Saturday, October 31, 2009
We got a email from our friend Wayne Lutz. He has a new project I would like you Veterans consider volunteering for. If you Blog or have a web page link with him this is a great thing Wayne is working on so milbloggers help him; link with and consider participating. Below is Wayne's letter:
There is a new organization called Big Brothers-In-Arms that I co-founded
with Gold Star Mom Mary Conboy and that is a collaboration between several
troop-support groups. The volunteers that we seek for this group (BBIA) are
mostly from the Vietnam/Cold War Eras, so I was wondering if you would be
good enough to link to us on your ACW V site, and perhaps make a mention in
It's a great effort and in just a few short weeks we've already helped
several current warriors and gathered a couple of hundred volunteers, and
gotten quite a bit of media attention.
Please look at the site - it's only one page, at
http://www.bigbrothersinarms.org and let me know if you can do this. Check
out the news clip with me and my friend Ellen Saracini (You may recall that
Ellen is the wife of Victor Saracini, who was the pilot of the plane that
was flown into the South Tower on 9/11.)
If you have physical meeting places you could also download and print our
trifold for us, and use our logos (on the site) to link to us.
Thanks men, and keep up your fight.
Wayne "Rock" (of the Marne) Lutz
Founder, Warrior's Watch Riders (WWR) http://www.warriorswatch.org
Founder, American Warriors Watch Coalition (AWWC) http://www.theawwc.org
Co-Founder, the Big Brothers-In-Arms Program (BBIA)
I AM A BIKER. I AM AN ACTIVIST. I AM A PATRIOT. I AM A FREE MAN. MY FREEDOM
WAS PAID FOR BY THE BLOOD OF PATRIOTS. THE SUPPORT OF OUR NATION'S WARRIORS
AND THEIR FAMILIES IS MY PASSION. THE PRESERVATON OF INDIVIDUAL LIBERTY IS
MY DUTY. THE DEFENSE OF MY NATION FROM ALL ENEMIES, BOTH FOREIGN AND
DOMESTIC, IS MY RESPONSIBILITY.
************** NOUS RESTERONS LA ***************
Warriors' Watch Riders
American Warriors Watch Coalition (AWWC)
Big Brothers-In-Arms Program
A Hero's Welcome
Marne Riders Motorcycle Club
Society of the 3rd Infantry Division
American Cold War Veterans Association
Friends of the Forgotten POW/MIA Awareness
Gathering of Eagles
Valley Forge HOG
American Legion, At Large
Print: Download and print our trifold brochure. Print both sides, fold, and distribute anywere a veteran might find it - your VFW or AL post or other organizaitonal meeting place where veterans gather. Click on the thumbail image to downoad the .pdf file.
Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery. - Winston Churchill
Saturday, October 31, 2009
The VA - More Good Care and Bumbling Bureaucracy
Veterans piece by Thomas D. Segel
Harlingen, Texas, October 31, 2009: The ink had not even dried on our latest commentary about VA care and operations before another flood of email from across the country hit our computer. Veterans had a lot more to say.
Marc Martinez a Navy veteran from McAllen, TX is still expressing his anger over the slow movement of the VA in the Rio Grande Valley. “We have more than 100,000 veterans here in deep South Texas”, he writes. “They have been fighting for more than 30 years to have a VA hospital built in this area. During all of that time they have been forced to spend countless hours on the highway driving more than 270 miles one way to a VA hospital in San Antonio. Even by Texas standards that is a long trip. It usually adds up to about 5 hours of fast driving, followed by an overnight hotel stay, followed by a day long wait at the hospital to receive service and than a repeat of that long 270 mile trek back home. For many of us this is a trip that has been required weekly or monthly for years.”
Sidney A. Schwartz of San Benito, TX wrote of the government’s attempt to improve the administrative situation for veterans. He writes, “I am a surviving combat veteran of WWII. I was informed the VA had a new program to provide picture ID cards so war veterans could be quickly identified in the event medical help was needed. The regional VA office in Harlingen administers the program. All of my records and documents were copied but no ID picture was taken. I was told the documents had to be confirmed before a photo would be taken. I was given a note that said I would be notified within 10 days to return and complete my application. Since no notification came after eight weeks, I returned to the VA and was told that my documents could not be verified because they had no picture of me. They said their computer was down and they could not take my picture. I was told to return in two weeks when the camera would be fixed and online. Just after two weeks I returned again and was told the camera was still not working. In the future I should call first because they did not know when the camera would be working.” Sidney went on to explain that when you call the Harlingen VA you get a computer answering machine and not a person, so that didn’t work for him either. It is not known if he ever received that ID card.
William Carr says, “I like a lot of vets, have had terrible administrative service from the VA. I do not use them medically or otherwise. Here in Carteret County, NC we do have one of the best VSOs (Veteran Service Officer) however, Colonel Hank Gotard, USMC (Ret) in the VA pantheon. He really looks after the troops and is highly respected.”
Jim Bathurst is a retired Marine who served 36 years in both the enlisted and officer ranks. He now resides south of Springfield, IL. He tells about the wonderful care he received from the VA clinic in Billings, MO. After numerous CT scans and MRIs they flew him to the Salt Lake City Regional VA Medical Center for back surgery. He says, “I could not have been more pleased with the outcome. In fact, upon returning home, I sent a personal letter to the Director of that hospital telling him how pleased I was with the experience. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, down to the guy who swept the hallway floors at night could not have been more professional, courteous and caring.”
Bathurst also praised the Billing clinic saying, “It was run by a retired US Army Colonel, Urologist. It ran like a finely tuned clock.”
He concludes, “I have been to many VA clinics and medical centers since retiring and the lonely one where I found problems was with the Mountain Home facility in Johnson City, TN. They are severely over burdened, almost to the point where they have become inefficient. The problem as I saw it was when the government changed whom the VA clinics would see. They basically started seeing and accepting everyone who ever served a day in the military. I saw men and women in Johnson City that had spent two years in the military and had no service connected problems at all. They simply went to the VA because they could…and it was free. It’s no secret that when something is free it WILL be taken advantage of by not just a few of our fellow Americans, but many of them.”
Gale Gabriel is a veteran who has visited a VA clinic and hospital in Wisconsin with mixed emotions. He says, “You can, on occasion, get a dedicated caregiver but for the most part they will give a cursory exam, prescribe some pills and send you on your way. Some, like Minneapolis are so large it reminds me of herding cattle. I also was disappointed with my first visit to the new clinic in Harlingen, TX. I went to the new clinic and could not make an appointment because they say I don’t belong there. I arrived at 8, waited all morning, left briefly for lunch and returned to find they had called my name in my absence. I then waited another hour to see the doctor who only gave me a ten day supply of the pills I needed because, as they said, I belong in Wisconsin.”
Mike Bailey is a former Army Staff Sergeant and an Operation Desert Storm veteran. He holds the administrative side of the VA in complete contempt. His words, “The whole system sucks, plain and simple.” He continues saying, “On the healthcare side I have to do an about face and tell you the truth. I get better care at the Charlie Norwood VA medical Center in Augusta, GA, that I received from doctors I choose from the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Plan 1, I had from the Postal Service when I worked there. On the other hand, I wouldn’t give you a nickel for the Dom VA in Columbia, SC. I will only go there on the day I am ready to die. They might hasten it.”
Eric Muth is a former Army Staff Sergeant from Milford, CT and he has strong complaints about going to his VA clinic for a scan of his left leg, which had a blockage. He charges the doctors ordered a scan of the right leg and then noted in his records that ‘Does not contemplate having surgery at this time’. He only managed to get the situation corrected when he threatened a malpractice suit. They then did a scan on the correct leg.
From New Mexico, Lieutenant Colonel Charlie Revie, US Army (Ret) writes he has had few dealings with the VA. “The reasons are varied, but among them is the fact that Las Cruces has a community clinic much like a forward aid station and has little treatment capability.” He says the clinic must refer to the El Paso VA Clinic that is 50 miles away. If things can’t be handled there “The next nearest VA facility is the Albuquerque VA Hospital, which is 250 miles distant. One difficulty with the El Paso Clinic”, he says, is that they must refer outsource patients only to providers in the El Paso area and not to providers who live in the vicinity of the veteran’s home.”
Writing from Orlando, FL retired US Coast Guardsman William Miller says,” I dread going to the VA even for my routine annual check-up. I had shingles last year and the year before that. When I called the VA clinic to get an appointment for a shingles shot, I was told I couldn’t get an appointment until July.” He continued seeking help for another month and was finally told by a nurse, “the doctor would not authorize a shingles shot since I already had shingles twice and there was no medical evidence the shot was effective.”
Michael Beggs is a retired Marine Captain from Fredericksburg, VA. He says, I stepped on a landmine in 1971 in Vietnam and was ultimately medically retired from the Marine Corps.” Seeking VA help, “I quickly learned that I would have to report back to the VA hospital annually for an examination to determine if I was ‘still wounded’. When I pointed out to the VA physicians that only chameleons can regenerate tissue, they were not amused.
