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View From Lodi, CA: So When Can We Leave Iraq?
Things in Iraq keep rolling on. One week is pretty much like the week that preceded it.
American and Iraqi casualties mount up with little interest shown by the American public and even less concern. Last Monday, a terror bomb blast in Hilla killed 120 and injured 170. Yet few talk about changing the status quo.
The U.S. fatality count now stands at 1,500. February, when 58 troops were killed, is the lightest month for U.S. deaths since July 2004.
Iraqi security forces die dozens at time without anyone in the White House blinking. We would do well to remember that these soldiers are our allies. The U.S. cannot be successful—if such a word is possible to use in reference to Iraq—without them.
The insurgency is unbowed. The Bush administration has no idea how many insurgents there are so it would be hard to claim that they are being successfully thwarted.
Retired Army Col. Andrew Bacevich, a Boston University international relations professor, confirmed that the Pentagon had no idea what the composition and organization of the insurgency is, let alone how to defeat it.
While the rebels cannot beat the U.S. forces militarily, they will always find ways to undermine their strength and cohesion.
Concluded Bacevich, "The war is basically stalemated as a military contest."
Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in a speech to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, said that in the past century, insurgencies have lasted anywhere from seven to 12 years.
Myers added that a quick solution in Iraq is "unlikely."
According to Cato Institute defense analyst Ted Carpenter, parallels can be drawn between U.S.-Iraq and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Both conflicts matched superpowers versus tenacious Muslim insurgents.
What's more, the recent level of U.S. casualties in Iraq, averaging about 65 per month, resembles the pattern of Soviet losses in Afghanistan.
By the time the Soviets finally pulled out after a decade of futility, Russian fatalities exceeded 15,000.
Ignoring the obvious—that invading countries cannot, under any circumstances, defeat homegrown insurgents—Bush insists that things in Iraq are getting better by the day.
But anyone who dares to ask President Bush what the long-range plans are for Iraq, he has a pat answer: "You don't set time tables."
The universal wisdom is that the Iraqi parliamentary elections were a huge success.
I have a slightly different take. The elections were a "limited" success. Despite 275,000 soldiers patrolling every polling place in Iraq, 50 people were killed.
And the administration has a generous view of Bush's European trip—also hailed as a success.
What Bush came home with is a very lukewarm agreement with NATO to help train Iraqi soldiers. The specifics: two NATO countries will supply one man each and will train them in Europe.
That is not exactly empty-handed…but close.
The human costs of the Iraq War cannot be justified.
Dare we ask about the monetary costs?
The White House doesn't give straight answers. Despite earlier and much rosier predictions from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz that the war would cost taxpayers less than $50 billion, that's not how it is adding up.
Even the high side former White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey's estimate of $100-$200 billion is way low.
The website www.costofwar.com calculates that Iraq has cost California alone more than $20 billion—enough money to hire 350,000 public school teachers for one year.
Here's the view from someone who knows, Former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski:
"We will never achieve democracy and stability [in Iraq] without being willing to commit 500,000 troops, spend $200 billion a year, probably have a draft, and have some form of war compensation."
Brzezinski concedes that Americans "are not prepared to do that."
My previous columns critical of the Iraq War brought harsh comments from those who favor the Bush administration's policies.
Just to make sure no one misunderstands, let me state that while I unequivocally denounce the war; I support the U.S. troops 100%.
And I support them in the only meaningful way. I want the troops back home where they belong reunited with their moms and dads, husbands, wives and children.
I don't want the numbers of deaths to double from 1,500 to 3,000 and then double again to 6,000.
I want to hear the words Americans never heard during Vietnam:
"Mission accomplished. The troops are coming home."