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    Desert Winds

    Watching Iraq Burn From Afghanistan

    The recent Afghan elections should have been the big news, but even troops deployed to Afghanistan are distracted by the spiraling chaos in Iraq.

    Last week, as the world’s gaze shifted toward Iraq, we stayed focused on supporting the presidential runoff election here in Afghanistan.

    On Election Day we were prepared for trouble, but as the hours wore on things remained strangely quiet, at least in my small part of the war. The “120 Days of Wind” are now blowing here in Afghanistan. As the hot, dusty, and dry season invades, the Afghan runoff vote was an apparent success, though not without bloodshed.

  • An Iraqi woman passes U.S. troops and Iraqi police officers as they stand guard in the Bab al-Jadeed area of Mosul, 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, April 23, 2009. (Maya Alleruzzo/AP)


    Mosul's Civilization and Its Discontents

    An Army veteran looks at the fall of Mosul and recalls his own time there trying to civilize the land with guns and money.

    Mosul is in the news today.  

    Not many people in the United States know where Mosul is.

  • 1st Lt. Matthew Noreus (center) and his platoon prepare for a midday patrol in the city of Bayji, July 19, 2007. (Nathan S. Webster)

    War Comes Home

    How the War Comes Home

    As violence flares in Iraq, author Nathan Webster speaks to veterans who he embedded with overseas about their memories, experiences, and how they have managed the transition home.

    Specialist Aaron Navarro climbs up a dusty incline on a hot July day near  Bayji, Iraq, 2007; his two junior troops flare out, right and left, behind him, narrowing into single file as they reach the top. An infantry fire team doing their part of a quiet cordon-and-search mission in a rugged farming village.

    The deployment ended that October. By 2008 they were back in the states but before the soldiers who had patrolled Bayji were really home, they were heading overseas again.

  • Iraqi immigrant Ubaida Mufrej stands in the office of his car parts export business in Seattle. Mufrej came to the United States under a special visa program for Iraqis who worked with U.S.-led forces during the Iraq War. The federal government has issued less than a quarter of 25,000 visas available and the program is scheduled to end this year. (Manuel Valdes/AP)

    Before It’s Too Late

    Betraying Our Iraqi Allies

    One third of the visas reserved for our Iraqi allies have been issued. Peter Meijer urges action before it’s too late.

    If Congress doesn’t act, on October 1 the State Department will dismantle the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program for Iraqi refugees. The program was introduced in 2008 as a way to provide special immigration status to some of the tens of thousands of Iraqis who served alongside U.S. forces at great danger to themselves and their families, during our eight-year occupation. Today, five years after the original legislation passed, less than a third of the 25,000 allotted visas have been distributed and the charter is set to expire. Will this be just another broken promise to the people of Iraq?

    Reauthorization for the Iraqi SIV program and its 17,000 remaining visas is in the National Defense Authorization Act but it will not pass before October 1 when the current mandate expires. And the continuing resolution, the legislation that keeps the government running until the budget passes, fails to reauthorize the program. As a result, the last hope for Iraqi refugees stands to disappear. If he hasn’t been killed by a car bomb or Shia thugs, somewhere in Baghdad my interpreter Omar* is laughing that he proved me wrong again.

  • U.S. Marines evacuate a colleague wounded in a mortar attack on a base south of Baghdad November 29, 2004. (Thaier Al-Sudani / Reuters, © Thaier Al-Sudani / Reuters)

    Not Again

    A Veteran’s Case Against Attacking

    No to Syria. Army veteran Brian Van Reet argues against intervention.

    On an absentee ballot mailed from Camp War Eagle, I voted John Kerry for president in 2004. I had been in Baghdad about eight months. Over that time I had come to believe that the army’s strategy—if you could call harassing Iraqi men, passing out soccer balls to their kids, building bigger and better chow halls on our FOBs, and driving the highway looking for bombs, a strategy—was headed for dismal failure.

    President Bush pleaded with the country to stay the course. Meanwhile, I cast a ballot for the other guy.

