Today is our 2,645th day in Iraq and our 3,173rd day in Afghanistan.
We'll start this morning as we always do, with the latest casualty figures from our ongoing wars, courtesy of Antiwar.com:
Since war began (3/19/03): 4405
Since "Mission Accomplished" (5/1/03): 4266
Since Capture of Saddam (12/13/03): 3944
Since Handover (6/29/04): 3546
Since Obama Inauguration (1/20/09): 177
Other Coalition Troops - Iraq: 318
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 1,114
Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 712
Contractor Employee Deaths - Iraq: 1,457
Journalists - Iraq: 338
Academics Killed - Iraq: 437
We find this morning's cost of war
passing through: $ 1, 005, 936, 600, 000 .00
We've got a bunch of things to look at today, so we'll dive right in. Have you been keeping up with the news out of Afghanistan? It's 10,000 miles away and there is no clear "bogeyman" (Like Saddam), so it's easy to miss what's happening there. Of course, the MSM is doing us no favors with their coverage, either.
Fortunately, there is Truthout. Word is....The News is Bad.
Washington - While U.S. officials insist they are making progress in reversing the momentum built up by the Taliban insurgency over the last several years, the latest news from Afghanistan suggests the opposite may be closer to the truth.
Even senior military officials are conceding privately that their much-touted new counterinsurgency strategy of "clear, hold and build" in contested areas of the Pashtun southern and eastern parts of the country are not working out as planned despite the "surge" of some 20,000 additional U.S. troops over the past six months.
Casualties among the nearly 130,000 U.S. and other NATO troops now deployed in Afghanistan are also mounting quickly.
Four U.S. troops were killed Wednesday [June 9] when Taliban fire brought down their helicopter in the southern province of Helmand, the scene of a major U.S. offensive centred on the strategic farming region of Marja over the past several months.
That brought the death toll of NATO soldiers just this week to 23, including 10 killed in various attacks around the country on Monday [June 7], the deadliest day for NATO forces in two years.
"It's been a tough week," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Wednesday.
Seventeen of the 23 were U.S. soldiers, bringing the total U.S. death toll in and around Afghanistan since the U.S. intervened to oust the Taliban from power in late 2001 to more than 1,100, according to the independent iCasualties website.
While senior military officials attributed the steadily rising toll to Washington's surge of a total of 30,000 additional troops by next month, as well as the beginning of the Taliban's annual summer offensive, none other than Secretary of Defence Robert Gates warned that the U.S. and its NATO allies were running out of time to show results.
"The one thing none of the (alliance's) publics...including the American public, will tolerate is the perception of stalemate in which we're losing young men," he said in London Wednesday on the eve of a key NATO ministerial meeting in Brussels this week at which Afghanistan will top the agenda and Gates himself is expected to prod his interlocutors to fulfil pledges to provide more troops.
"All of us, for our publics, are going to have to show by the end of the year that our strategy is on the track, making some headway," he said.
Obama, who last November set a July 2011 as the date after which Washington would begin to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, has said his administration will conduct a major review of U.S. strategy and whether it is working at the end of this year.
The latest polling here shows a noticeable erosion of support for Washington's commitment to the war compared to eight months ago when Obama agreed to the Pentagon's recommendations to send the 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan to bring the total U.S. presence there to around 100,000.
An additional 34,000 troops from NATO and non-NATO allies are supposed to be deployed there by year's end.
According to a Washington Post/ABC News poll released Thursday, 53 percent of respondents said the war in Afghanistan, which last month, according to most measures, exceeded the Vietnam conflict as the longest-running war in U.S. history, was "not worth fighting". That was the highest percentage in more than three years.
The same poll found that 39 percent of the public believe that Washington is losing the war, compared to 42 percent who believe it is winning.
Speaking of Afghanistan, remember our Gold-Medal winning bobsled team from this past olympics? Well, the team that *didn't* medal (USA-2) was driven by an Army Reservist, and one of his pushers wears the uniform, too. They are both about to deploy overseas.
Olympic bobsled teammates John Napier and Chris Fogt are changing uniforms for the next few months. The U.S. Army has summoned them to war.
The Vermont National Guard members — and USA-2 sledmates during bobsled season — have received word from Army officials that they are needed overseas, a callup that neither was sure would ever happen.
