Thursday, January 31, 2008

Military Doctors misdiagnose a Marine serving in Iraq

CBS News has done a good job recently about covering issues faced by members of the military including the devastating evidence about the suicide epidemic among vetarans from November 2007 , and other more recent stories Resources: Veteran Mental Health, Congress Vows Action On Vets' Suicides, and the current story about a Elizabeth Whiteside, a young Lieutenant who was admitted to the psychiatric lockdown ward at Walter Reed Army Medical center after trying to kill herself earlier this week. This is the tip of the iceberg, and I am glad that CBS news finds these stories to be important to their viewers.

The general population does not hear about the frequent struggles that military members face and I wonder if they care. The president tells us to go shopping and many do because it is much easier to spend money than to consider what might be happening to that military family who lives down the street. Sometimes the mistreatment happens on the battlefront, sometimes in the hospitals and sometimes on the homefront. We can remember the noise about the deplorable conditions at Walter Reed Army Hospital and with the following publicity and outcries that our veterans deserve better. They do, of course, but we don't hear about improvements because some of the corporate media has decided we'd rather hear about a celebrities crisis d'jour.

The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric will have a report tonight (Thursday) about how military medical malpractice killed Sgt. Carmelo Rodriquez, a marine who served in Iraq. According to the show, CBS News Bryon Pitts investigates in a heart wrenching extensive story, how military doctor's misdiagnosed melanoma to be a harmless wart. Pitts met the marine, child and family by his side, 8 minutes before his death caused by Stage 4 melanoma.

His family insisted to be interviewed instead because they say Sgt. Rodriguez "...said don't let this be it. Don't let this be it. Fight! That's what we're doing. We're going to fight for him."

Laws prohibit the family to sue the military and his family had to pay for the funeral. According a veterans group that track soldiers who are misdiagnosed. There are hundreds of misdiagnosed cases across the country. It will reveal startling details about how family members of deceased servicemen and women have no legal recourse when malpractice among military medical doctors leads to irrevocable harm - and even death.

There are thousands of medical staff in the military who do a good job and many people receive excellent care, but when a story like this is revealed, we need to watch and listen. It is a symptom of the state of healthcare in our country and the military is not immune.

On Monday, at the State of the Union speech, President Bush said about the troops, Our nation is grateful for your courage. We are proud of your accomplishments. And tonight in this hallowed chamber, with the American people as our witness, we make you a solemn pledge: In the fight ahead, you will have all you need to protect our nation. And I ask Congress to meet its responsibilities to these brave men and women by fully funding our troops

With 355 days left in his presidency and his pathetic record on funding the troops and veteran's, his words ring hollow. We can do better for the military, even if our president doesn't act so.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Lying Liars- and now it's official

Hundreds of lies led to war is the headline in my local paper, the SF Chronicle. That headline is kind of a DUH for those of us who have been keeping track of the lies.

I'm glad that the Center for Public Integrity, which worked with the Fund for Independence in Journalism finally made it official.

It's no surprise that the White House's response to the report was that the world community viewed Iraq's leader, Saddam Hussein, as a threat. "The actions taken in 2003 were based on the collective judgment of intelligence agencies around the world," Stanzel said. Liar! Even presented with 935 examples of empirical evidence, this White House still lies.

I was surprised to read that the methodology used to come up with the 935 lies covered public statements made by eight top Bush administration officials from September 11, 2001, to September 11, 2003, regarding only 2 subjects, (1) Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction and (2) Iraq's links to Al Qaeda.
Let's name them and shame them, the worst offenders in spreading this pack of lies. George W. Bush, Richard "Dick" Cheney, Ari Fleischer, Scott McClellan, Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz. If only there was a shred of decency in any of these men and woman. If there was, there might be a hope that they would be ashamed of their lies and ashamed of themselves, but not one of them is familiar with that emotion. They are too self righteous, too arrogant, and too damned powerful. We have suffered from their mere presence in our lives and our country has suffered.
The report said

Bush and the top officials of his administration have so far largely avoided the harsh, sustained glare of formal scrutiny about their personal responsibility for the litany of repeated, false statements in the run-up to the war in Iraq. There has been no congressional investigation, for example, into what exactly was going on inside the Bush White House in that period.

