Mar 29, 2011
22nd MEU to deploy this week
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - Approximately 2,200 Marines and sailors with 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, II Marine Expeditionary Force from Camp Lejeune, N.C. received deployment orders to support the commanders of the U.S. European, African and Central commands.
The MEU has been instructed to deploy to relieve the 26th MEU and maintain an uninterrupted regional presence to provide the President flexibility on a full range of options.
With the expertise and ability to perform a wide variety of missions, the 22nd MEU provides the President and theater commanders with flexible, agile and responsive force able to respond to potential contingencies. Marine Expeditionary Units are fully capable to conduct a variety of missions from humanitarian assistance to non-combatant evacuations to combat operations.
The 22nd MEU will deploy with Amphibious Squadron 6, and will embark aboard the USS BATAAN (LHD-5) Amphibious Ready Group, with USS Whidbey Island and USS Mesa Verde accompanying.
"We began with four different elements of the Marine Air Ground Task Force," said 22nd MEU Commanding Officer Col. Eric Steidl. "We are now a fully integrated MAGTF, giving the nation a potent worldwide Navy/Marine Corps response force completely capable of conducting a full range of operations from humanitarian assistance to combat."
Over the last several months, the Marines and Sailors of the MEU conducted training across the U.S., not only in Camp Lejeune, but in Florida, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee and California. Realistic exercises and countless hours of individual unit training were conducted during the MEU's pre-deployment training in order to ready the Marines and sailors for deployment.
The training focused on a broad number of missions and honed the unit's ability to plan and execute missions from U.S. Navy ships and from ashore. This training enhanced interoperability between the Marines and their naval counterparts and formed the 22nd MEU and BATARG into a seamless Blue/Green team.
"I fully expect the Marines and sailors of the 22nd MEU will perform magnificently, and we will do this with professionalism and a mastery of the basics," said Steidl. "The Marines and Sailors of the 22nd MEU are prepared."
The 22nd MEU is a Marine Air Ground Task Force comprised of Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; and the Command Element.
ARLINGTON, Va (March. 28, 2011) -- The USO Board of Governors announces six new members to serve on its board in 2011.
Elected to the board are:
Honorable Gordon England, president of E6 Partners LLC and the 29th Deputy Secretary of Defense
Sergeant Major John L. Estrada, USMC (Ret.) former SgtMaj of the Marine Corps,Senior Manager for Training Solutions Inc. a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Global Training and Logistics Company and the 15th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps
General James L. Jones, USMC (Ret.) former Commandant, USMC, 22nd National Security Advisor to the President and former president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber Institute for 21st Century Energy
Michael E. Phelps, chief executive officer, president and publisher of The Washington Examiner
Appointed to the board by President Obama as two of the six appointments are:
James Hamilton, partner at Bingham McCutchens Washington office
Lisa Borin Ogden, most recently Special Assistant to the President in the White House Presidential Personnel Office
"These new members are a tremendous addition to the Board and bring unique capabilities to our governance responsibilities",said General Richard B. Myers, USAF (Ret.), Chairman of the USO Board of Governors and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "Each new board member brings a distinctive wealth of experience and impressive background that will be invaluable as the USO continues to lift the spirits of America's troops and their families."
In November 2010, General Myers became the Chairman of the USO Board of Governors. He was elected to the board in 2006. On February 4, 2011 the USO turned 70 Years Young and continues its enduring mission by constantly adapting to the immediate needs of troops and families who need them the most.
Mar 28, 2011
31st MEU: Marines ashore @ Oshima Island
By Capt Caleb Eames
31st MEU, PAO
Ohima Island: Power to the island was restored the same evening we delivered utility repair trucks, assisting the Japanese workers to repair the system after 16 days with no electricity.
Two U.S. Navy landing craft carrying Marines and Sailors with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and Amphibious Squadron 11, as well as disaster relief supplies and Japanese electrical utility trucks, arrived in Oshima Island, March 27.
Oshima Island has been without running water and electricity since the massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami ravaged the northeast coast of Japan, March 11.
"This island was supplied with water from a pipeline from mainland Japan," said Kiichro Onodera, a local city worker. "After the earthquake, the tsunami destroyed the pump station. Since then, people have purified the water in the city pool and made it drinkable; that's all we had."
The Marines delivered nearly 2,000 gallons of water to the island today. Approx 900 gallons were brought directly to a junior high school, which was being used as a shelter for 450 locals displaced by the disaster.
"This water will help supply over 3,000 people," Onodera said. "People will now be able to shower, and do things they have not been able to do since the disaster happened."
The Marines also delivered 1,738 meals ready to eat, 136 tarps, and 300 health and comfort kits to the Japan Self Defense Forces to distribute to those in need.