  • The "soldier" with the bazooka May 8, 1945. (Tony Vaccaro)

    The Good War

    A World War II veteran shares an unexpected photo, and story, with Iraq War veteran Phil Klay.

    A few years ago I attended a party for World War II veterans at a friend's home on the anniversary of D-Day. It was a relatively sedate affair: a few surprisingly short men from the Greatest Generation sitting around, trading stories about work and life—not much talk of war. Then one of the men, Tony, brought out a book of his photographs, black-and-white snaps he'd taken while he was with the 83rd Infantry.

    The photographs were, by turns, fascinating and beautiful and horrible, as war photos tend to be. And then I encountered one that looked less like an image of battle than of a crime scene. Almost casually, Tony pointed to the photo, leaned over toward me, and started talking about it. None of the other veterans paid much attention, as if they'd heard the story already, and Tony was nonchalant, as though his story wouldn’t be any particular revelation. It was a part of his war, the “Good War,” and he'd been living with it for 65 years.

  • U.S. soldiers patrol the outskirts of Spin Boldak, near the border with Pakistan, about 100 kilometers (63 miles) southeast of Kandahar, Afghanistan. (Emilio Morenatti/AP)


    The Gulf War’s Homegrown Plague?

    Jamie Reno reports on a new lawsuit seeking to connect an American firm with Gulf War syndrome.

    As a new study seems to establish for the first time that Gulf War syndrome—the mysterious, multisymptom condition often marked by pain and fatigue and reported by nearly one in three of the 700,000 U.S. veterans of that war—is in fact a physical condition, a potentially groundbreaking lawsuit focused on the chemical weapons used by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and the damage they may have caused American soldiers, is about to make its way to a Texas courtroom.

    For nearly 20 years, Houston attorney Gary Pitts has compiled information on companies worldwide that allegedly developed materials Saddam used for his chemical weapons program. His latest lawsuit targets one company from that list—an American one. In an interview with The Daily Beast, Pitts alleges that at the time of the attack on the Kurds, Alcolac, Inc., a now-defunct Maryland company whose assets are owned by Paris-based chemical concern Rhodia, was, through a middleman, supplying Iraq with thiodiglycol (TDG), the chemical used to make mustard gas, a highly toxic agent used in the attack.

  • An Iraqi Army soldier smokes a cigarette while on patrol with American forces in the violent neighborhood of Gazaliyah February 8, 2007 in Baghdad, Iraq. Snipers are a daily problem for US and Iraqi Army soldiers who patrol the neighborhood, which is beset with Sunni-Shia sectarian violence. (Chris Hondros/Getty)

    Dark Anniversary

    What If the Iraq War Never Happened?

    A war correspondent reflects on the grim insurgency in Iraq.

    Not the invasion, that's something else. That was three weeks of aggressive warfare executed, by and large, with stunning effect, scattering a half-million-man army in its wake. The 10th anniversary retrospective haze makes the whole affair seem almost dreamlike, a flicker of blistering success before the years of horror set in.

    So no, I don't mean that. But what of the war that followed, made up as it was of so many smaller wars? Different battles waged against the Americans, against Iraq's new security forces, even among the Iraqis themselves in bitter civil war. But none more than that largest and most targeted of Coalition troops: the Sunni insurgency. What if that had never had to pass? What if we missed means to better, exponentially better, exploit our military supremacy? Not just once. Or twice. But incessantly, for something like four years.

  • American Civil Liberties Union Women's Rights Project senior staff attorney Ariela Migdal, right, gestures while speaking beside ACLU attorney Elizabeth Gill, left, during a media conference Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012, in San Francisco. Plaintiffs also present for the conference, background L-R, U.S. Army reserve Staff Sgt. Jennifer Hunt, U.S. Marine Corps reserve Capt. Zoe Bedell, and U.S. Marine Corps First Lt. Colleen Farrell. Several active women military personnel have filed a federal lawsuit to demand combat action, requesting all branches of the military to remove the so-called combat exclusionary rule that bars women from fighting on the front lines. This suit, to be filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, is believed to be the first involving active duty military personnel. (Ben Margot / AP Photo)

    Female Warriors

    Let Women Fight

    The veterans who filed an ACLU lawsuit to allow women in combat say exclusion is unfair and outdated. By Gayle Tzemach Lemmon.