Congressional oversight has focused almost entirely on the quality of the U.S. government's pre-war intelligence — not the judgment, public statements, or public accountability of its highest officials. And, of course, only four of the officials — Powell, Rice, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz — have testified before Congress about Iraq.

Short of such review, this project provides a heretofore unavailable framework for examining how the U.S. war in Iraq came to pass. Clearly, it calls into question the repeated assertions of Bush administration officials that they were the unwitting victims of bad intelligence.

As much as we can blame this administration for lying about the war, the media did not escape the spotlight in the report.
The cumulative effect of these false statements — amplified by thousands of news stories and broadcasts — was massive, with the media coverage creating an almost impenetrable din for several critical months in the run-up to war. Some journalists — indeed, even some entire news organizations — have since acknowledged that their coverage during those prewar months was far too deferential and uncritical. These mea culpas notwithstanding, much of the wall-to-wall media coverage provided additional, "independent" validation of the Bush administration's false statements about Iraq.
3931 US casualties divided by 935 lies works out to just more than 4 lies per dead US troop. That's really quite disturbing especially for those of us who have lost a loved one in this boondoggle of lies.
I weep for the loss of my only child, Lt Ken Ballard. I weep for all Gold Star families whose lives have been irreparably changed by the death of their loved one. I weep for our nation. There are no tears, however, for this gang of 8, who knew better. I cannot pray for their souls, because they have none.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Oops, they did it again

Those Veteran's charities; they're just a hoot! In an earlier posting late last year, I suggested we name 'em and shame 'em, those veteran's organizations who keep alot more of their donations than they give to the vets. There was alot of attention in the media with this pathetic and shameful news that lasted more than one news cycle. It makes my heart go pitter pat when I hear that House of Representatives' Oversight and Government Reform Committee subpeonas the bad guys and gives them their place in the spotlight. Rep Henry Waxman, D- CA, who heads the Oversight Committee has been a busy, busy man since the leadership in the House changed.

Let's turn the spotlight on Roger Chapin. This Chapin guy is no prize. He is the president of Help Hospitalized Veterans (HHV) and the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes Foundation. He thinks that only 25% of the $168 million is good enough for those vets. That's 25% benefits to the veterans, 75% costs in his pocket. Mr Chapin had declined an invitation to appear voluntarily at a December Congressional hearing, forcing the committee to subpoena him. The egregiously bad management of the donations received by the good people of the USA who authentically wanted to support the troops is indefensible. Even though Chapin had excuses aplenty, I don't know how he could testify with a straight face. Fortune online reports
-HHV loaned $135,000 to its longtime executive director, Mike Lynch, to help him finance a divorce settlement. Chapin said the money was repaid with interest.

--HHV paid $17,000 a year for a country club membership. Chapin defended that as a valid expense.

--Chapin billed HHV $630 for Christmas Eve 2004 air travel for his wife and himself to Hawaii. He told the committee that it was a mistake and that he later repaid the funds.

--In 2001, $500,000 donated to HHV ended up going to other Chapin nonprofits focusing on cancer, Alzheimer's disease and drug-free youth. Chapin did not address this during his testimony.

--HHV loaned $1 million to the direct-mail company of Richard Viguerie, the well-known conservative political operative responsible for much of Chapin's direct mail. Both Chapin and Viguerie said that Viguerie couldn't get a loan from commercial lenders, and that it was later repaid. HHV also paid Viguerie's companies $14 million from 2000 to 2005 for direct-mail solicitations. Chapin said Viguerie was able to succeed where others failed.
And shame on Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah. Coming to the defense of this wolf in sheep's clothing, this long time representative from Utah said "I'm deeply concerned that we're whacking on groups that are supporting the military,". Say what? Giving 25% of the money donated to support the troops and pocketing 75% for yourself is supporting the troops? Oh yeah, I forgot, there's an "R" behind this Representative's name. Double shame!

