Looking Forward to a Four Day Pass

As I described in the posting 'A Decision to Save My Leave', I plan to take two, four-day passes during my tour in Iraq. A pass allows you time off from work without being charged for leave. It's kind of like comp time in the private sector.

I've taken notes from soldiers who participated in the pass program to Qatar. Many were less than enthusiastic upon their return from the country, but a couple thought the program was worth the hassle of travel. I was led to believe it might be a waste of time, but how could it be if I can get out of Iraq for a few days? Some soldiers have opted to stay in Iraq, either at TQ or Al Asad, for their passes, something I do not want to do. No offense to the 2/224th, but six months of working and living with you guys 24/7 is reason enough to go on pass in Qatar.


--Written 6/4/2006

By Bert Stover |  June 20, 2006; 6:50 AM ET  | Category:  4 Day R&R Pass, Qatar
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The February Le Moyne College/Zogby International survey of U.S. troops serving in Iraq found that 72 percent of them thought United States forces should exit that country by the end of 2006.

On Thursday, the U.S. Senate decided not to call for the withdrawal of combat troops by year's end when it shelved a measure proposing that "only forces that are critical to completing the mission of standing up Iraqi security forces" remain in Iraq in 2007.

After a stilted debate, the Senate voted to block the amendment 93-6.

Every Republican in the Senate voted for the amendment, which was advanced by their party leadership in as part of a coordinated political push by Karl Rove and the White House political shop to mock and minimize the debate about the war and create the impression that there is broad support for the long-term occupation of Iraq. So, too, did most Democrats, who chose not to oppose the latest administration strategy, just as they refused to challenge the Republicans prior to the disastrous 2002 and 2004 elections.

Who were the six senators who refused to play Rove's game and voted for the "Bring the Troops Home" amendment?

Barbara Boxer of California.

Robert Byrd of West Virginia.

Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.

Tom Harkin of Iowa.

Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts.

John Kerry of Massachusetts.

On the day when the 2,500th American died in the Iraq quagmire, the Senate was asked to approve the sentiment of the troops who say that it is time for them to get out of the middle of a foreign civil war.

The vast majority of senators decided to do the bidding of the president who deceived them about the "case" for war and who then played politics with national security and the lives of the young men and women who wear the uniform of the United States.

Only six members of the chamber charged with serving as the ultimate check and balance on the fools' missions of failed presidents chose to support the troops. Boxer, Byrd, Feingold, Harkin, Kennedy and Kerry will, of course, be vilified by Rove regenerated attack machine for having done so. It will be suggested that they sent the wrong message to the troops by voting as they did.

At the end of the day on which the American death toll topped 2,500, however, the only message the six senators sent to the troops was this: We agree with you.

Posted by: | June 20, 2006 08:59 AM

WHO SUPPORTS THE TROOPS?


The February Le Moyne College/Zogby International survey of U.S. troops serving in Iraq found that 72 percent of them thought United States forces should exit that country by the end of 2006.

On Thursday, the U.S. Senate decided not to call for the withdrawal of combat troops by year's end when it shelved a measure proposing that "only forces that are critical to completing the mission of standing up Iraqi security forces" remain in Iraq in 2007.

After a stilted debate, the Senate voted to block the amendment 93-6.

Every Republican in the Senate voted for the amendment, which was advanced by their party leadership in as part of a coordinated political push by Karl Rove and the White House political shop to mock and minimize the debate about the war and create the impression that there is broad support for the long-term occupation of Iraq. So, too, did most Democrats, who chose not to oppose the latest administration strategy, just as they refused to challenge the Republicans prior to the disastrous 2002 and 2004 elections.

Who were the six senators who refused to play Rove's game and voted for the "Bring the Troops Home" amendment?

Barbara Boxer of California.

Robert Byrd of West Virginia.

Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.

Tom Harkin of Iowa.

Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts.

John Kerry of Massachusetts.

