosting the morale of our brave men and women who serve our country with honor.”

To participate in the program, make or purchase a holiday card, write a message of thanks inside to a service member, and deliver or mail the card to Rep. Heinrich’s office in downtown Albuquerque or his new office in the South Valley by Saturday, December 12, 2009. Please follow these guidelines:

  • Address each card to a “Brave Service Member.”
  • Individual envelopes are not necessary.
  • If the cards are in envelopes please leave them unsealed.
  • All cards must be signed.
  • Please do not include your personal contact information (email, address, phone, etc.) or inserts (photos, gift cards, phone cards etc.).

Below are the addresses of Rep. Heinrich’s district offices:

Downtown Albuquerque Office: U.S Representative Martin Heinrich | 20 First Plaza NW Suite 603 | Albuquerque, NM 87102

South Valley Office: U.S Representative Martin Heinrich | 3211 Coors Blvd SW, Suite B3 | Albuquerque, NM 87121

For the full details of the program and guidelines, visit Rep. Heinrich’s Web site:

December 8, 2009 at 12:15 PM in Afghanistan, Holidays, Iraq War, Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Veterans | Permalink | Comments (4)

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Obama Speaks in Rose Garden on House Passage of Health Insurance Reform, and Iraq

I thought you might enjoy seeing a press release I got from the White House today. It's a transcript of President Barack Obama's remarks in the Rose Garden this afternoon about House passage of the Affordable Health Care for America Act, as well as something the President defines as "a significant breakthrough in Iraq where Iraq's parliament has approved a new election law that paves the way for national elections early next year."

November 8, 2009 at 03:37 PM in Healthcare, Iraq War, Obama Health Care Reform | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Congressman Teague Announces Retroactive Pay for Stop-Lossed Troops

Congressman Harry Teague (NM-02) issued a statement today applauding the Department of Defense for its decision to begin distributing retroactive compensation to the more than 185,000 stop-lossed troops since September 11, 2001. The payment provides $500 for every month a service member or veteran’s enlistment was involuntarily extended. Congress established this payment in the 2009 War Supplemental Appropriations Act enacted this summer.

“Our service men, women and veterans have served our country tirelessly, never faltering even when asked to stay and fight longer. In return, they deserve the best our country can offer,” said Teague, who's a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. “The stop-loss policy places a tremendous burden on the troops and their families. This monthly payment is just one step in honoring their commitment and dedication to our country.”

The Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay is available to service members of every military branch who had their enlistment extended or retirement suspended due to Stop Loss between Sept. 11, 2001 and Sept. 30, 2009. As of yesterday, service members were able to begin submitting claims for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay. All applications must be submitted to the respective services no later than Oct. 21, 2010. Family members of deceased service members should contact the appropriate military service for assistance in filing their claim.

Any service members or veterans needing assistance filing a claim to receive their stop-loss compensation can contact Congressman Teague’s office at 1-888-9-TEAGUE or online at www.teague.house.gov.

October 22, 2009 at 01:47 PM in Afghanistan, Iraq War, Military Affairs, NM Congressional Delegation, Rep. Harry Teague (NM-02), Veterans | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Terry Riley Guest Blog: Do Demonstrations Work?

This is a guest blog from Albuquerque activist Terry Riley.

Do demonstrations work? I listened to Elliot Adams on Sunday at the Pentagon for Peace presentation at the Immanuel Presbyterian Church on Silver SE in Albuquerque. Elliot is the past president of Veterans for Peace. He feels that though we have not stopped the Iraq war/occupation or the Afghanistan war/occupation we have extremely likely prevented a pre-emptive attack on Iran. Now, that is really quite an accomplishment! We have likely also had an impact on how the military industrial complex has conducted themselves in Iraq and Afghanistan, though it is hard to imagine that it could be much worse.

Locally, here in Albuquerque there was a recent demonstration in response to a young mother who is dying of an extremely rare disease. The reason for the demonstration was that her insurance company, Presbyterian Health Care, had chosen to stop providing a (extremely expensive) medicine that was giving her relief even though her insurance premiums have always been paid. The demonstration was held in front of Presbyterian Hospital on a Sunday afternoon and, in addition to this action, many people e-mailed the head of Presbyterian Health Care in support of Kendra. 

Yesterday the Albuquerque Journal had a front page article announcing that Presbyterian Health Care has begun providing that medicine for her again. There are many details and certainly many influences to Presbyterian's decision, but I believe that the demonstration and the e-mails applied pressure in support of Kendra.

I believe that demonstrations do work. Demonstrations are not the only avenue to take but they are a necessary part of a strong campaign to support or oppose an important issue. Please consider this when you read the next request for people to come out and stand in the streets. We do matter, we do affect the outcome. We do need more people to join us so that our issues are acted on more quickly, please join us, we have a world to save, environmental issues, military issues, healthcare issues, etc.