Check out Chris Cannon's website where he talks about how "Chris Cares" about the military. Im surprised I didn't vomit. No wonder he is so busy supporting this jerk, Chapin. (misspellings courtesy of Rep Cannon's webmaster)

As America's brave men and women continue to fight in the global war on
terror, the majority has sought to do everythign they can to stifle their efforts. Unable to garner enough votes to cut and run, unable to garner enough votes to defund the war, and unable to garner enough votes to pull troops out, they have now begun to find ways to derail the mission using resolutions and attacking private companies working in Iraq. These attacks have also fallen on us in Congress who have steadfastly defended our men and women in uniform and those who risk their lives in Iraq outside of the Government. I hope to provide a better account of my votes and my positions on Operation Iraqi Freedom and issues that have arisen subsequent to the invasion. As always, I welcome your input (both positive and negative) and you can contact my office at any time to share your thoughts.
Even though Rep Cannon has been a member of Congress since 1996, his website says The Cannon record on the Iraq war is coming soon..... Oh really? I guess nearly 5 years into the war is too early to post anything definitive about his stand on the war. My condolences to the good people of the 3rd Congressional District of Utah for having to put up with his pathetic self.

But back to the man of the hour, and let's shame another. Chapin confirmed a Forbes report last month that he paid retired Gen. Tommy Franks a one-shot $100,000, and another retired general, Arthur F. (Chip) Diehl III, $5,000 a month, for use of their names in direct-mail pitches. Several panelists asked pointedly why this was not disclosed in the solicitation. Chapin said Franks later withdrew permission to use his name after, among other things, one of his relatives complained about receiving repeat mailings.

Gen Tommy Franks accepted $100,000 to be a spokesmodel for an organization purporting to support veteran's? Where did he think this $100,000 was going to come from? General Arthur Diehl isn't any better at $5,000 a month. I can only imagine how many soldiers would have been helped with that kind of money. And these Generals call themselves soldiers? Please! Mercifully, General Franks has since distanced himself from Chapin's organizations.

The Army Times reports that lawmakers pushed Chapin and two executives of fundraising companies on the question of whether solicitations should disclose information about the percentage of donations that a group spends on fundraising. By far, the best exchange of the 3 hour hearing was this response to that question. "If we disclose, we'd be out of business," Chapin said. "Your words are wonderful, because if the public knew, they wouldn't donate," said Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn. Touche'! If you want to hear the testimony, go here.

I'm sick of all these so called advocacy or charitable organizations who say they support the troops. It couldn't be further from the truth and these bad guys ruin it for those good organizations who do not profit off the veterans.

If you donate to veteran's organizations, PLEASE check the numerous organizations who do diligence on the veracity of the work they do.

p.s. Happy birthday to Sgt Adam Estep, who would have been 27 today, if not for George Bush's war. He was KIA in Iraq on 4.29.04. Hugs to you Carrie & Ken!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Surge to Nowhere

From the Washington Post

Surge to Nowhere
Don't buy the hawks' hype. The war may be off the front pages, but Iraq is broken beyond repair, and we still own it.

By Andrew J. Bacevich

As the fifth anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom nears, the fabulists are again trying to weave their own version of the war. The latest myth is that the "surge" is working.
President Bush's pithy formulation, the United States is now "kicking ass" in Iraq. The gallant Gen. David Petraeus, having been given the right tools, has performed miracles, redeeming a situation that once appeared hopeless. Sen. John McCain has gone so far as to declare that "we are winning in Iraq." While few others express themselves quite so categorically, McCain's remark captures the essence of the emerging story line: Events have (yet again) reached a turning point. There, at the far end of the tunnel, light flickers. Despite the hand-wringing of the defeatists and naysayers, victory beckons.

