Today is our 1,714th day in Iraq.
We'll start this morning as we always do, with the latest casualty figures, courtesy of Antiwar.com:
Since war began (3/19/03): 3876
Since "Mission Accomplished" (5/1/03): 3737
Since Capture of Saddam (12/13/03): 3415
Since Handover (6/29/04): 3017
Since Election (1/31/05): 2439
Other Coalition Troops: 306
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 469
We find this morning's Cost of War
standing at:$ 472, 152, 225, 000 .00
Before we get to IAVA this morning,this story
from the Globe caught my eye. Remember folks, this is our army!
WASHINGTON - Two weeks ago, the Pentagon announced the "good news" that the Army had met its recruiting goal for October, the first month in a five-year plan to add 65,000 new soldiers to the ranks by 2012.
more stories like this
But Pentagon statistics show the Army met that goal by accepting a higher percentage of enlistees with criminal records, drug or alcohol problems, or health conditions that would have ordinarily disqualified them from service.
In each fiscal year since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, statisics show, the Army has accepted a growing percentage of recruits who do not meet its own minimum fitness standards. The October statistics show that at least 1 of every 5 recruits required a waiver to join the service, leading military analysts to conclude that the Army is lowering standards more than it has in decades.
"The across-the-board lowering of the standards is buying problems in the future," said John D. Hutson, a retired rear admiral, dean of the Franklin Pierce Law Center, and a former judge advocate general of the Navy. "You are going to have more people getting in trouble, more people washing out" of the service before finishing their tour of duty.
The Army Recruiting Command, based in Fort Knox, Ky., insists that it carefully reviews each applicant. "We look at the recent history, such as employment, schooling, references, and signs of remorse and changed behavior since the incident occurred" on how recruits with criminal records are regarded, the command said in a statement to the Globe.
But Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat and influential chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he is concerned that the the Army is sacrificing quality for quantity.
"While quantity is of course important, quality must remain the highest priority," Levin said at a Nov. 15 congressional hearing. "The Army must continue to uphold high standards - moral, intellectual, and physical - for new recruits, to ensure that these young men and women are capable of handling the great demands that they will face . . . We must find a way to both increase the size of the Army and to maintain its standards."
Anxious to reduce the strain the Iraq war has placed on ground forces, Congress earlier this year approved the Pentagon's proposal to bring the active-duty Army to at least 547,000 troops, an increase of 65,000 and the biggest buildup of conventional forces since the end of the Cold War. The plan is predicted to cost as much as $70 billion.
Army leaders say they are on pace to complete the expansion two years early by beefing up recruiting efforts and offering mid-level officers and enlisted soldiers bonuses of up to $35,000 if they reenlist.
Having an army of addicts, criminals, and sicklings strikes me as rather wrong, how about you?
Now turning to IAVA, you've no doubt heard that the Pentagon is asking some wounded soldiers to return their signing bonuses.
Well, there's a new law in the offing, HR 3793, that would protect these bonuses. IAVA has set up a handy online form
to contact your legislators.
Troops who are discharged for injuries they've sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan should be entitled to their full enlistment bonuses. I support the Veterans Guaranteed Bonus Act (H.R. 3793), and hope you will make this legislation a priority in 2008.
We cannot continue to nickel and dime these men and women who have given so much to serve our country. Please support H.R. 3793.
But it looks like all this recruiting and bonusing is going to only increase over the long haul. In case you missed it, the Iraqi government has just just signed a deal
that will keep our troops there forever.
President Bush on Monday signed a deal setting the foundation for a potential long-term U.S. troop presence in Iraq, with details to be negotiated over matters that have defined the war debate at home how many U.S. forces will stay in the country, and for how long.
The agreement between Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki confirms that the United States and Iraq will hash out an "enduring" relationship in military, economic and political terms. Details of that relationship will be negotiated in 2008, with a completion goal of July, when the U.S. intends to finish withdrawing the five combat brigades sent in 2007 as part of the troop buildup that has helped curb sectarian violence.
"What U.S. troops are doing, how many troops are required to do that, are bases required, which partners will join them all these things are on the negotiating table," said Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, President Bush's adviser on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The proposal underlines how the United States and Iraq are exploring what their relationship might look like once the U.S. significantly draws down its troop presence. It comes as a Democratic Congress unsuccessfully, so far prods Bush to withdraw troops faster than he wants.
Bush and al-Maliki signed the new U.S.-Iraq "declaration of principles" during a secure video conference Monday morning.
Al-Maliki, in a televised address, said his government would ask the United Nations to renew the mandate for the multinational force for one final time with its authorization to end in 2008.
The U.S.-Iraq agreement will replace the present U.N. mandate regulating the presence of the U.S.-led forces in Iraq. Al-Maliki said the agreement provides for U.S. support for the "democratic regime in Iraq against domestic and external dangers."
It also would help the Iraqi government thwart any attempt to suspend or repeal a constitution drafted with U.S. help and adopted in a nationwide vote in 2005. That appeared to be a reference to any attempt to remove the government by violence or in a coup.
Come on in...there's still plenty more work to do with less than 45 days to the NH Primary.