From the National Post in Canada:
Cost of Afghan war now a state secret, Tories say
NDP files complaint to release figures
Mike Blanchfield, Canwest News Service
Published: Monday, June 22, 2009
In a significant policy shift, the Canadian government now believes that telling the country’s taxpayers the future cost of the war in Afghanistan would be a threat to national security, Canwest News Service has learned.
The Defence Department cited a national security exemption when it censored a request under the Access to Information Act by the federal NDP for the military costs of Canada‘s military participation in the NATO-led, United Nations-sanctioned military mission to Afghanistan.
When the NDP asked for the identical figures last year, the military made them public. [It] was able to disclose in April 2008 that the yearly incremental cost of the Afghan war would top $1-billion for the first time since Canada’s military became involved in Afghanistan in 2002.
But this year, military censors cited Section 15 of the act in blocking out the figure.
In a June 3 letter to an NDP researcher, Julie Jansen, the director of the military’s access branch, cited “the defence of Canada or any state allied” with it in justifying the withholding of the figures for the three next fiscal years.
Section 15 of the act allows the withholding of any “information the disclosure of which could reasonably be expected to be injurious to the conduct of international affairs, the defence of Canada or any state allied or associated with Canada or the detection, prevention or suppression of subversive or hostile activities.”
Ms. Jansen also invoked a Section 21 exemption, which gives a government department the discretionary power to disclose records that include negotiationplans, deliberations or consultations, or “administrative plans that have not yet been put into operation.”
In an identical request last year, the Defence Department released the estimates for the fiscal years leading up to 2011, the year that Parliament and the government has said Canada’s current military mission in Afghanistan must end.
“In the face of more public interest in the ongoing cost of the war, it is surprising the DND would now take the attitude that now is the time that we will start pulling back on information and not be as transparent as before,” NDP defence critic Jack Harris said. …
In a recent speech, Defence Minister Peter MacKay touted the price tag of the government’s program to buy new equipment for the military, telling an audience of defence contractors and lobbyists that the government would spend $60-billion on new capital acquisitions by 2028.
The NDP has filed a complaint with the Information Commissioner’s office to force the release of the figures for the recently started fiscal year of 2009-10, as well as for 2010-11 and 2011-12.
Last year, the military estimated the incremental cost for 2009-10 to be $261-million and for 2010-11 at $150-million but did not address the costs for 2011-12. This year, it blanked out those numbers.
In the past, the government has underestimated its incremental cost, particularly as the insurgency has grown stronger, killing soldiers, as well as inflicting heavy damage on armoured vehicles.
Last year’s figures showed the cost ballooning to $1.007-billion for 2007-08 and projected they would reach $1.009-billion by 2008-09.
But this year’s figures show that the cost for 2008-09 was higher than projected, at $1.190-billion.
“Some of the existing numbers changed so dramatically. It’s not clear what the reason was for it,” Mr. Harris said. …
The NDP opposes Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan and wants the country’s 2,800 military personnel, most of which are based in Kandahar, to be brought home ahead of the 2011 deadline.
Afghan Star, a documentary about Afghanistan’s version of American Idol, the television talent show, includes some interesting human material, but glosses over all the complex questions: here.
Britain: Navy carriers ‘£1bn over budget’: here.
British defence organisations will exhibit their wares at a major arms fair in Libya, anti-arms trade campaigners have announced: here.
Wednesday Is Afghanistan Exit Action Day
U.S. bombing in Afghanistan and Pakistan has killed hundreds of civilians and created hundreds of thousands of refugees. Watch the powerful videos at RethinkAfghanistan.
Yet Congress is set to authorize $550 billion in military spending with an additional $130 billion to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – more than George W. Bush ever requested.
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) wants an exit strategy from Afghanistan and his bill ( H.R. 2404 ) has 89 Congressional co-sponsors. On Wednesday, he will propose it as an amendment to the war funding bill – but he needs our help.
Tell Congress to Demand an Afghanistan Exit Strategy
Also call your Representative today at (202) 224-3121 to co-sponsor Rep. McGovern’s Afghanistan Exit Strategy bill H.R. 2404, and to vote for Rep. McGovern’s amendment to the Defense Authorization bill (H.R. 2647).
