By David T. Pyne, Esq
Play It Again Sam! (A Look Back on the increasing amount of U.S. Casualties in the War on Terror in Iraq, and how Bush had hit a speed bump: August 29, 2003)
With the announcement earlier this week of the latest US soldier killed in Iraq, the number of troops killed in Iraq by combat or accident have exceeded the number of troops killed before President Bush declared an end to major combat in that country on May 1st of this year. The ever increasing casualty toll in US soldiers represents a burgeoning public relations disaster for the Administration which it will be hard-pressed to justify and which will accelerate the President’s recent downward spiral in the polls stemming from the ongoing Iraq war debacle. According to the latest Zogby poll from last week, the President’s standing in the polls has gone from 61% in April to an all-time low today of 52% in just four and a half months, putting him on course to fall behind his likely Democrat challengers by sometime next year if not by the end of this year.
A total of 278 soldiers have now died in Iraq and untold hundreds of US troops have been injured since the war began on March 20th, making it clear that keeping the peace and rebuilding the country will cost far more American lives than winning the war. In order to put this in historical perspective, a total of 147 US soldiers died during Gulf War One against an Iraqi Army far larger and better equipped than the one the US military defeated in six weeks of combat this past spring. Of course, having fought a just war during Operation Desert Storm, the US military did not have to contend with a dozen terrorist attacks a day as our military does today. Because unlike the present case our cause in 1991 was not only just but wisely limited to the liberation of Iraqi-occupied Kuwait, the US military did not have to contend with any terrorist attacks at all.
At the rate of casualties suffered by the US military since the war ended, 436 US soldiers will be killed every year that we stay in Iraq. However, this does not account for the increasing rate of deaths of US soldiers since the war ended. During the last 45-day period, 78 US soldiers have died in Iraq vs. only 62 in the 73-day period prior beginning on May 1st when President Bush declared mission accomplished and an end to major combat operations. Thus, the post-war casualty rate since the war ended has nearly doubled over the last month and a half. At this latest casualty rate, 632 US troops will be killed every year they remain in Iraq. Thus, if the US stays in Iraq for five years which is a low-ball projection by most estimates, a realistic estimate of US soldiers who will die in Iraq is anywhere between 2,200 and 3,200. If the US stays in Iraq for ten years, the death toll for that no-win war could be twice as high.
Moreover, indications are that with the additional flow of Al Queda and other terrorist groups to the Iraqi theater of operations, the rate of incidence of US casualties will continue to increase, which will all but assure that several thousand American soldiers are killed in Iraq if they remain there for five years or more. Sure, we will have lost a lot more troops in Vietnam than Iraq, but the results will be the same. The US will be forced out without having achieved their objectives of preventing newly ‘liberated’ Iraq from falling under the control of radical anti-American Iranian supported terrorists, dedicated to repeating the devastating 9-11 terrorist attacks which killed over 3,000 innocent American civilians.
At the current rate during the next 435 days until Election Day, 2004, the continuing no-win counter-terrorist war in Iraq will likely have claimed the lives of approximately 1,000 US soldiers. The war in Iraq will have become the Democrat presidential contenders strongest issue to use to hammer Bush and the Republican Party, ahead even of the President’s record-breaking $450 billion annual budget deficit, and completely erasing any benefit that any perceived and likely jobless economic recovery will have on the President’s re-election chances. President Bush is running out of time to save his Presidency by reversing course on Iraq and bringing home the vast majority of the 150,000 US troops currently stationed in Iraq before the presidential race moves into high gear.
During the past year, neocon internationalists have blindly and mindlessly pledged their support for every proposal for aggressive war against our perceived enemies emanating from the current Republican administration no matter how reckless, while condemning all patriotic dissenters as traitors to their country. On the other hand, traditional conservative realists, who care more about the lives of America’s heroic fighting men and women then to throw them away in neo-imperialist ventures, always consider the cost-benefit ratio of US military interventions abroad before committing US troops and risking their lives in regions where hostile action is likely with Iraq being no exception. Reaganite conservative realists first ask the following questions.
First,. is the military action being taken in defense of the citizens and/or territory of the United States or in response to an attack by the country against whom military action is to be taken? Is the action, being taken to repel aggression against a US ally? If the answer to these questions is no, is there a vital national interest served by the military intervention? Second, what is the stated objective of the military intervention and is it realistically achievable? Third, they ask whether military intervention in said country will leave the US more or less secure from foreign threats including terrorists. Fourth, is the likely cost in blood and treasure worth the risks of intervention?
The answer to the first battery of questions above is that the US invasion of Iraq was not undertaken in response to any aggression by Iraq against the US or its allies. Iraq had not committed any acts of international aggression towards any country since 1991. The US invasion of Iraq served no vital national interest. The stated mission of US soldiers now occupying Iraq is one of counterinsurgency and pacification against an increasing number of radical Islamic terrorist combatants surging into the country from neighboring terrorist supporting states like Iran as well as from nominally pro-Western led Saudi Arabia. As the Russians and now the US has learned in Afghanistan, such a mission is ultimately unwinnable because the tougher the actions taken to fight radical Islamic insurgents, the more recruits rally to their cause and the more determined they become in their resolve to continue fighting. That being the case, the longer the US remains in Iraq with massive numbers of troops committed to the role of providing internal security, shooting at Shiite protesters and humiliating Sunnis who once supported them with house to house raids, the more recruits the terrorists will obtain and the more casualties the US will suffer.
More terrorist recruits for Al Queda and its allies and a concomitant rise in global anti-Americanism among the one billion adherents of Islam in response to the indefinite US occupation of a Muslim country will result in less, not more, security for American citizens at home. Accordingly, the best option is to determine how to get our troops out of Iraq as quickly as possible, but no later than by the end of the year, while still giving the Iraqis a fighting chance at being led by a moderate constitutional republican government.
The question that chest-beating neocon supporters of the ill-considered US invasion and occupation of Iraq have to ask themselves is whether the lives of thousands of US soldiers and the expenditure of several hundred billion dollars worth of taxpayer money is worth fighting another no-win war against illusive terrorists and guerilla fighters in Iraq. An even more immediate question is whether it will be worth the loss of the Presidency and perhaps the US Senate as well to the Democrat Socialist Party come next November. This previously unfathomable possibility seems increasingly likely as the President’s policy in Iraq increasingly appears to be faltering and given the fact that the Administration’s justifications for the war have already been exposed as outright deceptions. ***
David T Pyne currently serves as DUV-PAC Chairman, President of the Utah Republican Assembly, and as Vice President for the Association of the United States Army’s Utah Chapter. A former national security expert, he has served as President of the Center for the National Security Interest, worked as a defense contractor and International Programs Manager, as an International Analyst for the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Department of the Navy, and as a Research Assistant for the Center for Security Policy.