Levees Not War
National Security Begins at Home

Posts Tagged ‘iraq war’

How Many U.S. Soldiers Were Wounded in Iraq?

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

500,000 vets may suffer from PTSD, depression, or traumatic brain injury

Dan Froomkin, senior Washington correspondent for Huffington Post, reports at Nieman Watchdog that the Pentagon’s figure of 32,226 wounded seriously undercounts the true casualty rate. Possibly more than a half million of the 1.5 million Iraq war veterans sustained traumatic brain injury or suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, exposure to hazardous substances, breathing disorders, severe hearing loss, migraines, and other uncounted afflictions. “We don’t have anything close to an exact number,” Froomkin writes, “because nobody’s been keeping track.”

The much-cited Defense Department figure [of 32,226 wounded] comes from its tally of “wounded in action”—a narrowly tailored category that only includes casualties during combat operations who have “incurred an injury due to an external agent or cause.” That generally means they needed immediate medical treatment after having been shot or blown up. Explicitly excluded from that category are “injuries or death due to the elements, self-inflicted wounds, combat fatigue”—along with cumulative psychological and physiological strain or many of the other wounds, maladies and losses that are most common among Iraq veterans.

The article is worth reading in full (so is the entire Harvard-based web site, Nieman Watchdog), but here are a few disturbing highlights:

•  The Pentagon’s Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center reports having diagnosed 229,106 cases of mild to severe traumatic brain injury from 2000 to the third quarter of 2011, including both Iraq and Afghan vets.

•  A 2008 study of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans by researchers at the RAND Corporation found that 14% screened positive for post-traumatic stress disorder and 14% for major depression, with 19% reporting a probable traumatic brain injury during deployment. . . . Applying those proportions to the 1.5 million veterans of Iraq, an estimated 200,000 of them would be expected to suffer from PTSD or major depression, with 285,000 of them having experienced a probable traumatic brain injury.

• Altogether, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America group estimates that nearly 1 in 3 people deployed in those wars suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or traumatic brain injury. That would mean 500,000 of the 1.5 million deployed to Iraq.

• A 2010 Congressional Research Service report, presenting what it called “difficult-to-find statistics regarding U.S. military casualties” offers one indication of how the “wounded in action” category undercounts real casualties. It found that for every soldier wounded in action and medically evacuated from Iraq , more than four more were medically evacuated for other reasons.

•  The VA’s web page on hazardous exposures warns that “combat Veterans may have been exposed to a wide variety of environmental hazards during their service in Afghanistan or Iraq. These hazardous exposures may cause long-term health problems.” The hazards include exposure to open-air burn pits, infectious diseases, depleted uranium, toxic shrapnel, cold and heat injuries and chemical agent resistant paint. The VA provides no estimates of exposure or damage, however.

•  A March 2010 report from the Institute of Medicine concluded that many wounds suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan will persist over veterans’ lifetimes, and some impacts of military service may not be felt until decades later.

A Three- to Five-Billion-Dollar War

It was by including the Iraq war’s un(der)counted casualties that Nobel Prize–winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard professor Linda J. Bilmes estimated the Iraq war would ultimately cost the United States some $3 trillion when all health care costs over the soldiers’ lifetimes are factored in. In 2008 they raised their estimate to $4 or $5 billion. And that’s just the financial cost to the United States.

Whatever the actual numbers are—and the physical and psychic costs are beyond calculation—the American public should press firmly on the White House, Congress, and Veterans Administration secretary Eric K. Shinseki to ensure that veterans receive high-quality physical and psychological care. It is the right thing to do. Most of the U.S. public opposed a war with Iraq until it actually started—on the insistence of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld, among other war hawks—but now that the war has run its bloody course, the nation owes it to the veterans to see that they are cared for and that serious and sustained funds are allocated for job training and health care, physical and mental.

