Saturday, August 01, 2009



U.S. Out Now! From Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and all U.S. bases around the world; End all U.S. Aid to Israel; Get the military out of our schools and our communities; Demand Equal Rights and Justice for ALL!


Bay Area United Against War Newsletter
Table of Contents:




DEMONSTRATE! Demand that the US denounce the coup in Honduras! Monday afternoon, August 3, 4pm - to 6pm at the Federal Building, 450 Golden Gate. Ave, SF.

The new Bay Area Latin America Solidarity Coalition (BALASC) is demonstrating to demand that the United States refuse any recognition of the coup government in Honduras and refrain from interfering in Honduras' internal affairs.

At this week's meeting of BALASC, it was generally agreed that this is an indirect attack on the ALBA (the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean), a new model of co-operative regional economic integration that rejects U.S. and neo-liberalism's Free Trade agenda in the Americas.

There is fear that, if this coup succeeds and the U.S. continues to promote it, other countries, like El Salvador, will be next. We will be regressing to the bad old days and bloodshed of the 1980s and before.

A letter will be delivered to Nancy Pelosi. Please call your representatives and the White House and tell them what you think.

Bay Area Latin America Solidarity Coalition
"We are a broad-based grassroots volunteer organization- our goal is to educate the communities on the popular process in Latin America and the Caribbean, and to mobilize people in defense of democracy and against US aggression, destabilztion and coups d'etat."

Emergency Delegation (August 7-17) to Honduras sponsored by Global Exchange, endorsed by the Bay Area LASC and led by Andres Conteris of Nonviolence International and Democracy Now!.
August 07, 2009 - August 17, 2009

Global Exchange's emergency delegation to Honduras seeks to bring attention to the June 28th military coup d'etat against democratically-elected President Manuel Zelaya and the continuing human rights abuses by the military government. Facilitated by Democracy Now and Nonviolence International's Andres Conteris, we will highlight the socio-political and economic circumstances leading to the forced exile of the constitutional government and the efforts by civil society, indigenous, religious, labor, non-governmental and human rights organizations in resisting the de facto military regime of Roberto Michelletti.

Based out of Tegucigalpa and the surrounding countryside, the delegation will ensure an international presence to accompany Honduran community leaders at risk of persecution and document human rights abuses to disseminate to media outlets. Given the increasing political and economic volatility on the ground, coupled with the repression of constitutional rights such as freedom of expression and assembly, this program will offer participants the opportunity to exercise citizen diplomacy and solidarity with the people of Honduras and their democratic process.

Cost: $900

Price Includes:

The $900 cost is a rough amount, subject to change depending on the conditions on the ground. This fee will cover accommodation, food and honorariums to the organizations with which we meet, as well as facilitation and interpretation costs. It will also cover preliminary reading materials.

How to Register:

We must receive your application and a non-refundable deposit of $400 ASAP. Payments by Mastercard or Visa are welcome.

In some cases, a limited number of partial scholarships are available for low-income applicants.

Make your reservation online now!

Contact Sneh with any questions about this trip, or call toll-free 1-800-497-1994 ext. 221.

Trips on related issues:
Labor and Economy
Peace and Conflict


National Call For Action And Endorsements at the
G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh, PA
Sept. 19 - 25, 2009

Endorsers (list in formation): Iraq Veterans Against the War Chapter 61, Pittsburgh; PA State Senator Jim Ferlo; Veterans for Peace Chapter 047, Pittsburgh; National Assembly to End the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations; Thomas Merton Center Pittsburgh; Codepink Pittsburgh Women for Peace; Bail Out The People; Green Party of Allegheny County; World Can't Wait; ISO (International Socialist Organization); WILPF (Women's International League for Peace and Freedom) Pittsburgh; Socialist Action; Ohio Valley Peace

Activists from Pittsburgh, the U.S., and across the globe will converge to protest the destructive policies of the G-20 - meeting in Pittsburgh this September 24-25.

The Group of Twenty (G-20) Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors represents the world's economic leaders, intimately connected to the most powerful multi-national corporations that dominate the global economy. Their neo-liberal policies have squandered billions on war, plunged economies into deep recessions, worsened social, economic and political inequality, and polluted the earth.

We believe a better world is possible. We anticipate involvement and support from like-minded people and organizations across the country for projected actions from September 19-25:

People's Summit - Sept. 19, 21-22 (Saturday, Monday, Tuesday)

A partnership of educators and social justice groups is organizing a People's Summit to discuss global problems and seek solutions that are informed by the basic principles of genuine democracy and human dignity. This will bring together informed speakers and panels to discuss problems we face and possible solutions, also providing interactive workshop discussions.

Mass March on the G-20 - Friday, Sept. 25:
Money for human needs, not for war!
Gather at 12 noon, march to the City County Building downtown

A peaceful, legal march is being sponsored by the Thomas Merton Center, an umbrella organization that supports a wide variety of peace and justice member projects in Pittsburgh. We will hold a mass march to demand "Money for human needs, not for war!"


To endorse, E-mail:
Or contact: Thomas Merton Center AWC, 5125 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15224

Several other events are being planned by a wide variety of community and social justice groups in Pittsburgh.

For more information and updates please visit:



Sign up here and spread the word:

On October 10-11, 2009, we will gather in Washington DC from all across
America to let our elected leaders know that *now is the time for full equal
rights for LGBT people.* We will gather. We will march. And we will leave
energized and empowered to do the work that needs to be done in every
community across the nation.

This site will be updated as more information is available. We will organize
grassroots, from the bottom-up, and details will be shared on this website.

Our single demand:

Equal protection in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states.

Our philosophy:

As members of every race, class, faith, and community, we see the struggle
for LGBT equality as part of a larger movement for peace and social justice.

Our strategy:

Decentralized organizing for this march in every one of the 435
Congressional districts will build a network to continue organizing beyond




This is a must-see video about the life of Oscar Grant, a young man who loved his family and was loved by his family. It's important to watch to understand the tremendous loss felt by his whole family as a result of his cold-blooded murder by BART police officers--Johannes Mehserle being the shooter while the others held Oscar down and handcuffed him to aid Mehserle in the murder of Oscar Grant January 1, 2009.

The family wants to share this video here with you who support justice for Oscar Grant.



U.S. national anti-war assembly calls for freedom for Ahmad Sa'adat and Palestinian prisoners

The July 10-12, 2009 U.S. national conference of the National Assembly to End the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations unanimously approved a major resolution in support of freedom for Ahmad Sa'adat and all Palestinian prisoners.

Over 250 anti-war and progressive activists attended the conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, representing dozens of organizations and groups across the United States. The National Assembly includes trade unionists, veterans, students, local antiwar coalitions, women's organizations, national leaders of the major antiwar coalitions, immigrant rights activists, racial justice activists and organizations, and many others.

Monadel Herzallah, a Palestinian organizer, president of the Arab American Union Members' Council and national coordinator of the US Palestine Community Network - Popular Conference presented the resolution at the conference, where he spoke at the major Saturday evening panel. In his presentation, he called for an end to U.S. aid to Israel and called for trade unions, churches, universities, cultural centers and other institutions to cut all ties with Israel and Israeli entities, and stressed the need to confront racism and oppression facing the Palestinian and Arab communities and other racially and nationally oppressed communities within the United States. He concluded by stressing the need to support Palestinian political prisoners, highlighting the growing campaign of solidarity with Ahmad Sa'adat and all prisoners. He discussed Sa'adat's hunger strike against prison repression as well as his leadership in the Palestinian national movement, and the direct involvement and responsibility of the U.S. for the imprisonment of Sa'adat.

Ahmad Sa'adat is the General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. A Palestinian national leader, he is one of 39 Palestinian Legislative Council members and government ministers imprisoned by Israel, and one of thousands of Palestinian activists, students, workers, trade unionists, men, women and children held in the prisons and detention centers of the occupier. He was imprisoned by the Palestinian Authority since 2002 under U.S. and British guard before being kidnapped in an Israeli military raid on the PA prison where he was held. He has since been sentenced to 30 years in Israeli prison for his political activity and has remained a strong leader of the prisoners' movement as well as a national and international symbol of the Palestinian struggle for justice and freedom. Over 400 international organizations and individuals recently signed on to a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon urging freedom for Ahmad Sa'adat and all Palestinian prisoners.

The Campaign to Free Ahmad Sa'adat congratulates the National Assembly for its important resolution, that passed with the unanimous approval of the delegates. Only one other resolution passed with such unanimous support - a resolution to condemn the military coup in Honduras and stand in solidarity with the Honduran people against the coup and U.S. imperialism. We welcome such resolutions from organizations around the world. Please send your resolutions and statements in solidarity with Ahmad Sa'adat to the Campaign at

The full text of the resolution is below:


for the National Assembly National Conference, July 10-12, 2009

WHEREAS, Israel currently holds over 11,000 Palestinians as political prisoners, including men, women and children, and one out of every four Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza has been subject to political arrest or detention, including 40% of Palestinian men from the West Bank and Gaza, and

WHEREAS, the arrest, detention and imprisonment of Palestinians is directed by a series of over 1500 Israeli military regulations that can be changed at any time by the regional military commander, and Palestinians arrested by the Israeli military are often relocated to Israeli military prisons outside the West Bank and Gaza, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and as the Israeli military continues to abduct Palestinians on a daily basis and imprison them in these military prisons, and

WHEREAS, Palestinians abducted by the Israeli military are subject to psychological and physical torture and abuse, especially during the period of interrogation, which can last for up to 180 days, including up to sixty days in which a Palestinian prisoner may not be seen by an attorney, and

WHEREAS, over half of all Palestinian political prisoners and detainees have not been tried, and

WHEREAS, nearly one thousand Palestinians are held in "administrative detention," a system of detention without charge or trial, that is indefinitely extensible for successive six-month periods, confronted only by secret evidence that is impossible to refute, and

WHEREAS, those Palestinian detainees that are tried are brought before an Israeli military court, in which Palestinians' rights to a fair trial are systematically violated, presided over by three judges, only one of which is required to have any legal training, and

WHEREAS, the Israeli military courts exist only as a function of the illegal military occupation, and thus can never provide a legitimate or fair trial to Palestinian political prisoners, and

WHEREAS, Palestinian national leaders, including Ahmad Sa'adat, General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Marwan Barghouti, and 37 other members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, are systematically targeted for political arrest and imprisonment, and

WHEREAS, the most basic of political activities, including simply being a member of most Palestinian political parties, are sufficient to serve as "charges" against Palestinian political prisoners and are met with substantial sentences, and

WHEREAS, Ahmad Sa'adat and five other Palestinian political prisoners were arrested by the Palestinian Authority in 2002, and were transferred to Jericho Prison under U.S. and British guard as a condition of a settlement between then PA President Yasser Arafat and Israel in May 2002, and

WHEREAS, during his time in PA prison, Sa'adat was never charged with any crime nor tried for any offense; his release was ordered by the Palestinian High Court, and supported by numerous international organizations, including Amnesty International, and

WHEREAS, on March 14, 2006, the U.S. and British monitors at Jericho Prison left their posts, shortly before the inception of a ten-hour siege of the prison by the Israeli military that ended in the death of two Palestinians, the injury of twenty-three more, and the abduction of Ahmad Sa'adat and five other political prisoners from Jericho to Israeli military prisons, and

WHEREAS, Ahmad Sa'adat was sentenced by an illegitimate military court to 30 years in prison for 19 political offenses, including membership in a prohibited organization, holding a post in a prohibited organization, and incitement, for giving a speech after the Israeli assassination of his predecessor, Abu Ali Mustafa, in 2001, and

WHEREAS, Ahmad Sa'adat and his attorneys consistently refuse and refused throughout his trial to recognize the authority of a military court that is an instrument of occupation, and

WHEREAS, political imprisonment has been one part of a deliberate strategy to deprive Palestinians of their leaders, educators, writers, journalists, clergy, unionists, and popular activists from all political orientations, as part of the dispossession and repression of the Palestinian Arab people in the interests of colonialism and occupation for over sixty years, including the denial of millions of Palestinian refugees' right to return home, and

WHEREAS, as Ahmad Sa'adat said in his statement to the court of January 14, 2007, " This trial cannot be separated from the process of the historical struggle in Palestine that continues today between the Zionist Movement and the Palestinian people, a struggle that centers on Palestinian land, history, civilization, culture and identity," and

WHEREAS, Ahmad Sa'adat has been a leader among Palestinian prisoners and recently completed a nine-day hunger strike against Israeli policies of isolation and solitary confinement against Palestinian prisoners, and is currently in isolation until September 17, has faced serious health problems, and has been denied family visits from his wife for months and from his children for years, and

WHEREAS, the United States government bears direct responsibility for the situation of Ahmad Sa'adat, and oversaw his imprisonment in PA prison for four years and was complicit in his abduction and kidnapping by the Israeli military during its attack on Jericho prison, and

WHEREAS, there is an international campaign to free Ahmad Sa'adat, and all Palestinian political prisoners, and as the National Assembly has a history of supporting struggles for justice and freedom, and

WHEREAS, the political imprisonment of thousands of Palestinians is made possible by the billions of dollars in economic and military support as well as the vast political and diplomatic support given to Israel by the United States,

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the National Assembly to End the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations calls for the immediate freedom of Ahmad Sa'adat and all Palestinian political prisoners and detainees, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the National Assembly shall actively support the Campaign to Free Ahmad Sa'adat and all campaigns to free all Palestinian political prisoners and detainees, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the National Assembly shall endeavor to issue statements and publicize the cases of Palestinian political prisoners and detainees, and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the National Assembly shall endeavor to support the struggles and organizing of Palestinian political prisoners, and the work of activists and organizations on the ground working for justice and freedom for Palestinian political prisoners and the cause of freedom for which these thousands of prisoners are held - of self-determination, liberation and return for all Palestinians in exile and in all of historic Palestine

The Campaign to Free Ahmad Sa'adat


Condemn Honduran Coup and Restore Honduran President Zelaya NOW!

Sign the Emergency Petition!

To: President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

CC: Vice President Joe Biden, Congressional leaders, U.N. General Assembly President d'Escoto-Brockmann, U.N. Secretary General Ban, and major media representatives including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press, and Reuters.

I demand that the Barack Obama administration and the U.S. Congress unequivocally condemn the unconstitutional and anti-democratic military coup in Honduras and insist that the military regime and the newly appointed but illegitimate president of Honduras restore President Zelaya to office, free all the imprisoned popular leaders and remove the curfew. I further demand that the U.S. Ambassador to Honduras be recalled immediately until such time as President Zelaya is restored to office.


(Your signature will be appended here based on the contact information you enter in the form)

Sign the Petition Online


Troy Anthony Davis is an African American man who has spent the last 18 years on death row for a murder he did not commit. There is no physical evidence tying him to the crime and seven out of nine witnesses have recanted. New evidence and new testimony have been presented to the Georgia courts, but the justice system refuses to consider this evidence, which would prove Troy Davis' innocence once and for all.

Sign the petition and join the NAACP, Amnesty International USA, and other partners in demanding justice for Troy Davis!

For Now, High Court Punts on Troy Davis, on Death Row for 18 Years
By Ashby Jones
Wall Street Journal Law Blog
June 30, 2009

Take action now:


Committee To Save Mumia Abu-Jamal
P.O. Box 2012
New York, NY 10159-2012

New videos from April 24 Oakland Mumia event

Donations for Mumia's Legal Defense in the U.S. Our legal effort is the front line of the battle for Mumia's freedom and life. His legal defense needs help. The costs are substantial for our litigation in the U.S. Supreme Court and at the state level. To help, please make your checks payable to the National Lawyers Guild Foundation (indicate "Mumia" on the bottom left). All donations are tax deductible under the Internal Revenue Code, section 501(c)(3), and should be mailed to:

It is outrageous and a violation of human rights that Mumia remains in prison and on death row. His life hangs in the balance. My career has been marked by successfully representing people facing death in murder cases. I will not rest until we win Mumia's case. Justice requires no less.

With best wishes,

Robert R. Bryan
Lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal


Short Video About Al-Awda's Work
The following link is to a short video which provides an overview of Al-Awda's work since the founding of our organization in 2000. This video was first shown on Saturday May 23, 2009 at the fundraising banquet of the 7th Annual Int'l Al-Awda Convention in Anaheim California. It was produced from footage collected over the past nine years.
Support Al-Awda, a Great Organization and Cause!

Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, depends on your financial support to carry out its work.

To submit your tax-deductible donation to support our work, go to and follow the simple instructions.

Thank you for your generosity!


FLASHPOINTS Interview with Innocent San Quentin Death Row Inmate
Kevin Cooper -- Aired Monday, May 18,2009
To learn more about Kevin Cooper go to:
San Francisco Chronicle article on the recent ruling:
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling and dissent:


Support the troops who refuse to fight!




1) How Kidneys Are Bought And Sold on Black Market
By Rebecca Dube
July 29, 2009

2) Casualties of War, Part I: The hell of war comes home
July 24, 2009
Casualties of War, Part II: Warning signs
July 24, 2009

3) Murder, Suicide, Kidnappings by Iraq Vets
Interview by Amy Goodman

4) Urgent Report on Upcoming Antiwar Activity
By Bonnie Weinstein,
July 31, 2009

5) Living in Tents, and by the Rules, Under a Bridge
This Land
July 31, 2009

6) Farm Workers' Union Sues California Agency Over Rules on Heat Safety
July 31, 2009

7) Bankers Reaped Lavish Bonuses During Bailouts
July 31, 2009

8) When Auto Plants Close, Only White Elephants Remain
July 31, 2009

9) Could the great recession lead to a great revolution?
A look at mass protests during the past 500 years reveals surprising clues.
By Immanuel Ness
July 30, 2009

10) Democrats sell out California's poor, elderly and disabled in budget deal
Posted By blockreportradio
On July 28, 2009 @ 11:13 am
In News and Views, SF Bay Area
by Lynda Carson

11) Anger Has Its Place
Cambridge, Mass.
Op-Ed Columnist
August 1, 2009

12) Cuba Suspends Communist Party Congress and Lowers Projection for Economy
August 1, 2009

13) Alabama Area Reeling in Face of Fiscal Crisis
August 1, 2009

14) $100 Million Payday Poses Problem for Pay Czar
August 2, 2009

15) Prolonged Aid to Unemployed Is Running Out
August 2, 2009


1) How Kidneys Are Bought And Sold on Black Market
By Rebecca Dube
July 29, 2009

Six months ago, Ronen came to the United States from Israel on a life-or-death mission. He needed a kidney transplant, or he would die.

[ Extract: "...Scheper-Hughes did not respond to interview requests; however, she told the New York Daily News and WNYC public radio that Rosenbaum recruited impoverished kidney sellers from Moldova - where, she said, she visited a village where 20% of the men had sold a kidney..." ]
Soon after he arrived and moved into a donated basement apartment in Brooklyn, a man approached him and offered to give him what he wanted most in the world - for a fee. Ronen would have to pay $160,000 for a kidney; the "donor" would get $10,000.

Ronen is 35, and he has endured nightly dialysis sessions for 15 years. The Forward is not publishing his last name to protect his privacy. Because of his failing health, he cannot work. His rabbi raised money to get him to New York because organ donations are so rare in Israel. Today, his dream is simple: to get a kidney transplant and "to live a normal life, to marry and to work, and to make a family."
But there were two problems with the broker's offer: He could promise only that the black market kidney would match Ronen's blood type, not his antibodies, and Ronen didn't have anywhere near the asking price. So he turned down the man - but not without some regrets.

"He says to me, 'Even if you are nice, even if you make a lot of contacts, you need a kidney, Ronen, not just talking,'" Ronen said. "And he's right."

Ronen is still looking for a donor. The man who, by all indications, approached him, Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, is looking at a possible five-year federal prison sentence.

Rosenbaum was arrested July 23, and charged with conspiracy to transport human organs. It is perhaps the most bizarre subplot of the FBI's massive money laundering and corruption investigation that yielded 44 arrests in New Jersey and Brooklyn, including the mayors of Hoboken, Secaucus and Ridgefield; two state assemblymen; five rabbis, and numerous other public officials.

According to the criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey, Rosenbaum told an undercover federal agent on July 13 that he'd been brokering kidney sales for 10 years from his home in Brooklyn.

"I am what you call a matchmaker," Rosenbaum said, according to the complaint, before assuring the undercover agent that he'd brokered "quite a lot" of kidney transplants, including one two weeks prior to their conversation.

Rosenbaum is the first person charged in the United States with trafficking in live human organs, medical ethicist Arthur Caplan said. His arrest has illuminated a dark side of the medical world, where the desperately poor sell body parts to the desperately ill, brokers make a profit and medical centers turn a blind eye.

"There is probably more of this going on," said Caplan, who serves as director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania and is co-directing a United Nations task force on international organ trafficking. "It is a very lucrative business."

The exposure of the organ-trafficking operation surprised most of the medical establishment, who knew of such activity happening overseas but not in the United States. But Rosenbaum's alleged business was an open secret for years among a certain community of Jewish transplant seekers.

"Over the years, dozens of people have asked me to help them get in touch with 'Isaac - the organ broker from Brooklyn.' I always refused to do so," said Robert Berman, founder and director of the New York-based Halachic Organ Donor Society, which encourages organ donation among observant Jews in the United States, Israel and other countries.

Berman said that while he personally supports the idea of changing the law to allow people to get paid for giving someone else a kidney - after all, he noted, doctors get paid for doing the operation - he does not condone any illegal activity.

"The black market is obviously not ideal. People get ripped off," he said.

Berman founded the Halachic Organ Donor Society to combat the notion that Jewish law does not permit organ donation. Because of that misperception, he said, Israel has one of the lowest organ donor rates in the world, which is why many Israelis travel to the United States in hopes of finding a match.

"Jews have no problem putting themselves on the list to get an organ, but when it comes to donating, they have a lot of religious reasons not to," Berman said.

An expert in the organ black market said that Rosenbaum was America's main broker for an international trafficking network. Nancy Scheper-Hughes, a professor of medical anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, said she told the FBI about Rosenbaum's operation back in 2002.

Scheper-Hughes did not respond to interview requests; however, she told the New York Daily News and WNYC public radio that Rosenbaum recruited impoverished kidney sellers from Moldova - where, she said, she visited a village where 20% of the men had sold a kidney. According to the criminal complaint, Rosenbaum told potential clients that the kidney sellers came from Israel.

Scheper-Hughes said that the kidney sellers described Rosenbaum as a thug who threatened them with a pistol if they expressed hesitation once they arrived in the United States for the operation.

But to potential clients, Rosenbaum presented a kind and caring face.

"He tried to help me," Ronen said of his would-be broker. Ronen related that even after he turned down the offer, the broker called and gave him advice on how to find a volunteer kidney donor. "My feeling is that he is a good person, I can trust him," Ronen said.

Medical centers interview potential transplant donors to make sure they are suitable matches, and a psychological screening is usually included, as well. Because paying for organs is illegal, Rosenbaum would create fictional relationships between the recipient and the seller, according to the criminal complaint, and would coach both of them on what to say.

"I put together the story," Rosenbaum said, according to the complaint. "Could be neighbors, could be friends from shul, could be friends from the community, could be friends of his children... business friends."

More careful screening probably would expose fake relationships, Caplan said, but clearly that didn't happen, as Rosenbaum allegedly operated his trafficking ring successfully for a decade without detection.

"Some hospitals just don't care," Caplan said, noting that medical centers make about $100,000 per kidney transplant. "They want to make the money and do the transplant - they're not picky."

