Tomas Young, Dying Iraq War Veteran, Pens ‘Last Letter’ To Bush, Cheney On War’s 10th Anniversary

20 Mar

“I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power. I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole.”

US President George W. Bush speaks to th

Young goes on to attack the “cowardice” of Bush and Cheney for avoiding military service themselves, and to encourage them to “stand before the American public and the world, and in particular the Iraqi people, and beg for forgiveness.”

(Read Young’s entire letter here.)

Tomas Young

Days after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Tomas Young, then a 22-year-old from Kansas City, Mo., made a decision repeated by many other Americans around the country: He was going to enlist in the military in hopes of getting even with the enemies who had helped coordinate the deaths of nearly 3,000 men, women and children.

Less than three years later, Young’s Army service placed him not in Afghanistan — where then-President George W. Bush had told the nation the terrorist plot had originated — but in Iraq. On April 4, 2004, just five days into his first tour, Young’s convoy was attacked by insurgents. A bullet from an AK-47 severed his spine. Another struck his knee. Young would never walk again, and in fact, for the next nearly nine years, he would suffer a number of medical setbacks that allowed him to survive only with the help of extensive medical procedures and the care of his wife, Claudia.

The Last Letter

A Message to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney From a Dying Veteran

To: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney
From: Tomas Young

I write this letter on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War on behalf of my fellow Iraq War veterans. I write this letter on behalf of the 4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq. I write this letter on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been wounded and on behalf of those whose wounds, physical and psychological, have destroyed their lives. I am one of those gravely wounded. I was paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City. My life is coming to an end. I am living under hospice care.

I write this letter on behalf of husbands and wives who have lost spouses, on behalf of children who have lost a parent, on behalf of the fathers and mothers who have lost sons and daughters and on behalf of those who care for the many thousands of my fellow veterans who have brain injuries. I write this letter on behalf of those veterans whose trauma and self-revulsion for what they have witnessed, endured and done in Iraq have led to suicide and on behalf of the active-duty soldiers and Marines who commit, on average, a suicide a day. I write this letter on behalf of the some 1 million Iraqi dead and on behalf of the countless Iraqi wounded. I write this letter on behalf of us all—the human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief.

You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole.

I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power. I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole.

Your positions of authority, your millions of dollars of personal wealth, your public relations consultants, your privilege and your power cannot mask the hollowness of your character. You sent us to fight and die in Iraq after you, Mr. Cheney, dodged the draft in Vietnam, and you, Mr. Bush, went AWOL from your National Guard unit. Your cowardice and selfishness were established decades ago. You were not willing to risk yourselves for our nation but you sent hundreds of thousands of young men and women to be sacrificed in a senseless war with no more thought than it takes to put out the garbage.

I joined the Army two days after the 9/11 attacks. I joined the Army because our country had been attacked. I wanted to strike back at those who had killed some 3,000 of my fellow citizens. I did not join the Army to go to Iraq, a country that had no part in the September 2001 attacks and did not pose a threat to its neighbors, much less to the United States. I did not join the Army to “liberate” Iraqis or to shut down mythical weapons-of-mass-destruction facilities or to implant what you cynically called “democracy” in Baghdad and the Middle East. I did not join the Army to rebuild Iraq, which at the time you told us could be paid for by Iraq’s oil revenues. Instead, this war has cost the United States over $3 trillion. I especially did not join the Army to carry out pre-emptive war. Pre-emptive war is illegal under international law. And as a soldier in Iraq I was, I now know, abetting your idiocy and your crimes. The Iraq War is the largest strategic blunder in U.S. history. It obliterated the balance of power in the Middle East. It installed a corrupt and brutal pro-Iranian government in Baghdad, one cemented in power through the use of torture, death squads and terror. And it has left Iran as the dominant force in the region. On every level—moral, strategic, military and economic—Iraq was a failure. And it was you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, who started this war. It is you who should pay the consequences.

To read Chris Hedges’ recent interview with Tomas Young, click here.

