Today is our 3,177th day Iraq, and our 3,705th 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): 4483
Since "Mission Accomplished" (5/1/03): 4344
Since Handover (6/29/04): 3624
Since Obama Inauguration (1/20/09): 255
Since Operation New Dawn: 55
Other Coalition Troops - Iraq: 319
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 1,845
Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 973
Contractor Employee Deaths - Iraq: 1,487
Journalists - Iraq : 348
Academics Killed - Iraq: 448
We find this morning's cost of war
passing through: $ 1, 284, 615, 175, 000. 00
Let's dive right in....as we get closer to the elections next year, even at a glacial pace, we'll start to see more of the required attacks on some candidates as "soft on defense" and "Not ready to be Commander-in-Chief". Funny thing, though. The GOP has been running on that platform since the Carter Administration. What would happen if the actual military had a different opinion?
WASHINGTON — Three former top military officials slammed the Republican presidential field ahead of Tuesday night’s GOP debate on foreign policy. The Democratic-leaning former officials said the entire Republican field has been all over the map but focused on GOP front-runner Mitt Romney.
“My concern would be that he might not be credibly decisive,” Richard Danzig, who served as Navy secretary under President Bill Clinton, said of Romney on Monday. “There’s too much of a track record here of moving between positions.”
Danzig said President Obama has shown the required decisiveness throughout his presidency.
Danzig, retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark and retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton critiqued the Republican field at a news conference organized by the Democratic National Committee.
Without naming Romney, Clark swiped at the former Massachusetts governor for comments downplaying the importance of capturing or killing Osama bin Laden.
“One candidate said of Osama bin Laden, ‘It’s not worth moving heaven and earth and spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person,’” Clark said, referring to Romney. “But like all of us, he cheered his demise.”
Andrea Saul, a Romney spokeswoman, responded by assailing Obama’s foreign policy but did not directly respond to the officials’ criticism of Romney.
“President Obama’s feckless foreign policy has emboldened our adversaries, weakened our allies, and threatens to break faith with our military,” she said.
Next, we'll head right for Iraq. Even though most of our front-line troops are scheduled to be back in Kuwait and on the way home in just over a month, that doesn't mean that we'll have zero presence in-country. Remember your history? I'll wait here for a minute while you Google "Hessian". King George was not above hiring mercenaries, and now it looks like these United States will use them to maintain a presence in Iraq after we "officially" leave.
It’s January 2012. A convoy of SUVs ferrying American diplomats to a meeting with Iraqi politicians runs over a roadside bomb. Several of the passengers inside are seriously injured. They need to be rescued, now.
But the U.S. military left Iraq on Dec. 31. Which means the only call for help has to go to a team of mercenaries employed by the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. They’re the only guys left in Iraq who are running medical evacuation operations — or any other complex air op.
The State Department has already requisitioned an army, part of the roughly 5,000 private security contractors State is hiring to protect diplomats stationed in Iraq. Now, State is hiring someone to provide a little help from the air: an “Aviation Advisor” responsible for “Search and Rescue (SAR), medical evacuations (ME), transporting Quick Reaction Forces (QRF) to respond to incidents, and provid[ing] air transportation for Chief of Mission personnel.” It’s not a familiar job for the diplomatic corps, which is why State is seeking to bring in someone from the outside.
The State Department put out this notice on Nov. 4. That’s 58 days before the withdrawal of U.S. troops. 58 days before State has the skies over Iraq to itself.
There are lots of contractors with long experience in search and rescue and other air operations. The secretive Virginia company Blackbird Technologies, staffed with U.S. special operations veterans, won an $11 million contract in 2010 to rescue missing or kidnapped U.S. troops in Iraq, one of the military’s most important missions.
Finally this morning, a subject near and dear to my heart. Of all the airshows I've been to, and all the flight demonstrations I've seen, my favorite team is the Navy's own Blue Angels. But in these strange days of budgetary battles, everything is on the table. My beloved angels can shoot down anything except the budget axe, apparently.
PENSACOLA NAVAL AIR STATION, Fla. — The Navy’s Blue Angels have been thrilling audiences for more than six decades with their acrobatic flying in fighter planes, but a new era of federal budget worries and proposed deficit cutting has some inside and outside the military raising questions about the millions it costs to produce their shows.
The Pentagon spends $37 million for the Blue Angels, whose mission is to enhance recruiting for the Navy and Marines and to be their public goodwill ambassador. That’s a fraction of the Pentagon’s $926 billion annual budget, but that’s not the point, critics say. They argue that lots of smaller programs will have to be eliminated to meet required spending reductions.
Automatic cuts triggered by the collapse of the debt supercommittee in Washington this week combined with spending reductions previously hammered out by President Obama and Congress mean that the Pentagon would be looking at nearly $1 trillion in cuts to projected spending over 10 years.
The Air Force’s Thunderbirds and the Army’s Golden Knights paratroopers also perform big public shows.
“It goes to show the scale of the Department of the Defense budget: The Defense Department always goes big,” said Laura Peterson, a spokeswoman for the Washington-based group Taxpayers for Common Sense. She said the money could be better spent on other programs. “The point is to look at all federal spending. We can no longer afford the wants; we have to look at the needs.”
But Capt. Greg McWherter, the Blue Angels’ commander, said his team fills a vital national security role by improving morale, helping with recruiting and presenting a public face for the nation’s 500,000 sailors and Marines. The Navy said about 11 million people see the squadron’s F/A-18 fighter jets scream and twist overhead during each year’s show season, from March through November.
“We still live in a country that has an all-volunteer force. Everyone that signs up to join the military does so because they were motivated and inspired; maybe it was an aunt or an uncle, maybe it was a teacher or maybe it was the Blue Angels, you never know,” he said. “It is difficult to put a price on that and on the number of young men and women inspired by a performance.”
But, he said, it helps ensure “that the Navy and the Marine Corps is strong 10 to 15 years from now.”
Loren Thompson, a military analyst with the Lexington Institute think tank, said it is very unlikely anyone in Congress would specifically target the Blue Angels because the team is so popular.
“I think any legislator who called for eliminating the Blue Angels would be digging and digging through emails filled with outrage,” he said.
But he said it is possible spending for the Blue Angels, Air Force Thunderbirds and other military promotional programs could be curtailed under a larger umbrella bill as Congress and the administration look for ways to cut federal spending.
“No provision specifically aimed at cutting the Blue Angels will ever pass, but that doesn’t mean the Blue Angels are safe from budget cuts,” Thompson said.
So once again, it seems that jets are somehow involved in the budget....since as long as we cut taxes that support the military, others can continue to fly their private jets. Maybe if Uncle Sam relented and allowed them to buy Sidewinders, they could keep an eye on the coast at the same time?