Caplan opposes legalizing the sale of human organs, saying that exploitation is inevitable no matter what the legal status. Medical centers should standardize and tighten their donor screenings, he said. According to Caplan, the going rate for kidney sellers ranges from $500 in India to $10,000 in Israel.

"The people who sell are almost always incredibly poor. They're usually up to their eyeballs in debt," Caplan said. "The people who are involved in this are past the point of desperation. They're not making some sort of calculated decision."

The black market for kidney donation is thriving because demand far outstrips supply. More than 80,000 people are on the kidney transplant waiting list in the United States, and every year about 4,500 die while waiting, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Last year, 16,517 transplants were performed in the United States: 10,550 with cadaver organs from people who died, and 5,967 from living donors.

For people like Ronen, who have been playing by the rules, there's not much to do but wait and hope - even though time is running out.

"It is very difficult," Ronen said. "We need a miracle."

Contact Rebecca Dube at


2) Casualties of War, Part I: The hell of war comes home
July 24, 2009
Casualties of War, Part II: Warning signs
July 24, 2009

Before the murders started, Anthony Marquez's mom dialed his sergeant at Fort Carson to warn that her son was poised to kill.

It was February 2006, and the 21-year-old soldier had not been the same since being wounded and coming home from Iraq eight months before. He had violent outbursts and thrashing nightmares. He was devouring pain pills and drinking too much. He always packed a gun.

(A word of caution about the language and content of this story: Please see Editor's Note)

"It was a dangerous combination. I told them he was a walking time bomb," said his mother, Teresa Hernandez.

His sergeant told her there was nothing he could do. Then, she said, he started taunting her son, saying things like, "Your mommy called. She says you are going crazy."

Eight months later, the time bomb exploded when her son used a stun gun to repeatedly shock a small-time drug dealer in Widefield over an ounce of marijuana, then shot him through the heart.

Marquez was the first infantry soldier in his brigade to murder someone after returning from Iraq. But he wasn't the last.

Hear the prison interviews with Kenneth Eastridge.

Marquez's 3,500-soldier unit - now called the 4th Infantry Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team - fought in some of the bloodiest places in Iraq, taking the most casualties of any Fort Carson unit by far.

Back home, 10 of its infantrymen have been arrested and accused of murder, attempted murder or manslaughter since 2006. Others have committed suicide, or tried to.

Almost all those soldiers were kids, too young to buy a beer, when they volunteered for one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Almost none had serious criminal backgrounds. Many were awarded medals for good conduct.

But in the vicious confusion of battle in Iraq and with no clear enemy, many said training went out the window. Slaughter became a part of life. Soldiers in body armor went back for round after round of battle that would have killed warriors a generation ago. Discipline deteriorated. Soldiers say the torture and killing of Iraqi civilians lurked in the ranks. And when these soldiers came home to Colorado Springs suffering the emotional wounds of combat, soldiers say, some were ignored, some were neglected, some were thrown away and some were punished.

Some kept killing - this time in Colorado Springs.

Many of those soldiers are now behind bars, but their troubles still reach well beyond the walls of their cells - and even beyond the Army. Their unit deployed again in May, this time to one of Afghanistan's most dangerous regions, near Khyber Pass.

This month, Fort Carson released a 126-page report by a task force of behavioral-health and Army professionals who looked for common threads in the soldiers' crimes. They concluded that the intensity of battle, the long-standing stigma against seeking help, and shortcomings in substance-abuse and mental-health treatment may have converged with "negative outcomes," but more study was needed.

Marquez, who was arrested before the latest programs were created, said he would never have pulled the trigger if he had not gone to Iraq.

"If I was just a guy off the street, I might have hesitated to shoot," Marquez said this spring as he sat in the Bent County Correctional Facility, where he is serving 30 years. "But after Iraq, it was just natural."

More killing by more soldiers followed.

In August 2007, Louis Bressler, 24, robbed and shot a soldier he picked up on a street in Colorado Springs.

In December 2007, Bressler and fellow soldiers Bruce Bastien Jr., 21, and Kenneth Eastridge, 24, left the bullet-riddled body of a soldier from their unit on a west-side street.

In May and June 2008, police say Rudolfo Torres-Gandarilla, 20, and Jomar Falu-Vives, 23, drove around with an assault rifle, randomly shooting people.

In September 2008, police say John Needham, 25, beat a former girlfriend to death.

Most of the killers were from a single 500-soldier unit within the brigade called the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, which nicknamed itself the "Lethal Warriors."

Soldiers from other units at Fort Carson have committed crimes after deployments - military bookings at the El Paso County jail have tripled since the start of the Iraq war - but no other unit has a record as deadly as the soldiers of the 4th Brigade. The vast majority of the brigade's soldiers have not committed crimes, but the number who have is far above the population at large. In a one-year period from the fall of 2007 to the fall of 2008, the murder rate for the 500 Lethal Warriors was 114 times the rate for Colorado Springs.

The battalion is overwhelmingly made up of young men, who, demographically, have the highest murder rate in the United States, but the brigade still has a murder rate 20 times that of young males as a whole.

The killings are only the headline-grabbing tip of a much broader pyramid of crime. Since 2005, the brigade's returning soldiers have been involved in brawls, beatings, rapes, DUIs, drug deals, domestic violence, shootings, stabbings, kidnapping and suicides.

Like Marquez, most of the jailed soldiers struggled to adjust to life back home after combat. Like Marquez, many showed signs of growing trouble before they ended up behind bars. Like Marquez, all raise difficult questions about the cause of the violence.

Did the infantry turn some men into killers, or did killers seek out the infantry? Did the Army let in criminals, or did combat-tattered soldiers fall into criminal habits? Did Fort Carson fail to take care of soldiers, or did soldiers fail to take advantage of care they were offered?

And, most importantly, since the brigade is now in Afghanistan, is there a way to keep the violence from happening again?

Maj. Gen. Mark Graham, who took command of Fort Carson in the thick of the murders and ordered marked changes in how returning soldiers are treated, said he hopes so.

"When we see a problem, we try to identify it and really learn what we can do about it. That is what we are trying to do here," Graham said in a June interview. "There is a culture and a stigma that need to change."

Under his command, nearly everyone - from colonels to platoon sergeants - is now trained to help troops showing the signs of emotional stress. Fort Carson has doubled its number of behavioral-health counselors and tightened hospital regulations to the point where a soldier visiting an Army doctor for any reason, even a sprained ankle, can't leave without a mental health evaluation. Graham has also volunteered Fort Carson as a testing ground for new Army programs to ease soldiers' transition from war to home.

Eastridge, an infantry specialist now serving 10 years for accessory to murder, said it will take a lot to wipe away the stain of Iraq.

"The Army trains you to be this way. In bayonet training, the sergeant would yell, 'What makes the grass grow?' and we would yell, 'Blood! Blood! Blood!' as we stabbed the dummy. The Army pounds it into your head until it is instinct: Kill everybody, kill everybody. And you do. Then they just think you can just come home and turn it off. ... If they don't figure out how to take care of the soldiers they trained to kill, this is just going to keep happening."

Satan's throne

The violence started to take root in Iraq's Sunni Triangle, where the brigade landed in September 2004.

"It was actually beautiful. There were lots of palm trees," said Eastridge, who is a working-class kid from Kentucky who had never really been anywhere before he joined the Army.

But, he said, "the situation was ugly."

It was a little more than a year after President George W. Bush had landed on an aircraft carrier in front of a "Mission Accomplished" banner to announce the end of major combat operations. But the situation was growing worse. Rival militias of Sunnis and Shiites were gaining strength. Looting had crippled cities. And in a war with no clear front or enemy, the average monthly body count for U.S. soldiers was up 25 percent from a year earlier.

The brigade was in the worst of it.

None of it bothered Marquez.

In high school, he had been a co-captain on the football team and had run track. After graduation, he joined the infantry because the Army commercials full of guns and helicopters looked like the coolest job in the world.

Eastridge felt the same way. He was the closest thing to a criminal in the group of soldiers later arrested for murder. He was trying to get his life together after growing up with a mother addicted to cocaine. He had been arrested for reckless homicide when he was 12, after he accidentally shot his best friend in the chest while playing with his father's antique shotgun. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to counseling. After that, his record had been clean.

Felons cannot join the Army unless they get a waiver from a recruiter. Eastridge said he called a dozen until one told him, "Son, it looks like you just need someone to give you a chance."

Like Marquez, Eastridge wanted to join the infantry because, he said, "that's where you get to do all the awesome stuff."

After basic training, the Army sent both men to South Korea.

They were in different battalions of what became the 4th Brigade Combat Team. Marquez was in the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment; Eastridge, the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment. Both were foot soldiers. Both were surrounded by other young, gung-ho GIs with no battle experience. And both learned in the spring of 2004 that they were going to Iraq.

"We thought it would be cool. It was what we signed up for," Marquez said.

It turned out not to be cool at all.

Ramadi, where Marquez landed, had a population the size of Colorado Springs but had no dependable electricity, let alone law and order. Sewage ran in rubble-choked streets. The temperature sometimes rose to 120 degrees.

And when roadside bombs blew civilians to bits, soldiers said, packs of feral dogs fought over the scraps.

Pat Dollard, a documentary filmmaker embedded in the area at the time, wrote that it looked like "Satan had punched a hole in the Earth's surface, plopped down his throne, and set up shop."

Marquez was assigned to hunt terrorists in the city. Eastridge patrolled the highway between Ramadi and Fallujah. With him was Bressler, a quiet, friendly gunner later arrested with Eastridge for murder.

Going on a mission usually meant tramping house to house in dust-colored camouflage, loaded down with rifles, pistols, body armor, ammo, grenades and water to fight the incessant heat.

Soldiers went out day and night, knocking on doors - sometimes kicking them in. They set up checkpoints. They seized weapons. They clapped hoods over suspected insurgents. They rarely found terrorists, but the terrorists found them.

A few days into the deployment, a sniper's bullet killed Marquez's lieutenant. Then another friend died in a car bombing. Then another.

Combat brigades always take higher casualties than the rest of the Army because they fight on the front lines, but, even by those standards, the 3,500-soldier brigade got pummeled. Sixty-four were killed and more than 400 were injured in the yearlong tour, according to Fort Carson - double the average for all Army brigades that have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

As the insurgents learned their craft, attacks became more gruesome.

A truck loaded with explosives careened into Eastridge's platoon, killing his squad leader, blowing fist-size holes in his platoon sergeant and pinning the burning engine against the baby of the unit, Jose Barco.

Bombs meant to kill soldiers shredded anyone in the area. Women had their arms ripped off. Old men along the road were reduced to meat.

"It just got sickening," said David Nash, a then-19-year-old private and Eastridge's best friend. "There was a massive amount of hate for us in the city."

One of the jobs of the infantry was to bag Iraqi bodies tossed in the streets at night by sectarian murder squads.

"First thing in the morning, all we would do is bag bodies," Eastridge said. "Guys with drill bits in their eyes. Guys with nails in their heads."

Eastridge said he was targeted by snipers twice. Both bullets smashed against walls so close to his face that they peppered his eyes with grit. He laughed at his luck. He loved being a soldier.

In February 2005, Eastridge was in the gun turret of his Humvee when it drove over an anti-tank mine. A deafening flash tore off the front end. Eastridge woke up a few minutes later, several feet from the smoking crater.

He sucked it up. He was bandaged up and sent back on patrol. He said cerebral fluid was leaking out of his ear.

That was the job of the infantry. Eastridge's battalion was created in World War II and became known as the "Band of Brothers." It parachuted into Normandy on D-Day and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. In Vietnam, it helped turn back the Tet Offensive and take Hamburger Hill.

Men who heard the stories of past glory almost never got a chance for their own in Iraq. The enemy was invisible. The leading cause of death was hidden roadside bombs.

Sometimes, Marquez felt his only purpose was to drive up and down roads in an armored personnel carrier called a Bradley to clear away hidden bombs.

To unwind, soldiers spent hours playing shoot-'em-up video games. They even played one based on their own unit in Vietnam. They said it offered a release. They could confront a clearly defined enemy. They could shoot, knowing they had the right guy. They could win.

In Ramadi, Marquez and other soldiers said, it felt like they were losing.

"It just seemed like the longer we were there, the worse it got," said Marquez's friend in the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, Daniel Freeman.

Freeman was knocked unconscious by a roadside bomb, but the most rattling thing, he said, was driving through the eerie calm, knowing an improvised explosive device, or IED, could kill every soldier in a Humvee without warning, or maybe just smoke one guy in the truck, leaving the others to wonder how, and why, they survived.

Hatred and mistrust simmered between soldiers and locals. Locals who waved to them one day would watch silently as they drove toward an IED the next.

"I'm all about spreading freedom and democracy and everything," said Josh Butler, another soldier in the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment. "But it seems like the Iraqis didn't even want it."

Soldiers said discipline started to break down.

"Toward the end, we were so mad and tired and frustrated," Freeman said. "You came too close, we lit you up. You didn't stop, we ran your car over with the Bradley."

If soldiers were hit by an IED, they would aim machine guns and grenade launchers in every direction, Marquez said, and "just light the whole area up. If anyone was around, that was their fault. We smoked 'em."

Other soldiers said they shot random cars, killing civilians.

"It was just a free-for-all," said Marcus Mifflin, 21, a friend of Eastridge who was medically discharged with PTSD after the tour. "You didn't get blamed unless someone could be absolutely sure you did something wrong. And that was hard. So things happened. Taxi drivers got shot for no reason. Guys got kidnapped and taken to the bridge and interrogated and dropped off."

Soldiers later told El Paso County sheriff's deputies investigating Marquez for murder that, in Iraq, he got his hands on a stun gun similar to the one he later used on the Widefield drug dealer. They said he used it to "rough up" Iraqis.

Stun guns are banned by the Geneva Conventions. Using one is a war crime, but four soldiers interviewed by The Gazette said a number of soldiers ordered the stun guns over the Internet and carried them on raids. The brigade refused to make other soldiers who served during the tour available for interviews. The Army said it destroys disciplinary records after two years, so it has no knowledge of whether soldiers in the unit were punished.

After 10 months, Marquez said, all he wanted to do was go home.

In June 2005, with a month to go, his platoon was walking across a field when a sniper's bullet smashed through his best friend's skull under the helmet.

The platoon circled its guns and grenade launchers, Marquez said, and "tore that neighborhood up."

That night, Marquez got hit. His squad had just finished hosing his friend's blood out of their Bradley when they were called out on another mission. They loaded into two Bradleys and rolled toward downtown Ramadi.

Marquez was riding in the dark, cramped rear of the lead Bradley. In a flash, a blast tore through the floor. The engine exploded. Diesel fuel spewed everywhere in a plume of fire. Marquez said he watched the driver scramble out screaming, flames leaping from his clothes.

Marquez and the others clambered into the dark street, rifles ready. Another bomb slammed them to the ground.

Then came a flurry of bullets spitting across the dirt. Marquez was hit four times in the leg.

As blood spurted from his femoral artery, Marquez said, he raised his grenade launcher to return fire and realized the storm of bullets had come from the heavy machine gun on the other Bradley, which had just come around the corner.

"They must have seen our Bradley on fire, figured it was an attack and thought we were all dead," he said this spring, shaking his head, "then just started shooting."

According to the Army, two soldiers died. Marquez said three others were wounded. Brigade commanders didn't make anyone familiar with the incident available.

Marquez was flown to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

He was still bleary on morphine on the Fourth of July weekend that he was told Bush was coming to award him a Purple Heart.

Marquez's sister, who was visiting, didn't want to see the president because she was so angry about the war and her brother's wounds, but Marquez was honored.

"I had gotten hurt, but it is part of the job. I wasn't mad at nobody," Marquez said.

He was in the hospital for three months and had 17 surgeries so he could keep his leg. Marquez was being medically discharged from the Army and could have stayed at the hospital, but he transferred to Fort Carson on Sept. 13, 2005, to spend his remaining months with his war buddies, who had just returned from Iraq.

He eventually learned to walk without a cane, but other wounds proved harder to heal. He started having nightmares about the war. He felt worthless and crippled, depressed and angry. On a visit home to California, he made his mom put away all his high school sports trophies.

The only things that made him feel better were the pain pills the doctors prescribed for him - and only if he took too many.

'Kumbaya period'

Post-traumatic stress disorder is like a roadside bomb.

The symptoms can remain hidden for months, then explode. They can cripple some soldiers and leave others untouched. And just like bombs disguised as trash or ruts in the road, PTSD can look like something else.

In many cases, it looks like a bad soldier. In addition to flashbacks and nightmares, Army studies say, symptoms can include heavy drinking, drug use, domestic violence, slacking off at work or disobeying orders.

You can often see it coming, said the most recent commanding general of Fort Carson, if you know what to look for.

Soldiers usually go through a jubilant high for a few months after they come home, Graham said. He calls this time "the Kumbaya period."

"Soldiers have served their country, they've made it back, they're home. It's all great. It's later that problems start to surface," Graham said.

Usually, problems don't show up for three to six months, he said.

When the brigade landed in Colorado Springs, most soldiers had spent a year in Iraq and a year in South Korea. Most had saved several thousand dollars. Many were old enough to legally drink in the United States for the first time. They had survived the worst of Iraq, and they were jonesing to blow off steam.

All they had to do was go through a few post-deployment debriefings that Fort Carson still uses.

Soldiers sit through classes that warn them that troops often have unrealistically rosy notions of home. They are told to be understanding with spouses and loved ones. They are cautioned to be careful with drinking and driving, and they are warned that the time for carrying a gun everywhere ended in Iraq.

All personal guns must be stored in the post's armory - not in soldiers' barracks, not in their cars and not tucked in their belts.

Then Fort Carson screens every soldier for PTSD and other combat-related problems.

If there are no red flags, the soldier can go on leave. If there are, they are referred for further diagnosis, officials at Fort Carson's Evans Army Community Hospital said.

The screening asks soldiers a long list of questions about the deployment: Do you have trouble sleeping? Are you depressed? Did you clear houses or bunkers? Were you shot at? Did you witness brutality toward detainees? Did you have friends who were killed?

"Did you shoot people? Did you kill people? Did you see dead civilians? Did you see dead Americans? Did you see dead babies? No. No. No. No." Eastridge said, mimicking how he answered the questionnaire.

"I had seen and done all that stuff, but you just lie to get it over with."

Several soldiers said the same: They lied because they didn't want the hassle of more screening.

When the young infantrymen were set free in Colorado Springs, many packed Tejon Street bars such as Rendezvous Lounge and Rum Bay. When the bars closed, soldiers said, they often picked fights in the street.

By 2006, the police were being called to break up bar brawls almost every night. Extra police were assigned to the area.

The Colorado Springs Police Department doesn't track the crime statistics of individual units, but according to the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, jail bookings of military personnel as a whole increased 66 percent in the 12 months after the brigade returned.

The "Kumbaya period" lasted about six months, soldiers said.

Eastridge said he blew through almost $27,000, mostly drinking at bars, but the first thing he did was buy guns: pistols, shotguns and an assault rifle similar to the one he carried in Iraq.

"After being in Iraq, it feels like everyone is the enemy," he said. "You feel like you need a gun so they don't come to get you."

His friends all felt the same way.

Nash slept with a loaded .45 under his pillow.

Butler kept a Glock .40-caliber with him all the time, even when he rocked his newborn baby.

Marquez bought three pistols, a riot-style shotgun and an assault rifle like the one he carried in Iraq. He carried a pistol constantly, he said, even when he went to church.

His buddy, Freeman, said he bought himself a "big, scary" snub-nose .357 revolver.

"I couldn't go anywhere without it," he said. "I took it to the mall. I took it to the bank. I even had it right next to me when I took a shower. It makes you feel powerful, less scared. You have to have it with you every second of every day."

Some returning soldiers, especially those with family members to notice their behavior, went into counseling.

More than 200 Fort Carson soldiers have been referred to First Choice Counseling Center, a private counseling service in Colorado Springs. Davida Hoffman, the director, said her counselors were unprepared for what they heard.

"We're used to seeing people who are depressed and want to hurt themselves. We're trained to deal with that," she said. "But these soldiers were depressed and saying, 'I've got this anger, I want to hurt somebody.' We weren't accustomed to that."

In units that have seen the toughest combat in Iraq, one in four soldiers can screen positive for PTSD, the director of psychiatry at Walter Reed, Dr. Charles Hoge, said in an e-mail interview.

"Many soldiers continue to be able to perform their duties very well despite having significant symptoms," Hoge wrote. But others show what he called "serious impairment," and the worse the combat and the longer units are exposed, the worse the effects.

The affliction is as old as war itself.

Eric Dean, an author in Connecticut who specializes in war's psychological toll, reviewed records from the Civil War for his 1997 book, "Shook Over Hell," and found the same surge of crime and suicide that Fort Carson has seen.

"They have been in every war," he said. "They never readjusted. They ended up living alone, drinking too much."

They were "the lost generation" of World War I. They are the veterans of Vietnam who disproportionately populate homeless shelters and prisons today.

The psychological casualties may be particularly heavy in Iraq, he said.

"In the Civil War, if you experienced really traumatic fighting, chances are you didn't make it," he said. "Today, you can be blown up multiple times and go right back into the fight."

In Vietnam, most draftees did one yearlong tour. Since the start of the Iraq war, some soldiers have been deployed three times for 12 to 15 months each.

When a soldier faces constant threat of attack, studies suggest, the brain is flooded with adrenaline, dopamine and other performance-enhancing chemicals that the body naturally produces in a fight-or-flight response. Over time, the brain can crave these stimulants, like a junkie for his fix.

When the stimulant of combat is taken away, soldiers often have trouble sleeping, said Sister Kateri Koverman, a social worker who has counseled people in war zones for almost 40 years. They can feel irritable, numb and paranoid, she said. They can sink into depression.

And they can search for another substance to replace the rush of war.

"Often they'll use booze or drugs to mask their symptoms until they become explosive," said Koverman, who moved to Colorado Springs from her convent in Ohio this year to help with the wave of PTSD. "We have a public disaster here, and no one really knows how to deal with it."

Men from the unit mostly dealt with it on their own.

Mifflin got deep into smoking pot to ease his nerves.

Nash was mixing pills and booze.

Eastridge got blotto on whatever.

Butler said he and a lot of guys started doing Ecstasy and cocaine.

Marquez started destroying himself with the pills that were supposed to help him.

For his injuries, he said, doctors at Evans prescribed him 90 morphine pills, 90 Percocets, and five fentanyl patches every three weeks.

"They were for pain," he said. "And I still had pain. But, mostly, I was using them to get high."

He could not get Iraq out of his head. Doctors prescribed antidepressants and sleeping pills, but he said they didn't help. He was saving up Percocet, then downing a handful on an empty stomach.

He said he started trading his morphine with other soldiers for an antipsychotic called quetiapine and an anti-anxiety drug called clonazepam. Improper use of either can cause psychotic reactions, anxiety, panic attacks, aggressiveness and suicidal behavior, but, Marquez said, injured soldiers traded them like children in a lunchroom swapping desserts.

"It was real common among the guys who were hurt," Marquez said.

At one point, Marquez said, he ate his three-week supply of meds in half the time, then went back to Evans claiming he had lost his pills.

He said a doctor told him security measures prevented him from giving Marquez more narcotics, but he could write the soldier a paper prescription he could fill in Colorado Springs.

Marquez agreed.

Fort Carson said privacy laws prohibit commenting on medical treatment.

Marquez's mother is a police officer in Southern California. She said when her son came home to visit at Christmas 2005, six months after being shot, she knew something was seriously wrong. He would stay in his room all day in a daze and try to down old pain pills in the medicine cabinet. He would have dreams so violent that she was afraid to wake him.

