Monday, February 29, 2016

Crimean Position

From the MT:
"Poroshenko Orders Ukrainian Military Focus on Crimea, Black Sea"
Ukraine is planning a "substantial enhancement" of its military position around the Black Sea and on the border of Crimea as part of a strategy of regaining the territory that Russia annexed two years ago.  Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced the initiative on Friday, commemorating the second anniverary of the Russian annexation. "Crimea was, is and will be an integral part of the Ukrainian state and the country-criminal will be forced to return the loot," Poroshenko said.  "I am confident that we will certainly return these two administrative territories under the Ukrainian sovereignty. This extremely complex and promising process has already begun. Today, I have instructed to organize a special session of the National Security and Defense Council to clarify our strategy for the reintegration of Crimea," he said.  This strategy will include building up Ukraine's military capacity along the Black Sea and the Kherson oblast, which borders Crimea, Poroshenko added: "The Ministry of Defense and the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are instructed to submit proposals for substantial enhancement of military capacity of Ukraine in Kherson region and along the entire Black Sea coast. Russia has increased its military presence in the region, completes the peninsula’s transformation from a flourishing international resort into a big military base, which poses a nuclear threat not only to Ukraine, but also to all countries of the Black Sea region."  This would appear to be somewhat of a shift in Ukraine's military strategy, which has, understandably, been focused on fighting a civil war with pro-Russia militants in the eastern part of the country. Ukraine has lately been working on developing a new overall military strategy, which has been criticized from some quarters for an excessive focus on the so-called "anti-terror operation" in the Donbass and ignoring other potential Russian threats.  Also this week, Ukraine's interior minister Arsen Avakov said that his ministry is preparing new units that will be able to take back Crimea. "We need a new army, a new national guard, new police. That's what the government of Ukraine is doing right now. And you have to understand that. We should rebuild them and then, when we want, Crimea will be with us. I have no doubts about that," he said in an interview with Ukrainian television station 1+1.  This plan will include Crimean Tatars, as well, Avakov added. "Together with Mustafa Cemilov and Refat Chubarov [Crimean Tatar politcal leaders] we're preparing guys as special separate units of the national guard. The project is being prepared in order to be ready to return Crimea to us. I'm sure that it will happen when we're strong, and when we're ready."  Meanwhile, Russia continues to strengthen its military position in Crimea, and the U.S. is stepping up its efforts to train and equip the Ukrainian armed forces. U.S. ambassador to Kyiv Geoffrey Pyatt said last week that the U.S. plans to give Ukraine $335 million in training and equipment to Ukraine this year, compared with $266 million in such aid over the past two years.

^ The Ukraine has every right to regain the internationally-recognized territory (the Crimea) the same way that any country would. Russia likes to act as though they are always the victim, but in this case they are the aggressors. If Germany invaded, occupied and annexed Kaliningrad (which used to be German East Prussia until the Soviet Union took it in 1945) then one would expect Russia to go all-out to regain their territory. Russia can't ignore the international agreements it made (especially those since the USSR collapsed in 1991) with regards to the Ukraine and the Crimea just because they changed their mind. I hope the Ukraine can end the war in the Donbass and regain the Crimea so that they can focus their attention on improving the lives of the ethnic Russians, ethnic Tartars and ethnic Ukrainians in the Ukraine rather than spending all their time and money on war. ^

Suspending Justice

From the DW:
"German court suspends trial for Auschwitz medic"
A court has suspended the trial of a 95-year-old charged with involvement in the murders of 3,681 people at the Auschwitz extermination camp. Hubert Z. was on duty when Anne Frank arrived.  Citing the defendant's failing health, on Monday a court in Neubrandenburg suspended the trial of 95-year-old Hubert Z., a former medic at Auschwitz, the notorious death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.
Hubert Z. is charged with being an accomplice to the murders of 3,681 people. Prosecutors say the medic's unit was involved in putting Zyklon-B pesticide crytals into Auschwitz's gas chambers, where up to 6,000 Jews were killed per day, and was "supportive of the running of this extermination camp."  "The accused lent support to the organization of the camp and was thereby both involved in and advanced the extermination with these insidious and cruel killings of at least 3,681 people," the prosecutors charge. Psychiatrists who examined Hubert Z. last year considered him mentally fit to stand trial. But defense attorney Peter-Michael Diestel plans to continue to challenge that evaluation. Diestel claims that his client has a form of dementia.  Christoph Heubner, deputy president of the International Auschwitz Committee, said Germany's justice system had looked the other way for far too long and failed to seriously examine such atrocities in the past. He believes that prosecutors should pursue cases like Hubert Z.'s as long as suspects are still alive. "These trials are an important contribution to the dignity of our country," Heubner told DW. "Germany is holding itself accountable. During the war, the accused we see on trial today were young, conscious men that knew what was going on and that didn't do anything against the killings that were happening around them."
Hubert Z. has been imprisoned once before for his activities at Auschwitz. In 1948 a Polish court had sentenced him to three years. He returned home to Neubrandenburg, in northern Germany, after serving his time.
^ The Germans seem to be reverting to their old tactics. After the war the majority of Nazis were not tried because most Germans were either in the Nazi Party or had close family and friends who were in the Party and they wanted to keep them from being punished. That allowed those involved with the Holocaust to live openly and to even receive government pensions. Then the next generation of Germans came of age and it moved to their parents' actions during the war. Things in Germany started to change a little in the 1960s with this new generation trying to bring light of the horrible crimes out in the open. Then the next generation of Germans came of age and it became what their grandparents did during the war and for many today it is what did your great-grandparents did during the war. The Germans seemed to be on a trend lately of actually punishing those involved in the Holocaust and yet they do something like suspending this case and move two steps backwards rather than forwards in their quest to atone for the crimes done in their name by their parents/grandparents/great-grandparents. These people should have been tried and sentenced 50, 60 , 70 years ago, but the German desire to hide the truth and pretend it never happened while at the same time honoring the murderers with state pensions and awards continues to hinder bringing these criminals to justice. There's a saying: "Those who stand by and watch something bad happen are just as guilty as the ones committing the act themselves." That means any German (or any person) who helps keep the crimes of the Holocaust a secret by not bringing those involved to justice are just as guilty. That doesn't mean every German is guilty, but large segments of the population are. You can not act as though you are ashamed of the crimes of the Holocaust while at the same time not bringing the Nazis to justice. ^