The Captain went though all the required examinations and was awarded his disability rating. Time passed and “Somehow I did not receive one of the annual ‘you are directed to report to the nearest VA hospital for reevaluation’ notices…and one half of my disability pay provided by the VA was stopped.”. The VA stopped his disability pay because he had “refused reevaluation”. He has now waived his VA rights and the Marine Corps has resumed paying his disability stipend. “It will be a cold day in hell before I deal with the VA again,” he concludes.
Retired Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant Art Cohan says, “I hate it that these great guys and gals get shabby treatment from the VA, and our Commander in Chief calls them ‘selfish’ for not giving more.”
Army veteran Mike Press says, “The VA is an organization out of control and Congress refuses to do anything about it. There are 25 million veterans in this country. Let’s get together and make some changes.”
Disabled Navy veteran Ron Whaley comments, “I know I had to fight them for years and then tried to be seen by an over worked doctor in an over worked clinic. It is like a nightmare to most people. We need mandatory funding for the VA and we need it NOW!”
Finally, to show rank has no special privilege in the VA, Brigadier General Bob Clements, USAF (Ret) writes, So far my experiences with the VA trying to file a claim, stink.”
Long time friend, retired Marine and Minister, Pastor Ed Evens writes from Nashville, TN. “We are fortunate that the VA hospital is backed up to and only 25 yards from the world class Vanderbilt Hospital. Many of the doctors who work at Vanderbilt also see patients at the VA and many of the procedures are conducted at Vanderbilt since they are connected by two second floor walkways.”
“I am aware through talking with other veterans, that there are bureaucratic problems with the VA and sometimes you run into someone who should know more about the system than they do, but there is usually help available. From what I have seen the new VA Head, retired Army General Shinseki is making a difference from the top down.
“But here is the key: Ask questions! If you don’t understand what is going on, or it doesn’t make sense to you, ask questions until you are satisfied. VA hospitals have a Patient Representative, an ombudsman, whose job it is to represent your complaint to the staff and solve the situation. It’s just like when we were in the military. We can sit around and complain to everybody about something, or we can solve it by going to that person who has the power to make the right decision.”
Unfortunately, there are uncountable veterans who do not understand or are unable to fight the bureaucratic system to the point where they can resolve unsatisfactory situations. Nor should they be placed in positions where they are required to fight for promised care. We have seen from reports made by veterans that this vast government operated Department of Veterans Affairs can be outstanding. We have also seen it a nightmare for the common man in need of help. There are many veterans around the country who see the VA medical system as only a preview of how things will be once the federal government takes over all medical care for the nation.
Thomas D. Segel
By JOHN M. BRIDGES, Mattoon
I was a US Army soldier from 1977 to 1981. I did not serve during a declared war, but nevertheless, I did serve with heroes.
I enlisted to preserve the security of the United States and the NATO alliance. We served during a trifle and all but forgotten spot in American history known as the “Cold War.” I served on a Pershing 1A missile base in the then-Federal Republic of Germany.
We carried live ammunition 24/7 and it was our responsibility to safeguard 18 nuclear missiles known then as the “nuclear deterrent” to a Soviet invasion of Western Europe.
For those who have never been told about this poignant time in history, the threat was very, very real.
From the cessations of action in Vietnam and until the Berlin wall came down, at least 62 Americans were Killed in Action, hundreds were Wounded in Action, 18 are still Missing in Action, and an estimated 5,000 died in American military operations, exercises, missions, and support activities.
The Cold War in Europe was a real war, fought with real weapons, with real ammunition. An actual military theater of operations existed.
Five million US military members teamed up with NATO allied nations military forces to prevent the USSR-Warsaw Pact military forces from invading Western Europe.
It’s kind of ironic that I and my brothers in arms that served then can’t become a real member of the VFW. We “didn’t count as war veterans.” The fact is that many thousands of American War Veterans never served a second of combat, nor did they ever leave American soil.
We still died in uniform, were routinely shot at and did in fact kill insurgents that jeopardized the security of Europe. Go tell thier loved ones they served and died for nothing.
Any veteran has my utmost respect. I wholeheartedly revere the respect and love finally shown to our returning heroes.
I as well as a lot of my fellow returning soldiers were spit on in airports, preyed upon by everyone from Hare Krishna’s and panhandlers to unscrupulous cab drivers. There were no USO volunteers, no bands playing, and never a thank you from anyone; in fact, there was no eye contact likened to what the public now shows to the homeless. We still served our country with pride.
Friday, October 30, 2009
by Nathan Koskella
October 30, 2009
Brandeis hosted both a pro-democracy official and a unique German Cold war Hero, Tuesday at the event “Twenty Years After,” a remembrance of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, sponsored by the Center for German and European Studies.
Marianne Birthler, the German federal commissioner in charge of the records of the former Communist regime’s secret police force—the Stasi, as well as Wolf Biermann, a famous singer-songwriter and critic of the Communists in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) were the main commentators.
Their speeches were focused on Germany’s past both before and after the war, and the repercussions these events have had on today’s world.
While introducing the event with her department colleague Prof. Melanie Sherwood, Professor Sabine von Mering (GRALL) explained to the audience that she and her fellow professor had grown up on opposite sides of a divided Berlin.
“Twenty-one years ago, this would have been impossible,” von Mering said.
Bither explained to the audience the Stasi mindset, as a way of explaining what German life was like under the Soviet Union.
“The Stasi were by design meant to keep the whole of society under its control,” she said. “They were the shield and sword of the party—it is interesting: they were not the shield and sword of the people or constitutional rights.”
Birthler then discussed with the guests the role her agency has taken in bringing the long-repressed former GDR in unity with West Germany and incorporating it into the world of Western democracies.
“[The commission] informs the public about the structure and methods of the Communist dictatorship, educates on the conditions [of the regime], ”she said.
“We give every citizen the right of access to their files, and also, a right to know information about informants on them[selves],” Birthler said.Over 1.7 million people have availed themselves of this opportunity, and Birthler said the records commission is expecting there to be 100,000 requests this calendar year.”
Birthler indicated the importance this can then have on academia.
“All students, from all countries, can gain experience from the primary documents” in the Stasi archives, she said.
She left the crowd with a notable point “Living with history and coming to terms with your past is very important to a free, democratic society,” Birthler said.
Biermann agreed with Birthler also expressing his passion for keeping an accountable record of a dark time in German history.
“I was one of the first allowed to see the files in 1992—[the Stasi had] 8,000 sheets of paper on ‘Biermann,’” he said. “You see that you are [apparently] very important to people,” Biermann said, but that in itself can be frightening.”
Biermann, whose parents died in the Polish Nazi prison camp Aschwitz during World War II, is a veteran citizen of not one but two totalitarian regimes.
“I was interested in how [the Stasi period] relates to the Nazi times,” he said, “and I compared.” Biermann noted that the Stasi had an average stockpile of 50 times more information compared to that of the Nazi Gestapo.
He said the comparison says something about the strength of the occupied German people.
“The Communists needed more [secret files] because so many people resisted,” he said.
Biermann then sang several self-written songs regarding the German resistance.
“The power of the [soviet] regime was our fear,” Biermann explained. “The function of my songs in this time is to diminish the fear.”
To von Merring, who grew up listening to Biermann’s songs, his preformance was “powerful and inspiring.”
“I grew up with [listening to] him [Biermann],” von Mering said. “He represents to us a symbol of the Cold War and that it’s over. It’s a big deal for me.”
Putin Recalls Fall of Berlin Wall in New Documentary
By Nikolaus von Twickel
The St. Petersburg Times
Vladimir Putin in 1985
MOSCOW — Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has publicly recalled how he personally contributed to this turn in history as a Soviet spy in East Germany.
Putin told veteran NTV reporter Vladimir Kondratyev in a half-hour interview how he managed to calm down an angry crowd of East German protesters outside the KGB headquarters in Dresden in late 1989.
Putin rose from obscurity to the country’s most popular politician in 1999, serving as president from 2000 to 2008 and subsequently becoming prime minister.
Kondratyev said Wednesday that Putin had gladly recalled fond memories from his days in Cold War Germany and acknowledged the inevitability of the German Democratic Republic’s demise.
“He was very relaxed and smiled a lot, yet he expressed a very clear opinion about the fall of the wall — that what happened was bound to happen,” Kondratyev told The Moscow Times.
Kondratyev would not reveal how many minutes of his upcoming documentary film “Stena” (“The Wall”) would be devoted to Putin, but he denied that the prime minister was its main theme. “It is about the fall of the wall. Putin is just one of many characters who will appear,” he said.
He said, however, that he would travel to Dresden later this week to shoot the introduction.
Putin’s interview will be aired as part of the 50-minute film at 7:25 p.m on NTV on Sunday, Nov. 8 — one day before the 20th anniversary of the fall of the wall.
Putin served as a KGB officer in Dresden, which was then a provincial outpost so remote that locals could not receive West German television, from 1985 to 1990. His only brush with history there occurred on Dec. 5, 1989, almost a month after the wall fell.
After storming the nearby local headquarters of the East German Secret Police, or Stasi, protesters gathered outside his office building.