In February 2006, she said, she called his sergeants and told them he was a danger to himself and others and needed help.

She said the sergeants told her that her son would have to seek treatment on his own.

An Army spokesman said there is no Army policy on how to handle such calls. It is up to individual commanders.

The response didn't make sense, she said. As a law enforcement officer, if she shot someone, she was required to go through counseling, she said. Her son had weathered a long, gruesome combat tour, yet he had no such requirement.

Few of the young infantry soldiers felt like they needed counseling.

"We were just partying," Butler said. "Some guys went in for PTSD, but we thought that was just a bullshit excuse to get out of the Army."

Those who did seek treatment faced obstacles.

Six months after getting back from Ramadi, Marquez's friend, Freeman, who had been injured by a roadside bomb, said he started to feel "shell-shocked" and depressed and decided to go to Evans.

"I did it on the down-low because I didn't want my unit to know," he said.

The psychiatric ward was overwhelmed by soldiers, he said. Cases of PTSD at Fort Carson had climbed from 26 in 2002 to more than 600 in 2006, according to the hospital. Getting an appointment could take weeks, soldiers said. Counseling in the ward, in most cases, was in group settings only.

Freeman said the hospital staff prescribed him antidepressants and told him they were so busy that he wouldn't receive counseling for a month.

A few weeks later, on Feb. 22, 2006, Freeman got in a fight with a man he had never met, Kenneth Tatum, in the China Express restaurant on B Street. Freeman pulled out his .357 and, before he knew it, he said, Tatum was bleeding on the ground. He had shot him through the thigh.

Freeman was arrested for attempted murder and pleaded guilty to felony menacing. He served two years and got out in January. He is unemployed, living at his mother's house in Alabama. He said he still has headaches and memory problems and is getting therapy for PTSD at a nearby Veterans Affairs hospital.

Because of his crime, he is not eligible for most Army benefits.

"I was a good soldier before this," he said. "Now I'm a screwed-up Iraq vet with a felony conviction. I don't have many prospects. I was good at what I did in the infantry. . . . Too bad it followed me home."

The Army spends millions of dollars to help soldiers such as Marquez and Freeman. It has programs to mentally prepare soldiers for deployment, treat them overseas and rehabilitate them when they return. Top brass, including the highest-ranking officer in the Army, Gen. George Casey, have said taking care of returning soldiers' mental health is a top priority.

But sentiments and programs at the top sometimes don't reach the trenches, soldiers and experts said.

In infantry units such as the Lethal Warriors, soldiers said, toughness and bravery are prized above all else. Anyone who says he has PTSD is immediately thought of as not worthy of wearing the uniform, soldiers said. In Army slang, they said, he is deemed a "shit bag."

When the brigade returned home from the Sunni Triangle, sergeants sometimes refused to let soldiers seek help for PTSD and taunted them for being weak or faking it, said Andrew Pogany, a former Fort Carson special forces sergeant who now investigates complaints for the advocacy group Veterans for America

"They just don't want to deal with it," Pogany said.

Some commanders punished soldiers for displaying PTSD symptoms, soldiers said.

Mifflin, who is now unemployed and lives in his mother's house in Florida, went to a Fort Carson psychiatrist for counseling because he said he sometimes wanted to kill civilians in Colorado Springs. The psychiatrist checked him into Cedar Springs, an inpatient mental hospital in Colorado Springs. He stayed for about a week, he said.

"As soon as I got out, I had a scheduled bitching session with the sergeant so he could yell at me about what a liar I was," he said. "After they found out a guy was getting evaluated for PTSD, they would try to find any little thing to kick him out."

Dozens of soldiers who screened positive for PTSD received an "other than honorable" discharge from the Army - the equivalent of being kicked out - for infractions such as missing duty and drug use, Pogany said. If soldiers are kicked out, they often aren't eligible for free health care, counseling or other benefits that soldiers who are medically discharged with PTSD receive. Often, Pogany said, that means veterans who need help the most don't get it.

Some soldiers coming back to Colorado Springs seemed fine. Bressler, who later murdered two soldiers, seemed as nice and mellow as ever, soldiers said. He got married, always showed up for training and seemed to be doing well.

Others fell apart.

Eastridge, who had been awarded medals for achievement and good conduct, started having nightmares and mouthing off to his commanders. In March 2006, he got in a drunken fight with his girlfriend and was arrested for putting a gun to her face. After that, he said, he stopped showing up for work. He said he was AWOL on and off for six months.

"I started slapping my wife around, too," Butler said. "She just never called the police."

Butler said he was emotionally numb some days and ready to explode others. He couldn't understand why he was so angry, but he still thought PTSD was just a lame excuse.

One night, he called Eastridge and told him to come over to his house. He wanted his buddies to shoot him in the leg so he wouldn't have to go back to Iraq.

"We were all excited we were going to get to shoot him," Eastridge said.

When he got to the apartment, Barco, the platoon baby who had been burned by the exploding Humvee in Iraq, was there.

They found a dark parking lot, Eastridge said, and Barco shot Butler through the calf with a .32. Butler screamed. Blood went everywhere.

"It was hilarious," said Mifflin, who saw him shortly afterward. "He only ended up getting out of duty for a few days, but that's only part of why he did it. He also wanted the Percocets they prescribed him at the hospital."

After a number of 4th Brigade soldiers got in trouble for DUIs and drugs, the brigade increased the number of random drug tests soldiers have to take, troops said. The rate of Fort Carson soldiers testing positive in 2006 was 16 times what it had been in 2004, according to the post. Twenty percent of them were enrolled in substance-abuse programs. Most, soldiers said, were just given the boot. Nash and Butler were kicked out of the Army for snorting cocaine in the summer of 2006.

Eastridge was supposed to be kicked out too, soldiers said, but he wasn't around to be discharged.

More than 400 soldiers have been kicked out of the brigade for misconduct since the start of the war, according to Fort Carson. Only 57 were discharged for mental health reasons.

Butler went to prison for beating his wife, who was pregnant at the time. He said their child was born with severe birth defects and died. He blames it, in part, on their fights.

There is no easy way to track how many Butlers are out there - soldiers who didn't commit violent crimes until after they were kicked out of the Army and left Colorado Springs.

"That's the shadiest thing about the Army. They just throw these guys away," said Nash, now a pipeline welder in Louisiana. He said he still struggles with the effects of combat. He can't go to bars because he gets into fights, and his car is loaded with what he called "enough guns for World War III."

"The Army neglected their responsibility to take care of soldiers they trained to be this way," he said. "Most of these guys were ordinary people put in really shitty situations - the side effect is you turn good people into ravenous beasts."

So many soldiers were leaving or getting kicked out of Eastridge's company in 2006, Eastridge said, that commanders created a new platoon for them.

Marquez's battalion created a similar company, called Echo Company, soldiers said. Soldiers called it the "Shit-Bag Brigade."

An Army spokesman said it "is unknown" whether these units existed.

Marquez was assigned to the Shit-Bag Brigade even though his only offense was being too physically disabled to train with the rest of his unit. He said he had to do the menial tasks designed to punish the others, such as pull weeds along the road.

He started not showing up for duty. He took more pills. He bought more guns and kept them his in his car, he and other soldiers said.

It was no secret. Sergeants later told police that Marquez had showed off his stash of weapons. His mother said they did nothing.

Sergeants also told sheriff's deputies they thought he was abusing pills.

"Maybe if they had punished him like they were supposed to, he would not be in for murder," his mother said.

On Oct. 22, 2006, three days before Marquez was scheduled to be honorably discharged, he limped down to the Widefield drug dealer's basement, carrying a .45-caliber pistol in one hand and a 500,000-volt stun gun in the other. He shocked the dealer - 19-year-old Smith - with the stun gun and grabbed his stash of marijuana, according to witness statements to El Paso County sheriff's investigators. When the dealer tried to fight back, investigators say, Marquez shot him through the heart, picked up the shell casings, grabbed the weed and walked out.

Prosecutors said he was planning a robbery. Marquez said he was just there to buy some weed and, when a fight started over the price, his infantry reflexes took over.

"When someone grabs you or something, you're going to light 'em up," he said. "It probably won't even be that hard because it's not like it's your first time."

Marquez didn't respond to letters asking him why he used a stun gun and whether he used it in Iraq.

A week after the murder, sheriff's deputies questioned his commanders at Fort Carson in search of a motive.

Capt. David Larimer, the soldier's company commander, told detectives that Marquez had been diagnosed with PTSD, but Larimer didn't believe it. According to the detectives' written summary, Larimer said he thought Marquez was just a "whiny bitch."

'Heart of Darkness'

The day Marquez was arrested, his brigade was on its way back to Iraq.

They were sent to tame the one spot in the country that was more dangerous than their first assignment: downtown Baghdad.

"Violence is probably as bad as I've seen it, in Baghdad in particular," Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East said just weeks before the soldiers arrived. "If not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move towards civil war."

In the warren of city streets, terrorist bombs killed scores of civilians. Sunni and Shiite murder squads massacred one another by the thousands. The United Nations estimated that 3,000 Iraqis were being murdered a month.

The Lethal Warriors were assigned to one of the deadliest corners of the city, a bullet-riddled neighborhood called Al-Doura. The Warriors' battalion commander, Lt. Col. Stephen Michael, called it the "Heart of Darkness."

Eastridge showed up for duty shortly before the brigade shipped out. He was happy to be there. He never felt more alive than when he was in a war zone.

"It's almost like a religious experience to see a battlefield," he said. "To hear the explosions - to see a person bleeding out and die - see everything on fire and smell the smoke and burning flesh. It makes you truly realize what it is to be alive. Combat is the biggest rush you can have."

Since the start of his first deployment, he had covered himself in tattoos.

On his arm was a memorial to his sergeant killed by a car bomb. On his wrists were red dotted "kill lines" marking where, if needed, he could slit them. On his arm were the twin lightning bolts of the Nazi SS. Wrapping his neck like a collar were the words "BORN TO KILL, READY TO DIE."

If the Army had followed its own rules, he would not have returned to Iraq for another tour.

Army regulations bar anyone with a pending felony from deploying.

Eastridge was awaiting trial for putting a gun to his girlfriend's head. He said his commanders knew it.

But when the young soldier showed up and begged his sergeant to let him go back to Iraq, they did. The Army was evasive about if, and why, commanders knowingly deployed Eastridge with a felony hanging over his head.

Eastridge said there was a reason the unit wanted him back. He was one of the best gunners in the battalion.

Soldiers said he was "surgical" with a machine gun and utterly fearless.

"He was really good. If I had 10 Eastridges, my job would be a lot easier," said his platoon sergeant, Michael Cardenaz.

Eastridge had the most kills of anyone in his company, Cardenaz said.

He was exactly the type of soldier to have in the Heart of Darkness.

Only a few of Eastridge's buddies from the last tour were still with him. Louis Bressler, a cool, unflappable gunner, was there. So was Jose Barco, who, soldiers said, had persuaded commanders to let him return to Iraq even though he was so burned from the explosion in his previous tour that he had trouble sweating.

Many of the unit's other soldiers had been kicked out for drugs, or discharged with PTSD or other disabilities, soldiers said. The Army would not provide numbers. But for every missing soldier, there was a new kid.

Jomar Falu-Vives had signed up because his mother was a nurse stationed in Baghdad, and he wasn't going to let her go without him.

John Needham was a surfing champion from California who signed up because, with the insurgency raging, it looked as if his country needed him.

Bruce Bastien was a skinny, red-cheeked guy from Connecticut who was assigned as the new medic for Eastridge's platoon.

Not even the veterans were prepared for how bad Baghdad would be, Eastridge said.

At one point, the unit was losing a soldier a day to the hospital or the morgue.

At first, Eastridge said, he enjoyed the intensity of it. He had a competition going with Bressler to see who could kill more bad guys. His final count, he said - and his sergeant confirmed - was about 80.

But after a few months, the raids, gore and constant threat of roadside bombs started to get to him. He couldn't sleep. He was on edge all the time. Doctors at the base diagnosed him with PTSD, depression, anxiety and a sleep disorder. They gave him antidepressants and sleeping pills and put him back on duty.

When he went back to the doctors a few weeks later saying the pills were not working, his medical records show, they doubled his dose.

In the spring of 2007, as part of the surge to take back Baghdad, the 500 Lethal Warriors were moved out of their central base into 100-soldier Combat Outposts, known as COPs, scattered in the neighborhoods.

"Once we got to the COPS, it was way worse," Eastridge said. "We would have mortars and rocket fire and drive-bys every single day."

With the wounded list mounting, noncombat soldiers were pulled in to fill combat positions when guys got hit, soldiers said, and even they couldn't fill the holes. By summer 2007, the company was so depleted that Humvees designed to be manned by five soldiers were going on patrol with three, said Eastridge and his sergeant.

There was no time for mental health care in the COPs, Eastridge said. Often, his squad would come in from an all-night mission, pull off their body armor, get attacked and have to slap their armor right back on and go out. Sometimes, he said, they wouldn't sleep for days.

Eastridge's Iraqi translator introduced him to Valium as a way to relax. At first, he would just take a couple before missions. Then he was taking a couple all the time. Then he was taking a lot more.

Winning and losing it

The surge worked.

Lethal Warrior commanders designed a victory strategy based on intensive foot patrols and strong community ties, where soldiers were assigned to patrol small neighborhoods and ordered to get to know every neighbor. They built a Baghdad version of Neighborhood Watch, where locals could be the eyes and ears of the Army. Cardenaz, who started the tour carrying a cell phone so he could call his wife to say goodbye if he got shot, began handing out his number to locals as a hot line on where to find the bad guys.

During the first six months of the 15-month deployment, soldiers were attacked multiple times every day, according to an ARMY magazine article by a Lethal Warrior captain.

By the end, he wrote, they were not getting attacked at all.

In the first six months, soldiers had to collect mutilated Iraqi bodies left by murder squads every morning.

By the end, there were no bodies to retrieve.

Bomb attacks dropped to near zero.

But the victory came at a price.

Under the strain of daily violence, Eastridge, Bastien and Bressler started to lose it.

Needham did, too. A few weeks after arriving in Baghdad, he was on foot patrol when a sniper's bullet shattered his friend's head, splattering Needham with brains. In the months that followed, he was hit by six IEDs, Needham wrote in letter to his father. One blast made him hit the roof of his truck so hard that he cracked his spine.

On every occasion, his father, Michael Needham, said, his sergeant's response was to "suck it up."

For the most part, Needham did. When a rocket-propelled grenade blew a fellow soldier, Thomas Woolly, out of the gun turret of a Humvee in their convoy, Needham jumped behind the gun and started firing, Needham's father said.

"He wasn't giddy about being there," his father said. "But he was secure in what he was doing, fighting as an infantryman in an honorable way."

Then something began gnawing at him, his father said.

In the quest to win, John Needham said, some in his platoon turned ugly.

The soldier said some loaded their rifles with hollow-point bullets designed to expand on impact, making them more lethal. These bullets are banned by international treaties.

It wasn't just one platoon, either. Eastridge said soldiers in his platoon, including himself, used hollow-point bullets, too. It was easy to get them sent from home, Eastridge said. Both soldiers said some guys in their units carried illegal stun guns, as soldiers had in the first deployment.

The Army said it investigated Needham's claims and found no evidence.

But there was more to the platoon's tactics.

In a December 2007 letter to the Inspector General's Office of Fort Carson, which investigates crimes within the Army, Needham told of the atrocities he saw. His father provided a copy to The Gazette.

One sergeant shot a boy riding a bicycle down the street for no reason, John Needham said. When Needham and another soldier rushed to deliver first aid, the sergeant said, "No, let him bleed out."

Another sergeant shot a man in the head without cause while questioning him, Needham said, then mutilated the body, lashed it to the hood of his Humvee and drove around the neighborhood blaring warnings to insurgents in Arabic that "they would be next."

Other Iraqis were shot for invented reasons, then mutilated, Needham said.

The sergeants particularly liked removing victims' brains, Needham said.

Needham offered a photograph of a soldier removing brains from an Iraqi on the hood of a Humvee and other photos as evidence. His father supplied copies to The Gazette.

The Army's criminal investigation division interviewed several soldiers from the unit and said it was "unable to substantiate any of his allegations."

"Those guys were seriously whacked," Needham's father said. "And it began to grate on him."

In March 2007, Needham went to the battalion's doctor, saying he was "losing it" and needed a break, according to a summary of his service that he wrote. He was prescribed the antidepressant Zoloft and sent back to work. In May, Needham said, he went back to the doctor and was again sent back to work. In June, according to medical records, he went again. And in September. Commanders always sent him back out on patrol, he said.

Around that time, he posted a note on his MySpace page: "I'm falling apart by the seams it seems the days here bleed into each other I have to find the will to live man I miss my brothers. These walls are caving in my despair wraps me in its web, I feel I'm sinking in, throw me a lifesaver throw me a life worth living. I'm a part of death I am death this is hard to admit but this shits getting old."

A few nights later, on Sept. 18, Needham and a fellow soldier bought a contraband can of whiskey and tried to drink away their sorrows. Then Needham took out a gun and fired a shot at his head, his father said. The bullet missed. Needham was detained by his commanders for illegally discharging a firearm. After a few weeks of arguing by phone and e-mail, Needham's father convinced the unit to let his son see a doctor. The soldier was diagnosed with severe PTSD and flown to Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

"What led him to the point of such deep despair that he would attempt suicide?" his father, a retired Army officer, asked. "I understand it. He was trained as a soldier. He was a good soldier, and his group was doing things he knew was wrong. And he was in this prolonged combat situation where they have all this armor and lifesaving technology to keep them alive, but mentally, they are in pieces."

The breaking point

Eastridge started to crumble around the same time.

He had been a decorated soldier during his first tour. But in the second, his judgment melted away.

He started searching medicine cabinets for Valium while raiding houses.

Then he started stealing cash and weapons from civilians, which he said he would sell back to the Shiite militia.

He was disciplined by his battalion for stealing once, he said, after he ransacked a house, but only because it belonged to a well-connected man. Most of the time, he got away with it.

He was disciplined again when he flipped out on patrol. Someone shot at his squad from a nearby farmhouse. Eastridge fired about 20 grenades into the house, then stormed in and said he found a farmer and his two dogs in the back and spotted a shell casing from an AK-47 on the ground.

Eastridge demanded to know where the shooter was.

The man said he didn't know.

Eastridge shot one of the man's dogs, then asked where the shooter was.

The man said he didn't know.

Eastridge shot the man's other dog.

His lieutenant told him he needed to cool off and go sit in the truck.

On the way out, Eastridge passed the man's herd of a dozen goats. He leveled them with a machine gun. Then he ordered a private to shoot the man's two cows. Then he shot his horse.

"I was really (expletive deleted) losing it," Eastridge said, shaking his head.

The Army hasn't supplied disciplinary records for Eastridge or several other soldiers requested under the Freedom of Information Act, but Eastridge's account was confirmed by his platoon sergeant.

Bressler and Bastien started losing it, too.

In May 2007, Bastien went home on leave. While there, the medic was thrown in jail for beating his wife, according to police records. Bastien, who is in prison, declined to be interviewed for this story. After his arrest, the Army kept him in Colorado Springs.

In June 2007, Bressler saw his best friend killed in a firefight, according to soldiers. After that, Bressler, who had always been a mellow, stable guy whom soldiers could find at the poker table in the COP, started to withdraw, soldiers say.

In July 2007, Eastridge said, Bressler went crazy and attacked his commanding officer, threatening to kill him.

Bressler, who is in prison, declined to be interviewed. He was diagnosed with PTSD, according to his wife. The Army decided he was too unstable and dangerous to be in Iraq, so they sent him back to Colorado Springs.

Eastridge went on one more mission.

He was the gunner manning the M240 machine gun on a Humvee - a big gun that shoots 600 rounds per minute. He said he was ordered to guard the street while the rest of his platoon searched a house.

Eastridge said he told his lieutenant he was going to kill people as soon as the officer was out of sight. Then he asked the driver to put some heavy-metal "killin' music on."

His lieutenant laughed and walked off, Eastridge said.

Families were out playing soccer and barbecuing. Eastridge said he just started shooting. He pumped a long burst of rounds into a big palm tree where a few old men had gathered in the shade.

People started running. They piled into their cars and sped away. There was a no-driving rule in effect in the neighborhood, so, Eastridge said, he put his cross hairs on every car that moved.

"All I could think of was car bombs, car bombs, car bombs, and I just kept shooting," he said.

Orders came over the radio to cease fire, he said, but he kept yelling, "Negative! Negative!"

Eastridge said he shot more than 1,700 rounds. When asked how many people he killed, he said, "Not that many. Maybe a dozen."

He was court-martialed a short time later on nine counts, including drug possession and disobeying orders. Killing civilians wasn't one of them.

For that, he said, he was put on guard duty.

Then, in August 2007, sergeants found him with 463 Valium pills in his laundry and a naked female soldier in his bed, according to court testimony. His staff sergeant confronted him about the woman, and Eastridge lashed out, according to his mother, Leanne Eastridge, screaming that he would kill the sergeant, suck out his blood and spit it at his children. Eastridge was court-martialed for disobeying orders and drug possession and sent to a prison camp in Kuwait for a month.

This spring, Eastridge said it was funny that sex and drugs were what got him court-martialed, considering the things he did in Iraq, "Things that can never be told, but that everybody knew about and approved of - basically war crimes."

He got a health screening as part of the court-martial. Doctors diagnosed him with chronic PTSD, antisocial personality disorder, depression, anxiety and hearing loss. In late September 2007, his commanders decided he was too unstable and dangerous to stay in Iraq, so the Army sent him back to Colorado Springs.


Casualties of War, Part II: Warning signs
July 24, 2009

After coming home from Iraq, 21-year-old medic Bruce Bastien was driving with his Army buddy Louis Bressler, 24, when they spotted a woman walking to work on a Colorado Springs street.

Bressler swerved and hit the woman with the car, according to police, then Bastien jumped out and stabbed her over and over.

(A word of caution about the language and content of this story: Please see Editor's Note)

It was October 2007. A fellow soldier, Kenneth Eastridge, 24, watched it all from the passenger seat.

At that moment, he said, it was clear that however messed up some of the soldiers in the unit had been after their first Iraq deployment, it was about to get much worse.

"I have no problem with killing," said Eastridge, a two-tour infantryman with almost 80 confirmed kills. "But I won't just murder someone for no reason. He had gone crazy."

Hear the prison interviews with Kenneth Eastridge.

All three soldiers belonged to the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, part of Fort Carson's 4th Brigade Combat Team. The 500-soldier infantry battalion nicknamed itself the "Lethal Warriors."

They fought in the deadliest places in the war twice - first in the Sunni Triangle, then in downtown Baghdad. Since their return late in 2007, eight infantry soldiers have been arrested and accused of murder, attempted murder or manslaughter. Another two soldiers from the brigade were arrested and accused of murder and attempted murder after the first tour. Others have committed other violent crimes. Others have committed suicide.

Many of the soldiers behind bars and their family members say the violence at home is a consequence of the violence in Iraq. They came home angry, confused, paranoid and depressed. They had trouble getting effective mental heath care. Most buried their symptoms in drugs and alcohol until they exploded.

The Army is seeking new ways to care for returning soldiers and keep the violence from returning - crucial now, because the unit shipped out in May to Afghanistan, where the monthly coalition casualty rate has doubled since the beginning of the year. Soldiers are scheduled to return to Colorado Springs in spring 2010.

