Today is our 348th day back in Iraq.
There have been no new casualties in either theater.
We find this morning's Cost of War
passing through: $ 1, 618, 264, 970, 000 . 00
Let's dive right in with a little flashback. A decade on, our origins may have become a wee bit murky, but I can trace this blog back to a segment done by Dr. Maddow on her old radio show - actual veterans would come on the show and take calls from listeners about what it was like being "in-country". We've gotten far away from that these days, but we'll start with an article along those lines
, curiously filed under "entertainment" at my primary military news source. It's worth it to read it all.
Sure, in theory it would be nice to tell loved ones the truth, but there are plenty of times when it’s probably a bad idea. Or maybe the truth doesn’t live up to loved ones’ expectations. Either way, here are 9 lies that usually do the trick:
1. “No, we never go outside the wire.” (or “We go on tons of missions.”)
Everyone knows the grunts go out constantly, but for support soldiers it’s a crapshoot. Some will go out constantly; some rarely. Oddly, both groups lie about it. Support soldiers who are with infantry their whole deployment will tell their parents they’re staying safely inside the wire. Guys who never leave the wire will tell outlandish stories about combat.
Sure, it was meant as a slightly amusing piece, but there's certainly a ring of truth to it. But it also serves to highlight the differences between military and civilian life. Hollywood and the media go a long way towards reinforcing those stereotypes, but it's resulted in an increasing divide between "us" and "them"
. I can look at the older generations in my family and list all my elders that wore the uniform. But now among my contemporaries...I have 3 immediate cousins that served, but all of them in the 1980s before this all happened. I presently do not personally know anyone on active duty.
REPORTING FROM Fort BRAGG, N.C. -- Jovano Graves' parents begged him not to join the Army right out of high school in 2003, when U.S. troops were fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But their son refused his parents' pleas to try college. He followed them both into the Army instead.
Last June, 11 years later, Staff Sgt. Jovano Graves returned home from Afghanistan, joining his mother, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Sonia Graves-Rivers, for duty here at Fort Bragg.
"My family, going way, way back, has always felt so proud to be Americans," said Graves-Rivers, who comes from a family in which military service spans six generations, starting with her great-great-grandfather, Pfc. Marion Peeples, who served in a segregated black unit during World War I.
Her father, Cpl. Harvey Lee Peeples, fought in the Vietnam War. Her uncle, Henry Jones, was career Air Force. Another uncle, Sgt. 1st Class Robert Graves, spent 22 years in the Army. Her sister, Janice, served 24 years.
"In our family, there's a deep sense that being American means serving -- showing gratitude by giving back to your country," Graves-Rivers said.
Multi-generational military families like the Graveses form the heart of the all-volunteer Army, which increasingly is drawing its ranks from the relatively small pool of Americans with historic family, cultural or geographic connections to military service.
While the U.S. waged a war in Vietnam 50 years ago with 2.7 million men conscripted from every segment of society, less than one-half of 1 percent of the U.S. population is in the armed services today -- the lowest rate since World War II. America's recent wars are authorized by a U.S. Congress whose members have the lowest rate of military service in history, led by three successive commanders in chief who never served on active duty.
Surveys suggest that as many as 80 percent of those who serve come from a family in which a parent or sibling is also in the military. They often live in relative isolation -- behind the gates of military installations such as Fort Bragg or in the deeply military communities like Fayetteville, N.C., that surround them.
The segregation is so pronounced that it can be traced on a map: Some 49 percent of the 1.3 million active-duty service members in the U.S. are concentrated in just five states -- California, Virginia, Texas, North Carolina and Georgia.
The U.S. military today is gradually becoming a separate warrior class, many analysts say, that is becoming increasingly distinct from the public it is charged with protecting.
So now we'll take a step back and take a slightly more clinical view. With the growing divide going on, and a very nebulous "war" happening against ISIS back in Iraq, it's becoming ever more difficult to get broader support for a continuation of what we're doing. Think about it - Even though there wasn't active shooting for many of those years, we have been tangled up with Iraq in one way or another since January 16, 1991. A child born on the eve of the invasion would now be 24 years old - well old enough to don a uniform and head off to the same place. This is quite unprecedented in American history. The Cold War may have lasted a generation or two, but an actual, shooting war? This is new. So as a recent editorial asks, Who's still willing to fight for Iraq these days, anyway
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s recent assessment of Iraqi security forces was impolitic and true, and rarely voiced by senior officials. After the devastating loss of the Iraqi city of Ramadi to the Islamic State in May, he told CNN that while Iraqi troops vastly outnumbered the brutal extremists, they “just showed no will to fight.”
Mr. Carter’s stark judgment once again raises the question of how long the United States should continue arming and training Iraqis and dropping bombs on targets related to the Islamic State, a Sunni Muslim group also known as ISIS or ISIL. If the Iraqis don’t care enough to defend and sacrifice for their own country, then why should the United States?
The American strategy is based on building up local security forces that can back up American airstrikes by recapturing territory and then holding it. Presuming ISIS is ever defeated, no peace can be sustained if Iraqis aren’t committed to preserving it.
It was no surprise that Iraqi leaders reacted angrily to Mr. Carter’s remarks, prompting Vice President Joseph Biden to call Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi last Monday to reassure him of continued American support.
But diplomatic words could not paper over the contradictatory messages after Ramadi fell. The White House acknowledged a serious setback there, but made a point of highlighting instances, like the April fight to reclaim Tikrit, when Iraqi forces “performed well on the battlefield.” A senior State Department official said that while the Ramadi defeat was “very serious” and a counteroffensive will “take some time,” Iraqi units did not completely collapse, as they did during last year’s battle over Mosul. That is not much of an endorsement.
On the Iraqi side, a spokesman admitted to mismanagement and poor planning by some senior military commanders, but other Iraqi officials pointed a finger at Washington, complaining of delayed American weapons deliveries, overcautious use of airstrikes and other failings. With ISIS tightening its grip on the Sunni-dominated Anbar Province, the Americans have promised to rush 1,000 rockets to help counter the vehicles laden with massive bombs that ISIS used in capturing Ramadi, including 10 that had the explosive power of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
The Americans are also considering training a cadre of Iraqi special forces to help pinpoint targets to carry out airstrikes more quickly and expanding the training of regular Iraqi forces. The United States has 3,000 military trainers and advisers in Iraq, but there is no serious discussion of adding ground troops overtly desginated for combat — nor should there be.
So now, with a presidential election in the offing, it's interesting to see how the candidates are lining up around the elephant in the room. It seems like we've been having this argument for a very long time. What's truly disturbing is that the choices already seem to be boiling down to revisionist history vs. staying the course...what we really need is somebody to get us out of this mess.