Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The State of Iraq War Veterans

From February's Esquire magazine:

Ten Numbers On The State Of Iraq-War Veterans

By Tim Heffernan Mar 1, 2006 1325

TOTAL AMERICAN TROOPS WHO HAVE SERVED: 360,000 That includes soldiers from the Army, Marine Corps, National Guard, and their reserves who had served or were serving in Iraq by the end of 2005. When all U. S. military forces are counted—including Air Force and Navy pilots, as well as support personnel from all uniformed military branches—the number of Americans who have served in or around Iraq since Operation Iraqi Freedom began in March 2003 approaches one million. For comparison, a total of 2.6 million U. S. combat soldiers (not including support personnel) served in Vietnam during the fourteen years of that conflict. Just under 200,000 American soldiers served in combat during the Korean War.

FRACTION OF THE ARMY'S ACTIVE-DUTY FORCE DEPLOYED IN IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN: 63 PERCENT This includes all army personnel deployed since the U. S.-led operations in those nations were initiated in October 2001. Of the army personnel sent to Iraq or Afghanistan, nearly 40 percent have been redeployed—served an additional tour of duty—at least once.

NUMBER OF AMERICAN TROOPS SERIOUSLY INJURED OR WOUNDED: 16,155 Of those counted as seriously wounded since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom through the end of 2005, 7,529 were listed as "WIA/not RTD"—Wounded in Action, Not Returned to Duty. Put in civilian terms, this means that nearly half of all combat-related injuries in Iraq have been so serious that they've prevented the soldier from continuing his or her military service. (Comparable figures for Vietnam and other wars are hard to calculate, since WIA/not RTD is a new statistic.) In addition, there were 2,173 deaths, of which 1,705 occurred in combat.

NUMBER OF U. S. CASUALTIES WHO SURVIVE: 90 PERCENT Of all the numbers presented here, this may be the most astonishing. No military in history has been so good at keeping its fallen soldiers alive. This number is a dramatic improvement from the first Gulf war, in 1991, and from Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s, during which one fourth of all U. S. combat injuries proved fatal. The main reasons soldiers are surviving seem to be, first, the widespread use of body armor (which, despite ongoing criticism of its quality, offers some protection to the torso and vital organs) and also the deployment of forward surgical teams to or directly behind combat lines, which provide sophisticated trauma care and emergency surgery in the field. The most seriously injured are evacuated to permanent hospitals in Iraq within hours, to U. S. military hospitals in Europe within two days, and, in the most dire cases, to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D. C., within four days. During the Vietnam era, that same trip took an average of six weeks. Most soldiers killed in Vietnam died without ever receiving professional medical help.

A disturbing corollary of the military's remarkable success in saving wounded Iraq-war soldiers is the high number of survivors who undergo single or multiple amputations (at Walter Reed and other military hospitals) and/or live with disfiguring or disabling head, face, and spinal injuries. According to a 2004 U. S. Senate report, 6 percent of injured troops in Iraq have required amputations, twice the rate of any previous war.
Of course, amputation, disfigurement, and disablement dramatically change life for those who experience them, affecting mobility, employability, and sexual activity, as well as having secondary health effects. Not surprisingly, depression, self-doubt, and self-isolation are common psychological consequences. (The recently announced closure of Walter Reed by 2011—and the integration of its services into the nearby National Naval Medical Center—has put the construction of its planned large amputee training center on hold; a less expensive, temporary center is being built instead.)
In April 2004, the Army created the Disabled Soldier Support System, essentially a clearinghouse with a dedicated phone number through which seriously injured veterans can learn about the government benefits and treatments available to them. Its name has since been changed to the Army Wounded Warrior Program.