The first step toward solving the problem, the post's most recent commander said, is to understand it.

Maj. Gen. Mark Graham took command of Fort Carson in September 2007, just before the worst of the violence. He said that after studying the murders, he saw that soldiers rarely snap without warning. Guys who get in big trouble often get in little trouble first, and the problem grows until it explodes.

Graham calls this pattern "the crescendo."

It may start with a soldier showing up to work reeking of booze, getting arrested for domestic violence, or mouthing off to an officer.

"When a guy who had it together starts showing little problems, it could be a sign of something much bigger," he said.

Most of the soldiers now behind bars back up Graham's theory of the crescendo.

Before Bastien stabbed a woman in 2007, he was arrested three times on suspicion of beating his wife and burning her with cigarettes.

Before Bressler shot two soldiers in Colorado Springs in 2007, Eastridge said, he assaulted his commanding officer and tried to kill himself.

Before Jomar Falu-Vives, 23, allegedly gunned down three people in Colorado Springs in two drive-by shootings in 2008, his wife said she called his sergeants to warn he was liable to "take someone's life."

Before John Needham, 25, allegedly beat a woman to death in 2008, his father said, he tried repeatedly to get treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

The pattern of trouble is clear in hindsight, Graham said, but hard to spot when it is developing.

"Our challenge is to catch it early, so we can help these soldiers," he said. "We are educating young commanders on taking care of their soldiers. But it's a very tough problem."

Graham, who had one son killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq a year after his other son committed suicide while training to be an officer, made mental health a focus after taking command of Fort Carson.

He said suicide and homicide are "different reactions to the same or similar problem. You treat both in the same way."

Under his watch, Fort Carson more than doubled the number of mental health counselors. A new Army program will soon give each brigade a "master resiliency trainer" to strengthen troops' psychological fitness the way drill sergeants strengthen their muscles. A special unit has been created to track soldiers who are too physically or psychologically wounded to stay with their battalions. Soldiers visiting a doctor at Fort Carson for even a sprained ankle are now screened for symptoms of PTSD and depression. And perhaps most important, Graham said, in the Army, where mental illness has long been taboo, commanders at Fort Carson are being trained to tell soldiers it is OK to seek treatment.

"There is a culture and a stigma that need to change," Graham said.

It is unclear if the new measures can counter the entrenched Army culture or the effects of repeated deployments. Though some of the new programs have been in place for two years, the violence has not stopped.

Colorado Springs police arrested a Fort Carson soldier from the Lethal Warriors in May in the killing of a 19-year-old woman. Another soldier shot himself in the head this year. Another was arrested on suspicion of breaking a civilian's jaw in March. Another is awaiting trial in the shooting of a pregnant woman.

Graham, who handed over command of the post last week, said Fort Carson is doing everything it can to help its soldiers. "I wish I could predict how all this is going to go," he said. "I can't say it is not going to happen again."

"All I know how to do is kill people"

For Bastien, the Army medic, the crescendo started to peak just after midnight on Aug. 4, 2007, when he was driving his silver Audi to get cigarettes after a night of drinking at Bressler's apartment.

The rest of their battalion was still fighting in Iraq.

Bastien was in Colorado Springs because he had been arrested and accused of beating his wife while on leave in May 2007.

Bressler was in town because the Army had sent him back from Iraq early, in July, with PTSD, according to his wife. He was awaiting a medical discharge because, Eastridge said, he attacked an officer in Iraq.

Bastien and Bressler declined requests for interviews.

According to court documents, that night the pair spotted a drunk 23-year-old Fort Carson private they didn't know named Robert James, who was walking home from a bar, and pulled the Audi over to give him a ride.

Bastien later told police that he and Bressler decided to rob James. They drove to a dark parking lot.

Bressler pointed a .38 revolver at James and demanded his money. James pulled a few rumpled bills from his pockets - about $25. Bressler shot him twice and gathered the scattered bills.

The random crime left cops with no leads.

A little over a month later, in late September, Eastridge landed under Army escort at the Colorado Springs Airport.

The once-decorated soldier had been court-martialed in August 2007 on suspicion of possession of drugs, disobeying orders and threatening an officer. Medical records show that, after two bloody deployments, the Army diagnosed him with paranoia, depression, insomnia, antisocial personality disorder, PTSD, homicidal thoughts and hearing loss caused by constant shooting and explosions.

His Army escorts were taking him to Fort Carson - not for treatment, he said, but to get kicked out of the Army.

From there, he was going to jail. In Colorado Springs, there was a warrant waiting from a year before, when he skipped a court date on charges of putting a gun to his girlfriend's head.

At the baggage claim, Eastridge said, while his escorts waded into the crowd to grab their bags, he ran. He said he hopped in a cab, took it to a cheap hotel and called the only people in town he knew: Bastien and Bressler.

"When I met up with those guys, they were weird," he said. They were paranoid and aggressive, he said.

"They kept saying, 'Do you want to go rob someone? Do you want to go kill someone? I just thought they were kidding, but they had gone a little crazy."

Eastridge did have plans to rob someone. Compared with Iraq, it would be easy.

He wanted to do it alone, but he had no car and no gun. Bressler and Bastien had both, Eastridge said, and they insisted on coming along.

On Oct. 29, 2007, wearing all black, they attempted to rob a nightclub manager as she emerged from a club. When they botched that, they drove off and spotted a young woman named Erica Ham walking down the street. Bressler hit her with the car and she crashed onto the hood. Then Bastien jumped out to grab her bag and started stabbing her. When she tried to fight back, Eastridge pulled out a pistol and yelled for her to get on the ground.

Ham was unable to identify her attackers, and police had no leads.

The stabbing sobered Eastridge up, he said. He turned himself in for his year-old domestic violence charge and spent most of November in the El Paso County jail. He bonded out on Nov. 27. A few days later, he returned to Fort Carson, where he received an "other than honorable" discharge for possession of drugs in Iraq.

After two tours in Iraq, Eastridge was depressed, paranoid, violent, abusing drugs and haunted by nightmares. But because he was other-than-honorably discharged, he said, he was ineligible for benefits or health care. He was no longer Uncle Sam's problem. He was on his own.

"I had no job training," he said. "All I know how to do is kill people."

A few days later, on Nov. 30, 2007, Eastridge went drinking with Bastien and Bressler. According to court documents the three ran into a fellow soldier, Kevin Shields, who was celebrating his 24th birthday.

They downed shots at the downtown bars until closing, then drove around, smoking a joint, until they were lost on the west side.

In the first, dark hours of Dec. 1, 2007, Bressler and Shields got in a fight when Shields teased the tough gunner for throwing up in the car. Bressler told Bastien to pull over because he needed to puke again. Bressler leaned against a pole like he was sick, then turned around and shot Shields in the head. The soldier fell to the ground, and Bressler shot him four more times.

Bressler fished a few things out of Shields' pockets to make the shooting look like a robbery, and they sped away.

Soldiers who saw the trio drinking with Shields at Rum Bay helped police tie them to the crime, court documents said.

Bressler was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and sentenced to 60 years.

Bastien pleaded guilty to the same charge and also got 60 years.

Eastridge pleaded guilty to accessory to murder and got 10 years.

None used their experiences in Iraq as a defense.

"When I was sentenced, the judge told me 'Look at how many people go to Iraq, and how few come back and commit crimes," Eastridge said, "But that's not fair. A lot of the soldiers who go to Iraq just drive trucks or check IDs or sit in the Green Zone. Look at combat troops. And look at what kind of combat they did. My unit was in the worst neighborhood in the bloodiest part of the war. Even in my platoon, there were guys that stayed in the truck and guys that did most of the fighting. Look at that tiny number. It's not the hundreds of thousands that go, it's the few hundred that see heavy, heavy combat. It changes lives."

"Give me the gun"

The rest of the Lethal Warriors returned home from Iraq in December 2007.

Some went wild in the bars, overflowing with the same pent-up jubilation troops experienced after the first tour. Then the crescendo started.

Jose Barco, who was burned so badly in the first tour that, soldiers said, he had to beg commanders to allow him back for the second tour, was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence. Then drunken driving. Then burglary with a deadly weapon. Then he got divorced. Finally, he was arrested and accused of taking a pistol to a house party.

On April 25, 2008, he was with a crowd in the basement of a friend of a friend's house, police say, when he got in an argument, pulled out the gun and shot a round through the ceiling. There was a fight. He was thrown out. A few minutes later, when the party crowd was still standing on the front lawn, he drove by, spraying bullets. Police say one hit 19-year-old Ginny Stefanic, who was six months pregnant, in the thigh. Stefanic suffered minor injuries.

Barco, who declined to be interviewed, was arrested Jan. 7. He posted $25,000 bail and is awaiting trial for attempted murder.

It was a classic case of the pattern that Graham said most soldiers follow when they spiral out of control. Before the big stuff, there is little stuff. Catching it in time can save lives.

Fort Carson has trained key leaders to spot the warning signs.

When a soldier is drinking too much or acting out, instead of punishment, they are supposed to get help.

"But it's a very tough problem," said Graham, who ordered the new programs. "If a soldier is showing all the risk factors, what can you do? You can't lock them up. They haven't done anything. But what we can do is provide them every opportunity to get the care they need and try to break down the stigma against seeking help."

Like Barco, Jomar Falu-Vives started hitting his wife.

Soldiers say the lifelong Army brat seemed to handle Baghdad OK. Back home, Falu-Vives would go out to sing karaoke with other soldiers and go shooting at the firing range off Rampart Range Road, according to fellow soldiers.

But his ex-wife, Jolhea Vives, said he had turned mean.

He always liked to party and had a short temper, she said. But when he got back from Iraq, it was worse. Soon after, they filed for divorce.

Falu-Vives' lawyer did not respond to a request for an interview.

His ex-wife said he had episodes where he "went into combat mode." At one point, she said, he stuck a loaded .45 in her mouth.

She said she called his sergeant, saying that he was violent and was going to kill somebody, but the Army did nothing.

An Army spokesman said, "There is no specific Army policy that provides guidance on these types of situations. It is up to the soldier's chain of command."

The soldier's commanders declined to be interviewed.

On May 26, 2007, Falu-Vives was riding in the back seat of his friend and fellow soldier Rodolfo Torres-Gandarilla' Chrysler sedan on the way back from a bar, according to his arrest affidavit. Near South Circle Drive, he allegedly saw two men standing in front of a house on the corner of Flintshire Street and Monterey Road, lifted an AK-47 and started shooting. One of the men in front of the house, Army Capt. Zachary Szody, collapsed with a bullet in his knee and another in his hip.

Ten days later, Falu-Vives was cruising in his black Chevy Tahoe with Torres-Gandarilla and two other Army buddies, according to the affidavit.

Near midnight, he pulled up to an intersection five blocks from the first shooting. Amairany Cervantes, 18, and her boyfriend, Cesar Ramirez-Ibanez, 21, were setting up signs for a yard sale the next morning, the affidavit said.

"Give me the gun," police said he told a friend sitting in the back seat. He shot the woman in the back five times, police said, her boyfriend, four times. Both died almost instantly. Falu-Vives sped back to his apartment, where he stood on the balcony watching the red and blue lights converge on the spot.

He listened to sirens wailing in the night and, according to what witnesses told police, held up his hands and said, "I love that sound."

Falu-Vives' mother, Lt. Col. Marta Vives, is an Army nurse in a Combat Stress Team. She helps soldiers in war zones who are starting to lose it. It is one of a number of programs the Army has created since the war began.

When her son was patrolling Baghdad, she was stationed just a few miles away.

Reached at Fort Hood, Texas, she said the Army has many programs to help troops, but soldiers often avoid the counseling and medication offered, and leaders sometimes don't give GIs time or permission to visit.

"There is still a stigma behind getting help," she said. "That is the hardest part. It is still seen as a sign of weakness."

She said she has talked to the battalion commander of the Lethal Warriors and the commander of Fort Carson to tell them that many efforts to treat troops' mental problems are not trickling down to privates like her son.

Falu-Vives was arrested July 30, 2008.

Torres-Gandarilla pleaded guilty to accessory to murder in April and is expected to testify against Falu-Vives in August.

Falu-Vives' mother said she never saw evidence of her son having problems.

"He isn't a criminal," she said. "He never killed a fly - except when it was his job."

Before Falu-Vives could be charged with first-degree murder, another Lethal Warrior was arrested for the same thing.

"Pushed them until they broke"

John Needham struggled to find normalcy after trying to kill himself in Iraq in September 2007.

The tall California surfer had been hit by six roadside bombs before getting drunk one night in Baghdad and putting a gun to his head, his father, Michael Needham, said.

The soldier was diagnosed with PTSD, flown to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. and put on antipsychotics, an antidepressant, an antiseizure drug used to calm PTSD soldiers and a potent blood-pressure drug used to silence nightmares. Side effects of the cocktail can include hangover-like symptoms, short-term memory loss, irritability, aggression, hallucinations, sleepwalking, paranoia and panic attacks. So many of the side effects were like the symptoms of his PTSD that his father said it was hard to know if they were making him better or worse.

For a month, Needham stayed at the hospital. On Nov. 9, 2007, according to orders provided by his father, Needham's battalion commander had him transferred to Fort Carson so he could be sent back to Iraq.

"It's just bizarre, we couldn't figure out why they were doing this to him," his father said.

Needham's father and Andrew Pogany , a veterans' advocate and former Fort Carson sergeant, persuaded commanders to keep Needham from going back to Iraq so he could continue psychiatric treatment.

But, his father said, his son didn't get it.

Laws prevent the Army from discussing medical treatment of soldiers. Needham's father said his son was kept on the drugs but never received counseling.

Instead, he said, his son was berated by sergeants.

"They would write things on the chalkboard in his barracks like 'John Needham is a shit bag cry baby PTSD boohoo,'" his father said.

It was so bad that when Needham went home for Thanksgiving in 2007, his father refused to let him return to the Army.

"We basically kidnapped him," his father said. He took his son to Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego, and argued with Fort Carson until the soldier was reassigned to Balboa.

Needham was honorably discharged from the Army on July 18, 2008, with chronic PTSD and moved back to his father's house in San Clemente, Calif. But, his father said, he was not better.

"He was severely different," his father said.

John Needham was groggy and vacant from the pills. He had lost much of his hearing from bomb blasts. He often drank himself to oblivion. He was paranoid and afraid of crowds.

He begged his father to buy him an assault rifle like the one he carried in Iraq. Eventually, they compromised on a toy pistol that shot rubber BBs. Needham carried it almost everywhere, his father said.

The former soldier was going to regular counseling at a local Veterans Affairs hospital, but, his father said, it wasn't enough.

His son had frightening flashbacks. Late one night, he rummaged through the bathroom naked, smearing his face and body with cosmetics as if they were camouflage paint. He sharpened one end of a broom handle to make a weapon. His father said he found him crouching silently behind the couch. His father said his son always took off his clothes when he had a flashback.

"He needed to be committed," his father said. "He needed serious psychiatric help. I tried to put him in the hospital, but the VA said they could only treat him as an outpatient . . . I could see the train wreck coming."

On the night of Sept. 1, 2008, Needham was at home hanging out with a girlfriend in his bedroom on the ground floor. His father was two floors above, taking a shower.

A 19-year-old woman named Jacqwelyn Villagomez, whom the soldier had recently broken up with, came in. The women fought,his father said. Needham's girlfriend called the police. They arrived a few minutes later, and Needham answered the door naked and bleeding, his father said.

Villagomez's body lay in his bedroom, he said.

His father said he heard a ruckus, went downstairs and watched the police tackle his son. The soldier fought back as they put him in cuffs. Michael Needham said he stared, weeping, as his naked son lay bleeding and struggling, incoherent on the driveway as the police tasered him again and again.

John Needham is awaiting trial on suspicion of murder. In May, family members mortgaged their houses to bail him out. He is now getting inpatient treatment at a VA hospital, Michael Needham said.

"I know the Army would like to say it is not responsible for this, that it didn't train them to do this. But that is bullshit," Michael Needham said. "They trained them to kill, then when they didn't have enough men for the surge, they pushed these guys until they broke, then threw them away."


This spring, Lethal Warriors sprawled on the floor of a Fort Carson conference room, learning to take deep breaths.

They lazed on their backs in full camouflage. In. Out. And relax.

"The media says war will (expletive) you up, but that stress can also make you stronger. You just have to learn to mentally metabolize the experience," Dan Taslitz, a former Marine, told a group of sprawling soldiers.

Taslitz was there as part of a new "resiliency training" called "Warrior Optimization Systems," or WAROPS, that the 4th Brigade was testing to try to counter mental illness, violence and suicide in the ranks.

If the Army likes the results, it may take the program Army-wide, commanders said.

In the four-hour class, soldiers learn how the brain and body react to combat stress, and talk about healthy ways to respond, such as relaxation breathing, exercise and visualizing a positive outcome to a mission.

Sometimes, instructors said, controlling emotions is as simple as stepping back, identifying the feeling and saying it out loud. They call the process "name it and tame it."

The brigade plans to hold refresher courses in Afghanistan and again when soldiers return home.

Fort Carson also created a task force late in 2008 to hunt for "common threads" in the killings committed by Fort Carson soldiers.

The investigation, conducted by a team of 27 behavioral health and Army professionals, concluded with a report released July 15. The findings echo what guys in the ranks said: Their tour was bloodier than most; violence in Iraq messed them up; they started abusing drugs and alcohol; treatment for substance abuse and mental health at Fort Carson was inadequate; stigma kept soldiers from getting help; and when those so-called "risk factors" came together, guys got in serious trouble.

The report did not address other issues, such as soldiers carrying guns once they return from deployments, alleged war crimes by the unit, or the Army's deployment of soldiers with pending civilian felonies.

The study recommended better mental health care and training, programs to "ensure there is no humiliation or belittling" of soldiers seeking mental health care, and more studies to "assess a possible link between deployment, combat intensity, and aggressive behavior."

But Graham said the report does not offer a simple cure.

"We didn't see any one thing that we could identify and say, yes, this is the reason these soldiers do this," he said.

Instead, he said, Fort Carson and the Army have instituted a wide array of changes.

Evans Army Community Hospital has increased the number of behavioral health care workers from 37 to 71. Many are assigned to mobile teams within brigades, so soldiers don't have to go to the hospital to seek help.

Fort Carson also has added 16 "military family life consultants," whom soldiers and their families can visit anonymously for help with everything from relationship problems to financial concerns.

Fort Carson started referring soldiers to private counselors in Colorado Springs in 2006. The number seeking private counseling surged from 11 in 2006 to 2,171 in 2008, according to Evans Army Community Hospital.

"We see that as a sign of strength, not weakness," said Roger Meyer, Evans spokesman. "It shows we are having success in our efforts to educate soldiers on the signs of stress."

In Colorado Springs, lawyers and law enforcement agencies have created an experimental veteran's court to catch returning soldiers who get in trouble with the law and steer them toward help instead of jail. Soldiers charged with felonies will be sentenced to counseling and substance abuse treatment. The court is expected to take its first cases in August.

The Army has created Warrior Transition Units to manage the care of soldiers, like Needham, who are too mentally or physically disabled to stay with their units.

Colorado's senators urged the Army last week to include Fort Carson in a pilot alcohol abuse program.

Graham said the Army is also trying to change the culture.

All low-level leaders, he said, are now taught to treat mental illness like any battlefield injury.

"If a soldier is shot or injured, other soldiers know how to give him care," Graham said. "We need to get soldiers to understand the signs of combat stress so they can do the same thing - get their buddy the care he needs."

Staff Sgt. James Combs, with the Lethal Warriors, said in June that the combat stress education is more comprehensive than when he was a private in the late 1990s.

Now, he said, sergeants teach soldiers that "You may be able to pull the trigger on our M4 or M16, but you have to understand what it is doing to you mentally, and you need to be prepared for that."

"We don't just throw them to the wolves like we used to," he said.

It is not clear how effective the changes will be.

The current commanders of the Lethal Warriors, who would implement many of the changes, declined repeated requests for interviews.

And Fort Carson's new programs have not prevented more occurrences of destructive behavior.

On May 10, Thomas Woolly, the soldier Needham replaced in a blown-out Humvee turret in Baghdad in 2007, was drinking with friends after midnight at an apartment just a few blocks from Fort Carson.

Woolly had done two tours with the Lethal Warriors and was in the new Warrior Transition Unit, about to be medically discharged because, his grandmother, Gladys Woolly said, "He was blowed up so many times until it damaged his brain."

Woolly, 24, had a drink in one hand and a loaded .45 Long Colt revolver in the other, according to his arrest affidavit, when a friend's husband, who had been arguing with the group, banged on the door.

Police say Woolly cocked the gun's hammer. After the husband left and Woolly went to uncock the gun, the hammer slipped. The bullet killed 19-year-old Lisa Baumann, who was standing on the other side of the room.

Woolly was charged with manslaughter. He is out on bail and is scheduled for arraignment in August. He did not respond to interview requests.

Two weeks later, Roy Mason, 28, another Lethal Warrior who had served two tours and landed in the Warrior Transition Unit, went AWOL, drove to California, parked at the beach, called 911 from his car, asked them to clean up the mess quickly "before kids see," then shot himself in the head, media reports said.

Civilian mental health professionals caution that the Army programs treat the symptoms but do not address the underlying cause.

"There are some good things going on," said Davida Hoffman, the director of First Choice Counseling, a private clinic that treats about 250 Carson soldiers.

But counseling can do only so much, she said. The quality of treatment is not the cause of the problem. Combat is.

The more combat soldiers see, she said, the more problems they will have. The more problems soldiers have, the more problems Colorado Springs has.

"Soldiers simply cannot handle repeated deployments," she said. "If these guys keep seeing deployments like the stuff they saw in Iraq, we could have a very dangerous situation."

Graham agreed that repeated deployments are tough on soldiers. But the Army has a job to do, he said, and the rate of deployment is not expected to slow for at least 12 to 18 months.

On the same day Mason put a gun to his head at the beach, his old brigade was deploying to Afghanistan.

Most of the guys from the first deployment had left the Army, transferred to a different unit, been kicked out, wounded or killed. But for every one gone there is a new recruit. And while some attitudes in the Army are changing, the day-to-day reality of the foot soldier is not. Since June, insurgent attacks have killed three in the brigade.

No one may have a better view of the Army's challenges than Sgt. Michael Cardenaz. In many ways, he is the battle-worn face of today's soldier.

The solid, bald-headed Lethal Warriors staff sergeant and father of two was the platoon commander for Eastridge, Barco and Bastien in Baghdad. He often played Texas Hold 'em with Bressler at the base. He went bowling with Falu-Vives just days before Falu-Vives was arrested in the yard sale sign shootings. He has done three tours in Iraq and two in Kosovo. He said he has had close scrapes with 35 IEDs, scores of rocket-propelled grenades and one 500-pound bomb. He has taken shrapnel twice. He describes himself as an "old-school career soldier." He is 29.

With every arrest of a fellow soldier, he was shocked, he said, but he does not think it is just coincidence that so many guys in the unit are now in jail.

"These are all younger guys. They are just kids, straight out of high school, from mom's house to basic training to Iraq. You throw them in a tour like this, and there is going to be an aftermath," he said. "Time was, before I really understood it, my reaction would have been 'fry 'em.' But now I can empathize. . . If they did what they did, fine, they have to answer to the justice system, but these guys like Eastridge who tried so hard and loved the Army . . . they are a casualty of war. Their psyches are casualties of war."

He agreed that the deployment to Afghanistan will be different from the ones that he said screwed up his friends.