Sunday, February 28, 2016

25th: US Failure

From the Stars and Stripes:
"Gulf War vets fume as US fails to mark 25th anniversary"
On Saturday, Scott Stump, president and founder of the National Desert Storm War Memorial Association, could not commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Persian Gulf War in Washington. There was, after all, no official Defense Department event scheduled to mark the conflict's Feb. 28, 1991, cease-fire. Instead, Stump, a former Marine who deployed to Saudi Arabia on Dec. 31, 1990, attended a formal event and lunch at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, at the request of Gen. Jonathan Vance, defense chief of the Canadian Armed Forces. That's right. Canada. "When we got the invitation to Canada's official, government-sanctioned 25th anniversary event, the thing hit us with a ton of bricks," said Stump, 49, who lives in North Carolina. "You have a country that had 4,000 troops on the ground inviting an American like me to attend their commemoration, yet our country - which deployed over 600,000 troops - is not doing anything." Lt. Col. Thomas Crosson, a Defense Department spokesman, confirmed that the Pentagon did not plan any 25th anniversary events to recognize the Persian Gulf War. "We certainly have not forgotten the efforts and sacrifices of those who served during the Gulf War," he said in a statement. He added that Stump's association - which gained preliminary approval to build a memorial near the Mall and boasts former president George H.W. Bush as its honorary board chairman - is the only group that has expressed grievances about the lack of any 25th anniversary events. The Persian Gulf War, a U.S.-led effort to oust Saddam Hussein's Iraqi forces from Kuwait, was a short war by modern standards. Combat lasted about a month-and-a-half, claiming close to 300 U.S. casualties. But the lack of any Pentagon-sponsored 25th anniversary event reinforces Stump's concern that Desert Storm veterans rarely merit the tributes heaped on other war veterans. "Five years ago, I started this organization when I realized my kids didn't know what Desert Storm was and people lumped it together with Operation Iraqi Freedom, relegating it to a footnote in history," Stump said. "But if you have a war, shouldn't it be completed as quickly as possible? I've had some people from other countries ask me, 'What's the matter with your country that they don't want to talk about America's victory?' " Although the Pentagon hasn't planned anything, some veterans organizations have scheduled their own commemorations. On Saturday, the VII Corps Desert Storm Veterans Association was slated to conduct a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and hold a dinner at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington with guest speaker retired Gen. Martin Dempsey. The U.S. Central Command in Florida, said spokesman Army Capt. Michael Meyer, was planning to send a color guard to an event Saturday at a veterans park in Tampa, featuring Brenda Schwarzkopf, widow of Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf Jr., commander of coalition forces during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. But Stump says the Defense Department should have planned one major commemoration that would have been open to all veterans, no matter to which service or unit they belonged. Two months ago, the memorial association began asking the Defense Department if it had any plans to commemorate the anniversary. The Pentagon wrote back saying nothing was in the works and suggested that individual military services might hold their own ceremonies, according to emails provided by the memorial association. But after Stump got invited to Saturday's event hosted by the Canadian Armed Forces, and a Newseum reception Thursday hosted by the ambassador of Kuwait, his organization pressed the Pentagon one more time. Fred Wellman, a board member of the memorial association, sent an email to the Pentagon on Feb. 19, flabbergasted. "Up until recently I dismissed the constant complaining by Gulf War veterans that they have been forgotten by the military but frankly at this point it's hard to dismiss their complaints," wrote Wellman, a veteran of the Persian Gulf War and Operation Iraqi Freedom. "We are ignoring one of the greatest military victories in world history that was led by the U.S. because its 'just another anniversary'? Nothing at Arlington? Nothing at the Pentagon? This can't seriously be the plan still is it?" A Pentagon official wrote him, saying he had shared Wellman's concerns with higher-ranking brass, and sent Wellman links to stories about the 25th anniversary on the websites of the Air Force, National Guard, and Stars and Stripes. Stump said he was delighted to attend Canada's event on Saturday. And Canada was more than happy to honor the Persian Gulf War's 25th anniversary. In fact, Saturday's event at the Canadian War Museum wasn't the only commemoration organized by the Canadian Armed Forces, said spokeswoman Maj. Indira Thackorie. It was one of seven.
^ Shame on the Pentagon. Shame on the Department of Defense. Shame on Obama. It is beyond words at how just plain wrong it was to not officially commemorate the 25th anniversary of the First Gulf War. The US had the most troops during the war and also the most coalition deaths and yet the military and the government did nothing to remember the living or the dead. I have no respect for anyone who is in a position of authority and was too lazy, too "busy" or too stupid to authorize an official ceremony. I only hope that we can repay their "gratitude" when we forget the service and life of every politician and official who forgot this anniversary. Those kind of people deserved to be forgotten from both people's minds as well as the history books. ^