Public information about Putin’s service in East Germany is scarce, and the only reliable account is in “First Person,” a series of autobiographical interviews published in 2000. Here, Putin recalled how he met the crowd personally and told them in German that this was a Soviet military organization. When people replied suspiciously that he spoke German too well, “I told them I was a translator,” he said.
Kondratyev said Putin gave no new account of those events, but the prime minister made it clear that he understood at the time that the Soviet-inspired division of Germany had no future.
“He said that the wall was all unnatural and that he thought that its fall meant the end of the GDR,” Kondratyev said.
In “First Person,” Putin expressed his deep frustration about Moscow’s waning power when he called Soviet military headquarters for help against the protesters. “I was told that nothing could be done without orders from Moscow. And Moscow is silent,” he said.
Eventually, he said, military personnel did come and the crowd dispersed, but the words “Moscow is silent” remained with him. Putin said he got the feeling then that the Soviet Union had disappeared.
German media have reported that one Soviet official threatened to shoot at protesters, saying he was “a soldier until death,” and the quote was later ascribed to Putin, although Putin never mentioned it and it was never verified.
In the NTV interview, Kondratyev said Putin suggested that the protesters understood that the Stasi and not the Soviet Union should be the prime target of their anger.
“He spoke very positively about these events and stressed that German-Russian relations subsequently achieved a new quality and included a feeling of gratitude,” he said.
Under Putin’s eight years as president, relations with Berlin flourished, with Germany becoming both a key foreign investor and foreign policy ally. That privileged partnership, as dubbed by the Kremlin, was conceived under the close personal friendship between President Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schr?der, and continues under their successors, Dmitry Medvedev and Angela Merkel.
However, Putin’s record as a democratic leader has been debated in Dresden just as much as anywhere else in the West.
Wolfgang Sch?like, head of the city’s German-Russian Culture Institute, said Putin’s KGB background makes relations with him more complicated for East Germans than for West Germans.
Since the democratic upheaval of 1989, any record of employment or cooperation with Communist security services is seen as an utter disgrace, Sch?like said by telephone from Dresden. “The Stasi here is the ultimate whipping boy,” he said.
He noted that in today’s Germany it is unthinkable for people who once worked for the secret police to take public office like Putin has done in Russia. “Even kindergarten workers lost their jobs after it was revealed that they had links to the Stasi,” he said.
Sch?like said he credited Stanislav Tillich, prime minister of the local state of Saxony, for striving to improve local relations with Moscow.
But there was considerable outrage in local and national media when Tillich handed a medal of honor to Putin in Dresden in January, at the height of the gas war with Ukraine.
“And next year the medal will go to Colonel Gaddafi,” Antje Hermenau, a local leader of the Green party, said at the time.
n?Nearly a quarter of Russians believe that there is a personality cult of Putin in the country, according to a new poll by the independent Levada Center. A total of 23 percent of respondents said they saw evidence for this, an increase from 22 percent last year.
In a sign that such tendencies can spill over as far as the United States’ West Coast, a media report said the Russian Bodybuilding Federation was planning to present a bust of Putin to Californian Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Alexander Chernoshchyokov, a St. Petersburg-based sculptor, told Agence-France Press that the bust was being created as a gift for the former Hollywood bodybuilder and would be delivered in March. “Putin is such a complex personality. He’s left no one indifferent,” Chernoshchyokov told AFP.
Ontario gives vets tax break
Ontario County lawmakers voted Thursday to give a property tax exemption to veterans who served during the Cold War period but did not qualify for exemptions applicable to those who served during times of war. The Board of Supervisors approved the measure by a solid margin. A similar bill had been rejected by lawmakers a year ago.
Under the new law, an estimated 3,100 veterans will typically lower their assessment for county taxes by $4,000.
Ontario County Cold war vets granted tax exemption
Canandaigua, N.Y. — .Cold war veterans in Ontario County have been granted a property-tax exemption.
By a vote of 13-8, the county Board of Supervisors approved the measure at its meeting Thursday. Voting against the exemption were: Wayne Houseman, R-Bristol; David Baker, D-Canandaigua; Rocky LaRocca, D-Geneva; Bill Eddinger, D-Manchester; Frank Duserick, R-Naples; Norm Teed, D-Phelps; Don Marshall, R-Seneca; and Dan Marshall, R-South Bristol.
Votes at the county level follow a “weighted” system under which at least 2,047 votes are needed to pass a majority decision. In the vote at Thursday night’s meeting, 2,598 “yes” votes and 1,494 “no” votes were cast.
Mary Green, D-Hopewell, was one of the 13 supervisors in favor of the exemption.
“I believe we already give exemptions to veterans in general, but that was the one group that never received it, so I’ve always been in favor of it,” she said.
The board first voted down the exemption last year.
A conservative estimate indicates there are about 7,800 veterans in the county, according to Robin Johnson, director of the county’s Real Property Tax office. Currently, about 4,700 of those veterans receive exemptions for serving during war time, she said.
Cold War veterans would qualify for only one veterans’ exemption, she said, and would not able to receive both a Cold War exemption and one for serving during war time.
Veterans with disabilities would be eligible for an exemption based on their condition that could be as high as $20,000. For example, a veteran who is considered 10 percent disabled could receive a reduction for half that amount, or a 5 percent reduction on their property assessment, said Johnson, though the exemption could not exceed $20,000.
Houseman said while he believes Cold War veterans deserve some recognition for their service, the time is not right for another tax exemption.
“At this time, with the economic situation and the overwhelming burden placed on the property owners, I do not believe it would have been advisable to grant this exemption at this point,” Houseman said.
At last night’s meeting, he said East Bloomfield Supervisor Dorothy Huber “offered a long list of exemptions” that the county already offers. While the Cold War veterans exemption “will only be slight,” Houseman said it could be the “proverbial feather that breaks the back of the taxpayers.”
“I hope my negative feelings are not realized,” he said. “I hope this will not greatly effect the taxpayers.”
The tax break would apply to an estimated 3,100 veterans in the county who served in the military between Sept. 2, 1945, and Dec. 26, 1991.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Designates a national day of remembrance on October 30, 2009, for nuclear weapons program workers.
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
May 14, 2009
Mr. BUNNING (for himself, Mr. ALEXANDER, Ms. MURKOWSKI, Mr. BINGAMAN, Mr. UDALL of Colorado, Mr. KENNEDY, Mr. VOINOVICH, Mr. REID, Mr. CORKER, Mr. GRASSLEY, Mrs. MURRAY, Mr. MCCONNELL, Ms. CANTWELL, Mr. UDALL of New Mexico, Mr. NELSON of Florida, Mr. BROWN, and Mr. SCHUMER) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary
May 20, 2009
Committee discharged; considered and agreed to
Designates a national day of remembrance on October 30, 2009, for nuclear weapons program workers.
Whereas hundreds of thousands of men and women have served this Nation in building its nuclear defense since World War II;
Whereas these dedicated American workers paid a high price for their service and have developed disabling or fatal illnesses as a result of exposure to beryllium, ionizing radiation, toxic substances, and other hazards that are unique to the production and testing of nuclear weapons;
Whereas these workers were put at individual risk without their knowledge and consent in order to develop a nuclear weapons program for the benefit of all American citizens; and
Whereas these patriotic men and women deserve to be recognized for their contribution, service, and sacrifice towards the defense of our great Nation: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the Senate–
(1) designates October 30, 2009, as a national day of remembrance for American nuclear weapons program workers and uranium miners, millers, and haulers; and
(2) encourages the people of the United States to support and participate in appropriate ceremonies, programs, and other activities to commemorate October 30, 2009, as a national day of remembrance for past and present workers in America’s nuclear weapons program.
For information on remembrance near you go to Coldwarpatriots.org
By CHRISTINIA CRIPPES
MIDDLETOWN -- Friday will be the first of many National Day of Remembrances, recognizing the unsung heroes of the Cold War.
Today will not only honor the veterans of the Atomic Energy Commission -- who sacrificed their health, and sometimes their lives, to protecting the country -- but it will give them a chance to share their stories over coffee and doughnuts.
Former workers, their families and supporters of former workers are invited to the event, which will be from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. today at the Machinists Union Hall in Middletown, 16452 Highway 34.
A formal declaration of the National Day of Remembrance, which is Oct. 30, will be made at 11 a.m.
"This is actually the first time that this industry has been acknowledged by the public," said Barbara Escajeda, a representative from the non-profit Cold War Patriots that petitioned to Congress to pass a resolution recognizing the people who worked with nuclear weapons or as uranium miners, millers and haulers.
Escajeda will be at the Middletown event today to talk about some other projects her group has planned to honor former workers, including a couple of time capsules and a memorabilia tour next year.
"With the day of remembrance, it's our intent to help educate the public about who this population is and was," Escajeda said, adding that it's also meant to acknowledge their efforts in protecting the nation.
A representative from Congressman Dave Loebsack's staff will be at the event to make a statement on behalf of the 2nd District Democrat. Representatives of Iowa's senators also may make statements, though their appearances were not confirmed to the Burlington Atomic Energy Commission Plant-Former Worker Program at the University of Iowa.