There are about 1.5 million Iraq war veterans, and the experience of Vietnam veterans (and the Bonus Army long before them) shows that these vets, too, will be brushed aside if the public does not stand by them. The countless thousands of homeless, armless, legless, and hopeless Vietnam veterans shames this nation, and should not be repeated. We fear, however, that the conservatives corporate interests that have such outsize influence in Washington will fight any further spending on the veterans with whom the politicians so love to be photographed.

You can help by supporting Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for PeaceMake the Connection, and other organizations that work for veterans and their families listed on the “Anti-War” blogroll at the bottom right of this page. Tell members of Congress to support the Veterans Jobs initiative led by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden to press the private sector to commit to hiring 100,000 veterans and their spouses by the end of 2013. Read more about it here.

*

See also “The Freedom and the Damage Done” in “As ‘End’ of Iraq War Is Announced, U.S. Digs In, Warns Iran” (10/30/11) and “As Combat Troops Leave Iraq, Where’s Our National Security?” (8/19/10).

*

Photo credits: Top photo by Platon, from a portfolio on American soldiers and their families published in the Sept. 28, 2008, issue of The New Yorker. Middle photo shows Bryan Malone, 22, an Army specialist from Haughton, La., while working with a speech pathologist at Vanderbilt Medical Center Aug. 2, 2007, in Nashville. The scar is a result of a rocket attack on a Baghdad gym where Malone was working out. He now suffers from traumatic brain injury, the “silent epidemic” of the Iraq war (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey). Bottom illustration: Red Cross, World War I Red Cross.

Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on Tumblr+1Digg ThisSubmit to redditPin it on PinterestShare via email


As “End” of Iraq War Is Announced, U.S. Digs In, Warns Iran

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

*

[ cross-posted @ Daily Kos ]

*

“In August [2002] a British official close to the Bush team told Newsweek: ‘Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran.’

—Paul Krugman, “Things to Come,” March 18, 2003

*

Where’s That “Mission Accomplished” Feeling?

On Friday, Oct. 21, President Obama announced that “as promised,” by the end of this year, 2011, the last remaining U.S. forces (about 39,000) will leave Iraq and be home in time for the holidays.

A few hours ago I spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki. I reaffirmed that the United States keeps its commitments. He spoke of the determination of the Iraqi people to forge their own future. We are in full agreement about how to move forward. So today, I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over.

The U.S.–Iraq status of forces agreement (2008) worked out between Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki and the George W. Bush administration had provided for continued U.S. military presence of some 50,000 “advise and assist brigades” for security and training until the end of 2011, with a possible extension if negotiated.

As WhiteHouse.gov puts it, “President Obama Has Ended the War in Iraq.” Some 90,000 American combat brigades were withdrawn between early 2009 and August 2010 (see “As Combat Troops Leave Iraq, Where’s Our National Security?”); many were redeployed to Afghanistan. On Sept. 1, 2010, Operation Iraqi Freedom ended and Operation New Dawn commenced.

This month Prime Minister Maliki decided to have all U.S. troops leave by Dec. 31, 2011. By doing so, he would remove a political liability for himself and a social and political irritant, but would also forgo a potential stabilizing force in case of an outbreak of civil war—or of invasion by a foreign power, such as Iran. But the Americans are already negotiating to send a new round of military trainers to Iraq in 2012, along with equipment specialists for the weapons systems the U.S. hopes to sell, and to base a large contingency force nearby in Kuwait (see below). Thus the New Dawn.

Republican reaction to the president’s Oct. 21 announcement was mixed: G.O.P. presidential candidates and senators McCain and Graham denounced the withdrawal; other Republicans expressed approval, relief, or said nothing. (McCain this month recommended U.S. military action against Syria, like that against Libya, “to protect civilian lives.”) For an Iraq war veterans’ perspective on the announced withdrawal, see the statement from Paul Rieckhoff, founder and executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. (IAVA is on our blogroll, bottom left.)

