Archive for the ‘Iraq’ Category

“Eighteen months ago, we began with the simple concept that those who have been serving since 9/11 should have the same opportunity for a first class educational future as those who served during World War II. Today, we have accomplished that goal.”

Senator Jim Webb of Virginia spoke those words on June 26th after the Senate passed the 21st Century GI Bill that was part of the 162 billion war supplemental spending measure. The legislation passed 92-6 with 2 not voting. Today President Bush signed the measure into law and in a press release from the White House the President spins all the positives and thanks numerous people for their work. One line from the press release did raise my blood pressure.

“And I want to thank members who worked hard for the GI Bill expansion — especially Senators Webb and Warner, Graham, Burr, and McCain.”

Graham, Burr, and McCain? This is the same trio that opposed the 21st Century GI Bill and introduced legislation in an effort to sabotage Senator Webb’s bill. GOP presumptive nominee John McCain is now jumping on the bandwagon and trying to take credit despite the fact he was a vocal opponent and didn’t even bother to show up for both of the votes on this bill. McCain has proved that he is consistent in one way-having it both ways!

Ollie Ox at Bluestem Prairie has the press release from 1st District Congressman Tim Walz who has been consistent, vocal and hard working on veterans issues. In the statement he notes that over 20,000 men and women from Minnesota have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. The Congressman also offers up the assistance of his Rochester, MN office (507-206-0643) for veterans that are experiencing difficulties with their benefits.

Peace & solidarity,



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With the passage of the 162 billion Iraq war funding bill last week it appears that the 21st Century GI Bill will become law. The Senate still needs to act on it but the White House has indicated it would sign the legislation. The GI Bill was included in the war funding along with a 13 week extension of unemployment benefits, disaster relief in the amount of $2.65 billion for the Midwest affected by the recent tornadoes and floods, additional money for the construction of military hospitals and some important Iraq policy provisions as noted by Minnesota Central in the comments section.

Senator Jim Webb, co-sponsor of the GI BIll, expressed his gratitude to supporters:

“I would like to again express my appreciation to the veterans’ service organizations, many of whom communicated their support of this bill directly to a skeptical White House, and to the 58 Senate and 302 House cosponsors of this landmark legislation. This bipartisan coalition consistently rejected the allegations of this Administration, and of Senators McCain, Burr and Graham, among others, who claimed that the bill was too generous to our veterans, too difficult to administer and would hurt retention.

“It has now been nearly seven years since 9/11 — seven years since those who have been serving in our military began earning the right for a proper wartime GI Bill. I am looking forward to the President living up to his word, and signing this legislation at his earliest opportunity.”  Read the entire statement here.

DFL Representative Collin Peterson, from the 7th district, which is just a tad more than 60 miles from my corner of the state was a supporter and his comments are covered by the Bemidji Pioneer.

A Bluestem Prairie covers 1st District Congressman’s statement on the passage of the new GI Bill and also comments about the process of getting the legislation passed:

“Like the final passage of the increase in the federal minimum wage, final approval of the New G. I. Bill came–eventually–at the cost of continuing to fund the war in Iraq. Those who feel that Congress should quit funding the war and pull out immediately will be disappointed with Walz’s vote for another amendment to the bill that continued money for the war in Iraq.”
It has been said that making laws is a lot like making sausage. Well, I work in the meat industry and I would consider that an insult. It is tragic that the continued occupation of Iraq was the price to pay. Just about everybody (416-12) in the House of Representatives will be able to pat themselves on the back for supporting the GI Bill. How many more GI’s will they be making eligible for the benefits?
Peace & solidarity,


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Yeah, I know there is more important stuff going on like Obama claiming victory, McClellan dissin’ the Bush regime, and the never-ending occupation of Iraq but come on people-doesn’t everyone want a kitty?

 Contact me, Please!




Here is a handy-dandy guide to cats from YouTube:




Peace & solidarity,


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This week, the U.S. Senate took an historic vote and passed (75-22) the Webb-Hagel 21st Century GI Bill. The GI Bill passed the House of Representatives earlier this month so now once the two legislative bodies reconcile any differences it will go to President Bush for his signature, signing it into law.

Or maybe not!

Bush along with his clone, McCain, is opposed to this particular legislation and has threatened a veto. Minnesota’s Senator Amy Klobuchar and Senator Norm Coleman both voted for the GI Bill. Only 2 of our representatives in the House voted against this legislation (Bachmann and Kline). 1st CD Congressman Tim Walz, my representative, voted for the legislation and delivered this speech in support on the floor of congress.