Loebsack made a statement on the House floor Wednesday to acknowledge specifically the former workers from the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant and urge support of a resolution recognizing the day of remembrance.
"For decades during the Cold War, hundreds of thousands of Atomic Energy Commission employees, including thousands of workers at the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant in my district, labored in hazardous conditions at our nation's nuclear weapons facility," Loebsack said on the House floor. "In the end, many of these workers sacrificed their health for the security of our nation, working with beryllium, asbestos, uranium and radiation, without knowing the impact these materials would later have on their health.
"But for far too long, their service and sacrifice have not been properly honored."
In Iowa, the commemoration is going on all week. The Ames Laboratory held a national day of remembrance open house Tuesday.
Laurence Fuortes, project director for the former worker program, said despite the meager turnout at the Ames event, the University of Iowa staff were regaled with many tales.
"They were actually still educating us again," Fuortes said, adding that he expects a larger turnout in Middletown.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Norman enlisted in New Jersey and was assigned to several Military Police (MP) units during his tour in Korea. He faced danger many times and served with honor and distinction.
It was through his tireless and never flagging fight that on 3 Feb 2004 the Secretary of Defense
approved implementing instructions and criteria for the Korea Defense Service Medal (KDSM) for
members of the Armed Services who have served in the Defense of Korea.
Authorization was retroactive from 28 July 1954 to a date to be determined. Bringing about recognition for the "Forgotten War", and all who served in defense of our friends in the Republic of Korea (ROK).
He was still fighting to have the US recognize a medal that the ROK had designed and manufactured to honor their American friends and helpers. The Republic of Korea Service Medal. Due to some arcane law, a medal from another country can only be awarded to US military if the same award is made available to that country's military. This medal was made solely for Americans and was not offered to South Koreans.
I never met Norm, but I feel he is a brother in arms, a fellow veteran; and a man among men.
My deepest sympathy and personal condolences, as well as all those of the American Cold WAr Veterans, to his family and many friends. He will not be forgotten.
American Cold War Veterans, Inc.
October 29, 2009
At the beginning of October, Mayor Bloomberg's campaign held a catered breakfast for veterans, complete with photo-ops and a 10 minute speech from the Mayor at an American Legion Post in Queens. They brought along some current and former elected officials; as well as the CEO of the Intrepid Sea-Air Space Museum to fire up the audience. Mayor Bloomberg’s voice filled as he said: “Thank you for your service.” “We must never forget.” “We owe you so much.”
But these words, from this Mayor - over eight years, are both too familiar and ring false to the majority of New York City’s veterans.
The breakfast was put together at the last minute by the Bloomberg campaign as political cover to provide a photo/video opportunity after a September 27th New York Daily News article showed that of Bloomberg's 400+ endorsements, not one of them was from a veteran’s organization. The only such endorsement, as the article noted, was from a fake veterans group.
With Election Day less than one week away, Mayor Bloomberg is pulling out all the stops, having spent over $85 million (so far) to both re-brand and re-introduce himself. His campaign is using the slogan – “Progress. Not Politics.” To borrow Tom Robbins’ line from the Village Voice – “The first word is a debate worth having. The next two are simply lies.”
Many veterans, including myself, have been writing over the past eight years how Mayor Bloomberg’s record on veterans’ issues shows he doesn’t practice what he preaches. My friend Luis Carlos Montalván and I noted in an article, just as the campaign season was beginning, some major discrepancies with Mayor Bloomberg’s veteran’s record, most notably with his Office of Veterans Affairs.
However, as the fight for votes continue, the Bloomberg campaign is trying to re-define Michael Bloomberg as the Mayor who cares for the troops and for this city’s veterans.
Like Social Security and Health Care, supporting the troops and respecting veterans has become a political third rail issue over these past eight years. Even though most people are no longer engaged in what is happening overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan, they nevertheless believe that veterans are being taken care of when they return home. For the majority of people, that starts and ends with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
However, the VA cannot do this alone. This is why we have a State Division of Veterans Affairs and a local government veteran’s affairs office run by the Mayor. But what happens when the local government agency designed to help veterans can’t help? For veterans in New York City that’s exactly what’s been happening over these past eight years.
In early September, Mayor Bloomberg publicly stated that he was running on his record. With the October 3rd breakfast the first sign of outreach to the veteran’s community during this election season, let’s look at the actual record:
The Bloomberg campaign’s website touts the Mayor’s record on veteran homelessness. Notably absent is his record on the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs; the Extended Benefits issue; the Disabled Veteran Vendors issue; the Cold War property tax exempt issue; Veterans Employment and Training; St. Albans; and a host of other issues. Most importantly, it doesn’t state what his plans are for veteran’s issues over the next four years if re-elected. Let’s break down Mayor Bloomberg’s veteran’s record:
“Mike has repeatedly said, "No veteran should be sleeping on the streets or in the shelters in New York City." To help make sure no veterans end up on our streets, Mike has created a joint Task Force to end veteran homelessness, opened the first ever veterans-only homeless shelter in the United States, and forged an agreement with the Federal Department of Veterans Affairs to secure a grant that will be used to house more than 1,000 homeless veterans in NYC.”
Reality: The joint Task Force was built from members/groups that came from outside New York City, and included only those major non-profit groups that had money, ensuring little to no input from the local community who serve homeless veterans. In addition, the group has not met since late 2007! According to the Task Force’s own report the city was to achieve its goal of ending homelessness for veterans in New York City by December 31, 2009. This obviously will not happen as media reports show that the number of homeless adults (and children) in New York City has actually risen.
Mayor Bloomberg did not open the first ever veteran-only homeless shelter in the United States. It was former Mayor Ed Koch who did, creating the Borden Avenue Veterans Residence (BAVR) in the 1980’s after working with Vietnam veterans who were concerned about the large number of homeless Vietnam veterans in New York City.
Mayor Bloomberg did not bring 1000 section 8 vouchers to New York. They are part of a national program that has distributed section 8 vouchers throughout the country. The program was active for many years in NY. New York's money ($9.4 million) was part of $75 million being set aside to provide permanent housing for an estimated 10,000 homeless veterans across the country. And just because “vouchers” have been distributed, that should not be equated with vouchers actually being “used” by veterans!
“Adequate healthcare for veterans is critical, and Mike has worked hard to ensure that veterans have access to the specialized health services they need. He started a joint venture with the V.A. to create a homeless intake center specifically designed for veterans that offers additional healthcare, mental health treatment and substance abuse treatment and other assistance with issues important to veterans.”
Is this true? Well…the opening of the Intake Center at Chapel Street in Brooklyn has mainly assisted those homeless veterans who meet the VA’s definition/eligibility criteria. New York City’s definition of a veteran is different than the federal government's – many vets in the shelter system may have honorable service, but don't meet the definition of continuous service that the VA requires. Many veterans also question why the Bloomberg administration made homeless veterans go to Brooklyn’s Project TORCH when there's one at the Manhattan VA Medical Center, located only blocks away from the 30th Street Bellevue Intake Center, even with statistics showing that nearly 60% of all homeless men are in Manhattan. Yet the city has closed the intake center on E. 30th Street to make room for a luxury hotel.
“Mike recognizes the unique needs and contributions of Veterans. That’s why he created a one-stop shop multi-service center for vets at Veterans Memorial Hall and established the Veterans Advisory Board, which advises the Office of Veterans Affairs about issues impacting the veteran community to help local officials become more aware on how to better serve America’s heroes.”
This could be furthest from the truth.
Aside from the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs (MOVA), there is no real one-stop multi-service center for veterans at the Veterans Memorial Hall. If you were to visit the Veterans Memorial Hall at 346 Broadway (8th floor) you can see this for yourself. It is, as most veterans know, a silent hallway of darken offices with MOVA offering little to no programs and relying on so-called “partnerships” to refer veterans for help.
Mayor Bloomberg did not establish the Veterans Advisory Board; it was in the City Charter for years before he became Mayor. In fact, the board’s meetings over the past several years have been so sporadic that they have not done any outreach nor held any meetings outside of 346 Broadway to help any local officials become aware of the issues. The members themselves have been hampered by administration officials who consistently tell the board what they can and cannot do. On top of this, the board often violates New York State’s “Open Meetings Law.”
As veterans have witnessed during those times when there has been any progress on a particular issue, it has been on a piecemeal basis. The administration starts programs with little to no input from the community and when there is input, it’s usually after the fact. And when the administration makes a decision on an issue, like the Extended Benefits Issue for City Employees, it is (in essence) forced onto the community - a business like, take it or leave it approach from a community that, like the eroding middle class, is unorganized.
As studies and surveys consistently show, veterans returning from active service often face an array of issues during their transition from a military to a civilian lifestyle. The sacrifice does not end when they return home to their families and communities. For many veterans, the hardest and most enduring sacrifice begins the moment they return home.
So as Mayor Bloomberg is now asking veterans to vote for him – based on his eight-year record on veteran’s affairs, then the answer should be no.