Now that the “cakewalk” we were promised is ending, we have to ask of the George W. Bush foreign policy team (many of whom Mitt Romney wants to hire) and in particular those in Congress who voted to authorize military force against Saddam Hussein in October 2002: Where’s that “Mission Accomplished” feeling?

And where is our national security? How’s that workin’ out?

And to what kind of economy and job prospects are these soldiers returning—those who don’t have to turn right around and go fight in Afghanistan? What “job creators” will hire them? While they were risking their lives amid hardships and dangers that most of us can hardly imagine, what has become of their One Nation Under God? Fortunately for some of them, Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden are leading a Veterans Jobs initiative to press the private sector to commit to hiring 100,000 veterans and their spouses by the end of 2013. That’s not very many jobs, but if it succeeds at all, it will help.

The Freedom and the Damage Done

Regrettably, even though it has been announced that some 40,000 troops like Stratego game board pieces will be returned to home base for a while, and despite the claims of a White House in reelection mode, we and many others do not see The War as ending. Iraq is, or was, only one theater—a particularly misguided, costly, and tragic one—in the larger War on Terror that has in effect already expanded into Pakistan and (hey, why not?) threatens Iran (“Tensions Flare As G.I.s Take Fire Out of Pakistan” [photo below]; “Iran Reacts to Pressure from America”). The United States is not moving from its strategic positions in the Middle East and Central Asia. And the financial costs to the United States, which may reach $3 to 5 trillion, are still being paid, and will paid for decades to come.

Indeed, beyond the financial cost, the damage done to the American economy, the psychic harm to our citizens, both combatant and noncombatant, and to the nation’s culture and political system, are incalculable. If you close your eyes and listen with your heart in the way a psychic or a shaman is able to listen, you might hear a great howl of agony resounding from the nation’s soul, a scream or roar as of a wounded giant that shakes the forests and mountainsides and echoes down the skyscraper canyons of Wall Street, bouncing off the concentric rings of the Pentagon, from all the needless pain inflicted, from the death groans of shattered, burned, eviscerated soldiers who will never come back, and those who are damaged for life, inside and out, in the veterans’ hospitals. And though we turn our iPods or TVs up to full blast, the roars and screams of pain could not be drowned out. If, that is, we could hear them at all. That we cannot hear the howls and cries doesn’t mean they’re not there to be heard.

And then, even harder for us to imagine, is all the pain and destruction suffered by the people of Iraq, the bereft families of the more than 100,000 killed; the massive destabilization of political systems and relations in the Middle East; and the shattering of the ancient social systems, culture, and archaeological heritage, all symbolized by the looting of the National Museum and the torching of books and Korans in the National Library in Baghdad (“stuff happens,” shrugged Donald Rumsfeld), plus the damage to the archaeological heritage in Nineveh, Ur, Babylon, and other sites of irreplaceable relics of the cradle of human civilization around the Tigris and Euphrates with an archaeological record going back 7,000 years that includes the cultures of the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Parthians, Sassanids, and Muslims. (See Chalmers Johnson, “The Smash of Civilizations,” and Frank Rich, “And Now: ‘Operation Iraqi Looting’.”)

 

(more…)
Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on Tumblr+1Digg ThisSubmit to redditPin it on PinterestShare via email


Ten Years of U.S. War in Afghanistan

Saturday, October 8th, 2011

“While post-9/11 veterans are more supportive than the general public, just one-third (34%) say that, given the costs and benefits to the U.S., the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have both been worth fighting.”

—Pew Research Center, “War and Sacrifice in the Post-9/11 Era,” Oct. 2011

*

Is it a rule of the age of the War on Terror(ism) that no armed conflict the U.S. enters ever really ends? Is that what the Defense Department was signaling when it came up with the name Operation Enduring Freedom?

With all the attention this week to Occupy Wall Street and, sadly, the death of Steve Jobs, it was almost possible to not notice the tenth anniversary of the U.S. war in Afghanistan that began on Oct. 7, 2001. But, as we said on September 11, we’re not forgetting.