"There is much more attention to the mental side," he said. "I've been trained to do stress debriefings and suicide prevention. I remember a time in the Army when mental health was taboo. It was career over. That's not the case anymore."

But, he said, the stigma is alive and well, especially among infantrymen.

"There's still a feeling that if you got to go see the doc, you're a punk. There are a lot of people who still feel that way. I'm not going to lie to you, I do," he said.

Real soldiers, he said, "just suck it up."

"That's what I do. I think I was given a God-given talent to suck it up. Horrible things happen, I suck it up. I don't let it bother me."

In March Cardenaz was arrested in a felony assault.

He was walking with his wife past The Thirsty Parrot on Tejon Street, in full dress uniform after the Lethal Warriors' annual ball, when some civilians hanging out in front of the bar said something. Or maybe Cardenaz said something to them. Witnesses say the sergeant dropped one with a single punch. When another guy came after him to ask why he did it, police say, Cardenaz broke his jaw.

The soldier posted bail and did not show up for his court hearing July 15.

His lawyer told the judge that Cardenaz had deployed to Afghanistan.


3) Murder, Suicide, Kidnappings by Iraq Vets
Interview by Amy Goodman

A startling two-part series published in the Gazette newspaper of Colorado Springs titled "Casualties of War" examines a part of war seldom discussed by the media or government officials: the difficulty of returning to civilian life after being trained to be a killer. The story focuses on a single battalion based at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment. Soldiers from the brigade have been involved in brawls, beatings, rapes, drunk driving, drug deals, domestic violence, shootings, stabbings, kidnapping and suicides. The Army unit's murder rate is 114 times the rate for Colorado Springs. We speak with the reporter who broke the story and get the Army's response.


Dave Philipps, reporter with the Colorado Springs Gazette. He wrote the two-part series "Casualties of War."

Colonel Jimmie Keenan, Commander of the Evans Army Community Hospital in Colorado Springs. She is the former chief of staff for the Army's Warrior Care and Transition Office in Arlington, Va.

Military Hotline: 1-800-342-9647

Amy Goodman: We turn now to a startling two-part series that has just been published in the Gazette newspaper of Colorado Springs called "Casualties of War." It examines a part of war seldom discussed by the media or government officials: the difficulty of returning to civilian life after being trained to be a killer.

The story focuses on a single battalion based at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, the 2nd Batallion, 12th Infantry Regiment. The battalion's nickname is the "Lethal Warriors." In Iraq, the unit fought in some of the war's bloodiest battles, in Ramadi on its first tour, downtown Baghdad on its second. In May, the unit deployed again, this time to Afghanistan.

For some of the unit's soldiers, the killing didn't end when they returned home. The Gazette reports that since 2006 ten infantry soldiers have been arrested and accused of murder, attempted murder or manslaughter. Others have committed other violent crimes. Some of the veterans have committed suicide. In a one-year period, from the fall of 2007 to the fall of 2008, the murder rate for members of the Army unit was 114 times the rate for Colorado Springs.

In late 2006, twenty-one-year-old Anthony Marquez killed a small-time drug dealer by shooting him repeatedly with a stun gun and then shot him in the heart.

In August of 2007, twenty-four-year-old Louis Bressler robbed and shot a soldier he picked up on a street in Colorado Springs.

In December of 2007, three soldiers from the unit-Louis Bressler, Bruce Bastien and Kenneth Eastridge-left the bullet-riddled body of a soldier from their unit on a Colorado Springs street. Two months earlier, the same group intentionally drove into a woman walking to work. One of the soldiers then repeatedly stabbed her.

In May and June of 2008, police say Rudolfo Torres-Gandarilla and Jomar Falu-Vives drove around with an assault rifle, randomly shooting people.

In September of 2008, police say John Needham beat a former girlfriend to death.

Josh Butler was sent to prison for beating his pregnant wife. Months later, his child was born with severe birth defects and died. Butler blames himself, in part, for the child's death.

While Fort Carson has instituted a number of new policies and programs to help returning soldiers adjust to civilian life, the killing has continued. In May, Thomas Woolly was charged with manslaughter after shooting a nineteen-year-old woman. Two weeks later, another member of the unit committed suicide in California.

Well, right now we're joined by David Philipps. He is the reporter at the Gazette in Colorado Springs who authored the two-part series, "Casualties of War." We'll also be speaking later in the show with Colonel Jimmie Keenan, commander of the Evans Army Community Hospital in Colorado Springs. Dave Philipps joins us now from KTSC, Rocky Mountain PBS in Pueblo, Colorado.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Dave Philipps. Why don't you lay out the scope of this remarkable exposé? Extremely frightening and painful.

Dave Philipps: Well, what we wanted to do is talk to some of the soldiers who are now in prison and really find out the whole story, starting in Iraq and following it all the way to where they are now in their prison cells.

We focused one brigade, the 4th Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division. And what we found is the murders you mentioned, but they were just sort of the tip of an iceberg of violent crime. There's been assaults. There have been rapes. There have been fights. There have been kidnapping. There's just a-there's a lot of things that happened back in town, and we wanted to follow up on what was causing this.

What we found is that this unit has been sent to what was the deadliest place in Iraq in 2004. They went to the Sunni Triangle around Ramadi. And then they came home after a year tour there, had a year off, and then they were sent to what became the next deadliest place, downtown Baghdad. Both times, they had an almost impossible task of putting down an insurgency with no clear enemy, and they took heavy, heavy casualties. This one brigade makes up almost half of the casualties at Fort Carson, even though it's just a fraction of the population there. And then what we found is, when they came home, a lot of them, not surprisingly, had problems, emotional and mental problems, that came out of this combat.

Amy Goodman: Dave, I'd like to go through some of these stories. It's not only about what happened here in the streets of Colorado Springs in the United States, but it's also the warning signs when these soldiers came home, family members who were pushing to get help for their loved ones. For example, talk about Anthony Marquez and his mother.

Dave Philipps: Well, Anthony Marquez joined the infantry when he was nineteen. He had always been a pretty good kid before that. He was captain of the football team and ran track. He joined the Army because he thought it looked cool. He did one tour in Ramadi, during which he saw several friends get killed. He was also wounded, himself, pretty severely. He was flown back to the United States, where he almost lost a leg from his wounds. He was personally decorated with a Purple Heart by President George Bush.

But then, when he came back to Colorado Springs to convalesce, he started having PTSD, and he wasn't getting what he felt was effective treatment from Fort Carson. And so, he fell into a pattern of treating his PTSD by abusing the pain pills they were giving him for his leg.

His mother, who's a police officer in Los Angeles, saw this odd behavior in him, that he was abusing pills, that he had terrible nightmares and rage, and also that he was always carrying a loaded weapon with him everywhere he went. She called his sergeant at Fort Carson, she told me, and she told them that he was a ticking time bomb and someone had to help him. And her sergeant basically told her, "Well, you know, there's nothing I can do. If he doesn't want to go get help, we can't force him to get help." But then, she told me, her sergeant started taunting her son, saying, "Hey, your mama called, and she says you're going crazy."

Well, eight months after this call is when he shot a Colorado Springs drug dealer over about an ounce of marijuana.

Amy Goodman: So, his mother called. She's a cop. She sees the warning signs in her son. And not only don't they do something about it, but his commanding officer starts to make fun of him that his mother had called.

Dave Philipps: And that's something that's fairly-I don't know if I can say "typical" at Fort Carson, but it certainly wasn't rare in these returning soldiers. There is a stigma, many people in the Army told me, against getting help for mental health, behavioral health issues. It's seen as weak. It's often seen as just an excuse to get out of the Army if you can't hack it.

But even for soldiers who went against that stigma and did try to get help, there was not necessarily enough resources for them, especially early on in the war, when Marquez was injured in 2005. And not only that, but even if there were resources to help these soldiers, a lot of their lower-level commanders, sergeants primarily, wouldn't give them the time to go and get help and often would make fun of them.

One of my soldiers that I talked to said he was-kept having thoughts about killing civilians in Colorado Springs, so he checked himself into a civilian mental hospital in Colorado Springs. When he got out a week later, he was ordered to come stand in front of his sergeant and be berated about what a liar he was.

Amy Goodman: And you also talked about Anthony Marquez getting honored by President Bush, and his sister, so disturbed at what had happened, refusing to meet the President.

Dave Philipps: Well, that's true, but Anthony didn't. He was sitting injured in his Army-in his bed in Walter Reed Army Medical Center. And he told me, "You know, I wasn't mad at anybody. It was my job, and I had signed up for it."

And that's what I found with a lot of these soldiers that I talked to in prison. They actually, despite everything that has happened to them, they love the Army. Even though they're-told me that combat really mentally messed them up, that they see it as absolutely what led them to their prison cells, what they told me is-a lot of them-is they're mad that they screwed up and got caught for a crime, because if they could, they would go back and deploy again.

Amy Goodman: You also talk about, in the case of Marquez, how in Iraq he had used stun guns and that, ultimately, he used a stun gun repeatedly on this man before he killed him, back in Colorado Springs or back in the United States.

Dave Philipps: Right. When we started this story, which took about six months to report, we thought this would be a story of inadequate healthcare and civilian problems at home, or problems in the administration of the base at home that led to these guys falling through the cracks.

What we started to find when we talked to them in prison is that there were widespread-I guess you would call them violations of the rules of war. They start with some small things, like several soldiers I talked to used hollow-point bullets. These are bullets that people usually use for deer hunting that spread when they hit their target, and so they can damage more flesh. These are banned by international treaties, but a number of soldiers I talked to said that they were getting them sent from home through the mail and that while it wasn't openly talked about, it was sort of something that they did without fear of retribution.

The other things that they were ordering from-getting through the mail include drugs, liquor, although people said that liquor was easy to get in Iraq, as well, but if you wanted good liquor, you'd get it mailed to you. They were also ordering stun guns, 500,000-volt stun guns, through the mail and getting them sent to them. And soldiers told me that a number of soldiers would carry them on raids. Now, this isn't just one bad platoon. We talked to soldiers in multiple platoons in two battalions that reported the use of these stun guns.

It goes on from there. Soldiers talked to me about randomly shooting cars driven by civilians. They talked to me about interrogating suspected insurgents and dropping them off of bridges.

I want to stress here that we don't know how widespread this is. This could be a severe minority, and certainly there are a lot of people in this brigade that probably, when they hear about this behavior, are disgusted with it. They're honest, good people who are doing an almost impossible job.

But what these soldiers told me is they were stuck in an insurgency fight they were not trained for, where there was no clear enemy. The main killer of these soldiers in this brigade was, by far, the improvised explosive devices, essentially roadside bombs. They were getting blown up without ever getting to try and fight back at the people that were killing their friends. And so, what they told me is that this anger and distrust for the entire population just burgeoned, and they thought that anyone was a potential enemy. And so, that's why you saw them lashing out at the civilian population.

Amy Goodman: Dave Philipps is our guest, has written this remarkable two-part series for the Gazette of Colorado Springs called "Casualties of War." Dave, tell us about Kenneth Eastridge.

Dave Philipps: When I first started this story, one of the things that the Army told me is, well, a lot of these guys had criminal records before. From my research, what I found was that Kenneth Eastridge was the only person who had a criminal background. When he was twelve years old, he and a friend were playing with his father's antique shotgun, and he accidentally shot his friend in the chest and killed him. He pleaded guilty, was sentenced to counseling. And since then, his mother said his record had been clean. He had to get a special waiver to get into the Army, which he found after calling twelve different recruiters. One finally let him in. And for the first two years of his Army career, he was a good soldier. He was decorated with good conduct and achievement medals. There's no record that I found of any discipline problems.

When he came back from his first tour in Iraq, he started abusing drugs and alcohol. He told me he had had nightmares and paranoia. Like almost every soldier that I talked to, he always carried a loaded pistol with him everywhere he went. And he picked up a domestic violence felony charge for getting in a fight with his girlfriend and putting a gun in her face. Now, he was awaiting trial for that charge, when the Army sent him back to Iraq for a second time. He wanted to go. He voluntarily skipped out on his charge. But the Army has rules. They have to go through a checklist before they deploy all soldiers, and one of the things they must check off is whether they have any pending civilian felonies. If so, they can't go. Someone, and I'm not sure who, checked that box and sent him anyway.

Now, all the things that he was doing-abusing drugs, anger issues, paranoia-were signs of PTSD. He probably should have gotten treatment. Instead, he got more combat exposure. They went to an absolutely terrible neighborhood of Baghdad called Al Dora, where his battalion at one point was losing a soldier a day to either the morgue or the hospital. And there he started to lose it, as he-that's how he termed it.

I'll tell you about three things that he told me he got officially disciplined for when he started to lose it.

First, he did a raid on a house, where he was searching for guns. And they did this all the time. They're trying to take guns away from the insurgents. And when he started to find guns that the man there hadn't told him about, he trashed the entire house, broke everything in it, stole the guns, kept them to sell. And he said he did this type of thing all the time, but that he got reported this time because the man whose house he raided was a well-connected man with friends in the United States government. And so, he was put on punitive guard duty back at the base. But he said that he would regularly go into civilians' houses looking for guns, he would keep some of the guns that he found, sell them back to the Iraqi police, who would, he said, sell them back to the Shiite militia. He would also steal any prescription drugs that he found and cash. Now, that was the first time.

The second time he was disciplined, he was on another patrol, when they received fire from a nearby farmhouse. He fired about twenty grenades into the farmhouse, then went in and found a farmer there in a back room. He started asking the farmer who had fired on them, and the farmer said he didn't know. So he shot one of the farmer's dogs. When the farmer said he still didn't know, he shot the farmer's other dog. At that point, his lieutenant intervened and said, "Hey, you need to go sit in the truck and cool off." When he walked out of the building, he killed the farmer's entire herd of goats with his machine gun. Then he ordered a private to kill his two cows, and then he shot his horse. For that, he was put on guard duty again.

After that, he went on one more combat mission, where he was sitting in the large machine gun on top of a Humvee, guarding the street while his lieutenant and some other soldiers went to check out a building around the corner. Kenneth Eastridge told me that he just started shooting for no reason. It was a nice day on a civilian neighborhood street, and there were lots of people out and about, just barbecuing, playing soccer, things like that. When he started shooting, everybody rushed to their cars and tried to speed away, because they wanted to get away from the fire. He said there was a vehicle driving ban on, and so as soon as people got in their cars, he started panicking, because all he could think about is car bombs, and he started shooting cars left and right. He told me, over about thirty minutes, he shot something like 1,700 rounds from this large machine gun. I asked him how many people he thought he killed. He said, "Not that many. Maybe twelve." He was court-martialed a short time later, but not for killing all those civilians. He was court-martialed for possession of drugs and disobeying orders.

Once he was court-martialed, the Army decided that he was no longer fit to be in Iraq, so they sent him back to Colorado Springs, where they kicked him out of the Army. So, essentially, they put this guy who they had trained to be a killer and who had obvious mental health problems back on the streets of Colorado Springs. And actually, right before they kicked him out, they had diagnosed him with PTSD, paranoia, severe depression and antisocial personality disorder. But they didn't treat him. They just sent him free.

Amy Goodman: And so, Kenneth Eastridge ends up-infantry specialist-now serving ten years in jail for accessory to murder, not for what happened in Iraq, but for the death of a man here in the United States. He said his kill rate in Iraq, is the number he killed, was eighty, and that was confirmed by his sergeant.

We only have a minute, because we're then turning to the military. I'm sorry they couldn't join you together on this broadcast. But, Dave Phillips, very quickly, the military says they've put in place a new regime at Fort Carson since that time, though yet another murder of a man in this unit-by a man in this unit. What are the concerns of the new regime? And we'll put that to the military.

Dave Philipps: Well, I'll let them answer that, but I would like to say, if you'd like to see this, read this, in more detail, and there are a lot of shocking details, you can read the "Casualties of War" series at

Amy Goodman: Dave Philipps, I want to thank you for joining us. We're going to go to break and come back, and we'll be joined by a spokesperson from Fort Carson. Stay with us.
Amy Goodman: Today we're working with Rocky Mountain PBS, as we go to Colorado Springs. We're joined now by Colonel Jimmie Keenan. She's the commander of the Evans Army Community Hospital in Colorado Springs, former chief of staff for the Army's Warrior Care and Transition Office in Arlington, Virginia. Colonel Keenan entered the Army as a Nurse Corps Officer in July 1986, also joins us from Rocky Mountain in Pueblo, Colorado, the PBS station there.

We only have almost a minute to go, but your response to the-it's really the list of atrocities that Dave Philipps has laid out, and how you're dealing with this at Fort Carson?

Colonel Jimmie Keenan: Thank you, Amy.

You know, these are tragedies, and what Dave Philipps was talking about are the wounds that we cannot see. And that is a very huge focus for us in the military, not only here at Fort Carson, but across the Department of Defense and the Army.

And what I will tell you that we are doing is that we are all working to reduce that stigma on seeking behavioral health. Behavioral health should be just like going to your doctor to get your blood pressure taken if you're not feeling well. It is part of what we call our comprehensive total fitness. And so, what we are doing with our soldiers, as you know, we did stand up our Warrior Transition Units in June of 2007. They've been in place now a little over two years. We have increased at Fort Carson our behavioral health assets by over 40 percent just in the last year. And one of the things that we're doing with soldiers before they deploy, like we did with 4-4, who just deployed to Afghanistan, is we're providing them additional training on resiliency and how to cope with stress before they deploy, as well as during deployment and after they deploy.

Another key component here is the family. And when we go back and we talk with families, what we try to do with the families is encourage them to come in, because we want to train them to help us look-

Amy Goodman: Colonel Jimmie Keenan, we only have a few seconds.

Colonel Jimmie Keenan: -for those signs of when a soldier's in trouble.

Amy Goodman: A few seconds, last comment?

Colonel Jimmie Keenan: Yes?

Amy Goodman: We're going to have to leave it there. I want to thank you for being with us, speaking to us from Fort Carson.

-Democracy Now!, July 30, 2009


4) Urgent Report on Upcoming Antiwar Activity
By Bonnie Weinstein,
July 31, 2009

Dear activists:

The following are three important messages for the whole antiwar movement. I hope you will read these messages and act to endorse the upcoming Fall antiwar activities and help to organize, build and support antiwar activities in your area. The wars are not over. The death and destruction continues in our name and with our dollars that could be put to far healthier, humane and peaceful use.

The time to begin organizing for a unified expression of opposition to these wars is now. We, here in the belly of this war-mongering beast, are under the greatest obligation to organize massive opposition to these wars and crimes. Here are the three documents, please pass them along:

1. Urgently Needed: United Antiwar Demonstrations in the Fall, by Jerry Gordon, Secretary, National Assembly to End the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations

2. An Assessment of the First Year of the National Assembly to end the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations. Address given by Marilyn Levin, member, National Assembly Administrative Body, and Planning Committee, Greater Boston United for Justice with Peace Coalition.

3. Keynote Address by Zaineb Alani delivered to the National Antiwar Conference held July 10-12, 2009 at La Roche College in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Thank you for taking the time to read these important documents.

In solidarity,

Bonnie Weinstein, Bay Area United Against War,


1. Urgently Needed: United Antiwar Demonstrations in the Fall, by Jerry Gordon, Secretary, National Assembly to End the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations


This posting is being sent to endorsers of the founding conference of the National Assembly to End the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations, held in Cleveland in June, 2008. We are writing to underscore why we feel that the antiwar demonstrations scheduled for this fall are of such critical importance.

We are all keenly aware of the U.S. escalations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the acknowledgement by al-Maliki that the U.S. occupation of Iraq could continue indefinitely past 2011, and how Washington's support for Israel's occupation of Palestine continues unabated, despite the inhuman siege of Gaza, the accelerating spread of Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory, and the repression and jailing of Palestinian leaders becoming more brutal and widespread.

Meanwhile, the threats against Iran are extremely menacing. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates declared on July 27 that the Obama administration's diplomatic outreach to Iran is "not an open-ended offer" and that the U.S. wants "a clear response from Tehran" by late September. He added that Iran will not be allowed to "run out the clock." Vice President Joe Biden asserted on national TV that Israel has the sovereign right to attack Iran if it chooses to do so. Israeli officials emphasize that they will use all means at their disposal to shut down Iran 's nuclear facilities and they do not intend to wait much longer.

Under these circumstances, it is imperative that the U.S. antiwar movement be out in the streets in unified mass actions in September and October.. There is no time to waste in getting plans off the ground for such actions. The whole world will be watching to see whether our movement will mount the necessary response to Washington 's wars and occupations policies.

We're off to a good start. The national antiwar conference held July 10-12, 2009 at La Roche College in Pittsburgh, attended by 255 people representing dozens of organizations, voted unanimously in favor of an action program calling for building the September 25 march in Pittsburgh as part of the G-20 events, demonstrations in D.C. on October 5 and other dates in early October, and all of this culminating in nationally coordinated local and regional actions on Saturday, October 17.

Support for and endorsement of October 17 is sought on the following basis: that it will be a date owned by the entire movement, that specific demands for the actions will be decided locally and regionally, and that coalitions and organizations will participate on the basis of their own programs and with their own banners and placards. The important thing is that we march in unity and bring the full weight and power of the U.S. antiwar movement to bear in the cause of peace and justice.

October 17 will also commemorate the 40th anniversary of one of the largest antiwar turnouts this country has ever seen: the October 15, 1969 Vietnam Moratorium, with millions participating throughout the world.

Attached please find a form for endorsing the October 17 protests. Three important national organizations have endorsed so far - U.S. Labor Against the War, Progressive Democrats of America, and the Iraq Moratorium Committee - and we hope that many more will do so in the weeks ahead. A number of local antiwar coalitions and formations have also signed on (see the National Assembly's website at for weekly listings starting August 3) and mobilizing by these groups is key to the success of October 17.

Also attached is a talk delivered by Zaineb Alani to the Pittsburgh conference, which should dispel any illusions that the U.S. occupation of Iraq will end any time soon, and one by National Assembly leader Marilyn Levin, who emphasized the need for the movement to build the scheduled mass actions in the weeks and months ahead.

Here is what you can do: First, please take the time to read the attachments. They help explain why it is so vitally necessary that we be highly visible in the period ahead and bring the power of united mass protests into the streets. Second, urge your organization to endorse the October 17 actions (the attached form can be filled out and returned electronically). And, third, join with others in your community in organizing and building the September and October demonstrations.

In peace and in solidarity,

Jerry Gordon
Secretary, National Assembly to End the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations


2. An Assessment of the First Year of the National Assembly to end the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations. Address given by Marilyn Levin, member, National Assembly Administrative Body, and Planning Committee, Greater Boston United for Justice with Peace Coalition.

July 10-12, 2009, 255 people representing diverse organizations and constituencies from all over the country came together in Pittsburgh:

1) To look at where we are today,

2) To articulate our long range goals to rejuvenate the antiwar movement towards building a massive movement capable of forcing an end to their wars and occupations, to take our money back from the war machine to meet pressing social needs, and to save our planet for our children, and

3) To develop and vote for action plans as steps to realize these objectives.

All of our major objectives were accomplished and we leave today with a comprehensive action agenda to carry us through to next spring. Everyone had a chance to speak and differences were aired without rancor or splits to achieve unity in action.

Friday night's speakers, along with many conference participants, grappled with how to unify and broaden the movement. Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, we presented a great roster of workshops covering the major issues we face today. Saturday night's rally was dynamic and inspiring.

There were two highlights of the conference for me. First was the international component where activist comrades joined us from Canada and courageous labor leaders of powerful mass movements in Haiti and Guadaloupe reminded us that imperialism and the struggle against it are global. There was a statement by members of the Viva Palestina aid convoy detained in Egypt. We passed motions in solidarity with the struggles of the people of Haiti, Honduras, and Palestine.