Napier is being sent to Afghanistan with the 86th Infantry Mountain Combat Brigade out of Williston, Vt., to work on security-related operations, and Fogt will soon arrive in Baghdad with a different unit.
“So excited about it,” Napier said Wednesday. “Chris and I are both so excited. We get a chance to go serve our country. It’s what we both wanted to do.”
Napier, a native of Schenectady, N.Y., has the rank of sergeant. Fogt, of Alpine, Utah, is a first lieutenant. Napier is the pilot of USA-2, Fogt one of his push athletes.
Both hoped to be deployed quickly after the Vancouver Olympics in February, in part because that might have allowed them to not miss the start of the coming sliding season. Things can change, but it’s highly unlikely that either will be sliding again for the U.S. before late December at the earliest, meaning they’ll miss the first half of the World Cup schedule.
The U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation will give them waivers on to the national team, since they’ll miss tryouts and other team camps this fall. Napier is due to arrive in Mississippi for two weeks of pre-deployment training this weekend.
He is expected to be among the gold-medal favorites for the U.S. at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Missing a few races this year will not affect his qualifying for that or other major international events, especially since he’s already firmly in place as USA-2’s driver behind world and Olympic champion Steven Holcomb in USA-1.
“This is probably the only time in my whole career it would have worked like this,” Napier said. “Now that I am USA-2 and there’s been a few retirements, it’s the only time I would have a chance to do this and get away with it. It’s still a big risk, but it’s really a passion of mine to serve my country. They’ve given me so much. It’s really special and dear to my heart.”
The USBSF has long had sliders who also served as soldiers. Holcomb, who drove USA-1 to a gold medal in Vancouver — the first for the Americans in four-man, bobsled’s signature race, in 62 years — is a former member of the Army’s World Class Athlete Program. Napier and Fogt are both current WCAP members, which gets them, among other things, financial support to pursue their bobsled careers.
WCAP is touted as a way for soldiers to reinforce a positive image of the military, plus serve as role models for others.
“The higher-ups pulled some strings and made this happen,” Napier said.
Finally this morning....I hesitated to post this, but it still needs to see the light of day. Posted without comment.Marines in gay-beating scandal
Two young Marines are sitting in a military brig this morning, accused of beating a gay man in Savannah, Georgia, so badly he had a bruised brain and two seizures. And while details on the case are just emerging, it has huge implications for the end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," as well as the justice system in Georgia, which lacks hate-crime laws and charged the men with a simple misdemeanor.
The service members, Keil Joseph Cronauer and Charles Stanzel, were barhopping in Savannah, just over the border from the base where they're stationed, Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina (of The Great Santini fame.) According to the Savannah Morning News, one of the Marines grew convinced that 26-year-old Kieran Daly, who came out six months ago, winked at him.
In police parlance, an altercation ensued. Daly was punched in the back of the head so hard, he had to be taken to the hospital.
The Marines, who were caught on foot after fleeing the scene, say they were "being harassed by a gay man and wanted to get away from him," but eyewitnesses and Daly himself disputed that account:
"The guy thought I was winking at him," Daly said. "I told him, 'I was squinting, man. ... I'm tired.'"
Daly said one of the men told him he demanded respect because he served in Iraq. And at least one hurled slurs at him as he tried to walk away.
"That's the last thing I remember is walking away," Daly said.
Obviously, an investigation is ongoing, and no one's guilty yet. But if service members on liberty can't hold their liquor or their emotions—and regardless of what happened, that much seems clear here—there's a long way to go before the military will be able to successfully integrate gays and lesbians in the military ranks.
Worse still is the fact that, since Georgia doesn't recognize hate crimes under state law, Savannah authorities had to charge the two men with simple misdemeanor battery. "It leaves me wondering why Georgia is one of five states that doesn't have a hate crime law on the state level," Daly told the Morning News from his hospital bed. The Marines have since been transferred to military custody on their base.
In a perfect world, the Marines—who don't suffer misconduct lightly—would prosecute Cronauer and Stanzel to the fullest. As riflemen trained in hand-to-hand combat, an Article 32 investigation for assault with a deadly weapon (namely, their hands) wouldn't be out of order here. But in a military where a sexually abusive doctor with repeat offenses gets a week in the brig, what the Marine JAGs will do here is anyone's guess.