The AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missile was developed as an anti-tank weapon back in the days when the primary threat against the United States was thought to be the Soviet Union and their T-62 and T-72 tanks. When I entered the Army in 1976, it was already in development and its versatility provided staying power long after the Berlin Wall was torn down and the wars for oil in the Middle East had faded into the background. During the Global War on Terrorism, Hellfire missiles have been mounted on Predator and Reaper UCAVs, or combat drones, and used in targeted attacks on terrorists that have included U.S. citizens, as well as members of al-Qaeda. The Hellfire missile and the U.S. policy on use of drones in the Global War on Terrorism has resulted in the deaths of non-combatants, and that is a problem.
Some deny that non-combatants have been killed in Afghanistan. The United States Central Command issued a 2,100 page report, a five page summary of which can be found here. There is no question that non-combatants have been killed by drones. U.S. policy that resulted in deaths that included children have been properly called into question and deserve scrutiny.
On Feb. 4, a document describing the Department of Justice legal case for using drones was leaked to NBC news. A group of Democratic and Republican Senators has asked President Obama for transparency about the targeting of U.S. citizens. The senate request is related to the hearings on John Brennan’s appointment as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The irony for right wingers is that a Brennan appointment may ease drones out of CIA. In any case, it is about time people started asking questions about our government’s use of drones to target terrorists.
Mistakes happen during military operations—any soldier can tell you that. What needs to be addressed is what the hell are we doing with our Hellfire missiles, and how can we justify the deaths of non-combatants in pursuit of the war on terrorism? That Chuck Grassley and Al Franken can both agree to ask questions about the drone policy is a positive development, providing hope that the issues of drone warfare policy and targeting of terrorists will get some transparency.
It’s time for fiscal accountability in all parts of government, but particularly with military spending.
In FY 2000 the Pentagon budget was $295 billion, the national debt was $5.62 trillion, and unemployment was 4 percent. In FY 2012, the Pentagon budget was $645 billion, and a deficit of $1.1 trillion contributed to a year-ending national debt of $16 trillion. Unemployment was 7.8 percent.
Set aside for a moment the fiscal cliff that’s abuzz in the media– the disastrous financial effects of the Bush tax cuts, the potential impact of the sequester, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Look closely at our military spending. It has more than doubled in 12 years and has contributed to our national debt and to increased unemployment. Just as important, the money has been spent wastefully, with $102 billion in waste identified in just FY 2011. And, according to the Pentagon itself, in the last decade the Pentagon awarded $1.1 trillion in contracts to contractors who have engaged in fraud.
This is not a foreign policy problem, it is an accountability problem. As we approach the so-called fiscal cliff, we should insist that the military budget take its full share of cuts. Military spending is 57 percent of all discretionary spending. Let it absorb at least 57 percent of the total spending cuts. We should insist that our senators vote to require that the Pentagon pass an audit, for the first time in history, to hold our military accountable for spending.
Veterans for Peace, Chapter 161
Linda S. Fisher
Mary L. Martin
Thomas M. Kelly
Veterans won’t be getting a new, billion-dollar jobs program, not from this Senate. Republicans on Wednesday afternoon blocked a vote on the Veterans Job Corps Bill after Jeff Sessions of Alabama raised a point of order — he said the bill violated a cap on spending agreed to by Congress last year.
The bill’s sponsor, Patty Murray of Washington, said that shouldn’t matter, since the bill’s cost was fully offset by new revenues. She said Mr. Sessions and his party colleagues had been furiously generating excuses to oppose the bill, and were now exploiting a technicality to deny thousands of veterans a shot at getting hired as police officers, firefighters and parks workers, among other things.
The bill needed 60 votes to advance. The final tally was 58 to 40, and all 40 opponents of the proposal were Republicans.
As proposals go, this should have been a no-brainer. The Veterans Job Corps Act of 2012, sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), sought to lower unemployment among military veterans, giving grants to federal, state, and local agencies, which in turn would hire veterans — giving priority to those who served on or after 9/11 — to work as first-responders and in conservation jobs at national parks.
The bill was fully paid for, and entirely bipartisan — Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) had his own set of ideas for the bill, and Murray incorporated all of them into her legislation.