From the hallowed halls of the
American Enterprise Institute waft facile assurances that all will come out well. AEI's Reuel Marc Gerecht assures us that the moment to acknowledge "democracy's success in Iraq" has arrived. To his colleague Michael Ledeen, the explanation for the turnaround couldn't be clearer: "We were the stronger horse, and the Iraqis recognized it." In an essay entitled "Mission Accomplished" that is being touted by the AEI crowd, Bartle Bull, the foreign editor of the British magazine Prospect, instructs us that "Iraq's biggest questions have been resolved." Violence there "has ceased being political." As a result, whatever mayhem still lingers is "no longer nearly as important as it was." Meanwhile, Frederick W. Kagan, an AEI resident scholar and the arch-advocate of the surge, announces that the "credibility of the prophets of doom" has reached "a low ebb."

Presumably Kagan and his comrades would have us believe that recent events vindicate the prophets who in 2002-03 were promoting preventive war as a key instrument of U.S. policy. By shifting the conversation to tactics, they seek to divert attention from flagrant failures of basic strategy. Yet what exactly has the surge wrought? In substantive terms, the answer is: not much.

As the violence in
Baghdad and Anbar province abates, the political and economic dysfunction enveloping Iraq has become all the more apparent. The recent agreement to rehabilitate some former Baathists notwithstand ing, signs of lasting Sunni-Shiite reconciliation are scant. The United States has acquired a ramshackle, ungovernable and unresponsive dependency that is incapable of securing its own borders or managing its own affairs. More than three years after then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice handed President Bush a note announcing that "Iraq is sovereign," that sovereignty remains a fiction.

A nation-building project launched in the confident expectation that the United States would repeat in Iraq the successes it had achieved in
Germany and Japan after 1945 instead compares unfavorably with the U.S. response to Hurricane Katrina. Even today, Iraqi electrical generation meets barely half the daily national requirements. Baghdad households now receive power an average of 12 hours each day -- six hours fewer than when Saddam Hussein ruled. Oil production still has not returned to pre-invasion levels. Reports of widespread fraud, waste and sheer ineptitude in the administration of U.S. aid have become so commonplace that they barely last a news cycle. (Recall, for example, the 110,000 AK-47s, 80,000 pistols, 135,000 items of body armor and 115,000 helmets intended for Iraqi security forces that, according to the Government Accountability Office, the Pentagon cannot account for.) U.S. officials repeatedly complain, to little avail, about the paralyzing squabbling inside the Iraqi parliament and the rampant corruption within Iraqi ministries. If a primary function of government is to provide services, then the government of Iraq can hardly be said to exist.
Moreover, recent evidence suggests that the United States is tacitly abandoning its efforts to create a truly functional government in Baghdad. By offering arms and bribes to Sunni insurgents -- an initiative that has been far more important to the temporary reduction in the level of violence than the influx of additional American troops -- U.S. forces have affirmed the fundamental irrelevance of the political apparatus bunkered inside the
Green Zone.
Rather than fostering political reconciliation, accommodating Sunni tribal leaders ratifies the ethnic cleansing that resulted from the civil war touched off by the February 2006 bombing of the Golden Mosque in
Samarra, a Shiite shrine. That conflict has shredded the fragile connective tissue linking the various elements of Iraqi society; the deals being cut with insurgent factions serve only to ratify that dismal outcome. First Sgt. Richard Meiers of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division got it exactly right: "We're paying them not to blow us up. It looks good right now, but what happens when the money stops?"

In short, the surge has done nothing to overturn former secretary of state
Colin Powell's now-famous "Pottery Barn" rule: Iraq is irretrievably broken, and we own it. To say that any amount of "kicking ass" will make Iraq whole once again is pure fantasy. The U.S. dilemma remains unchanged: continue to pour lives and money into Iraq with no end in sight, or cut our losses and deal with the consequences of failure.

