Today is our 2,988th day in Iraq, and our 3,504th day in Afghanistan.
We'll start this morning as we always do; with the latest casualty figures from our ongoing wars, courtesy of Antiwar.com:
Since war began (3/19/03): 4454
Since "Mission Accomplished" (5/1/03) 4313
Since Handover (6/29/04): 3595
Since Obama Inauguration (1/20/09): 226
Since Operation New Dawn: 36
Other Coalition Troops - Iraq: 318
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 1,582
Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 887
Contractor Employee Deaths - Iraq: 1,487
Journalists - Iraq: 348
Academics Killed - Iraq: 448
We find this morning's Cost of War
passing through: $ 1, 198, 818, 250, 000 .00
Have any of you been to a military funeral? I never have...I've never even been close to one. My relatives that served all chose to be buried in civil ceremonies with one exception, a distant elder cousin that was buried at the Bourne National Veteran's cemetery on Cape Cod some years ago.
But if you're a politician, it's usually required attendance on your part, especially if you hold higher office in the state. Much to his credit, Governor Mitt Romney started quietly attending all veteran's funerals in Massachusetts during his tenure...quietly, without fanfare, and usually without media. This has been continued by the democrat Deval Patrick during his term in office. It's just the right thing for a governor to do. Unless you're the governor of Oregon. Then you only go if it's not inconvenient to you.
While some governors go out of their way to acknowledge the sanctity of military funerals, Oregon’s new governor says he won’t attend them in his state if it’s inconvenient to him.
Gov. John Kitzhaber is making a departure from his predecessor, Ted Kulongoski, a former Marine who was so determined to attend military funerals he would cancel out-of-town travel to attend them. In fact, Kulongoski attended more than 100 military funerals during his eight years in office.
But Kitzhaber has missed both funerals observed in Oregon since he took office in January -- one for a Marine and another for an Army National Guard solider.
Kitzhaber was in Washington, D.C., attending a national governor's conference during the first funeral and did not attend the second because he had a family conflict. Kitzhaber sent high-ranking officials in his place.
"I view my job as having a variety of responsibilities," Kitzhaber told reporters at a news conference, according to the Oregonian. "I doubt if I will be able to attend every single service."
It is not known how often governors across the country attend military funerals, but it isn't rare and some have ordered flags flown at half-staff on government buildings in honor of local soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Lawmakers in Oregon aren't happy about the new governor's stance.
"He's the commander in chief of the Oregon National Guard," Republican state Rep. Julie Parrish, wife of an Army National Guard solider, told the Oregonian. "It comes with responsibilities."
I could guess what party he is, as the story doesn't note which one (original link is Fox) but really, does it matter in this case?
I'll change gears here...and now it's time for the wayback machine. It seems hard to believe, but we've been at this war in Iraq since 1991; 20 years ago this past January we first invaded. Never mind what two decades of varying levels of conflict have done to both our nations, and indeed, ours and the global economy. Despite the limited focus (by comparison) to today, veterans of Desert Storm had their own issues when they came home from war. Gulf War Syndrome
is a chronic and baffling illness...and back in the day was a difficult disease to diagnose. In some ways it still is; and the veterans so affected still fight the stigma of the disease, since unlike a traumatic wound, there is nothing visibly 'wrong' with them.
But after decades of study, researchers may finally be homing in on the source of the problem.
As you'll see from the first paragraph...the best long-term treatment will be to simply come home.
U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait have inhaled microscopic dust particles laden with toxic metals, bacteria and fungi — a toxic stew that may explain everything from the undiagnosed Gulf War Syndrome symptoms lingering from the 1991 war against Iraq to high rates of respiratory, neurological and heart ailments encountered in the current wars, scientists say.
“From my research and that of others, I really think this may be the smoking gun,” says Navy Capt. Mark Lyles, chair of medical sciences and biotechnology at the Center for Naval Warfare Studies at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. “It fits everything — symptoms, timing, everything.”
Lyles and other researchers found that dust particles — up to 1,000 of which can sit on the head of a pin — gathered in Iraq and Kuwait contain 37 metals, including aluminum, lead, manganese, strontium and tin. The metals have been linked to neurological disorders, cancer, respiratory ailments, depression and heart disease, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Researchers believe the metals occur both naturally and as a byproduct of pollution.
Researchers in and out of the military say the particles are smaller and easier to inhale than most dust particles, and that recent droughts in the region have killed desert shrubs that helped keep down that dust. The military’s heavy vehicles have pounded the desert’s protective crust into a layer of fine silt, Lyles says. Servicemembers breathe the dust — and all it carries — deeply into their lungs.
The dust contains 147 different kinds of bacteria, as well as fungi that could spread disease, Lyles found. Since the wars began in Iraq in 2003 and in Afghanistan in 2001, the military has seen a 251 percent increase in the rate of neurological disorders per 10,000 active-duty servicemembers, a 47 percent rise in the rate of respiratory issues and a 34 percent increase in the rate of cardiovascular disease, according to a USA Today analysis of military morbidity records from 2001 to 2010. Those increases have researchers seeking possible causes.
Despite the research by Lyles and others, and the documented spikes in respiratory illnesses, Defense Department officials contend there are no health issues associated with the dust.
“The (Defense Department) has examined the concerns raised by the studies accomplished by Capt. Lyles,” says Craig Postlewaite, who heads up the Secretary of Defense’s Force Readiness and Health Assurance Office. He said the military found the dust is “not noticeably different from samples collected in the Sahara Desert and desert regions in the U.S. and China.”
Lastly this morning...if you're on the book of Faces, I hope you've seen the messages from Paul Rieckhoff about rebooting the IAVA website. Please take a moment to go there and take a look at what he's doing...and add your voice to the debate!