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Jul 18 10 6:30 AM

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UPDATE:   http://www.rferl.org/content/a_hard_road_back_for_some_returning_us_veterans/24325846.html
 
http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/2011/08/30/cheney-defends-the-indefensible-in-new-book/
 
http://www.congress.org/news/2011/01/24/more_troops_lost_to_suicide
 
http://www.wsws.org/articles/2010/jan2010/suic-j06.shtml

June's Record Number of Army Suicides
July 15, 2010 7:05 PM

Because of the unilateral decision of President George W. Bush to enter into the first pre-emptive war this country has ever initiated!

PrintRSSShare:EmailMoreFarkTechnoratiGoogleLiveMy SpaceNewsvineRedditDeliciousMixxYahooABC News' Luis Martinez reports: June was the worst month ever for Army suicides, according to Army figures released today that include suicides among active duty soldiers as well as inactive Guardsmen and Reservists .

There were 21 active duty Army suicides in the month of June and 11 on the inactive Guard and Reserve side, totaling 32 for the month. The 21 active duty suicides ties the monthly record set in January of 2009.

Earlier this month, Army officials had been encouraged by a 30 percent reduction in the number of suicides (through June 10) over last year’s record high of 162. However, the final monthly numbers released today indicate the 80 active duty suicides so far this year are on pace with last year’s numbers. There were 88 suicides through the first six months of last year.

Through the first half of this year, the number of inactive Guard and Reserve suicides stands at 65, which is 24 more than last year’s total for the whole year.

Despite this year’s trends, Army leaders say the programs they have instituted in recent years to prevent suicides in their ranks are having a positive impact.

Col. Chris Philbrick, Director of the Army’s Suicide Prevention Task Force, said at a news briefing today, ”the help is there in ways that have never before been seen in relationship to how the military is dealing with the situation.” He acknowledged the difficulty in dealing with the issue, but said it extends beyond the Armyto American society as a whole. “ This is not just a military issue, it is one that the entire nation is facing. The rise in the rate of suicides is not exclusive to the Army. So we believe that help is there and the opportunity to raise their hands and say, “I need help “ and to get them to that help is improving each and every day.

At a Senate hearing last month, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli said a look at the previous four months data showed that soldiers with one or no deployments represented 79 percent of all suicides and “first termers represent 60 percent of all suicides.”

The Army keeps track of inactive Guard and Reserve soldier suicides who have not been mobilized for active duty and spend most of their time in the civilian world. Army officials admit it’s a challenge to try and help these citizen soldiers, but that regardless of their status it is their duty to help a fellow soldier. Says Col. Philbrick, “Once they raise their right hand and swear that oath that all of us do they become the responsibility of the U.S. Army. “

It’s difficult to assess what pressures are leading to the increase in suicides among Guard and Reservists who have not been mobilized because it is not as simple as saying previous combat experience has increased their mental stress when they return to their civilian lives. For example, in April, of the 7 confirmed suicides on the reserve side, 5 of them had never deployed overseas. For the month of June, four of the 11 who committed suicide had never deployed and five had at least one deployment.

Col. Gregg Bliss, from the Army National Guard said today “We notice that a good portion of our soldiers who commit suicide have yet to deploy. Therefore they lack some of the status necessary that afford them the substance abuse, the behavioral treatment, if we identify them. We think that is a facet we consider indicative of soldiers in need and our ability to provide the clinical help that may be necessary to preempt some of the choices they may be making.”

The Army released a new slickly produced counseling video today that will be shown to Army soldiers as part of the ongoing efforts to raise awareness about suicide in the ranks. Including testimonials from actual soldiers who attempted suicide, Army officials say the new video will be a helpful tool to raise awareness. It replaces a video rushed into production last year for an Army-wide stand-down to raise suicide awareness.

