West Point Cadet AWOL

Cadet still missing, declared AWOL

West Point – When cadets returned to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point this week following a winter holiday break, Cadet Nick Rossini, 21, was not among them.

Rossini had gone home to be with his parents at their White Bear Lake, Minnesota home, but he disappeared, reportedly concerned about a drunk driving arrest and how it might impact on his future military career.

West Point spokesman Maj. Tom Bryant said Thursday that as a matter of policy, Rossini has been declared absent without leave.

“The administrative duty status really isn’t important right now,” he said. “He is carried right now in an absent without leave status. Every soldier has to have a duty status. But, that’s really not important. It’s not significant and it’s not something we really care about right now. What we care about right now is do everything we can to help the folks who are looking for Nick find him.”

Family and authorities had hoped he would show up for his flight back to West Point on Tuesday, but he never did.

Physical and Mental Agony

Iraq Vets Left in Physical and Mental Agony

Aaron Glantz
4 January 2007

SAN FRANCISCO (IPS) - On New Year's Eve, the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq passed 3,000. By Tuesday, the death toll had reached 3,004 -- 31 more than died in the Sep. 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.

But the number of injured has far outstripped the dead, with the Veterans Administration reporting that more than 150,000 veterans of the Iraq war are receiving disability benefits.

Advances in military technology are keeping the death rate much lower than during the Vietnam War and World War Two, Dr. Col. Vito Imbascini, an urologist and state surgeon with the California Army National Guard, told IPS, but soldiers who survive attacks are often severely disabled for life.
According to documents obtained by the National Security Archive at George Washington University, 25 percent of veterans of the 'global war on terror' have filed disability compensation and pension benefit claims with the Veterans Benefits Administration.

"If you lost an arm or a leg in Vietnam, you were also tremendously injured in your chest and abdomen, which were not protected by the armour plates back then," he said. "Now, your heart and chest and lungs and heart are protected by armour, leaving only your extremities exposed."

Dr. Imbascini just returned from a four-month deployment to Germany, where he treated the worst of the U.S. war wounded. He said that an extremely high number of wounded soldiers are coming home with their arms or legs amputated. Imbascini said he amputated the genitals of one or two men every day.

"I walk into the operating room and the general surgeons are doing their work and there is the body of this Navy SEAL, which is a physical specimen to behold," he told IPS. "And his abdomen is open, they're exploring both intestines. He's missing both legs below the knee, one arm is blown off, he's got incisions on his thighs to relieve the pressure on the parts of the legs that are hopefully gonna survive and there's genital injuries, and you just want to cry."

According to documents obtained by the National Security Archive at George Washington University, 25 percent of veterans of the "global war on terror" have filed disability compensation and pension benefit claims with the Veterans Benefits Administration.

One is a Jul. 20, 2006, document titled "Compensation and Pension Benefit Activity Among Veterans of the Global War on Terrorism," which shows that 152,669 veterans filed disability claims after fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. Of the more than 100,000 claims granted, Veterans Administration records show at least 1,502 veterans have been compensated as 100 percent disabled.

Pentagon studies show that 12 percent of soldiers who have served in Iraq suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. The group Veterans for America, formerly the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, estimates 70,000 Iraq war veterans have gone to the VA for mental health care.

New guidelines released by the Pentagon released last month allow commanders to redeploy soldiers suffering from traumatic stress disorders.

According to the military newspaper Stars and Stripes, servicemembers with "a psychiatric disorder in remission, or whose residual symptoms do not impair duty performance" may be considered for duty downrange. It lists post-traumatic stress disorder as a "treatable" problem.

"As a layman and a former soldier I think that's ridiculous," Steve Robinson, the director of Veterans Affairs for Veterans for America, told IPS.

"If I've got a soldier who's on Ambien to go to sleep and Seroquel and Qanapin and all kinds of other psychotropic meds, I don't want them to have a weapon in their hand and to be part of my team because they're a risk to themselves and to others," he said. "But apparently, the military has its own view of how well a soldier can function under those conditions and is gambling that they can be successful."