Self-Pay Military

From the Stars and Stripes:
"Lacking basic gear, special operators stuck buying their own equipment"
Sean Matson, who recently left active-duty as a Navy SEAL, said the military measured his head four times – each time before deployment – with plans to provide him a more advanced ballistic helmet.
But the new helmet never materialized. During a deployment in Africa, Matson and six of his fellow SEALs each shelled out about $900 for updated helmets that held the lights, communications devices and batteries needed for their missions. “There was never a clear solution to it, so guys were going out spending $800-$900 on their own ballistic helmet,” said Matson, who is now CEO of the military supply company Matbock. Elite troops such as the SEALs are more and more forced to dip into their own pockets to purchase basic military gear such as helmets, global positioning devices and medical supplies, according to Matson and others involved in the military’s unofficial civilian-side supply network who came to Capitol Hill on Thursday. House lawmakers have taken notice and said they will request an explanation from Defense Secretary Ash Carter “These are the guys we assume have the best gear all the time,” said Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., a Marine Corps combat veteran. Hunter said special operations troops have been approaching him in his California district complaining about the inability to get needed materials and he has been investigating the issue. Numerous individual instances point to a systemic problem in the military’s supply chain but a blind spot exists between Defense Department vendors and the troops who need the gear and supplies, Hunter said. Aaron Negherbon is the executive director of the nonprofit group Troops Direct, which ships needed and requested supplies – from boot laces to tablet devices -- to servicemembers who cannot get it through their commands. Less than two days after the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya, Negherbon said he was contacted by the commander of a Marine Corps Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team that was being deployed there. The commander told him the team lacked a variety of crucial equipment, including sniper supplies, he said. “They came to us for…batteries because they didn’t have any of those … It is kind of like, ‘What the heck is going on?’” Negherbon said. He said troops often have to buy their own medical equipment such as tourniquets, and shell out about $1,000 each for their own helmets or $500 for a GPS device that they need for duty during a deployment. “The question is, why can’t you get this?” Negherbon said. Often the answer seems to be a higher command does not have the money budgeted or the equipment was approved but not available from vendors. “That is a good thing, we know where the problem is but [those issues] are very profound,” he said. A small group of House Republican lawmakers gathered Thursday to hear the concerns. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., an Air Force combat veteran, said the military has to weigh the concerns of supplying needed equipment with the desire of troops to always have the newest gear on the market. Still, Kinzinger said the shortfalls in the supply chain could become a major issue if deployments ramp up again to the levels seen during the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-N.Y., an Army veteran, said the group should write a letter to Carter, saying they have serious concerns about supply breakdowns, including the inability of Matson and his fellow SEALs to get helmets capable of mounting lights, though the equipment was approved. “If you’ve got a situation where unit is approved for an Ops-Core [brand ballistic] helmet and it’s not getting it, we need to understand what the problem is … that is unacceptable,” he said.
^ This is the biggest disgrace the US Government and the US Military can do. They force these men and women to perform dangerous and life-threatening missions and yet refuse to give them the proper equipment to do so.   I have been around the military my whole life and have seen how poor the over-all institution treats their soldiers and their families while the soldiers and their families give-up so much to make sure the job gets done and the country is protected. I remember one of my family members getting wounded by an IED and they had to replace their torn and blood-soaked uniform themselves because the military was too cheap to do so - yet they still expected a crisp/clean uniform right away. This is just how stupid the politicians and the generals have become with the military. The bottom-line is this: give the men and women willing to risk their lives to protect you the training, supplies and benefits they are entitled to and they will do an even greater job then they already have been doing. ^

Saturday, February 27, 2016

195 Day POW

""I can't believe I'm free": A Ukrainian POW returns home - The Daily Signal"
Vadym Krypychenko, a private in the Ukrainian army's 53rd separate mechanized brigade, was released on February 20 after 195 days as a prisoner of war in the hands of combined Russian-separatist forces, The Daily Signal reported.  His vehicle had broken down along the front lines in eastern Ukraine near the village of Verkhniotroitske. It was August 10, 2015, only four days before the end of his military service commitment and his scheduled return home. Krypychenko found himself alone in no man's land. When an intelligence unit of separatists appeared and approached with weapons drawn, he assumed they were going to execute him, The Daily Signal writes. "I was mentally ready to die," Krypychenko tells The Daily Signal in an interview following his release. "It was a wonder that I lived," he adds. "A couple times I felt like I was losing hope," he says sitting in an office in a Kyiv hospital, according to the report. "But I strengthened myself." As part of ongoing negotiations between Kyiv and the Russian-backed separatist territories in eastern Ukraine, the separatists released four Ukrainian prisoners of war, including Krypychenko. According to Ukrainian news reports, Ukraine released five captured separatists and a priest in exchange for the servicemen. The interrogations were "very rude," Krypychenko says, as he describes how his captors tortured him with electric shocks and beat him with their fists and wooden planks. The first interrogation lasted for about three hours, he explains, but they got shorter as time went on. He was never threatened with execution during those sessions, but the guards occasionally made offhand death threats, The Daily Signal writes. As to the nationality of his interrogators, whether Ukrainian separatists or Russian intelligence operatives, Krypychenko says he had no reason to believe any were Russian. His captors held Krypychenko in solitary confinement for the entirety of the 195 days.They allowed him to leave his cell and go outside under open skies only two times, each at night for about two minutes, so that he could smoke a cigarette. Throughout his captivity, Krypychenko was held in three separate locations. His captors placed a bag over his head when transporting him, which, in addition to his isolation in solitary confinement and lack of contact with fellow prisoners, robbed him of any sense of his surroundings, according to the report. "There was no possibility to escape," he says. "I never knew where I was." When Krypychenko was told about his impending release, he says, he was conflicted, simultaneously flooded with feelings of relief and guilt. He knew other Ukrainian prisoners of war had been in captivity longer -- some for more than a year -- and many of them never had been properly treated for their injuries. "I thought if I had the possibility I would have refused to go home and let someone go in my place," he says. The four prisoners released February 20 were driven to a location on the front lines where they met Ukrainian officials. They immediately received cell phones to call their families with the good news, according to the report.

