Defense Secretary Gates Sees Wars Costing $136 Billion More in 2009


January 7, 2009 – Military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan would cost almost $136 billion for the 2009 budget year that began Oct. 1 if they continue at their current pace, Defense Secretary Robert Gates says. He told top lawmakers in a New Year’s Eve letter that the Pentagon would need nearly $70 billion more to supplement the $66 billion approved last year.

“This estimate is my personal assessment and does not reflect the position of the Bush administration or the incoming Obama administration,” Gates said. Congress provided about $188 billion for the global war on terror in 2008, according to the Congressional Research Service. All told, CRS says, Congress has approved $864 billion for the overseas wars and other anti-terrorism programs since Sept. 11, 2001.

Five former Blackwater Worldwide security guards pleaded not guilty yesterday to federal manslaughter and gun charges resulting from a 2007 shooting in a crowded Baghdad square that killed 17 civilians and injured dozens of others. The five, all decorated military veterans, had their plea entered in front of U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina in federal court in Washington.

They are charged with 14 counts of manslaughter, 20 counts of attempted manslaughter and one count of using a machine gun to commit a crime of violence. The last charge, typically used in drug cases, carries a 30-year minimum prison sentence. Urbina set jury selection to begin Jan. 29, 2010, with opening arguments Feb. 1 for former Marines Donald Ball of West Valley City, Utah; Dustin Heard of Knoxville, Tenn.; Evan Liberty of Rochester, N.H.; and Army veterans Nick Slatten of Sparta, Tenn., and Paul Slough of Keller, Texas. Iraq has labeled the guards “criminals” and is watching the case closely. A sixth guard, Jeremy Ridgeway of California, is cooperating with the government.

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