However, if Mayor Bloomberg does win re-election to a third term, the question will remain – What will he do for veterans over the next four years? Will he finally step to the plate, start reaching out and seriously deal with the issues or will veterans get more of the same – lots of thanks and free breakfasts? It has been said that part of the problem is that Mayor Bloomberg doesn’t understand veterans. He has had eight years to learn. With the arrival of Election Day in less than one week, and another catered breakfast planned for Veteran’s Day, the breakfasts are not getting it done. For veterans, there is something worse than being used as backdrops at a press conference and that’s watching those who use us, work and vote against us. That’s not progress. That’s politics.
Joe Bello served 11 years in the US Navy/Naval Reserve and is a veterans advocate in New York City.
Attention Cold War Veterans
I am expecting 2 big announcements by Nov. 9. I cannot go into details but we have 2 major pieces of Cold War veteran legislation to be introduced. I want everyone to be ready to write call fax and write and email, twitter and blog and bring pressure on your reps. We will not have another opportunity like this one we need to fire for effect and be heard.
Sean P. Eagan
ACWV Public Affairs Director
WASHINGTON (October 28, 2009) — The national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. recently returned from a 12-day trip to Europe to urge the Russian government to revitalize the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs, and to meet with American servicemembers stationed in Italy to discuss how VFW can better serve them and their families.
In Moscow, Thomas J. Tradewell Sr. met with members from both houses of the Russian Federation's parliament, as well as the leadership of two prominent veterans' organizations. His message was for them to urge their government back to the Joint Commission.
He said an exchange of diplomatic notes in July was a positive step forward, but Russia has yet to act.
"The diplomatic note was viewed as a sign that they would quickly revive their end of the Joint Commission," said Tradewell, a Vietnam veteran from Sussex, Wis., "but Russia has yet to appoint a new co-chairman, and U.S. researchers are still barred from their central military archives, which hampers research efforts and further diminishes the hopes of American families everywhere.
"The Russian government needs to do what they said they would do," he said.
According to U.S. officials in the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office, Russia's military archives are vitally important to the Full Accounting Mission because documents could help to determine the fate of some of the 88,000 missing and unaccounted-for Americans going back to World War II. Created in 1992, the Joint Commission had been the key to accessing those archives, until a reduction in the size of their government’s executive branch removed the Russian co-chairman. The U.S. was told it was an oversight, but the oversight has now kept American researchers out of the archives since October 2006.
Tradewell is the sixth consecutive VFW national commander to journey to Russia on a veteran-to-veteran initiative to help account for missing Americans. This trip followed one he made to the People's Republic of China in September, where permission was obtained for VFW to visit their archives next year. According to news reports published yesterday, Chinese military archivists discovered documentation that could help locate 15 airmen who died when their B-29 bomber crashed on Chinese soil on Nov. 5, 1950. Other documents related to missing Americans were also reportedly found that could help determine the fates of some of the 8,100 missing Americans from the Korean War.
"I am proud of the VFW’s lead role in helping to account for missing American servicemen," said Tradewell. "Our veteran-to-veteran initiative is bearing fruit because of the worldwide respect professional military men and women have in each other. We know the service and sacrifice that is inherent to our profession, and that mutual understanding helps to convince governments that the Full Accounting Mission is a humanitarian issue that transcends politics."
For more on U.S. full accounting efforts, go to the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office website at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/, or the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command website at http://www.jpac.pacom.mil/.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Our good friend Tony Morland from across the pond got a clear message from the Brown Goverment that their service didn't rate. Read the article; the lack of respect for the men who guarded his freedoms while he was young man is astounding to me as a foreign observer. They do not merit a simple thank you and identity a simple national service medal would provide? I guess not according to a Brown representative.
By David Pilditch Have your say
GORDON Brown’s Government was yesterday accused of treating millions of British Armed Forces veterans with contempt after refusing to agree to a medal to honour their willingness to put their lives on the line for their country.
Huge numbers of servicemen and women have received no recognition for the time they spent in the forces because they were not actually in combat areas.
Nevertheless, many died or were seriously injured while on active duty – including those killed by the IRA in bomb attacks outside Northern Ireland.
But Veterans Minister Kevan Jones has informed campaigners that it was “not appropriate” to award a National Defence Medal to our proud sailors, marines, soldiers and airmen for protecting the nation since the Second World War.
Former servicemen and women are currently entitled only to a disliked “veteran’s badge” to be worn with civilian clothes and not given to the families of those killed.
The medal decision means defeat for a two-year campaign to get a “small token of recognition” that could be worn by veterans during regimental parades and on Remembrance Day.
Hundreds of thousands of servicemen have never been awarded a single medal, simply because of where they were posted.
They include forgotten heroes who served in Korea but after the armistice, during the Berlin Airlift and during the Cold War. In all some 2,000 were killed during their service and, were the medals to be agreed, theirs would go posthumously to their families.
Mr Jones insisted he was responding on behalf of the Prime Minister and the Queen. But comrades from Australia have been awarded a defence medal, with Her Majesty’s official approval.
The New Zealand Government has backed a similar award. And US troops qualify for a National Defence Medal after just 90 days in uniform.
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Last night the Defence Ministry was accused of “petty meanness and a lack of patriotism”.
Colonel Terry Scriven said: “The MOD’s decision is dreadfully wrong.”
He described the case for a medal as overwhelming, adding: “The reasons for non-recognition are shallow at best.”
Colonel Scriven served in the Royal Military Police and completed tours of duty in Northern Ireland, with the UN in Cyprus and in Bosnia. Tony Morland, 43, who served as a sergeant in the Royal Corps of Signals for 15 years, helped compile a 58-page document outlining the case for the medal, calling for it to be awarded to 4.5million personnel.
Mr Morland said: “It is a token of the nation’s thanks for men and women who have stepped up in a day and age when fewer and fewer people are prepared to do that.”
Tory MP Andrew Rosindell said: “It is shameful that this practice already exists in Australia, a nation with whom we share such close ties, yet our Government has not seen fit to follow their example.”
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said: “I will continue to pressure the Government on the issues surrounding the National Defence Medal.” Each medal would cost just £12.50
From Chinese News Service
BEIJING, Oct. 26 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese armed forces have reviewed key information in military archives to locate the crash site of a U.S. bomber 59 years ago, hoping to retrieve remains of some pilots out of the total 15 on board.
Archivists with China's People's Liberation Army said Monday they could very likely discover the remains of personnel on the U.S. B-29 bomber, which crashed on a hill in Guangdong Province on Nov. 5,1950.
The crew of the air mission on Nov. 5, 1950, were listed by the U.S. Defense Department as missing in action during the Korean War(1950-1953).
Under a memorandum signed by China and the U.S. in February last year, China promises to search millions of PLA archives for evidence relating to the possible remains of missing personnel.
The PLA will also inform the U.S. Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) every six months about the progress of the search.
The PLA Archives Department has started a thorough examination over some 1.5 million archives about then People's Volunteer Army, the Central Military Commission (CMC) and the PLA's headquarters during the Korean War.
Primary research of the archives has found more than 100 documents relating to missing U.S. servicemen.
Coinciding with the good news for the American families that have lost contacts with their beloved for decades, Vice CMC Chairman General Xu Caihou started on Monday his U.S. visit at the invitation of U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, signaling high-profile China-U.S. military exchange after roughly one-year standstill.
Senior Colonel Li Gang, deputy director general of the PLA Archives Department, said the department had provided at least four valuable archives to the DPMO in connection with the B-29 crash.
The archivists had discovered that a B-29 "Super fortress" bomber caught fire and crashed while flying over Raoping County, Guangdong, on Nov. 5, 1950. Fifteen crewmembers, including a woman, were found dead at the site and were initially identified U.S. military personnel.
The archivists had visited the recorded crash site and had interviewed 19 local witnesses who helped them identify the burial site of at least one body.
Guided by witness Lin Zhengping, 73, of Jiaoshuikeng village of Chao'an County, Chinese archivists identified an area covering about 100 square meters where the U.S. remains were most likely to be found.
Xu Yueshu, another witness, recalled: "I saw an aircraft fall and crash in the opposite mountain in early Nov., 1950. Many people ran up to the mountain to have a look, so did I.
"The adults buried the remains. When I got up there I saw many of the aircraft's pieces scattered everywhere. I remember very clearly that one quite complete body was buried on the mountain ridge."
The PLA archives show that villagers found a parachute, rifles, a revolver, spoons, documents in English and a Parker pen at the crash site. Four comparatively complete bodies were buried at the site.
Expert Song Chuanfu of the PLA Archives Department, who took part in the field investigation, said, "The sites of buried bodies are likely unrecognizable due to natural disasters such as floods in the past 59 years, which might had moved the mud and rocks, so it is extremely difficult to search for the remains."
"But we think that if we can have payment for using specialist equipment, the possibility of finding the remains is quite high," Song said.
Rear Admiral Donna Crisp, Commander of Joint Prisoners of War/ Missing in Action Accounting Command of the U.S. Pacific Command, gave a medal to a senior Chinese archive expert Liu Yiquan, who persisted in helping search the whereabouts of the U.S. missings, honoring Liu's devotion to the bilateral humanitarian issue.