And yet, all but five Senate Republicans voted to kill it anyway, 48 days before a national election. Even Burr sided with his party to defeat the bill, and it was filled with his provisions.
A New York Times editorial added the other day, “It makes sense for the 99 percent of Americans to find new ways to pay their debt to the 1 percent who serve in uniform. To most people, Senator Murray’s bill would seem like one decent way to do that. But not if you’re one of those Republicans in Washington who thinks it’s more important in an election year to deny Democrats a success or accomplishment of any kind.
Today we have another guest post from Larry Hodgden. Larry is a retired Viet Nam era veteran of the USAF. He and his wife of 40 years, Sharon, have three children and seven grandchildren who keep him very busy. Family, education, church and politics have been a lifelong passion. The welfare of our military men and women strikes close to home for him.
Remember “weapons of mass destruction” and the “direct link to Al Qaeda”? Turns out we were taken to war under false pretences by President Bush who avoided combat in Viet Nam by joining the National Guard, yet had the gall to fight his war with the National Guard. If he had the courage or intelligence of his father, he would have asked for the draft and raised taxes to pay for his fiasco. He didn’t, of course because he knew Americans wouldn’t stand for it.
After 10 years of combat engagement, our Nation and our military are drained emotionally, physically and financially. Our troops have been torn away from their families and jobs for multiple deployments in the combat zones at an enormous cost to their lives. All this came after achieving our initial objectives of defeating the Taliban and overthrowing Saddam Hussein.
So what happened? The neo-conservatives and their friends in the “Military Industrial Complex” (which President Eisenhower warned us about) were calling the shots in the Bush White House. Every time the military would reach an objective, the mission would change and if you think the impact on our military was an important consideration, you haven’t been paying attention. Dick Cheney and his “Defense Leeches” at Halliburton were of prime concern. The longer we could keep our military involved, the more billions Cheney’s buddies could rake in.
So now reality sets in and the bills are coming due as we face enormous burdens of caring for our mentally and physically wounded warriors. Nearly 80% of our returning veterans are coming home with physical and mental problems. Many so severely injured they will require a lifetime of care if we can provide it for them. As of now we are failing in our responsibility to care for them, especially with regard to mental issues which have resulted in an average of 15 suicides per day by veterans, not to mention the homelessness and high unemployment rate of veterans. The cost of this will run into the trillions of dollars in their lifetimes but that cost does not matter. We owe them whatever it takes for answering the “Call to Duty.”
Our country has paid a terrible price for Bush’s great adventure not only in terms of lives lost, lives destroyed and huge deficits and debts, both past and future. President Eisenhower (Ike) was right, we need to beware of the “Military Industrial Complex” and we can do that by electing a President who is not in the hip pocket of billionaire industrialists nor a puppet for the neo-conservatives who never met a war they didn’t like.
That leaves you one logical choice come November and that is Barack Obama because when it comes to war, we need a President who will “Think Twice, Then Think Again” before sending young Americans off to die.
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack today announced that Humility of Mary Shelter, Inc. in Davenport will receive $247,543 in funding from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) through their Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Program. This program aims to improve housing stability for very low-income Veteran families.
“I strongly believe that we need to care for our veterans with the same dignity and honor with which they have served our country,” said Loebsack. “We have a moral responsibility to end homelessness amongst our Veterans and Veteran families, and to help Veterans struggling in these tough economic times. Humility of Mary Shelter Inc., not only works to help veterans get back on their feet, but also focuses on helping them become more stable in all areas of their lives. I am pleased that they will receive this funding to continue their important services.”
Humility of Mary Shelter, Inc. plans to serve approximately 125 participant households in Scott County and Rock Island County, Iowa. Their Veterans Transitional Program provides 17 beds and service coordination to homeless veterans, with the goal of helping them to achieve residential stability, increase their skill levels, and obtain greater self-determination. The program also offers supportive housing for up to 24 months and works in conjunction with the local VA service center to offer qualifying veterans services such as education and job training.
Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Program grants can be used to offer Veterans and their family members outreach, case management, assistance in obtaining VA benefits and assistance in getting other public benefits. Community-based groups can offer temporary financial assistance on behalf of Veterans for rent payments, utility payments, security deposits and moving costs. This is the program’s second year.