The second highlight was the discussion on Iran, where, in spite of strong passions stirred up by the rapidly evolving events there, we were able to illuminate the issues and debate our differences. Finally, we were able to agree on a unity position that all could embrace, as well as meeting the foremost call of the Iranians - US Hands off! No Sanctions! No interventions! Self-determination for the Iranian people! A wonderful example of a united front -- as inclusive as possible and taking principled positions that most will accept and act on.

So what is the National Assembly? What you saw this weekend explains who we are and how we function.

Democracy. All were invited and all perspectives welcomed. There was acceptance of the will of the conference even when it diverged from the proposals put forward by the leadership body. We were especially gratified that representatives from all the major antiwar coalitions came and addressed our conference.

Our willingness to struggle for unity and compromise when needed in order to move forward, as evidenced by a leadership that did not impose personal political views on others in service to unity.

An organization that admits to and learns from its mistakes and accepts its limitations when the unity we seek can't yet be achieved.

An organization that has built a growing cadre of leaders that has developed trust, a structure that works, and a strong working relationship.

And finally, confidence, vision, and optimism. Confidence that we can provide leadership in rebooting our movement. A vision regarding how to accomplish that and an understanding of the necessity for these kinds of conferences leading to action. Optimism that masses of people will move in opposition to these horrendous policies that bring death and destruction and that they will have the power to change the world.

I've been asked to give an assessment of the first year since our initiation as an ongoing network with a mission, from our first conference in June, 2008 until today. Last year, we weren't sure anyone would come and lo and behold 400 people came together in Cleveland to inaugurate a year of activities and set up a structure to maintain our work. A lot has transpired in that year and the National Assembly is well on its way as an established organization recognized throughout the movement as providing leadership and promoting a direction towards growth.

I need to start a little earlier and go back to why the National Assembly was called into existence in the first place.

What we saw, in the spring of 2008, was a movement at a low ebb - one that was shrinking rather than growing in spite of the war dragging on -- this while the antiwar sentiment couldn't be higher, and the disapproval rating for the Bush Administration couldn't have been lower. From the high point of the largest action against the Iraq War in September, 2005 which drew 700,000 people, there was a pulling away from mass action by significant sections of the movement which supported electoral politics as the central strategy, in spite of a recurring pattern of disappointment when Democratic "antiwar" candidates voted again and again for war and war funding, and a split between the two major national coalitions, UFPJ and ANSWER, one that continues to this day. For the first time in five years, there was not enough unity or mass action perspective for any national demonstrations to take place marking the 5th year of the occupation of Iraq. Fundamentally, there was a vacuum of leadership.

Some far-sighted people like Jerry Gordon and Jeff Mackler, with experience gained from leadership in the last powerful antiwar movement that ended the Vietnam War, felt impelled to act. They began to organize a base of diverse but like-minded activists committed to building and expanding an effective antiwar movement in this country. The vehicle to accomplish this was the first national assembly, a national conference to pull activists together, to analyze the present state of the movement, to discuss where we needed to go and the actions that were needed to get us there.

We developed a unity statement with five basic principles that we hold today as the basis for where we stand:
1) Unity - all sections of the movement working together for common goals and actions;

2) Political Independence - no affiliations or support to any political party;

3) Democracy - decision-making at conferences with one person, one vote;

4) Mass Action - as the central strategy for organizing while embracing other forms of outreach and protest; and

5) Out Now - the central demand to withdraw all military forces, contractors, and bases from the countries where the U.S. was waging war on the people.

It seems simple but no one else saw it that way. Our conference was unique in the history of the present movement.

The organizers didn't know what the mood and composition or strength of the conference would be, so we were cautious and minimal in the program we posed to the conference. We focused on Out Now from Iraq and modest action proposals, not being strong enough to initiate national actions on our own. The conference participants were ahead of us and ready to tackle the larger issues. Proposals were passed to add "Out Now from Afghanistan", "End U.S. Support for the Occupation of Palestine", and "Hands off Iran" to our set of demands, and given what has transpired in these areas, we were well prepared to take on a major role.

October 10th actions held in 20 cities were endorsed as well as a call for December actions building towards what we hoped would be unified, nationally coordinated bicoastal mass actions in the spring of 2009, the 6th year of the Iraq occupation. When Gaza was brutally assaulted, we joined with ANSWER and others to march in Washington and to demonstrate in the streets all over the country, and we're still working under Palestinian leadership to bring justice and relief to a beleaguered population.

We made a concerted effort to find a common date for spring bi-coastal mobilizations. As you know, ANSWER chose March 21st as a day of united protests which we endorsed, while UFPJ called for a national march on Wall St. on April 4th. A number of National Assembly supporters who were also delegates to the UFPJ conference in December formed a mass action unity caucus and went to the conference with a resolution to allow delegates to vote for one or both actions but this was rejected. We'll keep trying for 2010. The National Assembly endorsed and built both actions and marched behind our signs with our demands. The demonstrations were small (but spirited) and still of major importance.

For us, it's quality, not quantity, as we position ourselves to be in the forefront as the pendulum swings in our direction once again.

Some take the position that mass demonstrations are not effective, unless we can pull 100,000 protestors into the streets. This is short-sighted and does not address how we get from small to large. Any successful movement for change doesn't start with 100,000 people, and there has never been significant social change without mass actions. I remember my first anti-Vietnam war demonstration was in 1963 in Detroit and we had 15 people. In 1965, SDS called the first national march against the war in Washington. 25,000 people turned out and we thought it was huge!

Everyone talks about reaching out to the thousands of young people who mobilized to elect Obama. We agree, but we say the way to do this is by offering education and action. Action beyond calling, and emailing, and faxing the politicians they placed in office.

Why are mass demonstrations so important to building a powerful movement? It is because they accomplish so much in the process of building them. They provide:

Continuity. You can't build anything by starting anew each time. Each action should lead to the next action or open national conference, with success building upon success. We need a continuity of leadership that builds trust and a reputation for integrity, and that learns lessons to improve. We need a continuity of organization and structure that can implement the tasks before us.

Visibility. Actions in the street give heart to the people the U.S. is attacking and occupying, letting them know that they are not alone. Mass actions create solidarity, offering support to anti-war soldiers, vets and their families, and a counter-force to the economic draft facing our youth, and they strengthen and deepen the antiwar sentiment of the people.

Inspiration. New people are brought into the movement, especially the youth, through activism. Have you ever talked to young people coming to a mass demonstration for the first time? They are inspired and thrilled to hear powerful speakers who are leaders of social justice movements and soldiers resisting the wars. They see they are not alone and get a taste of the power of large numbers of people marching together. They are energized to go home and join with others to continue to organize opposition to brutal U.S. wars and occupations. This is the way to reach out to the Obama supporters.

Explanation. An analysis of what is going on is offered along with tying together what seem at first to be disparate elements, i.e., war is tied to the economy, the war budget, bail-outs of the rich, the lack of basic needs being met, justice denied, and the impoverishment of the people.

Pressure on Government. People in this country are taught to be quiet. We're told that our job is to elect officials whom we agree with periodically and then go home and wait while they fix things. This conveniently maintains the status quo but it sure doesn't put pressure on them, or scare them, or force social change. Mass actions provide the most effective way to make significant change happen.

Let's look at the present period. Obama's election was based in large part on the hopes and aspirations of Americans for peace and a better life based on the promises and assumed promises that were made of peace, justice, and prosperity, which have not and will not be met.

Contrary to expectations, the previous administration's policies are continued with a more handsome and articulate face. We all know that rather than winding down, wars and interventions are escalating and the rapacious greed of this immoral system knows no bounds.

Simultaneously, the economic crisis is causing terrible hardship for working people and for people who are no longer able to find work and their families. They are using this self-created financial disaster to further cut the standard of living and eliminate a secure future for older people and the young.

It was very moving and yet appalling to see this visually demonstrated when Robin Alexander of the United Electrical Workers Union asked people in the audience to stand who were unemployed, personally knew of soldier casualties, lived in communities where services were being cut, or who were otherwise negatively impacted by the wars and the failing economy. Nearly the entire room, a microcosm of the wider society, was standing by the end of that exercise.

It is inevitable that the present period of quiescence and hanging on to the hope that Obama and the new Congress will save us will come to a crashing end. People will not sit idly by forever while the world around them collapses. We are already seeing the beginnings of stirring. There is a greater willingness to go out in the streets to protest. There is more organizing taking place on campuses, more young people joining the movement. The many proposals for October actions are an indication that there is a widespread awareness of the need for actions this fall and the conviction that the movement must find common dates.

Brian Becker, National Coordinator of ANSWER, urged that we all work together to mount nationally coordinated actions next spring. Michael McPhearson, Co-Chair of UFPJ and Executive Director of Veterans for Peace, announced his support for October 17 and his willingness to do what he could to spur unified actions in the spring of 2010. We must have the faith and confidence that the people have the power to end the atrocities resulting from U.S. wars and occupations, and that they will recognize and utilize this power. As this happens, we must build a stronger antiwar movement that is able to provide leadership and the optimism to forge ahead no matter what the opposition throws at us.

The National Assembly to End the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations is helping to provide that leadership and the vision that is needed. Although young and small, in one short year, we are now a force to be taken seriously and negotiated with, and by our persistent call for unity and mass action, our demonstrated ability to organize, and our coordinated strategy for revitalizing the movement, we are having an impact larger than our forces would indicate. In some ways, we too are a product of (and some say an antidote to) the 2008 election. To counter the malaise of the movement, we have quietly been building a solid core of activists and leaders around the country that understand the importance of a united front organized around principled demands and mass actions, not just calling Washington politicians when bills come up and crises happen.

At this conference, we have laid out an ambitious program of action that will take us through the spring of 2010. We are proud that we could provide the kick off for national organizing to bring a massive turnout to Pittsburgh for the G-20 protests September 25. Homeland Security is already making preparations to keep protesters hidden and stifle our right to speak out, but we won't be silenced.

Following that, are a series of October building actions, culminating in large local and regional demonstrations on October 17 marking dates of significance related to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and occupations and remembering the legacy of the anti-Vietnam war movement. Throughout the year, we will organize educational programs, support various forms of protest and organize around the inevitable emergencies caused by our government's unholy interventions and threats to other nations.

We have initiated a Free Palestine Working Committee to ensure this work, which includes the growing boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaigns and the efforts to break the siege of Gaza, continues to be in the forefront and fully integrated in our work until justice and self-determination and return is in the hands of the Palestinians.

And lastly, we will continue to advocate for unity of the movement and once again bring thousands to Washington and the West Coast in the spring, to let our government and the world know that the U.S. movement against wars and occupations is alive and will not be quiet.

We will march and continue to march until all U.S. forces come home, bases are dismantled, and the sovereign people of the world have the right to control their own resources and determine their own futures, and the war budget becomes the peace budget.

Don't sit on the sidelines and watch history being made. We urge all organizations to join the National Assembly and to play your part in building and shaping the powerful movement that is coming.

All out for the September 25 G-20 march in Pittsburgh! All out for the actions in early October! All out October 17!

To join the National Assembly to End the Iraq And Afghanistan Wars And Occupations, an organization must subscribe to the five points in the National Assembly's structure memo -- immediate withdrawal, mass demonstrations, unity, democratic decision making, independence from political parties - submit an application form, and select a representative to the Continuations Body, the highest decision-making and action implementation body of the National Assembly between conferences. Go to the website for information and an application or email or call 216-736-4704.


3. Keynote Address by Zaineb Alani delivered to the National Antiwar Conference held July 10-12, 2009 at La Roche College in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

On July 4 of this year, Vice President Biden celebrated American Independence day in occupied Iraq, in one of the presidential palaces of the former regime, now an integral part of the US-run 'Green Zone'. Four days earlier, PM Nouri Al-Maliki's US-installed puppet government declared a 'victory' signaled by the pullout of US troops from major Iraqi cities, and the beginning of the 'restoration of sovereignty'. Nothing could have been more hypocritical or comical.

When the late Robert McNamara paid a visit to the Independent country of Vietnam that he had previously 'sought to conquer' and failed, he said to their foreign minister, "We wanted to give you Democracy." The reply was, "We wanted our Independence first." Why do American policy-makers never learn from history?

I'm amazed by the number of Americans who are 'hurt' that the Iraqis are celebrating US troop withdrawal with no 'word of thanks'. The sad truth is that there is no withdrawal and there is NOTHING to thank for. For the Iraqis the list of war reparations is not one that the US can dream to even begin to fulfill. How can you bring 1.2 million people back to life? How can you render 2 million war widows married wives again? And how can you give back a lost parent to 5 million Iraqi orphans?

The celebrations of 'independence' in Iraq today are a circus where the primary clowns are the same thugs that count on US presence to survive. And how can anyone question the status of continued US military presence when the largest embassy in the world, the size of 80 football fields, lies in one of the most beautiful locations in the heart of Baghdad. The current troop level dispells the myth of the 'SOFA' agreement. Even after the June 30th deadline, 134,000 US soldiers will be left behind. This number is reminiscent of troop levels in 2003, when the invasion began and before the so-called 'Surge'. Further, and to take it straight from the horse's mouth, the first US military commander in Iraq openly announces 'a longer stay in Iraq for US troops'. In fact, General Odierno, insists "It's not going to end, OK? There'll always be some sort of low-level insurgency in Iraq for the next 5, 10, 15 years..." If so, then what are we celebrating? And what form of 'crystal ball' has General Odierno asserting that there will ALWAYS be a need for US troop presence? Unless, it's the world's second largest oil field.

To the average Iraqi citizen, and rightly so, the Americans are there for the oil, and the puppet-government with its 'no-bid' to 'selective-bid' oil contract policy is there to serve this very purpose. In fact, the common sentiment in Baghdad today is that we went from living under the rule of a tyrannical Ali Baba to that of 40 hundred ruling thieves. According to Transparency International, Iraq is among one of the top countries showing the highest levels of perceived corruption. Jabbar Al-Luaibi, former head of the South Oil company in Basrah, describes the process of the Iraqi's Oil Ministry of maintaining oil production records like 'driving a car without any indicators on the dashboard.'

In Iraq today, there is a detention nightmare, very much reminiscent of Abu-Ghraib under US authority, and very similar to the type of torture chambers that this very occupation claimed to wage war against! 300 Iraqi detainees went into a hunger strike at the Risafa prison in mid-June. The world did not hear them.

Never in the history of Iraq have there been elections established on sectarian and ethnic platforms, thus further reinforcing the birth and growth of 'militias', and paving the way to US-backed mercenary groups. The concept is 'foreign' in Iraq's modern history. Even when the people of Iraq voted, a large majority believed that by voting they were expediting the process of US troop withdrawal. Sadly not.

The recent escalation of bombings in Iraq is NOT due to the temporary US withdrawal from the major cities, but rather a statement against a continued foreign occupation. Bombings will continue as long as there is foreign presence on Iraqi soil. The foremost expert on the logic of suicide terrorism, Robert Pape, states that it is NOT primarily motivated by fundamentalism but by the occupation. This motivation is further aggravated when there is a fundamental difference in faith and culture between the occupier and occupied people.

Today, Iraq is a nation of 2 million war widows, 5 million orphans, 2 million internally displaced, and 4 million refugees surviving under the meanest living conditions in neighboring countries, topping the UNHCR World Refugee Statistics for the region. Today 80% of Iraqis civilians have witnessed shootings, kidnapping and killings (per UN statistics). Refugees who have relocated to the US find it extremely difficulty to adapt to 'normalcy'. I teach refugees English as a Second Language in Columbus, Ohio. The trauma these people have witnessed is unimaginable. There is not ONE family who has not suffered their child being kidnapped, or lost a loved one to sectarian 'revenge' killings. I have personally witnessed the struggle of a ten year old to adapt to a school system and the concept of normal life where people are not necessarily out there to 'kill him!' Jewad, whose soccer ball rolled onto a corpse in a Baghdad dumpster when he was 9, can never look at a soccer ball the same way again. Needless to say, he now has no interest in any ball game.

In neighboring countries where there is a huge Iraqi refugee population, there also exists a thriving sex trade where the majority of the victims are female minors as young as 13 years old. The text book term for this tragic phenomenon is 'survival sex'. My cousin who is a refugee in Syria has been insulted time and time again, when the women in his family were referred to as 'refugee sluts' despite the fact neither he nor his family had set foot in the red light areas that the Syrian authorities have now turned into an 'unofficial' lucrative tourist attraction.

Unemployment rates in Iraq today fluctuate between 27-60% depending on the region and whether or not a curfew is in effect. 40% of Iraq's professionals and technocrats have left the country. 2000 + physicians have been murdered since 2005 and the health infrastructure is in tatters. Disease is rampant where approximately 10,000 are inflicted with cholera. AIDS which was a not even significant statistic prior to the invasion is now at 75,000 cases (WHO). Ten years ago, there were only 12 known cases.

Today Baghdad is a city of walls. Neighborhoods are segregated like never before and...Baghdad is finally 'ethnically segregated'. The 2 million internally displaced have learned to adapt to their new 'environment', but traveling from one neighborhood to another can still cost one his/her life if they do not carry an ID card. My mother's childhood friend who needed a kidney dialysis died on the way to hospital because the ambulance was stopped multiple times between neighborhood checkpoints with some delays amounting to over an hour. Even if he had made it to hospital, the possibility of his getting the appropriate treatment in a sanitary environment would have been negligible. Three months before the invasion my mother underwent an angioplasty and despite the imposition of sanctions then and the lack of non-expired materials, her surgery was successful. Early, this year, my brother's father-in-law had to be flown into neighboring Amman for the same treatment because the best Iraqi hospitals could not provide it. He could afford the flight; other Iraqis in his condition would just perish. My own uncle, only 6 months ago, was wheeled out of an operation room three times because the dying hospital generators could not take care of the recurrent power outages. Power outages are still very frequent with the population receiving only 50% of the power supply they used to have prior to the invasion. Water, which was not potable prior to the invasion, is still dangerously contaminated in a lot of areas where people are dependant on well-water because the pipes that connect them to the general water network that was bombed during 'shock and awe' have still not been repaired.

When I was growing up in Iraq, and up until the last day before the invasion, had I been able to visit, I would have been able to walk the streets dressed as I am now or drive my car in the streets of Baghdad. I went to school and completed my graduate degree there; I was one of 12 women who graduated from my department in 1991. Then, if I had wanted to pay a water bill, for instance, I would stand in a long line, but I would not have to bribe the clerk at the register to have my transaction completed. For every SINGLE government transaction today, you need to know somebody and that somebody is dependent on your money to survive. Otherwise, you can consider it lost in red tape for up to six months! When my mother ventured to renew her passport; she was given two choices; wait for 8 months, or pay $600.00 (US) to have it delivered in 2 weeks. When I used to drive in Baghdad, I was rarely required to carry an ID. Today, if I don't, and I fall in the hands of the wrong militia, I'm potentially looking at a death sentence.

What caused this nightmare 6 years ago, and continues to cause it has not and is not going away soon. The occupation seems to be there to stay, and the silence of the American people in the midst of an unprecedented economic crisis has left them confused and misguided as to what has brought about all this, namely, America's foreign wars and imperialism.

The Iraqi, Afghan, and Pakistani people cannot win against the American war machine. On their own, they are helpless. They have only one hope, YOU. We need to build a movement so strong that our voices are heard as ONE, so loud that we force the occupiers to leave the Middle East and elsewhere where they impose their colonial occupations and plunder the natural resources and wealth of weaker nations. American, Iraqi, Afghan and Palestinian peoples are paying a dear price in blood and treasure for the continuation of these wars and occupations.

My hope is that this movement unites, that our minor differences are diminished by our bigger cause, and that this conference will pave the way for agreement on united actions in the months ahead that will tell the whole world when we hit the streets this fall, that we are raising high the banners of "Out Now!" "Out Now from Iraq!" "Out Now from Afghanistan!" "Out Now for Israeli Troops from Palestine!" The world needs to know that the U.S. antiwar movement is not only alive and kicking, but is determined to end the nightmares in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Palestine.

To join the National Assembly to End the Iraq And Afghanistan Wars And Occupations, an organization must subscribe to the five points in the National Assembly's structure memo -- immediate withdrawal, mass demonstrations, unity, democratic decision making, independence from political parties - submit an application form, and select a representative to the Continuations Body, the highest decision-making and action implementation body of the National Assembly between conferences. Go to the website for information and an application or email


5) Living in Tents, and by the Rules, Under a Bridge
This Land
July 31, 2009

The chief emerges from his tent to face the leaden morning light. It had been a rare, rough night in his homeless Brigadoon: a boozy brawl, the wielding of a knife taped to a stick. But the community handled it, he says with pride, his day's first cigar already aglow.

By community he means 80 or so people living in tents on a spit of state land beside the dusky Providence River: Camp Runamuck, no certain address, downtown Providence.

Because the two men in the fight had violated the community's written compact, they were escorted off the camp, away from the protection of an abandoned overpass. One was told we'll discuss this in the morning; the other was voted off the island, his knife tossed into the river, his tent taken down.

The chief flicks his spent cigar into that same river. There is talk of rain tonight.

Behind him, the camp stirs. Other tent cities have sprung up recently around the country, but Rhode Island officials have never seen anything like this. A tea kettle sings.

A heavily pierced young person walks by without picking up an empty plastic bottle, flouting the camp compact that says everyone will share in the labor. The compact may be as impermanent as this sudden community by the river, but for now it is binding. The chief speaks, the bottle is picked up.

The chief, John Freitas, is 55, with a gray beard touched by tobacco rust. He did prison time decades ago, worked for years as a factory supervisor, then became homeless for all the familiar, complicated reasons.

Layoffs, health problems, a slip from apartment to motel room. His girlfriend, Barbara Kalil, 50, lost her job as a nursing-home nurse, and another slip, into the shelter system. A job holding store-liquidation signs beside the highway allowed for a climb back to a motel, but it didn't last.

Weary of shelters, the couple pitched a pup tent in Roger Williams Park, close to a plaque bearing words Williams had used to describe this place he founded: "A Shelter for Persons in Distress." But someone complained, so Mr. Freitas set off again in search of shelter. The March winds blew.

Down South Main Street he went, past the majestic court building and the upscale seafood restaurant, over a guardrail to a gravelly plot beneath a ramp that once guided cars toward Cape Cod. Foul-smelling and partially hidden, a place of birds and rodents, it was perfect.

He and Ms. Kalil set up camp with another couple in early April. Word of it spread from the shelters to Kennedy Plaza downtown, where homeless people share the same empty Tim Hortons cup to pose as customers worthy of visiting that doughnut chain's restroom. The camp became 10 people, then 15, then 25. No children allowed.

"I was always considered the leader, the chief," Mr. Freitas says. "I was the one consulted about 'Where should I put my tent?' "

By late June the camp had about 50 people. But someone questioned the role of Mr. Freitas as chief, so he stepped down. Arguments broke out. Food was stolen.

"There was no center holding," recalls Rachell Shaw, 22, who lives with her boyfriend in a tidy tent decorated with porcelain dolls. "So everybody voted him back in."

The community also established a five-member leadership council and a compact that read in part: "No one person shall be greater than the will of the whole."

It is now late afternoon in late July, a month after nearly everyone signed that compact. The community remains intact, though the very ground they walk on says nothing is forever. Here and there are the exposed foundations of fish shacks that lined the river long ago.