Robin Piacine, president of Coalition of Families of Korean and Cold War POW/MIAs, wrote in a letter to the PLA Archives Department, "Each time a soldier's remains are returned to a loved one, it helps the family members to begin the closure process."
"We highly value the cooperation from your government and its work and see it as a source of hope and promise," Piacine said.
U.S. Department of Defense statistics show that more than 8,100 U.S. Service personnel are still officially missing from the Korean War.
Shinseki, Gates Address Unprecedented Forum
WASHINGTON (Oct. 26, 2009) - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and
the Department of Defense (DoD) are hosting a first-of-its-kind national
summit to address the mental health care needs of America's military
personnel, families and Veterans, harnessing the programs, resources and
expertise of both departments to deal with the aftermath of the
"This is about doing what is best for those who serve this country and
using every federal, state and community asset to do it," said Secretary
Shinseki. "We're proud of the people and the organizations who have
stepped up today to make sure everyone who fought for this country gets
a fighting chance for a sound mind and an independent life."
The summit, which opened today at the Capital Hilton in Washington,
D.C., invited mental health experts from both departments, Congress, the
president's cabinet and more than 57 non-government organizations to
discuss an innovative, wide-ranging public health model for enhancing
mental health for returning service members, Veterans, and their
Striking down the stigma associated with the mental health risks of
service in a combat zone is among the priorities of the joint VA-DoD
campaign on mental health for service members, Veterans and families.
Various studies show a large incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder
occurs during the lifetime of many combat Veterans.
A final report following the summit will summarize policies, programs
and practices that show promise for enhancing the well-being and care
for individual service members, Veterans, and their families. VA and
DoD view mental health in returning service members and Veterans as a
matter of public health and an opportunity to engage in a broad response
VA operates the largest mental health program in the nation. VA has
bolstered its mental health capacity to serve combat Veterans by adding
thousands of new professionals to its rolls in the last four years. The
department also has established a suicide prevention hotline
(1-800-273-TALK) and Web site available for online chat at
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Written by RickRozoff
U.S efforts in Romania and Bulgaria are part of a global redeployment
strategy started in the early years of the Bush administration to
shift U.S. forces out of Germany and move them eastward.""The number
of US military men at the two bases is not going to be large, but who
can say that it will not be doubled, tripped or quadrupled in the
future? Furthermore, the appearance of NATO bases on the Black Sea
coast will come as an addition to the US military [deployments] in the
Baltic region. As a result, Russia will find itself trapped.""[T]he
new land, sea and airbases along the Black Sea will provide much
improved contingency access for deployments into Central Asia, parts
of the Middle East and Southwest Asia."Last week was an eventful one
in Eastern Europe.The two top foreign policy veterans in the current
U.S. administration, Vice President Joseph Biden and Defense Secretary
Robert Gates, visited the capitals of Poland, the Czech Republic,
Romania and Slovakia. Biden was in Warsaw, Prague and Bucharest to
recruit all three nations into the new U.S.-led, NATO-wide interceptor
missile system and to make arrangements for the deployment of American
Patriot missiles and troops to Poland, the first foreign soldiers to
be based in that nation since the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact
eighteen years ago.Gates was in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia,
for a two-day meeting of NATO and partner states' defense chiefs which
also focused on the establishment of a missile shield to encompass the
entire European continent as well as the unparalleled escalation of
the U.S.'s and NATO's war in Afghanistan.A few days earlier the U.S.
armed forces publication Stars and Stripes announced that the Pentagon
will spend an additional $110 million to upgrade two of the seven
military bases in Bulgaria and Romania it acquired the use of in
agreements signed in 2005 and 2006.The report led to political fallout
in the two host countries with Bulgarian and Romanian officials
scrambling to qualify the news and pretend that somehow their own
subservient governments would retain control over the expanded bases.
Sofia and Bucharest have no more say in how the Pentagon and NATO have
used and will intensify the use of air fields and other bases in their
nations than they do in determining which war zones their nations'
troops are deployed to, which of late include Bosnia, Kosovo,
Afghanistan and Iraq.The NATO defense chiefs meeting in Slovakia on
October 22-23 endorsed the demands of the top American and NATO
commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, for as many as
85,000 more U.S. troops to be added to the 68,000 American and 38,000
NATO and partner forces already in the South Asian war theater, and
Poland immediately pledged 600 more troops with other Alliance states
soon to follow. Combined U.S.-NATO troop strength in Afghanistan may
reach 200,000.Even during the peak of the American troop "surge" in
Iraq at the end of 2007 and beginning of 2008 there was a total of
186,000 U.S. troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Currently there are
an estimated 130,000 in Iraq and 68,000 in Afghanistan. In all
198,000. There were 34,000 American troops in Afghanistan on January
20th of this year when Barack Obama moved into the White House; there
are twice that many now.The figure of 85,000 additional American
troops is what McChrystal reportedly termed his "low-risk" preference,
with 40,000 the smallest and "higher risk" number bandied about in
recent weeks.The recently concluded NATO defense ministerial seems to
have put to rest that false debate as well as another that has
occupied the U.S. press corps in recent days, whether the dramatically
expanding war in South Asia, Pakistan as well as Afghanistan, is to
concentrate on "counterinsurgency" or "counterterrorism." That is,
whether the Pentagon and NATO will limit their military actions to
hunting down alleged al-Qaeda survivors or wage full-scale warfare
against all insurgent forces identified as Taliban on both sides of
the Afghan-Pakistani border.The second option of course would make the
85,000 figure not only likely but unavoidable.McChrystal delivered a
fifteen minute presentation at the NATO meeting and the Alliance's
secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said "What we did today was to
discuss General McChrystal's overall assessment, his overall approach,
and I have noted a broad support from all ministers of this overall
counterinsurgency approach." The Los Angeles Times of October 24
wrote that "America's NATO allies signaled broad support Friday for an
ambitious counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, adding to the
momentum building for a substantial U.S. troop increase."NATO defense
ministers meeting in Bratislava, Slovakia, endorsed the strategy put
forward by Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the U.S. and allied
commander. The alliance rejected competing proposals to narrow the
military mission to fighting the remnants of Al Qaeda." Pentagon
chief Robert Gates walked away from the two-day conference assured
that "a number of allies...were thinking about increasing their own
military or civilian contributions." As though a war of such
monumental proportions was not enough for self-styled 21st Century
NATO to manage, its chief Rasmussen delivered an inventory of
additional missions while addressing the bloc's new Strategic Concept,
including "nuclear matters," "cyber defence," "the difficult economic
climate," "the effects of disruption in energy supply" and "perhaps
the most global of challenges - climate change." But his main focus
was on two related subjects, both with Russia as prime antagonist. On
the first topic Rasmussen asserted:"Energy security is [an] emerging
challenge. Indeed, many countries...have already felt the effects of
disruption in energy supply, and in the next few years, the
competition for energy will only get more intense. This means that we
need to think about how to protect our supply lines, our transit
routes, and our critical infrastructure."His allusion was to
collective NATO-U.S.-EU efforts to "lessen Europe's energy dependency"
on Russia and to continue developing alternative routes for Caspian
Sea and Middle East oil to enter Europe by circumventing Russia (and
Iran). What, if the situation were reversed, would be condemned in
Western capitals as an energy war.In mentioning "the meaning of
Article 5," Rasmussen affirmed that "NATO's core task was, is, and
will remain, the defence of our territory and our populations. For our
Alliance to endure, all members must feel that they are safe and
secure. NATO has never failed in this respect."There is only one
nation on earth against whom NATO can "defend its territory":
Russia.His comments concerning "the challenge of cyber-attacks -
which, as we saw in Estonia two years ago, can seriously destabilise a
country" made the point even more indisputable.Rasmussen's address,
finally, rehashed the 1989 George H.W. Bush speech A Europe Whole and
Free  with the pledge that "our new Strategic Concept must reaffirm
a long-standing NATO objective: to help complete the consolidation of
Europe as a continent that is whole, free and at peace. NATO's open
door policy will continue. It will continue because it contributes to
Euro-Atlantic security, and it provides a strong incentive, for
aspirants, to get their house in order."The small and diminishing
handful of nations in Europe not already in NATO supplying troops and
military equipment for the war in Afghanistan and the three countries
in the South Caucasus - Armenia's defense minister was at the NATO
meeting to offer troops - are to be dragged into the Alliance, Russian
apprehensions and objections notwithstanding.What being fully
integrated into NATO portends for the countries so affected and for
their neighbors has been indicated and will be explored in greater
depth later with the cases of Bulgaria and Romania.What it has meant
for three other nations recruited into the bloc in the same year,
2004, as Bulgaria and Romania - the former Soviet Baltic republics of
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - was demonstrated earlier in the week
when Rasmussen called for "a clear, visible NATO presence in the
Baltic states" and said he "would not exclude military exercises in
the future" to assert the Alliance's "visible presence" in the Baltics
on and near Russia's borders. Recently U.S. Assistant Secretary of
State Philip Gordon - formerly of the Brookings Institution,
International Institute for Strategic Studies in London and German
Society for Foreign Affairs in Bonn and who was "instrumental in
developing and coordinating NATO policy in the run-up to the
Alliance's 50th Anniversary summit in Washington, D.C."  - was in
Estonia where he met with Foreign Minister Urmas Paet, who "called for
Georgia, Ukraine, and Bosnia and Herzegovina to be included in NATO's
Membership Action Plan, a program of assistance to countries seeking
to join NATO...." Nothing on this level of geopolitics - absorbing
former Soviet republics and Russian neighbors like Georgia and Ukraine
into a U.S.-controlled military bloc - is coincidental. The Estonian
foreign minister's statement was seconded with precise fidelity by
Senator John Kerry shortly after his recent tour of inspection of the
Afghan war front. Kerry said "[W]hile the world has changed, we are
still dealing with some of the same geostrategic and ideological
concerns that brought NATO into being in particular, a deep and
durable commitment by like-minded democracies to cooperate closely and
deter aggression with a promise to rise up in defense of any NATO
member under attack."I hope we can...address the prospects for future
NATO enlargement to include Balkan nations, Georgia, and Ukraine."