On the day when the 2,500th American died in the Iraq quagmire, the Senate was asked to approve the sentiment of the troops who say that it is time for them to get out of the middle of a foreign civil war.

The vast majority of senators decided to do the bidding of the president who deceived them about the "case" for war and who then played politics with national security and the lives of the young men and women who wear the uniform of the United States.

Only six members of the chamber charged with serving as the ultimate check and balance on the fools' missions of failed presidents chose to support the troops. Boxer, Byrd, Feingold, Harkin, Kennedy and Kerry will, of course, be vilified by Rove regenerated attack machine for having done so. It will be suggested that they sent the wrong message to the troops by voting as they did.

At the end of the day on which the American death toll topped 2,500, however, the only message the six senators sent to the troops was this: We agree with you.

Posted by: | June 20, 2006 08:59 AM

War Resisters, activists in a show of solidarity

By JOSEPH POPIOLKOWSKI
Buffalo News Staff Reporter
6/18/2006


FORT ERIE, Ont. - Army deserters living in Canada and Americans against the Iraq War came together Saturday along the Niagara River, just a few hundred yards from U.S. soil but miles away from the ideology of some American political leaders.

The event was a show of solidarity between peace activists in the two countries and a call for the Canadian government to welcome the estimated 200 U.S. soldiers who have fled north of the border, citing conscientious objections to the Iraq War. "It's absolutely the first time this has ever happened - that an event has taken place like this across the border from a U.S. city - so it's historic in that sense," said organizer Bruce Beyer, a war resister from the Vietnam era. Beyer lived for three years in Sweden, five years in Canada and served a 30-day jail sentence in the United States for deserting before returning to Buffalo.

Veterans of the Iraq, Gulf and Vietnam wars who gathered for day two of "Peace Has No Borders" said they were proud, patriotic Americans who dutifully served their country until witnessing first-hand the atrocities of what they called an "illegal and unjust" war.

"I made the absolute, 100 percent wrong decision," said Geoff Millard, leader of the local chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War. "I came back from Iraq on Oct. 27, 2005. And on Oct. 29, 2005 I started to make the right decision when I gave my first anti-war speech."

Peace Has No Borders started Friday with a War Resisters Support Campaign in Kleinhans Music Hall. Before moving on to the Peace Bridge Saturday, the 200 anti-war protesters began the day with a picnic, in SugarBowl Park. During a gathering titled "A Festival of Resistance," they sporadically chanted and sought refuge under trees from an oppressive sun. Seven war resisters who spoke to the crowd are seeking asylum in Canada. It's a moral and legal obligation for soldiers to lay down their arms and speak out when they feel compelled to, even if they're branded cowards and have to flee, said Patrick Hart, a Buffalo-native who now lives in Toronto with his wife.

"War changes you and it changed me. And I'm just trying to get back to being the person I was before I went in the Army," he said.

Saturday's event came at a time when the death toll for U.S. troops reached 2,500 last week but as President Bush and Iraq War supporters are buoyed by the death of terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. As a result, public opinion on the war and America's next course of action is mixed.

The picnic was peppered with national and international media, enticed by the scheduled appearance of Cindy Sheehan, an outspoken critic of President Bush and his policies.

Sheehan, whose son died in Iraq in April 2004, wrapped up her first visit to Buffalo by crossing the border and flanking herself with the AWOL soldiers who can't return to their home country without facing court martials.

"I can feel the energy of the movement," Sheehan told The Buffalo News after her speech. "It's really going to take people who have been there, people who have had losses like mine and people who don't want to go there to bring attention to the movement."

George Homanich of Binghamton attended the picnic, as well as Friday night's benefit in Kleinhans with his daughter Sarah, a Buffalo State College student.

"Learning more about their struggle and seeing the amazing amount of support they do have on both sides of the border was very uplifting," he said.

Posted by: | June 20, 2006 09:20 AM

"There are some who, uh, feel like that, you know, the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is: Bring 'em on. We got the force necessary to deal with the security situation. " - George W. Bush, July 2, 2003.