The health and comfort kits contain baby wipes, sun screen, toilet paper, soap, tooth paste and tooth brushes, shampoo and conditioner, lotion, eye drops, foot powder, razors, lip balm and tissues.
In addition to delivering humanitarian aid, the Marines and Sailors also transported local electrical utility vehicles from Kesennuma city to Oshima Island, to assist with restoring power to the isolated community.
The trucks were brought from the mainland port of Kessenuma nearby by a U.S. Navy landing craft because the bridge to the island was destroyed by the tsunami.
"This will help us to restore vital lifelines to Oshima from Kesennuma as soon as possible. Oshima island residents are suffering greatly," said JSDF Maj. Shinya Takase, operations officer, 1st Division, 41st Infantry Regiment, in charge of disaster response in Kesennuma. "There is no electrical power at all. These vehicles will help them and help ease the situation. Japanese forces and Marines are doing very well in working through this together. At this moment, there is no other option to get these vehicles to Oshima. That is why we are so grateful for your help."
With the landing craft transporting the vehicles, the vital infrastructure needed by the people of the island began to be repaired. By 5 p.m. today, the Marines of the 31st MEU received word that electricity had been restored for the first time in 16 days, due to their efforts in assisting the Japanese workers.
"We are extremely grateful for your cooperation and help," Sasaki Masaetsu, maintenance manager in Kesennuma who rode an LCU to Oshima Island. "We now have a 400kilowatt emergency generator, two bucket trucks, one crane, and a tools and materials truck, which arrived on your landing craft. We have 450 displaced people here on the island. These trucks will help us provide power for the displaced persons' shelters, and the remaining homes, so they can have heat and light.It is an extreme honor to have the Marines here, we did not expect it and we are so thankful."
As happy as the Japanese were to receive the supplies, the Marines and Sailors of the 31st MEU were just as happy to lend a helping hand.
"To be able to come out here and do this was mind-blowing," said Sgt. Kyle O. Mills, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear assessment and consequence management technician, 31st MEU. "We all saw the destruction on the news, but you just don't know what it's like until you are out here experiencing it firsthand, it was great to be able to do something to help these people."
CBRN Marines were present during the operation as a precautionary measure to monitor radiation levels; ensuring there were no unexpected levels. In theevent of any possible contamination; Marines were ready to decontaminate any equipment and personnel exposed.
"We took readings every half-hour to ensure it was safe," said Mills. "For the entire operation the levels remained completely normal."
As the day came to an end, and the Marines returned to the LCU's, everyone who was involved knew they had made a difference.
"We came here to help our Japanese friends and support them in any way possible," said 1st Lt. Robert Jankowski, the engineering platoon commander with Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st MEU. "This operation was very successful, we were able to give help and disperse aid to the displaced. All the Marines did a great job."
Mar 26, 2011
31ST MEU CONTINUES RELIEF EFFORTS
USS ESSEX, Off the coast of Japan - The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit continues relief efforts off the northeast coast of Honshu in support of Operation Tomodachi.
The MEU arrived off the coast March 19, after the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami devastated the region on March 11. As of March 25, the unit has delivered more than 50,000 pounds of supplies via helicopter to affected areas including; Myako, Hamanaki, Yamada and Oshima Island.
"The Marines and Sailors that are part of the 31st MEU are motivated and dedicated to helping the Japanese. We have spent quite a bit of time training for humanitarian aid situations, and we even practiced that type of mission during our last few exercises," said Col. Andrew MacMannis, 31st MEU commanding officer. "Now the time has come to do this in a real world scenario, and the Marines and sailors will exercise the skills they learned to bring help to those in need."
CH-53E Super Stallion and CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters, with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262 (Reinforced), 31st MEU, have delivered tons of supplies, including more than 1,500 pounds of blankets, 23,000 pounds of potable water and approximately 15,000 pounds of health and comfort packages.
Heavy and medium lift helicopters of the 31st MEU, operating from the Essex, are transferring badly-needed materials from primary distribution points at undamaged facilities to secondary, smaller hubs in the disaster area in order to get relief aid closer to those in need.
Once the supplies are delivered by Marine helicopters, Japanese Self-Defense Force members and local citizens join the Marines and sailors to help unload and then distribute the relief supplies to locals in need.
"The 31st MEU brings a tremendous amount of capabilities to this situation. Our MEU is configured ideally to support humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations. Transportation is one of the biggest capabilities we have," said MacMannis.
A medical team from USS Essex flew to the JS Hyuga March 25 to meet up with Japanese medical personnel, and then moved ashore to determine potential medical needs and areas where the 31st MEU medical staff could provide assistance.
