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Monday, 28 December 2009

From Today's Papers - 28 Dec 09







Military Divorces continue to increase

Posted on December 27, 2009 by indythinker

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Robert L. Hanafin

Veterans Today Staff WriterDivorces edge up again in 9th year of war


That's a divorce rate of about 3.6 percent, compared with 3.4 percent a year earlier, according to figures from the Defense Manpower Data Center. Marriages among reservists failed at a rate of 2.8 percent compared to 2.7 the previous year.

Maj. April Cunningham, U.S. Air Force, a Defense Department spokeswoman, said the latest year-to-year change was relatively small because the services have made available programs focused on strengthening and enriching family bonds among couples.

Still, the figures show a slow but steady increase in recent years as American forces fought the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.


The recently reported 3.6 percent rate is a full percentage point above the 2.6 percent reported in late 2001, when the U.S. began sending troops to Afghanistan.


As in previous years, women in uniform suffered much higher divorce rates than their male counterparts: 7.7 percent compared to 3 percent for men in 2009.


There's no comparable annual system for tracking the national or civilian divorce rate, though the Centers for Disease Control said in 2005 that 43 percent of all first marriages end in divorce within 10 years.


A spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars said that, "Every marriage has controllable and uncontrollable factors, but when you interject eight years of war, preparing for war, being at war, coming home and having to think about going back to war again, and when you have children, it just has a tremendous impact on the family unit." However, the VFW also said that the military prides itself on taking care of military families.


Programs run by chaplains, mental health officials and family services agencies provide service members access to retreats, couples' counseling, workshops and other programs aimed at easing the strain of separation. Troops and spouses are advised on how long absences may affect family relationships and how to adjust to problems that arise after homecomings. The VFW spokesman also noted that "there's nothing you can do that will end the stress of having a loved one at war ... until the war ends."


Critics complain annually that the divorce rate reported by the Pentagon comes nowhere close to depicting the damage done to marriages and families by the two ongoing wars.


An Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) spokesman noted that DOD "numbers seem extremely conservative, and they are not at all representative from what we're hearing from the community."


The IAVA spokesman estimated that the marital fallout is closer to double digits than to the rate the Pentagon makes public. For example, the Pentagon number doesn't count Veterans who divorce after leaving the services, let alone reflect other possible wartime consequences on families, such as increases in alcoholism, [PTSD and other mental health issues] or the toll on orphaned or emotionally stressed children of troops. And the numbers do not speak to troubled but intact marriages. In an Army battlefield survey taken in Iraq in the spring, nearly 22 percent of young combat soldiers questioned said they planned to get a divorce or separation, compared to 12.4 percent in a survey conducted in 2003.






Pakistan suicide bombing death toll rises to 8

By ASIF SHAHZAD © 2009 The Associated Press

Dec. 28, 2009, 12:27AM

ISLAMABAD — The death toll from a suicide bombing at a Shiite Muslim gathering in the capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir increased to eight Monday, police said, as minority Shiites marked the key holy day of Ashura.


Another 80 people were wounded in Sunday night's bombing in Muzaffarabad — a rare sectarian attack in an area police say has little history of militant violence. The dead included three police, said police official Yasin Baig, adding that another 10 police were among the wounded.


The suicide bomber set off explosives he was carrying as police searched him outside a ceremony commemorating the seventh century death of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson, held every year on Ashura at the start of the Islamic holy month of Muharram.


Security has been tightened across Pakistan during Muharram, which is often marred by bombings and fighting between Pakistan's Sunni Muslim majority and its Shiite minority.


Baig said Shiite mourners at the commemoration ceremony in Muzaffarabad took to the streets after the attack to protest the bombing, with some firing shots in the air. Baig said authorities restored order within about an hour.


He said it was the first time a suicide bomber attacked a Shiite gathering in the region.


Muslim militants have fought for decades to free Kashmir, which is split between India and Pakistan and claimed by both, from New Delhi's rule. But while Muzaffarabad has served as a base for anti-India insurgents to train and launch attacks, the capital — and most of the Pakistani side — has largely been spared any violence, with militants focusing on the Indian-controlled portion.


The bombing highlights the growing extremism of militants in Pakistani Kashmir. Many of the region's armed groups were started with support from Islamabad. But some of them have turned against their former patrons and joined forces with the Taliban because the government has reduced its support under U.S. pressure.


The partnership is a dangerous development for Pakistan as it could enable the Taliban to carry out attacks more easily outside its sanctuary in the country's tribal areas in the northwest. More than 500 people have been killed in retaliatory attacks since the military launched a major anti-Taliban offensive in mid-October in the militant stronghold of South Waziristan near the Afghan border.