Robinson said problems with the policy are already starting to arise.

On Christmas, for example, Army Reservist James Dean barricaded himself in his father's home with several weapons and threatened to kill himself. After a 14-hour standoff with authorities, Dean was killed by a police officer after he aimed a gun at another officer, authorities told the Washington Post.

Veterans for America's Robinson told IPS that Dean, who had already served 18 months in Afghanistan, had been diagnosed with PTSD. He had just been informed that his unit would be sent to Iraq on Jan. 14.

"We call that suicide by cop," Robinson said.

After his death, Dean's friends told the Washington Post that the reservist enjoyed hunting and fishing but had lost much of his enthusiasm for life when he found out that he was being deployed to Iraq.

"When Congress comes back in session we're looking forward to accountability hearings," Robinson said. "We want to see veterans helped in the first 100 hours of the new session. We want to see the word 'veteran' somewhere in that first hundred hours."

Robinson says his organisation has also documented the existence of at least 1,000 homeless veterans of the Iraq war.

"We need to get on top of the problem of homelessness," he said. "It's too soon to be seeing homelessness. I want to be seeing a commitment from the Democratic Congress to dealing with the war and the needs of the soldiers in the first hundred hours of them coming to power."

All rights reserved, IPS - Inter Press Service (2006).

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Israel to nuke Iran?

The Sunday Times January 07, 2007

Revealed: Israel plans nuclear strike on Iran

Uzi Mahnaimi, New York and Sarah Baxter, Washington

ISRAEL has drawn up secret plans to destroy Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities with tactical nuclear weapons.

Two Israeli air force squadrons are training to blow up an Iranian facility using low-yield nuclear “bunker-busters”, according to several Israeli military sources.

The attack would be the first with nuclear weapons since 1945, when the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Israeli weapons would each have a force equivalent to one-fifteenth of the Hiroshima bomb.

Under the plans, conventional laser-guided bombs would open “tunnels” into the targets. “Mini-nukes” would then immediately be fired into a plant at Natanz, exploding deep underground to reduce the risk of radioactive fallout.

“As soon as the green light is given, it will be one mission, one strike and the Iranian nuclear project will be demolished,” said one of the sources.

The plans, disclosed to The Sunday Times last week, have been prompted in part by the Israeli intelligence service Mossad’s assessment that Iran is on the verge of producing enough enriched uranium to make nuclear weapons within two years.

Israeli military commanders believe conventional strikes may no longer be enough to annihilate increasingly well-defended enrichment facilities. Several have been built beneath at least 70ft of concrete and rock. However, the nuclear-tipped bunker-busters would be used only if a conventional attack was ruled out and if the United States declined to intervene, senior sources said.

Israeli and American officials have met several times to consider military action. Military analysts said the disclosure of the plans could be intended to put pressure on Tehran to halt enrichment, cajole America into action or soften up world opinion in advance of an Israeli attack.

Some analysts warned that Iranian retaliation for such a strike could range from disruption of oil supplies to the West to terrorist attacks against Jewish targets around the world.

Israel has identified three prime targets south of Tehran which are believed to be involved in Iran’s nuclear programme:

# Natanz, where thousands of centrifuges are being installed for uranium enrichment

# A uranium conversion facility near Isfahan where, according to a statement by an Iranian vice-president last week, 250 tons of gas for the enrichment process have been stored in tunnels

# A heavy water reactor at Arak, which may in future produce enough plutonium for a bomb

Israeli officials believe that destroying all three sites would delay Iran’s nuclear programme indefinitely and prevent them from having to live in fear of a “second Holocaust”.

The Israeli government has warned repeatedly that it will never allow nuclear weapons to be made in Iran, whose president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has declared that “Israel must be wiped off the map”.

Robert Gates, the new US defence secretary, has described military action against Iran as a “last resort”, leading Israeli officials to conclude that it will be left to them to strike.

Israeli pilots have flown to Gibraltar in recent weeks to train for the 2,000-mile round trip to the Iranian targets. Three possible routes have been mapped out, including one over Turkey.