I would not be writing this letter if I had been wounded fighting in Afghanistan against those forces that carried out the attacks of 9/11. Had I been wounded there I would still be miserable because of my physical deterioration and imminent death, but I would at least have the comfort of knowing that my injuries were a consequence of my own decision to defend the country I love. I would not have to lie in my bed, my body filled with painkillers, my life ebbing away, and deal with the fact that hundreds of thousands of human beings, including children, including myself, were sacrificed by you for little more than the greed of oil companies, for your alliance with the oil sheiks in Saudi Arabia, and your insane visions of empire.

I have, like many other disabled veterans, suffered from the inadequate and often inept care provided by the Veterans Administration. I have, like many other disabled veterans, come to realize that our mental and physical wounds are of no interest to you, perhaps of no interest to any politician. We were used. We were betrayed. And we have been abandoned. You, Mr. Bush, make much pretense of being a Christian. But isn’t lying a sin? Isn’t murder a sin? Aren’t theft and selfish ambition sins? I am not a Christian. But I believe in the Christian ideal. I believe that what you do to the least of your brothers you finally do to yourself, to your own soul.

My day of reckoning is upon me. Yours will come. I hope you will be put on trial. But mostly I hope, for your sakes, that you find the moral courage to face what you have done to me and to many, many others who deserved to live. I hope that before your time on earth ends, as mine is now ending, you will find the strength of character to stand before the American public and the world, and in particular the Iraqi people, and beg for forgiveness.


Tom Ricks on Benghazi

27 Nov

Tells Fox what he (and all of us) think

Romney wanted to let Osama go

23 Oct

Its hard to know Romney’s position on anything, given he contradicts himself so much. Let’s be clear on one issue though: Romney harshly criticized Obama’s pledge to send U.S. troops into Pakistan to get Osama bin Laden.

In 2007, Romney attacked Obama for saying he’d order U.S. forces into Pakistan to kill or capture bin Laden, just like he did in May, 2011. “I do not concur in the words of Barack Obama in a plan to enter an ally of ours,” Romney said in 2007. The former Massachusetts governor also said in 2007 referring to bin Laden: “It’s not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person.”

More Questions Than Answers About Romney’s Taxes

25 Sep

On Friday, Mitt Romney belatedly released just a single additional tax return — his 2011 filing — and a cryptic summary of the previous two decades. The summary featured no details about any individual year. And as for the 2011 return, it was cooked to produce a higher tax rate — and more favorable headlines — for Romney, calling into question what else in this and other returns was manipulated to produce a more favorable appearance.

Here’s ten questions about his taxes that Mitt Romney still needs to answer:

1. After the election, when the subject of your tax returns is outside of the public glare, will you file an amended tax return to claim your full deduction of charitable contributions? Was the tax rate you reported for other years similarly manipulated?

2. Why was your 2011 income $7 million lower than you estimated it to be in January? How does someone overestimate their income by $7 million?

3. Financial disclosures show that you have as much as $82 million in your tax-deferred Individual Retirement Account, despite the fact that tax rules limited contributions into such accounts to $30,000 per year. Did you lowball the value of the assets you put into your IRA, as tax experts suspect? And did you do the same with gifts into your sons’ trusts?

4. What was the purpose of your Swiss bank account and the myriad offshore entities shown on your return, based in countries like the Cayman Islands and Luxembourg, if not to avoid taxes?

5. Can you explain what one tax expert has called a “mysterious one-time infusion of foreign tax credits” in 2008?

6. You have not disclosed any foreign bank account reports (FBARs). Did you file all FBARs on all of your offshore accounts with the Treasury Department by the legal deadlines each year?

7. You claim to have paid an average tax rate of 20 percent over the last 20 years based on a flawed calculationWhat was your real tax rate?

8. Your 14 percent tax rate –- not to mention the approximately 10 percent tax rate you would have paid had you not inflated it — is less than what many middle-class Americans pay. And you paid just 0.2% of your income in payroll taxes, while most Americans pay about 15%. Do you think that is fair?

