Today is our 1,777th day in Iraq.
We'll start this morning as we always do, with the latest casualty figures in the warron terra, courtesy of Antiwar.com
Since war began (3/19/03): 3940
Since "Mission Accomplished" (5/1/03): 3801
Since Capture of Saddam (12/13/03): 3479
Since Handover (6/29/04): 3081
Since Election (1/31/05): 2503
Other Coalition Troops: 307
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 481
We find this morning's cost of war
passing through: $ 489,803,250,000.00
In doing some research for more sources, I've found some more veterans sites...so this morning we'll turn to a new one, Iraq Veterans Against the War
. They too have a multitude of veterans to tell their stories...and there are some slightly different points of view. But in the end...a soldier's story is often one of frustration.
A lot of this will be no surprise to those of you still in the service. These are things that everyone complains about, but that largely don't make it to the public for several reasons. One is the 'camouflage wall of silence', similar to the police's 'blue wall', which translates in the vernacular into a lot of 'Only I can beat up my brother'. Military members have years to start disliking the press, and believing that civilians can never understand their issues. And to be honest, a lot of the issues are pretty hard for civilians to understand.
Such as the No Specialist Left Behind program. Yes, the Army was hurting for good NCOs, particularly NCOs that had seen combat. The Army was bleeding good NCOs like nobody's business. They saw the way the wind was blowing, and many didn't want to stay in. Big Army, in its infinite wisdom and under pressure to deliver in Iraq, decided that the answer was clearly a problem promotion system. The problem wasn't that there weren't enough NCOs! The problem was that good, deserving specialists were somehow languishing in obscurity! Well, you don't have to listen to me tell you that was a bad idea. You can listen to the retired CSM tell you at the link above. Or you can listen to me tell you that when you promote people who aren't ready for it, you get bad, inexperienced NCOs, who are going to lead their troops to trouble. I had to teach one of my NCOs once how to fill out a basic 4856. One of my NCOs. Not one of my specs bucking for their stripes, one of my existing NCOs. And the problem doesn't stop there-when you see some units making four-year staff-sergeants that can't find their own ass with both hands, you know that things are broken.
You know things are hurting when the Army is so desperate for new bodies to send to Iraq that new kids coming in, who haven't even made it through Basic yet, can sign up for $40,000 bonuses, while twelve-year combat veterans go begging looking for some chump change to give the next eight years of their life to the military. I'm not saying it's all about money, because it's not. But I'm saying that we're setting the wrong priorities there.
Especially when we're hurting for bodies so badly that we don't let our drill sergeants do their jobs and impart discipline to the soldiers. Got a buddy on the trail? Talk to them next time about how much they're pushed to let dirtbag would-be soldiers squeak through, because the Army can't afford to replace them. Or talk to a recruiter friend about how much they're pushed to make quota, and the consequences if they don't.
There's more at the source; including some embedded links...check it out.
Did you see the "President's" speech last night? As Keith Olbermann called it, it seemed to be a "best of" speech, edited and condensed for time. Of course he spouted nonsense about how well we're doing in Iraq.
WASHINGTON - President Bush portrayed the bloody five-year war in Iraq last night as finally turning a corner, citing a dramatic reduction in attacks since he dispatched an additional 30,000 US troops last January and vowing to "sustain and build on the gains we made in 2007" during his last year in office.
"The American and Iraqi surges have achieved results few of us could have imagined just one year ago," Bush said in his final State of the Union address.
But several military specialists warned that many of the security improvements in Iraq have resulted from the work of a mix of local militias and armed citizens groups that are funded by the United States but beyond the control of the Iraqi government.
Unless these groups are quickly folded into the Iraqi security forces or are provided other gainful employment, there are few guarantees that they will not face off with each other when the American security commitment is reduced and spark another round of civil war, the specialists said.
"There is no jobs program to speak of," said Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. "A top priority now is to institutionalize those 80,000 or so men into the Iraqi security forces or provide the prospects of a long-term livelihood."
Lastly, we're one week out from Super Tuesday...and we've looked at a couple of candidates' positions on Iraq. This week, we'll check out Hilary Clinton
Starting Phased Redeployment within Hillary's First Days in Office: The most important part of Hillary's plan is the first: to end our military engagement in Iraq's civil war and immediately start bringing our troops home. As president, one of Hillary's first official actions would be to convene the Joint Chiefs of Staff, her Secretary of Defense, and her National Security Council. She would direct them to draw up a clear, viable plan to bring our troops home starting with the first 60 days of her Administration. She would also direct the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to prepare a comprehensive plan to provide the highest quality health care and benefits to every service member -- including every member of the National Guard and Reserves -- and their families.
Securing Stability in Iraq as we Bring our Troops Home. As president, Hillary would focus American aid efforts during our redeployment on stabilizing Iraq, not propping up the Iraqi government. She would direct aid to the entities -- whether governmental or non-governmental -- most likely to get it into the hands of the Iraqi people. She would also support the appointment of a high level U.N. representative -- similar to those appointed in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Kosovo -- to help broker peace among the parties in Iraq.
A New Intensive Diplomatic Initiative in the Region. In her first days in office, Hillary would convene a regional stabilization group composed of key allies, other global powers, and all of the states bordering Iraq. The- mission of this group would be to develop and implement a strategy to create a stable Iraq....
There's plenty more to talk about...I'll be in the back with a fresh pot of coffee.