Sunday, July 23, 2006

Burt Bacharach: To Cher on Operation Helmet

I want to salute Cher, who has all my respect and my love for not only what she has done, but the way she has done it. Her campaign for "Operation Helmet" - done quietly and putting the cause, not herself, out front - is great. She has chosen this issue of trying to eliminate any more of the head and brain injuries our military in Iraq sustains by explosive devices because their helmets aren't good enough to protect them. "Operation Helmet" is a non-profit public service organization that provides our troops with upgrade kits to make their helmets safer.

For some soldiers, it is too late. Some have suffered brain damage and other serious injuries because their U.S. military-issued equipment isn't effective enough to protect our young men and women. Cher tells us the fact that most of these injuries are happening to the Marines because their helmets don't have proper padding. Also, their helmets are often too loose, leaving them vulnerable to even more head injuries. The military is fighting for us, and Cher is fighting for them. It's hard to believe that private citizens need to provide helmet upgrade kits, but it's necessary and being done. Cher's support has brought badly-needed attention to the situation, and every day more soldiers are being equipped with better helmet padding.

Shockingly, the Marine Corps is still studying the "feasibility" of whether this is a good idea. In the meantime, families and friends of those brave Marines are buying padding and sending it to these kids in Iraq while the Marine brass decide whether it is a good idea.

What the hell is this? Cher's support is featured on the web a donation site and it is full of useful information. She went before Congress recently to make the case. She called in to C-SPAN, trying to be anonymous to bring attention to the need, not to her celebrity. She donated a lot of money herself. I like the way you discovered the cause and effectively put it out there, Cher. I respect and love you for it.

Over 28,418 helmet upgrades sent

Current backlog
1521+ kits
Note: backlog is based on contributions, not manufacturing.

We have heard from troops in the field that some pad systems are really hard, hot, and/or uncomfortable. Fill out an anonymous survey here

Christmas message

Mailing address:
Dr. Bob Meaders
74 Greenview Street
Montgomery, TX 77356

Electronic mail:

936-449-9706 Answered gladly 8AM-5PM CST (sorry, English only)

Reluctantly answered before and after... this is our home phone.

OPERATION HELMET provides helmet upgrade kits free of charge to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as to those ordered to deploy in the near future. These helmet upgrades do three primary things:

* Protection - Shock-absorbing pads keep the helmet from slapping the skull when hit with blast forces, fragments, or being tumbled along the ground or inside a vehicle. This decreases the chance of brain injury from bombs, RPG's, vehicle accidents, falls, etc.
* Comfort - If it is comfortable, it will stay on troop's head longer and more often.
* Stability - Keeps the helmet firmly on the head and out of the eyes.

The life you save might save another!

Once all troops are provided the blast/impact protecting helmet upgrades, we will utilize residual funds to help other charities providing for rehabilitation and support of our wounded troops and their families. We are researching several charities and will support those we find to be well managed, little or AT LEAST MINIMAL administrative fees and have a proven track record of helping our wounded warriors cope with their injuries and return to either civilian or military life.

We continue to receive requests from the troops IN Iraq and Afghanistan.

A couple of weeks ago we asked folks to Stand By. Turns out to have been premature. While plans are 'afloat' to provide helmet upgrades by the Marines and Air Force, some units are unable to obtain them (MEU's especially), but the Marines say there is no shortage, just supply issues. The end of December is too long a wait for units that may be called on quickly to augment ongoing OIF/OEF combat or threats elsewhere. So we're back, hat in hand, asking people to donate if they can.

11/8/06 Even if a trooper wears their donated helmet upgrade on only ONE patrol/urban combat mission, it may save their future and perhaps life, so let's all get high behind again and help them.

