Saturday, June 02, 2012

Panetta: Pentagon to shift warships to Pacific - Associated Press - POLITICO.com

Panetta: Pentagon to shift warships to Pacific - Associated Press - POLITICO.com

 SINGAPORE  — The Pentagon will shift more Navy warships to the Asia-Pacific region over the next several years, and by 2020, about 60 percent of the fleet will be assigned there as part of a new strategy to increase U.S. presence in Asia, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Saturday....

Friday, June 01, 2012

CIA probes publication review board over allegations of selective censorship - The Washington Post

CIA probes publication review board over allegations of selective censorship - The Washington Post


The CIA has begun an internal investigation into whether a process designed to screen books by former employees and protect national security secrets is being used in part to censor agency critics, U.S. officials said.
The investigation coincides with the publication of a flurry of books from CIA veterans, and it is largely aimed at determining whether some redactions have been politically motivated.
Among the publications expected to get particular scrutiny is a memoir by the former head of the CIA’s clandestine service, Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., who used his book, “Hard Measures: How Aggressive CIA Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives,” to mount a vigorous defense of interrogation methods that were widely condemned but that he asserts provided critical intelligence about al-Qaeda.
The target of the probe is the agency’s Publications Review Board. The PRB evaluates hundreds of submissions each year and is supposed to focus exclusively on whether publication of material would threaten national security interests.
The CIA declined to comment on the internal investigation or to answer questions about the composition and practices of the PRB.
U.S. officials familiar with the inquiry said that it reflects growing concern in the intelligence community that the review process is biased toward agency loyalists, particularly those from the executive ranks. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation.
CIA critics said the disparities in the review process are particularly apparent in books that deal with controversial subjects, including the agency’s use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation measures in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks....

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Families We’re Thinking About This Memorial Day | Here & Now

Families We’re Thinking About This Memorial Day | Here & Now


By: Alex Ashlock
On this Memorial Day, my thoughts are with the Gold Star families across the country. But I’m thinking especially about some of the people I’ve had contact with, who have lost loved ones to war.
Brian and Alma Hart of Bedford, Massachusetts lost their son John in Iraq, in 2003.
20-year-old Pfc. John Hart had called his father about a week before he was killed in an ambush, expressing concerns that the soldiers didn’t have enough body armor and were riding un unarmored vehicles.
John Hart is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
In the years after his death, the Harts have led an effort to get better armor and equipment for U.S. troops.
“Brian got this note from a woman once. Her son was the driver of a Humvee,” Alma Hart told Here and Now‘s Robin Young. “It blew up and he only lost his foot. They can’t protect around the gas pedal as well as the rest of the hull. And she was so grateful. And you have to sit down and contemplate that he only lost his foot.”
A nod of respect also today to Andrew Bacevich and his family. Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University. He has been on our show many times. Like his father Bacevich’s son, Andrew Bacevich Jr., also served in the Army. Andrew Bacevich Jr. was killed in Iraq on Mother’s Day in 2007.

Finally, a word about two people for whom this Memorial Day must be especially difficult, because they really have two casualties of war, Carlos and Melida Arredondo. Carlos’ son, Marine Lance Cpl. Alexander Arredondo was killed in Najaf, Iraq in 2004. He was 20. This past December his other son, Brian, committed suicide. A family friend said Brian was never the same after his brother died. Brian was 24.
There were hundreds of people at Massachusetts National Cemetery on Cape Cod on Saturday to place American flags on the more than 50,000 graves there. One of them was a 32-year Army vet named Don McRae. He served in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. McRae had a simple message for all of us on this Memorial day: “My message would be to thank a veteran. Just say, ‘Hey thank you for your service.’”
We welcome comments from all of our listeners. Post below. Please stay on topic and be civil. Comments may be moderated by us, but you are solely responsible for the content of your comments.

bth: my thanks to Alex Ashlock for this piece on NPR and remembering John, Alex and Andrew.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Alma Hart's Memorial Day Address on Lexington Battle Green May 28, 2012