^ No one can fully understand what it is like to be a POW unless you are put in that situation. Hearing these stories from released POWs helps us to get a glimpse into how they were captured, imprisoned and released. I have read many account and memoirs of POWs from the US Civil War, World War 1, World War 2, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Gulf Wars (along with a hand-full from regional wars in Africa, Europe and Asia) and yet I still have no idea how I would act or feel if I ever became a POW. It takes a very strong person to endure harsh treatment and then to return home and try to rebuild their life. ^

Returning History

From the MT:
"U.S. to Return Historical Documents Missing 20 Years to Russia"
The United States will return to Russia more than 20 valuable historical documents which were stolen from Russian archives in the early 1990s, the Kommersant newspaper reported Friday.  Among a total of 28 documents are authentic orders of Russian rulers including Peter the Great, as well as papers signed by former Soviet leader Josef Stalin, Kommersant reported.  The papers were discovered during an investigation carried out by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security between 2006 and 2012.  The official handing over of the missing documents to Russian authorities will be held on March 3 in the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Tefft.  The ceremony will be attended by representatives of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Russia's Culture Ministry as well as history experts and prominent cultural figures.  William Stevens, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, told Kommersant that the event signifies that despite political confrontation, cooperation between the two countries on practical issues continues.

^ This shows that despite Russia's current military operations around the world and the threat posed to NATO, the EU and the US, the United States can be the "bigger man" and return documents to Russia. We could easily have kept them and made some sort of excuse or lie, but we didn't. If only Russia could follow in our footsteps and stop being so paranoid and bring their wars and anti-West propaganda to a halt. Then we may all benefit from peaceful exchanges with each other. ^

25th: Gulf Illness

From PR Newswire:
"On Gulf War's 25th Anniversary, Researchers & Veterans Say VA Failing to Treat Signature Injury"
 Gulf War veterans and researchers of Gulf War Illness – termed the "signature" injury of the 1991 Gulf War in a recent government-sponsored report – will provide sharp criticism of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) during a Congressional hearing Congress on Tuesday, just hours before the precise 25th anniversary of the 1991 Gulf War's decisive liberation of Kuwait from Iraqi occupation. The investigative hearing, entitled, "Persian Gulf War: An Assessment of Health Outcomes on the 25th Anniversary," is being held by the U.S. House Veterans' Affairs Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee on in Washington DC on Tuesday, February 23, 2016 at 4:30 p.m., in Room 334 of the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill. At the hearing, veterans and researchers will dissect VA's current research and treatment efforts related to Gulf War Illness, the "signature" injury of the 1991 Gulf War according to a new report by the Institute of Medicine. According to the House Veterans Affairs Committee, "Twenty-five years after the Gulf War, concerns persist that there has been little improvement in understanding the war's signature injury, Gulf War Illness (GWI) or how to treat or manage it. There are a number of reasons for this, including VA's frequent characterization of GWI as psychological malady and VA's clinical guidelines that recommend the use of psychotropic drugs for many GWI symptoms." Gulf War veteran Anthony Hardie, a national leader on Gulf War veterans' health issues and Director of Veterans for Common Sense (VCS), will testify before Congress on Tuesday, February 23, 2016 at 4:30 p.m., just hours before the precise 25th anniversary of Operation Desert Storm's ground war that decisively liberated Kuwait from Iraqi occupation.  Hardie describes a new VA-contracted research report as, "'rolling up the sidewalk' on a promising avenue of Gulf War Illness research, just when it is beginning to unravel the underlying biological mechanisms of Gulf War illness and point to treatment targets," and a new VA Gulf War Illness guide for physicians that fails to include actual treatments, "another example of VA's systemic research failures."  Hardie will be joined by David Winnett of New Braunfels, Tex., a former U.S Marine another national Gulf War veteran leader who runs a 10,000-member online discussion group for ill Gulf War veterans. Winnett will share a few of hundreds of heartbreaking perspectives of Gulf War veterans around the country for whom VA is failing to provide effective treatments for their toxic wounds of war. Prominent Gulf War Illness researcher Roberta White, Ph.D will also testify. Dr. White is Professor And Chair of the Department Of Environmental Health at the Boston University School Of Public Health and Professor and Attending in Neurology (Neuropsychology) at the Boston University School Of Medicine. Dr. White was lead author of a 2014 government report that highlighted the serious impact of Gulf War Illness on nearly one-third of the war's veterans. Dr. White will testify that, "recent recommendations from VA concerning the diagnosis and treatment of ill Gulf War veterans threaten the viability of the promise emanating from two decades of research.   Dr. White will be joined by James Binns, former chairman of the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses that has been a vocal critic of Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA) policies toward Gulf War veterans. Binns will describe a 16-year VA-contracted review of Gulf War veterans' health, "a house of cards," and explain how, "these same corrupt practices have been employed to deny the effect of toxic exposures from burn pits to the health of recent Iraq and Afghanistan veterans." The hearing will last about 90 minutes. Gulf War veterans and Gulf War Illness researchers will be on hand and available to take questions from the press following the hearing.
^ In the 25 years since the First Gulf War the US Government has done very little to understand or treat the men and women who suffer from GWI. It is part of a long, dark history the US has with regards to returning soldiers from combat areas and aiding in their recovery and transition to civilian life. The Government is so willing to train the men and women to be soldiers and to use them for their own purposes and then casts them aside when they are no longer "useful" or needed. ^