The MEU also has a Forward Command Element in Sendai, Japan, responsible for coordinating potential relief efforts with the Japanese government.
The 31st MEU continues to work closely with the JSDF to accomplish the mission at the request of the Japanese government. Because of the longstanding and close working relationship between the two nations, the 31st MEU is able to coordinate with the JSDF to rapidly respond with critically needed capabilities and supplies in support of the ongoing relief mission. They prepared to deliver robust air, ground, and maritime security, medical and and dental health services; plus engineering assets as directed.
The 31st MEU is the only continually forward-deployed MEU, and remains the nation's force-in-readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.
The 31st MEU includes more than 2,200 Marines and Sailors and is comprised of four elements: the Command Element; Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines; Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262 (Reinforced) and CLB-31.
The 31st MEU provides a forward-deployed, flexible, sea-based force capable of supporting the ongoing Japanese humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations as directed.
Mar 25, 2011
Qamar David’s death shrouded in mystery
By Ali K Chishti
The Friday Times, 3/25/2011
Qamar Davis a Pakistani Christian died in a Karachi jail under mysterious circumstances and no one wants to talk about him
While the “ghiarat brigade” and most mainstream news channels were busy blowing trumpets on a one-point agenda of hanging an American CIA staffer, the funeral of Qamar David (an unfortunate Pakistani Christian) was being held atSt. Joseph Catholic Church, Lahore. A sordid affair, which our proactive self-confessed righteous media completely ignored. Qamar David was accused of ‘blasphemy’ and was later found dead in mysterious circumstances at Karachi’s Central Jail whose spokesman insists that, “David died due to cardiac failure.”
David according to his family and friends did not die a natural death. In a gathering at Essa Nagri, a Christian dominated area in Karachi, his friends confirmed foul play from both jail authorities and police. David worked as a cosmetics’ salesman and was doing rather well. He was booked under the blasphemy law due to a forwarded message which everyone and anyone in Karachi was sending. His close friend Samuel Malik later told TFT that his framing happened “due to a business feud by his competitors that caused David his life.” During the trial, the “judge” earned himself a place in heaven by awarding David a life sentence and declaring him to be a “blasphemer” on the basis of content of a forwarded SMS. Those who attended the trial alleged that the judge even delivered a lecture to David and indirectly tried to influence the accused to convert. What happened next was predictable, as more contenders for a place in heaven emerged and David died in Central Jail, Karachi in mysterious circumstances.
This is nothing new in a country like Pakistan which came into being on the premise that Muslim minority deserved protection against Hindu majority while successive Pakistan oligarchies saw no need to recognize the importance of safeguards for Pakistani minorities. The controversial blasphemy laws were strengthened to target specific minorities contrary to traditional Islamic beliefs and laws.
In Pakistan, the blasphemy laws could be traced back to 1860 Indian Penal Code, which catered to the religious sensibilities of the inhabitants of the sub-continent. But then blasphemy was not an offense punishable with death. Take the example of Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country. Article 156 (a) of Indonesia’s Criminal Code forbids ‘anyone from deliberately, in public, expressing feelings of hostility, hatred or contempt against religions with the purpose of preventing others from adhering to any religion’ and forbids ‘anyone from disgracing a religion’. The maximum penalty for violating Article 156 (a) is five years’ imprisonment.
Since 1980s a total of 84 cases have been officially registered under blasphemy law and self-professed messiahs have assassinated 42 inmates. In 2010, two Christians - Rashid Emmanuel and Sajid Emmanuel - were shot dead in Faisalabad while 39 inmates who were alleged blasphemers have been murdered in courts, jails and in public by not just by vigilantes but by policemen who thought that killing blasphemers is an easy route to heaven including Governor Salman Taseer who was murdered by his own bodyguard Qadri.
Qamar David – the real story? Qamar David during his time in jail constantly complained of threats by other inmates and prison guards. According to one of the family members who refused to give his name, “David told us that the prison guards had been constantly harassing him and would often threaten him that he would be killed.” Later, the lawyer of Qamar David filed a miscellaneous application in the court praying for security measures of his client but no action was ordered on it - a fact that the central jail superintendent Imdad Ali refutes. Ali maintains, “there was no foul play nor was David ever threatened as we made sure, David was kept with people from his own community as a precautionary measure”. However, investigation reveal that, Qamar was reportedly tortured by a prison guard and a group of convicts which explains the twenty nine marks on David’s body that the Medico-Legal Officer initially confirmed but later back-tracked.