In only one respect has the surge achieved undeniable success: It has ensured that U.S. troops won't be coming home anytime soon. This was one of the main points of the exercise in the first place. As AEI military analyst Thomas Donnelly has acknowledged with admirable candor, "part of the purpose of the surge was to redefine the Washington narrative," thereby deflecting calls for a complete withdrawal of U.S. combat forces. Hawks who had pooh-poohed the risks of invasion now portrayed the risks of withdrawal as too awful to contemplate. But a prerequisite to perpetuating the war -- and leaving it to the next president -- was to get Iraq off the front pages and out of the nightly news. At least in this context, the surge qualifies as a masterstroke. From his new perch as a
New York Times columnist, William Kristol has worried that feckless politicians just might "snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory." Not to worry: The "victory" gained in recent months all but guarantees that the United States will remain caught in the jaws of Iraq for the foreseeable future.
Such success comes at a cost. U.S. casualties in Iraq have recently declined. Yet since Petraeus famously testified before Congress last September, Iraqi insurgents have still managed to kill more than 100 Americans. Meanwhile, to fund the war, the Pentagon is burning through somewhere between $2 billion and $3 billion per week. Given that further changes in U.S. policy are unlikely between now and the time that the next administration can take office and get its bearings, the lavish expenditure of American lives and treasure is almost certain to continue indefinitely.

But how exactly do these sacrifices serve the national interest? What has the loss of nearly 4,000 U.S. troops and the commitment of about $1 trillion -- with more to come -- actually gained the United States?

Bush had once counted on the U.S. invasion of Iraq to pay massive dividends. Iraq was central to his administration's game plan for eliminating jihadist terrorism. It would demonstrate how U.S. power and beneficence could transform the Muslim world. Just months after the fall of Baghdad, the president declared, "The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the
Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution." Democracy's triumph in Baghdad, he announced, "will send forth the news, from Damascus to Tehran -- that freedom can be the future of every nation." In short, the administration saw Baghdad not as a final destination but as a way station en route to even greater successes.

In reality, the war's effects are precisely the inverse of those that Bush and his lieutenants expected. Baghdad has become a strategic cul-de-sac. Only the truly blinkered will imagine at this late date that Iraq has shown the United States to be the "stronger horse." In fact, the war has revealed the very real limits of U.S. power. And for good measure, it has boosted anti-Americanism to record levels, recruited untold numbers of new jihadists, enhanced the standing of adversaries such as
Iran and diverted resources and attention from Afghanistan, a theater of war far more directly relevant to the threat posed by al-Qaeda. Instead of draining the jihadist swamp, the Iraq war is continuously replenishing it.

Look beyond the spin, the wishful thinking, the intellectual bullying and the myth-making. The real legacy of the surge is that it will enable Bush to bequeath the Iraq war to his successor -- no doubt cause for celebration at AEI, although perhaps less so for the families of U.S. troops. Yet the stubborn insistence that the war must continue also ensures that Bush's successor will, upon taking office, discover that the post-9/11 United States is strategically adrift.

Washington no longer has a coherent approach to dealing with Islamic radicalism. Certainly, the next president will not find in Iraq a useful template to be applied in Iran or Syria or Pakistan.

According to the war's most fervent proponents, Bush's critics have become so "invested in defeat" that they cannot see the progress being made on the ground. Yet something similar might be said of those who remain so passionately invested in a futile war's perpetuation. They are unable to see that, surge or no surge, the Iraq war remains an egregious strategic blunder that persistence will only compound.

Andrew J. Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University. His new book, "The Limits of Power," will be published later this year.

On May 13, 2007, Bacevich's son, also named Andrew J. Bacevich, was killed in action in Iraq, when he was killed by a suicide bomber south of Samarra in Salah Ad Din Province. The younger Bacevich, 27, was a First Lieutenant. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 8th U.S. Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Coalition of the Wilting- 2008

From Parade Magazine January 13, 2008

Who's Left In The Coalition?

When the U.S. invaded Iraq in the spring of 2003, we had 47,200 combat troops from three nations with us. In March 2004, there were 24,000 troops from 33 countries.