This figure, including troops from the Army National Guard, Army Reserve, and Marine Reserve, is far higher than has been the case in any previous U. S. military campaign. The main reason is that the Iraq war is the first major war in U. S. history that has been waged without the draft; during Vietnam, National Guard and Reserve troops rarely served in combat zones. Often unremarked upon is the fact that National Guard soldiers are not a replacement for enlisted troops in Iraq; they are a critical supplement to them. Nearly two thirds of the Army's enlisted soldiers have been sent to Iraq or Afghanistan at least once; the rest are needed for operations elsewhere.
The readjustment of Guard and Reserve soldiers to civilian life is of great concern to both the military and veterans' advocacy groups, as well as the VA. Studies conducted by the Army in Iraq show that they are far more susceptible to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than enlisted soldiers and, perhaps relatedly, significantly more likely to describe themselves as having low morale and feeling unprepared for combat. Anticipating difficulties with readjustment, the Department of Defense has extended federal insurance and medical-treatment benefits for National Guard and Reserve troops. They are now eligible for a year of the DOD's Tricare medical coverage for every ninety consecutive days of service.

FRACTION OF IRAQ-WAR VETERANS LATER DIAGNOSED WITH PSYCHOLOGICAL DISORDERS: 20 PERCENT According to a 2005 Department of Veterans Affairs study of nearly 170,000 Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans, roughly 34,000 were diagnosed with psychological disorders, including 1,641 identified as suffering full-fledged post-traumatic stress disorder. Overall, more than 9,600 Iraq veterans have been provisionally diagnosed with PTSD by the VA. More generally, about 12,500 Iraq veterans have contacted the VA seeking help for psychological difficulties in readjusting to civilian life, according to another 2005 VA study.
PTSD is of particular concern to the VA and veterans' support groups, as it is closely linked with domestic violence, depression, unemployment, and homelessness. Adding to fears is the change in the nature of war in Iraq from traditional combat to guerrilla or insurgent warfare. Because violence in the latter affects not only soldiers but medics, administrators, and other support staff, a larger number of Americans in Iraq are exposed to the conditions that frequently cause PTSD: violence, unpredictable attacks, and a constant sense of vulnerability.

NUMBER OF IRAQ AND/OR AFGHANISTAN VETERANS CONFIRMED TO BE HOMELESS: 500 That is the number reported by the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV), which compiles records from public and private agencies and which believes that the actual number is higher and likely to grow. Nationwide, there are at least 500,000 homeless American veterans, according to the NCHV. One half of them—roughly 250,000 men—fought in Vietnam. If accurate, that would amount to about 10 percent of American soldiers who fought in Vietnam.

UNEMPLOYMENT RATE AMONG ALL VETERANS UNDER AGE TWENTY-FIVE: 15 PERCENT That figure is more than twice the rate for the same demographic in the general population. Partly in response, in 2005 the Department of Veterans Affairs launched a program to help place veterans in jobs after they return home.
In addition, a 2004 Harvard study estimated that one in three veterans under the age of twenty-five lacks health insurance.

ANNUAL MEDICAL-BUDGET INCREASE NEEDED BY THE V. A. TO COVER RISING MEDICAL COSTS: 13 PERCENT That was the prediction of the VA in testimony to Congress in 2003. Congress increased the VA's medical budget by about 1 percent in 2005 and by less than 3 percent for 2006. In June of last year, the VA stated that due to greatly increased costs, its 2006 medical budget fell nearly $2 billion short of its immediate needs.

Copyright © 1997-2006 by the Hearst Corporation.

Tax Churches Now!!!

From Monday's Progress Report ... if a church wants to get political then they gotta pay taxes:

RELIGION -- CHURCHES INCREASINGLY MIX RELIGION WITH POLITICS: Recent IRS exams found that "3 out of 4 churches, charities, and other civic groups suspected of having violated restraints on political activity in the 2004 election did so." IRS Commissioner Mark Everson called the religious groups' amount of political activity "disturbing" and found that they "had distributed printed material supporting a preferred candidate and assembled improper voter guides or candidate ratings." The Baltimore Sun also reports that more than 100 churches in Maryland illegally donated money to political candidates. Luckily, some religious leaders are speaking out against these partisan practices. Pastors in North Carolina objected to the state Republican party's efforts to collect church directories for campaign purposes and religious leaders in Kentucky criticized Gov. Ernie Fletcher (R-KY) for inviting only Christians to his annual prayer breakfast

Friday, February 24, 2006

Bush Hates Me (and my family)!!!

