Today is our 4,405th 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: 2,285
Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 1,104
We find this morning's cost of war
passing through: $ 1, 484, 507, 100, 000 .00
Come with me this morning as we visit briefly in Iraq. Since we're out of there, it's gotten scant coverage in the media, but what happened yesterday
really can't be ignored.
A wave of car bombs struck Shia neighborhoods of Baghdad and a suicide bomber targeted soldiers in a northern city in attacks that killed at least 66 people across the country on Sunday, officials said.
Coordinated bombings killing scores of people have hit Iraq multiple times each month in the past half-year, a spike in bloodshed that has claimed more than 5,000 lives since April. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Sunday's blasts.
Four police officers said that the bombs in the capital, placed in parked cars and detonated over half an hour, targeted commercial areas and parking lots, killing 42.
Meanwhile, in the northern city of Mosul, a suicide bomber drove his explosives-laden car into a group of soldiers as they were sealing off a street leading to a bank where troops were receiving salaries. The attack killed 14 including five civilians, a police officer said. At least 30 people were wounded, he said. Mosul, which has been an insurgent stronghold in the past, is located about 225 miles northwest of Baghdad.
While no one claimed responsibility, such systematic attacks are a favorite tactic of Al-Qaeda's local branch. It frequently targets civilians in markets, cafes and commercial streets in Shia areas in an attempt to undermine confidence in the government, as well as members of the security forces.
The only comparison in recent times is what happened in Bosnia; after the Dayton Accords in 1995, territorial disputes, terrorism, and bombing continued on for years; some of which still happen from time to time today. I"m afraid Iraq still has a long row to hoe, which will be part of the ongoing legacy of George W. Bush.
Looking over at Afghanistan, it's still not clear how we will manage to extricate ourselves completely. While it's easy to put troops on a plane and fly them home, it's not so easy to get a decade's worth of military supplies out of a country, especially when we've spent years building it up. The Pentagon's solution is to either sell it or abandon it
, which certainly won't help the budget any. But I guess that's OK, because it's the military.
IN BAGRAM, Afghanistan — The armored trucks, televisions, ice cream scoops and nearly everything else shipped here for America’s war against the Taliban are now part of the world’s biggest garage sale. Every week, as the U.S. troop drawdown accelerates, the United States is selling 12 million to 14 million pounds of its equipment on the Afghan market.
Returning that gear to the United States from a landlocked country halfway around the world would be prohibitively expensive, according to U.S. officials. Instead, they’re leaving behind $7 billion worth of supplies, a would-be boon to the fragile Afghan economy.
But there’s one catch: The equipment is being destroyed before it’s offered to the Afghan people — to ensure that treadmills, air-conditioning units and other rudimentary appliances aren’t used to make roadside bombs.
“Many non-military items have timing equipment or other components in them that can pose a threat. For example, timers can be attached to explosives. Treadmills, stationary bikes, many household appliances and devices, et cetera, have timers,” said Michelle McCaskill, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency.
That policy has produced more scrap metal than Afghanistan has ever seen. It has also led to frustration among Afghans, who feel as if they are being robbed of items such as flat-panel televisions and armored vehicles that they could use or sell — no small thing in a country where the average annual income hovers at just over $500.
In Afghanistan, nicknamed the “graveyard of empires,” foreign forces are remembered for what they leave behind. In the 1840s, the British left forts that still stand today. In the 1980s, the Russians left tanks, trucks and aircraft strewn about the country. The United States is leaving heaps of mattresses, barbed wire and shipping containers in scrap yards near its shrinking bases.
“This is America’s dustbin,” said Sufi Khan, a trader standing in the middle of an immense scrap yard outside Bagram air base, the U.S. military’s sprawling headquarters for eastern Afghanistan.
The scrap yard looks like a post-industrial landfill in the middle of the Afghan desert, a surreal outcropping of mangled metal and plastic. There’s a tower of treadmills 50 feet high and an acre of American buses, trucks and vans, stripped of seats and engines. An ambulance is perched unsteadily atop a pile of scrap, as if it fell from the sky. A mountain of air-conditioning units sits next to a mountain of truck axles.
Finally, since this column is ostensibly about our veterans, I'll leave you with a sobering story this morning
. Our Republican friends have made careers on excoriating immigrants and other "non-Americans" over the past decade. Immigration reform has been a huge roadblock of late, and ignoring the problem has certainly not helped the GOP's cause any. The target, of course, is Mexicans....but what happens when they wear the uniform of the United States, and fight and bleed and indeed, die, for their yet-to-be country?
WASHINGTON — Jesus Magana, an Arizona resident of Mexican descent, protested before the White House Thursday.
"I was in the Army for four years: I fought for my country, I bled, I cried, I ached for this country I love, I was ready to die for this country, and that same country is deporting my family," Magana mourned.
He is part of a group of 44 pro-immigration activists from Tucson and Phoenix who travelled more than 40 hours by bus this week to arrive in Washington and demand that Republican John Boehner, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, finally call for a vote on the issue of immigration reform.
The trip was in vain.
"We arrived on Tuesday morning, we went to his office and his secretary was outside waiting for us. It's quite funny, because there is a sign that says, 'Hi, I'm John Boehner, please come in,' but they did not let us in. They told us his agenda is full and he has no time to talk to us," Magana said.
For two days, the activists stood around the corridors of Congress, "praying and singing psalms for congressmen," but they did not get an appointment, he said.
So on Thursday they moved on to the White House, where they prayed and sang outside in support of the call for immigration reform that US President Barack Obama was making inside to the very same Congress that would not meet with them.
"This is the moment when we should be able to the job done," Obama said in a brief address that focused exclusively on immigration reform.
The reform is an unfulfilled promise of Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, and he renewed it after he achieved re-election last year. Now, after Washington's recent political crisis, Obama has again placed the issue as a legislative priority.
"Now it's up to Republicans in the House to decide whether reform becomes a reality or not," Obama said.
However many times Magana tells his story, tears of sadness and rage well up in his eyes again and again. He and his sister arrived in the United States as kids, with their mother, who just wanted to grant her children a better future.
He is already a US citizen, after doing military service. His sister, however, is being deported. Magana says he is afraid for her and for his nephew, who "is afraid to leave the house because he does not want to go to a country he does not know."
"I don't think a 13-year-old child should live in fear," Magana says.
"Freedom from Fear" was once a cornerstone of domestic war policy. My, how times have changed.