Indian Army team wins international humanitarian law competition

December 27th, 2009 - 6:02 pm ICT by IANS Tell a Friend -


New Delhi, Dec 27 (IANS) An Indian Army team has won an international humanitarian law competition organised in Switzerland, an official said Sunday.

Teams from nine countries participated in the competition aimed at assessing the capability of mid-level army officials to take decisions, keeping in mind the norms of international humanitarian law, which encompasses human rights during peacetime and conflict situation.


“The competition had various domains like legality of waging a war, permissible means and methods of war fighting and human rights issues. The Indian Army team has bagged the first prize,” a senior Indian Army official said.


The competition, held in November, was hosted by the Swiss ministries of defence and foreign affairs. Armies from various countries like Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Algeria, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Tunisia participated in it.


The internal security situation in the country warrants that the army officials are well versed with human rights.


“The aim was to assess the decision-making capability of the army officers in trying situations while adhering to the norms of international humanitarian law,” the official added.


The team comprised Colonel S.C. Sharan, Colonel P.K. Khurana, Colonel A. Saha and Major Ajeen Kumar.


The official added: “One of the major challenges in countering terror is that security forces, on the one hand, have to preserve the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the nation and give a sense of security to the people. On the other hand, in the process of combating terrorism, they also run the risk of being dubbed as authoritarian and repressive.”


The twin ethics of “minimum use of force” and “good faith” during operations are the touchstones of international humanitarian law.






Exit Gen. Gin, enter three General Lands


Rank of scandal: Army soldiers march on Republic Day in Delhi. File picture


New Delhi, Dec. 26: A game to coin names for tainted members of the military top brass in India often ends in prefixing or suffixing their rank with the commodities they are said to have illegally traded in. So there is a Lieutenant General Daal (pulses), another three-star officer for “poultry”; and a General Gin, a major general who parcelled booze.


For the first time, however, an army investigation has called to question the actions of three lieutenant generals in a suspected Rs 300-crore land scam in Bengal.


In coffee canteens in South Block, where officials and soldiers often gather for a break, the game of naming has hit a block — three General Lands!


There are about 200 major generals and 70 lieutenant generals in the army. So far, there had been cases against nine major generals and two lieutenant generals. The number of three-star officers who are now subjects of inquiry has suddenly risen to five. And only this week, another major general has been named in an army inquiry into a land scam in Ranikhet.


Inside the defence ministry in South Block, the phrase “corruption in general” is taking on an entirely new meaning right under defence minister “Saint” Antony’s charge.


Army headquarters and subsequently the defence ministry now have to decide what to do after the report of the court of inquiry into the land scam.


Antony was closeted with the army chief, General Deepak Kapoor, after a quick visit to the Air Force Academy in Hyderabad this afternoon.


That military secretary Lt Gen Avadhesh Prakash’s role had to be investigated in the alleged land scam along with those of Lt Gen P.K. Rath, who was a deputy chief-designate, and corps commander Lt Gen Ramesh Halgalli, has rocked South Block. The military secretary is a principal staff officer (PSO) and a key aide to the army chief.


Lieutenant generals and major generals are powerful officers, often commanding tens of thousands of junior officers and soldiers who look up to them. Apart from leading their men in war, these officers are also vested with judicial authority under military law to try soldiers.


Soldiers have been sentenced to death in courts martial headed by superior officers, usually for “fragging” —killing a comrade or a senior — though none of the sentences have been executed because they are inevitably challenged in civilian courts.


Junior officers have been court-martialled for faking encounter deaths. For the first time this July, the army court-martialled a lady officer on charges that she had brought false allegations of sexual harassment against her seniors.


But now that these leaders and commanders are being scrutinised and their actions have been called to question, the government is worried about the impact it might have on morale.


This is not the first time that lieutenant generals have been reported to have been indicted. In September 2007, Lt Gen (now retired) S.K. Sahni, who was director-general (supplies and transport), was found guilty in a court martial of making money out of dry rations.


That court martial was headed by Lt Gen V.K. Singh, now the eastern army commander, who is next in line to be army chief though his appointment is yet to be announced. Lt Gen Singh convened the court of inquiry that summoned the military secretary and the two other generals to Calcutta.


The court martial also recommended administrative action against another lieutenant general, S.S. Dahiya. Both Sahni and Dahiya have since retired and have gone to court.


Allegations of corruption in the top hierarchy of the military play along with the intense lobbying and jostling for top jobs. The age of superannuation for major generals is 58 years and for lieu- tenant generals, 60 years. The army chief serves till the age of 62.


The sharp pyramid at the top of the military hierarchy means that most officers, from the rank of brigadier upwards, have to retire if they are not found eligible for promotion. At least seven major generals have gone to court challenging orders to deny or delay promotions in their absence.







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