Today, the number of foreign troops has dropped below 12,000, according to the Brookings Institution’s Iraq Index. That includes 4500 British troops, 2000 from the former Soviet Republic of Georgia and 1200 from South Korea.

Other coalition members, such as Spain, Italy and Japan, left Iraq months or years ago. By this summer, the numbers could diminish by an additional 50%. Britain and South Korea are halving their forces, and Georgia is pulling out 1700 troops. The new prime ministers of Australia and Poland also have promised to remove all of their soldiers—600 and 900, respectively—which would leave the foreign troop strength under 6000. (Right now, the U.S. has about 160,000 troops there.)

Says Brookings’ Michael O’Hanlon: “The military mission in Iraq is increasingly just a U.S.-Iraqi enterprise.” He adds that we can expect less help as time passes, “even given improvements on the ground and a new President.”

Iraq War vs the Economy

Time online recently posted an article called Will Iraq Return as a Campaign Issue? The article talks about how the state of the economy has replaced the war in Iraq as *the* issue in the presidential campaign. At the one year anniversary of the surge, the announced "success" of the surge has many people thinking the war is over. Speaking to troops in Kuwait, the president reminded his audience that last year's strategy shift was initially scorned in the U.S. but has turned out to be remarkably effective. I'm sure the families of the 900 soldiers who were killed since the surge was announced might not agree with the president or with those that believe the war is over.

Of course the state of the US economy is worrisome. As unprecedented numbers of homeowners are facing foreclosure, the unemployment rate is creeping up, the weakness of the US dollar and the need for a dose of Dramamine to try to keep up with Wall Street these days; it's no wonder the economy hasn't taken a place in the front seat sooner. Many people believed the president when he told the country the the economy is fine, don't worry, go shopping, he said. What's not to like about that?

We can be naive, but let's not be stupid. There is enough evidence now that the cost of the war and the state of the US economy are directly connected. Not to be simplistic, but if the administration wasn't spending as much money as it is in Iraq, perhaps there might be a chance for at least some of our economic issues to be addressed.

Let's remember the ### Iraq War Cost as they grow astonishingly by the second. How can we not connect the dots between the economy and the ongoing occupation in Iraq? The weekly cost of the war in Iraq is $275 million per day. That adds up to $4100 per household. Is that working for you and your community? Can you think of other ways that your tax dollars could be better spent?

If you want to know exactly how much money your community, your county or your state is spending and what the trade-off might be, please check the National Priorities Project. You can see what could have been purchased instead of a 5 year war, including how many people could have been provided with Health Care, how many elementary School Teachers could have been hired, how many affordable housing units or homes with Renewable Electricity, and many others.

You cannot have a conversation about the costs of war without talking about the loss of our blood and treasure; the human cost of war. Our country has lost 3923 members of the military who were serving our country in Iraq with at least 30,000 wounded. The population of Iraq has suffered immeasurably, too. 2007 was the worst year for casualties and while the recent drop in deaths is some good news, there is no guarantee that that trend will continue. Remind the candidates that 70% of Americans want war to end.

Do not let the media or the candidates distract you. The economy and the war in Iraq are important issues that must be addressed by anyone who sees themselves as the 44th president of the United States. These issues are explicably and forever connected and we must not let anyone tell us otherwise.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Maj Andrew Olmsted - Rest in Peace

Maj Andrew Olmsted was a soldier serving in Iraq. He was a prolific blogger for the Rocky Mountain News in Denver and on a blog called Obsidian Wings where he posted as G'Kar. In his initial posting in the News, on his blog called From the Front Lines, from May 2007, Andrew wrote:

I hope to bring a snapshot of what so many U.S. troops are doing back for the average American to read about and understand. My specific experiences will be unique to me but I hope that they will serve to bring a picture of the war that is sometimes hard to bring into focus for the people back home.
It seems that he did bring a snapshot to the average American, so few of whom know anyone who is serving their country in the military, let alone anyone who has died. Yes, Maj Olmsted and another member of his unit, Capt Tom Casey, were killed in Iraq on 1/3/08.