This war has been the longest in American history for over a year: the milestone was passed in June 2010 when the war entered its 104th month. U.S. involvement in Vietnam is reckoned at 103 months long. U.S. participation in World War II was only 44 months. The Afghan war is now in its 120th month, and the Obama White House and Pentagon see our forces there well into 2014 and beyond.

A majority of the American public has long said this war is not worth fighting. A Pew Research Center poll in June found 56% of Americans—an all-time high—want the U.S. to pull troops out of Afghanistan as soon as possible. Veterans are usually the segment of the population most supportive of military engagements, but a new Pew Research poll, “War and Sacrifice in the Post-9/11 Era,” finds that only one-third of post-9/11 veterans say that, “given the costs and benefits to the U.S., the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have both been worth fighting.” Only one-third of veterans.

And what is Congress doing? What are we telling Congress to do? How do we get their attention?

The White House issued a quiet statement (no graphic pictures of burned or bloody shredded bodies of nineteen-year-olds) noting the sacrifice of some 1,700 American service members in this war, to “honor the memory of the nearly 1,800 American patriots, and many coalition and Afghan partners, who have made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan for our shared security and freedom.” The statement hits all the right notes, if you believe in that kind of thing.

End It Now. Quietly. Steadily. Reinforce the Diplomatic Corps.

What we believe is that the war in Afghanistan is not one that can ever be won. The best that can be done is not through arms but through quiet steady accelerated withdrawal of armed forces and the intelligent application of diplomacy along the lines the late Richard Holbrooke was attempting. Try to forge agreements or alliances between the numerous tribes and ethnic groups and factions within them to provide for their living together with as little violence as possible. Accept the necessity of some diplomatic presence and some foreign aid, with as little interference as possible from neighboring interests (Pakistani, Iranian).

A precise prescription for a diplomatic resolution is beyond our pay grade, to put it lightly—and for all we know it may not be possible even for a diplomat / peace broker of Richard Holbrooke’s or George Mitchell’s capabilities—but we do know the costly military operation is unaffordable for a nation as cash-strapped by under-taxation of its wealthy individuals and effectively non-taxation of its corporations. (Far from the traditional approach of raising taxes during wartime, the Republican-driven U.S. government has been slashing revenues since the Afghan war began.) The United States has already spent some $462 billion in the Afghanistan war, more than 1,700 soldiers have died, and over 14,000 have been wounded in action. The war is approaching a half trillion dollars—a figure that would surely be higher had not the Bush administration siphoned off a great proportion of U.S. “resources” toward the invasion of Iraq from 2003 until they were redirected back to Afghanistan by President Obama in 2009. The war in Iraq has cost $800 billion by the time you read this. And already the Iraq war alone is estimated by Nobel Prize–winning economist Joseph Stiglitz to eventually cost the U.S. $3 trillion.

The present Obama plan announced in June is to wind down the Afghan war by 2014, when the U.S. role will change “from combat to support.” But what does “wind down” mean? How many soldiers will still be stationed there? How many are presently in Iraq? How many military contractors will still be in Afghanistan and Iraq by 2014, and at what cost? The projected reductions will only bring us back to the roughly 65,000 troops that were stationed in Afghanistan when Obama announced the surge. As we pointed out in June,

we still have 85,000 active duty military personnel stationed in Iraq at a monthly cost of about $4 billion. For that matter, U.S. military personnel number some 50,000 in Germany, 35,000 in Japan, and 25,000 in South Korea. How long does the government intend to keep this going?  (“Obama’s Troop Drawdown Is Little, Late, But a Start,” 6/23/11)

(more…)
Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on Tumblr+1Digg ThisSubmit to redditPin it on PinterestShare via email


10th Year of Afghan War Begins

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

America Slogs On, “Dead or Alive”

Briefly, sadly noted: Today, October 7, 2010, begins the tenth year of the U.S. war in Afghanistan. How’s that hunt for Osama bin Laden going? How’s that expansion into Pakistan going? How much taxpayer-supplied money has the U.S. spent on the war in Afghanistan? That we can answer: more than $352 billion (thanks to the National Priorities Project). How many dead? 1,321 U.S., 339 U.K., 472 other: total = 2,132 (per iCasualties.org). These are not statistics, but individual human lives lost forever.