Posted by: | June 20, 2006 09:22 AM

This appeared in the Letters to the Editor section of the April 24, 2006 issue of Army Times:

I am a soldier about to embark on my second tour in Iraq.

My first tour started in November 2003. When we arrived, Saddam Hussein was on the loose. In December, he was caught.

When I came into the military, I signed a contract that said I would defend this country against all threats, foreign and domestic.

After spending a year in Iraq, I have found that the Iraqis are not a threat or the enemy. I did find that we are the threat and the enemy to them.

They acted as we would if someone came into America and said we are going to change your ways.

I feel this war is no longer about taking out a threat. But I believe it is about securing oil commerce for the future.

Securing this country and stabilizing it would mean oil contracts and people lining their pockets with money from the oil that my friends have been wounded for and have died for.

I hear the president speak with the press and tell them things to appease them and to divert them to a different subject.

What I don't see is the president having a conference with the soldiers who have fought on the ground in Iraq.

We do not know what we are fighting for anymore; we do not know what our mission is.

I am not alone in this thought. My boys need to know what they may possibly die for.

Is it for a few extra bucks for Halliburton subsidiary KBR?

Is it about the oil?

Is it for America?

How will this war help my family in the future?

- Staff Sgt. Christopher Galka
Rainier, Wash.

Posted by: | June 20, 2006 09:29 AM

On March 1, nearly 200 people gathered in New York City for a panel discussion on the counter-recruitment movement whose goal is to persuade people not to join the military in an attempt to deny the Pentagon the troops it needs to continue the Iraq war. This is the text of a speech given by Michael Harmon, a combat medic and member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, at the meeting.

My name is Mike Harmon, and I enlisted in the army in May 2002, partly because of 9/11 and partly because at the time, I had no real direction in life. I was lied to by recruiters right off the bat when I was told that I was going to be a health care specialist. That later turned out to be a combat medic.

Shortly after I joined, there were rumors about war, and sure enough, on Martin Luther King Day 2003, we had a special formation where the colonel told us that we were going to war.

I didn't feel like this war was warranted since the Iraqis had nothing to do with 9/11. But we got to Kuwait in April 2003 as part of the initial invasion, and it was an eye-opening experience.

Two weeks into the war, we were told to put our protective gear and chemical mask away. Now I'm not a military intelligence officer or a CIA agent, but I know we were supposed to be there to rid this country of weapons of mass destruction.

So being a New Yorker with a smart mouth, I asked the major who told us to put our gear away, "Sir, with all due respect, I thought we were here for weapons of mass destruction."

He replied, "Do what you're told, son, and shut your mouth." From that point on, I knew this war was just a fabrication by Bush's regime, and that it was definitely unjust.

The event that really turned me was when one of my good friends died because of an insurgent deciding to pose as a hospital worker and drop a grenade on him and two other soldiers in my company.

At that point, I wanted this war to end immediately, but I had to cope, because I was the first line of medical defense for 350 soldiers. That was hard on me mentally, and you could tell the other soldiers were feeling the same way, especially since we were being strung along about how long the deployment was going to be.

What the media, of course, doesn't show you is the dead and injured kids, and that will be burned in my memory forever. When soldiers in their mid 20s and early 30s are crying for their wives and mothers because they don't want to die, that's something that takes a tremendous toll.

When I came home, I had a lot of trouble adjusting back to civilian life, and I didn't know what was wrong with me. I went to the troop clinic, and they diagnosed me with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which also affected about 60 percent of soldiers I deployed with.

The clinic decided to throw pills like Paxil at me, which made me feel even worse, and suicidal at times. I started to cope my own way with alcohol, and I hit the bottle real hard. It got to the point where I couldn't take it any more, and I got out.

When I came home to New York, I fell deeper in the dark hole. I tried to go to the local VA. They told me they were backed up in claims, and what I was feeling was normal.