Col. Philbrick said it was his experience that soldiers who saw last year’s video failed to make a connection with the message it was conveying and in some cases laughed at by soldiers as they viewed it. Speaking bluntly he said the previous version “sucked”. He said the Army has already received positive feedback to the new video which will become a regular part of training.


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Jul 18 10 6:32 AM

Military deaths and injured since 9/11


BABYLON & BEYOND: Iraq and Afghanistan·
by Alexandera Sandels

·
Here’s an eye-popping number:
A blogger and writer claims American military casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan now exceed 500,000.

Thanks to the decision by President George W. Bush to initiate the first pre-emptive war in U.S. history!

That’s if you count certain injuries and diseases including mental illness that he alleges the Department of Defense doesn’t include in its official combat-related casualty toll in an effort to soften U.S. military losses in the wars and win funding for them from the Congress.

For example, cases of traumatic brain injury and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, as a result of serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are excluded from the official list of casualties.

“Under this scheme, chronic injuries and many acute internal injuries such as hearing impairment, back injuries, mild traumatic brain injuries, mental health problems and a host of diseases suffered by personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan are usually not counted as being war-related regardless of how debilitating they are,” writes Matthew Nasuti in an article published on the Afghan news site and media organization Kabul Press. “They are either generally lumped into the category of ‘non-hostile wounded’ or simply not counted at all.”

Masuti is a former Air Force captain and Los Angeles deputy city attorney who worked for the State Department in Iraq for a spell. He’s now a critic of the U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The writer claims that 95% of injured soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen were not reported as casualties due to what he refers to as the Pentagon’s “fudging the numbers” in a bid to win funding from American lawmakers to finance the wars.

“Wounded in action is narrowly defined to essentially be an injury directly caused by an adversary,” he writes. ”So called ‘friendly fire’ injuries and deaths would apparently not be counted. The emphasis is on acute injuries caused by enemy munitions which pierce or penetrate.”

He cites sources such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, the New England Journal of Medicine and the Navy to conclude that the more than 170,000 U.S. soldiers suffer from hearing damage, the 130,000 or more cases of milder brain injuries, and the 200,000 troops suffering from mental problems are left out of the casualty count.

If they were to be included in the Pentagon’s official numbers of 5,500 troop deaths and 38,000 injuries, the total American military casualty toll in Iraq and Afghanistan would amount to well over 500,000.

And it doesn’t end there. The 500,000 tally would increase significantly if one also added to the count what Nasuti claims are around 30,000 cases of serious disease and hundreds of accident injuries and suicides, among many other types of disease and injury-related military casualties.

Skeptics would maybe argue that a soldier suffering from a gastrointestinal disease from having eaten bad meals in Iraq and Afghanistan and minor roadway accident injuries do not belong in the tally along with troops who have been killed in ambushes with insurgents.

But Natusi writes that it’s important not to leave these types of injuries out in order to show the real image of the war and its effects on U.S. troops.

Not only do the aforementioned injuries deserve to be formally recognized as casualties as a sign of respect for the soldiers serving in the battlefield, but leaving them out of the count distorts the overall toll, the writer concludes.

“These casualties are real and are a direct result of fighting two wars,” he writes. “The soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen who have suffered these combat injuries deserve to be recognized and the American people deserve a proper accounting of the mounting costs of their two seemingly endless wars. That accounting begins with an honest casualty count.”


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Jul 18 10 6:34 AM

Rejoining family difficult after deployment


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MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — If military families are quietly “coming apart at the seams,” as the wife of the Army’s top soldier told Congress in June, the evidence is here in the dining room of Army Capt. Mark Flitton and his wife, Lynn.

Their oldest child, Scott, 15, stormed into this room early this year after an argument with his father, asking why his mother ever married “that man.” It was here in March where the couple first discussed divorce.

In July, Mark and Lynn explained at the dining room table how they live together now only on a superficial level, driven apart by back-to-back combat deployments and marking days until he goes back to war in Iraq next year.

