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Monthly Archives: January 2007

US vs. Mahdi

This is night time footage of a U.S. air assault against Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Militia. Podcast

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Terror war could strain veterans’
health, benefit systems

U.S. unprepared for impact of returning soldiers, KSG
researcher says

By Alvin Powell
Harvard News Office

The cost of caring for veterans of the war on terror could reach $662 billion over the next 40 years, while demand from returning soldiers is already clogging the two major veterans’ assistance programs, according to recent research from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Linda J. Bilmes, a lecturer in public policy and former chief financial officer and assistant secretary
of the U.S. Commerce Department, said the ongoing cost of providing medical care and disability benefits for returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans is a cost of the war on terror that the Bush administration hasn’t adequately prepared for.

Even in a best-case scenario, the long-term costs of providing disability benefits and medical care for returning veterans of the war on terror will reach $350 billion over 40 years, Bilmes’ research shows.

Bilmes presented her study, Soldiers Returning from Iraq and Afghanistan: The Long-Term Costs of Providing Veterans Medical Care and Disability Benefits,” Jan. 5 at the annual meeting of the Allied Social Sciences Association in Chicago.

One of the driving factors in the high postwar costs is that far more soldiers are surviving injuries that would have killed them in earlier conflicts. According to the data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, there are 16 “nonmortally wounded” soldiers for every battlefield death, a number that dwarfs the 2.6 wounded per death in Vietnam, and the fewer than two wounded per death in World War I and II. Other factors driving costs include the large numbers of solders who do not fall into the “wounded” category, but who will be eligible for disability payments because of other medical problems, such as mental health conditions.

While the larger numbers of survivors – reflecting improvements in medical care and protective gear – is good news, it also leaves a larger legacy of the war to contend with after the fighting stops.

The costs come from two major programs available to returning soldiers. The first is a cash disability payment administered by the Veterans Benefits Administration. Payment varies according to the level of disability of the veteran, from $1,304 per year for those with a 10 percent disability, up to $44,000 annually for those fully disabled. Bilmes projects disability payments at between $67.63 billion and $126.76 billion over the next 40 years, depending on how long the war lasts and how many additional military personnel are called to action. The estimates are based on a key assumption, that 44 percent of veterans – the same percentage as in the first Gulf War – eventually claim disability.

More expensive will be the cost of providing medical care to returning veterans, her research shows. The second major benefit for veterans is care at the nation’s system of veterans’ hospitals and clinics run by the Veterans Health Administration.

Veterans are entitled to free medical care for two years after returning from duty and then can continue to obtain care by paying a co-payment prorated according to the veteran’s level of disability.

Depending on the number of troops that wind up serving in the war on terror, Bilmes calculated the cost of providing ongoing care for returning veterans suffering physical or mental disabilities at between $282 billion and $536 billion. Again, she assumed Iraq and Afghanistan veterans would utilize the medical care system at the same rate as in the first Gulf War, or 50 percent.

“It’s another entitlement. It’s like a mini-Medicare,” Bilmes said.

Compounding the projected high cost of caring for returned veterans, Bilmes said, is the fact that their sheer numbers are already overwhelming the system.

The backlog of applications for disability payments has risen from 69,000 in 2000 to 400,000 today, while the time it takes to process an initial claim averages six months. Appeals can take up to two years. That delay leaves some veterans without financial support during the critical first months after returning to civilian life.

“It’s a very critical time for active duty people who’ve been in hellish conditions, particularly for
reservists and guardsmen who [have returned to civilian life] and are not in the military family
anymore,” Bilmes said.

In addition, the demand for medical treatment at VA medical facilities has grown, creating waiting lists long enough, according to one VA official Bilmes cites, to effectively deny treatment to some veterans.

Compared with the cost of waging the Iraq war, Bilmes said, fixing the backlog would be inexpensive.

Bilmes suggested looking to private industry for solutions. Private health insurance companies process claims in an average of 89.5 days. She also suggested either a “fast track” system set up specifically for Iraqi and Afghan war veterans to ensure their benefits aren’t delayed, or doing away with a the initial processing entirely. This could be accomplished by adopting the IRS’s model for tax returns, accepting all disability benefits applications and then conducting audits to ensure compliance and root out fraud.

More money will be needed to improve performance on the medical care side, reduce waiting lists, and provide the services needed by returning veterans, Bilmes said. She suggested funding additional social workers at the 207 smaller, walk-in Vet Centers to handle some of the mental health-related needs and ease the pressure on larger VA hospitals.

“People are sobered by the scale of it, but compared with other things going on it is more fixable,” Bilmes said.


January 30, 2007

Agency Says Higher Casualty Total Was

Posted in Error

For the last few months, anyone who consulted the Veterans Affairs Department’s Web site to learn how many American troops had been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan would have found this number: 50,508.

But on Jan. 10, without explanation, the figure plummeted to 21,649.

Which number is correct? The answer depends on a larger question, the definition of wounded. If the term includes combat or “hostile” injuries inflicted by the enemy, the definition the Pentagon uses, the smaller number would be right.

But if it also applies to injuries from accidents like vehicle crashes and to mental and physical illnesses that developed in the war zone, the meaning that veterans’ groups favor, 50,508 would be accurate.

A spokesman for the veterans’ department, Matt Burns, said the change in the count was made simply to correct an error. Mr. Burns said the department posted the higher figure by mistake in November, when an employee who was updating the site inadvertently added noncombat injuries listed by the Defense Department. The Pentagon Web site had the correct total all along.

The previous total on the Web site was 18,586, strictly for combat injuries. Apparently, no one noticed the sudden leap.

The 50,508 figure caught the attention of the Pentagon when Prof. Linda Bilmes of Harvard mentioned it in an opinion article on Jan. 5 in The Los Angeles Times. A few days later, said Professor Bilmes, who teaches public finance, she had a call from Dr. William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, challenging the number.

Professor Bilmes explained that she had used the government tally, the one on the “America’s Wars” page of the veterans’ department Web site. She faxed him a copy.

A few days later, the number on the Web site was changed.

A spokeswoman for Dr. Winkenwerder confirmed that he had called the veterans’ department to have the figure corrected and that the worker had misunderstood the Defense Department figures.

For her purposes, Professor Bilmes said, the higher figure was the relevant one because she was writing about the future demands that wounded veterans would place on the veterans’ health care system. Many of the veterans would be treated in the system regardless of whether they had been injured in combat or in vehicle crashes.

About 1.4 million troops have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, and more than 205,000 have sought care from the veterans’ agency, according to the government. Of those, more than 73,000 sought treatment for mental problems like post-traumatic stress disorder.

No one disputes that more 50,000 troops have been injured in Iraq and Afghanistan or that nonhostile injuries can be serious. Of the more than 3,000 deaths that have occurred, 600 have been listed as nonhostile.

The Pentagon generally directs reporters to, which lists counts of the wounded and dead. The deaths are divided into hostile and nonhostile, but the injuries include just those “wounded in action.”

Another site on the Web,, shows diseases and nonhostile injuries. It is the source of the higher counts.

“The government keeps two sets of books,” said Paul Sullivan, director of research and analysis for Veterans of America. Until last March, Mr. Sullivan was a project manager in the Veterans Affairs Department who monitored the use of disability benefits by Afghanistan, gulf war and Iraq veterans.

He suggested that the differing numbers might be cleared up by a bill that has been introduced in the Senate to improve the collection of health information on Afghanistan and Iraq veterans.

Long-term Costs of VA rwp_07_001_bilmes.pdf

British Troops No Man left Behind
Daring Rescue


This BBC News report tells the story of how British Royal Marines planned a daring rescue by strapping themselves to the wings of an Apache helicopter, to rescue their fallen comrade. To learn more about the Apache go here.



CITY HALL — Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg failed to include city veterans’ only budget request in today’s announcement of his preliminary budget for Fiscal Year 2008. The Coalition of Veterans Organizations, or COVO, a coalition of veterans organizations unified in making a $5 million request of the Mayor to fund Veterans Resource Centers across the city, made the following statement regarding the proposal’s omission from the budget proposal:

“Since 9/11, this city has watched its men and women answer the call to duty over and over again, with some losing there lives. Yet today, veterans are still faced with an under-funded Veterans’ Administration and a city administration that has not done a correct and proper job in providing much-needed services. Specifically, the administration has historically under-funded the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs, delayed making selections to the city’s Veterans Advisory Board, and provided a delayed and confusing fix to the City Employee Extended Benefits Package.

Despite a $3.9 billion budget surplus, our city’s veterans today received yet another “NO” from the Administration.

It is long overdue to honor our troops’ sacrifices and our returning veterans with more than just bureaucratic hassles, runarounds and token gestures. The Mayor and his administration fail to understand that veterans, and more importantly our newest veterans, are looking for help with housing, education, jobs, healthcare and a host of other issues. They need knowledge of the array of programs that are available to them here in the city. They need some place where they can find all this information. Funding to create resource centers in each of the five boroughs would have been an important step towards showing a real commitment to veterans.

Supporting our troops and veterans is not only a national obligation, it is a local obligation as well. Poor treatment of veterans during a time of war is a disservice to all who have served. It is long overdue for our local elected officials to renew there commitment to its veteran’s and it starts with the Mayor.”

A killer Aeriel photo of the USS Iowa firing its big guns.

You’ve got to see this, it’s pretty amazing. And I don’t use that word lightly on Digg. Just check out the shockwave over that water, too cool.

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Air Force Develops Ray Gun for Combat

Posted: 25 Jan 2007 09:52 PM CST

Military Ray Gun

By ELLIOTT MINOR, Associated Press WriterThu Jan 25, 5:43 AM ET

The military calls its new weapon an “active denial system,” but that’s an understatement. It’s a ray gun that shoots a beam that makes people feel as if they are about to catch fire.

Apart from causing that terrifying sensation, the technology is supposed to be harmless _ a non-lethal way to get enemies to drop their weapons.

Military officials say it could save the lives of innocent civilians and service members in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

The weapon is not expected to go into production until at least 2010, but all branches of the military have expressed interest in it, officials said.

During the first media demonstration of the weapon Wednesday, airmen fired beams from a large dish antenna mounted atop a Humvee at people pretending to be rioters and acting out other scenarios that U.S. troops might encounter in war zones.

The device’s two-man crew located their targets through powerful lenses and fired beams from more than 500 yards away. That is nearly 17 times the range of existing non-lethal weapons, such as rubber bullets.

Anyone hit by the beam immediately jumped out of its path because of the sudden blast of heat throughout the body. While the 130-degree heat was not painful, it was intense enough to make the participants think their clothes were about to ignite.

“This is one of the key technologies for the future,” said Marine Col. Kirk Hymes, director of the non-lethal weapons program at Quantico, Va., which helped develop the new weapon. “Non-lethal weapons are important for the escalation of force, especially in the environments our forces are operating in.”

The system uses electromagnetic millimeter waves, which can penetrate only 1/64th of an inch of skin, just enough to cause discomfort. By comparison, microwaves used in the common kitchen appliance penetrate several inches of flesh.

The millimeter waves cannot go through walls, but they can penetrate most clothing, officials said. They refused to comment on whether the waves can go through glass.

The weapon could be mounted aboard ships, airplanes and helicopters, and routinely used for security or anti-terrorism operations.

“There should be no collateral damage to this,” said Senior Airman Adam Navin, 22, of Green Bay, Wis., who has served several tours in Iraq.

Navin and two other airmen were role players in Wednesday’s demonstration. They and 10 reporters who volunteered were shot with the beams. The beams easily penetrated various layers of winter clothing.

The system was developed by the military, but the two devices currently being evaluated were built by defense contractor Raytheon.

Airman Blaine Pernell, 22, of suburban New Orleans, said he could have used the system during his four tours in Iraq, where he manned watchtowers around a base near Kirkuk. He said Iraqis constantly pulled up and faked car problems so they could scout out U.S. forces.

“All we could do is watch them,” he said. But if they had the ray gun, troops “could have dispersed them.”

Link to Source

Join Cold War Veterans Association Today

ELIGIBILITY: The Cold War Veterans Association (CWVA) is a tax-exempt, federally-recognized 501(c)(19) veterans service organization open to honorably discharged veterans and active-duty personnel who served at any time during the Cold War period .. September 2, 1945 to December 26, 1991. (NOTE: RESERVISTS and National Guardsmen who engaged in basic training, advanced training, and/or annual training during this period ARE ELIGIBLE.)

Apply Here Join Us

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CWVA NY 716-708-0505
Fax 248-708-6410
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CWVA Press Release

Hometown News – Sean Eagan

Point of Contact: Hector Autry Jan 22, 2007
Phone: 1-816-268-8201



Cold War veteran Sean Eagan has been selected as Northeast Zone Director for the Cold War Veterans Association.

The selection was made replacing outgoing zone director David Clevenger, who had served in the position for three years. Egan, had served as the CWVA New York State Director for the last year. As Northeast Zone Director Eagan’s responsibilities expand to include Maine, New York, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Delaware, Connecticut, Maryland, Rhode Island.

“I’m honored to be selected to serve the Cold War Veterans Association in this capacity,” Eagan said. “About 20 million military members served during the Cold War years, and I intend to do my part to see they finally receive the respect and recognition they deserve.”

The mission of the Cold War Veterans Association is to, “Fight for rights and benefits that Cold War Veterans deserve; Educate people as to why the Cold War was fought and why vigilance must be maintained; and Provide a fraternal community for men and women who served during the Cold War Era (September 2, 1945 to December 26, 1991). According to Eagan, the Cold War Veterans Association is currently engaged in ‘Operation Ice Blue’, which a push to start local chapters throughout the nation.

Sean served in Southwest Asia with the 528th U.S. Army Artillery Group during the Gulf War. He is a resident of Jamestown NY, a member of VFW Post 53, and a National member of the American Legion.

For more information about the Cold War Veterans Association, contact Sean Eagan at, or visit their website at .

