Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans Join The Homeless

Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans Join The Homeless

by Anne Sussman

SAN FRANCISCO – Ethan Kreutzer joined the Army at the age of 17 and fought with the 19th Airborne in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. When he retuned home, he had no money, no education and no civilian job experience. He soon became homeless. He slept in an alley off Haight Street, behind two trash cans.

[The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates about 2,000 war on terrorism veterans have become homeless upon returning to the United States. It's still a small number, when compared to the staggering numbers of homeless Vietnam War-era veterans, but one that could balloon in the coming months. (]The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates about 2,000 war on terrorism veterans have become homeless upon returning to the United States. It’s still a small number, when compared to the staggering numbers of homeless Vietnam War-era veterans, but one that could balloon in the coming months. (

June Moss drove from Kuwait to Iraq as an Army engineer in a truck convoy. When she returned to the United States, she lost her home, and drove her two young children from hotel to hotel across Northern California.

Sean McKeen, a hardy, broad-shouldered 21-year-old with a wide smile, went to Iraq to clear land mines, and to get money for college. When he returned home, he became homeless in less than a week. He found himself sleeping in a cot in a crowded homeless shelter in San Francisco.

They are all part of a growing trend of homelessness among returning war on terrorism veterans.

More than 2,000 military personnel return home to California each month. Most have no specialized job experience, education or an easy familiarity with civilian life. And many have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), making it difficult to get along with friends and family, and almost impossible to hold down a job.

“You feel like the whole world is against you when you get home,” said Kreutzer. “I was sleeping on the sidewalk, whereas I had been wearing a uniform less than a year before.” Soft- spoken and restless, Kreutzer was recruited in a 7-Eleven while still in high school. After five months in Afghanistan, he had a mental breakdown, diagnosed as PTSD. When he returned to the United States, he spent almost four years living on the streets.

Kreutzer said he’s met several veterans of the war in Iraq on the streets of San Francisco, or sleeping in Golden Gate Park. He also said he met several veterans of the war in Afghanistan, like himself, who were in similar situations.

Kreutzer now lives in a temporary housing facility for veterans on Treasure Island, run by the group Swords to Plowshares. He attends PTSD counseling with other war on terrorism veterans so that he can learn to maintain a job and house. “I was haunted by a lot of issues, a lot of things that I saw over there that were not good things. There are some times when I can wake up in a room and think I’m still there. I still remember what it tastes like, the air over there. I see all the rocks, I see the people,” said Kreutzer.

One of the symptoms of PTSD is isolation and withdrawal, according to Amy Fairweather, director of the Iraq Veterans project at Swords to Plowshares. “So that interferes with your ability to get a job. People sit in the dark by themselves,” she said.

Fairweather is seeing large numbers of homeless war on terrorism veterans come through her doors.

“Homelessness can happen very quickly, if they don’t get the help they need. Their mental health will get worse, they will become more depressed,” she said. “We are seeing Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, who are homeless, coming in very quickly. After Vietnam, it generally took about five to 10 years to end up on the streets. We’re seeing people on the streets three months after they come home.”

Moss spent 12 years with the military and had purchased a house with a VA home loan, but she fell behind on payments.

“When I got back from Iraq, I knew something was wrong,” she said. Diagnosed with PTSD, she found herself awake at night devising ways to keep her family safe. “I decided to move the refrigerator in front of the door to bunker us in,” she said. “Then I would stay up all night baking cookies because I didn’t want to go to sleep. Eventually, I stopped leaving the house altogether.”

Moss lost her job and her income, and the bank foreclosed on her home.

She moved her two kids between temporary housing units and hotels until her PTSD was under control. Now, she has a temporary house for her family, and a full-time job at the VA. “It’s because of my kids that I go to therapy and take my medication. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know what would happen,” she said.

Other veterans are not so lucky. McKeen was exposed to more than 300 bomb blasts in Iraq. He suffers from traumatic brain injury as well as PTSD. When he returned home, he slept on couches at friends’ houses, and in his car while looking for a job. He spent many nights wandering the streets before he ended up in a shelter.

“It’s like a culture shock returning home, but you are supposed to be used to it,” he said. “Unless you are in war, nobody can understand what it’s like. And they expect you to just function normally by yourself after that?”

The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates about 2,000 war on terrorism veterans have become homeless upon returning to the United States. It’s still a small number, when compared to the staggering numbers of homeless Vietnam War-era veterans, but one that could balloon in the coming months.