“I haven’t come home yet,” admits Mark, 46, who, during the past 10 years, has spent a cumulative 36 months away in three separate tours. “I’m still in the war mode, and I don’t know that I’m going to come out of it until I know I don’t have any more war rotations to go back on.”

“We’ve just become so comfortable in living separate lives,” says Lynn, 49.

As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to demand long and multiple deployments of soldiers, the Army is focusing more attention on a tragic consequence to military families. Soldiers and their spouses are learning to live separate lives — the soldier at war, the spouse at home with the children — and it is becoming more difficult with each deployment to get back together.

The Army’s second in command, Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli, says he learned of this during a tour this year of six Army installations hit hard by deployments.

“Spouses were telling me that their husbands were not reintegrating with the family,” Chiarelli testified before a House subcommittee July 29. “They just realized that that was too hard to do in the short period of time they had [before returning to war] and they would back off from the family, which creates the relationship problems.”

The Army is scrambling to address the issue, providing more counselors to help couples address their marital issues and expanding a program run by chaplains that offers marital therapy retreats. In an interview Monday, Chiarelli said he was encouraged by a pilot program creating online counseling services for soldiers and their families.

A crucial goal is to lengthen the time soldiers spend at home between deployments, he says.

Still, many fear that the damage done to marriages is lasting.

“What families are dealing with are the cumulative effects of nearly eight years of war ... effects (that) are not easily reversed,” Sheila Casey, wife of Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey, told a Senate subcommittee in June.

Army documents and interviews with military families identify why communication between a soldier and his wife break down and problems ensue.

Husbands acquire stoic “survivor” instincts at war — the ability to control their emotions, for example — and bring these skills home. Wives who become experts in living independently struggle to relinquish power.

A soldier’s depression or combat stress can make matters much worse, according to research published in February in the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

Statistics are showing a trend in broken military marriages.

The Pentagon says divorce rates among enlisted soldiers and Marines increased to about 4 percent in 2008, a full percentage point jump from when the Iraq war began. The civilian rate is 3.5 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers tracking 226 Army marriages at Fort Campbell, Ky., last year, found that 6 percent ended in divorce and that nearly 12 percent of the couples either became divorced or separated, according to results provided to USA Today.

Troops in combat who worry their marriages might be failing rose from one in four in 2005 to one in three in 2007, according to an Army study published last year that examined mental health issues plaguing combat troops. More than 250,000 active-duty soldiers are married.

War and separation are historically hard on families. Researchers, though, say a key feature of the current conflicts — the same troops being sent back to combat over and over again, rather than serving one tour and coming home to stay — may be further aggravating marriages.

Each time they are separated, couples say, holding the family together gets tougher.

Carol Herrick, 39, works with family support groups at Fort Sill, Okla., and says she struggles to reassemble her family each time her husband, Donald, a sergeant first class, comes home. He has left for Iraq or Korea four times in eight years.

“The more we do it, the harder it gets,” she said.

‘Is it really worth it?’
When Staff Sgt. Charlene King returned to Oregon last year after 15 months of training and fighting in Iraq, she and her husband, Karl, were virtual strangers.

His struggle to bring up four children by himself, a financial crisis that plunged them into bankruptcy and Charlene’s frustrated efforts to manage affairs from Iraq left their marriage of 14 years in shambles, both say.

Only in recent months has the relationship slowly improved to where it is, they say, 70 percent back.

“You just don’t talk about things that might lead to an argument, or that you’re uncomfortable with,” says Karl, 32. “Pretend [sensitive issues] don’t exist. Probably not the healthiest way to function.”

“Our marriage had gone from being really, really strong to really, really weak really fast,” says Charlene, 31.

The family was living in tiny Carlton, Ore., south of Portland, but today lives in Redmond in the center of the state.

Despite the turmoil at home, Charlene says her war experience was a period of personal growth.