This is a guest blog by Terry Riley. If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand corner of the page.

October 13, 2009 at 10:58 AM in Afghanistan, Guest Blogger, Healthcare, Iran, Iraq War, Peace | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Pentagon of Peace to Visit New Mexico in October

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From Veterans for Peace:

PENTAGON OF PEACE:
“FIVE FOR TRUTH”
New Mexico Tour Presented by
VETERANS FOR PEACE:
Taos, Santa Fe and Albuquerque
OCTOBER 9, 10 & 11TH

Click for schedules and flyers for all three locations.

September 28, 2009 at 11:27 AM in Afghanistan, Books, Events, Iran, Iraq War, Military Affairs, National Security, Peace, Progressivism, Santa Fe, Taos | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Rep. Luján to Host New GI Bill Benefits Sign Up on Memorial Day in Santa Fe

Rep. Ben Ray Luján announced that he will host a New GI Bill sign up on Memorial Day in his Santa Fe district office. Veterans and their families can visit the office and sign up for education benefits under the New GI Bill. May 1 was the first day that veterans could sign up for new college benefits under the new GI Bill for the 21st Century that takes effect on August 1. Last year, Congress enacted the bill to restore the promise of a full, four-year college education for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

“Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have an opportunity to receive significant education benefits under the new GI Bill,” said Rep. Luján. “I encourage Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to apply for this program on Memorial Day at my Santa Fe district office.”

The New GI Bill benefits sign up and meet and greet with Rep. Ben Ray Luján will take place on Monday, May 25, from 1:30-3:00 PM (MT) at Rep. Luján’s Santa Fe District Office, 811 St. Michael's Dr., Suite 104. Staff will be available in the office from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

Members of the military -- including activated reservists and members of the National Guard -- who have been honorably discharged from service with at least 90 days of active duty service on or after September 11, 2001 could receive up to four academic years of education benefits. These benefits include stipends for housing and books, and are correlated on a sliding scale relative to years served. To receive full benefits you must have served on active duty for three years. Veterans will have up to 15 years after they leave active duty to use their education benefits.

The new college benefit program will pay for:

· tuition and fees up to the maximum in-state tuition and fees at a public institution in your state;

· a monthly housing allowance at the location of the school, based on the Basic Allowance for Housing for an E-5 with dependents; and

· an annual books and supplies stipend of up to $1,000.

At 10:00 AM on Memorial Day, Rep. Luján will deliver the closing prayer at the Santa Fe National Cemetery Memorial Day Service, Santa Fe National Cemetery, 501 North Guadalupe St., Santa Fe, NM.

May 24, 2009 at 12:22 PM in Afghanistan, Education, Iraq War, Military Affairs, NM Congressional Delegation, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Veterans | Permalink | Comments (0)

Terry Riley Guest Blog: Memorial Day

This is a guest blog by Terry Riley of Veterans for Peace Albuquerque:

Memorial Day, holiday in the United States observed in late May. Previously designated Decoration Day, it was inaugurated in 1868 by Gen. John A. Logan for the purpose of decorating the graves of Civil War veterans and has since become a day on which all war dead are commemorated.

The Columbia Encyclopedia. Copyright © 2001-09 Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

Veterans Memorial Park, Albuquerque, New Mexico. This park, located at 1100 Louisiana Blvd. SE in Albuquerque, focuses on Veterans of all wars and all branches of the military. Memorial Day and Veterans Day veterans and their families fill the park for services and speeches commemorating military service and the sacrifices people have made for our country.

The Memorial Day and Veterans Day events in Albuquerque have excluded participation of Veterans for Peace, as though speaking out against war is somehow not patriotic. The Albuquerque Veterans for Peace have had to stand outside the park on these days, holding signs expressing an anti-war and non-violent message. This year the Albuquerque Chapter of Veterans for Peace will be inside the park with a display table on equal ground with other veteran’s organizations. With the help of the Albuquerque ACLU an appeal was filed with the City of Albuquerque asking for equal opportunity to table alongside other veteran’s organizations.

As we remember the veterans of our military branches who have served our country, enjoy that this year all veterans organizations will be able to participate at the Albuquerque Veterans Memorial Park. Please thank the American Civil Liberties Union for providing the legal expertise and legwork that has brought justice and equality to the day that we are all celebrating those who gave their lives for these values; equality, rule of law, justice, etc.

This is a guest blog by Terry Riley of Veterans for Peace Albuquerque. To submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand corner of the page.

May 24, 2009 at 10:46 AM in Afghanistan, Civil Liberties, Iraq War, Military Affairs, Veterans | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Memorial Day: Memory, War and the Memory of War

Memday

Dr. Louis Bickford, who manages the Memory, Memorials, and Museums program at the International Center for Transitional Justice, provides a timely and thought-provoking piece for Memorial Day entitled, Memory, War, and the Memory of War. Excerpt:

Memorial Day is meant to remind us of the hardship of war, and on this Memorial Day I find myself asking how we will remember the "war on terror." What will our children's children know about this period?

