This Week’s Attitude
Iraq War plus 33. That’s not days, but the number of American soldiers who have lost their lives since the hostilities were theoretically over nearly eleven weeks ago. Now the U.S. is in for the long haul, which, to establish some sort of order and stability, military and government officials estimate could take another two to four years.
If the number lost continues at the current rate, it translates to hundreds of Americans dying before troops leave that disaster in the desert. As the Time magazine headline pointedly stated last week, "Peace is Hell."
Hip Hip Hooray, Saddam Hussein is gone! One small victory for mankind. But, whether he’s dead or alive doesn’t seem to matter, unless he’s orchestrating the persistent Iraqi resistance. Whether Saddam’s country was ever used as a staging ground for terrorist attacks matters little when neighboring nations, such as Iran, Syria and, yes, even ally Saudi Arabia, may harbor potential terrorist activity and financial backers.
When he was in power Saddam was obviously a potent threat to his people and, our government assured us, a potential threat to America’s security. If not now then next year, we were told, but eventually a portion of his stockpile of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) would wreak havoc on these shores.
Now that reassurance is being questioned and investigated in the halls of Congress. What did the president know in the days leading up to invading Iraq? This issue is not likely to get swept under any Oval Office rug. Americans are growing restless about President Bush’s motives behind the War in Iraq and military planners’ miscalculated preparation for post-war involvement.
In fact, the arrogant, annoying Defense Secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld, said earlier this week that additional troops will be required to control the enduring guerrilla resistance, and warned that more American soldiers would die in attacks this summer.
How clairvoyant! Did he need a crystal ball to arrive at that prediction?
According to the latest Pentagon figures, there are nearly 150,000 American and 13,000 non-American troops presently serving in Iraq. That’s more than an eleven to one ratio of Americans to coalition forces. That’s what you might call an unbalanced international farce.
The intense fighting may be over, but the rebuilding process is proving too costly in terms of human life, not to mention the drain it’s causing on the nation’s troubled economy. Last week when he testified before a senate committee, Rumsfeld estimated the cost of operations in Iraq was close to $4 billion-a-month, far more than previous projections for the final months of military buildup, the Iraq war itself and postwar military costs.
Remember, that number is over and above the nation’s already steep multibillion-dollar defense budget. Would any administration — Democrat or Republican — ever supplement budgets with equivalent funding to boost education, provide adequate healthcare for every citizen, to find cures for a variety of diseases or anything else?
Additionally, Rumsfeld recently said about half the 60,000 Iraqi police officers needed were now on the job. It is estimated it will take about three years to adequately train and staff a new, 40,000 man Iraqi army.
Retiring General Tommy Franks, commander of the U.S. Central Command in Iraq, indicated at the same hearing that he anticipated no reduction in the United States’ force level for the foreseeable future.
Another day and there’s bound to be another distressing report about another GI death in Iraq. It doesn’t stop. Since May, when President Bush declared the war in Iraq was over — obviously no one informed the opposition — 33 American soldiers (at press time) have been killed by hostile fire. That’s 33 families minus a loved one and 33 grieving families who presumed their sons or daughters were a little safer. Sadly, that’s not the case and won’t be for some time to come.
Washington DC is resplendent with magnificent memorials for the nation’s war dead. The last thing needed, but likely destined for future construction, is a monument for those who lost their lives in Iraq. The sooner authority is transferred to the Iraqi government; the sooner American troops will be withdrawn. That should lessen the nation’s pain but, more significantly, shorten the list of the names of the dead who will be etched on the shrine’s surface.