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April 9, 2013

Afghanistan veterans commit suicide from a good conscience

[youtube http://youtu.be/UVPLxl3QXxE?]

04/09/2013

How can a veteran of war in Afghanistan help us understand good conscience?

Dr. Hakim interviews Nao Rozi

Nao Rozi: I was an Afghan soldier for 2 years and had combat roles.

Hakim: What did you learn from your experience?

Nao Rozi: If I think about the root issues, philosophy since the time of Plato has tried to bring the minds of the public under government control. Sometimes, I thought that soldiers and wars were necessary but when I joined the military as a soldier, I saw the injuring and killing of soldiers and opponents like the Taliban. I thought, “Is my presence necessary? Is it correct to have a weapon?” I held a weapon before people I didn’t know and who didn’t know me… We weren’t enemies because we didn’t even know one another. Even before greetings, we were supposed to kill one another.

I concluded that I should leave the army and after that, I had a crisis.

I had almost changed 180 degrees. I was affected by the war.

I tried committing suicide a few times. I felt alone.

Hakim: Some people who hear your story may think your mind was weak; you wanted to commit suicide…

Nao Rozi: Veterans who commit suicide are not cowardly…they are victims of the war.

Life becomes meaningless. It becomes difficult. You think you’ve done something such that you feel you no longer have the right to live.

Those US veterans who committed suicide had a conscience.

Hakim: What message do you have for friends and for the world?

Nao Rozi: Teacher, how I wish that every human in the world would…just for once, sit down alone and ask, “What are we here for?”

How have we been deceived? How true to self have we been?

I was brought up under the ‘government system’ and things I heard from society and the media. I was captive to these. Now, I am free!

Afternote by Dr. Hakim

I believe the medical community has made a mistake in considering war-related post-traumatic stress a disorder.

War related post-traumatic stress is a natural order, not a disorder.

I speak as a general medical practitioner, not as a psychiatrist. But more importantly, I speak as a human being whose thinking about war trauma transformed in the few minutes that I was interviewing Faiz Ahmad a few years ago, and then recently in interviewing Nao Rozi, an Afghan National Army veteran.

Anyone who witnesses gruesome violence and death would feel nauseous and repulsed, and these reactions are a natural order of human preservation, not a disorder.

War-related post-traumatic stress prompts us to avoid the blood and gore of mutual killing. Collecting and hearing all the stories of war veterans should prompt us to seriously abolish wars. Albert Einstein had said, “War cannot be humanized, only abolished. War is a terrible thing, and must be abolished at all costs. “

Nao Rozi had painted for me a morbid scene that poets and writers have consistently described in different ways over the centuries, “There were so many dead young bodies, and all of them were strangers to me. I thought, ‘Why did we do this to one another? Who benefited from these deaths? Weren’t their mothers waiting for them at home?’ ”

These questions changed the course of his life.

While making sense out of what he had experienced, he had tried to kill himself a few times.

Today, there is an on-going suicide epidemic among U.S. soldiers and veterans.

A portion of the Guardian article which touched on this suicide epidemic among U.S. soldiers is worth reproducing here.

Libby Busbee is pretty sure that her son William never sat through or read Shakespeare’s Macbeth, even though he behaved as though he had. Soon after he got back from his final tour of Afghanistan, he began rubbing his hands over and over and constantly rinsing them under the tap. “Mom, it won’t wash off,” he said.

“What are you talking about?” she replied.

“The blood. It won’t come off.”

On 20 March 2012, the soldier’s striving for self-cleanliness came to a sudden end. That night he locked himself in his car and, with his mother and two sisters screaming just a few feet away and with Swat officers encircling the vehicle, he shot himself in the head.

At the age of 23, William Busbee had joined a gruesome statistic. In 2012, for the first time in at least a generation, the number of active-duty soldiers who killed themselves, 177, exceeded the 176 who were killed while in the war zone.

Tomas Young, an Iraq veteran who has decided to end his life, wrote a letter to Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney stating “My day of reckoning is upon me. Yours will come. I hope you will be put on trial. But mostly I hope, for your sakes, that you find the moral courage to face what you have done to me and to many, many others who deserved to live. I hope that before your time on earth ends, as mine is now ending, you will find the strength of character to stand before the American public and the world, and in particular the Iraqi people, and beg for forgiveness.”

In the words of Erica Modugno, author of a pledge some veterans are making to dying Tomas Young:

“We see you. We hear you. We will not remain passive. We will not be silent.

Farewell, Tomas, and thank you.”

I’m sad that some of us may still conclude that Nao Rozi, William Busbee and Tomas Young were ‘wimpy soldiers’, not brave enough to unflinchingly continue doing their jobs.

Rather, their post-traumatic stress was a natural order seeking to preserve their good conscience, a kind order that can help us find a better world.

*************

Dr. Teck Young Wee, a Singaporean medical doctor, has been involved in health and development work in Afghanistan since 2004. The name he uses, Hakim, was given to him by Afghans he served in refugee camps. In the Dari language, “Hakim” means “local healer.” He now lives and works in Kabul establishing small social enterprise and is a friend-mentor of the Afghan Peace Volunteers. (ourjourneytosmile.com)

[youtube http://youtu.be/pE7xGrsWZi0?]

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Wikileaks – Project K – PLUSD

[youtube http://youtu.be/fH8s-PP3B8M?]

….