9. Your tax returns show that the Marriott Corporation paid you $260,390 in directors’ fees in 2011. When you were the company’s audit committee chair in the 1990s, were you aware that the company was abusing a notorious illegal tax shelter?

10. You say you’ve made a “commitment to the public” that your tax rate should not be below 13 percent. If you believe that the richest Americans shouldn’t be paying an exceptionally low tax rate, why don’t you support President Obama’s “Buffett Rule”?

In fairness, Romney actually did answer question number eight during a 60 Minutes interview that aired last night. Romney argued that it is indeed “fair” for him to pay a lower tax rate on millions in investment income than a middle class worker pays on $50,000 in wages:

Pelley: Now, you made on your investments, personally, about $20 million last year. And you paid 14 percent in federal taxes. That’s the capital gains rate. Is that fair to the guy who makes $50,000 and paid a higher rate than you did?

Romney: It is a low rate. And one of the reasons why the capital gains tax rate is lower is because capital has already been taxed once at the corporate level, as high as 35 percent.

Pelley: So you think it is fair?

Romney: Yeah, I think it’s the right way to encourage economic growth, to get people to invest, to start businesses, to put people to work.

Not only does none other than Ronald Reagan disagree with Romney, but his economic argument is also wrong. The Bush tax cuts for the wealthy ushered in the weakest job growth in decades. Lower taxes on the wealthy do not lead to job growth. In fact, the opposite appears to be true.

BOTTOM LINE: It’s time for Mitt Romney to come clean about both his tax returns and plans to increase taxes on the middle class while slashing them even further for the wealthiest Americans.

NYPD Brutality: Punching Protesters

14 Oct

Oh dear. The White Shirts that are dragging New York’s finest name down have now dropped any pretence at keeping the peace and are punching protesters.

These guys seem to be the Big Banks’ new enforcers.

UPDATE: It seems the White Shirts are $37- the-hour Rentacops paid for by Wall Street Banks!

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“Stop Coddling the Super-Rich” by Warren E. Buffett

15 Aug
August 14, 2011

Stop Coddling the Super-Rich



OUR leaders have asked for “shared sacrifice.” But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched.

While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks. Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors.

These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.

Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.

If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot.

To understand why, you need to examine the sources of government revenue. Last year about 80 percent of these revenues came from personal income taxes and payroll taxes. The mega-rich pay income taxes at a rate of 15 percent on most of their earnings but pay practically nothing in payroll taxes. It’s a different story for the middle class: typically, they fall into the 15 percent and 25 percent income tax brackets, and then are hit with heavy payroll taxes to boot.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, tax rates for the rich were far higher, and my percentage rate was in the middle of the pack. According to a theory I sometimes hear, I should have thrown a fit and refused to invest because of the elevated tax rates on capital gains and dividends.

I didn’t refuse, nor did others. I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation.

Since 1992, the I.R.S. has compiled data from the returns of the 400 Americans reporting the largest income. In 1992, the top 400 had aggregate taxable income of $16.9 billion and paid federal taxes of 29.2 percent on that sum. In 2008, the aggregate income of the highest 400 had soared to $90.9 billion — a staggering $227.4 million on average — but the rate paid had fallen to 21.5 percent.

The taxes I refer to here include only federal income tax, but you can be sure that any payroll tax for the 400 was inconsequential compared to income. In fact, 88 of the 400 in 2008 reported no wages at all, though every one of them reported capital gains. Some of my brethren may shun work but they all like to invest. (I can relate to that.)

I know well many of the mega-rich and, by and large, they are very decent people. They love America and appreciate the opportunity this country has given them. Many have joined the Giving Pledge, promising to give most of their wealth to philanthropy. Most wouldn’t mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering.

Twelve members of Congress will soon take on the crucial job of rearranging our country’s finances. They’ve been instructed to devise a plan that reduces the 10-year deficit by at least $1.5 trillion. It’s vital, however, that they achieve far more than that. Americans are rapidly losing faith in the ability of Congress to deal with our country’s fiscal problems. Only action that is immediate, real and very substantial will prevent that doubt from morphing into hopelessness. That feeling can create its own reality.

