Tuesday, October 25, 2005

IN IRAQ: 2K KIA

Though the caskets have been ordered hidden from view by a White House desperate to diminish the affects of war, today marked a sad passing with the announcement that 2000 U.S. military personnel have now been killed as a result of fighting in Iraq. Though the U.S. military does not publish a cumulative tally of war deaths, news outlets have kept their own records.

According to the Defense Department, more than 15,000 American service members have been wounded since the start of the war in March 2003.

President Bush responded to the deaths by saying, "We've lost some of our nation's finest men and women in the war on terror.... each of these patriots left a legacy that allowed generations of their fellow Americans to enjoy the blessings of liberty."

Many of us had no idea that our liberty was actually being defended in Iraq, or that it ever needed to be defended there in the first place.

Actually it's been quite disheartening to hear key military leaders say that the U.S. presence is actually fueling the insurgency and drawing foreign fighters from throughout the Muslim World. Insurgent attacks have swelled to as many as 80 a day.

The war shows no signs of ending any time soon. Even with U.S. elections looming next year, the Bush Administration says it is poised to stay the course.

At last week's Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice insisted that rebuilding the entire Middle East has been the Bush Administration's mission ever since 9/11. That's a very noble goal, though perhaps quite unrealistic. It's especially odd given that the President spearheading this very effort is the same man who said, during the 200 Presidential campaign, that he was opposed to "nation building." Well region building dwarfs nation building in the same way that rebuilding New Orleans dwarfs rebuilding a few houses. As a result, the mission in the Middle East appears quite open-ended.

The Bush policy in Iraq has been an abject failure. Current and former intelligence officials have concluded that the Administration clearly didn't anticipate or adequately prepare for the insurgency, sent soldiers into combat with insufficient resources, and never put enough troops in Iraq to win the war from the beginning. That's still the case.

If that's the best this administration could do up until now, just imagine how much worse it could get with the amount of pressure now building on the White House from so many angles. Presently, the White House is dealing with the CIA leak investigation, the looming Harriet Miers Supreme Court nomination hearings, and the ire of disappointed conservative leaders, groups and publications. That's not to mention the eventual fallout from the federal deficit, the trade deficit, the health care problem, the exporting of millions of jobs overseas, rising interest rates and the subsequent weakening of a housing market that has sustained the economy for the past few years.

No key players in the war effort have been fired, with the exception of Gen. Eric Shinseki, the former Army Chief of Staff who had the courage to tell the administration that they didn't have enough troops to successfully fight the war. He's since been vindicated, but that surely wasn't what he was hoping for. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who has bungled and misjudged this war from the outset, still has his job and that isn't building confidence in anyone, except for those who are equally inept and hoping to keep their jobs as well.

Now that the alleged Sadddam / al-Qaeda link has been dispelled, and the Administration seems to have "cooked the intelligence" on Saddam's alleged nuclear weapons program, people are asking the obvious question: why have 2000 of our military people died in this escapade? As of today, the appropriate qustion might be Y2K?

It's like the blind are leading the blind in this war, and we Americans have never been given an honest account of the war's true costs in both dollars and lives. That's shameful and reprehensible. It's hard to know who to trust or believe in our government. But one thing we should all count on is that things will continue to get worse in Iraq before they get better. If they ever get better.

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