Today is our 2,085th 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): 4207
Since "Mission Accomplished" (5/1/03): 4068
Since Capture of Saddam (12/13/03): 3747
Since Handover (6/29/04): 3348
Since Election (1/31/05): 2770
Other Coalition Troops - Iraq: 314
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 627
Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 389
Contractor Deaths - Iraq: 445
We find this morning's Cost of War
passing through:$576, 093, 250, 000.00
Last week, we looked over some of the potential candidates for Secretary of Veteran Affairs in an Obama Cabinet. Whoever that may be, they're going to be facing enormous challenges in rebuilding a decimated agency and caring for the returning troops. IAVA posted an editorial
at New York Newsday recently about the need for change at the VA.
The system that cares for our veterans - especially the newly physically and psychologically wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan - needs bold, aggressive new leadership. As he builds a national security team, President-elect Barack Obama should work to transform this broken bureaucracy.
In the past few weeks, examples of that brokenness have surfaced. Locally, the Department of Veterans Affairs reassigned the director of its New York regional office and five other managers, because workers had falsified dates on claims. The goal of the backdating was to make it look as if the office had begun to process applications within the required time. An investigation also turned up a lot of unanswered mail, plus some claim documents in shredder bins.
Nationally, the department’s inspector general found that other veterans’ records had been readied for shredding. The department told regional offices to stop shredding until it could install better procedures. But why does it depend so much on paper, instead of moving more rapidly toward an efficient system for electronic processing of claims?
The regional flap sounds like an overworked staff trying - the wrong way - to deal with a huge backlog. We can’t have veterans waiting 180-plus days for claims to get fully processed, while they’re suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or physical ailments - or both - and facing the same economic forces that are oppressing all of us.
The department needs inspiring, transformational leadership. But leadership alone won’t suffice. The department also needs more staffing and better technology to reduce the backlogs. Vets shouldn’t have to wait any longer for real change that addresses their needs promptly.
Staying with IAVA...have you ever wondered where the troops stand on the war? The Bush Administration has worked hard to make sure the soldier's voices aren't heard...but the magazine Scientific American
has managed to run a study and they discovered something stunning. In this war, soldiers who have taken another human life tend to support the war more. In all my readings of America's past conflicts...the opposite has been true.
How do soldiers come to terms with having taken a life in combat? Research has suggested that when people consider themselves to be “good” but are forced to do something “bad” to others, they adopt negative opinions about their victims to rationalize their actions. But according to a new study, this tendency may not apply to soldiers or at least not to those who have served in the Iraq War. American soldiers who have killed in Iraq do not think more poorly of Iraqis than Iraq War soldiers who have not killed—they do, however, think worse of Americans who speak out against the war.
Wayne Klug, a psychologist at Berkshire Community College, asked 68 Iraq War veterans about their experiences, their thoughts on the war and their opinions about Iraqis and Americans. Compared with soldiers who never saw combat and those who witnessed a death but were not involved, veterans who “were directly involved in an Iraqi fatality” were much more likely to consider the war to be beneficial to both countries. The finding is consistent with prior evidence that people tend to value outcomes that require great effort or distress. But although previous research predicts that these soldiers might disparage their victims, investigators were surprised to find that these veterans instead resented Americans whose opinions about the war suggest that their killings may have been unjustified.
This change could be a result of the unique circumstances surrounding the Iraq War. “A clue lies in the political and public nature of a controversial war fought by a volunteer army,” says Klug, who presented his findings in August at the annual conference of the American Psychological Association in Boston. For example, in the Vietnam War soldiers were drafted, and people who avoided serving were viewed with suspicion, he explains. But today the situation is reversed.
“The veterans are aware of their status as the ‘stepchildren’ of polite American society, a sense that’s enhanced by their abysmal treatment upon returning,” he posits. Because America’s decision to go to war was the sole reason these soldiers killed, they “now depend on that policy to justify their actions,” Klug believes. Those who disagree with the policy, then, become automatic enemies.
Lastly this morning....seeing that we've hit December now, word about another charity. This one is not entirely for the troops, but for your local community. The media in Boston is reporting that donations to the USMC's Toys for Tots
program are running 50% behind their historic averages. While I have no information for other parts of the country, given the state of the economy, I'd imagine your local Marines are experiencing a similar falloff in donations.
If you're out shopping...won't you consider picking up an extra toy and dropping it off at your local recruiting station on the way home? People are hurting this year, and the demand is higher than ever.