Today is our 1,882nd day in Iraq.
We'll start this morning as we always do, with the latest casualty figures from the warron terra, courtesy of Antiwar.com:
Since war began (3/19/03): 4076
Since "Mission Accomplished" (5/1/03): 3937
Since Capture of Saddam (12/13/03): 3615
Since Handover (6/29/04): 3217
Since Election (1/31/05): 2639
Other Coalition Troops: 312
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 501
We find this morning's cost of war
passing through $ 519,208,725,000.00
Do go and look at the counter for a moment if you have the chance...it's strangely mesmerizing to watch how fast our future is being spent.
Turning to our friends at IAVA, we find that a vote on the new GI bill has been delayed. Not by the Republicans this time, but by a small group of "Blue Dog Democrats
". Paul Rieckoff's entry on Facebook has more about the bill and ways you can help.
NEW YORK -Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the nation's first and largest nonpartisan Iraq and Afghanistan veterans' group, demands that the few hold-out Democrats stop delaying the "Post-9/11 GI Bill." The new GI Bill has been included in the war supplemental funding bill, but a House vote on the measure was postponed last week due to an outcry from a small group of Democrats who oppose paying for veterans' educational benefits through supplemental funding. The vote should happen later this week.
"The GI Bill is a cost of war as much as any other expenditure in the supplemental," said Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. "Any member of Congress who votes for a $170 billion dollar war bill and then votes against the GI Bill is nickel-and-diming our troops. Veterans of all generations will be outraged by that decision."
"The Post-9/11 GI Bill," originally introduced in the Senate by a bipartisan coalition of combat veterans including Senators Jim Webb (D-VA), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and John Warner (R-VA), has the endorsement of every major Veterans Service Organization, as well as the overwhelming bipartisan support of more than 330 Senators and Representatives. Yet last week, Representative John Tanner (D-TN), a member of the Blue Dog Democrats, made an insulting and flippant comment about the legislation. In an interview, Tanner remarked, "some of us oppose creating a new entitlement program in an emergency spending bill, whether it's butchers, bakers or candlestick makers."
"Comparing our troops to candlestick makers is insulting and counterproductive. Furthermore, the notion that the GI Bill is a new entitlement is ludicrous. It has existed for more than 60 years. The bill before Congress simply updates the program so it actually covers the current cost of college," said Rieckhoff. "IAVA and its tens of thousands of members nationwide demand that Representative Tanner and all lawmakers vote to fund a new GI Bill. For all of the members of the House of Representatives who say they support the troops, this is the time to put their money where their mouth is."
This week, IAVA is urging its national membership to call their local representatives and demand that they support a new GI Bill. Much more information is at www.GIBill2008.org
Of course, taking care of our veterans is going to be critical in the coming decades, as thanks to many medical advances, many warriors who would have died previously are now surviving, often with grievous injuries.
WASHINGTON - Increasing numbers of U.S. troops have left the military with damaged bodies and minds, an ever-larger pool of disabled veterans that will cost the nation billions for decades to come — even as the total population of America’s vets shrinks.
Despite the decline in total vets — as soldiers from World War II and Korea die — the government expects to be spending $59 billion a year to compensate injured warriors in 25 years, up from today’s $29 billion, according to internal documents obtained by The Associated Press. And the Veterans Affairs Department concedes the bill could be much higher.
Worse wounds. More disabilities. More vets aware of the benefits and quicker to file for them.
Also, ironically, advanced medical care. Troops come home with devastating injuries that might well have killed them in earlier wars.
Time is also a factor when it comes to disability compensation costs. Payments tend to go up as veterans age, and an increasing number of soldiers from the Vietnam War will be getting bigger payments as they get older and are less able to work around their disabilities.
‘A cost of war’
The number of disabled veterans has jumped by 25 percent since 2001 — to 2.9 million — and the cause really is no mystery.
“This is a cost of war,” says Steve Smithson, a deputy director at the American Legion. “We’re still producing veterans. We’ve been in a war in Iraq for five years now, and the war on terror since 9/11.”
VA and Census Bureau figures show the previous six-year period, before hostilities in Afghanistan and Iraq, saw a more modest increase of 4 percent in the number of disabled vets. Veterans can make claims for disability benefits long after their military service has ended.
Today’s veterans — disabled or not — number nearly 24 million. That population is projected by the VA to fall under 15 million by 2033, mostly because of dying World War II and Korean War vets. But costs are expected to rise.
Inflation accounts for a big chunk of the increase. But even when the VA factors out inflation, the compensation for disabled veterans would still grow from $29 billion to $33 billion in today’s dollars — a more than 10 percent increase. And the department acknowledges the estimate could rise by 30 percent.
VA officials were not eager to talk about reasons for the increases. They declined several requests for interviews. In a written response to a handful of questions, the agency noted a few factors at play in the rising costs, such as the aging veterans population, an increase in the number of disabilities claimed and the severity of injuries sustained.
I'll leave you this morning with an alarming story from the Daily Telegraph (UK). The British sector in Southern Iraq has generally avoided the troubles in and around Baghdad, mostly because the Brits have been slowly withdrawing and turning things over to local control. You'd think that Uncle Sam would congatulate the British and try to emulate what they've been doing. But because this is counter to US strategy in Iraq, we've declared the British "delusional" and are preparing to move in our own troops. I kid you not.
A senior US officer has told the Telegraph that Iraqi troops had not been ready to assume responsibility for Basra when British forces withdrew late last year.
He also said that US commanders in Iraq believe the Shia south is ready to copy the developments that transformed the western province of Anbar from being the main hotbed of insurgency into one of Iraq's most peaceful regions. To foster this change, US troops are moving south for the first time since the 2003 war.
"There's going to be a whole new approach when we send troops down there," said the US officer.
"We won't take the self-delusional route of convincing ourselves that the Iraqis are ready to fight but then standing back while they fall apart.
"They're not ready and we have to be more proactive. There's too much at stake."
Britain has been in charge of four provinces in southern Iraq since Saddam Hussein's downfall. While the divisional command will continue to operate under British leadership at Basra airbase, the orders of the US units will be to "get out front" and resume patrols and combat missions.
US hopes of making the whole of Iraq secure before its eventual withdrawal have been raised by what commanders see as a potential southern version of the Sahwa, or tribal awakening, which turned locals against al-Qa'eda.
Troops have been shifted from Anbar province to the Tallil airbase, Nasiriya, to assume responsibility from 550 Australian troops pulling out of the country.
According to the US assessment, the Australians followed the mistakes of the British by pulling back to "overwatch" local forces but then neglecting the security challenges in the area.
The US officer said its allies had adopted a "University of Arizona" attitude - American slang for being rigid and unimaginative. "There's dirty work to be done and we've got to go forward to it," he said.
England is about our only ally left...and we've just called them 'delusional'. Methinks this doesn't bode well.