(Editor’s note: Following is a chapter from the new book “Days” by Don Place. Don wrote this book partly to get his message about Vietnam out, a voice he felt was not being adequately expressed. His stories from 1967 and 1968 are harrowing. After reading “Days,” a reasonable person would be inclined to put away the happy talk about veterans and our wars to work on veterans issues, particularly on treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. No parade or recognition ceremony is adequate compensation for what veterans like Don did under orders from our government).
Suicide by Don Place
Sometimes in this country of Vietnam, the weight of our duty becomes more than we can stand. The rain is now relentless, it’s been raining for a week, its monsoon season, the rainy season, no matter what you call it, it is hell on earth. We have to conduct ourselves as if nothing is wrong, the patrols, search and destroy missions, ambushes, all go on unchanged. However human beings aren’t meant to live day in and day out soaked to the bone, in constant heat, under extreme stress. Our unit, the 101st Airborne Division is the best, but even with all our training we are still human beings. I am currently in a position on patrol somewhere between Cu Chi and the Cambodian border, the absolute most dangerous part of Vietnam.
We have stopped for a break, my legs are on fire. The medic told me it is jungle rot and ring worm. I have a fever and have a bad case of diarrhea. I think I am going to die, but I will not be on any list to go back to camp or be considered in any jeopardy, I am still moving and able to fight, like a boxer knocked senseless but still on his feet. I won’t say anything to anyone, this is my duty, I signed up for this, I can’t have them think I’m a coward.
I think the next fire fight I’m going to get shot, I can’t take this pain, the rain beating on me is driving me nuts, the same sound over and over, this ankle high mud, the leech on my face, but I know God doesn’t like cowards either. Catholics have to suck it up and die the right way, we don’t believe in suicide.
“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” - Joseph Campbell
2012 successes for jobs, education, economy
The 2012 session resulted in some significant successes for Iowans.
We’ve once again balanced the state budget without raising taxes. And we’ve approved measures that will move this state forward, create jobs, grow our economy, increase student achievement and expand educational opportunity.
The Legislature did its best work when we refused to be distracted by divisive issues and instead worked together on the top priorities of Iowans. Highlights include:
** Encouraging economic growth and job creation through targeted business incentives, university-supported business development, and funding for local Workforce Development field offices that help out-of-work Iowans find jobs and local businesses find employees.
** Expanding training to ease Iowa’s skilled worker shortage by developing and enhancing programs at our community colleges, which have a tradition of working closely with local business to meet workforce needs.
** Launching education reform that reinforces the importance of early grade literacy, increases parental involvement, establishes annual teacher performance reviews, expands student assessments, and continues funding for smaller class sizes for kids learning to read.
** Making tuition more affordable at community colleges, state universities and private colleges, as well as expanding tuition grants for returning National Guard soldiers.
** Intensifying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) efforts in K12 schools, along with expanding career-oriented engineering education.
** Jumpstarting Iowa’s solar and geothermal energy industry through targeted tax credits.
** Reforming Iowa’s mental health system to ensure all Iowans receive high-quality services regardless of where they live.
I also voted to increase support for local schools and to significantly cut commercial property taxes. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough support to make these investments that so many Iowans wanted.
Thank you to all who took the time to contact me during the session. Your ideas, suggestions and priorities are reflected in many of the bills that made it to the Governor’s desk.
Education budget boosts key job creation efforts
In the last days of the 2012 session, the Legislature approved a bipartisan compromise on the state’s Education Budget that includes key job creation measures.
Most importantly, we voted to boost investment in our outstanding community colleges so that they can help Iowans fill skilled job shortages. When Iowa employers can’t find the skilled workers they need, they’re left with three choices: lose business to competitors, hire from out-of-state, or move their business out of Iowa.
Under Senate File 2321, investment in workforce training will increase to $8 million next year, a hike of 60 percent. That includes $2 million for the new GAP Tuition Fund, which helps Iowans earn certificates in welding, information technology and other in-demand jobs. And $6 million will go to the Accelerated Career Education (ACE) program.
In addition, general community college funding will increase by $13 million, and the institutions will receive an additional $5 million for maintenance.