From today's Progress Report:

MILITARY -- BUSH PLAN WOULD DENY HEALTH CARE TO 600,000 MILITARY RETIREES: President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have proposed fee hikes to the Pentagon’s health care system, TRICARE, that could deny health benefits to as many as 600,000 veterans. Under Bush's proposal, military retirees would be forced to pay higher prescription drug co-payments and annual enrollment fees. The plan would triple health care costs for retirees. The Military Officers Association of America says the administration is playing a “shell game” by steering military retirees away from TRICARE and instead toward health plans offered by their current employers. Rep. John McHugh (R-NY), military personnel subcommittee chairman, said, "I guess we could talk about the morality of that, if that’s the way to contain costs [by] persuading people not to use health care. But I’m going to put that aside."

Thursday, February 23, 2006


You Know You Are Still a Republican If ...

by Jimmy Lohman

You are more upset about Brokeback Mountain than Abu Ghraib.

You can’t stand Hilary Clinton’s hair but you have no problem with Tom DeLay’s.

You think Global Warming is no big deal but environmentalists are a major problem.

You support the "war on drugs" but think Rush Limbaugh is being prosecuted unfairly.

You think professional athletes make too much money but Sam Walton’s kids deserve everything they have.

You like the way George Bush walks.

You think Al Gore is "wooden" and Donald Rumsfeld has charisma.

You think CNN is biased but Fox News is neutral.

You like the sound of Newt Gingrich’s voice.

You are sure the United States has the best education and health care systems in the world.

You think Dick Cheney is a straight shooter.

You think Michael Chertoff’s beard makes him look distinguished.

You think the problem with our health care system is lawyers.

You think it was more important to locate Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress than to locate weapons of mass destruction.

You don’t believe "terrorism" has made Rudy Giuliani an incredibly rich man.

You believe freedom of speech covers everything Pat Robertson says and does, but burning a flag should be illegal.

You can be in the same room with Brit Hume.

You have yourself convinced that the country and world are better off now than 5 years ago.


Jimmy Lohman is a musician and human rights lawyer in Austin, Texas, and an occasional contributor to Buzzflash.

They sure do!!!

Do Bush supporters hate their country?

By Jaime O'Neill
Paradise Post

Sometimes the people who still fervently support George W. Bush seem just plain stupid, and other times it seems they must be dishonest and even malevolent, harboring a hatred for their country that allows them to support misguided ideas and private agendas over the public good. In more reasonable moods, I want to believe that the Bush supporters are just like me in simply wanting what is best for the country safety, security, fairness and a commitment to a government that observes the principles upon which our nation was founded. When I'm thinking that way, I assume we don't disagree on goals and objectives, just on the most effective way to achieve those goals and objectives.

It's hard to keep that thought, though, when the lies keep piling up higher and deeper, and when so much of the energy of Bush supporters goes into evading reality. Is it really possible for there to be an honest difference of opinion about the calamitous Bush decision to invade Iraq? No weapons of mass destruction there, as we were told there were. No link between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein, as we were told there was, and as we continue to be urged to believe by deceptive administration rhetoric. Almost no likelihood that a stable democracy will be possible in an Iraq rent by ethnic feuds and anti-democratic traditions. Billions upon billions of dollars squandered in Iraq, and billions more stolen by corrupt U.S. contractors. Meanwhile, the Homeland Security entity Bush created has shown itself to be yet another huge government boondoggle, and utterly witless in responding to a national emergency.

Beyond that, we have the shameful spectacle of Americans who call themselves patriots urging a forfeiture of our rights and liberties as U.S. citizens the rights to due process and the protections devised by the founding fathers to guard against abuses of power.