As was repeatedly stated at the NATO meeting in Slovakia, although
the bloc is increasingly conducting military operations outside its
area of responsibility in the Balkans, South Asia, Northeast and
Central Africa and the entire perimeter of the Mediterranean Sea, its
"core," fundamental role remains what it has been for sixty years,
confronting Russia.Which is how Russia and its then president Vladimir
Putin and foreign minister Sergey Lavrov reacted to the U.S. takeover
of seven military bases in Bulgaria and Romania. In 2007 the first
stated "[A] new base in Bulgaria, another in Romania, a site in
Poland, radar in the Czech Republic. What are we supposed to do? We
cannot just observe all this." Shortly afterward the second,
Lavrov, stated "Russia finds it hard to understand some decisions of
NATO like, for example, the deployment of US military facilities in
Bulgaria and Romania." Regarding the recent disclosure that the
Pentagon is going to allot $110 million to modernize and expand
military bases in both countries - "a $50 million military base in
Romania that could house 1,600 U.S. troops, and another $60 million
facility for 2,500 troops in Bulgaria"  - no small sum in the
impoverished nations, James Robbins, a senior fellow in national
security affairs with the Washington-based American Foreign Policy
Council think tank, said "the U.S. efforts in Romania and Bulgaria are
part of a global redeployment strategy started in the early years of
the Bush administration to shift U.S. forces out of Germany and move
them eastward." The same news source also reported that "the U.S.
intends to deploy troops to Poland at some point in the near future,"
according to the State Department's undersecretary of state for arms
control and international security Ellen Tauscher. Bulgaria's
investment in turning its military bases over to the Pentagon and NATO
is a bad one, though. While the U.S. is to spend $60 million expanding
one of its military bases, the country's Defense Minister Nikolay
Mladenov announced earlier this week that "Afghanistan is Bulgaria's
largest military mission, costing taxpayers about BGN 90 million
(about USD 68.7 million) each year."  A net loss of $8.7 million.
More if Mladenov delivers on a recent promise to increase his nation's
troop contingent in Afghanistan.The Bulgarian base that will soon
house 2,000 U.S. troops is the Novo Selo Military Training Ground and
will be upgraded "so that it could accommodate more rangers and be
used for military exercises conducted by several countries, not just
US and Bulgarian forces." That is, it will be used for
multinational NATO combat instruction for current wars, that in
Afghanistan in particular, and for potential use elsewhere in the
Broader Middle East, in the former Soviet Union and in Africa.It will
especially focus on the integration of expeditionary forces from
nations arising from the ruins of the Soviet Union and
Yugoslavia.Earlier this month Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov
escorted high-ranking U.S. military officers to the Novo Selo base and
on the occasion stated "Bulgaria would continue its military
cooperation with the USA, and that Serbia and Ukraine had also
expressed expressed interest in joint drills." During a meeting of
the Southeastern Europe Defense Ministerial (SEDM) on October 22 in
Bulgaria Defense Minister Mladenov "offered his counterparts from
neighboring countries to use the joint Bulgarian-U.S. military
training facilities in Novo Selo....The annual meeting was attended by
the defense ministers of all countries which have the status of
observers - Georgia, Moldova, Montenegro and Serbia."  Montenegro
and Serbia were incorporated as full members of the SEDM during the
meeting which was also attended by "representatives of NATO Allied
Joint Force Command, Naples, and NATO Allied Joint Force Command,
Brunssum, as well as the General Manager of NATO Consultation, Command
and Control Agency," according to the NATO Partnership for Peace
website. This year's meeting of SEDM, which overlaps with other
NATO transitional programs like the Adriatic Charter and the
Partnership for Peace, also established a Multilateral Peace Force
Southeastern Europe. The twelve previous full members of the SEDM are
the United States, Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Italy,
Macedonia, Romania, Slovenia, Turkey and Ukraine.The nations Bulgarian
officials listed as ones invited to be trained by the Pentagon's Joint
Task Force - East, about which more later, were mentioned again
recently by U.S. Vice President Biden in Romania on October 22, as
they were at the same time by Biden's former Senate colleague John
Kerry, in the latter case as future NATO members.Biden stated in
Bucharest, "As President Obama has said, there are no old members,
there are no new members of NATO; there are just members. Under
Article 5, an attack on one is an attack against all"  and "Our
military serve together in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in the West Balkans
zone...." A Romanian news source quoted the American vice
president as also saying, "We share a desire that Romania's neighbors
including Moldova will continue along the path to democracy and...that
they will be integrated into European institutions when they are
ready. That's why we have to sustain this bid to economically
stabilize Moldova." Moldova was the scene of a so-called Twitter
Revolution in April of this year, one modeled after earlier "color"
uprisings in Yugoslavia, Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan from
2000-2005, and now has a new government ready to merge with Romania,
which would mean dragging the former Soviet republic into NATO.It is
that process Biden in bent on completing.Moldova also has an
unresolved, "frozen," conflict with Transdniester where Russia
deployed peacekeepers in 1992 after thousands were killed and injured
in fighting between the two states. There are still 365 Russian troops
in the republic and last week a Transdniester official requested more
Russian forces in anticipation of increased tensions with Moldova's
new pro-NATO government.Were Moldova to join NATO, either in its own
right or as part of an expanded Romania, the Alliance would be in a de
facto state of war with Transdniester, which is supported by Russia.
Romania is a NATO member and if it intervened on behalf of Moldova
against its neighbor could invoke NATO's Article 5 against
Transdniester - where, again, Russian troops are based.Addressing his
Romanian hosts on October 22, Biden said, "In Eastern Europe, there
are countries still struggling to establish fully functioning
democracies and vibrant market economies. You can help guide Moldova,
Georgia and Ukraine along the path to stability and prosperity...There
is much work to be done in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus." The
six nations he mentioned are exactly those targeted by the European
Union's Eastern Partnership program to be weaned from the post-Soviet
Commonwealth of Independent States and integrated into the EU and
NATO.Biden also touched on the main subject of his preceding visits to
Poland and the Czech Republic: The European wing of the U.S.'s new
global missile shield system.His comments on that score at Bucharest
University included:"I really appreciate your government's embrace of
the new missile defense architecture we are bringing into Europe. It
is a better architecture. It has the benefit of protecting you
physically, as well as the United States." He further touted a
"new missile defense architecture" that "will protect all NATO allies,
including all central European NATO members" and would provide
"stronger, smarter and swifter defenses."  (Central Europe is the
term now used in the West for most of the area referred to as Eastern
Europe during the Cold War. The new designation is political and not
geographical.)That Biden laid such particular stress on this topic in
Romania indicates that the U.S. has plans to extend its interceptor
missile system into the Black Sea region.The day after the American
vice president left Romania a U.S. military official spoke of the
Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base - where the $50 million investment is to
occur and which has been used for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -
near the port city of Constanta on the Black Sea and said that it
"will become a permanent facility in the spring and be jointly used
with Romanian forces." The progressively more aggressive U.S. and
NATO military penetration of the Black Sea region has been examined in
previous articles in this series . A Russian report of October 23
included this background information:"Over 4,000 US military men are
expected to serve at the two bases: 1,600 in Romania and 2,500 in
Bulgaria. The authorities of the two nations expect that the US
military men will settle there for a long time."It goes along with the
Pentagon's intention to cut its 55,000-strong group in Germany and
redeploy a part of the troops in several countries of Eastern Europe,
including Bulgaria and Romania."The same source quoted a Russian
analyst:"The number of US military men at the two bases is not going
to be large, but who can say that it will not be doubled, tripped or
quadrupled in the future? Furthermore, the appearance of NATO bases on
the Black Sea coast will come as an addition to the US military
[deployments] in the Baltic region. As a result, Russia will find
itself trapped." The relocation of American combat and
expeditionary forces from Germany and Italy to Romania and Bulgaria
has been underway for the past two years.In June of 2007 a Bulgarian
news agency revealed that "The Bezmer military airport...will be
transformed into one of the six new strategic airbases outside US
borders." Slightly afterwards another Bulgarian source announced
that "NATO will move aircraft from the US air base in Aviano,
northeastern Italy, to Bulgaria's Graf Ignatievo air base...." A
year before a third news site in the nation detailed that "[T]he new
land, sea and airbases along the Black Sea will provide much improved
contingency access for deployments into Central Asia, parts of the
Middle East and Southwest Asia." Beginning in 2007 the Pentagon's
new Joint Task Force - East (JTF-East), during its formative stage
known as the Eastern Europe Task Force, started operating in Bulgaria
and Romania and last year established its headquarters at the Mihail
Kogalniceanu base in Romania.Its main purpose is to conduct joint
combat training with U.S., Bulgarian and Romanian troops for the war
in Afghanistan and for others in the future.JTF-East has just
completed an almost three-month-long series of trainings in Bulgaria
and Romania which began on August 7 and ended on October 24. It has
two heavy brigade combat teams and the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment
assigned to it and may acquire the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team
currently based in Vicenza, Italy.The Stryker is the Pentagon's
state-of-the-art 21st Century armored combat vehicle, first tried out
in Iraq in 2003 and introduced in Afghanistan earlier this year.
