Archive for the ‘Marines’ Category

Murtha Award Ignites Veterans in Protest

March 27, 2009

In one of his last moves before leaving office March 13, then-Navy Secretary Donald Winter quietly awarded 19-term Democratic congressman John Murtha (Pa.) with the service’s highest civilian honor.

By Christian Lowe
Military.com

Citing Murtha’s “courageous leadership, vision, and loyalty to the men and women of the Department of the Navy,” Winter presented the influential chairman of the House Appropriations Committee’s defense panel with the Navy’s Distinguished Public Service Award, an honor bestowed in “those extraordinary cases where individuals have demonstrated exceptionally outstanding service of substantial and long term benefit to the Navy, Marine Corps, or the Department of the Navy as a whole,” a Murtha release stated.

The award generated little publicity when it was given to Murtha in early March, but as news of the honor trickled out, some veterans groups ignited a firestorm of protest.

Poll: Should the Navy reconsider Murtha’s award

The primary reason for their ire stems from the congressman’s statements in May, 2006, that a squad of Marines who responded to an IED ambush and short firefight in Haditha, Iraq, rampaged through the village, murdering civilians “in cold blood.”

Murtha made those comments in the heat of the 2006 congressional mid-term election campaign, in a move some political analysts saw as an attempt to stoke the anti-war vote for a Democratic takeover of the House. The former Marine and distinguished Vietnam veteran continued his accusations in follow-up media appearances before an official Pentagon and Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigation had been completed.

When the dust settled more than two years later, six of the eight Marines and Sailors accused of crimes in the Haditha incident had their cases dismissed, one was found not guilty and the last has been continued indefinitely.

The Navy did not respond to a request for comment on the award or the backlash from veterans groups by post time.

Murtha has refused to recant his accusations or or apologize to the Marines he accused of war crimes….

Read the rest:
http://www.military.com/news/article/
March-2009/murtha-award-sparks-v
et-outrage.html

Trust is the coin of the realm

February 14, 2009

Thomas F. Madden’s book “Empires of Trust” begins with the story of Rome’s conquest of Locri, a small Italian city-state.

A Roman lieutenant named Pleminius maintained order there in a heavy-handed manner, sacking and looting religious shrines and enslaving the Locrians. When Locrian ambassadors later assembled in the Roman Senate chamber, it was not, as many senators expected, to beg for forgiveness and charity but to lodge a complaint.

Pleminius, they charged, was a tyrant. “There is nothing human except his face and appearance,” cried one. “There is no trace of the Roman except in his clothing and speech.”

By Mike Mullen
Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
The Washington Post
Sunday, February 15, 2009; Page B07

Top US military commander Admiral Mike Mullen in New York. Top ... 
Top US military commander Admiral Mike Mullen in New York. Top US military officer Admiral Mike Mullen said on Tuesday more American troops were needed in Afghanistan as soon as possible to hold territory where insurgents have been routed.(AFP/File/Jason Kempin)

Though they had rebelled against Rome — siding with archenemy Hannibal — the Locrians expected better. “They trusted the Romans to act responsibly,” writes Madden, “and even when that trust was violated, they trusted the Romans to make it right.”

Such was the reputation for equanimity and fairness that Rome had built. Such were the responsibilities of leadership.

We are not Romans, of course. Our brigade combat teams are not the legions of old. Madden makes that clear. But we in the U.S. military are likewise held to a high standard. Like the early Romans, we are expected to do the right thing, and when we don’t, to make it right again.

We have learned, after seven years of war, that trust is the coin of the realm — that building it takes time, losing it takes mere seconds, and maintaining it may be our most important and most difficult objective.

That’s why images of prisoner maltreatment at Abu Ghraib still serve as recruiting tools for al-Qaeda. And it’s why each civilian casualty for which we are even remotely responsible sets back our efforts to gain the confidence of the Afghan people months, if not years.

It doesn’t matter how hard we try to avoid hurting the innocent, and we do try very hard. It doesn’t matter how proportional the force we deploy, how precisely we strike. It doesn’t even matter if the enemy hides behind civilians. What matters are the death and destruction that result and the expectation that we could have avoided it. In the end, all that matters is that, despite our best efforts, sometimes we take the very lives we are trying to protect.

You cannot defeat an insurgency this way.

We can send more troops. We can kill or capture all the Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders we can find — and we should. We can clear out havens and shut down the narcotics trade. But until we prove capable, with the help of our allies and Afghan partners, of safeguarding the population, we will never know a peaceful, prosperous Afghanistan.