And beyond that, we have breaches of national security in the outing of a CIA agent for no better reason than spite. We have the staffing of all kinds of highly paid and important government jobs with incompetent administration cronies and partners in crime. We have repeated and massive failures of imagination. No one could have imagined a) people flying planes into U.S. skyscrapers, b) a storm of the magnitude of Katrina, or c) a Palestinian militant group like Hamas winning elections in Palestine these being just a few of the things Condoleezza Rice has said the administration couldn't imagine.

Beyond all of that, we have the growing gap between rich and poor, the exportation of American jobs by the hundreds of thousands, the wasteful and exploitive health care system that continues to bankrupt American industries, the packing of the Supreme Court with judges confirmed despite their stonewalling before the congressional oversight committees charged with vetting them before they assumed lifetime appointments. We have been unable or unwilling to secure our borders. We have seen corruption on an unprecedented scale and massive neglect of dozens of urgent national needs. Science has been disregarded whenever it runs afoul of the profit motive, and we have a foreign policy no one, least of all the people in charge of it, seems to understand.

Our actions in Iraq have fueled the most extreme anti-Western views throughout the Islamic world, and the entire Middle East is less stable than it was when the Bush bunch took office.

Meanwhile, we build for our children and grandchildren a legacy of international hatred, plus a huge debt burden as the Bush administration spends and spends as though there is no tomorrow.

We've squandered our good name and our moral authority in the world as we've watched Rumsfeld and Cheney and other spokesmen for our nation argue to justify torture in the interest of our safety.

At a time when it was absolutely essential that the world know unequivocally just who the good guys were, Bush and Co. have sullied the image of America all over the globe, drawing a portrait of a nation that behaves with arrogance, defies world opinion, ignores planetary environmental concerns, and treats other nations with disdain.

All of this harm has come to our nation and to its image, and still a cluster of supporters insist on tarring anyone who might question this ruinous administration. One of the ignorant nimrods who regularly write to this paper to call me a Marxist argues that those who disagree with the president are delighted to see America fail, that people like me take pleasure in anything that gives comfort to our enemies. He argues that people who question the reckless use of the military are "pacifist military haters." There is no truth to such baseless and childish nonsense, but he seems to think it sounds persuasive, or perhaps he thinks it's a kind of logical argument.

That's one of the reasons it's difficult not to think some of these Bush supporters are just willfully stupid.

These people grow more tiresome as they have less and less with which to argue. Their recourse, it seems, is to tag people they disagree with by calling them "leftists" and "liberals," as if those words cancel out all arguments. These people exploit the nation's soldiers to bolster their arguments.

They claim to support the troops, but you never hear a peep from them about cuts to the Veterans Affairs budget or the shameful number of avoidable deaths and injuries suffered by our soldiers because the Bush administration still has not provided frontline troops with the kind of armored vehicles that could have saved them from many of those deaths and injuries.

But to people who are either stupid or malevolent, hatred of those they would label as "liberals" trumps love of country every time and blinds them to the harm being done to our security, our heritage and our well-being.


Jaime O'Neill is a widely published freelance writer.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Aren't They Rich Enough???

This is very scary ... but, Mark Turner over at markturner.net assures me that the geeks out there won't let this happen:

The End of the Internet
By Jeffrey Chester, The Nation
Posted on February 6, 2006, Printed on February 8, 2006

The nation's largest telephone and cable companies are crafting an alarming set of strategies that would transform the free, open and nondiscriminatory Internet of today to a privately run and branded service that would charge a fee for virtually everything we do online.

Verizon, Comcast, Bell South and other communications giants are developing strategies that would track and store information on our every move in cyberspace in a vast data-collection and marketing system, the scope of which could rival the National Security Agency.

According to white papers now being circulated in the cable, telephone and telecommunications industries, those with the deepest pockets -- corporations, special-interest groups and major advertisers -- would get preferred treatment. Content from these providers would have first priority on our computer and television screens, while information seen as undesirable, such as peer-to-peer communications, could be relegated to a slow lane or simply shut out.