What are they dying for? For how much longer? If “we’re fighting for freedom,” are we free to say “enough”? Free to withhold our taxes from the Pentagon? (Didn’t think so.)

Does “Operation Enduring Freedom” = War That Never Ends?

For the first year or so, we like most Americans agreed with the necessity of an invasion of Afghanistan because we trusted that the U.S. and allied forces actually intended to and would be able to capture bin Laden and crush al Qaeda (and not just drive them down to Pakistan). That was a long time ago. Readers can see our views on the whole damn thing in hard-hitting, award-winning posts like “Deeper into Afghanistan: 360 Degrees of Damnation” and “Afghanistan: More Insane Than a Quagmire.” Other Afghan War pieces can be found here.

Lastly, let us quote again the revealing remarks by former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski that suggest what the U.S. is in for (note the count of 10 years), and the sobering observation by Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit:

“. . . the reality, secretly guarded until now, is . . . [that] . . . it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. . . . That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap. . . . The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter. We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.”

Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter; interview with Le Nouvel Observateur (Paris), January 15–21, 1998

“Notwithstanding the damage al Qaeda and the Taliban have suffered . . . bin Laden’s forces now have the United States where they have wanted it, on the ground in Afghanistan where Islamist insurgents can seek to reprise their 1980s’ victory over the Red Army [of the Soviet Union]. Al Qaeda now has the chance to prove bin Laden’s thesis that the United States cannot maintain long-term, casualty-producing military engagements . . .”

Michael Scheuer, Through Our Enemies’ Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam, and the Future of America (2002)

*

(more…)
Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on Tumblr+1Digg ThisSubmit to redditPin it on PinterestShare via email


Is Katrina More Significant Than September 11?

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

Thoughts on Two American Traumas

[ Cross-posted at Daily Kos. ]

Between 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, which do you think gets most attention, and why?

What if the national focus on 9/11 is exaggerated and the nation should focus instead on 8/29—Hurricane Katrina—as the catastrophe that signifies the greatest threat to America? The fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina has received high-profile attention, marked by the release of feature films (Spike Lee, Harry Shearer), hour-long special reports (Brian Williams, Anderson Cooper), and a presidential address at Xavier University, so we’re not complaining that Katrina has been ignored.

We were in Manhattan on September 11, 2001, and saw men and women in dust- and debris-covered clothing walking the streets in a daze and crossing the 59th Street Bridge into Queens as from an apocalypse. We heard distraught eyewitnesses on pay phones talking about seeing the burning, falling bodies (“Look, Mommy, the birds are on fire”); we have heard first-person accounts from survivors who were just 20 feet away when their coworkers fleeing the burning towers were crushed beneath chunks of falling metal the size of garbage trucks. We’ve heard accounts from neighbors who were trapped on the E train near the World Trade Center while frantic escapees pounded on the doors to get in. The haunting stories, the anguish go on and on. Many others have experienced far worse than we can ever imagine. So, the following thoughts are by no means intended to diminish the trauma of September 11 or the necessity of dealing with al Qaeda and other extremist threats.