At the Palo Alto VA, the inpatient programs for PTSD and TBI are crowded with war on terrorism veterans – an indication that a large number are at risk for homelessness, according to director of homeless programs Keith Harris.

“Before it gets to the point where someone is living on the street, what they are typically doing is struggling with a mental health disorder, burning their bridges with the people around them, family, employers, spouses,” he said. ” I don’t believe there is a large chunk of returnees literally homeless without a roof over their heads, but I think a large chunk of them are at risk for it.”

The homeless shelter at the Palo Alto VA is full. And many veterans still complain that the VA is unprepared and overly bureaucratic. Most have to wait six to eight months for claims to be addressed.

But by all accounts, the VA is far better prepared this time than it ever has been in the past. With an understanding that the looming homeless crisis is best treated as a mental health issue, it has hired 17,000 mental health workers, making it the largest mental health program in the country.

But with some 2 million active service members still fighting and undergoing the trauma of war, Moss wonders if any amount of preparation by the VA can address the fundamental problem of readjustment.

“I think the problem is war itself,” she said. “War changes a person. I talk to all vets. The same experiences we had coming home from Iraq are the same experience World War II (vets) saw, Vietnam saw, Korean War saw, so it hasn’t changed. I think the real problem is probably just war itself.”



Six days later, Pine Ridge declares disaster

Six days after the disaster, Oglala President Steele declares Pine Ridge a disaster area
KOTA Radio
Audios at:
On Monday, the Oglala Sioux Tribe president John Yellow Bird Steele declared Pine Ridge a disaster area. Hundreds there are without power and many are stranded in their own homes.In Wanblee, an emergency operation center set up at the Crazy Horse School is running on generators where 250 people have been stuck since Wednesday night.
Susan Thundershield and her 9 grandchildren have been sleeping on the gym floor for the past 5 night (audio.)
But, things aren’t much better for those able to stay in their homes, like Delane Moves Camp. (audio)
Food and water are in short supply and providing help has been a struggle, with the Red Cross making a couple of visits and volunteers from Minnesota trying to bring food on snowmobiles.
Relief worker Phyllis Wilcox said they’re desperately seeking donations. (audio)
Mount Rushmore Superintendent Gerard Baker said park service staff will deliver firewood to the area.
Note from Censored News: Please keep in mind if you donate through the Red Cross, to hold the Red Cross responsible. During Hurricane Katrina, millions of dollars in donations from Indian Nations to the US Red Cross never reached the Houma Indian Nation in Louisiana. None of it ever reached the Houmas.)

Navajo Development OK’d; Funds in Doubt

Please read article, cited after the quote. Articles open in a new window.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — On the western side of the Navajo Nation where residents were banned from making any improvements to their homes for more than 40 years, it’s no wonder that housing is a top priority.

A recent preliminary study found that 77 percent of the homes in the area known as the former Bennett Freeze aren’t suitable to live in, more than 40 percent of homes don’t have electricity and 10 percent of residents make almost daily trips to haul water.

Tribal officials plan to use the $1 million study, commissioned by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, as leverage to obtain funding for development.

Read thr rest of the story on REZNEWS

Mini nuclear reactors: don’t celebrate yet

Mini nuclear reactors: don’t celebrate yet

Over the weekend, the UK’s Observer newspaper ran a story about ‘nuclear power plants smaller than a garden shed and able to power 20,000 homes’. The reactors, the story said, will be available in five years, cost $25 million each, and power 10,000 houses.

In an attempt to allay safety fears, they will also ‘be factory-sealed, contain no weapons-grade material, have no moving parts and will be nearly impossible to steal because they will be encased in concrete and buried underground.’

Sound too good to be true? That’s because it is.

The Czech company TES, which is a small supplier for the nuclear power plants Dukovany and Temelin, has ordered six of the mini reactors, according to Hyperion, the designers. They also say one has been ordered by Romania. However, Romania’s National Committee for Nuclear Control knows nothing about it.

No prototype of the reactor exists and the design is not yet finalised or approved. Despite claims to the reactors’ safety, problems of installation, transport and refuelling still exist. Hyperion claims the reactors are theft-proof but who ever heard of anyone attempting to steal an operating nuclear reactor? It’s the fuel supply chain where the dangers lie. Are we to assume that the refuelling trucks will be accompanied by armed guards?

The reactors are going to be buried where leaks and problems may not be detected early enough. And the systems that activate and deactivate the reactors will have to be above ground and therefore open to sabotage. The reactors have to be dug up every five to ten years for refuelling creating further risks.