    Women have been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq for the past decade, serving in a slew of military roles on a murky battlefield that knows no formal frontlines. Now, four veterans who have served tours in both countries—including those who have won Purple Hearts for their efforts—are suing for recognition of that reality, and the end to the rules that officially bar them from combat.

    “The combat exclusion policy is based on outdated stereotypes of women and ignores the realities of the modern military and battlefield conditions,” the four plaintiffs stated in a federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. “Nearly a century after women first earned the right of suffrage, the combat exclusion policy still denies women a core component of full citizenship—serving on equal footing in the military defense of our nation.”

  • Nick Daly / Getty Images

    Study Abroad

    War Is Hell, College Is Heck

    The lessons Colby Buzzell learned studying abroad with the Army paid off back home on campus.

    When I graduated from high school in 1995, I flirted with the idea of enlisting in the military but decided against it. Why would I want to sign up, receive all that training, and end up sitting on a base somewhere just killing time. Instead, I skipped the training and worked a series of nothing jobs.

    Then 9/11 happened, and I started hearing that the U.S. military was now hiring—and pretty much anyone they could. So I signed up, and after graduating from basic training studied abroad, spending 2003 and 2004 in Iraq, where our battalion commander sent us outside the wire several times a day “to locate, capture, and kill all anti-Iraqi forces.” After that, college seemed like it would be a breeze, especially with the post-9/11 GI Bill meaning Uncle Sam would pick up the check.

  • A man visits the Vietnam Memorial Wall May 28, 2012 in Washington, DC. People around the United States celebrate Memorial Day to honor veterans and those members of the US military who have fallen in past and present wars. (Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images)

    Welcome Home

    A Memorial for the 7,000 Fallen

    The Education Center at the Wall will display photos of the fallen, writes the founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

    This year is the 30th anniversary of the Wall, where America’s Vietnam veterans were finally welcomed home in 1982. It was a tad ironic that we had to build and fund our own memorial. I actually led the effort to have on the Mall in Washington the names of the nearly 60,000 service members who died or who were left Missing in Action in South East Asia. But once Congress approved the Memorial, it was designed, funded, and built in three years.

    Now there is another mission. The veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan need a welcome home. Year after year these men and women have been sent to fight. But the fighting, it appears, is coming to a close at the end of 2014—the deadline chosen by the president and Congress to end combat operations in Afghanistan. These veterans deserve their own national memorial, but the draconian process of first getting Congressional consensus authorizing that memorial and then planning and building it will take decades, not years.

  • Watch This!

    Introducing Hero Project TV

    Anthony Swofford and Phil Klay on why neither candidate addressed military voters in their first debate.

    The Daily Beast is thrilled to introduce Hero Project TV, a new Beast TV series highlighting the most pressing issues facing the military and veteran communities, airing every other Friday. The show is hosted by Anthony Swofford, bestselling author of Jarhead, Exit A, and Hotels, Hospitals, and Jails: A Memoir and a former U.S. Marine who served in the Gulf War.

    In Hero Project TV’s debut episode, Swofford sits down with Phil Klay, a fellow Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq during the surge and is the author of a short-story collection forthcoming from Penguin and an editor of the veterans fiction anthology Fire and Forget: Short Stories, which will be published by Da Capo Press in February. In this first installment, the two break down why neither President Obama nor Mitt Romney had much to say to military voters in their first debate—and why there isn’t a military voting bloc.

  • Contract Working Dog Master Corporal Uzo with the Canadian 2 Troop, 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment, 2-3 Field Squadron in October, 2011.


    As Wars End, Service Dogs Return

    Dogs, like other returning veterans, can have a long adjustment back into civilian life. Sandra McElwaine reports.

    Soldiers aren’t the only ones struggling with their returns from Iraq and Afghanistan.

    So when Air Force Major Cody Barker, who’d served in Afghanistan, and his wife, Carrie, decided to adopt Uzo, they had no idea what they were getting into.