Anorexia of the Homeland: Making War While “Starving the Beast”

And yet we think maybe the challenges this nation faces are more accurately represented by the natural and bureaucratic/political disaster suffered on August 29, 2005, and in the following days, weeks, months, years. The United States is falling apart from a lack of funding of every kind of infrastructure—resulting from neglect, indifference, and a mean-spirited conservative agenda that seeks to roll back the progressive reforms of the 20th century. Our nation is in a downward spiral because of political unwillingness to protect the environment and our fellow citizens who are poor, jobless, homeless, in need of medical care and decent education. Our coasts and cities are vulnerable because of long-term environmental neglect and denial of the effects of industry—global warming, rising sea levels, intensified storms resulting from warming seas—and because corporate-captive politicians of both parties have put industrial and political interests ahead of what’s best for the planet, humanity, and other life forms. Even if 9/11 had never happened, all these conditions would still threaten our way of life.

(more…)

Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on Tumblr+1Digg ThisSubmit to redditPin it on PinterestShare via email


As Combat Troops Leave Iraq, Where’s Our National Security?

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Out of Iraq, on to Afghanistan

The last combat troops have left Iraq, as a convoy of the 4th Stryker Brigade rumbled in the wee hours of August 19, 2010, from Iraq toward U.S. bases in Kuwait. At the end of August, Operation Iraqi Freedom will end and 50,000 advisory and security troops will remain in Iraq until the end of 2011 for a new phase to be known as Operation New Dawn. (May we have a new dawn in the United States, please?—or is it not “morning in America” anymore?)

Michael Gordon of the New York Times reports here on how the U.S. State Department, with about 2,400 civilian employees protected by up to 7,000 private security guards, will continue the training of Iraqi police and assist with political stabilization and other functions—including counterterrorism—in an effort to help Iraq rebuild without the presence of U.S. combat troops. The 2,400 civilian State Department employees will work at the Baghdad embassy and regional outposts in Mosul, Kirkuk, and at consulates in Erbil and Basra. Gordon writes:

The startup cost of building and sustaining two embassy branch offices—one in Kirkuk and the other in Mosul—and of hiring security contractors, buying new equipment and setting up two consulates in Basra and Erbil is about $1 billion. It will cost another $500 million or so to make the two consulates permanent. And getting the police training program under way will cost about $800 million.

So, the combat forces are withdrawing, returning to the Homeland. Some soldiers will get to rejoin their families after a long time away—we wish them well—and others will have to redeploy in maybe six months to Afghanistan, where Obama’s surge continues.

Where’s That “Mission Accomplished” Feeling?

It is surely a good thing that the combat forces are withdrawing from Iraq, but why don’t we feel any pleasure or pride? What has been accomplished, aside from doubling the price of a gallon of gas and making Iran the main power in the region? The soldiers themselves surely feel some pride and relief, and after all their hard work they deserve more than a good cigar. But what have we gained? Where is the security? The United States is immeasurably poorer, more weak and divided than when this war began—economically, socially, politically. As of this writing, 4,415 American soldiers are dead; tens of thousands are wounded, many critically, missing limbs, and some with unimaginable brain and neurological injuries, and alarming numbers have committed suicide: 27 in July alone, 32 in June. (In addition to all the Iraqi dead—estimates are around 100,000—there have been 179 British dead and 139 from other Coalition nations.) And then there’s the psychological, soul damage the soldiers suffer, and the broken marriages, the frayed family relationships, the children who have grown from infants to eight- and ten-year-olds hardly even knowing their fathers or mothers who have been away on multiple deployments and come home virtually strangers with scant job prospects here in the Homeland. But Saddam Hussein is no longer in power, so maybe it’s all worthwhile.

(more…)

Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on Tumblr+1Digg ThisSubmit to redditPin it on PinterestShare via email


Declare Independence from Endless War

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., “Declaration of Independence from the War in Vietnam,” Riverside Church, New York City, April 4, 1967

While we’re enjoying good old-fashioned 4th of July cookouts, fireworks, and other traditional Independence Day pleasures, let’s also take some time to remember the soldiers far away in Iraq and Afghanistan who are not with their families, as well as those who are recovering (we hope) in military hospitals, and let’s begin mentally drafting letters and phone call messages to the White House and Congress to demand the nation’s independence from those unaffordable wars. Bring the troops home already. We can’t wait until July 2011, which Obama suggested as a potential beginning of a drawdown when he announced the 30,000-troop escalation at West Point last December when the Afghan war was already in its eighth year. (See our assessment of the president’s decision to escalate, “Deeper into Afghanistan: 360 Degrees of Damnation.”)