David’s family confirms the marks on his body too. The angle of David being poisoned by the ‘mulla group’ - an infamous extremist group serving death sentence in central jail and who celebrated the death of Shahbaz Bhatti and Salmaan Taseer – cannot not be ruled out. So did David die of violence or a heart attack? While David indeed was a victim of torture in jail, he was in reality the victim of a rotten ideology, which had taken lives of hundreds of innocents including high profile politicians.
Cover-up? David’s controversial post-mortem was carried out at the Civil Hospital by MLO Dr.Qarar Abbasi, Judicial Magistrate East Zakullah Abro, Superintendent of Police Mirza and David’s son Aqeel were present there. The whole affair was kept as a secret. There are reports that David’s son is being threatened to keep quiet. When contacted, the police surgeon refused to confirm the cause of death despite samples of David’s kidney, heart and other body samples being sent out for tests and refuted that David died of violence. The usual process of producing an autopsy report (in four days) has been deliberately delayed to cover-up facts and some claim is being altered to suit the police version of events. Nobody is willing to talk about it due to fear in the society post high-profile killings of Governor Taseer and Bhatti.
Within a few months, we will forget Qamar David like we have forgotten hundreds of other innocents men and women murdered in the name of ideology. What’s important now is to understand that blasphemy laws in Pakistan can easily be misused and the practical instances testify this horrible fact. In 1994, the then Chairman of Council of Islamic Ideology concluded, “The law (blasphemy) needs modification to ensure that it is not abused by unscrupulous elements for their selfish end. The procedure for police registration of a case, the judicial level at which it should be considered and the suitable criteria for admission of witnesses have all to be looked at thoroughly.” What needs to be ensured now is that David’s case should be made a test case by the government to end vigilante justice. Otherwise we should prepare ourselves with self-programmed killers like Qadri carrying our massacres in the name of religion.
Mar 24, 2011
26th MEU aids Coalition efforts, protect Ajdabiyah
From Capt Richard Ulsh
26th MEU PAO
USS Kearsarge, At sea. AV-8B Harrier jump-jets with 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, a unit making up part of Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn, continued air strikes against tanks, mobile rocket launchers, and infantry fighting vehicles belonging to Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi near the city of Ajdabiyah to remove the strain on Libyan civilians still in the city, March 23 and 24.
Conditions set forth by the U.N. Security Council towards resolving the unrest in Libya included the removal of Libyan Leader Muammar al-Qadhafi’s forces from Ajdabiyah. These latest strikes by the MEU aimed at preserving the sanctity of the city and the safety of the civilians within it
Mar 21, 2011
Deadline for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay Extended The deadline for eligible service members, veterans and their beneficiaries to apply for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay (RSLSP) has been extended to April 8, 2011, allowing personnel more time to apply for the benefits they've earned under the program guidelines.
The deadline extension is included in the continuing resolution signed by President Obama Friday, providing funding for federal government operations through April 8, 2011.
Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay was established to compensate for the hardships military members encountered when their service was involuntarily extended under Stop Loss Authority between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009. Eligible members or their beneficiaries may submit a claim to their respective military service in order to receive the benefit of $500 for each full or partial month served in a Stop Loss status.
When RSLSP began on Oct. 21, 2009, the services estimated 145,000 service members, veterans and beneficiaries were eligible for this benefit. Because the majority of those eligible had separated from the military, the services have engaged in extensive and persistent outreach efforts to reach them and remind them to apply. Outreach efforts including direct mail, engaging military and veteran service organizations, social networks and media outlets, will continue through April 8,2011.
To apply for more information, or to gather more information on RSLSP, including submission requirements and service-specific links, go to http://www.defense.gov/stoploss.
Mar 20, 2011
Marine Harriers Strike!
USS Kearsarge, At sea. 0639 EST. AV-8B Harriers from 26th MEU struck Libyan ground forces and air defenses in the early morning hours of March 20, 2011 under the authority of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, which is centered on protecting Libyan citizens from any further harm from the Libyan Leader Muammar al-Qadhafi regime.
The 26th MEU joined the international efforts of Operation Odyssey Dawn which is designed to halt an offensive against the Libyan populace. "Protecting the innocent and conducting combined operations are what we are designed to do," said Col. Mark J. Desens, commanding officer of 26th MEU. "Our forces are doing both as part of the U.S. commitment to protect Libyan citizens."
Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn is the U.S. Africa Command task force established to provide operational and tactical command and control of U.S. military forces supporting the international response to the unrest in Libya and enforcement of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1973. UNSCR 1973 authorizes all necessary measures to protect civilians in Libya under threat of attack by Qadhafi regime forces. JTF Odyssey Dawn is commanded by U.S. Navy Admiral Samuel J. Locklear, III.