We choose in the present how future generations will remember the past. One of the great contributions of the human rights movement is showing that how we remember and memorialize trauma in the past -- torture under brutal regimes in Argentina or during the apartheid era of South Africa, the evil committed during the Holocaust -- can help prevent abuses in the future.

... Imagining the future, we may choose to remember the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, for example, more in terms of heroism than error, since that is the tendency of all nations. We may remember the irreparable loss of life of those who went to fight, and we will think about their families and the suffering they endured. Our national memory may focus on the deaths of the Americans, in the same way that our memories of Vietnam focus largely on American causalities.

Will we remember that there was a place called Abu Ghraib on the dusty outskirts of Baghdad, and that torture took place there, for which we were responsible? Will we remember that we acquiesced to a terrible policy put forward by our leaders and with the endorsement of many -- Democrats, Republicans, journalists, legal scholars -- that allowed for us to ignore international and American law prohibiting torture?

If we care about the future, we must, first, clarify the truth. Second, we must find ways of clearly condemning torture wherever and whenever it was committed. Third, we must take steps so that we remember our rejection of those acts. Our thinking about future memory is one way of preventing torture in the future.

...If former officials succeed in making us forget that there was torture and that it was contrary to our values, they will establish impunity for the present and also for the future. That must not be allowed to happen. Extreme violations of human rights in any context, including a war, are too important to forget. We want future generations to remember that we insisted on accountability for them. Those are good reasons to have Memorial Day.

On his PBS show last night, Bill Moyers ended the program with a commentary on Dr. Bickford's piece and what Memorial Day means. You can view video and text of Moyers' statement here.

Memorial Days Past: Time flies, but the Iraq war continues. Last year we posted on a visit by then presidential candidate Barack Obama and Gov. Bill Richardson to a Memorial Day gathering in Las Cruces. In 2007, we featured a piece by paralyzed Viet Nam war veteran Ron Kovic on the forgotten wounded of the Iraq war. In 2006, I wrote a post contemplating Iraq war casualties after watching HBO's Baghdad ER. And in 2005, I posted on veterans and others I believe should be honored as we remember American sacrifices and American history.

May 23, 2009 at 09:47 AM in Afghanistan, Iraq War, Justice, Military Affairs, Obama Administration, Veterans | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Senators Udall and Bingaman Vote for Supplemental War Funding

On Monday, all three of New Mexico's Congressmen voted in favor of the $97 BILLION supplemental appropriations bill to fund the war spending and foreign aid efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq through September 30. Yesterday, Senators Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman did the same with a Senate version of the bill totaling $91.3 BILLION. The measure passed by a margin of 86-3, with 10 abstentions. The only Dem to vote no was Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold.

As I'm sure you know by now, the Senate version of the bill stripped $80 million in funding for closing Guantanamo prison -- ostensibly because Dems wanted more info on Obama's plans. Apparently, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also was concerned that the prisoners would be set loose to hang out in our neighborhoods: "“You can’t put them in prison unless you release them ... we will never allow terrorists to be released in the United States." The only problem with his statement? A prison transfer isn't a release and nobody has ever proposed releasing any Guantanamo prisoners in the US.

The Senate bill also contains less for weapons procurement and foreign aid than the House version. It also fulfills Obama's request to extend up to $108 billion in credit lines to the International Monetary Fund for helping countries suffering from the global financial crisis, and backs up the IMF's plan to sell 400 tons (12.97 million ounces) of gold. After the Memorial Day break, the House and Senate will confer on a compromise measure to present to Obama in June.

Don't you wish the Congress was instead voting to spend $97 billion on things like commuter trains and light rail? In our dreams, as the seemingly never-ending military missions continue in their 8th year. The war in Afghanistan began on October 7, 2001, with the US invading Iraq on March 20, 2003. I'm well aware that there are cogent arguments for continuing on this path in order to try to rectify -- in some way -- the grave errors and tragedies perpetrated by Bush et al. But is that even possible?

Will $97 billion more dollars thru September really make a difference in the outcomes in Iraq and Afghanistan? What the heck is the exit plan for Afghanistan? What does "winning" there entail? Does anybody really know what's going on in Iraq right now and what will change if we stay there for who knows how long? While dealing with the supplemental, members of Congress asked few questions, demanded no detailed plans and challenged no assumptions in the conduct of the wars, as far as I can tell. Instead, they seemed to be content to take Obama's word that more billions are needed, 22,00 more troops must go to Afghanistan and the military and diplomatic strategies being pursued are the right ones.