This legislation recognizes the sacrifice of ALL the women and men who have served, including our national guard and reservists who have paid a heavy price in Iraq and Afghanistan. It has strong non-partisan support in Congress and has the support of many veterans organizations, including the VFW and the American Legion. Senator McCain’s legislation is not as generous, would not treat the guard and reserve as equals and would require longer service times to be eligible for full benefits. Some may complain about the cost of this program but if we end our occupation of Iraq we will have plenty of extra cash on hand.

Peace & solidarity,


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The new GI Bill (HR 5740) is scheduled for a vote soon. Minnesota Central leaves an interesting comment on my previous post about the upcoming vote. Here is an excerpt:

FYI : The improved GI bill may be getting a vote this week. The House plans to add it as an amendment to the Iraq supplemental spending bill. Its smart strategy as the President may have difficulty in vetoing that bill. Currently there are 292 co-sponsors, so it should pass, but the hang-up is the Blue Dog Democrats who are concerned about the fiscal impact as it does not meet the PAYGO concept. The Blue Dogs are right and wrong … the GI Bill does not have the offsets to pay for it, but the entire Iraq supplemental does not either … how can they vote for Iraq funding but not domestic funding?

It should be a fun week … will Bachmann vote against the amendment but when it passes vote for the overall bill thus being able to say that she “supported the troops” ?

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) also sent out this urgent email today encouraging contact with congress to let them know to support the bill and to vote this week:

Last week, despite enormous momentum, a vote on the GI Bill was delayed by a small group of Democrats in the House. Believe it or not, they’re concerned about the cost of the bill, which amounts to less than 0.5% of war funding for the year. This is Washington ineffectiveness at its worst.

We’ve been pounding the pavement here in DC every day, meeting with all the key players in the fight for a new GI Bill, and today we need your support.

Please take a minute now to call your Representative, and urge them to show their support for a new GI Bill by voting to fund it this week. We’ve included some talking points at the bottom of this email that you can use during your call.

Despite deep bi-partisan support, the endorsement of every major veterans’ organization, and studies showing that a new GI Bill is a fiscally sound investment in our nation’s future, a few members of the House are standing in its way at this late, critical stage.

If you haven’t already, please take a minute now to call your Representative and tell them that you support education benefits for the men and women coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The new GI Bill (HR 5740) has broad bi-partisan support, and leading Democrats and Republicans have been fighting for it since day one. But thanks to this small group that is mounting an ill-advised opposition, the vote is going to be close, and we need your help to make sure Congress does the right thing.

In our view, the GI Bill is a cost of war, and a smart investment in one of the most motivated, deserving groups of people our country has to offer.

So please take a minute now to tell your Representative to show real support for our troops and veterans by supporting the new GI Bill.

After your call, please take a minute to tell us about it here.

Thank you for your continued support.


Patrick Campbell
Iraq Veteran
Legislative Director
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

Peace & solidarity,


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On April 29, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans held a rally in Washington D.C. complete with press coverage and speeches from congressional supporters. Peaceful, well choreographed, and pretty much by the book for modern day political rallies in the nations capitol.

Things were a little different in 1932 when thousands of veterans of World War 1, the Great War, converged on Washington D.C. The Bonus Army, as they were called, was there to demand payment of bonus money promised after their service in WW1. The bonus money was actually a deferred payment but the Great Depression hit the veterans hard and they were trying to get legislation passed for immediate payment. Legislative efforts failed and the 20,000 strong Bonus Army was driven out of their encampments by the Army, led by none other than General Douglas MacArthur. When they public saw the newsreels of the actions taken by their government against these veterans the reaction was none to favorable. President Hoover’s reelection bid was harmed by these actions. It was several years later that Congress was finally able to pass legislation allowing the early payment to the WW1 veterans.

Here is a good video with an overview of the Bonus Army.





And now for a little foot-tapping music, Pay Me My money Down from the Seeger Sessions by Bruce Springsteen.