(From Capt Richard Ulsh, PAO, 26th MEU, USS Kearsarge)
Mar 17, 2011
31st MEU and Operation Tomodachi
By Andrew Lubin
The Marines of 31st MEU, Col Andrew MacMannis commanding, will be arriving off the west coast of Japan tomorrow morning.
Lead by the USS Essex (LHD 2), the USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) and USS Germantown (LSD 42) are currently in the Sea of Japanto arrive off the coast of Akita prefecture (west coast of Honshu) tomorrow morning to await further tasking. 12 Marines of the 31st MEU have established a Forward Command Element (FCE) in Yamagata. If the MEU is ordered to land, the west coast of Honshu affords greater access to undamaged ports and roads, fewer navigational hazards, and prevailing winds that are upwind of the Fukushima power plant.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to our close friends and allies in Japan during this difficult time,” said Col. Andrew MacMannis, the 31st MEU's commanding officer, “We are repositioning to be ready to support to our Japanese partners. Our support will compliment the services that the Government of Japan is already providing. We stand ready to help our partners in need as they work tirelessly to respond to this evolving crisis.”
With the Japanese Security Defense Forces (JDSF) leading Operation Tomodachi, U.S. Department of Defense assets such as 31st MEU are to provide Humanitarian Assistance – Disaster Relief (HA-DR) such as search-and-rescue provisions, medical services, food, shelter, command and control, water, and engineering. Drawing on prior Marine HA-DR efforts in Haiti, Bangladesh, and other stricken parts of the world, the 31st MEU is uniquely able to provide assistance to the Japanese populace.
Mar 15, 2011
Current Ops outside of Kandahar; an Army unit's fight to control their area:
The war hasn't let up much for the Wolfpack this winter. They've taken three casualties the last couple weeks. A platoon commander, a 19-year old single father,
and a PFC from another company. Spc Adam been out on two air assault missions
in CH-47s and a whole bunch of village sweeps lately.
Two weeks ago, they swept a village. After clearing it, they left via an open field, with Adam covering the rear with his SAW. Suddenly they started taking fire from the village they'd just left.
Adam hit the dirt and was the first to return fire. He laid down suppressing fire while the rest of his squad ran to a ditch on the far side of the field. AK and MG fire landed all around him, so close, he said later, that it kicked dirt into his ears. More than a dozen RPGs fired at or over him. When his squad reached the ditch, they covered him to run the gauntlet to join them. They then outflanked the village and drove the Talibs away. Of course, the Talibs had managed to booby-trap the village again, but knowing that they would, the squad carefully swept it again. In all, Spc Adam squeezed off some 600 rounds in this short, nasty firefight.
A few nights later, his squad was QRF when a drone's night-vision saw four Talibs planting IEDs about six clicks away from the COP. Off they marched, and nabbed the suckers, who were brought back for detainment and given to the ANA/ANP for processing.
A replacement unit is due in soon, but the RTB date to return to KAF keeps getting pushed back. It's been delayed 3 weeks now, and the incoming commander wants the Wolfpack to take his boys out in the field and do some side-by-sides and teach the incoming soldiers how to fight.
Mar 9, 2011
Wounded Warrior Project calls on Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the White House to make good on promised benefits.Caregivers of veterans recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) at risk for being left out of Congressionally mandated benefits by VA
Jacksonville, FL (March 7, 2011) As we enter Brain Injury Awareness Month, the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) is committed to ensuring that veterans injured during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom and their caregivers receive the benefits included in the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act signed into law last year by President Obama.
“In 2010, Congress put assistance in place to ensure that the caregivers of these brave men and women are able to continue providing the necessary support for their recovery,” said Steve Nardizzi, Executive Director of WWP. “Nearly a year later and ironically coinciding with Brain Injury Awareness Month, family caregivers of as many as 2,500 severely brain-injured warriors may now be ineligible to receive benefits promised under a plan the VA continues to defend.”
“Last month, the VA submitted a plan that would shrink the number of families qualifying for benefits by more than three-quarters, hitting those with cognitive and related brain-injury impairments hardest,” Nardizzi continued. “It is unacceptable for the Administration to deviate so dramatically from the clear direction Congress set, and jeopardize the care of these service members to meet a new agenda.”
TBI has emerged as one of the signature wounds of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a result, amazing strides have been made in the medical intervention and treatment of TBI. But with that comes a long road of treatment and care for these veterans when they return home. It’s a labor of love for the family caregivers of these severely wounded warriors, but also an all-consuming one in which many families have had to commit all of their resources to their loved one’s recovery process.
In providing for caregiver assistance, Congress clearly specified that the law covers caregivers of veterans who sustained traumatic brain injury in the line of duty and who were “in need of personal care services because of…a need for supervision or protection based on symptoms or residuals of neurological or other impairment or injury.” It is apparent when reviewing the Act as a whole, that the rehabilitation of veterans with traumatic brain injury was an intended goal with respect to each of these provisions.