As I noted before, the supplemental bill is in addition to Obama's regular budget request now before the Congress for $205 BILLION for Iraq and Afghanistan over the next 18 months. More than $75 BILLION of that is earmarked for the rest of the year.

According to the Cost of War counters provided by the National Priorities Project, as of today we have spent a total of $859,684,211,796 on our wars-occupations since 2001 -- $671,225,383,000 for Iraq and $188,458,925,442 for Afghanistan. The numbers don't exactly add up because the counters keep moving at a rapid pace as the dollar amounts continue to increase by the second. And the conflicts drag on and on and on and on.

May 22, 2009 at 09:48 AM in Afghanistan, Economy, Populism, International Relations, Iraq War, Military Affairs, NM Congressional Delegation, Obama Administration, Sen. Tom Udall, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Compare Language of Obama and Cheney Speeches on National Security

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These are word clouds created by the language used in the speeches about national security given today by President Barack Obama and Dead-Ender Dick Cheney. The bigger the word, the more it was used in the speech. Click on the images to see larger versions. Notice any big differences? Like use of the words TERRORISM and 9/11 by Cheney vs. the words WILL, AMERICAN, PEOPLE and GUANTANAMO emphasized by Obama? Click for the complete texts of the speech by Obama -- and the one by Cheney. There he goes again. Hey, Dick, go back to your bat cave!

May 21, 2009 at 03:34 PM in Afghanistan, International Relations, Iraq War, Military Affairs, National Security, Obama Administration, Terrorism, Torture | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, May 18, 2009

US House Votes $97 Billion More in Supplemental War Spending; Heinrich, Teague, Lujan Vote Yes

When you start hearing more about how we don't have enough money to achieve genuine health care reform that includes universal care in America, or that we have to "rein in" what have erroneously come to be called "entitlements" -- like Medicare and Social Security -- think about this vote.

On Thursday, the U.S. House passed a $96.7 BILLION request from President Obama for war spending and foreign aid efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq through September 30 by a roll call vote of 368-60. All three of New Mexico's Congressmen -- Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Rep. Harry Teague (NM-02) and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03) -- followed the House leadership's urging and voted in favor of the funding. Only 51 Democrats and 9 Republicans voted no.

Democrats against the supplemental explained they fear Obama is escalating the war in Afghanistan without a clear exit strategy or goals. For example,

"When George Bush was president, I was on this floor saying we need an exit strategy," said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.). "The same applies with Afghanistan. I'm tired of wars with no deadlines, no exits and no ends."

However, Dem leaders balked at making any demands:

House Democratic leaders refused to back an effort by McGovern and other antiwar legislators that would require Obama to provide Congress a detailed exit strategy for Afghanistan by the end of the year.

Note that this is a SUPPLEMENTAL spending bill that is in addition to Obama's regular budget request now before the Congress for $205 BILLION for Iraq and Afghanistan over the next 18 months. More than $75 BILLION of that is earmarked for the rest of the year.

According to the Cost of War counters provided by the National Priorities Project, we have spent a total of $858,230,959,582 on our wars-occupations since 2001 -- $670,041,506,063 for Iraq and $188,189,686,116 for Afghanistan. The numbers don't exactly add up because the counters keep moving at a rapid pace as the dollar amounts continue to increase by the second.

I know the party line is to give Obama's plan a chance to work; in effect, to give him the benefit of the doubt. I understand that position, but I don't understand why that should negate any effort to ask the hard questions and demand a clear delineation of our goals and the exit strategy we will employ to finally bring the troops home.

There does seem to be a sense among many Dems that they should go along with Obama's plan, at least for now, even though they have serious misgivings:

"This is a bill that I have very little confidence in," Rep. David R. Obey (D-Wis.), an outspoken liberal, said of the $97-billion measure to finance military operations in the region. "But we have a responsibility to give a new president who did not get us into this mess the opportunity to get us out of it."

... Rep. Melvin Watt (D-N.C.) said he had to hold his nose to vote for the bill. "A year from now," he said, "I'll be asking some serious questions."

Unfortunately the Dem leadership in the House seems reticent to make any demands on the new President:

Democratic critics in the House and Senate have objected to giving more aid to Afghanistan and Pakistan without setting preconditions or benchmarks for progress by their governments. The administration and its supporters have argued against tying Obama's hands.

That is a reversal for Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), who had demanded that Bush set such benchmarks in Iraq.

Others don't see it that way:

"It's time for Americans to come to our senses," said Rep. Marcy Kaptur, a Democrat from recession-ravaged Ohio. "Isn't it time to pay more attention to the fraying economy in our homeland?"

May 18, 2009 at 09:48 AM in Afghanistan, Economy, Populism, Iraq War, NM Congressional Delegation, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Rep. Harry Teague (NM-02), Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01) | Permalink | Comments (5)