The explosive revelations in Michael Hastings’s Rolling Stone article “The Runaway General” were only superficially about Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s trash-talking Obama’s national security team. It may be that in the long term the most damaging consequences will be the revelations that the troops in Afghanistan do not support the vaunted counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy for which the additional 30,000+ troops have been “surged” into the hell-hole, and even McChrystal himself has doubts that the COIN strategy can work there (see “Afghanistan: More Insane Than a Quagmire” below). We expect no substantial changes under Gen. David Petraeus, whose 99–o approval by the Senate on June 30 can only be interpreted as a license to do as he will, for as long as he pleases, whatever it may cost.

Costs of War: Unaffordable, Unsustainable, Unconscionable

This past week, when Senate Republicans and Ben Nelson (D-NE) warmed up the nation for the 4th of July festivities by filibustering for a third straight time an extension of unemployment benefits for millions of jobless Americans—15 million are out of work, about the number who were unemployed when Franklin Roosevelt took office in 1933—the House approved $80 billion for Afghan war funding. Sounds just like the Bush years. The Center for American Progress reports that “as of July 3, an estimated 1.7 million workers will lose their benefits. If this drags on through July, a total of 3.2 million workers will lose their benefits.”

Think Progress reports that 17 senators from states with double-digit jobless rates have repeatedly voted to filibuster unemployment benefits. Click the chart to read all about it.

(more…)

Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on Tumblr+1Digg ThisSubmit to redditPin it on PinterestShare via email


Tax Day: How Much Have You Paid for the War?

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Most likely you’ve paid $7,334 of the $1.05 trillion that has gone to the Afghan and Iraq wars since 2001. Here is Tom Englehardt’s compelling introduction at TomDispatch.com to a piece (below the jump) by Jo Comerford, executive director of the National Priorities Project, with data supplied by the NPP’s CostofWar.com:

If you’re an average American taxpayer, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have, since 2001, cost you personally $7,334, according to the “cost of war” counter created by the National Priorities Project (NPP). They have cost all Americans collectively more than $980,000,000,000. As a country, we’ll pass the trillion dollar mark soon. These are staggering figures and, despite the $72.3 billion that Congress has already ponied up for the Afghan War in 2010 ($136.8 billion if you add in Iraq), the administration is about to go back to Congress for more than $35 billion in outside-the-budget supplemental funds to cover the president’s military and civilian Afghan surges. When that passes, as it surely will, the cumulative cost of the Afghan War alone will hit $300 billion, and we’ll be heading for two trillion-dollar wars.

In the meantime, just so you know, that $300 billion, according to the NPP, could have paid for healthcare for 131,780,734 American children for a year, or for 53,872,201 students to receive Pell Grants of $5,550, or for the salaries and benefits of 4,911,552 elementary school teachers for that same year.

April 15th is almost upon us, and Jo Comerford, TomDispatch regular as well as the NPP’s executive director, decided to take a look at one restive American community under the gun (so to speak) as tax day rolls around again. Our wars seem—and are—so far away, so divorced from American lives. If someone you know well hasn’t been wounded or killed in one of them, it can be hard to grasp just how they are also wounding this society. Here’s one way. (Check out as well Timothy MacBain’s latest TomCast audio interview in which Comerford discusses military spending and the federal budget by clicking here or, if you prefer to download it to your iPod, here.) —Tom

[H/T to Dan Froomkin @ HuffPo ]

(more…)
Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on Tumblr+1Digg ThisSubmit to redditPin it on PinterestShare via email