Lose the people’s trust, and we lose the war. The strategy reviews for Afghanistan recognize this and seek military, economic, political, diplomatic and informational approaches to regaining that trust. We know that the people are the real long-term hope for success. No single solution or preventative measure will suffice in protecting them.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-d
yn/content/article/2009/02/13/AR2
009021302580.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

Mexico: Too Dangerous for U.S. Marines

January 22, 2009

For tens of thousands of U.S. Marines in Southern California, new orders from the brass amount to: Baghdad si, Tijuana no.

Citing a wave of violence and murder in Mexico, the commanding officer of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force based at Camp Pendleton has made the popular military “R&R” destinations of Tijuana and nearby beaches effectively off-limits for his Marines.

By William Welch
USA Today

The order by Lt. Gen. Samuel Helland restricts travel into Mexico by the 44,000 members of the unit, many of whom have had multiple tours of duty in Iraq, Afghanistan and other combat zones under their belts — or are there now.

The limits were first put in place for the Christmas holiday. Last week the commander extended the order indefinitely, said Mike Alvarez, civilian public information officer for the unit at Camp Pendleton.

“The situation in Mexico is now more dangerous than usual,” he said. “The intent is just to look out for the Marines’ safety and well-being.”

Read the rest:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/milita
ry/2009-01-21-camp_N.htm

President-elect Barack Obama meets with Mexico's President Felipe ... 
President-elect Barack Obama meets with Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington, January 12, 2009.(Larry Downing/Reuters)

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Indiscriminate kidnappings. Nearly daily beheadings. Gangs that mock and kill government agents.

This isn’t Iraq or Pakistan. It’s Mexico, which the U.S. government and a growing number of experts say is becoming one of the world’s biggest security risks.

Related:
Mexico: Obama Can’t Ignore Elephant on the Continent
.
 Drugs, Crime Make Mexico “Under Sustained Assault”
.
Mexico: “under sustained assault”; Could “collapse” — U.S. Military

Guam Expands as U.S. Military Base in Asia

January 4, 2009

Sprawling toward the horizon in every direction, Andersen Air Force Base is surprisingly quiet, leaving the impression of a big, empty parking lot.

For now, anyway.

By ERIC TALMADGE, Associated Press Writer

In this July 20, 2008 file photo provided by the U.S. Air Force, ... 
In this July 20, 2008 file photo provided by the U.S. Air Force, F-22 Raptors join 16 F-15E Strike Eagles on the flight line of Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Over the next six years, nearly 25,000 U.S. Marines, soldiers, family members and civilian Defense Department employees are to descend on the tiny Pacific island of Guam, transforming the sleepy tropical outpost into a hub of America’s military in the Pacific. (AP Photo/U.S. Air Force, Airman 1st Class Courtney Witt, FILE)

Over the next six years, nearly 25,000 U.S. Marines, soldiers, family members and civilian Defense Department employees are to descend on the tiny Pacific island of Guam, transforming the sleepy tropical outpost into a hub of America’s military in the Pacific.

But the metamorphosis seems as fragile as it is ambitious.

Guam’s transformation will cost at least $15 billion — with Japan footing more than $6 billion of the bill — and put some of the U.S. military‘s highest-profile assets within the fences of a vastly improved network of bases.

The newcomers will find an island already peppered with strip malls, fast-food franchises and high-rise hotels serving Japanese tourists who want a closer-to-home version of Hawaii. The plans for the base are fueling a fresh construction and real estate boom which Guam hopes will accelerate its prosperity.

But Guam is smaller than some Hawaiian islands, with a population of just 155,000, and many of its officials are worried that the military influx could leave the island’s infrastructure — water, highways, and seaport — overwhelmed and underfunded.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090103/ap_on_re_as/as_guam_s_ne
w_invasion;_ylt=AvO6Dz.GzEMMKmOCcqcY8pNvaA8F

U.S. Military: 60% Unsettled By Obama

January 2, 2009

When asked how they feel about President-elect Barack Obama as commander in chief, six out of 10 active-duty service members say they are uncertain or pessimistic, according to a Military Times survey.

By Brendan McGarry
Military Times

In follow-up interviews, respondents expressed concerns about Obama’s lack of military service and experience leading men and women in uniform.

“Being that the Marine Corps can be sent anywhere in the world with the snap of his fingers, nobody has confidence in this guy as commander in chief,” said one lance corporal who asked not to be identified.

