Today is our 1,875th day in Iraq.
We'll start as we always do, with the latest casualty figures from the warron terra, courtesy of Antiwar.com:
Since war began (3/19/03): 4071
Since "Mission Accomplished" (5/1/03): 3932
Since Capture of Saddam (12/13/03): 3610
Since Handover (6/29/04): 3212
Since Election (1/31/05): 2634
Other Coalition Troops: 309
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 496
We find this morning's cost of war
passing through: $ 517, 247, 975, 000 .00
Here at Ask a Vet, we often overlook Afghanistan in the glare of Iraq...but today we'll take a little closer look at this forgotten front.
We all know how succesful "The Surge" was in Iraq...so naturally the Pentagon can't wait to try it in Afghanistan.
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is considering sending as many as 7,000 more American troops to Afghanistan next year to make up for a shortfall in contributions from NATO allies, senior Bush administration officials said.
Marines returned fire on Taliban positions on Friday in Helmand Province. The Pentagon is looking at plans to send up to 7,000 more troops to Afghanistan, to make up for a shortfall from NATO allies.
They said the step would push the number of American forces there to roughly 40,000, the highest level since the war began more than six years ago, and would require at least a modest reduction in troops from Iraq.
The planning began in recent weeks, reflecting a growing resignation to the fact that NATO is unable or unwilling to contribute more troops despite public pledges of an intensified effort in Afghanistan from the presidents and prime ministers who attended an alliance summit meeting in Bucharest, Romania, last month.
The shortfalls in troop commitments have cast doubt on claims by President Bush and his aides that NATO was stepping up to provide more help in Afghanistan, where the government of President Hamid Karzai faces a resurgent threat from the Taliban and remnants of Al Qaeda.
The increasing proportion of United States troops, from about half to about two-thirds of the foreign troops in Afghanistan, would be likely to result in what one senior administration official described as “the re-Americanization” of the war.
“There are simply going to be more American forces than we’ve ever had there,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing future military planning.
A dozen NATO countries have pledged a total of about 2,000 troops, according to senior NATO officials, who provided the information on condition of anonymity according to standard diplomatic rules. Senior alliance commanders in Afghanistan have said they need about 10,000 more troops.
Only one country so far has actually begun preparing more troops to deploy: France, which is sending 700 to Afghanistan, NATO officials said.
Few of the additional troops are expected to arrive any time soon, the officials added.
Of course, this jells nicely with Sen. John "Hundred Years War" McCain's future plans...but somebody has to fill those uniforms. Since we don't have a draft [yet], the army has to continually lower it's standards. Is this really the best way to run an army?
When it comes to recruiting troops, just how badly are things going? Well, that depends on how you define "bad."
If having a military sprinkled with felons sounds good to you, then things are going just fine.
But if the thought of sending folks who were convicted of crimes such as theft, drug offenses (other than ones involving marijuana) as well as those who have committed sex crimes, manslaughter and aggravated assault -- some with weapons -- to represent us in Iraq alarms you, brace yourself. You are living in alarming times.
Never mind that the military has also been granting waivers to recruits who haven't graduated from high school. According to The Associated Press, "the Army and Marine Corps brought in significantly more recruits with felony convictions last year than in 2006." While there's something to be said for a sentence served and the grace of redemption, violent ex-convicts (especially for sexual assault, given the high rate of rape and sexual harassment already suffered by female troops) shouldn't be armed and sent overseas.
Add those guys to the thugs employed by some of the security contractors representing the U.S. in Iraq and it's clear that we've given up even the appearance of military honor. And what a blow this is to the top-notch men and women who have dedicated their lives to serving their country. If recruiting felons is our only alternative to a mandatory draft, it's obvious that this war isn't seen as worth fighting by most -- hence the lack of quality recruits.
We couldn't "win" this war for all the oil in the Middle East, and admitting as much is not placing the blame on the troops -- it's placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of those who manufactured a false case for the invasion and occupation of a country that posed not one iota of threat to the U.S.
And we sure as heck can't win it with an exhausted army patched up with the criminal and the undereducated. This is yet another sign that we need to change the strategy in Iraq -- it's time for a gradual troop withdrawal.
Lastly this morning....I pay far too much attention to the big picture and the high-level things going on for our veterans. Not that that's a bad thing, but there are hundreds of local groups throughout America supporting the troops. A friend of mine recently handed me a business card for Operation American Soldier
, based in neighboring Watertown, MA. Their premise is simple...'No soldier walks away from mail call empty-handed.'
Sometimes I wonder why I volunteered to serve this country. Our Commander-in-Chief has ordered us to Iraq or Afghanistan or some other remote country. For some of us, this is the first time we have been away from home. I've made some of the greatest friends I'll ever have, actually they are now my "family". We have shared some of the most interesting, wonderful and frightening moments you can imagine.
The best part of the day (or worst) is "Mail Call". Hearing from home, knowing that someone cares helps me continue day after day. It reinforces my commitment to keeping our country safe. But today, just like so many other days, my name isn't called. Remind me again, Why am I here?
Then a package arrives from someone I don't know. It's addressed to me! A box filled with letters of encouragement, food that is familiar and comforting, books, magazines and other fun stuff. You know what, people do care! We are not forgotten!
Operation American Soldier began when my daughter Tracy was in Iraq. After hearing that some of the other soldiers weren't receiving any support form home, we thought we should help. So we asked from some names and addresses to ship to. Each box contained a letter from us asking if there were any other soldiers that needs support. Well our list of soldiers grew and grew.
Eventually we thought we should ask the community to help us with this program. Sometimes the local newspaper will run a community note . Sometimes we will find boxes of goodies left at our front door. Once in a while we have a nice financial donation to help with the shipping costs. We have shipped to more than 500 soldiers, 9000+ pounds of cheer so far! We ship to Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, we have shipped to Chaplains, The Red Cross. Combat Support Hospitals. Our packages have gone to Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and even Cuba
Our goal is simple. We will send packages and letters to as many soldiers as
possible, for as long as we can. We will try to bring a little bit of cheer and maybe a smile to the brave men & women that serve in harms way.
This is the group that took all the items the Cub Scout Pack collected over the holidays. Like the army, the "support the troops" movement also depends on 'boots on the ground'. If you can...seek out the veterans support groups in your area, and make sure they know who you are and why you give. All us liberals are Americans, too.