25th: British Gulf

From: British Ministry of Defense:
"Armed Forces pay tribute on 25th anniversary of Gulf conflict"
The Armed Forces have today paid tribute to the thousands of servicemen and women who fought in the First Gulf War with a series of events to mark the 25th anniversary of the conflict.   Across the nation, soldiers, sailors and air personnel have gathered to honour those involved in the mission to liberate Kuwait, codenamed Operation GRANBY, and to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. In London, His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent and Defence Minister Lord Howe joined Gulf War veterans, their families, international representatives, and personnel from all three Services at the Chapel of St Faith within the Crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral for a service organised by the Ministry of Defence.  Those in attendance paid tribute to all those who fought in the British contribution to the First Gulf War, in particular the 47 British servicemen and women who gave their lives during the campaign, and whose names are dedicated at the Gulf War Memorial within St Paul’s Cathedral.
Defence Minister Lord Howe, who attended the ceremony today, said:
It was a huge honour to take part in this event to mark the 25th anniversary of the First Gulf War and a humbling experience to meet those who took part, including the families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice during the conflict.
They engaged a dangerous and unpredictable enemy, standing shoulder to shoulder with our allies, to liberate the nation of Kuwait and save countless lives. Our servicemen and women made us proud, and they continue to deserve our admiration today.
Wreaths were laid by The Duke of Kent and Lord Howe at the Gulf War Memorial in the crypt of St Paul’s, witnessed by the congregation as a Bugler from the Band of the Grenadier Guards sounded the Last Post and a minute’s silence was kept. Following the service, a reception was held at the Tower of London. There are also a series of commemorative events taking place, including one hosted by the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers and a gathering of veterans hosted by the Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars Association. In addition, more than 500 Staffordshire Regiment veterans and soldiers from its successor unit the Mercian Regiment will attend a series of commemorative events to mark their participation in Op GRANBY.
^ As I said before: it is important for a country to remember the sacrifices their men and women did. ^

Friday, February 26, 2016

Canada's Death For All

From the G & M:
"Parliamentary report calls for broad access to assisted dying"
Canadians should not need to be terminally ill to access doctor-assisted dying, and those with mental illnesses or psychiatric conditions should not be excluded, a new parliamentary report says. The Liberal cabinet will now weigh the 21 recommendations in the report from a joint parliamentary committee as the government sets out to draft a law for medically assisted death in response to a Supreme Court decision last year. The report also calls on the federal government to work with provinces and territories to make medically assisted dying accessible in publicly funded health-care institutions.
But signs are already emerging it will prove difficult: A Catholic-run health authority in B.C. that receives millions in public funds and runs major hospitals – including St. Paul’s in downtown Vancouver – has sent a memo to staff saying doctor-assisted death is not permitted in its institutions. The committee, made up of 16 MPs and senators, also opened the door to assisted death for youth under 18. It calls on the government to address the issue of “mature minors,” competent young people capable of consenting to doctor-assisted death, within three years of the initial law. The report recommends assisted dying be available to Canadians with terminal and non-terminal grievous and irremediable medical conditions that cause enduring and intolerable suffering. Patients with mental illnesses or psychiatric conditions should not be excluded from eligibility as long as they are competent and meet the other criteria set out in law, it said. “Cases involving mental illness may prove challenging to address for health care practitioners, but the Committee has faith in the expertise of Canadian health care professionals to develop and apply appropriate guidelines for such cases,” the report says. The report also outlines a recommended process for assisted dying: The request should be made in writing when possible, and witnessed by two people who have no conflict of interest. Two doctors, independent of each other, should determine eligibility. The report also calls for a waiting period to be decided by the patient’s doctor. Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said the Liberal cabinet will start studying the issue within the next two weeks, and her government is working “very diligently” to meet the court’s deadline of June 6 to have a law in place. “We’re looking to ensure that we continue to take an empathetic approach, that we look to create balance in our approach that recognizes the autonomy of individuals, that recognizes the need to protect the vulnerable, that respects the conscience rights of medical practitioners. And that will take a little bit of time,” Ms. Wilson-Raybould told reporters. The report further recommends advance consent for patients diagnosed with debilitating medical conditions such as dementia. Dying with Dignity Canada urged the government to adopt this measure in particular. “Without the option to consent in advance to assisted dying, Canadians with dementia who want to die in peace with the help of a physician face a dire choice: access assisted dying prematurely, while they are still competent, or risk losing competence before their wishes can be carried out, only to be condemned to the exact fate they sought to avoid,” CEO Shanaaz Gokool said in a statement. Four Conservative MPs on the committee released a dissenting report, saying the recommendations failed to include safeguards for young people or the mentally ill. “Unfortunately, what we have is a report that doesn’t follow the evidence with the need to protect vulnerable persons,” said Conservative MP Michael Cooper, vice-chair of the committee. In their report, the Conservatives said they want the government to require patients with underlying mental health issues to undergo a psychiatric assessment by a professional to determine whether they have the capacity to consent to assisted dying. The report also recommends that doctors be able to “conscientiously object” to the practice, as long as they refer the patient to another physician, and the creation of a strategy to improve palliative and end-of-life care as alternatives to physician-assisted death. The Canadian Medical Association, while praising the latter recommendation, said a balance must be found between the rights of patients and those of doctors.
^ I am completely for doctor-assisted suicide for terminally-ill people. I do not think it should be used for people  with mental illnesses or psychiatric conditions. I also people that no doctor should be required to perform the assisted suicide. ^

Chersonesus Claim

From the MT:
"Crimean Chersonesus Museum Does Not Belong to Russia - UNESCO"

UNESCO does not recognize Russian ownership of the Chersonesus museum-reserve in the southwest of the Crimean Peninsula, Russia's representative to UNESCO Eleonora Mitrofanova told the Interfax news agency Thursday.   The organization's decision is based on a vote held among the members of the United Nations, according to Mitrofanova. "Crimea has not been recognized as Russian territory in international legal terms yet," she said, Interfax reported.   However, Mitrofanova noted that the museum had received funding and conducted restoration work after being placed under Russian jurisdiction.   Kiev claims that "this object of cultural heritage belongs to Ukraine, and Russian laws are powerless there, but that is not correct," Mitrofanova added.   The Chersonesus museum-reserve consists of the remains of an ancient settlement, unique rural areas of the city and two medieval fortresses. The museum was included in UNESCO's world heritage list in 2013.