WWP is calling on the Administration and the VA to recognize the severity and complexity of these injuries and guarantee that these American heroes and their families are provided the best support and care possible.
Join the effort to secure what has been promised to the caregivers of our nation’s heroes:
Visit us on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/caregiversNOW Learn more at www.woundedwarriorproject.org ==========
About Wounded Warrior Project
The mission of the Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) is to honor and empower wounded warriors. WWP’s purpose is to raise awareness and to enlist the public’s aid for the needs of injured service members, to help injured servicemen and women aid and assist each other, and to provide unique, direct programs and service to meet their needs. WWP is a national, nonpartisan organization headquartered in Jacksonville, FL. To get involved and learn more, visit woundedwarriorproject.org.
Mar 7, 2011
Behind The Raymond Davis Fiasco
By Ali K. Chisti
7 March 2011
Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor, was in Lahore on his way back from a routine reconnaissance mission when he was intercepted by ISI operatives. Davis has said that he thought he was being robbed and he shot the gun-toting operatives in self-defense. The issue, which could have been one of simple diplomatic immunity has escalated to the point that Senator John Kerry had to come to Pakistan to in an attempt to rescue Davis.
But all efforts seemed to have gone in vain where; Raymond Davis is still in Pakistan's custody and faces a possible death sentence. Things shifted for the worse as a CIA Station Chief in Islamabad was forced to leave Pakistan for security reasons after the country's foreign office deliberately leaked his name in an unprecedented show of animosity towards the US. And another American security official was recently arrested in Peshawar for visa violations and is awaiting trial.
So why is Pakistan, supposedly one of America's biggest allies in the region, turning against the U.S.?
The increase in drone attacks by the CIA has the biggest turn off for the Pakistani military, which is also aggressively pushing for cooperation with the al Qaeda linked Haqqani network as part of their plan of Strategic Depth in Afghanistan. In Oman, where both nations' military chiefs met last week, the Pakistanis asked for drone technology and the list of all CIA staffers in Pakistan in return for seeing to the release of Davis, which shows the widening trust deficit between the two "allies."
Unfortunately the issue cannot easily be resolved. The underlying fact is that Pakistan and the United States have interests in the region that collide. Pakistan, in many ways a proxy of China, is concerned with India more than anything else, while the U.S. is increasingly stepping up against China (the biggest investors in Pakistan's defense industry) by opting to support India.
Al Qaeda may be history in terms of logistical and operational clout, however there are emerging terror threats. Tahreek-e-Taliban-e-Pakistani are growing along with the Pakistani Taliban, which orchestrated the recent CIA forward base suicide bombing. While the war might be in Afghanistan the war rooms are in sovereign and nuclear Pakistan where anti-Americanism stands at 70-80 percent.
In the meantime the U.S. has to deal with the blackmailing Pakistani security establishment while trying to support whatever stabilizing force in the country that can be packaged as "democracy."
Mar 5, 2011
Statement by the Press Secretary on Harvard’s Decision to
Welcome the ROTC Back to Campus
THE WHITE HOUSE
The decision by Harvard University to formally welcome the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps to its campus is an important step in moving past the old divisions that often kept many Americans from seeing what we share with one another,
including love of country and a profound respect for our brave men and women in uniform. After signing legislation last year ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” President Obama used his State of the Union address to call on all college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and the ROTC. With our nation at war, this sends a powerful message that Americans stand united and that our colleges,
society and armed forces are stronger when we honor the contributions of all our citizens, especially our troops and military families who sacrifice for our freedoms. As the President said in the State of the Union, it is time to move forward as one nation. ///
Mar 3, 2011
5 Reasons Not to Strike Libya
By J.D. Gordon
Mar 3, 2011
Conventional wisdom might suggest that the U.S. military should step in to halt a notorious dictator from carrying out ruthless crackdowns on his own people -- especially against those standing up for democracy.
This is particularly true in Moammar Gadhafi's case, as he has been a thorn in our side since taking power in a 1969 coup.
This week Secretary of Defense Robert Gates ordered two Navy amphibious ships, USS Kearsarge and USS Ponce, along with a contingent of Marines through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean -- though he stressed they would be in place for humanitarian relief and potential evacuations.
While noncombatant operations are one thing, combat missions, including European-led talk of establishing a "no-fly zone," are quite another.
So while U.S. leaders continue to discuss options for military contingencies with NATO allies, they ought to think twice before committing the use of force.