Air force squadrons based at Hatzerim in the Negev desert and Tel Nof, south of Tel Aviv, have trained to use Israel’s tactical nuclear weapons on the mission. The preparations have been overseen by Major General Eliezer Shkedi, commander of the Israeli air force.

Sources close to the Pentagon said the United States was highly unlikely to give approval for tactical nuclear weapons to be used. One source said Israel would have to seek approval “after the event”, as it did when it crippled Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirak with airstrikes in 1981.

Scientists have calculated that although contamination from the bunker-busters could be limited, tons of radioactive uranium compounds would be released.

The Israelis believe that Iran’s retaliation would be constrained by fear of a second strike if it were to launch its Shehab-3 ballistic missiles at Israel.

However, American experts warned of repercussions, including widespread protests that could destabilise parts of the Islamic world friendly to the West.

Colonel Sam Gardiner, a Pentagon adviser, said Iran could try to close the Strait of Hormuz, the route for 20% of the world’s oil.

Some sources in Washington said they doubted if Israel would have the nerve to attack Iran. However, Dr Ephraim Sneh, the deputy Israeli defence minister, said last month: “The time is approaching when Israel and the international community will have to decide whether to take military action against Iran.”

Copyright 2007 Times Newspapers Ltd.
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Rehnquist a Using Addict while on Supreme Court

Rehnquist used powerful sleep aid and pain medications for a decade, went through difficult withdrawal, FBI records show

By PETE YOST Associated Press Writer

(AP) - WASHINGTON-A physician at the U.S. Capitol prescribed a powerful sleep aid for William Rehnquist for nearly a decade while he was an associate justice of the Supreme Court, according to newly released FBI records.

The records present a picture of a justice with chronic back pain who for many months took three times the recommended dosage of the drug Placidyl and then went into withdrawal in 1981 when he abruptly stopped taking it.


Rehnquist checked himself into a hospital, where he tried to escape in his pajamas and imagined that the CIA was plotting against him, the records indicate.

Although Rehnquist's drug dependency was publicly known around the time he was hospitalized in 1981, the release of the FBI records provides new details.

The justice was weaned off Placidyl in early 1982 in a detoxification process that took a month, according to the records. The hospital doctor who treated Rehnquist said the Capitol Hill physician who prescribed Placidyl for Rehnquist was practicing bad medicine, bordering on malpractice. Both doctors' names were deleted from the documents before they were released.

The FBI documents were prepared in 1986 when Rehnquist - who began serving on the court on Jan. 7, 1972 - was nominated for chief justice, years after his problems with the drug had ended. They were released by the agency in response to requests under the Freedom of Information Act. The agency said one of the seven folders of Rehnquist documents could not be found.


A psychiatrist told the FBI that Rehnquist's family in 1981 noted "long-standing slurred speech which seems to coincide with administration of Placidyl," one FBI interview report stated. The psychiatrist also indicated that Rehnquist's chronic back pain led to his heavy use of such substances as Darvon and Tylenol 3, which the psychiatrist said also played a part in Rehnquist's condition.

An attending physician at the U.S. Capitol detailed Rehnquist's problems with Placidyl for the FBI, saying that prior to his seeing the justice in 1972, Rehnquist was prescribed the drug by another doctor for relief from insomnia. The attending physician told the FBI he continued to prescribe Placidyl for the entire 10-year period that he treated Rehnquist.


The physician said that Rehnquist had been prescribed 500 milligrams of Placidyl per evening, but that Rehnquist was actually taking 1,500 milligrams each night. The doctor said this increased consumption may have coincided with Mrs. Rehnquist's illness and treatment for cancer.

Rehnquist had told the physician that he was taking one pill before going to bed and he would take other pills if he awakened during the night.

The physician indicated that he decided to discontinue the drug's use and to try another medication. Rehnquist said the new medication was not strong enough, an FBI interview report stated. The physician said he then prescribed a substitute and then another, at which point Rehnquist went into the hospital.