– 30 –


Hector Ed Autry
CWVA Operations Director
Cold War Veterans Association

The Korea Defense Veterans of America Support Cold War Victory Medal

BE IT RESOLVED, that the Korea Defense Veterans of America joins with other veteran service organizations and petitions The U.S. Department of Defense for award of a Cold War Victory Medal to all members of the U.S. Military that served between 2 September 1945 and 26 December 1991; and

WHEREAS, immediately after World War II we witnessed a polarization in relationship between the Soviet Union and the U.S. and its allies in that the Soviet Union, by physical force and other means, expanded its influence and control over Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Eastern Germany, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Manchuria, Outer Mongolia, North Korea, Romania, and Yugoslavia, annexed the Kurile Islands and the southern half of Sakhalin Island, and instigated problems in Cuba, Greece, Iran, Lebanon, and Turkey. The Soviet Union continued its expansionist movement and dominated Eastern Europe until 1991; and

WHEREAS, the Cold War initiated the largest arms race in history that included nuclear, chemical and biological weapons as well as fomenting low-intensity conflicts, proxy wars, assassinations and various forms of intimidation; and

WHEREAS, the Cold War Era time period was fraught with conflicts and wars stressing U.S. Armed Forces and their allies that included:
– Soviets blockade of Berlin – 1948, leading to the Berlin Airlift
– NATO created to deal with Soviet aggression and expansion – 1949
– Atomic Bomb in Soviet hands – 1949
– Korean War – 1950 to 1953 (UN intervention including U.S. Armed Services members)
– Iran military coup – 1953 (U.S. backed)
– Guatemala military coup – 1954 (U.S. backed)
– Warsaw Pact – 1955 established as counter weight to NATO
– Hungarian Revolution – 1956 (Soviet intervention 4 Nov 56)
– Cuban Bay of Pigs Invasion – 1961
– Cuban Missile Crisis – 1962
– Taiwan Straights and Quemoy and Matsu Islands
– Grenada – 1983
– Angola Civil War (U.S. armed and funded surrogates)
– El Salvador Civil War (U.S. armed and funded surrogates)
– Nicaragua Civil War (U.S. armed and funded surrogates)
– Afghanistan War; and

WHEREAS, the Cold War is officially considered ended; however, its fallout continues to surface and create tensions today in Africa, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and the Pacific Rim as a testament to its longevity and global impact; and

WHEREAS, the Cold War Medal has already been designed by Nadine Russell, former Chief of Creative Heraldry at the U.S. Army’s Institute of Heraldry, to directly complement the non-acceptable Cold War Certificate, and it meets all criteria for a U.S. Military medal; now, therefore

BE IT RESOLVED, by the Korea Defense Veterans of America, that we petition for award of a Cold War Victory Medal.

Russia to Sell Advanced SAM Missles to Iran

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The TOR-M1 (aka SA-15 Gauntlet platform) is one of the most advanced of the worlds self-propelled point-defense SAM systems. Certain Russian sources would have you know that the SA-15 can take out anti-radiation missiles (ie HARM, ALARM) at ranges between 3-5 km, and aircraft out 12km. Interfax said the Tor-M1 system could identify up to 48 targets and fire at two targets simultaneously at a height of up to 20,000 feet.

The TOR-M1(or at least one version of it) has substantial passive detection capabilities (thermal IR), thus stacking up its defensive capabilities against modern anti-radiation missiles. “

The phased array tracking radar is a major improvement over standard radars regarding LPI. It emits much less often and is harder to detect and jam… (it is also expensive).

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov didn’t give details. But Russian media have said that Moscow agreed in November to sell $1 billion worth of weapons to Iran, including up to 30 Tor-M1 missile systems over the next two years.

The report is a major concern from the U.S administration and Israel, which considers Iran to be its biggest threat. Israeli concerns recently were heightened after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged that Israel be “wiped off the map.”

This Sale can do nothing but complicate any military solutions to the Iranian nuclear threat.

It should be no surprise though as Russia sold Iran major components and expertise for its reactors why wouldn’t they sell them SAM missiles to defend them. The Russian Foreign Ministry, without commenting on the reported missile sale, also said Saturday that all Russian weaponry supplied to Iran is purely for defensive purposes.

Russia’s continued sale of arms to Iran seems to contradict efforts Russia and the US have made supporting the EU in its effort to get Iran to halt development of nuclear weapons in exchange for economic incentives, such as trade opportunities.

A unnamed senior Bush administration official, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the subject, said last week that any arms sale to Iran is a source of concern. The official would not say whether Russia had advised the United States of any negotiations with Iran.

On Saturday, an influential Iranian official played down the deal, telling the official Islamic Republic News Agency that Tehran has been trading arms with many countries and would continue to do so.