Here are five reasons why:
1 - U.S. intervention in Libya would inflame the anti-American sentiment already prevalent in the Middle East, North Africa and other regions. Al-Qaida, pro-caliphate and pan-Arab nationalist crowds would use any U.S. military action taken against Muslims for their propaganda purposes. Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, our chief critic in Latin America, is already exploiting the oil argument, with claims that the U.S. is distorting the situation to "justify an invasion."
2 - U.S. allies need to take more responsibility for their security and economic prosperity. Some 85 percent of Libya's oil goes to European Union countries. Allies who have been vocal in the Libyan crisis -- the U.K., France and Germany -- can combine forces to enforce a "no-fly zone" and launch ground operations, if they desire.
3- Libya is in such a state of chaos that U.S. troops could very well be attacked by anyone. Gadhafi's military, militias and mercenaries would rally around their leader to protect the regime. The pro-democracy rebellion, meanwhile, has depicted Gadhafi with a Star of David, stocked full of U.S. dollars. Its ranks contain dangerous anti-American and anti-Semitic strains -- those who wouldn't likely receive the U.S. as liberators. Sound familiar?
4 - U.S. forces are already stretched thin by two wars -- 97,000 troops in Afghanistan and 47,000 in Iraq. Shouldering the bulk of costs in dollars and lives in both wars fought for Western interests -- let alone bearing primary responsibility for politically radioactive yet necessary missions like detention operations and interrogations -- our forces already have enough on their plate.
5 - It could be worse. It's worth noting that bad as Gadhafi is -- his order to sabotage Pan Am Flight 103 stands out as one of the most heinous cases of state terrorism in history -- it's always possible that we could end up with someone worse.
This week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee that "in the years ahead, Libya could become a peaceful democracy, or it could face protracted civil war." Even that presupposes that a democratic Libya would even be peaceful.
If history has taught us anything, it should be that democracies aren't necessarily peaceful -- particularly those with deeply troubled social and economic conditions.
Take Gaza: Once Palestinians had a chance to pick their leaders in 2006, they elected Hamas, a terrorist organization - which, when cut off from Western aid, fired rockets into Israel.
There's no question that Libya is in for a rough road ahead. U.S. military intervention in Libya would only make the journey worse.
J.D. Gordon is a communications consultant to several Washington, D.C., think tanks and a retired Navy commander who served in the office of the secretary of defense from 2005 to 2009 as the Pentagon's spokesman for the Western Hemisphere. For more info, see www.jdgordoncommunications.com.
Mar 2, 2011
USA TODAY ★ JANUARY 2011
By Andrew Lubin
"IF THE WESTBORO BAPTIST CHURCH had simply picketed LCPL Snyder’s funeral, this would perhaps be a First Amendment issue,” explains Craig Trebilcock, one of the two attorneys representing plaintiff Albert Snyder. “Instead, they subjected the Snyder
family to a reign of harassment prior to their son’s funeral to two weeks
afterwards—which changed the case from a Federal freedom of speech issue to one of harassment and conspiracy, which is instead a civil issue.”
The case of Snyder v. Phelps was heard Oct. 6, 2010, by the Supreme Court. Sean Summer represented Albert Snyder, father of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder, while attorney Margie Phelps, daughter of defendant Frederick Phelps, spoke on behalf of Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church. This is a contentious and increasingly emotion-driven case with almost weekly exposure. From picketing the funerals of Marines and soldiers killed in combat, the church sent pickets in December to Elizabeth Edwards’ funeral. In no case do they have any connections
to any of the people whose funerals they attend, but rather use the opportunity to promote their virulent anti-homosexual message.
The facts in Snyder v. Phelps are simple: LCPL Snyder, 20, died in March 2006 in a noncombat incident in Iraq’s Anbar Province. During his funeral, held on private ground in Westminster, Md., members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan.,
picketed Snyder’s funeral with signs, banners, and invective—calling him a homosexual and claiming his death was God’s way of punishing the U.S. for condoning homosexuality.
In 2007, Snyder sued Westboro Baptist Church and its leaders contending they invaded his privacy and intentionally inflicted emotional distress. A jury awarded him $2,900,000 in compensatory damages and $8,000,000 in punitive damages in October 200, forcing the Westboro Church into filing for bankruptcy.
However, in September 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, in Richmond, Va., overturned the lower court’s verdict, with existing law allowing $16,510.80 in court costs to Phelps as the successful litigant. Two of the three judges found in favor of Westboro on the grounds that Westboro’s message was “sheer hyperbole” and therefore entitled to extra First Amendment protection due to the outrageousness of the message. Ironically, for ultra-conservative Westboro Baptist Church, the judges cited Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell (1988), in which the
Supreme Court’s unanimous 8-0 decision held the First Amendment’s free-speech guarantee prohibits awarding damages to public figures to compensate for emotional distress intentionally inflicted upon them. Hustler’s parody of Jerry Falwell was deemed to be within the law because the Court found that reasonable people would not have interpreted the parody as factual, thus reversing a prior jury award to Falwell of $200,000.