 ^ Why would UNESCO recognize Russian claims to Chersonesus when the United Nations itself voted and refuses to recognize the Russian annexation of the Crimea from the Ukraine?  ^

25: Canada's Gulf

From the Government of Canada's website:
"Canadian Armed Forces commemorates 25th anniversary of the liberation of Kuwait and the end of the First Gulf War"
Ottawa,Ontario – The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) will mark the 25th anniversary of the liberation of Kuwait in a number of ceremonies between February 24 to 29, 2016, to recognize Canada’s contribution to the First Gulf War and the service provided by veterans of the conflict. Operation FRICTION was the CAF’s contribution to the 35-nation coalition to remove occupying Iraqi armed forces from Kuwait during the First Gulf War.
A national commemorative event will be held at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa on February 27, 2016. Local/regional commemorative events will be held on various dates at the following Canadian Forces Base locations: Esquimalt, BC; Cold Lake, AB; Trenton, ON; Petawawa, ON; Bagotville, QC; Valcartier, QC and Halifax, NS.
These ceremonies are taking place in locations from which CAF personnel and units originally deployed to the Gulf region during the conflict.
“As the Canadian Armed Forces marks the 25th anniversary of the Liberation of Kuwait, we honour those who served in the First Gulf War and recognize their contribution to restoring Kuwait’s freedom. We owe a great debt of gratitude to the men and women who took part in the Gulf War, both our veterans and those who continue to serve today, for their outstanding service to Canada and the cause of freedom.”
Lieutenant-General Michael Hood, Commander Royal Canadian Air Force
 Quick Facts:
  • The CAF participated in multinational coalition operations at sea, in the air and on land to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi occupation.
  • A number of notable historic firsts occurred during Operation FRICTION: first time that women in the CAF were deployed to a war zone in combat roles; first deployed Joint Headquarters for the CAF; and the first relief-in-place crew swap for one of Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships in theatre.
  • Approximately 4500 CAF personnel in total participated in Operation FRICTION, with a peak of 2700 personnel participating at one point in the Persian Gulf Region during hostilities.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the conclusion of the Persian Gulf War. The war began on August 2, 1990 and ended on March 3, 1991. Canadian Armed Forces members deployed to the Persian Gulf region in 1990-1991 to support the United Nations Security Council Resolutions to liberate Kuwait. Within the overall military operation, Canadians provided detachments of air, sea and land forces. There were no Canadian casualties attributable to combat or military action during the war. In the aftermath of the conflict, Canadians continued to serve in peacekeeping and embargo-enforcement operations in the region.
Some interesting facts about the role of the Canadian Armed Forces during the Persian Gulf War include:
  • HMC Ships ATHABASKAN and TERRA NOVA were part of the Canadian-coordinated Coalition Logistics Force, as part of which they escorted the United States Hospital Ships, USHS COMFORT and USHS MERCY, the latter with Canadian medical staff on board.
  • HMCS PROTECTEUR, an armed oiler-replenisher, serviced all nations involved in naval operations within the Gulf. Five Sea King helicopters were also attached to the Naval Task Group, performing reconnaissance, utility, and command-and-liaison tasks.
  • CF-188 jet squadrons with approximately 500 personnel performed combat air patrol, escort and reconnaissance missions. For the first time since the Korean War, Canadian air-to-surface attacks were conducted during this conflict.
  • A Canadian field hospital with 530 personnel operated with the British division, caring for both British and Iraqi wounded.
  • The Air Command Transport Group provided air transport of personnel and cargo.
  • This war marked the first time that female non-commissioned personnel operated in combat. These trail-blazing Canadian women paved the way for future Canadian combat missions.
This year, and every year, by remembering the sacrifices and achievements of Canadian Veterans during times of war, military conflict and peace, we help to preserve their legacy for future generations of Canadians. Help us to recognize those who served in the Persian Gulf War, 25 years ago.
^ Every country that participated in the First Gulf War should honor the men and women we fought, were wounded or killed during it - especially on milestone anniversaries like this year is. Canada didn't loose a single soldier in the First Gulf War yet they still take the time to remember the sacrifices of it's military. ^

25: Casualties

From Wikipedia:
"Casualties in the Gulf War"

Over 1,000 Kuwaiti civilians were killed by Iraqis. More than 600 Kuwaitis went missing during Iraq's occupation, and approximately 375 remains were found in mass graves in Iraq.
The exact number of Iraqi combat casualties is unknown, but is believed to have been heavy. Some estimate that Iraq sustained between 20,000 and 35,000 fatalities. A report commissioned by the U.S. Air Force, estimated 10,000–12,000 Iraqi combat deaths in the air campaign, and as many as 10,000 casualties in the ground war. This analysis is based on Iraqi prisoner of war reports. According to the Project on Defense Alternatives study, between 20,000 and 26,000 Iraqi military personnel were killed in the conflict while 75,000 others were wounded.
74 Israelis died as a result of the Iraqi Scud attacks: two directly and the rest from suffocation and heart attacks. Approximately 230 Israelis were injured.
The DoD reports that U.S. forces suffered 146 battle-related deaths (35 to friendly fire), with one pilot listed as MIA (his remains were found and identified in August 2009). A further 145 Americans died in non-combat accidents. The U.K. suffered 47 deaths (9 to friendly fire, all by U.S. forces), France 2, and the other countries, not including Kuwait, suffered 37 deaths (18 Saudis, 1 Egyptian, 6 UAE, and 3 Qataris). At least 605 Kuwaiti soldiers were still missing 10 years after their capture. In all, 190 Coalition troops were killed by Iraqi fire during the war, 113 of whom were Americans, out of a total of 358 Coalition deaths. Another 44 soldiers were killed, and 57 wounded, by friendly fire. 145 soldiers died of exploding munitions, or non-combat accidents.The number of Coalition wounded in combat was 776, including 458 Americans. 190 Coalition troops were killed by Iraqi combatants, the rest of the 379 Coalition deaths being from friendly fire or accidents. This number was much lower than expected. Among the American dead were three female soldiers.
A  Summary of the  Coalition Deaths:
United States:    146 soldiers
United Kingdom: 47 soldiers
United Arab Emirates: 6 soldiers
Syria:  2 soldiers
Senegal: 92 soldiers
Saudi Arabia: 24 soldiers
Qatar:  3 soldiers
Kuwait: 1 soldier
France: 9 soldiers
Egypt:  11 soldiers
^ Not many people around the world know or remember that people actually died during the First Gulf War, but they did. ^