Job one for the 12 is to pare down some future promises that even a rich America can’t fulfill. Big money must be saved here. The 12 should then turn to the issue of revenues. I would leave rates for 99.7 percent of taxpayers unchanged and continue the current 2-percentage-point reduction in the employee contribution to the payroll tax. This cut helps the poor and the middle class, who need every break they can get.

But for those making more than $1 million — there were 236,883 such households in 2009 — I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains. And for those who make $10 million or more — there were 8,274 in 2009 — I would suggest an additional increase in rate.

My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.

Warren E. Buffett is the chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway.

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FAMiLY LEADER: Meet The Radical Group Driving The GOP Primary

13 Jul


Much of the news around the 2012 Republican primary over the past few days has been driven by a highly controversial pledge offered by a radical conservative group in Iowa, the the FAMiLY LEADER (the lowercase “i” represents individual submission before God). Here’s what you need to know about the group and its leader, Bob Vander Plaats.

WHO: Bob Vander Plaats is a thrice-failed Iowa gubernatorial candidate who successfully led a campaign last year to oust three of the nine Iowa Supreme Court justices who backed a unanimous decision in favor of marriage equality. Vander Plaats then took over leadership of the FAMiLY LEADER and is now positioning himself as the 2012 Iowa caucus kingmaker, having led Mike Huckabee’s successful 2008 caucus campaign. More recently, Vander Plaats has also tried to position himself as a Tea Party leader.

Other fast facts on Vander Plaats:

WHAT: The FAMiLY LEADER, a Christian conservative group with radical anti-gay, anti-Muslim, and other extreme views.

WHERE: The group and its affiliated organizations are based just outside Des Moines, Iowa.

WHY THEY MATTER: Social conservatives dominate the GOP base in Iowa, and Vander Plaats is angling to be the gatekeeper for those voters.

The FAMiLY LEADER has been hosting a presidential lecture series for the past several months, with each candidate coming to Iowa in turn and traveling the state with Vander Plaats to speak to conservative audiences. The candidates who participated in these events were Tim Pawlenty, Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich.

The group will host its own presidential debate in November, after which Vander Plaats will make his endorsement.

WHAT IS IN THEIR PLEDGE: Last week, the FAMiLY LEADER unveiled an extremely controversial 14-point “Marriage Vow” pledge that any candidate who wants to be endorsed by the group must sign. Here are its key elements (more details can be found here):

  • Black children born into slavery were better off than black children born today (The group deleted this “misconstrued” provision after massive public outcry.)
  • Personality fidelity to his/her spouse
  • Married people have better sex and lead healthier lives
  • Homosexuality is a choice
  • Homosexuality is a public health threat
  • Homosexuality is like polygamy, adultery, and polyandry
  • Porn should be banned
  • “Sharia Islam” must be rejected
  • Must uphold the Defense of Marriage Act and refuse to define marriage as anything other than one man, one woman
  • Appoint strict constitutionalists as judges
  • Shrink the size of government

WHO HAS SIGNED THE PLEDGE: Bachmann and Santorum almost immediately signed the pledge (including its offensive pro-slavery provision); Jon Huntsman declined on the grounds that he does not sign any pledges; thrice-married Gingrich declined to sign during an appearance yesterday with Vander Plaats, citing the need for unspecified “across the board” changes to the pledge; and Gary Johnson attacked it as discriminatory and “un-Republican.” Others have until Aug. 1 to respond.

WHAT IT SAYS ABOUT THE GOP: Its Christian conservative base has become extreme, out-of-touch, and fixated on things of little concern to most Americans.

WHAT IT SAYS ABOUT THE 2012 CANDIDATES: Most of them are willing be to directly associated with extreme, highly-offensive views in order to win over the most conservative segment of the GOP base during the primary.

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