So, they’re based on untested science, still on the drawing board and open to sabotage, attack and failure. But apart from that, mini reactors sound like a really good idea.


Audios in San Francisco: AIM-West Welcome to 40th Anniversary

By Brenda Norrell

SAN FRANCISCO — Listen to interviews from tonight’s planning session for the 40th Anniversary of the American Indian Movement, as AIM-West prepares for a week of events, Nov. 24 — 28. Listen to tonight’s interviews with Tony Gonzales, Mark Anquoe, Kiowa from Oklahoma, and Pegge Lemke, who was also a Long Walker. Pegge also encourages Native American Indian Nations to save wild horses and develop programs for their youths.
40th Anniversary Reunion Events
Monday, Nov. 24, 10 am to 5:30 pm
Opening ceremonies with masters of ceremonies Bill Means and Madonna Thunder Hawk
San Francisco Library, 100 Larkin Street at Grove, Koret Auditorium
Film and slide show with historic footage of early AIM: Panel forum: “No one is illegal — Somos un solo rio/We are all one river”
Topics: Green ecology; Red Power, Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Tuesday, Nov. 25, 10 am – 5 pm
San Francisco Baha’i Center, 170 Valencia St.
Manny Pino, Acoma Pueblo, and Lenny Foster, Navajo prison religious rights advocate
Topics: Coalition building, treaty rights, sacred sites, uranium mining, Manifesto for Change, political prisoners including Leonard Peltier
Wednesday, Nov. 26, 12 – 6 pm
Unthanksgiving Potluck Dinner and AIM Special Awards Ceremony, with Charlie Hill, Patricia Bellanger and special guests
San Francisco Baha’i Center, 170 Valencia St.
Concert by Keith Secola, Phoenix, Medicine Warriors, All Nation Singers
Thursday, Nov. 27, 4 – 9 pm
Alcatraz Island Annual Sunrise Gathering
leaving from Hornblower Tours at Pier #31 (last boat out at 6 am)
Friday, Nov. 28, 6 – 10 pm
Concert featuring Dr. Loco and the Rockin’ Jalapenos, The Bob Young Project and local artists
San Francisco Baha’i Center, 170 Valencia St.
$10 to $20 donation, no one will be turned away, fundraiser for AIM-West
More information: Tony Gonzales (415) 577-1492 or visit
Listen live at Earthcycles,, Nov. 24 — 28, 2008
Photo: During the planning meeting for AIM-West’s 40th Anniversary, Tony Gonzales
receives a photo by photographer Kerry Richardson of a 1992 meeting of the International Indian Treaty Council in Marin County, Calif., attended by Rigoberta Menchu, Bill Means and others. Photo copyright Brenda Norrell


US Cutoff Threat Unlikely to Save Iraq Troop Pact

by Gareth Porter

The threat by the George W. Bush administration last week to withdraw all economic and military support from the Iraqi government if it does not accept the US-Iraq status of forces agreement has raised the stakes in the political-diplomatic struggle over the issue.

However, most Iraqi politicians are now so averse to any formal legitimization of the US military presence – and particularly of extraterritorial legal rights over US troops in the country – that even that threat is unlikely to save the pact.

For most Iraqis the agreement is all too reminiscent of the unequal security agreement that gave military rights to British imperialism in Iraq from 1930 to 1958. The symbolism of foreign domination inherent in that historical parallel makes it risky for political party leaders and members of parliament to be seen as going along with any agreement that provides special privileges to the United States.

In a move reflecting a new sense of desperation that has overtaken US officials, Gen. Ray Odierno, the top US commander in Iraq, warned Iraqi officials that they would lose a total of 16 billion dollars in assistance for the economy and Iraqi security forces unless the agreement is approved by parliament, according to a story by McClatchy newspapers reporter Leila Fadel Sunday.

The threat was contained in a three-page document listing all of the forms of assistance that the United States would terminate if a US-Iraqi agreement is not accepted, which was given to various top Iraqi officials last week, Fadel reported. USA Today reported that the list included “tens” of functions that the Bush administration is now threatening to halt if the pact is not approved by the parliament.

Many of the forms of US assistance to Iraq which Washington says it would end, including training Iraqi security forces, patrolling Iraq’s borders and waterways and providing air traffic control and air defense, could not be continued without a legal basis for the US military presence.

Neither economic assistance nor arms sales, however, require any such agreement. Nor would the release of US detainees, which is also reportedly on the list. The threat to halt that aid is an obvious bid to pressure the entire Iraqi political system to accept an agreement close to the one now on the table.