Andrew had thought about the possibility of his death, and while unlikely; still, he had provided his friend at Obsidian Wings with a "last letter" or final post. His final posting is a gift. In his final blog posting, Andrew asked eloquently that no one use his death to support their politics. He also gave little indication in that posting to his own political feelings.

I do ask (not that I'm in a position to enforce this) that no one try to use my death to further their political purposes. I went to Iraq and did what I did for my reasons, not yours. My life isn't a chit to be used to bludgeon people to silence on either side. If you think the U.S. should stay in Iraq, don't drag me into it by claiming that somehow my death demands us staying in Iraq. If you think the U.S. ought to get out tomorrow, don't cite my name as an example of someone's life who was wasted by our mission in Iraq. I have my own opinions about what we should do about Iraq, but since I'm not around to expound on them I'd prefer others not try and use me as some kind of moral capital to support a position I probably didn't support. Further, this is tough enough on my family without their having to see my picture being used in some rally or my name being cited for some political purpose. You can fight political battles without hurting my family, and I'd prefer that you did so.

Andrew's final story is not about politics, it is about the raw wounds that are the result of a soldier's death. It is about those left behind to find a new normal without Andrew. The final story on the web, with the news of Andrew's death apparently began on 1.3.08 at 4:09 with a heart wrenching post to Andrew's Times blog, from Tom Casey's brother

My name is Jeff Casey and I am CAPT Tom Casey's younger brother. Three army guard members arrived at our door today to tell us that Tom was killed in
small arms fire today (1/3/08). They also told us that both his wife and my monther had already been notified of which neither had actually occoured. I am writing to you to determine if my brother has actually fallen in small arms fire like they said or if the army got that piece of information wrong as well. If you get this and the information turns out to be false, please have Tom contact us as soon as possible. Thank you

The nightmare for family and friends had just begun with this first pebble dropping into the water. Because of Andrew's blogs, news of Andrew & Tom's deaths would soon touch the lives of so many average Americans. While Andrew's blogging had given insight into the average Joe's life in Iraq, the announcement of his death would actually affect his many reader's and those who would hear of Andrew in his death. For many, it would be their first touch of a war death.

The people who knew Andrew and the people who knew of him are different. The people who knew him; his family, his friends, soldiers he had met along his career, school mates, teachers, friends of family, etc suffer this casualty first hand. And when people know "of" a soldier who has died and there is some connection through a family member, a family member's co-worker, a newspaper article, a website, a blog posting, the war hits home and becomes personal and very real. As a parent of a fallen soldier, we do not know that our loved one's life touched others and we do not know how. With the internet, amazingly, we soon find out.

I did not know Andrew, but with the announcement of his death, I soon knew of him. Andrew had become the face of a soldier serving in Iraq to his readers as many posted. He engaged with followers of his blog and many considered Andrew to be a friend. That the internet allows people to widely share their "Andrew story" at his death is a concept or phenomenon that would have been unknown in less technological times. It becomes important for people who hear news, especially like this, to document their feelings somewhere. That there is one or more repository on this world wide web, these comments and postings becomes part of the fabric of this soldier's life.

On Memorial Day 2004, when the announcement of my son, Lt Ken Ballard's death became public, the comments on his website started arriving within hours. I'm not sure if the comments brought more comfort to Ken's family and friends or to those who posted their emotions and heartbreak. We were finding out how this devastating news was affecting us and we would soon find out how it affected others. As the news spread, the number of postings to his website increased, arriving every few minutes. While I was trying to process the news that Ken was never coming home, at the same time I was finding out that my son had touched so many people along the way and that people needed to let me know. I was finding out that people did care about the soldiers, my soldier, and they needed to tell me. I will always be grateful for those people who took the time to write.

The responses to Andrew's death at his final posting are raw, gut wrenching and honest. The news of a soldier's death should be all of the above. If you can read through them and not weep, I worry about your soul. It soon becomes apparent how Andrew's war death touched so many lives.