The Education Budget also boosts funding for Iowa’s public universities by $23 million, an amount the Board of Regents has said will help prevent future tuition increases. Tuition grants for private colleges increase by 4.6 percent, and funds for the National Guard tuition program go up by 7 percent.
By keeping tuition costs down, we increase educational opportunity and make it possible for Iowa’s families to afford a great future for their kids. Ultimately, investing in education and job training helps Iowans become more productive, competitive workers, grows our economy and boosts job creation.
SF 2321 now goes to Governor Branstad for his signature.
Tackling designer drugs
The abuse of harmful “designer drugs” is on the rise in Iowa.
You may have heard of some of these substances, which are concocted in chemistry labs and sold under such names as K2 and spice (types of synthetic marijuana) and bath salts (synthetic stimulants). These drugs have caused an alarming rise in emergency room visits among those who use them.
That’s why legislators have worked with law enforcement to ban these drugs through Senate File 2343, part of a larger effort to reduce dangerous drug use in Iowa.
Bath salts are stimulants that are ingested or snorted to get high. Poison control centers report that bath salts can lead to extreme paranoia, suicidal thoughts, agitation, combative and violent behavior, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and serious injury or death.
The effects of synthetic marijuana, such as K2, spice and Black Blaze, can vary significantly from person to person. Ill effects can include paranoia, agitation, vomiting, seizures, lack of pain response and uncontrollable body movements.
SF 2343 passed the House and Senate and has gone to the Governor for his signature.
Participate in parade to honor vets, service members
A parade called “A Salute to our Veterans and Service Members” will be held on June 30 in downtown Des Moines. The parade is being coordinated by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Iowa National Guard and the Governor’s office to recognize the achievements and dedication of Iowa’s service men and women. For more information or to participate in the parade, call the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs at 1-800-838-4692.
2012 Iowa Transportation Map available
Showing roadways, rivers, rail lines and more from Larchwood in the northwest to Keokuk in the southeast, the new 2012 Iowa Transportation Map is now out—and it’s free!
Maps are available throughout the state at driver’s license stations, Department of Transportation offices and Iowa’s rest areas and welcome centers. You can also get a complete Iowa travel packet that includes the new map and 2012 Iowa Travel Guide by calling 1-800-345-IOWA or visit www.traveliowa.com.
Des Moines, IA 50319
2609 Clearview Drive
Burlington, IA 52601
Everyone welcome at education reform discussions
How can we help our students do even better? Which of Gov. Branstad’s education reform ideas will help our local schools—and which might hurt? I want to know what you think.
I’m organizing public meetings on these issues for parents, teachers, students and all interested citizens. Everyone is welcome to attend, regardless of where you live.
If you can’t make it, I still want to hear your ideas and concerns. Contact me at 319-759-5334 or email@example.com. Thanks for taking the time to help me better serve you.
Danville: November 15 from 6 to 7 PM in the Danville High School chorus room, 419 South Main Street.
West Liberty: November 16 from 5:30 to 6:30 PM in the meeting room of the West Liberty Public Library, 400 North Spencer Street.
Muscatine: November 17 from 6:30 to 7:30 PM in Strahan Hall room 27 at Muscatine Community College, 152 Colorado Street.
Honoring our veterans, service members
Over the past year, Iowa has experienced the largest overseas deployment of National Guard troops since World War II. It’s a powerful reminder this November—the month of Veterans Day—of the sacrifice that thousands of our fellow Iowans are making.
Iowa is a national leader in supporting our veterans, soldiers and their families. The Iowa Veterans Council called a recent legislative session the best for Iowa veterans and service members since the 1950s. And last year, Iowa became the first state to approve 10 measures that the U.S. Department of Defense says would do most to improve the quality-of-life for our military.
We built on those successes this year by:
Eliminating state taxes on military pay: We made military pay exempt from state taxes for soldiers on active duty in the reserves or National Guard. This tax exemption is retroactive to January 1 of this year.
Preventing “stolen valor”: It is now a serious misdemeanor to impersonate a decorated military veteran with the intent to receive monetary gain, such as a job, promotion or political office.
Protecting veterans from unnecessary fees: Any company or individual that charges a fee to help veterans file benefit appeals is now required to disclose that these services are provided for free at local veterans’ affairs offices.