Read the rest:
http://www.armytimes.com/news/200
8/12/military_poll_main_122908/

Military veterans’ mental traumas

December 28, 2008

More that ever before, the wounds of war are of and in the mind and the Veterans Administration has been learning how best to provide treatment…

“Wars are supposed to end when the last shots are fired, but some of our new veterans will unfortunately have to cope with internal demons that may last their lifetime,” said Joe Davis, spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

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President-elect Barack Obama (L) introduces retired General ... 
President-elect Barack Obama (L) introduces retired General Eric K. Shinseki as nominee for Veterans Affairs secretary during a news conference in Chicago, December 7, 2008.REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES)

Service members returning from Afghanistan and Iraq increasingly are suffering from mental trauma that dampens their homecomings, hobbles their re-entry into civilian life and imperils their continued military service – a situation the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has sought to address with treatment, counseling and even drug experimentation.

But even as the VA has worked to provide quality health care for millions of veterans at its facilities across the country, it has endured a series of failures – from not notifying test subjects about new drug warnings to ignoring safeguards during experiments. Those failures have damaged the reputation of the agency charged with supporting vulnerable veterans.

But it also has compromised the speedy recovery of those vets.

By Audry Hudson
the Washington Times

President-elect Barack Obama, who has named retired Gen. Eric K. Shinseki as incoming VA secretary, will have to deal with those long-standing discrepancies in the agency, as well as seek out new solutions to remedy the mental health problems plaguing an ever-growing population of veterans.

“Wars are supposed to end when the last shots are fired, but some of our new veterans will unfortunately have to cope with internal demons that may last their lifetime,” said Joe Davis, spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/200
8/dec/28/va-grapples-returning-veterans-mental-traumas/

2009: Tough Fight In Iraq, Afghanistan — Petraeus

December 18, 2008

Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, has told his troops that despite progress on both fronts, the U.S. and its allies face a tough fight in the year ahead.

With his trademark caution, Petraeus wrote in a letter to all troops in U.S. Central Command — stretching across the Middle East and throughout Central Asia — that improved security conditions in Iraq remain fragile and that while the Afghan army is improving, “the difficulties in Afghanistan are considerable.”

It was the first time since Petraeus took charge of Central Command on Oct. 31, following 20 months as the top U.S. commander in Baghdad, that he has offered troops what he called “my initial assessment of the situation” not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in Pakistan and elsewhere in that region.

By ROBERT BURNS, Associated Press Writer

In this Dec. 10, 2008, file photo, Gen. David Petraeus, commander ... 
In this Dec. 10, 2008, file photo, Gen. David Petraeus, commander U.S. Central Command, arrives for a meeting at the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command in Manama, Bahrain. Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, has told his troops that despite progress on both war fronts the U.S. and its allies face a tough fight in the year ahead.(AP Photo/Scott Olson, Pool)

The letter, dated Dec. 9, was released by his office at Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Fla.

Petraeus has assembled a team of experts to conduct an in-depth and comprehensive review of his command area; it is expected to be completed by early February. His aides said that is separate from the “initial assessment” he offered in the letter to troops. The assessment was based on his own discussions and observations during extensive travels in the Middle East, Central Asia and elsewhere over the past few months.

“In Iraq, we are building on the progress achieved by coalition and Iraqi forces in the course of difficult operations,” he wrote. He said gains have been encouraging but are still not irreversible — a theme he and other commanders have struck many times in arguing against a rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces.

Petraeus mentioned that further troop cuts in Iraq are planned, but he was not specific. President-elect Barack Obama has said he would consult with Petraeus and other commanders and senior civilian defense officials before carrying out his campaign promise to bring the Iraq war to an end.

“Numerous difficult issues loom on the horizon in the `Land of the Two Rivers,'” he wrote, alluding to the name derived from the important role the Tigris and Euphrates rivers have played in Iraq’s history. He noted the challenges of Iraqi elections to be held in 2009, plus “resilient enemies still carrying out deadly attacks, lingering ethno-sectarian mistrust and competition” and “malign external influences.”

Under a security agreement that President George W. Bush signed in Baghdad last weekend, U.S. combat forces are to be out of Iraqi urban areas by June 30 and all U.S. troops are to withdraw by the end of 2011.

“In Afghanistan, we and our Afghan partners are in a tough fight,” Petraeus wrote.

Noting that developing the foundations of Afghan government and economy “is typically more construction than reconstruction,” Petraeus said progress has been painstaking, with much yet to be accomplished.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081217
/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/petraeus_two_wars_2