Iraq War

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  Domestic Spending Intact As House Passes War BillJune 19, 2008 21:36 In a pair of bipartisan votes, the House yesterday approved $162 billion to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan well into 2009 and a separate measure that would allow veterans returning from those battlefields to receive increased education benefits.

The domestic spending measure, approved 416 to 12, also includes a 13-week extension of unemployment insurance for laid-off workers who have used all 26 weeks of their current benefits, and $2.65 billion for Midwest flood relief.

"It became clear this is what we had to do," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said during debate over the bill. "I will enthusiastically vote for the domestic piece of this."

The emergency spending bill -- which authorizes $95.5 billion for the unemployment and veterans benefits and a variety of other programs -- heads to the Senate, where leaders say it could be approved next week.

After weeks of gridlocked negotiations, President Bush threw his support behind the legislation yesterday despite the tens of billions of dollars in domestic spending above his original demands. Despite his original preference for a slimmed-down version, Bush embraced the veterans plan drafted by Sen. James Webb (D-Va.), then demanded that the education benefit be transferable from veterans to military spouses and children -- adding an estimated $1 billion a year to its cost.

"President Bush understands that military families throughout our country are making great sacrifices as their loved ones serve at home and abroad," White House press secretary Dana Perino said yesterday.

Under the program, often called the new GI Bill, veterans would receive enough money to pay even the most expensive state university tuition.

Bush and House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) praised the bill's unemployment benefits, which impose limits on the extension that could save taxpayers $2 billion.

Republicans also applauded the passage of another war bill without a deadline for troop withdrawals, something Pelosi and many Democrats had sought since early last year.

"The measure provides this critical funding without bogging it down with politically motivated surrender language," Boehner said.
  Mccain: Troop Withdraw Date 'Not Too Important' In IraqJune 12, 2008 09:04 Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama heaped criticism on Republican opponent John McCain for saying it was "not too important" when American troops are withdrawn from Iraq, as Democrats leapt at the chance to attack the Arizona senator's position on the unpopular war.
But Obama also took a public relations hit Wednesday when Jim Johnson, a manager of the Illinois senator's vice presidential search team, resigned under criticism over his personal loan deals.

In the third day of their one-on-one bid for the White House — after Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton dropped out of the race — both Obama and McCain appeared somewhat off balance as their campaign message machines were gummed up by distractions.

McCain has been a supporter of the Iraq war, particularly last year's decision by the White House to boost troop strength to bring down raging violence. He was critical of the early management of the war, but strongly supported last year's troop build up, now being reversed, and says it was successful.

Obama has opposed the war from the outset and promises to bring American troops home within 16 months of taking office.
  Happy Pills Helping Us Fight War On TerrorJune 10, 2008 12:07 Among modern high-tech weapons aiding American combat troops to grapple with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, antidepressants and sleeping pills have become the lifeline for a significant yet a growing number of United States Army soldiers.

According to an article published in Time magazine on Monday, citing the Army’s fifth Mental Health Advisory Team report based on an anonymous survey taken last fall, about 12 percent of combat troops in Iraq and 17 percent of those in Afghanistan are taking prescription antidepressants or sleeping pills to help them keep fighting. Escalating violence in Afghanistan and isolated missions have driven troops to rely more on medication there than in Iraq, the article quoted military officials as saying.

The report says: “Given the traditional stigma associated with soldiers seeking mental help, the survey, released in March, probably underestimates antidepressant use. But if the Army numbers reflect those of other services -- the Army has by far the most troops deployed to the war zones -- about 20,000 troops in Afghanistan and Iraq were on such medications last fall. The Army estimates that authorised drug use splits roughly fifty-fifty between troops taking antidepressants -- largely the class of drugs that includes Prozac and Zoloft -- and those taking prescription sleeping pills like Ambien.”

The increase in the use of medication among US troops suggests the heavy mental and psychological price being paid by soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to the report, Pentagon surveys show that while all soldiers deployed to a war zone will feel stressed, 70 percent will manage to bounce back to normalcy. But about 20 percent will suffer from what the military calls "temporary stress injuries," and 10 percent will be afflicted with "stress illnesses", it says. Such ailments, according to briefings commanders get before deploying, begin with mild anxiety and irritability, difficulty sleeping, and growing feelings of apathy and pessimism. As the condition worsens, the feelings last longer and can come to include panic, rage, uncontrolled shaking and temporary paralysis. The symptoms often continue back home, playing a key role in broken marriages, suicides and psychiatric breakdowns, the report says, adding that the mental trauma has become so common that the Pentagon may expand the list of "qualifying wounds" for a Purple Heart -- historically limited to those physically injured on the battlefield -- to include posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It quoted US Defence Secretary Robert Gates as saying on May 2 that it's "clearly something" that needs to be considered, and that the Pentagon was weighing the change.