By: Mohammad Hassam Kang
Many are the concomitants of war. Challenges made unique to warfare in the 21st century have proved to be foes fought long after a battle’s end as families and loved ones are often left paying the high costs, along with taxpayers. Those often involved with the combat of war aren't always the ones who start the wars or believe in the crusades, but are rather the last ones left after volunteer armies don't get enough men to fill the ranks. Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom have left 80 percent of reserves and National Guard forces in constant fear of redeployment, while 40 percent of U.S military personnel face the same grim fate. These wars, started based on subtle thoughts of revenge, now garner atleast two suicides every three minutes.
Even more shocking than these uncommon wars is that in some instances of war, more soldiers have ended up committing suicide than dying in combat. It wasn't always the fate of soldiers to deal with the injuries and scars, because most would die after battle, but modern warfare has made the injuries more severe, and the chance of survival more probable, which means that many veterans now have to live with their trauma rather than simply be commended for it late after their passing. Higher rates of redeployment parallel the increased risk of Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. For the 1.6 million that are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, what this country owes to them is much more than what they owe to this country. But, for many, the disability benefits will come later than usual because of so many processing claims. Some are forced to wait as long as a year while others a minimum of 8 months.
After thousands came back disfigured, at least 1,600 of them face the loss of a limb. Hundreds are so disfigured that they need face transplants to look sub-human again. With hidden injuries many tens of thousands are facing Traumatic Brain Injury, as mentioned earlier, and permanent damage to their neural system. More than half of the veterans that have sought healthcare through government issued benefits are diagnosed with mental disorders. The amount of soldiers seeking treatment has nearly doubled from wars fought in previous years. Still, the glorification of war has cast many of its exploits as heroic. Furthermore, one has to wonder if that is cause for more war since their actions and sacrifice lead to such death and dismay the world over.
And so with the passing of another Memorial Day, this last Monday, we witness a change in the meaning of veteran. It goes to define one that is created by what modern war and medicine has made total and is a new kind of wounded soldier. To the many countless who have fell in war, there is no reprieve except for the justification of whatever they did to cope with overwhelming stress caused by harming others indifferently. Their families bear the worst challenge of all and as many as 34 million spouses and dependent children are left with surviving or dead veterans that need immediate care and love. And if you say this country is still not torn apart by unneccessary wars consider that they're 18 percent of the population.
Recently MSNBC host Chris Hayes received criticism from conservative media for stating he was somewhat uncomfortable with the term “heroes” for men in uniform. Why wouldn’t he be uncomfortable when it is being thrown around by the defenders of war, somewhat mistaking the human experience for a game of sacrifice, and those expendible as human waste? But he went on to say that it held “rhetorical proximity” to a justification for war; which is to say that the act of war itself is a series of heroic actions against evil forces, when most people aren’t so naïve.
It would be far more accurate to describe those who did everything in their power to stop war and fight for peace as the heroes. Unfortunately, only a few of us are aware of the fact that the idea is more powerful than the bomb.
By: Sara Khan & Mohammad Hassam Kang
After decades of civil war over the oil rich border, the tribes of Sudan are facing a growing crisis with hundreds of thousands of people without access to food or medicine. Two states that border South Sudan – South Kordofan and Blue Nile– as well as the oil-rich region of Abyei that belongs to Khartoum, have been engaged in a triangular war over the oil rich region.
The violence often makes it hard for aid relief organizations to reach troubled areas. Genocidal attempts by military forces have led to the destruction of whole tribes. In conflict zones, nearly 500,000 people have been displaced or severely affected, as reported by U.N officials.
Especially in the areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, the government has barred relief organizations from distributing aid. The situation is especially bad and has reached drastic levels in the areas where Khartoumis battling rebels belonging to the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North.
Disputes over oil between the North and South recently halted oil production, which may have an effect on countries like China, which is a major buyer of Sudanese oil. Even media has been shut down in some instances as President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has stopped at least two newspapers from printing and distribution, as reported by Reporters without Borders.
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By Mohammad Hassam Kang
It seems that the 1 trillion projected expenses of sustained war cited by President Obama will only pay off the interest payments, while billions more in cost are added each day by immeasurable expenses after a decade of war. The Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies says the total figures estimate an over 4 billion dollar price tag for the U.S led foreign invasions post 9/11, which does not include aid to wounded veterans, and continuing efforts where high end military officials have not yet publicly released a plan for any foreseeable exit strategy.
Investment in wars is said to continue throughout the coming years until 2020. Although it may seem like a staggering amount the Pentagon has appropriated billions more to deal with the ongoing supposed foreign threat of terrorists. The U.S congress and Pentagon have so far released conflicting statements on the true cost of war, but acknowledge the 2 trillion spent in direct military spending.
