A U.S. commander said Tuesday he is “deeply ashamed” by the Marine killings of Afghan civilians in March and reported that the American military has made condolence payments to their families.

“Today we met with the families of those victims: 19 dead and 50 injured,” said Col. John Nicholson, commander of the 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, deployed in eastern Afghanistan. “We made official apologies on the part of the U.S. government” and payments of about $2,000 for each death. (AP via USA Today)

Old news, but I only came to learn of it during my commute back from work on NPR two days ago. Turns out the U.S. military makes condolences payments — officially called “solatia” payments (unofficially also “martyr” payments) — to the families of those accidentally killed during combat fire.

The Pentagon has set $2,500 as the highest individual sum that can be paid. Most death payments remain at that level, with a rough sliding scale of $1,000 for serious injury and $500 for property damage. Beginning in April of last year, payments of up to $10,000 were possible for “extraordinary cases” but only with a division commander’s authorization.

The report, titled The Department of Defense’s Use of Solatia and Condolence Payments in Iraq and Afghanistan (pdf),” offers a particularly coldblooded example of how payments are estimated, drawn from CERP‘s operating procedures: “Two members of the same family are killed in a car hit by U.S. forces. The family could receive a maximum of $7,500 in CERP condolence payments ($2,500 for each death and up to $2,500 for vehicle damage).”(WaPo, 06/18/07)

Some pics of these condolences payments being made from this article that makes it sound okay:

I’m frankly at loss for words. Can’t figure out what aspect to begin commenting on first. I don’t believe monetary apology to be valid after any wrongdoing. But let’s suppose that your life situation is desperate, and you make the trip to the official place to get ‘reimbursed,’ how far does $2,500 really go? Take any of the following scenario for instance, what do you suppose the money given to the victim’s family could most effectively be used for?

Approximately $8,000 was paid by the Pentagon to two children who lost their mother when the taxi in which she was traveling came under fire. The vehicle was said to have run a checkpoint. The children were alongside their mother when she died and were also injured. A measly “condolence” payment of $500 was paid to the family of a deaf man shot outside a museum in Samarra and a larger condolence payment of $2,500 was granted to the parents of a 4-year-old girl who died when a bullet fired from a Humvee struck her.

In what the U.S. military said “negligent fire,” an Iraqi ambulance driver was shot dead on his way to a bomb scene by a coalition soldier. The dead man’s family was paid $2,500. (AmericanFreePres)

Iraq Body Count, a Web site that reputedly maintains most accurate account of casualties of the war, reveals more instances where American military has put a supposedly justified price on lives or limbs lost. Please also read these two articles on the NYT, and listen to a report on NPR to learn more.

Lastly, I don’t mean to compare but, I would like to point out the amount given to the families of victims who lost their lives on the space shuttle Columbia in 2003: $26 million. This is far too sad for me to disrespectfully end the post with the usual clever comment. Because even these families likely are not satisfied, and would much rather have their loved ones returned, instead.

How can you dispute so if the latest study reveals that 25 percent of homeless folks in the United States are war veterans.

Veterans make up one in four homeless people in the United States, though they are only 11 percent of the general adult population, according to a report to be released Thursday.

And homelessness is not just a problem among middle-age and elderly veterans. Younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are trickling into shelters and soup kitchens seeking services, treatment or help with finding a job. (link)

So this study accounts for the soldiers from the war in Iraq and Afghanistan too. May I throw an unsettling thought in your head? THE WAR IS EXPECTED TO CONTINUE INDEFINITELY!

Now I can’t decide what saddens me more: war veterans unfortunate state or how we’ve neglected them after their return… and will likely continue to do so.

“When the Vietnam War ended, that was part of the problem. The war was over, it was off TV, nobody wanted to hear about it,” said John Keaveney, a Vietnam veteran and a founder of New Directions in Los Angeles.

“I think they’ll be forgotten,” Keaveney said of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. ”People get tired of it. It’s not glitzy that these are young, honorable, patriotic Americans. They’ll just be veterans, and that happens after every war.”

Homelessness is just the tip of the iceberg. Unemployment is an issue to. Jason Kelley, 23, said, “The only training I have is infantry training and there’s not really a need for that in the civilian world.”

More statistics from Pete Dougherty, director of homeless veterans programs at Veterans Affairs Department:

Overall, 45 percent of participants in the VA’s homeless programs have a diagnosable mental illness and more than three out of four have a substance abuse problem, while 35 percent have both.

There are many ways to support the troops. Putting up a bumper sticker on your car saying that you do so, is the most superficial one.

 

Folks in the United States worry about blocking their children from viewing offensive material either on T.V. or on the internet. I worry about that too. Little kids should not be exposed to extreme violence or programming of sexual nature. What’s the program called that does takes care of that? “Net Nanny” or something like that, right?

What do you think is the equivalent of Net Nanny out there in Iraq for when kids are exposed to real life violence over there in the Middle East? That was my question when I saw this pic in the NYTimes today.

Joao Silva for The New York Times

Yes, once again more people died in the name of protecting white folks in a brown country.

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Do you really believe most armed men in Iraq are American soldiers?

Well welcome back to planet earth. Here’s a little video for you to catch up to reality.

Sarcasm aside, the reason there isn’t a draft in the United States is because contractors are paid, by the U.S. government, to find young men and women to risk their lives for obscenely high salaries.

Maybe that isn’t the worst thing. Sure, chances of one being blown up unexpectedly are at an uncomfortable levels. But you aren’t anymore poor. If you didn’t have the opportunity, your life, in another scenario, would be a little more challenging, to say the least.

But what’s troublesome, is that unlike all other companies who the government does business with, these “War on Terror” contractors have really no rules they must adhere to.

The private security contractors working for the State Department have operated under murky legal guidelines. While U.S. laws apply to contractors working for the Pentagon, workers for the State Department do not fall clearly under American or Iraqi law, allowing some to escape punishment for wrongdoing.

In the LATimes article linked above, an Iraq war veteran, Janessa Gans, said that she was dumbfounded by the carelessness of Blackwater employees.

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