Coalition losses total 4052 military deaths. Of course, that's today. Accurate casualty figures have a very short shelf life and the number only increases. On the Iraqi side, as many as 90,778 have died.
Those costs are permanent, the money wasted will never be regained and the fallen will never rise again. Other costs are likewise permanent, but go unmeasured or when they are documented, go largely ignored by a media fascinated by a presidential campaign at home and war fatigue among the public.
News & Observer (N. Carolina), "Combat vets face hurdles as students":
Spc. Natasha McKinnon survived losing part of her left leg to an improvised bomb in Iraq. Now that she's back, she's trying to find her balance in college life. Sometimes she can't recall a professor's name. She loses track of test dates. Occasionally, she forgets she has pulled off her prosthetic leg to rest her stump during a long lecture, only to tilt off balance when she tries to stand.
As tens of thousands of veterans of the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq try to collect on their promised college benefits, McKinnon and others are finding that their combat experience complicates the transition from soldier to student.
Some have trouble collecting the government money that is supposed to pay for college, or they discover that the benefits aren't nearly enough to cover tuition and other bills. While their classmates complain about homework and hangovers, many vets struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, the effects of traumatic brain injury, lost limbs and a range of chronic medical problems.
"Not only am I a full-time student," McKinnon told the paper, "I'm a full-time patient. It takes a toll, mentally and physically. Sometimes I'm there in class, but only in body. Not in mind."
There are moves out there to make the lives of student vets like McKinnon's a little easier. Enter the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2007. This has widely been reported as an "expansion" of the WWII-era Montgomery G.I. Bill, but it's really just an update. According to the Inside Higher Ed, "The bill would enable eligible veterans to receive payments covering tuition -- up to the cost of in-state tuition at the most expensive public college in a veteran’s home state -- room and board, fees, educational costs and a $1,000 monthly stipend." We aren't talking about sending vets to Harvard or Yale here; this would allow them to enroll in state universities.
Of course, the Pentagon and John McCain oppose the bill -- which otherwise has bipartisan support. "Officials in charge of Pentagon personnel worry that a more generous and expansive GI Bill would create an incentive for troops to get out of the military and go to college," ABC News reported. Do they really need an incentive? You'd think a pointless and needless war would be incentive enough.
For his part, McCain has offered an alternative bill. Not surprisingly, it's a freakin' joke. "The McCain-sponsored bill aims to increase the $1,100 per month active-duty service members now get for educational expenses to $1,500." reports The Hill. "The sum would increase to $2,000 per month for a member who served on active duty 12 years or more."
Let me repeat that -- under McCain's bill, you'd have to serve for twelve years in order to qualify for just $2,000 a month. And, for people enlisting today, that's not $2,000 today dollars, that's $2,000 2020 dollars. Figure in projected inflation and that's $1,516.51. You know what? You might as well take that $1,500 and get out as soon as possible, while you're actually college-aged. There's your "incentive for troops to get out of the military and go to college." McCain apparently shares Bush's math skills, which have us shoveling $3 trillion down a rat hole while cutting taxes for the wealthy.
Of course, that's not the only program Baghdad John has in mind for military personnel. A new Democratic National Committee ad reminds us of McCain's jobs program:
On the plus side, McCain's "hundred years in Iraq" means jobs for life -- if you can call that a plus. It also means shoveling trillions more down that aforementioned rat hole.
John McCain has been running as America's leading veteran. But veterans would be right to ask him, "What have you done for me lately?" Under President McCain, they'd get endless war, joke benefits, and -- assuming they ever get out -- they'll come home to a ruined economy.
If that's leadership, John McCain can keep it.
Technorati tags: politics; war; Iraq; Afghanistan; Republican; elections; 2008; G.I. Bill; Jim Webb; The bad news is John McCain's education benefits for veterans, the worse news is his century-long jobs program