While various legal specialists say the case is a test of the limits of free speech, an equal amount disagree. Similar demonstrations by Westboro Baptist Church members have prompted several states to establish limits on funeral protests and the attorneys general of 48 states filed a signed amicus brief in support of Snyder.
“People want to make this out as free speech,” Trebilcock notes, “but actually it’s about harassment and who is or is not a public figure. LCPL Snyder was a 20-year-old Marine from Maryland who died in Iraq; how does a church group from Kansas declare
him a ‘public figure’? Because they’re claiming that since the Snyder family ran an obituary in the local newspaper, that makes him fair game. They lost that argument in the first trial, however.” Moreover, “after picking LCPL Snyder’s obituary off the Internet, Phelps’ church issued a press release prior to the funeral designed to generate maximum press interest in their impending demonstration. Then they demonstrated, with as much venom and ugliness as possible, but they still weren’t done,” Trebilcock points out. “Some two weeks later, they posted ‘The Burden of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder’ on their website, asserting that Snyder taught his son to be an adulterer, and that Matthew is in hell.”
Such concerted and repeated attacks on the Snyder family, Trebilcock explains, change the case. By legal standards, a conspiracy is a group of people banding together to commit an unlawful or illegal act; while the actions of the Westboro Church are not illegal, per se, they are unlawful. “LCPL Snyder was not a homosexual,” says Trebilcock, “and there is no First Amendment protection in deliberately slandering someone.” Those actions: intentional infliction of emotional
distress, intrusion on privacy, and civil conspiracy are why Snyder won his case
Opposing attorney Phelps has a completely different view. “It’s not about the
dead boys,” she contends, “although it is if they haven’t accepted the lord Jesus
Christ, but rather that since they’re in the military representing this godless
country, they’re condoning homosexuality.”
According to Westboro’s absolutist interpretation of the Bible, its 66 parishioners alone know the true path for America’s salvation, and that the U.S.’s casual acceptance of homosexuality will cause the country to collapse. They believe unequivocally that it is their responsibility to instruct the nation of same. Adds Phelps, “Appearing before the Supreme Court was extremely important for us. It gave us the opportunity to get our message out to the entire world.”
Legally, it seems the 4th U.S. Circuit decision is an imperfect decision in that it deals exclusively with the First Amendment rights of the Westboro Baptist Church while ignoring those of the Snyder family. While Westboro used the First Amendment to express its views, surely Albert Snyder had the same right. His son’s funeral, held in a Catholic church complete with a military color guard, clearly makes a statement, yet the 4th Circuit completely ignored Albert Snyder’s right to make one.
The decision in Snyder v. Phelps is expected to be announced prior to the Supreme Court’s June adjournment, and it surely will be best remembered as the case that either set—or expanded—the limits to unlimited free speech in the U.S.
In an egregious decision that runs against common sense and common decency, the Supreme Court today ruled 8-1 that the Westboro Baptist Church's ignorant displays at the funerals of KIA Marines and soldiers are protected by the 1st Amendment's Freedom of Speech.
Below is a statement by Albert Snyder's attorney, Craig Trebilcock:
We're disappointed in the ruling by the Supreme Court because it leaves grieving military families without meaningful recourse under the law when they are targeted for abuse by the Westboro Baptist Church. We fought the good fight to try to protect those who give their children to the nation and who pay the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf in defense of the nation. This phase of that effort has not ended successfully.
The court did not address the key issue in the case of whether the assaults upon the Snyder family through the internet can be a basis for liabiltiy. They have left that battle for another day. Accordingly, if the Westboro Baptist Church continues their internet based attacks on grieving military families I will look forward to that issue being fully litigated before the courts.
The court was faced with a very tough issue in this case of weghing the claimed First Amendment rights of the Phelps clan against the rights of the Snyder family to peacefully assemble and bid farewell to Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder without abuse and intimidation. The court sided with the Phelps clan and we must now accept that as the rule of law in the United States. It is my sincere hope in light of this decision that states will take the appropriate action through legislation to protect military families through strong time, place, manner laws that the court mentioned can be enacted, to keep these people away from destroying the sanctity of military funerals.
This family clan has used the laws that our troops fight to preserve in a perverse manner that inflicts hate and abuse upon those who are at their most vulnerable during the loss of a loved one. During this dark our it is important to remember that the opverwhelming majority of patriotic americans recognize and honor the sacrifice of our military personnel and their families. God bless our troops and their families.
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