Some state officials recently stopped by to say, nicely but firmly, that everyone would soon have to leave. The overpass poses the threat of falling concrete, and is scheduled for demolition. The officials have shared the same message with a smaller encampment across the river.

For now, a game of horseshoes sends echoing clanks, as outreach workers conduct interviews and raindrops thrum the tent tops. The chief lights another cigar and walks the length of the camp to tell residents to batten down, explaining its structure as he goes.

Here at the end, nearest the road, are the tents of young single people and substance abusers; this way, rescue vehicles won't disrupt the entire compound.

Here in the center are a cluster of couples, including two competing for the nicest property, with homey touches like planted flowers. Here too are the food table, the coolers, the piles of donated clothes - what can't be used will be taken by camp residents to the Salvation Army - and the large tent of the chief. Plastic pink flamingos stand guard.

Farther on, the recycled-can area (the money is used for ice and propane); the area for garbage bags that will be discreetly dropped in nearby Dumpsters at night; and, behind a blue tarp hung from the overpass, a plastic toilet. The chief says the shared task of removing the bags of waste tends to test the compact.

Finally, near some rocks where men go to urinate, live a gay couple and some people who drink hard. Timothy Webb, 49, who says he used to own a salon in Cranston called Class Act, cuts people's hair here. Then, at night, he and his partner, Norman Trank, 45, sit at a riverside table, a battery-operated candle giving light, the moving waters suggesting mystery.

"It's what you make of it," Mr. Trank says.

Dark clouds have brought night early to Providence. Heavy drops thump against tarp. Water drips from the overpass, onto the long table of food.

In the last couple of hours the chief has resolved a conflict about tarp distribution, hugged a pregnant woman who mistakenly thought she had been kicked off the island, conferred with outreach workers and helped with dinner preparations. He is also thinking about tomorrow.

Tomorrow, an advance party for the chief will leave to claim another spot across the river that turns out not to be on public property. Many in the camp will decide it's time to move on anyway, to a spot under a bridge in East Providence. Camp Runamuck will begin its recession from sight and memory.

At least tonight there is a communal dinner: donated chicken, parboiled and grilled; donated corn on the cob; donated potatoes. People line up with paper plates.

The rain falls harder, pocking the river's gray surface, surrounding the dark camp with a sound like fingers drumming in impatience. The chief hears it, but what can he do? He finishes his dinner and lights another cigar.


6) Farm Workers' Union Sues California Agency Over Rules on Heat Safety
July 31, 2009

The United Farm Workers union sued California's occupational health and safety agency on Thursday, accusing it of doing too little to prevent farm laborers' deaths from heat illness.

The lawsuit, filed in state Superior Court in Los Angeles, says 11 farm workers have died from heat illness since California adopted regulations in 2005 aimed at stopping such deaths. It says that the regulations are too weak and that the safety agency has too few investigators and inspects too few farms, where laborers often work in heat exceeding 100 degrees.

Six farm workers died from heat illness last year, according to the lawsuit. State officials say three did. None have died this year, but several were taken to the hospital, lawyers for the union said.

Last year, the state found that more than 35 percent of the growers it had investigated violated the regulations.

Officials with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health said they have increased efforts to prevent heat-related illnesses.

They said that since a heat wave began on July 11, the agency had conducted 167 inspections of outdoor workplaces and found more than 200 violations.

"We have done more enforcement this year than we have over all in past years," said Dean Fryer, a spokesman for the Department of Industrial Relations, who said the enforcement has resulted in more compliance. The agency, he said, has taught more than 5,000 growers and farm labor contractors about the requirements of the heat regulations.

State inspectors ordered 10 employers to suspend operation because of violations, including one grower who had less than one gallon of water for 15 employees working in 116-degree heat.

The lawsuit maintains that the regulations wrongly place the burden on the workers to say they need a break and some shade when they start to suffer from the heat. By then, the lawsuit says, some workers might be in grave danger.

"It's extremely difficult for workers to step forward, especially because they often work at piece rates, and they're not paid when they take a break," said Catherine Lhamon, assistant legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, which helped file the case.

The lawsuit says California should require that growers set triggers at various temperatures at which point growers would have to give workers a rest in the shade. It says that the regulations require growers to give just a five-minute break to workers who complain about the heat.


7) Bankers Reaped Lavish Bonuses During Bailouts
July 31, 2009

Thousands of top traders and bankers on Wall Street were awarded huge bonuses and pay packages last year, even as their employers were battered by the financial crisis.

Nine of the financial firms that were among the largest recipients of federal bailout money paid about 5,000 of their traders and bankers bonuses of more than $1 million apiece for 2008, according to a report released Thursday by Andrew M. Cuomo, the New York attorney general.

At Goldman Sachs, for example, bonuses of more than $1 million went to 953 traders and bankers, and Morgan Stanley awarded seven-figure bonuses to 428 employees. Even at weaker banks like Citigroup and Bank of America, million-dollar awards were distributed to hundreds of workers.

The report is certain to intensify the growing debate over how, and how much, Wall Street bankers should be paid.

In January, President Obama called financial institutions "shameful" for giving themselves nearly $20 billion in bonuses as the economy was faltering and the government was spending billions to bail out financial institutions.

On Friday, the House of Representatives may vote on a bill that would order bank regulators to restrict "inappropriate or imprudently risky" pay packages at larger banks.

Mr. Cuomo, who for months has criticized the companies over pay, said the bonuses were particularly galling because the banks survived the crisis with the government's support.

"If the bank lost money, where do you get the money to pay the bonus?" he said.

All the banks named in the report declined to comment.

Mr. Cuomo's stance - that compensation for every employee in a financial firm should rise and fall in line with the company's overall results - is not shared on Wall Street, which tends to reward employees based more on their individual performance. Otherwise, the thinking goes, top workers could easily leave for another firm that would reward them more directly for their personal contribution.

Many banks partly base their bonuses on overall results, but Mr. Cuomo has said they should do so to a greater degree.

At Morgan Stanley, for example, compensation last year was more than seven times as large as the bank's profit. In 2004 and 2005, when the stock markets were doing well, Morgan Stanley spent only two times its profits on compensation.

Robert A. Profusek, a lawyer with the law firm Jones Day, which works with many of the large banks, said bank executives and boards spent considerable time deciding bonuses based on the value of workers to their companies.

"There's this assumption that everyone was like drunken sailors passing out money without regard to the consequences or without giving it any thought," Mr. Profusek said. "That wasn't the case."

Mr. Cuomo's office did not study the correlation between all of the individual bonuses and the performance of the people who received them.

Congressional leaders have introduced several other bills aimed at reining in the bank bonus culture. Federal regulators and a new government pay czar, Kenneth Feinberg, are also scrutinizing bank bonuses, which have fueled populist outrage. Incentives that led to large bonuses on Wall Street are often cited as a cause of the financial crisis.

Though it has been known for months that billions of dollars were spent on bonuses last year, it was unclear whether that money was spread widely or concentrated among a few workers.

The report suggests that those roughly 5,000 people - a small subset of the industry - accounted for more than $5 billion in bonuses. At Goldman, just 200 people collectively were paid nearly $1 billion in total, and at Morgan Stanley, $577 million was shared by 101 people.

All told, the bonus pools at the nine banks that received bailout money was $32.6 billion, while those banks lost $81 billion.

Some compensation experts questioned whether the bonuses should have been paid at all while the banks were receiving government aid.

"There are some real ethical questions given the bailouts and the precariousness of so many of these financial institutions," said Jesse M. Brill, an outspoken pay critic who is the chairman of, a research firm in California. "It's troublesome that the old ways are so ingrained that it is very hard for them to shed them."

The report does not include certain other highly paid employees, like brokers who are paid on commission. The report also does not include some bank subsidiaries, like the Phibro commodities trading unit at Citigroup, where one trader stands to collect $100 million for his work last year.

Now that most banks are making money again, hefty bonuses will probably be even more common this year. And many banks have increased salaries among highly paid workers so that they will not depend as heavily on bonuses.

Banks typically do not disclose compensation figures beyond their total compensation expenses and the amounts paid to top five highly paid executives, but they turned over information on their bonus pools to a House committee and to Mr. Cuomo after the bailout last year.

The last few years provide a "virtual laboratory" to test whether bankers' pay moved in line with bank performance, Mr. Cuomo said. If it did, he said, the pay levels would have dropped off in 2007 and 2008 as bank profits fell.

So far this year, Morgan Stanley has set aside about $7 billion for compensation - which includes salaries, bonuses and expenses like health care - even though it has reported quarterly losses.

At some banks last year, revenue fell to levels not seen in more than five years, but pay did not. At Citigroup, revenue was the lowest since 2002. But the amount the bank spent on compensation was higher than in any other year between 2003 and 2006.

At Bank of America, revenue last year was at the same level as in 2006, and the bank kept the amount it paid to employees in line with 2006. Profit at the bank last year, however, was one-fifth of the level in 2006.

Still, regulators may have limited resources for keeping pay in check. Only banks that still have bailout money are subject to oversight by Mr. Feinberg, the pay czar. He will approve pay for the top 100 compensated employees at banks like Citigroup and Bank of America as well as automakers like General Motors.


8) When Auto Plants Close, Only White Elephants Remain
July 31, 2009

WIXOM, Mich. - The sheer size of the sites has inspired grand visions for redevelopment - a $1 billion football stadium, a huge Hollywood movie studio, even the world's largest indoor tennis complex.

But for the communities saddled with a huge, empty auto plant, the reality is dismal.

Abandoned car factories, sprawling over hundreds of acres, often stand vacant for years awaiting demolition, environmental cleanup and a willing developer.

Since 2004, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler have closed 22 major auto plants in the United States. Only eight of those have found buyers. And in the wake of the G.M. and Chrysler bankruptcies, another 16 plants will be shut by 2011.

The most optimistic redevelopment proposals, like a football stadium for the Atlanta Falcons or a movie studio in the small Michigan town of Wixom, a Detroit suburb, are long shots at best.

"The plants, whether they're still standing or reoccupied, are always going to be a haunting reminder of what we were, what we've gone through, and where we still need to go," said Representative Thaddeus McCotter, Republican of Michigan, whose district includes an old Ford plant in Wixom and a G.M. plant that will soon close.

Even sites in attractive locations are hard to sell in the weak economy. With so many companies being squeezed financially, there is a glut of available commercial real estate.

"Even if you only go back three or four years, it was easier than today," said Phil Horlock, head of Ford's land development division.

The loss to the local community when a plant closes goes well beyond jobs. Tax revenue evaporates and related businesses vanish.

Industry analysts estimate that each job in a plant helps create another five to seven jobs.

"Some of those are direct suppliers, but then there are places that workers spend money, like grocery stores, restaurants and day care," said Kristin Dziczek of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Ford's 4.7-million-square-foot Wixom factory, which closed in 2007, was the company's largest assembly plant in the United States. More than six million cars were built there over 50 years.

At its peak in the late 1980s, the factory employed nearly 4,000. Now it's an empty shell of rusting corrugated metal, surrounded by desolate parking lots and a barbed-wire fence.

The plant fronts an Interstate highway, and stretches almost a mile along Wixom Road. It once provided 40 percent of the town's property taxes, but now accounts for less than 15 percent.

The town has about 13,000 residents, and relied heavily on the paychecks of plant workers.

"When it closed, a lot of businesses around us closed too," said Moe Leon, owner of the Bullseye Sports Bar and Grill on Wixom Road. "We're fighting night and day to stay above water."

Last year, a team of executives from Warner Brothers toured the plant as a potential site for a new studio. Other developers have floated proposals for a hotel, an ice hockey arena and a business district devoted to green technology.

Ford officials said several ideas were under consideration, but there was no timetable for a sale.

Mr. Horlock said Ford had sold five large factories in the last five years. He said the company generally did not raze a plant, or begin to clean up any toxic wastes, until a deal was sealed.

The auto company sold one assembly plant, in Lorain, Ohio, to a developer who leases out space to small industrial firms. Honda, a competitor of Ford's with two assembly plants in Ohio, recently started storing excess inventory of cars and minivans in the plant's parking lots. But most closed plants languish.

After G.M. closed a factory in Doraville, Ga., last year, there was an initial rush of interest from developers. One of them suggested the site be used for a new stadium for the National Football League's Falcons, but the team's owners have so far shown little enthusiasm for that idea.

Luke Howe, an assistant to Doraville's mayor, said other proposals for the 165-acre site range "from the ridiculous to the sublime," and no developers had come forward with adequate financing.

"We knew it would be a lengthy process," he said. "It just happened to fall during one of the worst economic times."

But some factory sites have remained vacant through good times as well - a sign of just how difficult it is to create a second life for them.

G.M. demolished most of its giant Buick City manufacturing complex in Flint, Mich., a decade ago. The 200-acre property appeared to finally have a future as a transportation hub for long-haul trucks and rail cars, but G.M. could not complete a deal before filing for bankruptcy on June. 1.

The Flint site, along with dozens of other factories and properties, is part of the old G.M. that is still in bankruptcy and will most likely be sold, eventually, in the liquidation process. The company's best assets were transferred to a new corporate entity that now operates as General Motors. Auto companies sell their old plants for a song, compared to what they put into them. The government in Oklahoma County, which covers much of Oklahoma City, for example, paid $55 million last year for a four-million-square-foot plant that will be leased to the United States Air Force to expand a nearby base. Just eight years ago, G.M. invested $700 million in the plant to modernize it.

Environmental problems can also hamper a sale. While every plant has different pollution issues, G.M.'s restructuring chief, Albert A. Koch, estimated in bankruptcy court that the company's liabilities for all its closed sites was $530 million.

One old G.M. plant that has found a new life is in Linden, N.J. The company shut down the factory in 2005, demolished it two years ago, and sold it to a developer for a mixed-use project called Legacy Square.

The 104-acre site will be anchored by a Super Wal-Mart store, and ultimately will pay more taxes to the city than G.M. did.

But the 2,400 permanent jobs will fall far short of the 6,000 workers that G.M. once employed in the city.

"The United Auto Workers had very high-paying jobs there, and those will not be comparable to the jobs that are going to be in the shopping mall," said Linden's mayor, Richard J. Gerbounka.

But, he added, "We're better off than having 104 acres of vacant property sitting there."

The worst of the empty auto plants is located, perhaps fittingly, on the downtrodden east side of Detroit.

The 3.5-million-square-foot factory has been crumbling since the Packard Motor Car Company closed its doors more than 50 years ago. Trees grow on the plant's roof, and chunks of concrete regularly fall from the bridge that connects two of its buildings.

Trespassers often explore its rotted interior, and photographs and videos of the ruins are easily found on the Internet.

Vandals have set fires several times this year in the piles of wooden pallets, tires and garbage that litter the complex. It is not unusual to see clouds of thick smoke pouring from the building on a summer evening.


9) Could the great recession lead to a great revolution?
A look at mass protests during the past 500 years reveals surprising clues.
By Immanuel Ness
July 30, 2009

Brooklyn, N.Y. - For the first time in generations, people are challenging the view that a free-market order - the system that dominates the globe today - is the destiny of all nations. The free market's uncanny ability to enrich the elite, coupled with its inability to soften the sharp experiences of staggering poverty, has pushed inequality to the breaking point.

As a result, we live at an important historical juncture - one where alternatives to the world's neoliberal capitalism could emerge. Thus, it is a particularly apt time to examine revolutionary movements that have periodically challenged dominant state and imperial power structures over the past 500 years.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, which laid the foundation for liberal democratic elections and the expansion of the free-market system throughout the world, revolution and protest seemed to lose some of their potency.

Leading historians believed that a new age had appeared in which revolutionary movements would no longer challenge the status quo. Defenders of the contemporary system were suspicious of nearly all forms of popular expression and contestation for power outside the electoral arena. But remarkably, this entire discourse sidestepped the major impulses of human emancipation of the past 500 years - equality, democracy, and social rights.

Proponents of neoliberalism are indifferent to this history and dismiss the notion that "another world is possible" that could alleviate grinding misery and poverty around the world. But in opposition to the contemporary individualistic system of capitalism, evidence of a new global movement dedicated to social justice and human rights has sprung from the ashes of the past. Just in the past decade, we have witnessed the expansion of worker insurgencies, peasant and indigenous uprisings, ecological protests, and democracy movements.

Historians frequently view revolutions as extraordinary and unanticipated interruptions of state social regulation of everyday life.

This isn't the case.

In my work as editor of a new encyclopedia of revolution and protest, I've reviewed 500 years' worth of revolutionary actions. And the surprising pattern I've found is the regularity of volatile and explosive conflicts, commonly revealed as waves of protest from within civil society to confront persistent inequality and oppression. While historians cannot forecast the time and place of revolutions, the past has a sustained, if disjointed, record of popular resistance to injustice.

History shows that revolutions must have political movement and a socially compelling goal, with strategic and charismatic leadership that inspires majorities to challenge a perception of fundamental injustice and inequality. A necessary feature is the development of a political ideology rooted in a narrative that legitimates mass collective action, which is indispensable to forcing dominant groups to address social grievances - or to overturning those dominant groups altogether.

Unresponsive rulers risk possible overthrow of their governments. For example, the vision and struggle of a multiracial South Africa was a guiding principle that put an end to the entrenched white-dominated apartheid system.

A second essential element is what Italian philosopher Antonio Negri calls constituent power, the expression of the popular will for democracy - a common theme in nearly all revolutions - through what he calls the multitude.

Mr. Negri counterpoises the concepts of constituent power and constituted power to demonstrate the oppositional forces in society. Thus, following the American Revolution, the ruling elite created a second Constitution establishing a national government with fewer democratic safeguards.

In response to challenges from popular movements, modern states have concentrated power in constitutions and centralized authority structures to suppress mass demands for democracy and equality. Few democratic revolutionary movements have gained popular power as new states almost always consolidate control, often resorting to repression of the masses that initially brought them to power. Still, virtually all revolutions during the past 500 years have created enduring consequences that, in evolving form, remain forces for justice to this day.

Revolutionary movements must recognize the durability and overwhelming inertia of state power. They must acknowledge that they are highly unlikely to seize power from unjust regimes, even when their objectives have moral force and are deeply popular among the masses. And yet, history is full of exceptions to this rule, so we must conclude that while revolutionary transformation is improbable, it is always a possibility.

Could the great recession lead to a great revolution?
A look at mass protests during the past 500 years reveals surprising clues.
By Immanuel Ness
from the July 30, 2009 edition

At a lecture to Young Socialists in Zurich just one month before the February 1917 Revolution, Vladimir Lenin said: "We of the older generation may not live to see the decisive battles of this coming revolution." Less than a year later, Lenin and the Bolsheviks gained power over the Soviet state with the initial support of workers, peasants, and most of the military.

In the last century, the opponents of the failed bureaucratic statism in the Soviet sphere and free-market capitalism in the West have struggled to find a discourse of resistance. While democratic opponents defeated Soviet Russia in the early 1990s, opponents of free-market capitalism have yet to gain traction, in part due to the general consensus among global rulers in defense of neoliberalism. As such, revolutionary movements have had to redefine themselves outside territorial borders as powerful tools of the global collective to petition for human rights and social justice for all.

People are inherently cautious and take extraordinary action only when they have little to lose and something to gain. The current economic crisis has pushed more people into poverty and despair than at any time since the early 20th century, to the point where alternatives to the current system can be considered.

Today, throughout the world, peasants, workers, indigenous peoples, and students are galvanized into movements that are challenging state power rooted in global norms of neoliberalism. New movements have gained greater traction with the legitimacy and strength of a global collective behind them, rather than as isolated protests. The oppressed are framing new narratives of liberation to contest power on a state and international level: whether peasants in Latin America or India struggling for land reform; indigenous peoples mobilizing resistance for official recognition of their rights; or workers and students throughout the world waging unauthorized strikes and sit-ins, and taking to the streets in support of democracy and equality.

Immanuel Ness is a professor of political science at Brooklyn College, City University of New York, and editor of "The International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest: 1500 to the Present."


10) Democrats sell out California's poor, elderly and disabled in budget deal
Posted By blockreportradio
On July 28, 2009 @ 11:13 am
In News and Views, SF Bay Area
by Lynda Carson

Oakland - California's phony bleeding heart liberal Democrats have just helped to pass a Republican budget deal that shreds California's safety net by cutting $15.5 billion from the state's service sector to partially close a $26.3 billion funding shortfall in state revenues.

Among other things, the Democrats supported a $1.3 billion cut to MediCal, a $2.8 billion cut to the statewide university system, and a $6 billion cut to California's K-12 schools. The Democratic leadership also supported the Republicans' push to slash the children's health insurance program known as Healthy Families, as well as In-Home Supportive Services and the CalWORKs program by cutting $878 million or more in coming months.

Rather than raising taxes on the rich and the major corporations that fail to pay their fair share of the tax burden in California, the Democrats chose to side with the Republicans and two bit actor Schwarzenegger turned governor in stealing precious resources meant to assist students, children, the sick, disabled, elderly, poor and working middle class.

Meanwhile, Congresswoman Barbara Lee and other phony liberals continue to remain silent about the budget cutting process taking place in Sacramento, while the true extent of the attacks on the poor, elderly and disabled plumbs new depths of deception and depravity.

During recent weeks, numerous calls made to Congresswoman Lee's office inquiring as to why the powerful congresswoman remains silent about the attack on California's safety net have resulted in nothing more than a big "No comment" coming from her staffers in Washington, including her Oakland spokesperson Ricci Graham. "California's budget crisis is a state issue, not a federal issue, and therefore Congresswoman Lee has no comment," said Graham - his statement totally lacking in credibility and humanity.

As California's Democratic leadership, including Assembly Speaker Karen Bass and Pro Tem Darrel Steinberg for a total of 18 Democrat sell-outs who supported the Republican's attack on the safety net, try to conceal how much damage they have wrought upon the general public, hundreds of thousands of Californians will be hit hard in future months by the budget deal that protects the interests of the mighty rich, as it crushes the lives and interests of the working class poor.

Making matters worse for the elderly, disabled and poor, the Democratic leadership granted extreme new powers to the Republican minority by agreeing to proposals that do major damage to COLAs (cost of living increases) for those in CalWORKs, SSP (State Supplementary Payment that augments federal Supplemental Security Income, or SSI) and other areas of the state's safety net by requiring that any new COLAs for the people in those programs be approved by a two-thirds vote in future budget proposals.

At a small July 22 rally in front of Oakland City Hall, Eleanor Walden and her daughter, Nasira, publicly spoke out against the Republican budget cutting proposals along with Zachary Norris of Books Not Bars and Kevin D. Shields, coordinator for the Disabled Students Program at the University of California, Berkeley.

"The thought of the Democrats siding with the Republicans in the fascist proposals being passed to make the elderly and disabled get fingerprinted because of their participation in the In-Home Supportive Services Program, is enough to make my blood boil," said Walden, a Berkeley scholar of 20th century American history and folklore.

"This is absolutely parallel to the fascism of Europe during the 1930s in its broad attack on the elderly, disabled and poor, who are being scapegoated just as the Jews of Europe were in the '30s. They are turning citizens into aliens and are trying to turn the elderly and disabled into criminals.

"I can bear witness to the damage being done to people in my generation by the horrific effects of the budget cuts taking place," said Walden, "and I further believe that we have become living targets of a fascist state. As witness to recent events, I am convinced that we are on the road to fascism."

Kevin Shields, representing disabled students, said, "By cutting the social services desperately needed by the disabled and elderly, you create a whole new class of citizens who become angry, frustrated and disillusioned about the system that was meant to assist them in their time of need."