Under the plans they are considering, all of us -- from content providers to individual users -- would pay more to surf online, stream videos or even send e-mail. Industry planners are mulling new subscription plans that would further limit the online experience, establishing "platinum," "gold" and "silver" levels of Internet access that would set limits on the number of downloads, media streams or even e-mail messages that could be sent or received.

To make this pay-to-play vision a reality, phone and cable lobbyists are now engaged in a political campaign to further weaken the nation's communications policy laws. They want the federal government to permit them to operate Internet and other digital communications services as private networks, free of policy safeguards or governmental oversight. Indeed, both the Congress and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are considering proposals that will have far-reaching impact on the Internet's future. Ten years after passage of the ill-advised Telecommunications Act of 1996, telephone and cable companies are using the same political snake oil to convince compromised or clueless lawmakers to subvert the Internet into a turbo-charged digital retail machine.

The telephone industry has been somewhat more candid than the cable industry about its strategy for the Internet's future. Senior phone executives have publicly discussed plans to begin imposing a new scheme for the delivery of Internet content, especially from major Internet content companies. As Ed Whitacre, chairman and CEO of AT&T, told Business Week in November, "Why should they be allowed to use my pipes? The Internet can't be free in that sense, because we and the cable companies have made an investment, and for a Google or Yahoo! or Vonage or anybody to expect to use these pipes [for] free is nuts!"

The phone industry has marshaled its political allies to help win the freedom to impose this new broadband business model. At a recent conference held by the Progress and Freedom Foundation, a think tank funded by Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and other media companies, there was much discussion of a plan for phone companies to impose fees on a sliding scale, charging content providers different levels of service. "Price discrimination," noted PFF's resident media expert Adam Thierer, "drives the market-based capitalist economy."

Net Neutrality

To ward off the prospect of virtual toll booths on the information highway, some new media companies and public-interest groups are calling for new federal policies requiring "network neutrality" on the Internet. Common Cause, Amazon, Google, Free Press, Media Access Project and Consumers Union, among others, have proposed that broadband providers would be prohibited from discriminating against all forms of digital content. For example, phone or cable companies would not be allowed to slow down competing or undesirable content.

Without proactive intervention, the values and issues that we care about -- civil rights, economic justice, the environment and fair elections -- will be further threatened by this push for corporate control. Imagine how the next presidential election would unfold if major political advertisers could make strategic payments to Comcast so that ads from Democratic and Republican candidates were more visible and user-friendly than ads of third-party candidates with less funds.

Consider what would happen if an online advertisement promoting nuclear power prominently popped up on a cable broadband page, while a competing message from an environmental group was relegated to the margins. It is possible that all forms of civic and noncommercial online programming would be pushed to the end of a commercial digital queue.

But such "neutrality" safeguards are inadequate to address more fundamental changes the Bells and cable monopolies are seeking in their quest to monetize the Internet. If we permit the Internet to become a medium designed primarily to serve the interests of marketing and personal consumption, rather than global civic-related communications, we will face the political consequences for decades to come. Unless we push back, the "brandwashing" of America will permeate not only our information infrastructure but global society and culture as well.

Why are the Bells and cable companies aggressively advancing such plans? With the arrival of the long-awaited "convergence" of communications, our media system is undergoing a major transformation. Telephone and cable giants envision a potential lucrative "triple play," as they impose near-monopoly control over the residential broadband services that send video, voice and data communications flowing into our televisions, home computers, cell phones and iPods. All of these many billions of bits will be delivered over the telephone and cable lines.

Video programming is of foremost interest to both the phone and cable companies. The telephone industry, like its cable rival, is now in the TV and media business, offering customers television channels, on-demand videos and games. Online advertising is increasingly integrating multimedia (such as animation and full-motion video) in its pitches. Since video-driven material requires a great deal of Internet bandwidth as it travels online, phone and cable companies want to make sure their television "applications" receive preferential treatment on the networks they operate. And their overall influence over the stream of information coming into your home (or mobile device) gives them the leverage to determine how the broadband business evolves.

