Today is our 3,093rd day in Iraq, and our 3,621st 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): 4474
Since "Mission Accomplished" (5/1/03): 4335
Since Handover (6/29/04): 3615
Since Obama Inauguration (1/20/09): 246
Since Operation New Dawn: 46
Other Coalition Troops - Iraq: 318
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 1,752
Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 947
Contractor Employee Deaths - Iraq: 1,487
Journalists - Iraq : 348
Academics Killed - Iraq: 448
We find this morning's cost of war
passing through: $ 1, 245, 612, 200, 000 .00
This morning, we'll borrow a phrase from our old "Libertarian Saturday" feature, as we have good news, bad news, and unbelievable news to look at this morning.
First off...August was a "good" month in Iraq, in that no US troops died there.
This was the firs such occurrence since the war began.
BAGHDAD — August marked the first month since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq that no American forces have died, according to an Associated Press tally.
Figures compiled by the AP show that no American forces died in Iraq in August either in combat or non-combat related situations, a significant achievement in a conflict that has claimed the lives of 4,474 American service members since it began.
All American forces are supposed to leave Iraq by December of this year, but U.S. and Iraqi officials have been discussing whether to have a long-term American military presence in the country.
There have been previous months during which there were no combat related deaths, but during which some people died in non-combat related situations.
The numbers come on top of what had been a jump in U.S. troop deaths for the first part of this year. In June, 15 U.S. troops died in one of the biggest losses of life for American forces in Iraq in years.
All but one of those deaths were combat related, and most came in southern Iraq, indicating the increased activity of Shiite militias in launching attacks against American forces.
There is of course, a corollary....and our troops in Afghanistan weren't as fortunate.
KABUL, Afghanistan — August has become the deadliest month for U.S. troops in the nearly 10-year-old war in Afghanistan, where international forces have started to go home and let Afghan forces take charge of securing their country.
(Steve Ruark / AP Photo)
A record 66 U.S. troops have died so far this month, eclipsing the 65 killed in July 2010, according to a tally by The Associated Press.
This month's death toll soared when 30 Americans — most of them elite Navy SEALs — were killed in a helicopter crash Aug. 6. They were aboard a Chinook shot down as it was flying in to help Army Rangers who had come under fire in Wardak province. It was the single deadliest incident of war being waged by Afghan and U.S.-led coalition forces and insurgents.
On Tuesday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai used the start of a three-day Muslim holiday to plead with insurgents to lay down their arms and help rebuild the nation. Karzai wants Afghan security forces to take the lead in defending and protecting the nation by the end of 2014.
At a palace celebration, he also greeted eight boys and young men who had been asked to become suicide bombers, but then turned themselves in to Afghan authorities.
"Today we witness another good day for Afghanistan," he said. "We have with us those children who were forced by the Taliban — or whoever was behind it — to commit suicide attacks. They (the children) were saved using their wisdom."
He said five had been released to their parents, one was going to study in Turkey and authorities were still trying to find the relatives of the remaining two.
Karzai spoke on Eid al-Fitr, a holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, which is observed by millions of Muslims around the world. The month of dawn-to-dusk fasting and extended prayer began Aug. 1.
Violence is being reported across the nation despite the U.S.-led coalition's drive to rout insurgents from their strongholds in the south.
At the same time, the U.S. military has begun to implement President Barack Obama's order to start withdrawing the 33,000 extra troops he dispatched to the war. He ordered 10,000 out this year and another 23,000 withdrawn by the summer of 2012, leaving about 68,000 U.S. troops on the ground. Although major combat units are not expected to start leaving until late fall, two National Guard regiments comprising about 1,000 soldiers started going home last month.
Aside from the 30 Americans killed in the Chinook crash, southwest of Kabul, 23 died this month in Kandahar and Helmand provinces in southern Afghanistan, the main focus of Afghan and U.S.-led coalition forces. The remaining 13 were killed in eastern Afghanistan.
Finally this morning....you'd like to hope that those that gave their all for these United States could at least have a quiet and respectful resting place. While we're all familiar with the troubles at Arlington, there's hundreds, if not thousands, of other veteran's cemeteries across the US that exist primarily out of the spotlight. Unless something unbelieveable happens there, that is.
MADISON, Wis. — A maintenance supervisor at one of the most pristine veterans cemeteries in the country used the grounds as his private dump, burying everything from cans of paint thinner to television sets, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. The cost to clean up the mess is already twice what state officials first estimated and growing.
State Department of Administration officials say the company contracted to clean up the garbage has submitted $37,000 in bills, with more likely to come. That’s more than double the $18,000 the state Department of Veterans Affairs estimated the effort would cost. Meanwhile, veterans are seething that a state worker would disgrace a cemetery that federal officials have designated as a national shrine.
“Just totally repulsive to me and any veteran,” said Brad Cramlet, a 50-year-old Navy veteran from Pleasant Prairie, a city about 20 miles from the cemetery. “That is hallowed ground. Our veterans are buried there. To have that happen is just totally unconscionable. That’s abuse of position. That’s abuse of government. Abuse of power.”
The sprawling Southern Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery stands on 105 acres outside Union Grove, about 30 miles south of Milwaukee. About 8,400 veterans and nearly 1,900 spouses have been laid to rest there. The cemetery earned an excellence in appearance award from the National Cemetery Administration in April.
The state DVA has released several news releases about the trash, including one last month saying the supervisor resigned in November and cleanup efforts had begun, but the statements offered few other specifics. DVA and state Department of Natural Resources emails and other documents the AP obtained through an open records request reveal more details.
The documents show a whistleblower approached the DNR with a tip that the supervisor was ordering his employees to dig holes and bury all manner of trash from his rental properties, including refrigerators, mattresses, furniture and chemicals.
“I am outraged that such a sacred place such as the final resting place for the men and women who served our great country are allowed to be disgraced in such a manor [sic],” the whistleblower wrote in an undated letter to DNR Warden Mike Hirschboeck. The tipster also wrote to then-U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold on Sept. 30 asking for help.
The DNR launched an investigation on Sept. 14, Hirschboeck said in an interview. The DVA launched its own probe in early October, agency emails show.
Sometimes, you can only just shake your head.