Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

NOTICE: Inside Opinion has moved.

With the launch of our new website, we've moved Inside Opinion.
Visit the new section.

Tag: Iraq

May
20th

Vets deserve a soft landing in employment

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

What America’s veterans tend to need most is quite simple: good jobs.

Some positive news on that front has come from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

According to its latest numbers, Americans who’ve served since 9/11 – many Iraq and Afghan war combat vets among them – having been breaking into the civilian work force in greater numbers. Their unemployment rate reportedly fell to 7.5 percent last month, though it remains higher among those 24 or younger.

But the raw numbers don’t tell you what kind of jobs veterans have been finding. Nor do they tell you how National Guard and Reserve troops have been treated by their former employers.

A new Los Angeles Times report suggests that many of them have been treated shabbily – sometimes by the federal government itself.

Last year, the Times found, the U.S. Labor Department and Office of Special Counsel accepted 1,430 new cases of alleged criminal job discrimination against National Guard and Reserve veterans. That number compared to 848 in 2001: an increase of more than 60 percent.

These disputes commonly involve a 1994 law that requires the former employers of service members to offer them jobs comparable to the positions they left or would have gotten had they not served.

Cases referred for prosecution are the worst of the worst – the tiniest tip of the iceberg. Most veterans presumably are not eager to sue the people who sign their paychecks.

Many of these disputes are settled informally, sometimes with the help of the Defense Department. But there’s no telling how many vets have just shrugged their shoulders and moved on.
Read more »

April
1st

Extend visa program for Iraqi and Afghan allies

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

Being a U.S. soldier in a war zone is hazardous duty, but at least Americans know they’ll be coming home to a safer place when their tour of duty ends.

Iraqis and Afghans who worked with American troops and contractors as translators, drivers and guides – frequently at great risk to themselves and their families – have no such reassurance.

They often live among people who might resent the aid they provided and consider them collaborators. They’ve been targeted by militia groups and others for harassment, threats, kidnapping and even death. In 2011, one foreign aid provider in Iraq estimated that at least 1,000 of these workers had been killed. Read more »

March
18th

VA’s delays, errors create hardships for veterans

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ delays in acting on disability claims isn’t just inconvenient. Congressional testimony Thursday indicates that at least two veterans may have died “due to delay in care.”

That would be the most extreme result of the VA’s backlog, which doesn’t appear to be decreasing. Most regional offices  are experiencing longer processing times, according to auditors and a review of VA data by McClatchy Newspapers.

The average wait to begin receiving disability compensation is now 337 days at the Seattle office – more than 11 months – up from 213 days in January 2012. It’s even worse in New York City: 641 days. The number of vets with backlogged claims is expected to be more than 1 million by the end of March – and keep growing. Read more »

Jan.
3rd

Headlines we’ll read in 2013, for better or worse

Everyone likes predictions (why else do we read horoscopes?). Here are some from David Rothkopf of Foreign Policy. For the most part, he sees positive developments, particularly for the world economy. But he ends on a sad, pessimistic note.

Headlines we’ll be reading in 2013

By David Rothkopf

WASHINGTON — As that great geopolitical theorist Carly Simon once observed, “We can never know about the days to come but we think about them anyway, yay.” She then went on to say, as ketchup lovers everywhere remember, “Anticipation, anticipation, is making me late . . . is keepin’ me waitin’.”

Of course, the tortures of anticipation are well known to observers of the slow-motion train wreck that has been Washington’s management of America’s financial situation, or the recent, interminable U.S. presidential campaign, or the hideously slow path to oblivion followed by the Assad regime in Syria, or the painfully circular Eurofollies, not to mention the gradual but undeniable degradation of the planet’s environment that goes on year in and year out despite our clear knowledge about how to avoid the damage.

The time has come to say “enough.” We live in an age in which the average consumer expects instant gratification. There is no reason those who are interested in the bigger issues taking place in the world shouldn’t have it too. For that reason, we bring to you the top headlines that you will be looking back at when 2013 draws to a close 12 months from now. Think of it as the year in review, before it happens. Read more »

March
19th

After 10 years of war, the Army looks due for relief

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

Individual soldiers have their breaking points. So do armies.

We don’t know the story behind a staff sergeant’s alleged massacre of Afghan villagers March 11, but it’s reasonable to assume he was not a paragon of mental health. The fact that he was on his fourth combat deployment may have had something to do with that.

The entire U.S. Army might be described as on its fourth deployment – or fifth, or eighth – since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq broke out, respectively, in 2001 and 2003. It’s hardly facing collapse, but symptoms of stress – such as a spiking suicide rate – are all too evident. Read more »

Dec.
15th

From start to finish, conflicted feelings about war in Iraq

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

Even as the U.S. formally ends the Iraq war and combat troops prepare to exit by Dec. 31, it’s safe to say that many Americans remain conflicted about the nine-year war waged in that country.

They’re proud of the job done by our military – often under tremendously dangerous and uncomfortable conditions. Despite the fact that no weapons of mass destruction were found, few were sad to see the demise of Saddam Hussein and his thuggish dictatorship. And it’s possible to trace the stirrings of the Arab Spring to the fledgling democracy in Iraq.

Yet many can’t help but wonder if it was all worth the high price paid in blood and treasure.
Read more »

Nov.
10th

Thank a veteran today; even better, offer one a job

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

We have a lot of people to thank this Veterans Day – somewhere in the neighborhood of 21.8 million, according to the 2010 census. That’s how many men and women have served in the U.S. military, both in war and peace, and are still alive.

At one end of the spectrum, the ranks of veterans are marching into history. The last American veteran of World War I, Frank Buckles, died in February, a few weeks after his 110th birthday. And the soldiers of World War II – the so-called “Greatest Generation” are fading fast.

As of the 2010 census, 2.1 million WWII vets were still alive, but they’re dying at a rate of about 740 a day. The National WWII Museum estimates that of the 16 million Americans who served in WWII, only 1.7 million are still living. If you know any, don’t put off thanking them.
Read more »

Sep.
10th

U.S. troops have borne the burden of 9/11’s aftermath

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

From our corner of the United States, the reach of 9/11 can be measured quite literally – in miles.

Washington lies 2,400 miles from New York City. But television and the Internet annihilated that distance on the day of the attack.

Like people in New Jersey or Connecticut – or London or Tokyo – Washingtonians watched in mounting horror as jetliners were deliberately flown into the twin towers. We saw the New Yorkers jumping to their deaths, the skyscrapers collapsing, the desperate survivors fleeing floods of billowing ash down city streets.

Later, the pathos of countless photographs posted on walls, pleading for news of missing loved ones. Funerals with empty caskets. Thousands of children who’d lost parents. Immense ruins burning apocalyptically for months.

After the attacks came 7,000 more miles – the distance between Washington state and Afghanistan.
Read more »