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Author: TriSec    Date: 09/01/2015 09:36:51

Good Morning.

Today is our 439th day back in Iraq.

There were two recent casualties in Afghanistan - US soldiers serving with NATO were killed by a gunman dressed in an Afghan army uniform.

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN)Two NATO service members were killed Wednesday in southern Afghanistan after coming under fire from men wearing the uniforms of Afghan security forces.

NATO service members fired back, killing the attackers, the organization's Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan said in a statement.

It didn't disclose the identities of the service members who were killed, saying that would be left to the relevant national authorities.

Afghan and NATO officials are still looking into the circumstances of the firefight, which took place early Wednesday at an Afghan security forces compound in the southern province of Helmand, the Resolute Support statement said.

It wasn't immediately clear if the attackers were members of the Afghan security forces or had obtained the uniforms by other means.

We find this morning's Cost of War passing through:

$ 1, 636, 524, 600, 000 .00

Speaking of the Cost of War, there's a rumor starting to circulate that we've spent more money in Afghanistan alone than was spent in all of Europe during the Marshall Plan. Of course it sounds iffy, but I regret that Politifact has rated it as "Mostly True".

The Truman administration and Congress created the Marshall Plan to stabilize the economies of Western Europe. In the early part, the program delivered hard goods such as food, animal feed, fertilizer and fuel. Later, direct aid shifted to providing raw materials and production equipment.

Aid also came in the form of grants and loans. In the dollars of the time, spending reached $10.3 billion. About half was invested in power plants, roads, railroads and agriculture. Another portion went towards debt relief. There were loan guarantees to spur American firms to invest in Europe.

Charles Maier, a Harvard historian, is a leading authority on post-World War II Europe. Maier told us that making comparisons across a span of more than 50 years is "notoriously tricky." The circumstances on the ground in Europe in the later 1940s and Afghanistan today are fundamentally different, Maier said.

"The European countries — outside Greece — were really functioning administrative systems," Maier said. "Few of those societal infrastructures have been operative in Afghanistan. Also, when the aid was being provided, there was no fighting in the recipient countries, except for the civil war in Greece, 1946-49."

Maier also emphasized that while the inflation-adjusted dollars might put the Afghanistan price tag above that of the Marshall Plan, when compared to the size of the American economy at the time, the Marshall Plan represented a much heftier commitment than U.S. aid to Afghanistan.

U.S. GDP then and now

During the years of the Marshall Plan, the size of the U.S. economy was in the neighborhood of $310 billion (in dollars at that time). So, with total spending of $10.3 billion on European reconstruction, the Marshall Plan represented about 4.3 percent of average GDP.

Maier then contrasted that with the Afghanistan spending between 2002 and 2014. During those years, the economy averaged about $14.3 trillion. The money spent on Afghanistan represented about 0.75 percent of average GDP.

"That's about one-twentieth of the Marshall Plan burden," Maier said. "This seems a much more rational way of thinking about the burden the U.S. was bearing."

Seen through the lens of the strain on the American economy, the Marshall Plan required more effort than rebuilding Afghanistan.

Our ruling

Wuerker said that the United States has spent more for Afghanistan reconstruction than it did to rebuild Europe under the Marshall Plan. While the math behind the claim adds up, it's important to know that the reconstruction programs are not identical.

The Marshall Plan spent no funds on military projects, while about 60 percent of Afghanistan aid was spent on security. The Marshall Plan was entirely focused on economic investments, while the spending in Afghanistan has been weighted much more toward establishing a secure space in which economic growth can occur.

The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information. We rate it Mostly True.

Of course, that's overseas spending. You may have heard that the Army just awarded a multi-billion dollar contract to replace the Humvee and MRAPs that we've been using for a while now. And then there's my favorite money-suck, the F-35 "Flying Turd". Of course it's meant to be a "do-everything" aircraft, but it couldn't beat an F-16 in a fair fight...one of the planes it's supposed to replace.

