What we can learn from the Mormons

Mitt Romney, the last of 2 Mormon candidates running for President, spent a couple of his early years as a missionary overseas. While on that mission he was proselytizing and living in a religious environment, during the time that his brain was going through a major change. For we homo-sapiens critical development of the brain is occurring from 18 to 22 years of age, where 30% of the neural connections are made. That sounds like a good environment to send a young person into while they develop their adult brains.

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During those critical 18~22 years of age, Mormon kids enjoy safe and tranquil years thinking about peace and religion, while many of us are sending our sons and daughters into war zones to be immersed in fear and hostility. In the war zone our kid’s brains are washed in fear and anger peptides for prolonged periods of time, and as the body rejuvenates the new cells scream for more of the same, fear and violence peptides. Thus, such and environment creates a physical addiction to aggression and may very well permanently damage the neural connections. When our kids come home from the war zones, they bring their war zone brains with, and can disrupt our society with violent behavior and an inability to function normally.

We’ve got to wonder, why do we do this to our children and society? We have to think that the Mormons are smarter than we because they apparently have a higher regard for the well being of their offspring and our society as a whole. This is why I find this part of the Mormon lifestyle superior to non-Mormons. Their kids come home peaceful and well developed, and ours come home with brain damage of varying degree.

I abhor the idea of missionaries invading other cultures, but I think we need to learn the care of our offspring better from what the Mormons do. But do we need to become Mormons, or send our children on Missions to give our youth the same opportunity to develop outside fear and violence? We do not.

What we do need to do is first stand up for our children, when the money hungry in our nation start wars that aren’t necessary. This requires an amount of intellectual honesty, to stand back from the flag-waving fray and ask serious questions as to the validity of the government’s claim that any given war is necessary. The second requirement would be, if we find the war unnecessary, to stand up and declare the government liars and crooks, and to take a public and visible position against that war. The third requirement would be to make sure that our kids are not involved in wars that don’t need to happen.

How many of our children veterans must come home with brain damage of some kind before we begin to do what the Mormons do, and change the way we care for them?

A Cry for Help that Never Came

Ester Contreras is an attractive young lady who was married to the late Cpl. Leonardo Contreras. In the year 2008 they were living on base at Camp Pendleton and were blessed with the recent arrival of a baby girl.

Leonardo was, by nature, an outgoing, amiable young man and had a positive outlook on life. However, after two tours in Iraq, he returned to Ester and his daughter a changed man. He was sullen and depressed. He had witnessed combat and couldn’t remove the war that waged in his mind. Cpl. Contreras was in all probability suffering from Post Traumatic Stresses Disorder, also known as PTSD.

One evening, Ester woke up because she could not breathe. Two very strong hands were wrapped around her throat in a death like vise grip. Ester, with all the strength she had, removed a few fingers and let out a scream. Leonardo fell back onto his pillow and cried out for help. Ester and Leonardo had a long conversation and she convinced him to seek psychiatric treatment. Leonardo quickly agreed for you see he had attempted suicide and feared that he might kill his wife, his daughter and himself.

In the middle of the night they drove to the Balboa Navel Hospital in San Diego. Leonardo told them that he attempted to strangle his wife and had also attempted suicide. By law, the hospital had to report the incident to the sheriff’s office and that is exactly what they did. The Sheriff arrested Leonardo and put him in jail. A few days later his jail keepers found him dead in his cell. He hung himself. . Ester felt that Balboa hospital had failed Leonardo and her family. I’m sure that she often thinks that if he got the proper medical help he would be with her today.

At the risk of sounding judgmental about what people or organizations should or should not do, may I suggest that, perhaps, if the personnel at the hospital had asked a couple of probing questions they might have learned that Leonardo was waging a private battle in his mind brought on by witnessing some horrific events totally out of the realm of normal human behavior and brought on by his two tours of duty in Iraq.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) left untreated can result in drug abuse, suicide, marital problems unemployment and in some cases criminal behavior.

What’s the answer? The department of Veterans affairs is currently under funded and burdened by heavy bureaucracy

May I count on you to call your congress people and senators to ask that they consider more funding and encourage the Department of Veteran Affairs to work on reducing the amount of bureaucracy so that we can do a better job of supporting our returning military personnel.

The process is simple and straightforward. Here is how it works:

1. Contact the Capital Switch Board at 1-202-224-3121
2. If you are uncertain as to who is your congressional representative they will ask you to provide your zip code and they will determine who your representative is and then will immediately transfer you to your congressional representative’s office

Thanks for you help on this most important issue.

San Diego Veterans for Peace on the Subject of Volunteerism

San Diego Veterans for Peace on the subject of volunteerism: The life blood of our organization.

