Archive for the ‘war’ Category

President Bush became emotional when presenting the Medal of Honor to the family of a Navy SEAL killed in Iraq. I have read some comments that Bush was faking his emotions during the ceremony, but after watching it, that clearly is not the case. I cannot stand the man, but he is human and pretty compassionate from what I have witnessed over the years. Regardless, this post is not really about Bush and what I believe to be an unjust war. It is about a hero that died in that war.

In case you chose not to view the video, Mike Monsoor was a Navy SEAL and was with three other Navy SEALS when an Iraqi insurgent threw a grenade on the roof of where they were positioned. Monsoor was the closest to the exit, but instead of leaving his three comrades to die, he jumped on the grenade. The blast killed Monsoor and injured two of his comrades. His bravery and selflessness earned him the Medal of Honor, the highest honor this country can bestow on a servicemember. He is only the fourth servicemember to earn the award since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began. Since Vietnam, the medal has been awarded seven times, all posthumously.

I have often pondered over the last five years why Monsoor and others had to die for me while I sat stateside and had a comfortable life. Every funeral of a servicemember at Arlington is covered by our local paper and there have been many articles, and thus I have had many thoughts. Perhaps not joining the military after college will go down as one of my biggest regrets in life.

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Remember the post I wrote last week about the gay soldier, Maj. Alan G. Rogers, who died in Iraq? There was a debate within The Washington Post as to whether the fact he was gay should have been reported with his death. The paper chose not to.

I alluded that the Army may not have wanted his sexuality to be reported either.

Well, someone from the Pentagon deleted the entry in wikipedia.com that stated that the soldier was gay. The redaction was traced to an IP address in the office of the Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence. The Army did not return calls from the press requesting comment.

Isn’t this taking Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell way too far? Yes, I think so.

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The quote in the title of this post is a quote from Deborah Howell, Ombudsman of The Washington Post. In late January, Army Maj. Alan G. Rogers was killed in Iraq. In addition to clearly being a special person and soldier, he was gay. While The Post reportedly agonized over its decision, with the final decision made by its executive editor, it did not mention Maj. Rogers’s sexual orientation when it reported on his death and funeral.

Donna St. George, a Post staff writer who wrote about Rogers’ funeral, said she received an e-mail from an Army casualty officer stating that the deceased’s family was “nervous” about how Rogers was going to be portrayed in the Post article. The casualty officer did not mention the word “gay” or the phrase “sexual orientation” in the e-mail, St. George said. A decision had already been made about how the Post would handle Rogers’ sexual orientation by the time the e-mail was received, although the article was not yet published, she said.

Should The Post have reported on Maj. Rogers’s sexual orientation? I think so but others are not so sure. The Post’s Ombudsman thinks her paper blew it. Her column is below. What do you think?

What should a newspaper print about a person’s most private life in a story after his death?

The Post ran a story March 22 about the burial at Arlington National Cemetery of Army Maj. Alan G. Rogers, a decorated war hero killed in an explosion in Baghdad. The subject of much journalistic soul-searching, the story did not mention that Rogers’s friends said that he was gay and was well known in local gay veterans’ circles. The Washington Blade, a gay-oriented newspaper, identified him as gay in a story Friday that was critical of The Post.

For The Post, Rogers’s death raised an unanswerable question: Would he have wanted to be identified as gay? Friends also struggled with that question but decided to tell The Post that he was because, they said, he wanted the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule repealed. Yet a cousin and a close friend felt that his sexual orientation was not important; his immediate family members are deceased.

The Post story would have made any soldier proud. It quoted his commanding officer: “As God would have it . . . he shielded two men who probably would have been killed if Alan had not been there.” Rogers was “an exceptional, brilliant person — just well-spoken and instantly could relate to anyone.”

A gay group tipped The Post that there should be a story saying Rogers was the first openly gay soldier to die in Iraq. Reporter Donna St. George was assigned to the story and interviewed friends who said that he was gay but couldn’t share that in the military under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule.

St. George first wrote a story that included his friends talking about his orientation; some at the paper felt that was the right thing to do. But the material was omitted when the story was published. Many editors discussed the issue, and it was “an agonizing decision,” one said. The decision ultimately was made by Executive Editor Len Downie, who said that there was no proof that Rogers was gay and no clear indication that, if he was, he wanted the information made public.

Downie said that what Rogers’s friends said and the fact that Rogers was a former treasurer of American Veterans for Equal Rights (AVER) were not enough. Downie pointed out that many straight journalists belong to the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.

