Today is our 4,069th day in Afghanistan.
We'll start this morning as we always do; with the latest casualty figures from our ongoing war, courtesy of Antiwar.com:
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 2,145
Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 1,071
We find this morning's Cost of War
passing through:$ 1, 397,193, 850, 000 .00
I've managed to sweep out all the old stories that I've been keeping; so today's information might just be on the fresher side. We'll start in Congress. Despite gains made by Veterans in the house, the fact remains that the long decline in the number of veterans elected to congress continues to decline.
The next Congress will have the fewest veterans in it since WWII, which is rather disappointing considering we've been at war for well over a decade now.
WASHINGTON — A decade of wars abroad has not reversed the decline in military veterans serving in Congress. When the next session convenes in January, the two chambers will have the fewest number of veterans serving since World War II. It’s a continuation of a nearly four-decade-long decline of veterans in office since the peak of their service in the years after the Vietnam War.
In 2013, just 19 percent of the 535 combined members in the House and Senate will have active-duty military service on their résumé, down from a peak in 1977, when 80 percent of lawmakers boasted military service. In the current Congress, 22 percent are military veterans.
The transition from the draft to an all-volunteer military in 1973 is a driving force of the decline, but veterans and their advocates say they face more challenges running for office in the modern era of political campaigns.
“There’s so few opportunities that we have where veterans can run a federal campaign,” said Jon Soltz of VoteVets.org, a liberal veterans’ advocacy group that supports candidates for office. “They are credible messengers to the public, but only if they’re financed. A veteran with a great narrative that doesn’t have the infrastructure to sell themselves is a tree falling alone in the woods.”
Louis Celli, legislative director for the American Legion, said the realities of modern military life make it difficult for veterans to establish roots in a community to build political networks and the financial backing to run for office. “Oftentimes, veterans don’t travel in those circles,” Celli said.
Rep.-elect Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, said she faced “huge challenges” in her campaign, which initially showed her 45 percentage points down in the race. She said she used her skills as a platoon leader to manage her grass-roots campaign operation for a victory, but she noted that many veteran candidates face challenges to raise money. “Generally, veterans tend not to be wealthy people,” she said.
A combination of electoral factors contributes to veterans’ decline in the 113th Congress. Military veteran candidates in eight competitive Senate races this year were defeated by opponents who did not serve. Among the dozens of military veterans who ran for the U.S. House, 12 are headed to Washington in January.
Coupling that with the primary defeat of military veterans such as Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and the ousting of incumbents such as Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Iowa, a veteran affected by the redistricting process, means that each Congress in the past decade has seen fewer veterans serving than the one before it. All of that comes against the backdrop of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
There's a follow-up to a story we've been following since Iraq. Seems that Uncle Sam has finally had it with KBR and has filed a lawsuit
over cost overruns related to building inferior troop housing for the war.
CHICAGO — The U.S. government has filed a civil lawsuit accusing a Houston-based global construction company and its Kuwaiti subcontractor of submitting nearly $50 million in inflated claims to install live-in trailers for troops during the Iraq War.
The lawsuit names KBR Inc. and First Kuwaiti Trading Co., alleging they overcharged for truck, driver and crane costs, and misrepresented delays in providing around 2,250 trailers meant to replace tents used by soldiers earlier in the invasion.
In one instance, the contractors allegedly claimed they paid $23,000 to lease one crane per month when the actual price was about $8,000, according to the lawsuit, which was filed this week in U.S. District Court in Rock Island, Ill., and first appeared in federal court records Tuesday.
KBR, once the engineering and construction arm of Halliburton, has faced lawsuits before related to its work in Iraq. One of the most prominent involved a soldier electrocuted in his barracks shower at an Army base. That case was eventually dismissed.
In the case involving the trailers, Jim Lewis, the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of Illinois, said "KBR and First Kuwaiti did not provide an honest accounting."
Stuart Delery, a U.S. deputy assistant attorney general, said in a Department of Justice statement regarding the lawsuit that contractors "are not permitted to profit at the expense of the taxpayers at home who are supporting our men and women in uniform."
Of course, Ask a Vet is supposed to be about our veterans...but I have no upbeat story today. We're well aware of the epidemic of military suicides that has been unrelenting since we got in this business. I saw elsewhere yesterday that both the Army and Navy have reported the highest total of suicides ever recorded for the calendar year-to-date. (Alas, no link.) But like nearly everything military, there's the monolithic face of the Pentagon....and then there are the personal stories.
CALLAWAY, Fla. — Libby Busbee pounded on the window of her son’s maroon Dodge Charger as he sat in the driveway of their home earlier this year. Locked inside his car, Army Spc. William Busbee sat with a .45-caliber gun pointed to the side of his head.
“Look at me,” his mother cried out as she tried to get her son’s attention. “Look at me.”
He wouldn’t look.
He stared out the front windshield, distant, said Libby Busbee, relating the story from an apartment complex in Callaway.
“I kept yelling, ‘Don’t you do this. Don’t do it.’ He wouldn’t turn his head to look at me,” she said, looking down at the burning cigarette in her hand.
A 911 call was made. The police pulled her away from the car.
William, Libby Busbee’s 23-year-old son, was talking with a police officer when he fired a shot through the front windshield of his car, according to the police report.
The police recoiled. William rapped on the window in apparent frustration, the report indicated.
Then the second shot was heard.
“I knew that was the one,” said Libby Busbee.
William Busbee took his life in March with his mother and sisters looking on.
Seems like this is a never-ending cycle. I have no information on the suicide rates during Vietnam or WWII...but surely they couldn't have been as high as today.
(Apologies for single-sourcing all the stories this week....like I said, I blasted my archive and started afresh; haven't visited all the places again yet.)