Volunteerism is, in most cultures, an activity that is imbedded into a concept of sharing. It brings significant benefits to society and seems to be a very natural way that people throughout the world display their caring and love for their fellow man.

For example, some years ago, the United Nations held a world summit in the Hague to discuss how volunteerism is manifested in the different cultures throughout the world. Here is what one African discussion group had to say regarding the subject:

“Whenever there is a funeral we work together. Women draw water, collect fire wood and collect maize flour from well wishers while the men dig the graves and bury the dead. We work together on community projects like molding bricks for a school.”

What a beautiful expression of love. It is the very essence of man’s love for his fellow man. I am absolutely astounded by the recent outpouring of help on the part of the San Diego Veterans for Peace “family”. Notice that I used the word “family” rather than chapter. That word jumped into my head immediately when thinking of the efforts of VFP. I’m sure it is the connection I am making with all the outstanding efforts that everyone has made under the umbrella of our “Campaign for Compassion” project.

Trust me, all of this humanitarian work will spill over into our efforts in the year 2012. To everyone at San Diego Veterans for Peace thank you and keep up the good work.

Think About This…Why Are So Many Veterans Against This War?

1. We do not want more of our troops to be exposed to the Depleted Uranium that our government uses on its bombs and ammo. Of the nearly 700,000 veterans who served in Desert Shield & Desert Storm, more than 300,000 have sought VA health care, & more than 200,000 have filed VA disability claims. President Bush insulted our sick and dying vets when he slashed $275 million from the health care budget of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

2. Donald Rumsfeld recently insulted our vets stating that those who fought and died for this country – sent to wars by Hawks like him – were pretty much a waste of time. *

3. We are about to set a new precedent in our nation. By engaging in a first strike policy against a country that is not attacking us and does not threaten our Constitution, we are about to become an aggressor country. This is precisely what we fought against in WWII when we went to WAR against the Fascism of Hitler. This first strike precedent has been soundly rejected in the Nuremberg Judgment for which we put Nazis leaders to death.

4. War does not bring peace or security. History has shown us that war always leaves the places that it is waged unstable and chaotic. Germany after World War I, Yugoslavia after the Civil War, and Afghanistan after both the Soviet and the American invasions are good examples of this effect. Modern warfare not only destroys the infrastructure of civilization, but the majority of the casualties are ordinary, “civilian” people. After war, even with outside aid, it takes decades for the physical, psychological, and social wounds to heal. It is during this unstable time that people become desperate enough to follow and believe in terrorist movements. Bombing Iraq back to the stone age again is only going to give motivation and power to terrorists across the world, and create more anti-US terrorists in the years to come. There will always be extremists and terrorists like Osama bin Laden or Timothy McVeigh. But there don’t always have to be people to follow them. Bin Laden was successful in recruiting and convincing potential terrorists in part because he could point to US aggressions in the first Gulf War, and across the world (Iran, Libya, Colombia, Panama) and say “These maniacs have to be stopped!” But what if he and other terrorist leaders didn’t have anything to point at? What if our country weren’t universally disliked by the common people? President Bush said that terrorists “Hate us because of our freedom”. That’s a lie. We’re hated because we hack and kill and run our well-armed men and women around the globe without a care about who we’re hacking, killing or running over. Finally, even if we ‘won’ the war in Iraq and put in a new government, there’s no guarantee that we’d be any safer. After all, we built up the military in Afghanistan, and put Saddam Hussein into power in Iraq. What makes us think we’ll do any better this time?

5. War is not supported by the international community. It should be a very strong statement that only one other country, Great Britain, is willing to stand beside us in this proposed war. The reasons are clear: Iraq hasn’t shown itself to be a threat, and there are no good reasons to wage war. This is why the UN, and 99% of the nations on earth don’t support war with Iraq. But instead of the UN’s non-support causing us to re-think our actions, our Government has continued on, headstrong, without a care about what the rest of the world thinks. Pres. Bush even went so far as to tell the U.N. that it would become “irrelevant” if it didn’t agree with our war push. A strange moment in history: the governing body that was designed to prevent war, told that it would be irrelevant unless it supports an unfounded war. And the U.N. is a good place to look when trying to get a historical perspective on our actions. Thinking back, there was another time in history when a country wanted to invade another country, against the better judgment and will of the international community. But then, as now, the community backed down, and appeased the aggressor. Hitler’s Germany took over Poland, and the terror of World War II was beginning. Iraq has not show any aggression towards other countries since the Gulf War, and we’ve invaded several sovereign countries.. Based on their actions, which country do you think has aspirations to take over the world?