That's when I joined Iraq Veterans Against the War, because I felt I needed to surround myself with fellow vets who had similar problems, and who also felt that Bush lied just to start this immoral war.

I felt that I was supposed to be fighting for freedom, but when I came home, all the American people's freedoms were taken away, due to the Patriot Act and illegal NSA spying.

There was one time when I came home from Iraq from mid-term leave, and airport security made me step aside so they could wave the wand around me, and I was in full uniform. I couldn't believe it. Here I am fighting and risking my life in Iraq so that we could keep freedom from supposed terrorist threats, and I felt like the enemy.

Bush has shredded the Constitution and killed over 2,200 good soldiers along the way, and that's not even counting how many were injured. Now if we all stick together for this cause, we will prevail.

Posted by: | June 20, 2006 09:31 AM

MEMO FROM US EMBASSY IN IRAQ

One Iraqi employee had begun asking what plans were being made to look after them when the United States withdrew, recalling the plight of South Vietnamese employees left behind by the Americans when Saigon fell in 1975.


Posted by: | June 20, 2006 12:27 PM


Did you know?? that 80% of the 40 million abortions performed since Roe Versus Wade have actually killed potential democratic voters. FOr you HS graduates that is about 32 million. if you could get them to vote you could win all the elections. Osama would still attack, but democrats don;'t mind that.
Friends of mine who were over in the middle east region before the war started watched the muslims kill homosexuals and adulters by either beheading or being thrown from a minaret.

for a final comment go read Ezekiel 38 and 39 in the Holy Bible.


Posted by: All the Truth that is fit to print | June 20, 2006 12:37 PM

I always loved four day passes myself. I could go to the nearest big city, get a real bed, meet up with friends at some point, and turn off.

Have fun! Don't take all our attacks on you personally, we're not angry at you at all.

Posted by: Will in Seattle | June 20, 2006 01:29 PM

Bert,take your leave and enjoy your down time...everyone needs a bit of off time, away from the 24/7. For the above posts expressing their opinions regarding this conflit...please do not use this site for your personal agendas. This site is a way for us at home to have a greater understanding of what these men and women are experiencing. Send your political emails to FOX news. Thanks!

Posted by: KR | June 20, 2006 02:45 PM

...she joins a growing number of US troops who, having enlisted, are refusing service in Iraq. Officially, the Pentagon says there are 4,400 troops absent without leave. Soldiers' advocates believe the true number of deserters is far higher.

A female soldier in the US military has refused to serve in Iraq, accusing some of her superiors of using the war zone as a pretext for sexual harassment.
In what is believed to be the first case of a female soldier refusing to serve because she feared sexual harassment, Suzanne Swift, 21, a specialist with the 54th military police company, told the Guardian she did not join her unit when it left for a second tour of duty in Iraq because it meant a return to a regime of harassment.


"It was like their goal to get someone to be their girl for their deployment and usually they wanted someone lower ranking so they could have the upper hand or control," Spc Swift said. "It's like some sick power trip."
Spc Swift's decision to go public in her charges against three of her superiors - is rare in the US military where veteran advocates say women risk retribution if they complain of harassment. But she joins a growing number of US troops who, having enlisted, are refusing service in Iraq. Officially, the Pentagon says there are 4,400 troops absent without leave. Soldiers' advocates believe the true number of deserters is far higher.

Spc Swift joined their ranks on June 11 when she was arrested at her mother's home in Oregon five months after the rest of her unit left for Iraq. She was returned to Fort Lewis, Washington, where a spokesman, Joe Hitt, said she could face desertion charges. Her complaints of sexual harrassment are part of the same investigation.

The soldier says the mistreatment began soon after she enlisted at 19, lulled by the assurances of her recruiters that she would never find herself in a war zone. Less than a year later, she was on her way to Kerbala, in southern Iraq, one of three women troops in her company. Soon after her arrival in Kuwait in February 2004, Spc Swift was propositioned.

