Good Morning. Ask A Vet returns!
We'll start this morning as we always do, with the latest casualty figures from the warron terra, courtesy of Antiwar.com:
American Deaths in Iraq
Since war began (3/19/03): 3807
Since "Mission Accomplished" (5/1/03): 3668
Since Capture of Saddam (12/13/03): 3346
Since Handover (6/29/04): 2948
Since Election (1/31/05): 2370
Other Coalition Troops: 300
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 447
This morning, we find the Cost of war
$456, 452, 150, 000. 00
And now turning to our friends at IAVA
, we find a couple of interesting stories. The first is about the plight of Iraqi translators. Often, they and their families are the target of retaliation simply for trying to help us Americans. There's a piece of legislation
that is currently pending that may help the situation somewhat.
NEW YORK – In the next week, the Senate will vote on the IAVA-endorsed “Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act” or 2872. This amendment to the Defense Authorization bill expedites visa processing for Iraqi translators and other Iraqis who risk their lives to work with U.S. forces.Many IAVA member veterans feel a deep personal connection to their translators and have worked tirelessly to help bring them to safety in the United States.
Retired Reserve Lt. Col. Michael Zacchea’s unit spent a year training and leading an Iraqi Army battalion in combat. Mike and his unit relied heavily on their translator, Sinan, whose life was frequently threatened for assisting American forces. After 22 months of hard work, Sinan obtained his permanent immigration visa from the United States. Mike plans to meet Sinan when he arrives at Newark Airport this evening. “For three years, Sinan risked his life to assist U.S. troops and better his country. He proved himself countless times in combat alongside my unit, and I am grateful that he will finally be safe,” said Zacchea.
Many Iraqi translators are not as fortunate as Sinan.
“My Iraqi civilian counterpart in Fallujah took the lead in establishing an election site that thousands of Iraqis used during the country’s first national elections. He was a critical member of our team,” said Todd Bowers, IAVA Director of Government Affairs. “Months after I returned home, I received an e-mail from a Marine in the unit that had replaced mine. My Iraqi comrade had been followed and assassinated by insurgents. He was shot twice in the chest and once in the head. The wife and five children he left behind were forced to flee their home.”
“There are thousands of Iraqis who risk their lives every day to support American troops in combat. They and their families are frequently threatened and even killed, yet these brave and dedicated translators remain dedicated to protecting U.S. troops. It is unsafe for them to remain in Iraq, but the process for them to seek asylum in the U.S. is inexcusably long and arduous,” said Paul Rieckhoff, IAVA Executive Director.
“In addition to our nation’s moral obligation to protect these loyal Iraqis, doing so is critical to our success in the battlefield. My translator, Esam, was the most critical weapon I had in Baghdad. Esam’s quick thinking and careful words often saved the lives of my soldiers and countless Iraq civilians,” said Rieckhoff. “Counterinsurgency work relies on keeping good faith with our local allies; abandoning our interpreters would send a terrible signal to anyone thinking of working with American forces.”
“The ‘Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act’, or Amendment 2872 to the DOD Authorization bill, eliminates much of the red tape Iraqi refugees face when they apply for U.S visas and expedites the process for those who are in serious danger because of their association with the U.S,” said Paul Rieckhoff. “Its passage means the difference between life and death for thousands of Iraqis who risk their lives for American troops.”
Also this morning, PBS "NOW" is featuring some video comment about returning veterans and PTSD....are they receiving the care they need?PBS Now
Lastly this morning...a story from across the pond. You may recall that British troops recently pulled out of Basra. Well, the residents are calling the city 'quieter since the British troops left'.
BASRA, Iraq (Reuters) - Residents of Iraq's southern city of Basra have begun strolling riverfront streets again after four years of fear, their city much quieter since British troops withdrew from the grand Saddam Hussein-era Basra Palace.
Political assassinations and sectarian violence continue, some city officials say, but on a much smaller scale than at any time since British troops moved into the city after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
Mortar rounds, rockets and small arms fire crashed almost daily into the palace, making life hazardous for British and Iraqis alike in Iraq's second-largest city. To many Basrans the withdrawal of the British a month ago removed a proven target.
"The situation these days is better. We were living in hell ... the area is calm since their withdrawal," said housewife Khairiya Salman, who lives near the palace.
Civil servant Wisam Abdul Sada agreed. "We do not hear the sounds of explosions which were shaking our houses and terrifying our women and children," he told Reuters.
Basra, in Iraq's Shi'ite south, has enormous strategic importance as the hub for the country's vital oil exports that account for 90 percent of its revenue and a centre of imports and exports throughout the Gulf.
The volatile city has witnessed its share of violence in a sectarian conflict and insurgency that has killed tens of thousands of Iraqis since the 2003 invasion to topple Saddam.
While the British were frequent targets -- 41 soldiers were killed this year, the most since 2003 -- Basra has also been the centre of a turf war between rival Shi'ite groups.
We'll leave it at that today. This week is our annual Athenahealth user's conference
, so I'll be working the floor this morning at the Sheraton in Boston. See everyone after lunch!
And welcome old friends and new faces....let's make this place rock, hmm?