Today is our 4,706th day in Afghanistan, and our 69th day back in Iraq.
We'll start this morning as we always do; with the latest casualty figures from our ongoing wars, courtesy of Antiwar.com:
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 2,341
Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 1,126
There are no new American casualties in Iraq.
We find this morning's Cost of War
passing through: $ 1, 560, 114, 925, 000 .00
With us now past the 60-day mark specified by the War Powers Act, and Congress nowhere in sight, our involvement in Iraq is looking more and more like Presidential whim. In keeping with everything else, our elected officials have completely and utterly shirked their constitutional responsibilities. Except for a handful that are calling for a vote.
Whether or not anything actually happens remains to be seen.
As U.S. involvement in Iraq deepens, Sen. Tim Kaine is refusing to let Congress off the hook without a vote on approving military operations against the Islamic State.
The Virginia Democrat continued his campaign for Congress to take a tough roll call just weeks before the pivotal midterm election. He issued a statement Monday, urging President Barack Obama and his administration to use the next two weeks to lay out the U.S. mission in Iraq and then put it up for a vote on Capitol Hill, as he believes the law requires, when lawmakers return from August recess.
“Congress and the executive have a responsibility to do the hard work to build a political consensus in support of our military missions,” Kaine said Monday.
“I will always support the president when he takes action to protect American service members and diplomats. But I am calling for the mission and objectives for this current significant military action against ISIL to be made clear to Congress, the American people, and our men and women in uniform. And Congress should vote up or down on it.”
The freshman senator has been calling for congressional authorization of military action since well before the United States began a fresh round of bombing Islamic State targets in early August.
“Congressional approval for military action is very challenging, and it’s contentious, and it’s supposed to be. While this often frustrates the executive, it is how the system is supposed to work. And when presidents follow the rule, it generally works out for the best,” Kaine said in a June floor speech.
Several other prominent senators have joined him in calling for Congress to vote on renewed military action in Iraq, including GOP Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas. They argue that previous authorizations of military force from 2001 and 2002 are obsolete and do not hold sway over the current round of strikes that followed the Islamic State’s rout of the Iraqi military this spring.
But there’s a sense on Capitol Hill that few lawmakers really, truly want to take a vote on military action so close to the November elections. In 2013, a nonelection year, many lawmakers were privately relieved that the administration pulled its congressional authorization request for strikes on Syria after support collapsed on Capitol Hill.
“The preferred position for many in Congress … is not to be on record one way or the other in this situation,” said Robert Chesney, a professor at the University of Texas who specializes in national security law.
As long as we're talking about Congressional inaction...remember the sequester? There was much talk of gloom and doom and disaster when it went into effect, and no doubt some sectors have experienced that, but for the most part it happened, dropped out of the news, and nobody even thinks about it anymore. But there are some in the Defense Department that are still worried about it
. It may be over the next year that the cuts imposed finally start to have an effect on the military.
HUNTSVILLE, ALA. — For the past three years, US military officials have frequently voiced opposition to defense budget caps that went into effect in 2013.
But for the past eight months, US defense officials have spoken less about sequestration and more about immediate plans for this year and next. After all, Congress agreed on a budget plan for 2014 and 2015 that boosted Defense Department spending by more than $30 billion above the levels mandated under the Budget Control Act.
But now as crunch time begins inside the Pentagon as the services’ craft their 2016 budget plans, sequestration fears have returned. And at the annual Space and Missile Defense Symposium here last week, numerous officials used speeches to warn of the looming defense budget caps.
“16 scares the heck out of me,” Air Force Lt. Gen. John Hyten, then-vice commander of Air Force Space Command, told a small group of reporters after an Aug. 12 speech. Hyten pinned on his fourth star and became the head of Space Command on Aug. 15.
“Our [operations and maintenance funding] is very different in our command. It’s bad on the aviation side, but they can ground squadrons. We can’t.”
The problem, the general said, is that the entire military relies on satellites. The command’s GPS satellites are used by the military, commercial industry and civilians globally.
Many cuts offered up by the command when sequestration hit in 2013 were rejected because of the negative operational impact, Hyten said.
“Everything we put forth is critical to some military mission,” he said.
Army Gen. Charles Jacoby, head of US Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, said during an Aug. 13 speech that it is “virtually impossible right now to make a strategic decision” due to funding unpredictability.
“When you go to the Hill … old friends are not friendly on this subject and old enemies are still enemies,” he said. “It’s really a different world approaching Congress about the budget.”
While the military has been raising concerns about sequestration for years, Jacoby said others need to speak up.
“What we really need is other voices to join that because the voices in uniform are not carrying the day in [congressional] committees that they used to carry the day,” he said.
The general said Pentagon programs “won’t survive if sequestration returns.”
And staying with the Department of Defense now, perhaps those budget cuts are affecting more than the Pentagon and military hardware. It's been long known that veterans and active-duty personnel have had a high reliance on food banks and other charities in recent years - data that the DoD has decided to denounce
. Oh well, I guess denying it makes it not happen, right?
The Pentagon’s personnel chief is taking exception to statistics from a recent study that concluded 25 percent of military households use food banks.
“I dispute that number ... I think that’s totally incorrect,” Jessica Wright, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said at an Aug. 18 meeting of the DoD Military Family Readiness Council.
That said, she added, “I know there are members of our force who go to food banks and that’s OK if they need to do that.”
The nonprofit Feeding America stated that one out of four households with a current military member is being served by the group’s network of 200 food banks spread across all 50 states. The group concluded that 620,000 “military households” are getting food assistance.
But it is unclear how that military percentage compares to the general population; the report states that one in seven people in the U.S. uses food banks, but counting individuals is much different than counting households.
Moreover, the military figure includes not only active-duty households, but also those of National Guard and Reserve members, whose financial circumstances offer differ significantly from active-duty families and may be adversely or positively affected by being called to full-time active duty.
In addition, 15 percent of the clients surveyed by Feeding America are households of veterans who have no current links to the military.
In 2013, the organization, which provides food to about 15.5 million households each year, surveyed about 60,000 client households of its food banks and found that about 4 percent had at least one person currently serving in the military.
The group multiplied 15.5 million by 4 percent to reach the conclusion that it serves 620,000 current military households. Then they divided that number by the 2.5 million active-duty and Reserve component service members reported by DoD in 2012 to determine that 25 percent of all military households seek help from food banks.
Defense officials contend that food bank clients have very different demographic characteristics from the military population with regards to age, race, gender and education. For example, 51 percent of those surveyed by Feeding America were over age 50. So without making statistical adjustments to match the survey sample with the military population, it is impossible to accurately calculate an estimated percentage of military households using food banks, officials said.
Feeding America spokeswoman Maura Daly acknowledged that research on military families who need food assistance “is in its infancy. We look forward to working with the Department of Defense on further research.”
It is quite disconcerting....we seem to be stuck in a revolving door of war with no way out. I didn't think too hard about it earlier this month, but it was in August of 1991 that our friend in Iraq invaded Kuwait and started this whole mess. Think about it.