Mining Your Data

At the core of the new power held by phone and cable companies are tools delivering what is known as "deep packet inspection." With these tools, AT&T and others can readily know the packets of information you are receiving online -- from e-mail, to websites, to sharing of music, video and software downloads.

These "deep packet inspection" technologies are partly designed to make sure that the Internet pipeline doesn't become so congested it chokes off the delivery of timely communications. Such products have already been sold to universities and large businesses that want to more economically manage their Internet services. They are also being used to limit some peer-to-peer downloading, especially for music.

But these tools are also being promoted as ways that companies, such as Comcast and Bell South, can simply grab greater control over the Internet. For example, in a series of recent white papers, Internet technology giant Cisco urges these companies to "meter individual subscriber usage by application," as individuals' online travels are "tracked" and "integrated with billing systems." Such tracking and billing is made possible because they will know "the identity and profile of the individual subscriber," "what the subscriber is doing" and "where the subscriber resides."

Will Google, Amazon and the other companies successfully fight the plans of the Bells and cable companies? Ultimately, they are likely to cut a deal because they, too, are interested in monetizing our online activities. After all, as Cisco notes, content companies and network providers will need to "cooperate with each other to leverage their value proposition." They will be drawn by the ability of cable and phone companies to track "content usage…by subscriber," and where their online services can be "protected from piracy, metered, and appropriately valued."

Our Digital Destiny

It was former FCC chairman Michael Powell, with the support of then-commissioner and current chair Kevin Martin, who permitted phone and cable giants to have greater control over broadband. Powell and his GOP majority eliminated longstanding regulatory safeguards requiring phone companies to operate as nondiscriminatory networks (technically known as "common carriers"). He refused to require that cable companies, when providing Internet access, also operate in a similar nondiscriminatory manner. As Stanford University law professor Lawrence Lessig has long noted, it is government regulation of the phone lines that helped make the Internet today's vibrant, diverse and democratic medium.

But now, the phone companies are lobbying Washington to kill off what's left of "common carrier" policy. They wish to operate their Internet services as fully "private" networks. Phone and cable companies claim that the government shouldn't play a role in broadband regulation: Instead of the free and open network that offers equal access to all, they want to reduce the Internet to a series of business decisions between consumers and providers.

Besides their business interests, telephone and cable companies also have a larger political agenda. Both industries oppose giving local communities the right to create their own local Internet wireless or wi-fi networks. They also want to eliminate the last vestige of local oversight from electronic media -- the ability of city or county government, for example, to require telecommunications companies to serve the public interest with, for example, public-access TV channels. The Bells also want to further reduce the ability of the FCC to oversee communications policy. They hope that both the FCC and Congress -- via a new Communications Act -- will back these proposals.

The future of the online media in the United States will ultimately depend on whether the Bells and cable companies are allowed to determine the country's "digital destiny." So before there are any policy decisions, a national debate should begin about how the Internet should serve the public. We must insure that phone and cable companies operate their Internet services in the public interest -- as stewards for a vital medium for free expression.

If Americans are to succeed in designing an equitable digital destiny for themselves, they must mount an intensive opposition similar to the successful challenges to the FCC's media ownership rules in 2003. Without such a public outcry to rein in the GOP's corporate-driven agenda, it is likely that even many of the Democrats who rallied against further consolidation will be "tamed" by the well-funded lobbying campaigns of the powerful phone and cable industry.

Jeffrey Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy (www.democraticmedia.org).

© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/31753/

I Guess Osama bin Laden Had A Previous Engagement That Night

Bush's Troubling SOTU Guest
By Jeremy Scahill, AlterNet
Posted on February 6, 2006, Printed on February 8, 2006http://www.alternet.org/story/31787/

While Cindy Sheehan was being dragged from the House gallery moments before President Bush delivered his State of the Union Address for wearing a T-shirt honoring her son and the other 2,244 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq, Turki al-Faisal was settling into his seat inside the gallery. Al-Faisal, a Saudi, is a man who has met Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants on at least five occasions, describing the al Qaida leader as "quite a pleasant man." He met multiple times with Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. Yet, unlike Sheehan, al-Faisal was a welcomed guest of President Bush on Tuesday night. He is also a man that the families of more than 600 victims of the 9/11 attacks believe was connected to their loved ones' deaths.