Memorial Day 2012
Alma Hart on Lexington Green
May 28, 2012 11:00 am
Today we celebrate Memorial Day. We celebrate it. On this one day, we Americans set aside politics and commerce, and take time to reflect on all that was lost by the brave men and women who died in the service of our country.
Many of you standing here today are also remembering a friend or a loved one. Please, for just a moment, raise your hand and be recognized.
Often, in the early morning, lying in my bed, I become aware of a longing to see John again. As I awaken, I remember that he is dead. On those mornings, I stop to look at the photos from his childhood hanging in the hallway. Many mornings, I see my husband stop to look at those same photos.
Being here on Lexington Green brings back so many memories: like the first time we brought our towheaded tykes to see the Patriots Day Re-enactments. It was pouring rain and 40 degrees in the predawn gloom as we trudged here in our brand new raincoats and boots. As the sun came up the Minutemen took their positions while the Red Coats approached through the mist. I remember the drums, the shouting, the gunfire. As you know the fight only lasted a few minutes, but 5 year old John never forgot it.
Many times we have brought visiting family here and stopped to read the sign on Jonathan Harrington’s house. It says that mortally wounded that day, he crawled home and died at his wife’s feet. Imagine that. What would the Harringtons think if they could look around at us today and know that we remember him for a day when all seemed lost?
One year we brought John’s Cub Scout Den and watched them swarm a couple of Colonials who showed them how to load and fire the guns. My boy never out grew wanting to be a soldier. The events of 911 the year he graduated Bedford High only strengthened his resolve. Preparing for boot camp the summer of 2002, he ran along Battle Road once a week with his backpack loaded with books for weight. We were so proud of him. When the country called he answered like the militia on the Green.
October 18, 2003 John had just turned 20. He was the machine gunner in an unarmored Humvee at the rear of a three vehicle convoy ambushed on a lonely road at night. My fair haired, broad shouldered boy stood up and fired his weapon to defend his injured buddies. When he ran out of bullets he was shot in the neck at close range and killed.
Bedford also lost a marine in Iraq. Lance Corporal Travis Desiato was 19 November 15, 2004 when he kicked in a door in Fallujah and found himself outgunned by a group of fanatics who had built a bunker inside the building. His Marines fought several hours to recover him, and in the end to bring his body home.
It would be wrong to hide the costs of war. It has become too easy to send another man’s son to war. The courage to act is the final tribute to those who came before us and a lasting legacy for those who come after us.
In 1910, Theodore Roosevelt spoke at the Sorbonne in Paris about Citizenship in a Republic.
"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming,
 but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement,
 and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."
We buried our child as a young soldier in Arlington National Cemetery on a gentle slope of green lawn. Following the hearse into the cemetery I was moved by the visitors who stopped on the sidewalks to pay their respects. They stood there, holding their hands over their hearts watching the flag draped casket go by. Earlier that morning I had put a note in that casket promising John I would think of him every day. And I have.
Two years ago the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund began a new tradition. Last week hundreds of volunteers planted 33,000 flags on Boston Common to honor our Massachusetts Fallen from the Civil War to today. If you haven’t had a chance to see them in person, take a minute to look at the pictures. Breath taking and heartbreaking, each flag represents a life well lived and tragically cut short. I look at that field and remember the beauty of a child’s smile and a young man’s dreams.

Our flag flies over Lexington Green every day and it never sets. Whenever you see Old Glory waving in the breeze, remember the grit, determination and sacrifice of our forebears. Memorial Day is not about men and women who gave their lives willingly. No, they loved life with all its joys and challenges. They were willing to risk all, their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor for a cause and an outcome yet uncertain. Some fell in the fight and some remained standing. On Memorial Day we celebrate the fallen: the Desiatos, the Harts, the Harringtons and all the others who dared greatly in military service to our country

A poem by John Maxwell Edmonds in World War I became popular as an epitaph.
We died and never knew,
But, well or ill,
Freedom, we died for you
Went the day well?

Those who fall in war do not know how it ends. How it ends is up to us.
I am honored to be asked to speak here today. Thank you.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Vice President Biden Discusses Grief & Loss - YouTube

Vice President Biden Discusses Grief & Loss - YouTube This speech Joe Biden just made to the TAPS gathering in DC which is a meeting of gold star families who are having a particularly difficult traumatic time, especially with children was delivered and one of the best speeches I’ve seen in recent years. Well worth watching on this Memorial weekend.