Married at 16, she led a cloistered life until she was called to active duty and sent to Iraq, she says. There, Charlene trained Iraqi soldiers in managing supplies and was promoted to staff sergeant. Her experience quickly won her a job as an operations manager with Pacific Power after she returned home.

Charlene says she now realizes that lives at home were changing as well.

In the months shortly after Charlene went to Iraq, Karl was overwhelmed with the children: William, 13, Elyana, 10, Shayna, 7, and Nathaniel, 3. He turned to antidepressants, he says.

With the help of in-laws who gave him an occasional break from the children, Karl says he learned to adjust to single parenting, developing a style less structured than Charlene’s, allowing the kids more freedom to walk to school and spend more nights at friends’ homes.

“[Charlene] gave up a lot of control and a lot of power,” says Karl, before correcting himself. “It was more like I took it, instead of her giving it up.”

Charlene returned to a family where her children turned to Karl for everything. “It drove me crazy, and it still does sometimes,” she said.

Both concede there was resentment to overcome and a relationship to rebuild.

“You have to wonder, is it really worth it?” Karl says. “Is the other person going to think it’s really worth it? I worried about that.”

Charlene says she returned thinking, “I don’t know how I’m going to live with these people,” and admits there are still times when she needs to be by herself.

“With everyone around, she can sit there and read and be totally lost to the world,” Karl says.

Both say the rebuilding is slow going, even after a year.

“We probably don’t talk about what we’re feeling as much we as used to,” Charlene says.

‘Working though this slowly’
The Army understands the difficulties families face in coming back together.

Through the war years, there has been an outpouring of PowerPoint briefings, videos, how-to guides, brochures, workshops, hot lines, informational fairs and counseling services, all aimed at getting couples help.

Soldiers sit through briefings filled with slogans such as: “Combat skills that made you a HERO in the war zone will create casualties and make you a ZERO in the home zone.” A presentation on marital intimacy recommends “meaningful touches (not just sexual)” 10 to 12 times a day.

Installations are plastered with banners, signs and billboards urging soldiers to seek psychological help if they need it. Families say that sometimes they feel bombarded by all the information and very little of substance seeps through.

“There was so much out there,” says Army Maj. Doug Wekell, who is based at Fort Lewis, Wash., and is struggling to rejoin his family after a difficult Iraq tour. “It was almost like an information overload.”

Families don’t need more programs, says Barbara Thompson, head of the Pentagon office of Family Policy/Children and Youth. They need access and knowledge about those that work.

Two key efforts, endorsed by the National Military Family Association, are family counseling services such as Military OneSource and relationship-building weekend retreats run by chaplains — an Army program called Strong Bonds (www.strongbonds.org).

Researchers tracking 472 Army couples who attended a version of Strong Bonds called Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program found that it reduced divorce rates.

Among those couples who did not attend the weekend retreats, 6.2 percent got divorced within a year. Among those couples who did, about 2 percent of the marriages broke up during the next year, says Scott Stanley, a professor at the University of Denver.

Sometimes families simply don’t know to ask for these services, says Kathleen Moakler, director of government relations for the NMFA.

When the association created its own pilot program for two weekends of family counseling this year and directly approached families with the idea, they received 400 applications for 40 slots, the association says. Some service members even signed up from Iraq before coming home.

Wekell, 42, and his wife, Tina, 45, tried to attend with their children Alex, 15, and Lilly, 13. Doug and Tina say they liked the idea of trying to heal their problems at a retreat with other military families. They didn’t get in.

It has been nearly two years since Doug finished his third combat deployment — a 15-month tour in Iraq setting up aid stations — and he says he still feels like “a guest or tourist” in his own home.

“You feel like, well, I’m going to be leaving for something eventually anyway. So I’ll just let [Tina] make the decisions and not get too involved,” he says.

With each passing month, Tina says she grows weary of Doug’s absence in helping with Alex’s attention deficit disorder or Lilly’s problems with not eating enough to keep her weight up.