Bulgaria and Romania are its testing grounds.The two Black Sea
nations, in hosting the Joint Task Force - East and the 2nd Stryker
Cavalry Regiment, are the preeminent "forward operating bases" for the
war in South Asia and are poised to play a similar role in conflicts
that may erupt in the Black Sea area, the Caucasus and the Persian
Gulf.It was reported that as part of the August-October joint military
exercises "Soldiers of the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment based in
Vilseck, Germany, have been training for the past three months in
Romania and Bulgaria as part of their preparations for an upcoming
deployment to Afghanistan this spring."U.S. Soldiers offloaded 30
Stryker combat vehicles in early August at the Mihail Kogalniceanu
Airfield in eastern Romania and have since been conducting combined
training with their host-nation counterparts."Soldiers from the 2nd
SCR have been rotating every three weeks to Romania and Bulgaria since
the second week of August and will continue through the end of
October." At the aforementioned Novo Selo Training Area in
Bulgaria, "Bulgarian Land Forces and U.S. Army troops demonstrated
their interoperability and combat skills Oct. 8 during distinguished
visitors' day here. The training exhibition consisted of both
militaries engaging an enemy where the coalition neutralized the
opposing force."Units of both countries deployed...to enhance their
troops' individual combat skills and improve their coalition
cooperation."Joint Task Force-East, a combined partnership effort of
leaders, special staff and logistics support, facilitates select units
rotating through training cycles. The JTF-E exercises consist of
tactical field and simulation training including, but not limited to:
squad- to company-level size attacks; assault rifle, mortar and
rocket-propelled grenade live fire; Stryker and BMP-1 armored infantry
carrier vehicle movements and combat lifesaver training." An
American newspaper account of one of the joint exercises added,
"Soldiers from all three countries trained together in individual and
company-level movements as well as with armored vehicles, a variety of
weapons and combat lifesaving skills. They also practiced the
coordination needed to go into and clear a hostile urban area." A
Bulgarian news story mentioned: "The joint Bulgaria-US military
exercise at the Novo Selo ground is part of a three-week long practice
to include reconnaissance and target shooting."Bulgarian and US
soldiers on Thursday conducted a joint drill of fighting the enemy in
an urban setting at the Novo Selo training ground."[The] drill
involved combat tactics used in Afghanistan." A Bulgarian news
site reported in early October that "High ranking officers from both
armies are taking part Thursday [October 8] in the Novo Selo VIP Day
and are observing tactical demonstrations of the US and Bulgarian land
forces, Black Hawk helicopters, Stryker armored vehicles and Bulgarian
armored equipment." On the day of Joseph Biden's stay in the
country Romania announced that it had signed an Access Agreement with
the Pentagon: "According to a release of the Ministry of National
Defense, under this Agreement Romania gives U.S. forces access for use
of the facilities approved under Law 268/2006, Annex A, often referred
to in foreign and Romanian media as 'American military bases,' and not
as 'facilities made available to U.S. forces.'"Attending the
discussions on the agreement "on behalf of the United States were
representatives of U.S. European Command (USEUCOM), the U.S. Army
Europe (USAREUR) Major Command, the U.S. Air Forces in Europe (USAF)
and the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest...." On the same day an
international conference on NATO and the New Strategic Concept was
held in the Romanian capital. A report of the event stated "Romania
wishes the reaffirmation of Article 5 from the North-Atlantic Pact.
Another field in which the Romanian side seems to be interested in is
energy security."One of the hosts of the event said, "Romania is one
of the [active] states of the energy security component. For the time
being NATO has accepted it and introduced in its final documents
specific operations directed to the protection of critical
infrastructure on land and water. Currently, some formulas are being
planned including other elements of energy security strategy NATO
should assume." While meeting with Biden the day before, Romania's
President Traian Basescu sounded the same note: "The liquid gas
terminal in Constanta is still a common project of Romania and the US,
as is the Constanta-Trieste oil pipeline." On the eastern end of
the Black Sea, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International
Security Affairs Alexander Vershbow - former American ambassador to
NATO and to Russia - was in Georgia earlier this week to discuss
"modernization of defense systems, participation of the Georgian
military contingent in Afghan peace operations, security in the region
and other urgent issues." While in the nation Vershbow stated
"Georgia's forward movement towards NATO is very important for us and
we are ready to develop a special program to achieve this goal."
Frequent comments of a similar tenor by the Pentagon official led
a Russian new source to recount that "He said the US administration is
helping Georgia to build armed forces that would meet the requirements
of the day and would be capable of cooperating with NATO."Washington
has been doing its utmost to this effect. Hundreds of US experts,
including marines, are currently in Georgia training Georgian soldiers
who are to join the US-led contingent in Afghanistan on President
Saakashvili's orders. A total of 700 Georgian servicemen are expected
to be moved to Afghanistan by early next year at a time when coalition
losses grow by the day....It looks like President Saakashvili is
prepared to go any lengths, up to sacrificing young lives, to please
Washington and get into NATO." Four days after Vershbow's
departure, on October 24 U.S. Marines in Georgia kicked off a two-week
joint military exercise, the latest one to be code-named Immediate
Response, which the American embassy in Tbilisi described as
"specifically designed to enhance Georgia's ability to conduct joint
counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan together with US
forces."Immediate Response 2008, which included the largest-ever
deployment of U.S. armed forces to Georgia, concluded on September 4,
three days before the U.S.-trained Georgian army bombarded and invaded
South Ossetia, triggering a war with Russia. Many of the U.S. troops
and much of their military equipment stayed behind after the war
games.The current Immediate Response drills are providing Washington's
proxy army with training for aggression against South Ossetia and
Abkhazia - and another armed conflict with Russia - as well as for war
in Afghanistan.The true war theater begins in the Balkans and the
Black Sea region and stretches along the Russian to the Chinese
border. Bulgaria and Romania are key links in that chain.1) New York
Times, October 23, 20092) Los Angeles Times, October 24, 20093) Ibid4)
NATO, October 22, 20095)
http://usa.usembassy.de/etexts/ga6-890531.htm6) Bloomberg News,
October 19, 20097) U.S. State Department, March 16, 20098) Interfax,
October 17, 20099) Boston Globe, October 22, 200910) New Europe
[Belgium], Week of June 2, 200711) Standart News, December 7, 200712)
Stars and Stripes, October 17, 200913) Ibid14) Ibid15) Focus News
Agency, October 19, 200916) Sofia News Agency, October 8, 200917)
Sofia News Agency, October 8, 200918) Xinhua News Agency, October 22,
200919) Partnership for Peace Information Management System, October
23, 200920) U.S. Department of Defense, October 22, 200921)
Financiarul, October 23, 200922) Nine O'Clock News, October 23,
200923) Deutsche Welle, October 22, 200924) Nine O'Clock News, October
23, 200925) Deutsche Welle, October 22, 200926) Associated Press,
October 23, 200927) Black Sea: Pentagon's Gateway To Three Continents
And The Middle East Stop NATO, February 21, 2009
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/08/27/79 Black Sea Crisis
Deepens As Threat To Iran Grows Stop NATO, September 16, 2009
Black Sea, Caucasus: U.S. Moves Missile Shield South And East Stop
NATO, September 19, 2009
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/09/19/28328) Pravda, October 23,
200929) Standart News, June 6, 200730) Sofia News Agency, October 6,
200731) Sofia Echo, November 17, 200632) United States European
Command, October 22, 200933) United States European Command, October
13, 200934) Battle Creek Enquirer, October 22, 200935) Sofia News
Agency, September 17, 200936) Sofia News Agency, October 8, 200937)
Financiarul, October 24, 200938) Financiarul, October 24, 200939) Nine
O'Clock News, October 23, 200940) Trend News Agency, October 19,
200941) Trend News Agency, October 20, 200942) Voice of Russia,
October 16, 2009