The hospital doctor who successfully weaned Rehnquist from the drug told the FBI that the toxicity of Placidyl causes blurred vision, slurred speech and difficulty in making physical movements. Once a patient stops taking the drug, the withdrawal symptoms of delirium begin, which is what happened to Rehnquist at the hospital.

The doctor who helped Rehnquist get off the drug said the justice's wife was highly upset and felt that the prescribing physician and the pharmacist who filled the prescription were probably intimidated by such high-ranking officials as Supreme Court justices and senators and probably would have agreed to almost any request.

On the Net:
FBI documents available at:

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Watada and the First Amendment

Attorney says charges should be dropped against US soldier who refused to deploy to Iraq

By MELANTHIA MITCHELL Associated Press Writer

(AP) - FORT LEWIS, Washington--An Army lieutenant who called the Iraq war illegal and refused to deploy has a constitutional right to debate such political issues, his attorney said during a pretrial hearing.

1st Lt. Ehren Watada, 28, is charged with missing troop movement. He is also accused of conduct unbecoming an officer for statements he made to journalists and at a veterans convention.

His attorney, Eric Seitz, said Thursday the latter charge should be dropped.

"He should not face another four years of penalties because he chose to explain his reasons for opposing the war," Seitz told Lt. Col. John Head, the military judge overseeing Watada's case at this post south of Tacoma, Washington.

Army prosecutors argued that Watada's statements were offensive to the military and must be looked at in the context they were made and the danger they present to the military's mission.

"The dividing line and what makes it more disgraceful is the fact that he made it to more than one person," Capt. Daniel Kuecker said.

Watada refused to go to Iraq on June 22 with his unit, the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, after conducting research and deciding the war was illegal. He said he would be willing to serve in Afghanistan or elsewhere.

"We're very hopeful the charges will be dropped," said Bob Watada, the lieutenant's father.

If convicted of all charges, Watada could serve six years in confinement and be dismissed from the service. His court-martial is scheduled for Feb. 5.


Thomas Jefferson and our first Muslim Congressman

Congressman Takes Oath of Office on Thomas Jefferson's Quran

Keith Ellison finds book symbolic of U.S. founding fathers' religious tolerance

Ellison takes oath using the Koran
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (left) administers the House oath to Representative Keith Ellison as his wife holds the Quran. (© AP Images)

Washington -- Incoming Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison became the first Muslim member of the U.S. Congress January 4, swearing his oath of office on a copy of the Quran that belonged to the author of the Declaration of Independence and the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson.

In an interview with USINFO, Ellison spokesman Rick Jauert said the choice of Jefferson's Quran was significant because it "dates religious tolerance back to the time of our founding fathers".

"Jefferson was one of the more profound thinkers of the time, who recognized even then that there was nothing to fear, and in fact there was strength in recognizing religious tolerance," he said.

[photo below: The Quran once owned by Thomas Jefferson and used by Representative Keith Ellison during his swearing-in ceremony (© AP Images)]
The Quran once owned by Thomas JeffersonJefferson's 6,000-volume personal library was the largest in North America at the turn of the 19th century. He obtained his English translation of the Quran in 1765 as he was finishing his law studies at the College of William and Mary. The translation by British historian and solicitor George Sale first was published in 1734. The Quran, along with the rest of Jefferson's books, became the basis of the Library of Congress after British troops burned the U.S. Capitol, destroying the old congressional collection in the War of 1812. (See related article.)

The Library of Congress' division of rare books and special collections made the Quran available to Ellison for the ceremony. It has made similar rare books available for inauguration and swearing-in ceremonies in the past.

While Jefferson is best known for writing the Declaration of Independence, he also penned the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which served as a basis for the religion clauses in the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights. (See related article.)

In the Virginia statute, he wrote, "[O]ur civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry." He went on to say that denying a person the ability to hold an office of trust or declaring him unworthy of public confidence based on his religious beliefs was a violation of natural rights.

The document demanded "that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities."

The statute was one of Jefferson's proudest achievements. He instructed that his tombstone should not refer to him as president of the United States but should remember him only as the author of the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and the founder of the University of Virginia.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: