Iraqis protest continued US presence in Iraq

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The US is attempting to negotiate a withdrawal date with Iraq, that would provide legal immunity to US troops stationed there in the meantime. Despite the fact that the US has significantly weakened its requirements (agreeing to give Iraqis legal jurisdiction over US contractors, for example, and agreeing to a specific target date for the US withdrawal), the draft agreement is still facing stiff opposition within Iraq, even among political parties who are generally supportive of the Iraqi government.

http://www.veteransforcommonsense.org/ArticleID/11448

US forces in Iraq forced to import sandbags from Kuwait

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Troops returning from Iraq are calling attention to the fact that sandbags — a key requirement of military life — are being shipped in to US military bases in Iraq from Kuwait and other countries. This means transporting sand in convoys across the country.

This expensive and inefficient practice is the result of US failure to provide enough armored vehicles to our troops during the deadliest years of the conflict, when roadside bombs were killing and wounding thousands of soldiers. Lacking armored humvees, US troops fortified their vehicles with sandbags on the route from Kuwait into Iraq. The sandbags were clearly inferior to steel, and the bags themselves deteriorated quickly due to the climate — but one result was that Kuwait developed a thriving cottage industry in stuffing sandbags. Today, US and Iraqi contractors and subcontractors based in Kuwait continue to be major suppliers of sandbags to US forces stationed in Iraq. That is, contractors import the bags into Kuwait, shovel in the sand, tie the bags, and load them onto trucks (driven by more contractors) headed for Iraq.

The actual polypropylene BAGS (as opposed to the sand) are manufactured outside the region completely. Back in 2004, the Defense Logistics Agency awarded noncompetitive contracts for sandbags to five US firms: CHK Manufacturing Co. Inc, La Pac Manufacturing Inc., Ampack LLC, Dayton Bag & Burlap Co, and Total Industrial & Packaging Corporation. Later that year, DLA cancelled the award to Total because the sandbags being produced at its facilities in Texas and Puerto Rico did not meet requirements. (Total protested the decision, but it was upheld by a decision by the GAO. See GAO B-295434, February 22, 2005).

Watch Joe Stiglitz on The Colbert Report!

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Joe Stiglitz on Stephen Colbert

Turkey increases attacks into Northern Iraq

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Turkey has now attacked Kurdish positions along the Iraq-Turkey border six times during the past week. This escalation in the war in the north has received little attention in the US media, but it threatens to further complicate the US role in Iraq, prolong the deployment of US combat troops, and increase costs.

www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/meast/10/12/turkey.iraq/index.html

Guards and Reservists Denied Claims at higher rate than Active Duty Troops

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New claims data shows that National Guards and Reservists who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to be rejected for disability claims at twice the rate of active-duty troops serving. To date, 45% of active duty troops who served have filed disability claims, with 4% of the claims being denied.

Only 23% of Guards and Reservists have filed for disability benefits, but 11% of the claims have been denied. That means that Guards and Reservists are only half as likely to file claims, but more than twice as likely to be rejected.

The House and Senate veterans affairs committees have asked for investigations into this discrepancy.

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