Helping soldiers go to college: We protected funding for the National Guard Education Assistance program, which helps our soldiers attend Iowa colleges and universities.
Divesting from Iran: We voted to divest public funds from companies doing business in Iran to better prevent Iowa tax dollars from being invested in a country that supports the enemies of the United States.
Establishing Purple Heart Day: August 7 is now officially “Purple Heart Day” in Iowa. State and local governments—and ALL Iowans—are encouraged to honor our military men and women who were killed or wounded in enemy action.
Expanding Injured Veterans Grants: A veteran who previously received an injured veteran’s grant may now be eligible for an additional grant for a subsequent serious injury received in the line of duty.
Protecting posthumously conceived children: When a service member is deployed to a war zone or when a person becomes seriously ill, injuries or treatments could prevent that person from conceiving a child. That’s why a person’s genetic material is sometimes saved by military families for later use. We ensured that children who are conceived using the genetic material of a parent who has died will be considered a legitimate child.
Creating new veterans’ license plates: We established new Iowa license plates honoring recipients of the Combat Infantryman Badge, Combat Action Badge, Combat Action Ribbon, Air Force Combat Action Medal and Combat Medical Badge. Proceeds benefit the Iowa Commission on Veterans Affairs.
These are just a few small ways we are showing appreciation and saying “thank you” to those who’ve served and sacrificed.
AmeriCorps grant gives veterans “green” jobs skills
The Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service has awarded a federal AmeriCorps grant to a new Iowa Department of Natural Resources program that will help put veterans to work. The Iowa Green Veterans AmeriCorps program will help returning veterans in their transition to civilian life while learning new job skills.
From October through March, veterans will learn energy efficiency-related job skills and assist rural, low-income and elderly Iowans in making energy improvements in their homes. From March through September, they’ll help with disaster recovery and stewardship activities in Iowa’s state parks. The goal is to connect military veterans with meaningful employment opportunities in the green jobs economy and natural resources.
Full-time AmeriCorps members receive a modest living allowance and an education award of up to $5,550, which can be used for higher education tuition or loan repayment after completing a full year of service. The DNR’s Veterans Program was awarded $290,000 to support the hiring of 20 veterans for 2011-2012.
To learn more, go here.
Bringing workforce services directly to veterans
The Iowa National Guard and Iowa Workforce Development have partnered to bring workforce services directly to veterans with workforce access points at Iowa armories.
This effort will make career-enhancing resources and job prospects more accessible for our soldiers returning from active duty. Maj. Gen. Tim Orr, Adjutant General of the Iowa National Guard, says that more than 25 percent of those returning from combat in Afghanistan are seeking full-time employment.
The National Guard partnership will add 42 new access point locations for veterans. Services include job search and résumé assistance, unemployment claims and labor market information, educational and veteran specific resources, access to workforce specialists via live chat and more.
Des Moines, IA 50319
2609 Clearview Drive
Burlington, IA 52601
The Iowa Commission of Veterans Affairs would greatly appreciate your assistance in spreading the word of these events, celebrations, observances, and ceremonies taking place throughout the Great State of Iowa on and around Veterans Day.
This is a great opportunity for Iowans to render their respect and appreciation to veterans who have served our Nation. Please consider attending an event.
Cedar Falls, Sioux City, Iowa City, Des Moines, Urbandale, Riverside, Milo, Osceola, Spencer, New Hampton, Monroe, Johnston, Council Bluffs, Cedar Rapids, Anamosa, Albia, Perry, Packwood, Fairfield, Fredericksburg, Emmetsburg, Indianola, Van Meter, Polk City, Ankeny, Tiffin,
Papa John’s Pizza 50% off Entire Online Order (use Promotion Code militaryiowa) for Iowa Military & Veterans, 10-13 Nov 2011, IOWA-WIDE, Lori Risdal, (712) 233-0817, firstname.lastname@example.org, Note – Must order on-line at http://www.papajohns.com, and use the promotion code “MILITARY IOWA”, Note 2 – for every order placed between 11 a.m – 11 p.m. on Friday, November 11, Papa John’s will donate $1 to support USOs around the world – an awesome opportunity to give back while taking advantage of a great offer!