6. War. Kills. Innocent. Human. Beings.Take a second an put yourself in Iraq during the war. Not in the place of a soldier or Saddam Hussein, but in the place of a mother or father, with children, living in Baghdad. There are airplanes dropping bombs around you day and night. You haven’t slept more than a few hours in weeks. Your family is terrified — if they’re all still alive, and no one knows when or where the next attack will happen. It’s not too difficult to relate to people in that circumstance. Think about how you felt after September 11th. About how unsure you were of when or where or if there’d be another terrorist strike. And understand that that feeling is exactly what we’re putting the Iraqi people through. The only difference is, they won’t have just one huge explosion that kills innocent people — they’ll feel this way every day for the entire war — and we’ll be the reason it’s happening. According to estimates by UNICEF and the World Health Organization, more than 400,000 children under the age of 5 have died from the first gulf war and the sanctions we’ve placed on Iraq since the first Gulf War. Now we’re talking about declaring war on these people again, so we can kill thousands more. Is this the legacy you want from your America?

* http://www.takebackthemedia.com/pentagoon2.html, http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Jan2003/t01072003_t0107sd.html

Ten Reasons Why Many Gulf War Veterans Oppose Re-Invading Iraq

By Anonymous, AlterNet – September 9, 2002

With all the war fever about re-invading Iraq, the press and politicians are ignoring the opinion of the veterans of our last war in the Gulf. But we veterans were there, and we have unique and critical first-hand knowledge of the course and consequences of warfare in Iraq. Our opinions should be solicited and heard before troops deploy for battle, not after they have returned wounded, ill or in body bags.

Another invasion of Iraq in 2002 will be very different from the invasion of 1991. The war’s mission has changed in the intervening years, from removing Iraq from Kuwait to removing the entire Iraqi government and military establishment from power. Because the goal of the U.S. military has changed, the Iraqi army may retreat to the cities, where they may face better odds than in the desert.

During the open desert tank battles of ’91, U.S. tanks out-classed and out-fought obsolete Iraqi tanks, and U.S. infantry captured tens of thousands of poorly supplied Iraqi soldiers operating without command and control from Baghdad. But in the urban warfare scenario of 2002, pitched infantry skirmishes and ambushes in cities may present a more level battlefield for Iraqi troops fighting in their hometowns. The Iraqi military can be expected to fight for each block within each city with the most ruthless means available. When faced with the impending overrun of their nation, the Iraqi military didn’t hesitate to use chemical weapons against Iran.

Because of these significant differences, here are 10 reasons why, as a Gulf War combat veteran, I oppose a second Gulf War as a costly and preventable mistake.

1. U.S. troops are vulnerable to Iraqi chemical and biological warfare agents — if Iraq is capable of using them. The gas masks, detection alarms and protection suits don’t work, according to internal Department of Defense documents uncovered during investigations by the U.S. General Accounting Office. This leaves U.S. troops highly vulnerable to chemical and biological attack. U.S. chemical and biological warfare agent casualties in 2002 could be significantly higher than in 1991. Only a few months ago, the Pentagon sent out a press release stating 140,000 U.S. soldiers were exposed to low-levels chemical agents near Khamisiyah, Iraq during the Gulf War.

While these soldiers appeared to return home healthy, many tens of thousands face long-term disabling medical problems that are difficult to treat.

2. Scientific evidence shows that even low-level chemical exposures are dangerous. According to a recent National Academy of Sciences report (Gulf War and Health, September 2000), low-levels of chemical warfare agents cause long-term medical problems. This conclusion is based on research resulting from the sarin attack in Japan in 1995.

3. Research shows long-term adverse side effects from mandatory vaccines given to U.S. soldiers deploying to the war zone. According to the product label insert made by BioPort in Michigan, the sole producer, the experimental anthrax vaccine has caused several deaths. The National Academy of Sciences this year concluded there are some risks to the hotly debated vaccine.

4. The Gulf War battlefield remains radioactive and toxic. Scientific research funded by the military and released two years ago links exposure to depleted uranium (DU) ammunition with cancer in rats. Solid depleted uranium bullets, ranging in size from 25mm to 120mm, are used by U.S. tanks, helicopters and planes to attack enemy tanks and armored personnel carriers. The Gulf War battlefield is already littered with more than 300 tons of radioactive dust and shrapnel from the 1991 Gulf War. Another war will only increase the radioactive and toxic contamination among U.S. soldiers. As of today, U.S. troops are not fully trained about the hazards of depleted uranium contamination, even though Congress enacted a law in 1998 requiring extensive training, especially for medical personnel.

5. Research shows long-term adverse side effects from mandatory pills given to U.S. soldiers deploying to the war zone. According to testimony before Congress (Rand Corporation, 1999), the experimental pyridostigmine bromide (PB) anti-chemical warfare agent pills “can’t be ruled out” as linked to Gulf War illness. During the war, soldiers were told to take one pill every eight hours. After the chemical alarms sounded, some soldiers, out of legitimate fear for their lives, took more than the prescribed amount. To date, the long-term consequences of PB pills remain largely unknown.

6. The Iraqi civilian opposition was abandoned by U.S. troops in the first Gulf War. After U.S. troops had liberated Kuwait and conquered southern Iraq at the end of February 1991, former President George H.W. Bush encouraged the Iraqi opposition, mainly civilians, to rise up against the Iraqi dictatorship in March 1991. However, former President Bush left the rebels twisting in the wind to be ruthlessly killed by the Iraqi army’s Republican Guard flying helicopters allowed by the cease-fire arranged by U.S. military and political leaders. U.S. troops in southern Iraq in March 1991 were ordered not to interfere. How can U.S. troops or Iraqi rebels be confident this won’t happen again? Long oppressed by the Iraqi military, what will the civilian population do if Iraq is liberated? The American public won’t support a long-term occupation and high casualties.

7. Many post-cease-fire military actions of the first Gulf War were deplorable. In March 1991, the Iraqi army was in a full route inside Iraq. Against orders, former General Barry McCaffrey slaughtered thousands of retreating Iraqi soldiers after the cease-fire (documented in the article, “Overwhelming Force,” by Seymour Hersh, The New Yorker, 2000). Many U.S. soldiers returned home with serious objections about the course and consequences of such actions, including the horrific carnage of the “highway of death,” littered with hundreds of destroyed cars, tanks and human remains (see “Prayer at Rumayla” by Gulf War veteran Charles Sheehan-Miles, Xlibris, 2001). Will there be another massacre of Iraqi soldiers? Will Iraqi troops slaughter U.S. soldiers in retaliation, killing U.S. prisoners or retreating U.S. soldiers? And will the press be allowed onto the battlefield to record what really happens?

8. No one has been held accountable for arming Iraq with chemical and biological weapons from 1980 to 1990. A recent news article reported that top aides for former presidents Reagan and Bush armed Iraq with these weapons during Iraq’s war against Iran between 1980 and 1988 (“Officers Say U.S. Aided Iraq in War Despite Use of Gas,” New York Times, Aug. 18, 2002). Some of these former George H.W. Bush aides now work for President George W. Bush. These advisors did nothing to stop the sale of the chemical agents to Iraq, did nothing to stop the use of the agents by Iraq, and did nothing to tell the world about Iraq’s crimes, even when the world learned Iraq used poison gas against civilians. These top political aides have remained silent for more than 14 years, and many refused to comment on the recent news reports.

9. U.S. allies in Europe oppose invading Iraq. They have refused to supply soldiers, funding or logistical support. Some of the serious U.S. battlefield casualties from 1991 were sent to U.S. military hospitals in Germany. Where will our casualties be flown to for emergency care if Germany follows through on its policy to remain neutral and not allow the use of German airspace? This contrasts sharply with the more than 30 nations allied with the U.S. during Desert Storm in 1991. Today, the U.S. has no Arab allies. In 1991, the U.S. forgave billions in outstanding loans owed by Egypt to buy its support. Now Egypt and other Middle Eastern nations oppose a second invasion of Iraq. If something goes wrong, where will U.S. troops retreat if Saudi Arabia won’t allow U.S. troops within its borders? We must avoid another Gallipoli.

10. The Department of Veterans Affairs will not be able to care for additional casualties because VA can’t even take care of current VA patients. Most veterans now wait six months to see a VA doctor, and most veterans wait more than six months to receive a decision on a VA disability claim. Many of those waiting in line are Gulf War veterans, many with unusual illnesses. According to VA, of the nearly 700,000 veterans who served in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, more than 300,000 have sought VA healthcare, and more than 200,000 have filed VA disability claims. Two weeks ago, President Bush slashed $275 million from the healthcare budget of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Although the Iraqi government is a corrupt dictatorship that must eventually be removed, current proposals to remove the government by deploying hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops are deeply flawed. A premature attack against Iraq, especially when the public opposes it, would be a horrible mistake. Since 1990, more than 400 U.S. soldiers have died in the Gulf War theater of operations. Untold hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, both soldiers and civilians, also died. A second invasion of Iraq for one man is not worth one more life; let’s use common sense and avert a second Gulf War.

The author is a Gulf War combat veteran.