Jun 25, 3:35 PM EDT
Rising casualties bring chaos to US military hospital in Afghanistan
By JASON STRAZIUSO and EVAN VUCCI
Associated Press Writers
Rising casualties bring chaos to US military hospital in Afghanistan
Four months and 15 surgeries after she was burned by white phosphorous, Afghan girl goes home
At least 637 US military deaths in Afghanistan region since 2001, Defense Department says
BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan (AP) — The urgent call came in: Roadside bombs had ripped through two Humvees and wounded eight or nine U.S. soldiers.
Medevac helicopters immediately hit the air to ferry the soldiers to the main U.S. military hospital. But when they arrived, they carried only five patients.
The other four were dead.
With 2009 expected to be the bloodiest year since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, medical personnel at Bagram’s SSG Heath N. Craig Joint Theater Hospital say they’ve already seen an increase in casualties and expect more. The flow of dead and wounded puts enormous strain on the soldiers and the medical staff who must face it head on.
“Everything I’ve experienced is boredom or terror,” said Air Force Maj. Adrian Stull, a 36-year-old emergency physician from Beavercreek, Ohio. “And if I have to choose between the two, I’d have to choose boredom, because everyone goes home with all their fingers.”
June 1 was a day of terror.
It started when two roadside bombs hit the same convoy of 10th Mountain Division soldiers only a couple of miles apart in Wardak, a province west of Kabul. The damage was so severe that one of the Humvees split in half.
By the time the helicopters arrived, four men were already dead. Their comrades loaded them into body bags, tense with anger and grief.
In the meantime, the emergency room prepared to move from zero to a thousand miles per hour – “organized chaos,” as medical Tech Sgt. Carol Granger put it.
Then the stretchers arrived.
Three of the soldiers had open fractures in their legs, raw and bleeding. The one being treated by Air Force Capt. Shannan Corbin was in his early 20s, with open leg wounds, dental contusions and a bleeding head.
Wounds from blasts and explosive devices are considered the hallmark injuries of the Afghan war. Because armor covers the body’s core, injuries to arms and legs are common.
As the medics worked, with the American flag in the background, they sweated. The heat was turned up because critically injured patients cannot regulate their own body temperatures.
A soldier screamed, so loudly that emergency room physician Capt. Travis Taylor couldn’t tune it out. The soldier, who had an open fracture, had just learned one of his buddies was killed.
“That one was tough,” Taylor said. “He was really screaming, and it snapped me out of my focus on the patient I was with.”
Another soldier, Pfc. Anthony Vandegrift, had broken both legs. His left eye was swollen shut. The two soldiers in the front of his Humvee were killed, along with the gunner who had been standing halfway out the top.
He called his father while still on the emergency room table.
“I said, ‘Hey dad, remember how you told me not to join the infantry? Well, I don’t regret it, but I got blown up,'” Vandegrift, of Mililani, Hawaii, said.
Recalling the blast, he said it was “like a video game almost.”
“You’re going along and everything goes black. I could hear everything but I couldn’t see everything,” Vandegrift said. “Everything went black and I just remember ‘boom.’ Not sure if I passed out or not, but when I was able to move around I was upside down. My chunk of the Humvee was blown off from the rest.”
Doctors at Bagram say there is nowhere in the world – except other war zones – where physicians face such severe wounds day after day. That constant stream takes a toll.
Granger, who is stationed at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, said she tries not to personalize her work.
“We have to process it later on, but at the time you have a job to do. We’ve seen a lot … and I hope we can handle it when the time comes,” she said.
Corbin says home bases try to prepare the medical staff “mentally, emotionally and spiritually” for the deployment, but she’s not sure it works.
“You can see pictures. You can hear people talk, but I don’t know that anything really prepares you,” said the 39-year-old nurse from Biloxi, Miss. “We hope emotionally and mentally that it’s just another string of events. But I don’t know how we can walk away from this as just another string of events.”
In the intensive care ward nearby, Vandegrift lay beside the one other soldier in his Humvee who survived. The soldier may be paralyzed.
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