It's a week before Christmas...do you know where your soldiers are?
We'll start this morning as we always do, with the latest casualty figures courtesy of Antiwar.com:
Since war began (3/19/03): 3895
Since "Mission Accomplished" (5/1/03): 3755
Since Capture of Saddam (12/13/03): 3434
Since Handover (6/29/04): 3036
Since Election (1/31/05): 2457
Other Coalition Troops: 307
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 473
We find this morning's cost of war
$ 478, 037, 000, 000 .00
As this year winds to a close, let's take a brief look in the rear-view mirror. According to our friends at IAVA, some key legislation has been moving forward thanks to the efforts of many of us who took the time to harass our elected representatives. The 2008 NDAA
contains a number of initiatives to improve veteran's care...
The Senate and the House of Representatives have agreed on a final version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2008, and its provisions make this bill one of the single biggest advances on veterans' issues in years.
Here are some of the highlights, on issues that you have helped to make a national priority:
* Extension of VA Health Care Eligibility: After discharge, today's veterans had only two years to seek VA care or risk losing access for good. But many service-connected conditions can worsen over time, or take more than two years to become obvious - including Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Thanks to the NDAA, today's veterans now have 5 years to seek care from the VA.
* Pre- and Post-deployment Screenings for Traumatic Brain Injury: The care provided for those suffering from the signature wound of the Iraq war is still woefully inadequate, and this is a big step in the right direction. Pre- and post-deployment screenings will ensure that service members with TBIs will get the treatment and rehabilitation they need.
* Servicemembers Family Medical Leave Act: The families of those caring for severely wounded troops were previously given only three months of job protection. As a result, many spouses and other family members at Walter Reed and other military hospitals have lost their jobs while caring for their injured husband, wife, son or daughter. The NDAA expands job protections to 26 weeks.
Other items include the removal of a restriction on the VA from reaching out to veterans who need care, major improvements to the GI Bill for Reservists and members of the National Guard, increased assistance for Iraqi interpreters who have worked with our troops on the ground in Iraq, and a 3.5% pay raise for the members of our Armed Forces. Three of the advances made in this bill were items on our 2007 Legislative Agenda, and two were 'IAVA Legislative Priorities'.
By now, you've heard that our dear allies, the Brits, have turned back Basra to the control of the local authority. While this is clearly progress, let's take a look and see how they did.
Britain has failed to meet its own targets for reducing violent conflict in Iraq, a government performance report said Monday - a day after British troops handed over control of the final Iraqi province under their command. A Defense Ministry review said Britain's military has not done enough to reduce the impact of violence on civilian lives in the country.
It also offered a cautious assessment of the capacity of Iraq's army and police, despite the fact Britain handed off responsibilities for security across southern Iraq to local forces on Sunday, with officials insisting they were ready to take on the task.
Minister of State for the Armed Forces Bob Ainsworth told the BBC on Monday that Britain had handed over the region to "a confident Iraqi security force who believe they are up to the job." But the ministry's autumn performance review was less enthusiastic.
"Coalition efforts have contributed to some improvement in the capacity of Iraqi security forces, though the army remains significantly more effective than the police and concerns about sectarian bias and militia influence remain," the report said.
It gave Britain's progress at halting violent conflict and potential sources of conflict the lowest possible rating, classified as "not on course."
"Violence and instability continue to be a problem in some parts of the country, weakening efforts and political reconciliation," said the report, published on Monday.
Britain's remaining 4,500 troops will fall to 2,500 from spring, after officials formally agreed Sunday to switch the focus of the UK mission from combat to training and economic recovery.
"Our aim is to see an Iraq run by Iraqis for all Iraqis," British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said at the handover ceremony Sunday.
A day after Britain's large pullout from southern Iraq, insurgents killed at least 15 people across the country, including 11 in the restive province of Diyala north of Baghdad, security officials said.
Points to ponder, for sure. I'vo got to get a pot of coffee on.