Similarly a projected death toll number would be inaccurate and hard to predict given the ongoing conflict and many more that will die from health related issued spurred as a result of the war. However, projected estimates from most average at least over 250,000, almost half of which is comprised of Iraqi civilian casualties. The report also noted that the current estimates project 73 people dying in post 9/11 invasion of foreign nations for every one person that died in the historical attack on U.S soil. The amount it took to organize the attack was only $500,000, with only 100 billion of damage to the U.S economy. Nobody knew what would follow was a costly response, that took many innocent lives to fight off an unceasing ideology.
So far the U.S has shown no sign of slowing down efforts and especially in the Middle East region, as a new conflict in Libya now only months old, is already costing over 800 billion in wartime fees without deploying one ground troop. Roughly 10 percent of U.S current spending budget goes solely to fund its military efforts that have now grown unpopular at home as the public grows weary.
Historically states have always downplayed the cost of wars for various political reasons, but a study by Joseph Stiglitz discussed in his book "The 3 Trillion Dollar War" gave a projected sum that was both historically unprecedented and one that took into account interest from deficit spending, since the U.S led invasion of Iraq was the first American war fought, entirely funded on credit. He warned America years ago that the true cost of war would not only be undefined, but would do damage far beyond what Osama Bin Laden had ever envisioned. In new analysis he says the projected 3 to 5 trillion American tax payers would spend on efforts is said to be far higher as over 50 percent (more than 600,000) of soldiers returning from war require special medical attention in veterans medical facilities. Being a Nobel Prize winning economist as Joseph Stiglitz is, he still said the human cost of war was incalculable, because the human potential of the soldiers is virtually immeasurable, and the broken families and despair has no numerical value. An estimated 18 soldiers a day commit suicide due to the stresses of war.
New reports are alleging that tax-payer dollars could have possibly gone to waste in fraudulent military contracts. 60 billion lost in fraud from no-bid weapons military contracts have added to the already insurmountable fees for the collective wars. To put in perspective the number reflects 12 million everyday for the past decade, whereas Afghanistan's GDP is only 27 billion.
Using weapons contracting for the majority of its operations the Bush Administration relied on private companies to aid in war efforts in an unprecedented amount. A bipartisan committee on wartime spending recently concluded that in addition to the money spent on war contractors, the U.S is indirectly funding Taliban, as money is paid out to militants to ensure a sort of de-facto leadership that sometimes ensures temporary security.
There are now as many contractors as soldiers on the battlefield on behalf of the U.S military and at least a one-to-one ratio between contractors and U.S soldiers. Wartime no-bid contracts that give exclusive rights in no competition assignments for private weapons contracting firms have tripled since the beginning of the wars. Increased use of no-bid contracts means the U.S will now be spending 140 million as opposed to the 50 billion spent on such contracts in 2001, when the Afghanistan war began.
Lack of competition in no-bid contracts has led to the fraud, waste, and little accountability. For example, one reports says a prison built by war-time contractors cost almost 40 million while it was never finished and ended up being one that the U.S government never requested in the first place. An estimated 206 billion which reflects the first quarter spending alone is spent on everything from food preparation, to building reconstruction, to security measures: all of which employ private contractors to make due. Congressional commissions on wartime contractors recently put forth over 15 recommendations made to change the current zero accountability wartime contracts that lead to such fraud. Many of the proposals were focused on ways of phasing out the now common use of contractors, to include more government officials for oversight. The commission found one of four dollars spent on contractors to be lost in fraud.
Dov Zakhiem, a prominent member of the very same commission found that on the building of a road in Afghanistan costing 85 billion, wartime contractors earned up to 170 billion simply because the government was paying them for a full days work when in reality they only worked a fraction of the time; as low as 15 percent of the work paid for was completed. So far over 130 health clinics have been built by wartime contractors without proper equipment and medical supplies.
Supposedly the U.S government is at the same time working hard to reduce the deficit which has surpassed 14 trillion so far. Meanwhile the business of war has created so much profit that modern stock exchanges are thinking of creating a new defense index for potential investors.
Various studies try to show in a system of cost-benefit analysis that shows the true costs of war with primarily Muslim nations. When assessing the terrain in such dynamic regions and calculating the risks as well as researching the cultural landscapes involved in tumultuous areas of Iraq and Afghanistan, the contractors, didn't have as much background, as foreign diplomats would for example.
But who is to blame when someone makes an error of a great magnitude? Private companies operate outside of international laws that bind nations to obey rules of engagement and international regulations like the Geneva conventions since they're not defined as nations. Both the reasons for war and the methods used to fight remain highly questionable. The Pentagon has the lowest competition rate in private contracting at 60 percent. Many are now urging military officials to take into special consideration how less competition has always led to less regulation which cannot be afforded during war time. Abuses range from contractors mistreating Iraqi detainees to using fake names to sign out weapons. The merchants of war are undoubtedly a trigger happy bunch: the survival of their business depends on it.
By Mohammad Hassam Kang
The Horn of Africa region in East Africa, including the impoverished nation of Somalia is now facing what many call the worst humanitarian disaster in the world. So far hundreds of thousands have been displaced as a result of the unrelenting 2 year drought that has affected Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia.