“We’re working through this slowly, him coming home,” she says.

Better from a distance
Near the front door of their Spanish-style military housing duplex on Moffett Federal Air Field here in Mountain View, the Flittons have a collage of happy pre-war family photos: Scott and Nicole skiing or on roller coasters with their father; a smiling portrait of Mark and Lynn.

Lynn says she feels “a loss when I look at those pictures.”

Now Mark seems more distant, Lynn says, noting his periods of depression, his sleeping on the couch downstairs and the weekends that pass without their going out on a husband-and-wife date.

Part of her, she concedes, nearly looks forward to her husband going back to war. This makes her feel very guilty. Yet, when he leaves for Iraq or Afghanistan, she will hear “I love you” over the static of an overseas line and a sense of intimacy will return to their relationship, Lynn says.

Mark is a psychological operations or officer, and company commander, who disseminates information on the battlefield to try to win hearts and minds of citizens and demoralize the enemy. He served nine months in Bosnia from 1997 to 1998, 15 months in Iraq from 2005 and 2006 and a year in Afghanistan from 2007 to 2008.

He’s slated to return to Iraq next year. Even Mark says life is less complicated when he goes.

“You don’t have to deal with the gas and the power [bills], and the kids, and the driving back and forth, and the school calling you up because the kids are late, and the paperwork and all the hustle and bustle,” he says.

“What we do [in war] is clean. You get up, fight the war and go to bed.”

“We had a good relationship on the phone,” Lynn says. “I guess it was safe. He seemed a little more interested in what I was saying. ... I just have to hang on for another eight or nine months, and I’ll be alone for another year.”

She says she hates feeling that way. And it does nothing for the children, who also are struggling to reconnect with their father. Scott, at 15, says his dad still seems to treat him like the 12-year-old he was before the last combat tour.

He says he loves his father and is proud of his military service but feels distant from him and often finds it easier to just leave the house and go skateboarding. “I’m never around here,” Scott says.

On a recent Sunday, before his father left on a trip, Scott suddenly threw his arms around his dad and hugged. “I didn’t know what to do,” Mark says.

Father and son had shed that kind physical affection one or two combat tours ago. “I lost that connection,” Mark concedes.

With his father out of earshot, Scott admits he wouldn’t mind getting affection in return.

“Kisses ... make me feel awkward,” he says. “But hugs would be OK.”


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Jan 28 13 7:48 AM

LATEST UPDATE ON MILITARY SUICIDES:

'The storm' is coming'

As the U.S. military suicide rate soared to record heights during 2012, the families of service members say they, too, are witnessing a silent wave of self-harm occurring within their civilian ranks: spouses, children, parents and siblings.

Some suicides and suicide attempts — like those that ravaged the Velez family — are spurred by combat losses.

Others may be triggered by exhaustion and despair: As some veterans return debilitated by anxiety, many spouses realize it's now up to them — and will be for decades — to hold the family together.

Specific figures are lacking as no agency tracks civilian suicides within military families.

However, Kristina Kaufmann, a long-time Army wife, knows of three other Army wives, all friends, who took their lives in recent years.

Courtesy Kristina Kaufmann

"When you know that you are the anchor — and if you go down, the family's going down — the problem is that you can only do that for so long," said Kristina Kaufmann.

One was Faye Vick, described by Kaufmann as “the perfect picture of an Army wife — pretty, nice, always with a smile.” Vick and her family lived around the corner from Kaufmann and near Fort Bragg, N.C. In 2006, when Kaufmann’s husband was in Afghanistan and Vick’s husband was deployed overseas, the 39-year-old mother placed herself, her infant and her 2-year-old son in a car inside a closed garage and started the engine, asphyxiating all three with carbon monoxide, according to Kaufmann and to local news reports at the time.

“And I know of too many others through the grapevine,” said Kaufmann, executive director of Code of Support, an Alexandria, Va.-based nonprofit that seeks to bridge the gap between civilians and military America.