On another note, troops tell us the 'new' Marine-issued pad systems and the newly purchased by the Army, are NOT the Oregon Aero pads we have historically provided. We selected them due to their excellent track record protecting from blast forces as well as 'wearability'. We are told by troops that the new pads are very hard, do not allow the helmet to adjust to their heads, resulting in headaches and discomfort. Some are taking the 'new' pads out and pounding them with a hammer to try and make them softer and more wearable. We don't know what that will do to the protection they provide, but it can't be good. Helmets only work if they are on the head. If troops have to take them off for comfort in the middle of a patrol, that's NOT GOOD. While the 'new' pads meet blast/impact protection test limits, so do NASCAR shock absorbers. Would you wear those in YOUR helmet? The manufacturers CAN and MUST do better by our troops.

We are sticking around to be the proverbial thorn in the foot of the military/industrial complex to get them looking at this issue from a view other than saving money. Our troops deserve the best if we are going to ask them to stand in harm's way in that troubled and dangerous area of the world! Stay tuned.

We are a 100% volunteer, non-partisan, charitable organization headquartered in Houston, Texas with volunteer operations around the country. 99% of all contributions are used to send upgrade kits to our troops! [*] We have one percent overhead which is used to for very limited expenses - it is a labor of love. We have no salaries or payroll.

Operation Helmet, Inc. is a 501-c-3 charity; our EIN is 20-1756585. Donations are tax-deductible

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Video: Rape Case in Iraq- Update

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War News Index

Rape Case in Iraq- Update

Monday, July 03, 2006

Ex-Soldier Charged in Killing of Iraqi Family

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Revealed last week and denounced by clerics as showing the “real, ugly face of America”, the case could be particularly damaging to the U.S. image in Iraq’s conservative Muslim society even after several other murder cases in the past few weeks
Ex-Soldier Charged in Killing of Iraqi Family
Coverup Is Alleged; Four Others Implicated

By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 4, 2006; A01

A former U.S. Army soldier was charged yesterday with the rape and murder of a young Iraqi woman and the slayings of three of her family members in their home south of Baghdad in March, federal prosecutors said.

Several soldiers allegedly planned the attack over drinks after noticing the woman near the traffic checkpoint they manned in Mahmudiyah, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. The soldiers allegedly worked out an elaborate plan to carry out the crime and then cover it up, wearing dark clothes to the home, using an AK-47 assault rifle from the house to kill the family, and allowing authorities to believe that the attack was carried out by insurgents, investigators said.

Former Pfc. Steven D. Green, 21, and other members of 1st Platoon, B Company, 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, allegedly carried out the crimes on March 12. Several soldiers told authorities that Green killed all four people and that he and another soldier raped the young woman.

The plan worked, at least until soldiers began discussing the incident last month while they were going through stress counseling after two other members of their platoon were captured at a checkpoint and beheaded by insurgents. Army officials began investigating the day after hearing about the events in Mahmudiyah.

Green, who was honorably discharged from the Army for an unspecified "personality disorder" before U.S. officials were aware of the alleged crimes, was arrested Friday at his grandmother's house in Marion, N.C., on a federal warrant. Four other soldiers who have been implicated in the attack but were not named in the federal court documents remain in Iraq. None has been charged.

Cecilia Oseguera, a federal public defender who represented Green at an initial hearing yesterday in Charlotte, said that Green has not yet entered a plea and that he is incarcerated awaiting a preliminary hearing on July 10. She declined to comment further.

The case is the fifth in recent weeks in which U.S. troops have been accused of killing civilians in Iraq, a spate of incidents that has drawn attention to the way U.S. forces operate in what is often a complex and confusing battlefield. The rape and murder allegations against Green, however, detail a crime that appears to have had little if anything to do with the prosecution of the war itself.

Federal prosecutors are pursuing four charges of murder and one charge of rape against Green, said Marisa Ford, chief of the criminal division for the U.S. attorney's office in the Western District of Kentucky. In a rare move, the Justice Department is pursuing the charges because Green is no longer in military service.

The case was filed in Kentucky because it is the home district for the 101st Airborne Division, of which the 502nd Infantry Regiment is a part. If convicted, Green could face the death penalty.

According to an affidavit by FBI Special Agent Gregor J. Ahlers, the crimes appeared carefully crafted. Soldiers told Army investigators that Green and another soldier discussed raping the woman and had previously been to her residence, about 200 yards from their traffic checkpoint. Before leaving for the house, they also said, Green and two others drank alcohol and changed into dark clothes.