25: Gulf Coalition

From Wikipedia:
"Coalition of the Gulf War"

 Country:                    Soldiers:                         Participated In:
United States
Saudi Arabia
60,000 – 100,000
United Kingdom
Security Personnel
4,900 – 5,500
Backup team
United Arab Emirates
(Operation Moru-prantar) Security Personnel including 2 field Ambulance teams
Deployed 8 Panavia Tornado strike attack aircraft, Naval deployment
Naval deployment; Air Force deployments of Surface-to-Air Missiles to Turkey and Israel
Patroller group
Field hospital
Navy / Air Force
Base Guards
500 on the field / 3,000 off the coast
Base Guards
Base Engineers
Operation Simoom
Naval & medical deployment
 South Korea
Medical & transportation support
HDMS Olfert Fischer (Niels Juel Class Korvet)
New Zealand
2 C-130 Hercules transporter aircraft
Naval vessel & Field hospital + intelligence information

25: Gulf Timeline

From Wikipedia:
"Timeline of the Gulf War"

-   May 28-30: Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein says that oil overproduction by Kuwait and United Arab Emirates was an "economic warfare" against Iraq.
-   July 15: Iraq accused Kuwait of stealing oil from the Rumaylah, Iraq's oil field near the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border and warns of military action.
July 22: Iraq begins deploying troops to the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border and building a massive military buildup.
- August 2: About 100,000 Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait, initiating the Gulf War. The U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 661 imposing a trade embargo on Iraq in a 13-0 vote, with Cuba and Yemen abstaining.
- August 7: The United States launched Operation Desert Shield. First U.S. troops arrived in Saudi Arabia.
- August 8: Saddam Hussein proclaimed the annexation of Kuwait.
- August 12: Naval blockade of Iraq begins.
- August 28: Iraq declared Kuwait as its 19th province and renames Kuwait City as al-Kadhima.
- September 14: United Kingdom and France announce the deployment of troops to Saudi Arabia.
- November 29: The U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 678 setting a deadline for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait before January 15, 1991, or face military action.
- January 9: Talks in Geneva, Switzerland, between U.S. Secretary of State James Baker and Iraq Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz ended with no progress.
- January 12 : U.S. Congress passed a joint resolution authorizing the use of military force to drive Iraq out of Kuwait. The votes were 52-47 in the U.S. Senate and 250-183 in the U.S. House of Representatives. These were the closest margins in authorizing force by the Congress since the War of 1812.
- January 15: First U.S. government statement of Operation Desert Storm made.
- January 17: The air war commenced at 2:38 a.m. (local time) or January 16 at 6:38 p.m. EST due to an 8-hour time difference, with an U.S. Apache helicopter attack. U.S.-led Coalition warplanes attacked Baghdad, Kuwait, and other military targets in Iraq.
- January 18: Iraq launched SCUD missiles on Israel. The U.S. deploys Patriot missiles to Israel and Saudi Arabia.
- January 22: Iraqi troops begins blowing up Kuwaiti oil wells.
- January 25: Iraqi troops dumped millions of gallons of crude oil into the Persian Gulf.
- January 29: Iraqi forces invaded the town of Khafji in Saudi Arabia. Iraqi forces were soon engaged by Saudi Arabian and Qatari troops with help from U.S. Marines.
- January 30: 11 U.S. Marines in LAV's were killed in friendly fire incident by Air Force A-10 aircraft near town of Al Khafji while they were attacking a company of Iraqi tanks.
- January 31: Iraqi forces captured 20-year-old U.S. Army Specialist Melissa Rathbun-Nealy and Army Specialist David Lockett while driving a heavy flatbed truck near the border of Saudi Arabian-Kuwaiti border. Melissa Rathbun-Nealy was the first female U.S. Prisoner of War since World War II.
 - February 1: Iraqi forces were driven out of Saudi Arabia. Coalition forces won the Battle of Khafji.
- February 13: An Amiriyah shelter bombing by two USAF F-117 Nighthawks killed 408 Iraqi civilians in a military air raid shelter located inside a military communications building.
- February 17: In an incident of friendly fire near the east-west line 5 kilometers north of the Saudi-Iraqi border, a U.S. Bradley Fighting Vehicle (Bradley) and an M113 Armored Personnel Carrier (M113) were destroyed by two Hellfire missiles fired from an U.S. Apache helicopter commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Hayles, killing two U.S. soldiers and injuring six others.-
- February 22: U.S. President George H. W. Bush issued a 24-hour ultimatum: Iraq must withdraw from Kuwait to avoid start of a ground war.
- February 24: Ground war begins when U.S.-led Coalition forces invaded Iraq and Kuwait at around 4 a.m. Baghdad time. British Special Air Service was the first to enter Iraqi territory.
- February 25: An Iraqi SCUD missile struck U.S. barracks near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killing 28 U.S. troops.
- February 26: Saddam Hussein ordered the Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait. About 10,000 retreating Iraqi troops were killed when Coalition aircraft bombed their stolen civilian and military vehicles. This is called the Highway of Death.
- February 27: U.S. Marines and Saudi Arabian troops entered Kuwait City. U.S. Army then engaged the Iraqi Republican Guard in several tank battles in Iraq, also known as the Battle of Medina Ridge
- February 28: U.S. President George H. W. Bush announced a ceasefire and that Kuwait had been liberated from Iraqi occupation.
- March 1: A cease-fire plan was negotiated in Safwan, Iraq.
- March 3: Iraq accepts the terms of a ceasefire from the U.N. Security Council.
- March 8: First U.S. troops arrived home. 4/325 82d Airborne, Landed in NYC
^ This gives a good summary of the First Gulf War. ^