The US move was apparently based on the premise that Iraqi officials and parliamentarians would be shocked by the sudden loss of so much that they had depended on. Iraqi Vice President Tariq al Hashimi was reported to have said Iraqi leaders had been taken by surprise by the move.

But in the current Iraqi political environment, the US move appears to be strengthening Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s determination to reject the “final draft” agreement that the Bush administration believed had been agreed on earlier this month.

Maliki’s cabinet agreed Tuesday to demand a series of changes in the draft, despite Bush administration warnings that it is not open to any major revisions. According to the Washington Post, cabinet ministers decided that the agreement must cede more legal authority over US soldiers accused of crimes than is allowed in the current draft, which limits Iraqi jurisdiction to off-duty and off-base crimes.

That demand is certain to be rejected by Washington, which had already granted more authority to Iraqi courts than had been allowed in any previous US status of forces agreement.

The Post reported that the Iraqi government also intended to make the 2011 date for complete withdrawal of US troops even more ironclad than in the current draft, and to explicitly prohibit any attack on neighboring countries from Iraqi bases. The latter demand was in response to the US commando raid on Syrian territory launched from Iraq last weekend.

One reason US pressure tactics are not likely to be effective in forcing the Iraqi government and parliament to approve the existing draft is that the Bush administration is a lame duck, and Iraqis expect an Obama administration to be less aggressive in Iraq.

A senior Shiite parliamentarian, Ali al-Adeeb, who has reflected Maliki’s views on the pact, said last week the prime minister is not intimidated by US threats, because he believes he has the option of getting an extension of the UN mandate, and may hope to negotiate with a new administration next January.

Even more important in shaping the Iraqi political response, however, is the perception that the proposed agreement is the same type of unequal military relationship that Iraq had with the British for decades. With local elections coming up next year, Iraqi politicians are afraid to be viewed by the voters as supporting such a document.

Jalal al Din al Sagheer, deputy head of the Shiite Muslim Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq – one of the political parties that is opposing the pact in the parliament – explained to McClatchy newspapers last week that any Iraqi official who accepted the agreement “will be taken as an agent for the Americans.”

Maliki and other Iraqi politicians remember very well the cost paid by politicians who fell afoul of Iraqi nationalists’ efforts to revise the 1930 Anglo-Iraqi treaty, which gave the British special military privileges in Iraq that limited Iraq’s independence.

When the Iraqi government revised the treaty in 1948 to extend it for 20 more years, it hoped to limit British military influence. The British agreed to evacuate the bases, but were given the right to return in the event of war. The revised treaty also set up a Joint Defense Board, which nationalist officers viewed as a symbol of continuing British domination.

The new agreement triggered mass protests in Baghdad, which was brutally put down by Iraqi police, killing 400 people. The first Shiite prime minister of Iraq, Salih Jaber, who renegotiated the agreement, was soon forced out of office.

In 1954, US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, looking for allies against the Soviet Union, pressured Iraq to join the Baghdad Pact with Britain, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan. The British government wanted Iraqi membership in the pact as a means of assuring British access to military bases in Iraq after the Anglo-Iraq pact expired in 1958.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Said preferred to stay out of the pact, but he needed US military assistance to rearm Iraq. In a parallel to the tactic now being applied, the Eisenhower administration said he would get no arms and even threatened to cut all existing economic assistance to Iraq unless Said joined the pact.

Said gave in to that pressure and joined the pact in 1955. But three years later, nationalist officers overthrew the monarchical regime of Iraq and killed Said.

According to Phebe Marr, a specialist on Iraqi history, Maliki’s grandfather had been a cabinet minister, and Maliki himself is certainly familiar with the story of Prime Minister Jaber’s negotiations with the British on the Anglo-Iraq Treaty. He also remembers Nuri Said’s fate in 1958.

That history helps to explain why the issue of Iraqi jurisdiction over US troops has taken on such extraordinary importance in Iraqi politics. A leading Shia cleric in the holy city of Najaf attacked the agreement for giving US forces immunity from Iraqi jurisdiction in his Friday sermon on Oct. 17, declaring, “We consider this a basic point, because it represents sovereignty.”


Navajo, Hopi challenged to prove radiation danger

UPPER MOENKOPI, Ariz. – “We are following the law; I can’t apologize for the last 10 years. You must convince me that there is an imminent threat.”

Jack Reever, Director of Facilities, Environmental and Cultural Resources for the Bureau Indian Affairs (BIA), delivered that challenge during a recent visit to the Hopi village that included a tour of sacred springs, farmland and the Tuba City Open Dump.