Downie’s ruling was in line with The Post’s stylebook policy. “A person’s sexual orientation should not be mentioned unless relevant to the story . . . . Not everyone espousing gay rights causes is homosexual. When identifying an individual as gay or homosexual, be cautious about invading the privacy of someone who may not wish his or her sexual orientation known.”

Rogers’s cousin, Cathy Long of Ocala, Fla., said that she was the closest in the family to him. To her, “The Post did a wonderful job. Personally, as far as the family is concerned, we really didn’t know about this until after his death. It was in the back of our minds, but we didn’t discuss it.” She is glad The Post story did not say that he was gay. “I really feel Alan was a lot more than that.” She thought the Blade story was “self-serving whatever their cause is and that they’re trying to use Alan to do that.”

Shay Hill, his beneficiary and University of Florida roommate, said that he and Rogers were “like brothers” and that he knew Rogers was gay. “He worked to change the system from within. You don’t out yourself to make a point. Just because he’s gay should have no more relevance than I’m straight. It’s not fair to make a bigger deal out of this than it needs to be.”

Other friends felt differently. James A. “Tony” Smith of Alexandria, an Air Force veteran, knew Rogers through AVER. He said that Rogers “was very open about being gay. It was a major part of his life. It does a disservice to his memory” not to mention it.

Rogers abided by “don’t ask, don’t tell” only because “he wanted to stay a soldier,” Smith said. “He was first and foremost a soldier, and he loved serving his country.” Rogers’s ties to the veterans group were “widely and publicly known.” Austin Rooke, Rogers’s friend and a former Army captain, said, “He was among the most open active-duty military people I’ve ever met. I can’t imagine him not wanting people to know.”

Tami Sadowski said that she was one of Rogers’s closest friends. She and her husband traveled and socialized with him regularly. “Being gay was a huge and very defining part of his life.”

Sharon Alexander, director of legislative affairs for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, was a friend of Rogers and lobbies for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” She ultimately concluded that he would have wanted “that part of his story to be told to help move the issue of repeal forward.”

Kevin Naff, editor of the Blade, said in an e-mail, “It’s a double standard to report basic facts about straight subjects like marital status, while actively suppressing similar information about gay subjects. It was clear that Maj. Rogers led as openly gay a life as was possible, given his military service. He worked for a gay rights organization, had gay friends and patronized D.C.-area gay clubs. It’s unfortunate The Post . . . chose not to present a full picture of this brave man’s life.”

The Post was right to be cautious, but there was enough evidence — particularly of Rogers’s feelings about “don’t ask, don’t tell” — to warrant quoting his friends and adding that dimension to the story of his life. The story would have been richer for it.

sources: washingtonblade.com, washingtonpost.com

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Jan. 1, 2007

3,000 may be a number to you, but its personal

with my head in the clouds, but feet firmly planted in a bear trap, its hard to figure out where i stand.

another person i call a friend has been killed,…brutally, and yet for selfish reasons i suppose, i still manage to march on. through all this blood, sweat and a countless number of tears, i still manage to fight another fight, and live another day.

at the end of each day….i capture what little hope is salvagable. but constant reminders of atrocity are not a hard thing to stumble upon here. focused on the future but keeping my eyes on the road i tell myself “ill be alright”, but with friends dying…….its an every

day struggle wondering who’s next…..who’s gonna eat it in this fuckin…..hell?

i have no clue, but i will tell my loved ones this……..i’m comin home. my enemies are determined to take me, but the survivors of any battle will tell you “the ones who live were more determined to live.” and no enemy of mine will waver that determination, nor stop my will to live. no enemy of mine is that powerful.

so i write this more or less for me…..im comin home…..im comin home

– Sgt. Ryan M. Wood on his MySpace blog


Sgt. Wood, 22, was killed in Iraq on June 21, 2007 when his Bradley Fighting Vehicle hit an IED.

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Bush lied? No shit. Certainly no surprise there but now some organizations have done a study proving it!

A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations found that President Bush and top administration officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The study concluded that the statements “were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses.”

The study counted 935 false statements in the two-year period. It found that in speeches, briefings, interviews and other venues, Bush and administration officials stated unequivocally on at least 532 occasions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or was trying to produce or obtain them or had links to al-Qaida or both.

Bush led with 259 false statements, 231 about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 28 about Iraq’s links to al-Qaida, the study found. That was second only to Powell’s 244 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 10 about Iraq and al-Qaida.

Full article here. Site for The Center for Public Integrity here.

source: yahoo news

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Veteran’s Day

I should have posted this yesterday, as that was Veteran’s Day. But, since today is when it is observed, I’m forgiving myself for my procrastination.