She said the harassment became unrelenting. But it was not atypical. Since the eve of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, some 508 women serving in the military have complained of sexual assault, says the Miles Foundation, a private advocacy group. "Sexual harassment and sexual assault is an epidemic in the army," said Larry Hildes, Spc Swift's lawyer. "There is an attitude in the military that has been there as long as there have been women in the military that they are not real soldiers unless they suck it up and take whatever is dished out to them."

Spc Swift says she reported the harassment to the unit's equal opportunities officer and no action was taken. She later began a sexual relationship with a superior.

Spc Swift now says that that relationship, which lasted three months, was coerced, and that she was threatened with being sent on dangerous assignments. "They have absolute power of life and death," she said. "If someone has to run across a minefield, and they don't like you, guess where you are going."

She said that when she ended the relationship, she was repeatedly singled out for harsh treatment. The superior humiliated her in front of fellow soldiers, forced her to carry an outsize wall clock - including to the latrine and during physical training - when she reported late for duty, and wrote her up for poor conduct.

Spc Swift did not report the harassment. The two were assigned to different units when they returned to Fort Lewis in February last year. A week later, she asked another superior where to report for duty. She says he replied: "In my bed, naked." She filed a complaint, and was treated, her mother says, like a "traitor".

When the order came down that she faced redeployment, Spc Swift was resigned at first. But last January on the eve of departure, she turned to her mother in the kitchen and said she was going on the run. "I couldn't do it - remembering the way that people treat you when you are over there," she said. "When you are over there, you are lower than dirt, you are expendable as a soldier in general, and as a woman, it's worse."

Posted by: | June 20, 2006 03:19 PM

I don't know why I read the comments setion anymore. Few people having anything to say that is directly related to Bert or his reports.

Bert sleep easy in Qatar and try to make your 4 days count for all the weekends you have missed here in the states.

Posted by: Bill | June 20, 2006 06:11 PM

Why does the Washington Post allow 1,500 word ultraliberal antiwar trash posts to be posted one after the other when they are unrelated whatsoever with Bert and the topic at hand?

The antiwar drivel autmatically flares up whenever there's a change in Bert's topics and it's getting old fast. I am abandoning future comments.

Come on, Post! Edit the long posts out of this topic. Create an antiwar blog to entertain the liberal knuckleheads.

Posted by: Just Curious | June 20, 2006 06:24 PM

My niece went on one of those 4 day passes to Qatar during her first tour of duty at Al Asad. She had a great time -- had her hair done, manicure, pedicure, and a little time in a nightclub. Bert, if you were female I'd say you would really have a great time, but sounds to me like it's possible to enjoy yourself in Qatar even for men if your expectations aren't unrealistic.

Posted by: Carla | June 20, 2006 06:49 PM

For all those people who think the war is wrong....Join the military!! Go over there first hand and understand the truth...not what is peddled by anti-Americans. Support your country or go find a better one to live in...and you can take the loony left with you!!!

Posted by: steve | June 21, 2006 01:06 AM

Unbelievable. Bert is taking 2 four day passes while he is on his 6 month tour. I have known of military folks who have done a year in Iraq without one pass let alone two. I have also read about Berts comments on the laundry. My gosh man how much more do you want. You complain because you think they soak it hot water and its not clean enough for you. When was the last time you had to wash your clothes in a bucket because there were no other options? Juast two short years ago thats what some had to do in Iraq. You are trying to get internet in your living space. Big deal, go to the internet center like everyone else. You complain about walking through the dust coming back from the shower and have to wash you feet again. What about the grunt on the ground who doesnt have the chance to shower daily? I guess your main concern is for yourself. If you ever happen to look and see how bad things were in Iraq not to long ago and how bad some still have it maybe you would try to find something positve about your time in Iraq instead of all this whining and crying you are doing now. Suck it up and stop being such a baby.

Posted by: Bert is a whiner | June 26, 2006 03:45 PM

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