25: Mother Battles

From the Stars and Stripes:
"'Mother of All Battles' lasted only 100 hours"

Saddam Hussein had boasted the coming ground war between the U.S.-led coalition in Saudi Arabia and his Iraqi forces occupying Kuwait would be the “Mother of All Battles.” Instead, American forces rolled over the Iraqis, needing a mere 100 hours from the start of their ground assault on Feb. 24, 1991 until a cease-fire ended the fighting on Feb. 28. It was an abrupt end to a showdown that had escalated over the previous six months, reflecting the superiority of American technology, training and planning. Yet, from the perspective of 25 year later, although a clear success, the campaign was still a war, with all its trappings—death, injury, stress and the fog of battle. The speed of operations was intense. “It was very, very hard for them,” said Tom Carhart, who wrote about the 1st Armored Division’s role in the war. “It was only a couple of days, but they didn’t get much sleep.” Army Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf’s assault plan depended on two main actions, a Marine-led invasion of Iraq-occupied Kuwait from the south and an attack to the rear by Army tankers—the famed “left hook” that would cut off Iraqi retreat and confront elite Republican Guard forces. French and American paratroopers would secure the far western flank and establish forward operating bases early in the assault. Saudi and Egyptian forces would join the invading forces from the south.  Schwarzkopf’s plan faced significant challenges: Iraq, which at the time boasted the world’s fourth largest army, had deployed an estimated 650,000 troops with about one million in reserve. Iraq’s ranks were filled with battle-hardened veterans of the Iran-Iraq war, which had ended less than four years before. The U.S. military had not faced such a major enemy force since the Vietnam War. Iraqi forces were thickest on the Kuwait border across from the 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions, where they were prepared to defend the roads to Kuwait city. Two defensive belts, laced with minefields, were meant to slow progress and trap Americans in a kill zone. To the west, the logistical challenges of supporting hundreds of gas-guzzling Army M1 Abrams tanks as they raced through the desert was daunting. The capabilities of the Republican Guards were unknown and their Soviet-made T-72 tanks were intimidating. The coalition had reason for optimism. Their 30-day air campaign had chipped away at Iraqi ground forces and crippled Iraq’s air force, making reconnaissance all but impossible. Earlier scrapes, including a repulsed Iraqi raid into the Saudi coastal town of Khafji, left coalition forces confident. Iraq’s military, built along Soviet models, seemed inflexible and incapable of adapting quickly to a surprise.   When the coalition ground assault launched at 4 a.m. on Feb 24, the Iraqis believed they knew what was coming — a head-on assault toward Kuwait City. The 1st and 2nd Marines came directly at the barriers, drawing Iraqi artillery and fixing their forces in Kuwait. Meanwhile, paratroopers to the far west launched their flanking movements. Army tankers would enter that evening. Success was almost immediate. The tankers faced no resistance, proof that military planners had succeeded in tricking the Iraqis. Meanwhile, Marine engineers breached both barriers by the afternoon of the first day, a success Schwarzkopf would marvel at days later in a press conference. “It was a classic, absolutely classic, military breaching of a very, very tough minefield-barbed-wire-fire-trenches-type barrier,” he said. Iraqi forces largely melted away as the coalition raced toward Kuwait City. More than 21 divisions were destroyed or rendered ineffective by the end of the second day of fighting and more than 20,000 Iraqi soldiers had surrendered. Hussein ordered his troops to withdraw from Kuwait on Feb. 25, bringing the second part of the coalition battle plan into play — the left hook. Ground units including the Army’s 1st Armored Division, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment and 1st Infantry Division had sped across the southern Iraqi desert in their M1 Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles, hooking eastward to meet retreating Iraqi forces. It was a technique honed to perfection in the hills of southeastern Germany. In the months leading up to the ground war, tankers practiced moving in huge formations, destroying everything in their path. “The way we were operating, we could mass forces so quickly there was nothing on the other side of the game board that could defeat us,” said now retired Gen. Montgomery Meigs. By the time they reached the desert, the tankers were ready. “Our role in that in the task force level and the brigade level was that we were going flat out as fast as the tank could move, which I don’t think we had experienced,” recalled retired Army Lt. Col. Doug Woolley, a platoon leader in the 1st Armored Division at the time. When tankers finally met the enemy in force on Day 3, the battles turned lopsided. The 2nd ACR destroyed two Republican Guard divisions at the Battle of 73 Easting on Feb. 26. The 2nd Brigade of the 1st Armored Division needed 40 minutes to crush a dug-in brigade at the Battle of Medina Ridge on Feb. 27. Equipped with thermal-imaging systems and a wider firing range, the American tankers easily outgunned their enemy. “We overwhelmed them from the get-go,” said Carhart. “And it was primarily the technological weapons systems mounted on the M-1 tanks. They were so technologically superior that it wasn’t even a fight, really.”  The biggest danger to the coalition turned out to be its own troops—the Americans suffered more non-hostile deaths than those from battle. Several friendly fire incidents proved deadly, while accidents and vehicle crashes claimed other lives. When the Americans called a cease-fire at 8 a.m. on Feb. 28, the results were clear—Kuwait had been liberated, Iraqi forces crushed and American lives preserved. Of the nearly 600,000 active-duty troops deployed for Desert Storm, only 148 were killed in battle.
^ It is now 25 years since Operation Desert Storm. Most media sites haven't mentioned the anniversary at all. My dad served during the First Gulf War.  I remember being the only family at my school that had someone fighting in Iraq. My class sent letters and tapes to my dad and when he finally came home (after the official "welcome home' ceremonies) we went to Disney World after picking him up and I missed some school  - my teacher even wrote on my report card for that semester that I was "a real trooper." As I said before, he came home after the official ceremonies, but my mom and us kids sat on the stage of one of them instead of him. We were even on the local news for the ceremony and for my mom wanting people to remember that people, like my dad, were still in the Middle East and that not everyone had come home yet. I still have that tape from the news. ^