Peace & solidarity,


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Meanwhile, Minnesota prepares to send more men and women to Iraq. Video here.
UPDATE: Minnesota National Guard press release.
Peace & solidarity,

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UPDATE: 05/01/2008 #1 son points out in the comments that now 7 of 8 of Minnesota’s congressional delegation have signed on to this legislation. The only holdout is Michelle Bachman. As of this date 261 members of the House of Representatives have signed on as cosponsors. END UPDATE

As hundreds of thousands of men and women return from serving their country in the military they are finding that the current G.I. Bill is woefully inadequate. Senators Jim Webb(D) and Chuck Hagel(R), hope to change that with the “Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act” (S.22/H.R. 5740). The current list of cosponsors include 58 in the Senate and 250 members of the House. Both of Minnesota’s senators have signed on to the bill. Six of Minnesota’s eight representatives in the House have signed on, including my congressman, Tim Walz. This legislation has bipartisan support and has been endorsed by the following veterans and educational groups:   

The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act has been endorsed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars(VFW), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), The American Legion, the Military Officers’Association of America (MOAA), Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), AMVETS, the Air Force Sergeants Association (AFSA), the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States (EANGUS), the Student Veterans of America (SVA), the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges (NASULGC) and the Partnership for Veterans’ Education, a consortium of military, veterans, and higher education associations such as the American Council on Education (ACE) and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU).

Democratic presidential hopefuls Clinton and Obama are cosponsors. Republican presidential candidate John McCain has introduced alternative legislation which is a slap in the face to our veterans and especially to our national guard and reservists. VoteVets.org issued a press release last week in which they repudiated the McCain-Graham-Burr bill. Here is and excerpt from the press release:

The veterans stated that the McCain-Graham-Burr bill falls flat in its key differences from the Webb-Hagel Bill, which has the support of 57 members of the Senate, from both sides of the aisle.

1) The McCain-Graham-Burr legislation creates a flat education benefit, not taking into account the cost of state colleges where veterans live. This would mean veterans in states where the cost of education is higher than the benefit would have go to into debt to get an education, or uproot themselves and their families to move to a place where the benefit would cover college. The Webb-Hagel Bill determines the education benefit based on the highest state college tuition in a veterans’ home state, allowing veterans to come home and attend college, without upheaval in their lives.

2) The McCain-Graham-Burr legislation creates second-class veterans, by offering those who serve in the military for 12 years the chance to transfer their education benefits to their children. This says to a veteran who serves for two years and loses both of his legs in combat that his service isn’t as valuable as someone who has served for longer.

3) The McCain-Graham-Burr legislation leaves the National Guard and Reserve out in the cold. In the current conflicts, the National Guard and Reserve have served faithfully alongside their active duty compatriots, and deserve equal benefits. Yet, the McCain bill does nothing to reward our Guard and Reservists for their cumulative service. Under the McCain bill, over 160,000 members of the Guard and Reserves who have done more than one tour in Iraq or Afghanistan would get no credit towards an education for their additional sacrifice. 

If this is an example of John McCain’s leadership and support for the troops, then we don’t need him. He is proving once again that he is out of touch with reality.  If we are going to go to war then we must consider all costs, and that includes education.

A fact sheet on S. 22 is available here.

Watch the video from VoteVets.org. 

Peace & solidarity,



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I just caught this on KELO TV. Reporter Jon Wilson has a story about a Vietnam veteran who came close to dying on April 20th, 38 years ago. Gene Murphy now calls that day his Come Alive Day. Paralyzed from his injuries, Murphy has been advocating for better health care for veterans ever since that day. He has a few criticisms of the current health care system for veterans.

After serving a tour in Vietnam, Murphy has a new enemy these days…the American Health Care System, especially when it comes to long-term care for disabled American veterans.

Murphy says, “I guess I didn’t think we would have to fight this hard for adequate budgets…especially for health care in the 38 years since I returned.” 

From heads of state to politicians, even Presidents both present and former, Murphy has been a strong voice in Washington on behalf of disabled vets and says the toughest fight of all seems to be securing benefits that were promised to them by their government. 

Murphy says, “And I’ve heard different administrators say I don’t know if we can afford it right now. And I said wait a minute, you had all kinds of money when we sent these young sons and daughters to wars, so we should have all kinds of money now.” 

Amen to that Mr Murphy!

Read the entire transcript here or watch the video here.

Peace & solidarity,


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Five years of the Iraq War Occupation. No end in sight. How about a song?

Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, and James Burton perform the classic, What’s So Funny ’bout Peace, Love, and Understanding.

Peace & solidarity,


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