Lydia Gans of Food Not Bombs said, "We already are seeing a huge increase in the homeless and hungry due to the effects of a bad economy during our feeding times at People's Park. The nonprofits who usually help out are losing funding and donations, and this latest round of budget cutting proposals will increase the level of homelessness and hunger all across the state.

"What should be happening is that everyone affected by the budget cuts should be in the streets of Sacramento and cities across the state to protest against the inhumanity and catastrophic effects that are taking place in everyday people's lives."

As being proposed by state lawmakers, there's an additional $8 million in funding to be slashed from the budget for state parks, on top of the $226 million in cuts to IHSS, plus $528 million from CalWORKS, including $124 million in cuts from the Healthy Families program that will negatively affect 930,000 low-income children.

SSI/SSP recipients have already taken a huge 6.4 percent cut from the state assistance program since February 2009, including the suspension of their cost of living increases that were promised to be paid back after being grabbed by the governor. It will be nearly impossible to restore the cost of living increases now that the Democrats gave new sweeping powers to the Republicans, especially the requirement for a two-thirds majority vote prior to any future cost of living adjustments.

As the Democrats try to conceal and deceive the public about the true extent of damage they have done to California's safety net by siding with the Republicans in the vicious attack on children, the disabled, elderly and working class poor, additional budget cuts are expected as the governor prepares to use the line item veto during the next few days to slash another $1.1 billion as he balances the budget on the backs of the poor.

A press conference and rally for the "People's Budget Fix," calling for criminal justice reforms that will increase public safety, protect the social safety net and save the state billions, will take place on Thursday, July 30, between 11 a.m. and 12 noon at the Elihu M. Harris State Building, 1515 Clay St., Oakland, near the 12th Street BART Station. Contact Jennifer Kim at [1] or (510) 285-8234 for more information on the rally.

Lynda Carson may be reached at


11) Anger Has Its Place
Cambridge, Mass.
Op-Ed Columnist
August 1, 2009

No more than five or six minutes elapsed from the time the police were alerted to the possibility of a break-in at a home in a quiet residential neighborhood and the awful clamping of handcuffs on the wrists of the distinguished Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.

If Professor Gates ranted and raved at the cop who entered his home uninvited with a badge, a gun and an attitude, he didn't rant and rave for long. The 911 call came in at about 12:45 on the afternoon of July 16 and, as The Times has reported, Mr. Gates was arrested, cuffed and about to be led off to jail by 12:51.

The charge: angry while black.

The president of the United States has suggested that we use this flare-up as a "teachable moment," but so far exactly the wrong lessons are being drawn from it - especially for black people. The message that has gone out to the public is that powerful African-American leaders like Mr. Gates and President Obama will be very publicly slapped down for speaking up and speaking out about police misbehavior, and that the proper response if you think you are being unfairly targeted by the police because of your race is to chill.

I have nothing but contempt for that message.

Mr. Gates is a friend, and I was selected some months ago to receive an award from an institute that he runs at Harvard. I made no attempt to speak to him while researching this column.

The very first lesson that should be drawn from the encounter between Mr. Gates and the arresting officer, Sgt. James Crowley, is that Professor Gates did absolutely nothing wrong. He did not swear at the officer or threaten him. He was never a danger to anyone. At worst, if you believe the police report, he yelled at Sergeant Crowley. He demanded to know if he was being treated the way he was being treated because he was black.

You can yell at a cop in America. This is not Iran. And if some people don't like what you're saying, too bad. You can even be wrong in what you are saying. There is no law against that. It is not an offense for which you are supposed to be arrested.

That's a lesson that should have emerged clearly from this contretemps.

It was the police officer, Sergeant Crowley, who did something wrong in this instance. He arrested a man who had already demonstrated to the officer's satisfaction that he was in his own home and had been minding his own business, bothering no one. Sergeant Crowley arrested Professor Gates and had him paraded off to jail for no good reason, and that brings us to the most important lesson to be drawn from this case. Black people are constantly being stopped, searched, harassed, publicly humiliated, assaulted, arrested and sometimes killed by police officers in this country for no good reason.

New York City cops make upwards of a half-million stops of private citizens each year, questioning and frequently frisking these men, women and children. The overwhelming majority of those stopped are black or Latino, and the overwhelming majority are innocent of any wrongdoing. A true "teachable moment" would focus a spotlight on such outrages and the urgent need to stop them.

But this country is not interested in that.

I wrote a number of columns about the arrests of more than 30 black and Hispanic youngsters - male and female - who were doing nothing more than walking peacefully down a quiet street in Brooklyn in broad daylight in the spring of 2007. The kids had to hire lawyers and fight the case for nearly two frustrating years before the charges were dropped and a settlement for their outlandish arrests worked out.

Black people need to roar out their anger at such treatment, lift up their voices and demand change. Anyone counseling a less militant approach is counseling self-defeat. As of mid-2008, there were 4,777 black men imprisoned in America for every 100,000 black men in the population. By comparison, there were only 727 white male inmates per 100,000 white men.

While whites use illegal drugs at substantially higher percentages than blacks, black men are sent to prison on drug charges at 13 times the rate of white men.

Most whites do not want to hear about racial problems, and President Obama would rather walk through fire than spend his time dealing with them. We're never going to have a serious national conversation about race. So that leaves it up to ordinary black Americans to rant and to rave, to demonstrate and to lobby, to march and confront and to sue and generally do whatever is necessary to stop a continuing and deeply racist criminal justice outrage.


12) Cuba Suspends Communist Party Congress and Lowers Projection for Economy
August 1, 2009

HAVANA (AP) - Cuba suspended plans on Friday for a Communist Party congress and lowered its 2009 economic growth projection nearly a full percentage point as its economy struggled through what President Raúl Castro called a "very serious" crisis.

In a closed-door meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, officials agreed to indefinitely postpone the first congress since 1997, which was to have taken place by the end of this year.

The gathering was expected to chart Cuba's political future after Mr. Castro and his brother Fidel are gone. Instead, the nation's leaders will try to pull their country back from the economic brink.

Cuba lowered its 2009 growth estimate from 2.5 percent to 1.7 percent, but that figure was dubious given that it included state spending on free health care and education, the food Cubans receive with monthly ration booklets and a broad range of other social services.

The revision downward was Cuba's second this year. In December, central planners said they thought the Cuban economy would grow by 6 percent in 2009.

The economic problems began last summer, with three hurricanes that caused more than $10 billion in damage. The situation has worsened with the onset of the global financial crisis and the recession.

Party congresses historically have been held roughly every five years to renew leadership and set major policies, but the government has broken with that tradition over the past decade.

Raúl Castro, 78, succeeded his brother as president more than 18 months ago, but Fidel Castro, 82, remains the leader of the Communist Party.

Information about the Central Committee meeting took up the entire front page of the Communist Party daily newspaper Granma. "Things are very serious and we are now analyzing them," it quoted Raúl Castro as saying.

"The principal matter is the economy: what we have done and what we have to perfect and even eliminate as we are up against an imperative to make full accounts of what the country really has available, of what we have to live and for development," the newspaper quoted the president as saying.

It said authorities would postpone the sixth party congress until "this crucial phase" has been overcome. No date was given.


13) Alabama Area Reeling in Face of Fiscal Crisis
August 1, 2009

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - It is hardly unusual these days for a government building to forgo a fresh paint job or regular lawn care to cut costs. But last week, the director of the Jefferson County public nursing home was told that the county could no longer afford to bury indigent patients.

Across town at the juvenile detention center, the man in charge was trying to figure out how to feed the 28 children in his custody when the entire cafeteria staff is let go. The tax collector warned local school districts to expect a six-month delay to get their share of property taxes. In family court, administrators plan to delay child support, custody and child abuse cases, leaving some children in the hands of the state indefinitely.

In every part of Jefferson County - Alabama's most populous county and its main economic engine - government managers have been scrambling to prepare for Saturday, when two-thirds of county employees eligible for layoffs - up to 1,400 - will be lost in an effort to stave off financial ruin.

"Outside of the city of Detroit," said Robert A. Kurrter, a managing director with Moody's Investors Service, "it's fair to say we haven't seen any place in America with the severity of problems that they're experiencing in Jefferson County." Moody's rates Jefferson County's credit lower than any other municipality in the country.

In July, the county asked Gov. Bob Riley, a Republican, to declare a state of emergency. Mr. Riley declined, delicately explaining that his authority extended to tornadoes but not to tsunamis of red ink.

Jefferson County, which includes Birmingham, could be compared to a person who has lost his job, watched his retirement investments evaporate and is stuck with a house that is worth less than what he owes the bank. Some of the county's woes stem from the financial crisis that has pounded so many communities: its sales and property tax revenues are down by $40 million, and it borrowed billions in a sewer bond boondoggle that is the municipal equivalent of a subprime mortgage, using failed exotic bond deals and swaps concocted by investment bankers.

But the county has additional troubles: the sewer project was riddled with corruption, and in January a court ruled that a tax the county relied on for more than a quarter of its general fund was illegal because the Legislature repealed it in 1999.

State lawmakers could easily fix that problem by re-enacting the tax, but deliberations have dragged on even as the county has halted road maintenance, delayed opening a courthouse, announced plans to close half its customer service locations and asked department heads to submit the names of those who would be laid off on Saturday.

Several lawmakers have accused the county commissioners of bluffing.

"We need to keep in mind that this tax was repealed 10 years ago," State Senator Scott Beason, a Republican, said Monday at the latest in a series of inconclusive legislative meetings. "They went out and continued to run up their debt, continued to spend all the money they could find to spend, knowing that this day of reckoning was coming."

Now, Mr. Beason said, the county was using its own employees as "hostages."

Such criticism was not limited to Republicans. "They are flat-out lying," State Representative John W. Rogers Jr., the Democratic co-leader of the county's delegation, said of the county's financial assessments. "What they're basically doing is using scare tactics, putting pressure on the Legislature."

The tax that was ruled illegal, known as the occupational tax, is essentially a 0.5 percent tax on income, but the phrase "income tax" does not sit well with Alabamians. One of its peculiarities is that it exempts a long list of professionals like doctors and lawyers, as well as phrenologists, circus managers and crystal gazers. In 1999, state lawmakers from Jefferson County, who are allowed by legislative tradition to control the county's ability to levy taxes, tried to earmark part of the money for their own projects, and the county balked.

In response, the lawmakers voted to repeal the tax. But the county, buoyed by court rulings in its favor, continued to collect it, bringing in about $75 million last year - more than 25 percent of the county's general fund.

In January, a judge ruled that the repeal was valid. Hoping lawmakers would fix the problem, the judge allowed the county to continue to use the tax until the end of the legislative session. But the Legislature did nothing.

"It is their responsibility," Bettye Fine Collins, a Republican and the president of the County Commission, said after Tuesday's commission meeting. "They have complete authority over us."

Republicans hold the majority in the county's Senate delegation; the House delegation is evenly divided. The County Commission is dominated by Republicans, two of whom served in the Legislature in 1999 and voted to repeal the tax, but are now begging for its reinstatement.

Mr. Rogers said he would strive to re-enact the tax, if only to prove that it would not solve the county's problems.

By that, he meant the sewer debacle, which has not helped the county's credibility with the Legislature. More than 20 people, including three former county commissioners, have been convicted of bribery and kickback schemes stemming from the sewer repairs. At the end of August, Larry P. Langford, the former president of the County Commission and now the Birmingham mayor, will be tried on corruption charges relating to the sewer financing.

By then, the cuts in services will have taken hold. Probate Court will shrink to 13 people, from 54, to process wills, adoptions, and commitments of the mentally ill. There used to be 488 people repairing roads and bridges; there will soon be 89. Doug McCutcheon, who has worked in the county maintenance department for 24 years, will be out of work, and so will his cousin Tim McCutcheon, who will have two daughters in college in the fall.

Adrilisa Steele, 34, a juvenile probation officer, said, "We are probably going to be standing in line for services like everyone else."

Ms. Steele meant lines for unemployment insurance and food stamps, but at the courthouse, the lines for car tags or driver's licenses were already very long. People waited for more than two hours, fearful that come Monday, those routine tasks would become much harder. The general attitude, not surprisingly, was one of indiscriminate disgust. Neither the commissioners, nor the legislators nor Wall Street escaped blame.

"The big dogs ate all the bones," said Mansoor Butt, 55, a store owner. "Now we are all out of bones. The chips are gone, and the poker game's gone. You can't play poker without any chips."

Kyle Whitmire contributed reporting.


14) $100 Million Payday Poses Problem for Pay Czar
August 2, 2009

In a few weeks, the Treasury Department's czar of executive pay will have to answer this $100 million question: Should Andrew J. Hall get his bonus?

Mr. Hall, the 58-year-old head of Phibro, a small commodities trading firm in Westport, Conn., is due for a nine-figure payday, his cut of profits from a characteristically aggressive year of bets in the oil market.

There is little doubt that Mr. Hall is owed the money under his contract. The problem is that his contract is with Citigroup, which was saved with roughly $45 billion in taxpayer aid.

Corporate pay has become a live grenade in the aftermath of the largest series of corporate bailouts in American history. In March, when the American International Group, rescued at vast taxpayer expense, was to give out $165 million in bonuses, Congress moved to constrain the payouts, and protesters showed up at the homes of several executives.

As it happens, one can see some of those homes from Mr. Hall's front lawn in Southport, not far from his office. But his case is more complex. Mr. Hall, raised in Britain and known for titanium nerves and a collection of pricey art, is the standout performer at an operation that has netted Citigroup about $2 billion over the last five years. If Citigroup will not pay him the huge sums he has long made, someone else probably will.

The added wrinkle is that Mr. Hall works in a corner of the trading world that appears headed for its own infamy. Regulators are pushing to curb the role of traders like Mr. Hall, whose speculation in the energy markets may have played a major role in the recent gyrations of oil prices.

That suggests that last summer; drivers paid more at the pump, at least in part, because of people like Andrew J. Hall. How do you hand $100 million to a guy who may have profited because gas hit $4 a gallon?

Whatever the answer, the case of Mr. Hall highlights the hazards of mixing the public interest with capitalism at its most unbridled, and it raises basic questions of fairness. There was outrage last week over a report by the New York attorney general that about 5,000 traders and bankers at bailed-out firms got more than $1 million each last year. So it could be politically untenable for a company like Citigroup to pay gargantuan sums even to those who generate gargantuan profits - the very people the company must retain if it is to recover.

Among those who believe the Phibro-Citigroup relationship is doomed by bailout politics is the $100 million man himself. People with knowledge of talks between Phibro and Citigroup say that Mr. Hall is quietly pushing for what is being called "a quiet divorce" from his parent company and that he has had preliminary talks with one possible suitor.

Wary of publicity and worried that he will become the next marquee villain of the financial collapse, he has discussed with Citigroup's leadership a number possibilities, including a spinoff.

Mr. Hall has plenty of sway over the fate of Phibro because much of its value is thought to flow from his expertise and track record. If he leaves, he could start another firm and bring colleagues with him.

History suggests that he is accustomed to getting his way. Two years ago, Mr. Hall waged a legal fight with the Historic District Commission of Fairfield over an 82-foot concrete sculpture that he had placed on the front lawn of his 7,300-square-foot Greek Revival mansion, where he lives with his wife, Christine. He thought he did not need permission to display the work, but because of his neighborhood's preservation restrictions, the state Supreme Court ultimately ruled that he did.

"The strange part is that I think he would been approved if he'd asked for permission," says Richard Hatch, who headed the commission at the time.

Mr. Hall lent this work to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, though not because he lacks display space. A few years ago, he bought a medieval castle in Germany from the neo-expressionist painter Georg Baselitz, and he and his wife have turned the property, said to contain roughly 150 rooms, into a private museum for their collection.

"He has about 4,000 pieces in what could easily be described as one of the world's finest collections of contemporary art," said a New York dealer, Mary Boone. It includes pieces by Andy Warhol, David Salle, Bruce Nauman and Julian Schnabel.

The son of a British Airways employee who trained pilots, Mr. Hall was raised near London, and he graduated from Oxford University with a degree in chemistry. He moved to the United States in 1981 to work for British Petroleum. His trading there caught the eye of Phibro, a firm that started as Phillips Brothers early in the last century and which, in the 1970s, was the home of Marc Rich, the fugitive pardoned by President Bill Clinton.

By 1987, Mr. Hall was running Phibro. It is based today in a generic red building, part of a bucolic, 53-acre office park that was once a dairy farm. (Its former neighbors included the notorious AIG Financial Products division.) The trading floor is a modest room that was once the company's kitchen, before it downsized about a decade ago.

Mr. Hall and his colleagues - there are about 55 in the Westport office, and handfuls in London and Singapore - specialize in a variety of hedging and arbitrage techniques.

Generally, Phibro looks for anomalies in the market and pounces, taking advantage of unusual spreads between the spot price of oil and the price of an oil futures contract.

The company, for example, often wagers that the price of oil will rise so fast during a particular period, say six months, that it can make money by storing oil in supertankers and floating it until the price goes up. (If the price rises by more than it costs to lease the tankers, he makes money.)

Other deals are more complex. Right before the first Gulf War, Phibro placed an elaborate bet that the price of oil would spike and then go down faster than others were anticipating. The company earned more than $300 million from the gamble.

"He's got great memory, great focus," says Philip Verleger, an author of books about oil markets and a friend of Mr. Hall. "He's not as arrogant as other people who make the kind of money he makes. Of course, you make that kind of money and you're going to be a little arrogant."

A spokesman for Kenneth Feinberg, the Treasury's pay czar, said the reviews of compensation figures were just starting and that pay levels must strike the right balance between discouraging excessive risk-taking and encouraging reward.

"We are not going to provide a running commentary on that process," the spokesman, Andrew Williams, wrote by e-mail, "but it's clear that Mr. Feinberg has broad authority to make sure that compensation at those firms strikes an appropriate balance."

The mere specter of such review is already hurting Citigroup. A person familiar with its staffing travails says that for months it has been trying to fend off competitors who are calling employees and saying, in effect, "Come and work for a company that doesn't have to contend with public scrutiny."

James Forese, Citigroup's co-head of global markets, says Mr. Hall's pay-for-performance contract is the kind the pay czar will like. "We're confident in the value these types of profit-sharing arrangements bring to the company and its shareholders," Mr. Forese wrote in a statement, "as they directly align compensation with performance."

Still, the company is an awkward spot, and it is hard to say which is worse: the inevitable public outcry if Mr. Hall is paid $100 million, or the risk that he might take his talents to a firm in which the public has no stake.


15) Prolonged Aid to Unemployed Is Running Out
August 2, 2009

Over the coming months, as many as 1.5 million jobless Americans will exhaust their unemployment insurance benefits, ending what for some has been a last bulwark against foreclosures and destitution.

Because of emergency extensions already enacted by Congress, laid-off workers in nearly half the states can collect benefits for up to 79 weeks, the longest period since the unemployment insurance program was created in the 1930s. But unemployment in this recession has proved to be especially tenacious, and a wave of job-seekers is using up even this prolonged aid.

Tens of thousands of workers have already used up their benefits, and the numbers are expected to soar in the months to come, reaching half a million by the end of September and 1.5 million by the end of the year, according to new projections by the National Employment Law Project, a private research group.

Unemployment insurance is now a lifeline for nine million Americans, with payments averaging just over $300 per week, varying by state and work history. While many recipients find new jobs before exhausting their benefits, large numbers in the current recession have been unable to find work for a year or more.

Calls are rising for Congress to pass yet another extension this fall, possibly adding 13 more weeks of coverage in states with especially high unemployment. As of June, the national unemployment rate was 9.5 percent, reaching 15.2 percent in Michigan. Even if the recession begins to ease, economists say, jobs will remain scarce for some time to come.

"If more help is not on the way, by September a huge wave of workers will start running out of their critical extended benefits, and many will have nothing left to get by on even as work keeps getting harder to find," said Maurice Emsellem, a policy director of the employment law project.

For many desperate job seekers, any extension will seem a blessing. Pamela C. Lampley of Dillon, S.C., said she sat outside the post office last month and cried because "it was the first Wednesday in quite some time that I've gone to the mailbox and left without an unemployment check." The jobless rate in her state is 12.1 percent.

Ms. Lampley, 40, who is married with three children, lost her job as a human resources officer in January 2008 and had been receiving $351 a week, which covered the groceries and gas. Even so, she and her husband, who still has work as a machinist, were sinking into debt. Now, still poorer, she feels devastated because they cannot buy their son a laptop to take to college and she cannot give her 9-year-old son money for the movies.

In Ohio, where unemployment is 11.1 percent, Cathy Nixon, 39, a mother of four teenagers from Loraine, has been out of work for much of the time since June 2007, and her benefits - $313 a week - run out in September. Ms. Nixon is already fighting foreclosure and said she feared that when the benefits end, "we'll be homeless." She was unable to afford summer camp and baseball activities for her children, despite scrimping on basics.

Raymond Crouse of Columbus operated heavy construction machinery but has found no work since 2007. Mr. Crouse is 72 and receives Social Security but said that was not enough to live on. The $190 a month he has received in unemployment benefits enabled him and his wife to hang on to the house they bought 15 years ago, he said. But with the benefits ending next month, he fears that they will not keep up.

In ordinary times, employers pay into a state insurance fund, and workers who lose jobs draw benefits for up to 26 weeks. During recessions, Congress has often paid for extended coverage for an extra 13 or even 20 weeks.

In 2008, as the recession deepened, Congress provided 33 extra weeks of benefits. Earlier this year, President Obama's stimulus plan offered an additional 20 weeks in states where unemployment surpassed 8 percent, if they adopted new federally recommended rules governing these extra weeks. (South Carolina did not make the changes, and benefits there are running out more quickly.)

Currently, people can draw benefits for up to 79 weeks in 24 states and from 46 weeks to 72 weeks in others.

The stimulus law also, through the end of the year, provided an extra $25 a week to all recipients, exempted a portion of benefits from federal income tax and subsidized Cobra health payments for the unemployed.

Representative Jim McDermott, Democrat of Washington and chairman of the House Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, said he would introduce a bill in September to provide yet another 13 weeks of coverage in states with unemployment rates of 9 percent or higher. "Legislators will line up quickly when they start getting calls from desperate constituents," he said in a telephone interview.

The cost would be $40 billion to $70 billion, but the expense would be temporary, Mr. McDermott said.

Some business groups remain skeptical. Douglas Holmes, president of UWC, a group in Washington that represents businesses on unemployment issues, said that there were early glimmers of economic progress and that it was premature to extend benefits again. The money might be better spent, Mr. Holmes said, creating jobs and training people to move into emerging industries.

Traditionally, many economists have been leery of prolonged unemployment benefits because they can reduce the incentive to seek work. But that should not be a concern now because jobs remain so scarce, said Lawrence Katz, a labor economist at Harvard.

For every job that becomes available, about six people are looking, Dr. Katz said. "Unemployment insurance gives income to families who are really suffering and can't find work even if they are hustling to look," he said.

With the economy still listing, he added, a temporary extension can provide a quick fiscal stimulus. And, Dr. Katz said, when people exhaust unemployment and health insurance, many end up applying for disability benefits, which become a large, unending drain on the Treasury.

Ms. Lampley, whose benefits have ended, described the tough job market. She used to make nearly $15 an hour and has unsuccessfully sought office and clerical work at $8 an hour. Mr. Crouse said that even if new building projects were planned, construction slows in the winter cold.

And Ms. Nixon said that she had interviewed endlessly for jobs in real estate and office work and that even her teenagers could not find fast-food jobs because laid-off adults were filling them.

"I can't find a job," she said, "and you can't survive if you don't work."