One soldier was left at the checkpoint to man the radio, while four others headed to the home, armed with three M4 rifles and a shotgun, according to the document. With one soldier guarding the door, the three others entered. Green covered his face with a brown T-shirt, grabbed an AK-47 rifle from the house and herded an adult couple and a young girl -- who authorities estimated was 5 years old -- into a bedroom. Green then shot them, according to authorities.

"Green came to the bedroom door and told everyone, 'I just killed them, all are dead,' " Ahlers wrote. Green and another soldier then allegedly raped the other daughter before Green shot her two or three times in the head with the AK-47. Military officials estimated her age at 20, although neighbors and hospital officials in Iraq said she was 15. She apparently was set on fire in an attempt to hide the crime.

Neighbors identified the young woman as Abeer Qasim Hamza. They said she had expressed concerns about the U.S. troops to her mother in the days before her death because the soldiers made advances toward her. According to death certificates viewed over the weekend, also killed in the attack were Fakhriyah Taha Muhsin, 34; Qasim Hamza Raheem, 45; and Hadeel Qasim Hamza, 7. Army officials could not confirm the names of the dead yesterday.

Soldiers told investigators that Green and others returned to the Army checkpoint with blood on their clothes, which they later burned. Green told one of the soldiers to throw the AK-47 into a canal.

According to the criminal complaint, Iraqis notified the U.S. soldiers of the killings and reported that the house was on fire on the afternoon of March 12. A soldier who allegedly was in the house during the crime was one of those who later responded to the scene. Army investigators have 15 photographs of the bodies, taken to record what was believed at the time to be an insurgent attack.

Green, who grew up in Midland, Tex., joined the Army after receiving his GED, and later went to Fort Benning, Ga., for infantry training, according to his family. He graduated in June 2005, and family members joined him at the ceremony.

"It was such a proud day," Green's uncle, Greg Simolke, said in an interview last night. "He had found direction in his life, something important and something that he really wanted to do. He was talking about making the military his career and was ready to go to Iraq. He thought it was a good thing to be serving his country."

Last week, Green traveled to Arlington National Cemetery for the funeral of a member of his platoon who was killed in an insurgent attack south of Baghdad, Simolke said. It was during that attack that two other soldiers were captured by insurgents and later beheaded.

Green, traveling by car, stopped in North Carolina to visit relatives on his way to and from Arlington. Simolke talked with Green and did not notice anything unusual, and the topic of the war did not come up often, the uncle said. Simolke said he was unfamiliar with the details of Green's discharge and knew nothing about the alleged crimes.

"When he was here for this visit, he seemed like the same old Steve," Simolke said. "I don't understand what happens in a war, so I don't know how these things happen."

Mahmudiyah Mayor Mouyad Fadhil Saif said in a telephone interview that Lt. Col. Thomas Kunk, who commands the 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, told him during a meeting yesterday that "a homicide was committed here" and that U.S. military leaders would offer an official apology when the investigation is complete.

Kunk also told the mayor that U.S. officials would ask relatives of the victims where the bodies were buried so they could be exhumed for a forensic analysis. Saif said he advised Kunk to respect the family's wishes and those of local religious authorities about whether digging up the bodies was appropriate.

Maj. Jose Garcia, a spokesman for the brigade to which the 502nd is attached, confirmed that Kunk met with the mayor but declined to comment on what was discussed.

Retired Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who commanded the Army's 1st Infantry Division in Iraq, said yesterday that the most important thing is how the military responds.

"The military is a reflection of society, and because of that there is always a percentage of soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors who get it terribly wrong," Batiste said. "I also think the people of Iraq respect the U.S. military and will keep that in perspective. They'll appreciate the way we investigate and hold people accountable."

An Army official said yesterday that Green's discharge for a personality disorder does not necessarily indicate a mental disorder. Such a notation can be used to document willful disobedience or a personality that does not mesh well with military life.

Staff writer Jonathan Finer in Baghdad and researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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