WASHINGTON -- The F-35 Lightning II passed a major milestone last month when the Marine Corps declared it operational, but the accomplishment has not silenced critics.

A Washington think tank released a report Tuesday that found the 5th-generation jet – billed as the world's most advanced fighter – will be outmaneuvered in dogfights with current Russian and Chinese jets as well as the U.S. aircraft it is slated to replace. The report comes after details were leaked last month on a test flight where the F-35 was bested in most aerial maneuvering by an F-16.

"The F-35 will find itself outmaneuvered, outgunned, out of range, and visible to enemy sensors," according to Bill French, a policy analyst with the National Security Network, a progressive think tank that claims to challenge overly militarized conservative defense policies. "Staying the present course [on the aircraft program] may needlessly gamble away a sizable margin of American airpower at great expense and unnecessary risk to American lives."
After 14 years and over $390 billion invested, the first F-35s entered service just two weeks ago when the Marines completed a battery of tests on a squadron of Harrier variants in Yuma, Ariz., and declared it ready for deployment around the world. Navy and Air Force variants are still being developed, and U.S. weapons contractor Lockheed Martin is working to overcome software and engine difficulties.

The Defense Department says the joint strike fighter will bring cutting-edge technology to the battlefield and become the backbone of United States air power over the next five decades. Congress has backed the program as a costly but necessary upgrade following years of delays, massive cost overruns and a final price tag estimated at $1.4 trillion.

We'll finish up today with a story from the 1980s. Most of us are familiar with Agent Orange. As it turns out, after the war in Vietnam, the stuff was never disposed of properly, and some of it wound up randomly buried at an airbase on Okinawa. In any case, you could probably imagine what happened. The VA has just admitted that exposure was the probable cause for the cancers and illnesses many of the discovering soldiers had in the ensuing years.

In a ruling this month, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' appeals board told Roberts that the prostate cancer he was diagnosed with in 2006 was due to "exposure to hazardous chemicals."

Roberts, now 61, said he experienced several medical issues, including strokes and blackouts, when he returned from Okinawa.

"Things just weren't working," he said. "I was was passing out ... and I had no idea what was causing it."

He and his men had moved the barrels onto trucks that were taken off the island, then submerged themselves in water at the site where the barrels had been after a typhoon flooded the area.

Roberts thought nothing at the time of the potential health effects of interacting with the barrels, which he said had rust that was the reddish-orange color of Agent Orange. "In 1981, Agent Orange was really no big deal," he said. "We weren't working in any protective gear."

Based on photographs of the barrels and a doctor's report that Roberts' prostate cancer may have been caused by exposure to chemicals, the Veterans Appeals Board said in a letter to Roberts this month that "the benefit of the doubt has been given in your favor."

"We have conceded your exposure to hazardous chemicals and granted service for prostate cancer," the letter says, which means there could be a connection between the two, Roberts said.

The letter denies that the chemical in the barrels was Agent Orange.

The Department of Veterans Affairs did not return a request for comment from The Sentinel, but in a statement sent to National Public Radio, U.S. Forces Japan said they did not have evidence that the material Roberts and his men saw was Agent Orange.

"The Department of Defense remains committed to working closely with the Government of Japan on this issue," the statement said. "If in the future we discover any evidence that Herbicide Orange was ever stored on, used in, or transported through Okinawa, we will be sure to share it with the Government of Japan without delay and take appropriate action."

Other veterans who served at Futenma have claimed to have medical problems due to moving the barrels, Roberts said.

Roberts won't get any monetary compensation from the VA -- he has already "maxed out" on his benefits from other injuries and illnesses.

But it's not about the money, he said. "He hopes the ruling will lead to other veterans getting recognition and compensation for the time they spent in Okinawa.

Dr. Maddow once said that the war in Iraq won't really end until the last veteran dies screaming in his sleep perhaps 60 years from now....but what kind of chemical and environmental surprises are yet to be uncovered?

28 comments (Latest Comment: 09/02/2015 03:34:04 by Will in Chicago)
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