Last week, I posted a blurb about homeless vets. Well, I received a comment from a homeless vet in response. Here’s an excerpt from his blog:

Being homeless and trying and having to hide this fact from society is hard. It is not like I want the world to know I am a homeless veteran. I do not want the world in real time to know that I am what they call a “vagrant”. I do not advertise myself. I do not hold signs saying “Homeless Veteran Please Help” around areas I frequent.

I’d urge you to click on Wandering Vet‘s blog, even if you just spend a few minutes reading it. It is like nothing you have ever read before.

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I just heard on the news that 1,500 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan war are homeless. Why are we unable to take care of these soldiers? I know that the number of homeless Vietnam vets is essentially an epidemic, but these Iraq and Afghanistan vets just got home. I just cannot fathom how we can fail these heroes.

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Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder

I hope that most of you have heard the huge news that the Westboro Baptist Church was ordered to pay nearly $11 million to the father of a deceased US Marine, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder. Mr. Snyder witnessed his son’s funeral picketed by the hate group, who blamed his death on a gay tolerant America. This judgment, should it withstand possible appeals, should completely cripple the gay-hating group.

Some bloggers have argued that Westboro’s tactics, while deplorable, are protected under the First Amendment. I completely disagree. As the judge in the case stated in his instructions to the jury, the First Amendment has its limits, including the prohibition of vulgar, offensive and shocking statements. I believe that protesting at a soldier’s funeral, especially in the manner Westboro employs, does in fact go beyond the limits of the First Amendment. The jury agreed.

Westboro has been around a long time. It is run by a family of hate mongers and back as far as 1993, the church sent a photograph of a gay musician that died of AIDS to his parents. The caption read: “Kevin Oldham: Dead Fag.” Westboro uses Matt Shepard’s death throughout its website as propaganda and told his Mom, during his memorial service, that she would be joining him in Hell. Westboro doesn’t reserve its protests just to fallen soldiers. The group threatened to picket at the memorial of the Amish school attack and Virginia Tech attack but relented once they were given free, unrestricted airtime on a radio station. The group did protest at the Sago mine disaster memorial.

Even Jerry Fallwell, no friend of gays, called Fred Phelps, the leader of the group, “a first class nut.” In return, they protested at his funeral. Will gays protest at Phelps’ funeral?

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a hate watch group that sues hate groups, has classified Westboro as a hate group. The Anti-Defamation League claims that Westboro uses gay bashing as a cover for bashing other religions and minority groups.

I have not even scratched the surface of this group. Its messages are so disgusting I am not going to post them. In fact, I was going to post a picture of one of their protests, but they do not deserve it. Instead, you saw the picture of Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder above.

Isn’t it amazing that a hero’s death, in a far away land, dealt the final blow to a homegrown terrorist group?

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I thought I had read it all at this point in my life. Until this afternoon. Someone, or a group of someones, decided to vandalize a deceased soldier’s grave in Texas this week. We’ve all heard of cemetary vandalism before, but this hero, Lance Cpl. Jeremy Burris, was recently killed in Iraq and was buried this week. The funeral got tons of press in the Texas town and it seems his grave was targeted. I hope they catch the animals responsible. Makes me sick. The entire story here.

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The War as We Saw It

The following is an excerpt from an op-ed piece that was published in the New York Times on August 19, 2007. For the entire piece, click here.

The War as We Saw It


VIEWED from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. (Obviously, these are our personal views and should not be seen as official within our chain of command.)

The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the “battle space” remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayers’ expense.

A few nights ago, for example, we witnessed the death of one American soldier and the critical wounding of two others when a lethal armor-piercing explosive was detonated between an Iraqi Army checkpoint and a police one. Local Iraqis readily testified to American investigators that Iraqi police and Army officers escorted the triggermen and helped plant the bomb. These civilians highlighted their own predicament: had they informed the Americans of the bomb before the incident, the Iraqi Army, the police or the local Shiite militia would have killed their families

We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.

Buddhika Jayamaha is an Army specialist. Wesley D. Smith is a sergeant. Jeremy Roebuck is a sergeant. Omar Mora is a sergeant. Edward Sandmeier is a sergeant. Yance T. Gray is a staff sergeant. Jeremy A. Murphy is a staff sergeant.

I learned today that SSgt. Gray and Sgt. Mora, two authors of the above piece, were killed in Iraq on September 10 when their Humvee rolled over. Five other soldiers were killed in the same accident.

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