Terrorist organization Al-Shabaab which has controll over large parts of Somalia is now opening up parts of Somalia to aid and relief agencies by lifting the ban on humanitarian groups recently. The U.N food agency is set to host a crisis meeting on the event on July 25. The FAO, the World Food Programme and the International Charity Oxfam have all launched a global appeal for emergency international aid, warning the international community that 12 million people lack food in the region and are in a critical state. Some children were so malnutritioned that their skin was found to be literally peeling off.
All of this is coupled with the rise in food prices, and growing civil war between Islamic guerillas and Pro-government forces that makes it too dangerous for relief workers to operate in the region. ABC world news reported that some Somalis have to walk as far as 50 miles on foot to the nearest refugee camp. Some of them never make it through the 30-day journey to Dabaab, Kenya which is now home to the largest refugee complex in the world. 1,300 Somali's arrive at the complex daily. Those fleeing are mainly women and children. "The situation in Somalia is the worst on the continent," said Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, a UN Somalian official. In the city of Afgooye the malnutrition rate is 19%.
4,300 African Union peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi stalk the capital of Mogadishu but have no mandate to pursue Islamic Militants that have supposedly imposed their interpretation of Shariah Law in parts of Somalia. As of Summer 2010 the Al-Shabaab Militia, that is said to be inspired by Al-Qaeda, controlled parts of southern and central Somalia including areas of the captal. Militant attacks against aid workers weren't the only thing stopping relief as Somali Pirates captured more than 20 ships, 2 of which were known to be carrying U.N food aid.
The Obama administration has expanded the "war on terror" to regions of Yemen and Somalia where marines and attack drones are being deployed at growing rates to ward off Islamic Militant group Al-Shabaab. This is reminiscent of four years back when U.S backed an Ethiopian invasion of Somalia to overthrow an Islamist regime through proxy-wars. The U.S recently commmitted $45 million in equipment and training to African Union Gaurds.
Recently The Nation Reporter Jeremy Scahill unveiled the small gated gaurded Somalian Military and C.I.A compound of dozens of buildings at Mogadishu International Airport. The Somalian National Security Agency is now using the basement of its headquarters as a secret prison to detain suspected members of Al-Shabaab militancy group. US intelligence personnel are also directly funding Somali agents that capture and detain suspected terrorists, sometimes throwing hoods over their heads “guantanamo style” and abducting them in open street view. Former Prisoners and members of the Transitional Federal Government have comfirmed the locations of two secret prisons.
By Areeba Raza/ Canton MI
On a regular basis in Afghanistan, inhabitants seek the medical aid from occupying forces for non-military injuries and for other ailments, such as heart attacks, fevers, infections and diseases. Any injuries resulting from military activity is treated without hesitation under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). But for those ordinary conditions that are not related to the war but often require immediate attention, Helmand Province’s Marine and Navy corpsmen provide the treatment. However, getting approval for a helicopter to pick up civilians, known as a Black Hawk, is a matter all on its own. They are spread out but they are few. When they have to pick up Afghans with an injury not caused by military activity, it puts the crew and the helicopter at risk. It also puts the aircraft out of position for a gravely wounded person. Most of the time, the decision is made against the patient, which many of the crew members do not like. Even if they wanted to follow the request, they can’t, since flight approval is made by higher commanding officers
A situation occurred when 5-year-old Sadiq had opened a bag of grains at home and a viper that had been inside it struck his face and bit him above the lip. His father, Kashmir rushed him to the closest American outpost to get help. At that point, there were two choices left: the medical facility could not be used to help all of the 29 million people medical care, and the area that Kashmir was in with his son had an intense fight going on, which would require a Black Hawk to rescue him and putting itself in danger. On the contrary, there was an innocent 5-year-old boy dying from the venom of a snake. Kashmir took his son to a Marine outpost in Helmand, where the local provided was not enough. They requested a Black Hawk.
A pilot saw the request on the electronic message board and soon left the airfield in a helicopter with an escort aircraft, heading for Helmand Province and expecting the message to be approved. But after about 15 minutes of flying, they were called back. Sadiq was not approved for getting care. A few hours later, however, another request came up on the message board asking a Black Hawk for a small boy who had been bitten on the face by a viper. This meant only one thing: Kashmir had gone to another post to ask for help. The pilot wondered whether the request would be approved this time, when the officer at the outpost sent: “would whoever denied the mission,” the officer wrote, “acknowledge that they knew the boy would die?” The answer came in a matter of seconds. The request was approved.
Sadiq ended up surviving the flight, and the crew thought he would make it. But a specialist notified them that things had changed overnight, and they had transferred Sadiq to a more advanced hospital in Kandahar. The next day, the specialist called the hospital and learned that Sadiq was still in the ICU, but was sitting up and talking.
Sadiq ended up surviving, but the specialist could not have possibly been able to treat him had the helicopter reached Sadiq when the first message was sent. It is a tough choice that the officers must make, when the civilians ask for help, but life holds the same value regardless of cause of injury.