“When you know that you are the anchor — and if you go down, the family’s going down — the problem is that you can only do that for so long,” said Kaufmann. “That population (of spouses) is at the most risk. Because the storm is going to happen when everybody comes home. That’s where we are, unfortunately, going to see an uptick in lots of negative outcomes, including suicide, including suicide among the spouses.”

On Jan. 14, Department of Defense officials acknowledged that during 2012, service members committed suicide at a record pace as more than 349 people took their own lives across the four branches. The military suicide rate is slightly lower than that of the general public. However, one active-duty member died by suicide every 25 hours last year.

The Army sustained the heaviest branch toll at 182 suicides, which — as NBC News reported Jan. 3 — meant that soldier suicides outpaced combat deaths for the first time, according to Pentagon officials.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta informed Congress last July that American armed forces are in the grip of a suicide "epidemic."

One of the darkest undercurrents of the glaring statistics is that one suicide in a family boosts future suicide risks for everyone else inside the home. They can be contagious, say experts like Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, a psychologist in the Washington, D.C., area and the founder of Give an Hour, which develops networks of mental-health volunteers who respond to both acute and chronic situations.

Numerous researchers have explored the so-called contagion effect of suicides within families and “there’s no question the data supports there’s at least a doubling of risk,” among surviving family members, said Dr. Alan L. Berman, Ph.D., executive director of the American Association of Suicidology. The organization strives to better understand and prevent suicide.

“It’s understood that risk, in part, is biological," Berman said, given that disorders like depression have a genetic component.

“But it’s also based on social modeling behavior: The suicide of a parent presents a model (for children in that family) of how to deal with problems, and that’s no less true for a spouse.”

Added Van Dahlen: "The closer that family member is to you, the greater risk you’re at. We believe, psychologically, it opens the possibility and ends a taboo."

“The thousands of service members who have killed themselves,” she added, “they leave in their wake thousands of family members who are now at risk for that same kind of decision."


For the complete article see the following:

http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/01/16/16540098-like-an-airborne-disease-concern-grows-about-military-suicides-spreading-within-families?lite&ocid=msnhp&pos=1


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Mar 18 13 4:28 AM

 "WAS IT ALL WORTH IT"   MARCH 2013 UPDATE:


By Jim Maceda, Correspondent, NBC News


Derek Coy hails from Baytown, Texas, and could be a poster child for American veterans of the war in Iraq as they look back and ask: “Was it all worth it?”

A former U.S. Marine sergeant based in the volatile Anbar province at the height of the conflict, Coy is proud of his service and believes the “invaluable tools” he gained as a Marine will ultimately help him succeed in life.
But seven years since he left Iraq, he’s fighting a different battle -- against anxiety, depression and emotional numbness -- the effects of post-traumatic stress.

March 19, 2008: Speaking on the fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war, President George W. Bush said that while the costs had been high, "this is a fight America can, and must win."
“I still struggle, both mentally and physically, with the toll it took on me and countless others do as well,” he said.
 
Tuesday will mark 10 years since the "shock and awe" invasion and more than a year since the last company of U.S. troops left Iraq. But only about 4 in 10 Americans who fought there – according to a Pew Research Center poll – believe the reasons for going to war justified the loss in blood and treasure.
Almost 4,500 U.S. troops were killed and more than 32,000 wounded, including thousands with critical brain and spinal injuries.  Estimates of the number of Iraqi civilian fatalities are staggering, ranging from 100,000 to 600,000.

[]The monetary cost could exceed $3 trillion.[/b]

While the war in Iraq has ended, the sacrifice for vets continues back in a civilian world they often find “foreign” and isolating.

Ann Weeby, a native of Boyne City, Michigan, was deployed at the beginning of the war, attached to the 101st Airborne under then-Major General David Petraeus , in the northern Iraqi town of Mosul.
“Our goal was to find weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein,” she said.
Ann Weeby, who was attached to the 101st Airborne, went in to look for WMDs and Saddam Hussein. "I didn't expect [such a] prolonged U.S. military presence in Iraq," she said.