Jesus Christ. I'm sitting here crying at my desk.
Posted by: LizardBreath January 04, 2008 at 01:18 PM
I don't think I've ever cried at work before.
Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw January 04, 2008 at 01:21 PM
No words.
Posted by: john miller January 04, 2008 at 01:28 PM
My condolences to Andy's friends and family and this community.
Posted by: (No) Free Lunch January04, 2008 at 01:31 PM
Oh, no.
Posted by: Katherine January 04, 2008 at 01:32 PM
OMG. I’m dumbstruck. This is so awful.
Posted by: OCSteve January 04, 2008 at 01:34 PM
I had to read the first couple of sentences a few times to understand (believe?) what I was reading. What awful news.

Posted by: hairshirthedonist January 04, 2008 at 01:36 PM
I'm just numb here. I hate this damn war.
Posted by: Incertus (Brian) January04, 2008 at 01:37 PM
Oh my god.
I have a stack of DVDs about to go out in the mail to him, per email discussion.
Oh. My. God.
Nightmares come true for so many of us.
Fucking fuckding
fucking god.
Posted by: Gary Farber January 04, 2008 at 01:37 PM
I am flabbergasted. In utter disbelief. Hilzoy, is there anything we as a community can do for Andrew's family? Simple condolences hardly seem sufficient.
Posted by: Phil January 04, 2008 at 01:38 PM
Lucky me gets to cry at home.
I was worried that something was up yesterday -- Andy had said he'd be online and wasn't, and then, by chance, I saw a press release about two people being killed in an ambush in Diyala, and a third wounded. I was telling myself it wasn't Andy, and that the internet service was down, ever since.
Andy was such a great person. That was one of our points of disagreement, though. I just wish I had done a better job of convincing him on that one point, or that he could have seen himself the way other people did, if only for a moment.

Posted by: hilzoy January 04, 2008 at 01:40 PM
His poor family.
Posted by: Cala January 04, 2008 at 01:43 PM
Oh, no. :( Like several of the folks before me, I've got tears now.
What Phil asks, about his family.
Posted by: Bruce Baugh January04, 2008 at 01:43 PM
I feel like I've been kicked in the gut.
Oh, god, no.
Sorry, G'kar/Andy: I'm crying for you, and I'm
enraged at how your life was thrown away.

Posted by: CaseyL January04, 2008 at 01:43 PM
I'm with LB. What a fine man.
Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet January04, 2008 at 01:44 PM
I can't speak. I just vomited.
I was going to the post office this afternoon to mail him the disks

and so many more.....

The story of Andrew's death caught fire in the blogosphere. Andrew's story was picked up and linked to dozens of blogs and news stories. Even as Andrew's story put such a public face to this war, it is no different from other US military casualties, in that families and friends of 3909 casualties are devastated by the loss and have to figure out how to go on without their loved one. I don't doubt that their responses were not the same as those of Andrew's friends. Being touched by the war changes your life, regardless of your politics.

In his final post, Andrew cautions us too think about a decision to go to war If everyone who feels this pain (of my death) keeps that in mind the next time we have to decide whether or not war is a good idea, perhaps it will help us to make a more informed decision. Because it is pretty clear that the average American would not have supported the Iraq War had they known the costs going in. I am far too cynical to believe that any future debate over war will be any less vitriolic or emotional, but perhaps a few more people will realize just what those costs can be the next time.

Nearly 5 years into the occupation of Iraq, it surprises me that for many, this is the first time that they have been touched by the war. It is an example of how the burdens and sacrifices of this war are affecting only a small percentage, 1%, of Americans- the military and their families. Regardless of your politics, the death of a soldier, every soldier should affect you. They are dying in your name. The military is following orders of their Commander in Chief, the president. Regardless of your politics, you can (and should) support the warrior even if you do not support the war.

As another Gold Star mom, I offer my condolences and virtual hugs to the Casey and Olmsted families and friends during this difficult time. It doesn't get better; it just gets different.