Today is our 1,909th 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): 4086
Since "Mission Accomplished" (5/1/03): 3947
Since Capture of Saddam (12/13/03): 3625
Since Handover (6/29/04): 3227
Since Election (1/31/05): 2649
Other Coalition Troops: 312
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 510
We find this morning's cost of war
passing through $ 525, 093, 000, 000 .00
In Iraq this morning, we've lost another member of the coalition. Australian troops ended combat operations
on June 1 and are heading home. Australian troops are among the finest in the world, and we have a fine history with them, working side by side to defeat Imperial Japan 65 years ago. If they're giving up and going home now...
BAGHDAD - Australia ended its combat operations in southern Iraq on Sunday, while the Iraqi government said it has differences with the United States in negotiations over a long-term security agreement.
The official statement by government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh comes amid growing opposition to the deal among Iraqis who see it as a possible violation of Iraq's sovereignty and are worried about an extended presence of American troops.
Talks "are still in their early stages and the Iraqi side has a vision and a draft that is different" from those being presented by U.S. negotiators, al-Dabbagh said.
He was not more specific about the points but insisted the Iraqi government was focused on "fully preserving the sovereignty of Iraq ... and will not accept any article that infringes on this sovereignty and doesn't guarantee the interests of Iraqis."
The U.S. military, meanwhile, faced a dwindling coalition of allied countries providing supporting combat troops in Iraq.
Troops held a ceremony Sunday that included lowering the Australian flag from its position and raising the American flag instead over Camp Terendak in the southern Iraq city of Nasiriyah.
"We have to praise the role of the Australian troops in stabilizing the security situation in the province through their checkpoints on the outskirts of the city," said Aziz Kadim Alway, the governor of the Dhi Qar province.
The Iraqi government already has assumed security responsibilities for the Shiite-dominated province, which includes the volatile city of Nasiriyah. But the Australians remained there to help if necessary while also training Iraqi security forces and doing reconstruction and aid work.
The U.S. military said American troops would temporarily take over those responsibilities.
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was swept into office in November largely on the promise that he would bring home the country's 550 combat troops by the middle of 2008, saying the Iraq deployment has made Australia more of a target for terrorism.
Turning now to our friends at IAVA, it appears that the historic new GI Bill has now passed the Senate (75-22, on May 22) and lo, these many days later is still sitting on the "President's" desk awaiting signature. He's going to have to do something with it, so won't you please add your voice?
NEW YORK - Today, by an overwhelming 75-22 margin, the Senate passed the "Post-9/11 GI Bill" as part of the war supplemental funding bill. This bipartisan legislation, originally introduced by Senators Jim Webb (D-VA), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), and John Warner (R-VA), is whole-heartedly endorsed by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the nation's first and largest nonpartisan Iraq veterans' organization, and all the leading Veterans Service Organizations. See how every Senator voted here.
"This is a historic victory for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. After World War II, America made sure our troops coming home had the chance to go to college," said Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. "With Memorial Day just around the corner, our lawmakers renewed that promise and honored those who bravely serve this country."
Once the House and Senate versions of this legislation are reconciled, the next step is the President's desk. Despite broad support for the GI Bill, the president has threatened a veto of the entire emergency supplemental package, of which the GI Bill is a part.
"In passing this new GI Bill, the Senate and the House put partisan bickering aside to support the troops. When the politicians return to Washington after honoring our troops and veterans this Memorial Day, the President has the chance to prove whether he is with veterans or against them."
For months, IAVA members from across the country have been urging their lawmakers to move this crucial legislation forward. Thousands of supporters made phone calls and signed a petition calling for the passage of the new GI Bill. For more information about the fight for a modern GI Bill, please visit www.GIBill2008.org.
Of course, one of those "Nays" was from Presidential Candidate John McCain
More than a few people have been puzzled by U.S. Sen. John McCain's dogged opposition to the updated GI Bill of Rights now before Congress. The dissonance between McCain's military-man image and his actions on this issue have introduced a jarring note to his presidential aspirations -- and have highlighted the shoddy treatment many Iraq war veterans have received.
Why would a Vietnam War veteran and former prisoner of war, a man who is personally acquainted with the difficulties vets can face in returning to civilian life, join President Bush in opposing a popular bipartisan bill to support the troops? Isn't fixing the education benefit in the bill -- one that has shortchanged far too many veterans for years -- a political no-brainer in an election year? The 75 senators who recently voted for it certainly thought so. Over the Memorial Day weekend, Sen. Barack Obama expressed some well-timed astonishment at McCain's opposition, and the two have been feuding about it since. The media and pundits seem perplexed, collectively suggesting: That's not the John McCain we know.
It sure is interesting to read his campaign website
, isn't it?
America owes its liberty, its prosperity, and its future to our veterans who have dedicated their lives to protecting our great country. John McCain has fought to honor our national commitment to our veterans who have given their careers and livelihoods to ensuring our freedom. He believes we must provide for service members and their families while they serve, we must help those who return from combat to adjust to civilian life, and we must honor and never forget the service of those who do not return.
John McCain has been a leader in Congress, fighting for all those who serve and their families, improving veterans' health care, providing veterans with the benefits they have earned, easing their transition to civilian life, and honoring the fallen.
John McCain believes that meeting the needs of our service members who defend us is our obligation and is essential to our national security. He worked to increase pay scales for servicemen and women during both the Persian Gulf War and the current War on Terror and to increase enlistment and reenlistment bonuses for reservists and guardsmen. He also sponsored bills to give special tax relief to deployed service members and to set up overseas savings programs for the men and women fighting in the Gulf War.
Hypocrisy, thy name is "Republican".