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The Price of Progress
Sunday, 02 September 2007 01:24
by Larry C. Johnson

If you caught the intellectual lightweight, Michael O’Hanlon, on CNN this morning you would have been treated to a masterful display of toadying and sucking up that puts the “sick” in sycophant. O’Hanlon continues to insist that his DOD arranged and controlled trip this summer to limited areas of Iraq proved beyond doubt that the surge is working and we are progressing in Iraq.

Of course his confident claims are not attended by any benchmarks or empirical evidence. So as a public service we will take a look at the specifics in Iraq and you can judge for yourself whether or not we are making progress and whether or not we are getting value for our money and the blood of our sons and daughters.

U.S. Casualties:

Compare the current number of U.S. fatalities in Iraq with previous eight month periods for 2006 and 2005. For the first eight months of 2007 there have been 735 American troops killed and 4430 wounded. This is significantly higher than the casualty rate in 2005 or 2006. We have 1000 more dead and wounded this year than last year for the period January-August. The following chart tells the factual story (source, icasualties.org):

Casualty Chart

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The Iraqi Population:

Higher casualties, by themselves, tell us nothing about progress one way or another. One could make the case that because of the casualties the situation in Iraq has stabilized and Iraqis are rushing to celebrate the “new peace”. Sadly, that is wishful thinking.

The number of Iraqis seeking refuge in the United States is increasing, not diminishing. According to a Reuter’s report this week:

A senior U.S. official said on Tuesday the United States would speed up the immigration of Iraqis who worked with its military in Iraq, after congressional criticism that it has taken in so few since the 2003 invasion.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Ellen Sauerbrey said a faster resettlement policy into the United States this year could more than double the rate of migration.

“Two thousand will have made it to the country, we hope if not by the end of September, by the end of October, and a couple of thousand more in November,” she said.

“So by the end of the calendar year, there might be a possibility we will have moved the entire original 7,000 number that was talked about,” Sauerbrey said, referring to figures for the number of Iraqis recommended by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for resettlement in the United States.

Iraqis seeking refuge in other countries continues to mount. The BBC today reports:

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari was informed of the new measure by his Syrian counterpart, Walid Muallim, in a telephone conversation on Thursday.

Syria had been the only country in the region to allow Iraqis to enter and stay up to six months without a visa.

The UN refugee agency says 1.4 million Iraqi refugees are living in Syria.

With the number increasing by an estimated 30,000 every month, Syria’s health and education systems are struggling to cope.

The Syrian government estimates the Iraqi refugee crisis is costing it around $1bn a year.

Well. At least the U.S. presence is healing the rift between Sunnis and Shias. Nope! Today’s New York Times details the growing chasm between these groups in Iraq:

In Parliament three months ago, she shouted down her colleagues for standing by as Sunni extremists in Diyala Province killed hundreds of Shiites. When the speaker, a Sunni, smirked, she screamed: “Why are you laughing, Mr. Speaker? I want to know why you’re laughing.” (He waved her away: “Leave it to the women,” he said.)

Ms. Musawi, though loyal to the more moderate Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, also now defends some actions of the Mahdi Army, the militia loyal to Moktada al-Sadr, the anti-American cleric, saying that it has filled a necessary void.

“The government couldn’t protect the people,” she said. “They couldn’t save them. The Sadrists did that.”

When asked about accusations that the Mahdi Army forced innocent Sunnis out of the Hurriya neighborhood, which borders Adel, she said Shiites had no time to sift the innocent from the guilty because Sunnis were killing Shiites.

She says the basic problem is that too many Sunnis will never accept Shiite rule. Just as galling, she said, they refuse to accept responsibility for the sins of Mr. Hussein, the Baath party or today’s extremists.

And the list goes on. Sunnis have walked away from the Maliki Government. What passes for a government has been on vacation for a month and no significant agreements regarding the equitable allocation of oil resources or the rights of former Baath party members have been achieved.

As I warned in a blog more than a month ago, the Bush Administration and hacks like O’Hanlon are insisting things are better in Iraq. But, fewer deaths in certain neighborhoods has an alternative and darker explanation. Violence is down because there are fewer people. The absence of respiration is not a sign of life.

Oh, and did I mention the problem of corruption? A congressionally appointed panel headed by the highly respected Marine General, James Jones, reports that:

the rampant sectarianism that has existed since the formation of the police force requires that its current units “be scrapped” and reshaped into a smaller, more elite organization, according to one senior official familiar with the findings. The recommendation is that “we should start over,” the official said.

David Corn has another piece of the corruption puzzle:

according to the working draft of a secret document prepared by the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, the Maliki government has failed in one significant area: corruption. Maliki’s government is “not capable of even rudimentary enforcement of anticorruption laws,” the report says, and, perhaps worse, the report notes that Maliki’s office has impeded investigations of fraud and crime within the government.

With British forces vacating southern Iraq, the United States must either further divide and weaken its over strapped units and send them to Basra or cede the territory to the Shia militias that are in defacto control.

How many American lives and how many billions of dollars must we expend in Iraq ostensibly to make America safe? We can not afford to be the sole peace keeper in the world. We should not be enabling the Iraqi army and police who continue to swear allegiance to sectarian leaders rather than embracing national interests. This is ultimately a problem the various Iraqi factions must sort out. US troops should not be in the middle of this dispute.

If US roads and bridges were in great shape. If American schools, particularly in inner cities, were the envy of the world. If every American had access to health care, then I could tolerate wasting $3 billion a week. But asking almost 3 Americans per day to die in Iraq? Not worth another drop of our blood.
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