Al-Faisal is actually Prince Turki al-Faisal, a leading member of the Saudi royal family and the kingdom's current ambassador to the United States. But the bulk of his career was spent at the helm of the feared Saudi intelligence services from 1977 to 2001. Last year, the New York Times pointed out that "he personally managed Riyadh's relations with Osama bin Laden and Mullah Muhammad Omar of the Taliban. Anyone else who had dealings with even a fraction of the notorious characters the prince has worked with over the years would never make it past a U.S. immigration counter, let alone to the most exclusive offices in Washington." Al-Faisal was also named in the $1 trillion lawsuit filed by hundreds of 9/11 victims' families, who accused him of funding bin Laden's network. Curiously, his tenure as head of Saudi intelligence came to an abrupt and unexpected end 10 days before the 9/11 attacks.

"Nobody explained the circumstances under which he left," says As'ad AbuKhalil, author of "The Battle for Saudi Arabia: Royalty, Fundamentalism, and Global Power." "We know for sure that he was tasked by the United States government back in the late 1970s and on to assemble the kind of Arab Muslim fanatical volunteers to help the United States and the CIA in the fight against the Soviet Communist regime [in Afghanistan]. In the course of doing that, this man is single-handedly most responsible for the kind of menace that these fanatical groups now pose to world peace and security." Yet, there al-Faisal sat on Tuesday as President Bush spoke of his war on terror and Cindy Sheehan was being booked. At one point, the cameras even panned directly on al-Faisal listening intently to Bush.

The 9/11 families' lawsuit charged that al-Faisal secretly traveled to the southern Afghan city of Kandahar twice in 1998, where he met with bin Laden's representatives and Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. Based on sworn testimony from Taliban intelligence chief, Mullah Kakshar, the lawsuit claimed that al-Faisal allegedly received assurances that al Qaida would not use "the infrastructure in Afghanistan to subvert the royal families' control of Saudi government." In return, according to the lawsuit, the Saudis promised not to seek bin Laden's extradition or the closing of his training bases. Al-Faisal also allegedly promised Mullah Omar financial assistance. Shortly after the meetings, the Saudis reportedly shipped the Taliban 400 new pickup trucks. According to the London Observer, Kakshar also said that al-Faisal "arranged for donations to be made directly to al-Qaida and bin Laden by a group of wealthy Saudi businessmen. 'Mullah Kakshar's sworn statement implicates Prince Turki as the facilitator of these money transfers in support of the Taliban, al Qaida and international terrorism,'" according to the lawsuit.

Al-Faisal does not deny he traveled to Afghanistan in 1998 for meetings with Mullah Omar, but he insists it was to "convey an official Saudi request to extradite Osama bin Laden." Al-Faisal has a long history in Afghanistan. He worked closely in the 1980s with the both the CIA and the mujahadeen that would later form both al Qaida and the Taliban.

Ultimately, a judge dismissed the 9/11 families' lawsuit against al-Faisal and his cohorts, saying U.S. courts lacked jurisdiction over the matter. But many of those families believe firmly that al-Faisal was connected to the attacks that killed their loved ones. The obvious question is: How does the president justify the ejection of a Gold Star Mother from the State of the Union, while openly welcoming a man believed by hundreds of victims' families to be connected to the attack Bush uses to justify every shred of his violent policies?

During his speech, Bush said, "It is said that prior to the attacks of September the 11th, our government failed to connect the dots of the conspiracy." Perhaps he should have just looked over his wife's shoulder up there in the gallery during the State of the Union.

Jeremy Scahill, a correspondent for the national radio/TV program Democracy Now!, is a Puffin Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute.

© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/31787/