United States News Digest
Congressmen: Russians Were Right, We Were Wrong
Sept. 10 (EIRNS)The Administration's anti-Russian line on the Russia-Georgia conflict was sharply challenged by both Democrats and Republicans at a House Foreign Affairs Committee meeting yesterday. Lyndon LaRouche commented that he was not surprised: Not all Americans, and not even all members of Congress, are stupid, LaRouche said, especially when some members of Congress are talking to veteran U.S. intelligence officers and getting the true picture.
The fact that the Georgians and their President, Mikheil Saakashvili, started the conflict, was brought up by committee chairman Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and Rep. William Delahunt (D-Mass.), as well as by Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.). Referring to reports that Saakashvili had launched a military strike against South Ossetia so that he would have a fait accompli, Delahunt charged that "we are being asked to reward that ... with a $1 billion appropriation," that "everyone agrees that Georgia attacked and launched their military operations first."
"The Georgians broke the truce, not the Russians," Rohrabacher declared. "And no amount of talk of provocation and all this other stuff can alter that fact. Yes, some would cling to the fig leaf that the South Ossetians may have provoked attack by firing a rocket or artillery shell. This is reminiscent of the Gulf of Tonkin provocation.
"Let me just say that the Russians are right, we're wrong," Rohrbacher stated. "The Georgians started it. The Russians ended it."
Army Still Can't Get a Handle on Suicides
Sept. 10 (EIRNS)The Army announced last week that 2008 is on track to be its worst year for suicides since the invasion of Iraq. In 2007, 115 soldiers took their own lives, compared to 102 in 2006 and 87 in 2005. As of Aug. 31, 2008, there have been 62 confirmed suicides, with another 31 cases pending final determination. At that rate, Army officials say, the year could finish with 140 to 160 suicides.
The problem continues to worsen despite all the attention given to it, including mental health studies and training given to soldiers which is supposed to help them spot the warning signs of problems in their buddies. When Army officials were asked, during a briefing with reporters, to what they attribute the increased suicide rate, they could not give an answer, except to say that the problem might be much worse without the training and support programs.
One expert consulted by EIR, however, argued that the Army training does not address the culture of the war environment, especially what happens to the brain and body on the battlefield, nor does it pay sufficient attention to helping soldiers readjust when they come home. As a result, "people are coming home and having nowhere to turn.... They're killing themselves, committing crimes, losing their homes, falling into drug abuse and alcohol abuse.... This is a cultural epidemic among veterans." He noted that while the level of violence, and consequently the level of trauma that U.S. troops are exposed to, is coming down in Iraq, the Pentagon is preparing plans to increase troop levels in Afghanistan, so the rotational stress that soldiers and marines are under won't be decreasing any time soon.
Hillary Clinton Takes the Lead on Russia Policy
Sept. 9 (EIRNS)Disagreeing today with the Bush Administration's decision to ask Congress to approve withdrawal from the agreement for cooperation on civilian nuclear energy which had been negotiated with Russia, former Presidential pre-candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) stated at a hearing on the Georgia conflict: "I am somewhat troubled by the withdrawal from the non-proliferation efforts that we are engaged in. I think we ought to be able to hold competing thoughts in our mind at the same time." While Russia is "more intent upon pursuing their own interests as they define them territorially, economically, politically," she stated, "I don't know why anybody is surprised by that.... Rather than seeking to isolate Russia, which I think is not a smart proposal, we should be much more strategic. And I don't know whether it is our interest for the Administration to withdraw."
Clinton called for a commission to be established to determine, among other things, the circumstances under which the Russian-Georgian conflict occurred. "I believe that the Administration will be served to create this U.S. commission, which then could cooperate with the international commission ... to, in the first place, determine the actual facts, because there is a dispute about the facts, which may or may not be real." She added that if Bush does not accept her plan, she would propose legislation to establish the commission, which would also serve as a bridge to the next Administration.
While California Reels, Macho Arnie Struts
Sept. 8 (EIRNS)Damages to the State of California are mounting, due to the failure of the legislature and Gov. Arnie Schwarzenegger to reach an agreement on a budget, which is now 71 days overdue. State Comptroller John Chiang announced that he has been unable to make payments of more than $4.25 billion since July, when the previous fiscal year ended, due to the lack of a budget, and that $7.6 billion in payments due in September will not be made.
The Sacramento Bee reported on Sept. 6 what the failure to make scheduled payments has meant to delivery of health-care services. Representatives of hospitals, nursing homes, adult care centers, and community clinics rallied at the Capitol, accusing state lawmakers of "criminal negligence" for endangering their patients. They say the state owes more than $4 billion for MediCal services since the beginning of this fiscal year. These health-care providers have no money to pay vendors, and have taken up collections from employees to pay to keep the electricity on, and pay for lab supplies. Anne McLeod, a vice president for the California Hospital Association, told the rally, "No financial or political battle is worth the life of even one Californian."
Other speakers warned that lives are in jeopardy due to the shortage of funds, as many of these clinics will have to close. Schwarzenegger's response was in keeping with his Hollywood tough-guy image: "I will not be intimidated by anybody that is demanding more than the state can afford and that demands more than the state is wanting to give. So the prison guard union is not going to intimidate me.... I will not get intimidated." He has repeated, often, since his bogus election, that he will be "fiscally responsible," even if it kills. This may be the only promise he has kept since he became governor.