“After WMDs were not found and Saddam was captured, I didn’t expect [such a] prolonged U.S. military presence in Iraq,” she added.

As the only person her family and friends know who fought in the war, Weeby tries to educate them about the scourges of depression and suicide that U.S. vets face after Iraq.

“American troops are suffering, and in some cases dying, because a Veterans Affairs’ claims backlog is preventing them from getting [mental] health care. Twenty-two U.S. veterans commit suicide every day!” Weeby said, citing a troubling statistic recently published by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

'The cost was high'

When Leon Panetta, then secretary of defense, addressed U.S. troops in Baghdad before they pulled out of Iraq, he argued that their core mission had been accomplished.
“To be sure, the cost was high,” he said. “But those lives were not lost in vain. They gave birth to an independent, free, and sovereign Iraq.”

Today, however, Iraq’s Shiite Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, heads what looks more like an authoritarian regime, propped up by a coercive secret service.

Toby Dodge, an analyst at U.K.-based think tank Chatham House, claimed Iraq had morphed into a pro-Iran police state, where Sunni gunmen and al Qaeda’s suicide bombers seem to strike at will, killing hundreds each week.
 
His conclusion: 10 years after regime change in Iraq, little has changed.

“The lives of ordinary Iraqis, in terms of the relationship to their state and their economy, are comparable to the situation they faced in the country before regime change,” he said in a report written for Chatham House.
Many Iraq War veterans admit they were fighting more for their battle buddies than for any “island of democracy” in the Arab world.

Robert Contreras, who had two tours of duty in Iraq, returned to California to finish a college degree, where he has struggled to relate to other students. "The most common question I get … is if I've ever killed someone," he said.
Robert Contreras, from Sylmar, California, left the military after 10 years in the Navy, including two tours of duty in Iraq, and returned to California to finish a college degree.

“Personally, I was not there fighting for Iraq,” he said when asked if the war was won or lost.
“I was there to protect those who served alongside me to the best of my abilities,” he said.
He’s struggled to relate to his student peers who know little about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The most common question I get … is if I’ve ever killed someone,” he said.

Contreras also developed symptoms of PTSD. “I was anxious in crowded places and unable to feel at ease anywhere but at home.”

Veterans like Weeby and Coy have found a therapeutic way to generate positives from their Iraq War experiences -- and better deal with some of the nagging uncertainties about Iraq’s future: They’ve reached out to their fellow vets.
Weeby is an outspoken advocate for San Francisco Bay Area veterans, while Coy is an associate at the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Association, or IAVA, the first and largest non-profit group representing U.S. vets from those wars.

Both are currently in Washington, D.C., part of the “Storm the Hill” offensive, pressuring Congress to address key veterans’ issues, like 9.4 percent unemployment and a bottle-necked health-care program.

NBC News' Kerry Sanders and Mike Taibbi, along with Kimberly Dozier of the Associated Press, reflect on their experiences on the ground in Iraq 10 years ago.
“Coming home with a renewed appreciation for my life and freedoms, I’ve committed my career to helping others,” reflected Weeby.

U.S. military commanders would argue that the war in Iraq brought important changes there:  Iraqis are better off without Saddam Hussein and have at least gained a fledgling democracy and national elections.
But 10 years since “shock and awe” was supposed to clear the path for a liberated Iraq and a “forward strategy of freedom” that would sweep across the Middle East, Iraqis are instead falling victim to wave upon wave of sectarian violence.

And many of their American “liberators” are fighting for their own survival – back home.
 
Jim Maceda has covered Iraq since the 1980s.

From:   http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/03/18/17326297-ten-years-after-iraq-invasion-us-troops-ask-was-it-worth-it?lite&ocid=msnhp&pos=1


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