[youtube http://youtu.be/8poyUWuOXb0?]

Contractors Reap $138 Billion from Iraq War, Cheney’s Halliburton #1 with $39.5 Billion

In News on April 8, 2013 at 10:19 PM

Iraq - Top 10 Corporate Winners

03/18/2013

Eight days after the invasion of Iraq on March 19 2003, Paul Wolfowitz, then deputy defence secretary and a leading proponent of the war, told a Congressional committee: “We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.”

A decade later, that assessment could hardly have turned out to be more wrong.

The US has overwhelmingly borne the brunt of both the military and reconstruction costs, spending at least $138bn on private security, logistics and reconstruction contractors, who have supplied everything from diplomatic security to power plants and toilet paper.

An analysis by the Financial Times reveals the extent to which both American and foreign companies have profited from the conflict – with the top 10 contractors securing business worth at least $72bn between them.

None has benefited more than KBR, once known as Kellogg Brown and Root. The controversial former subsidiary of Halliburton, which was once run by Dick Cheney, vice-president to George W. Bush, was awarded at least $39.5bn in federal contracts related to the Iraq war over the past decade.

Two Kuwaiti companies – Agility Logistics and the state-owned Kuwait Petroleum Corporation – are the second and third-biggest winners, securing contracts worth $7.2bn and $6.3bn respectively.

The US hired more private companies in Iraq than in any previous war, and at times there were more contractors than military personnel on the ground.

“These numbers are staggering,” said Claire McCaskill, the Democratic senator who has led the charge to tighten contracting controls.

“In the last decade, we’ve seen billions in taxpayer money spent on services and projects that did little – sometimes nothing – to further our military mission,” she said.

But companies on the top 10 list defended their record. KBR “performed with honour and sacrifice in a hostile, complex, ambiguous and unpredictable environment”, said Marianne Gooch, a company spokeswoman.

She noted that KBR had prepared and served more than 1bn meals and produced more than 25bn gallons of drinkable water and 265 tons of ice.

Patrick Dorton, a spokesman for the International Oil Trading Co, a Florida-based company that secured contracts worth $2.1bn to transport fuel from Jordan to US forces in Iraq, said: “We are proud to have effectively supplied jet and convoy fuel in a war zone to the US military.”

The business environment for these contractors may be changing, with the war in Iraq over and the conflict in Afghanistan winding down, but these private companies remain.

There are still 14,000 contractors, including 5,500 security guards, in Iraq even though the last troops left in December 2011.

“Contractors are here to stay as real players,” says Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general of Iraq reconstruction. “The opportunities in this field are shaped by the unpredictable rhythm of when a fragile state will fail.”

The FT’s list of the top earners over the past decade is based on all federal government contracts awarded for performance in Iraq and neighbouring Kuwait since the invasion was planned.

Compiling such a list is tricky because some contractors operate under a variety of names to avoid scrutiny. That makes these figures conservative.

The list includes companies working in supplying support services, security, reconstruction and the oil industry.

“This is not my grandfather’s military industrial complex,” said Dan Goure, vice-president of the Lexington Institute, a national security think-tank partly funded by defence contractors. “There’s not a single munitions producer in this list.”

Instead, the US had created a fifth branch of the military, he said. “It’s called the private sector.”

The extensive use of contractors in both Iraq and in Afghanistan has been steeped in controversy.

A 2011 report from the commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan estimated that defence contractors had wasted or lost to fraud as much as $60bn – or $12m a day – since 2001.

Private contractors have been involved in some of the most shocking events of the Iraq conflict – from the Nisour Square shootings in 2007 in which Blackwater security guards killed 17 Iraqis, to the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

While the era of easy money may have ended for these contractors, that does not mean the boom times are over.

In 2011, the state department estimated that it would pay $3bn over the next five years on its private security contracts to protect its massive embassy complex in Baghdad alone.

Meanwhile, contractors are winning new business as oil companies ramp up their operations, especially around areas such as Basra in the south.

“It’s not like these companies have shut up shop and are going home,” says Stephanie Sanok of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “We are still sinking a lot of money into this and we are still trying to get our oil dividend.”

That means that companies that branch out into other areas could have an even better decade ahead.

Given the controversies that have surrounded the use of contractors in Iraq, many analysts say that there is little evidence that the defence department has learnt about how to best use them.

“While DOD is much better at using contractors than they were 10 years ago, they are still not sufficiently prepared to use contractors in future large-scale military operations,” says Moshe Schwartz, an analyst at the Congressional Research Service.

After a six-year wrangle, the Senate in December passed the National Defense Authorization Act, a sweeping overhaul of wartime contracting aimed at improving oversight and cracking down on waste and fraud.

It was pioneered by Ms McCaskill, who says she has “spent years shining a light on the massive waste, fraud and abuse in military contracting”.

Mr Bowen and the Commission on Wartime Contracting have also made specific recommendations for improvements.

But a Government Accountability Office report last year found that the Pentagon had taken or planned actions based on only half the CWC recommendations, while the state department and USAID had acted on only one-third of the recommendations relating to them.

“The reality is that the US is not well structured to carry out stabilisation and reconstruction operations on an integrated, inter-agency basis,” said Mr Bowen, the special inspector-general.

“That is the most serious and continuing problem. We must ensure we do not repeat the errors and weaknesses seen in Iraq.”

 Via FinancialTimes

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