In which Susan rambles about the numbers of troops, dollars, deaths, and Rummy and Wolfie too.
According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, there’s another military surge quietly taking place in Iraq. The “second surge”, which is being accomplished by extending the tours of brigades already there, as well as deploying additional units, could boost the number of combat troops in Iraq to 98,000. When support troops are included, according to the PI, “the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq could increase from 162,000 now to more than 200,000 – the most ever – by the end of the year.” Remember when Gen. Eric Shinseki, Army chief of staff, suggested in 2003 that it would take several hundred thousand troops to succeed in Iraq? More on that later. Yes, read more.
This surge, however, is a little more hush-hush that the one announced by a defiant and prickly president last January.
"It doesn't surprise me that they're not talking about it,” says retired Army Maj. Gen. William Nash, the U.S. commander who led NATO troops into Bosnia in late 1995. “I think they would be very happy not to have any more attention paid to this."
They’d also be happy not to have any attention paid to the soaring number of private contractor deaths in Iraq – 146 in the first three months of this year alone. According to the NY Times, which had to pry the figures from the Labor Department via the Freedom of Information Act, that brings the total count of those working for companies like Blackwater and Halliburton/KBR to 917 dead and 12,000 wounded, “statistics which suggest that for every four American soldiers or marines who die in Iraq, a contractor is killed.”
Well, never mind, they’re paid far more than our soldiers for their sacrifice, even if they’re honored far less – if that’s possible --when their broken or lifeless bodies are shipped home.
So, let’s do the math. Americans killed in the invasion of Iraq? 3443 + 917 = 4360. Americans wounded – severely enough to be sent home? 25,000 soldiers + 12,000 contractors = 37,000.
Then there’s the financial cost. The war in Iraq is estimated to have cost American taxpayers $400 billion so far, and as we know, the proud congressional Dems who won control last fall by vowing to bring the war to an end have – folded their tent, and more funding is likely on the way with no end in sight.
Okay, so most of us aren’t feeling the pinch, and George Bush is putting the bill on the nation’s credit card, so we don’t need to worry.
But the families of the dead and wounded are feeling the pinch. So are the families of the troops still fighting this misguided and mishandled war, families who see their savings depleted and futures ebbing away as tours in Iraq are extended and deployments increased. And so are the
families of those who hold fundraisers to buy the armor for their children that the military still fails to provide.
Considering all of the above, let’s turn the clock back to 2003, and listen to Wolfie and Rummy disparaging Gen. Shinseki, and telling us how this was all going to turn out. These excerpts from an aritcle by Eric Schmitt, writing in the Times, February 28, 2003: Italics and parentheticals mine.
“Mr. Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, opened a two-front war of words on Capitol Hill, calling the recent estimate by Gen. Eric K. Shinseki of the Army that several hundred thousand troops would be needed in postwar Iraq, "wildly off the mark." Pentagon officials have put the figure closer to 100,000 troops.”
“In his testimony, Mr. Wolfowitz ticked off several reasons why he believed a much smaller coalition peacekeeping force than General Shinseki envisioned would be sufficient to police and rebuild postwar Iraq. He said there was no history of ethnic strife in Iraq, as there was in Bosnia or Kosovo. (Was anyone paying attention?) He said Iraqi civilians would welcome an American-led liberation force that "stayed as long as necessary but left as soon as possible," but would oppose a long-term occupation force. (Is anyone paying attention now?) And he said that nations that oppose war with Iraq would likely sign up to help rebuild it. "I would expect that even countries like (smelly, arrogant) France will have a strong interest in assisting Iraq in reconstruction," Mr. Wolfowitz said. He added that many Iraqi expatriates would likely return home to help.” (Anybody seen Ahmed Chalabi lately? He may be home, but he's not exactly helping.)
“Mr. Wolfowitz spent much of the hearing knocking down published estimates of the costs of war and rebuilding, saying the upper range of $95 billion was too high, and that the estimates were almost meaningless because of the variables. Moreover, he said such estimates, and speculation that postwar reconstruction costs could climb even higher, ignored the fact that Iraq is a wealthy country, with annual oil exports worth $15 billion to $20 billion. "To assume we're going to pay for it all is just wrong," he said.” (Wha happened?)
“At the Pentagon, Mr. Rumsfeld said the factors influencing cost estimates made even ranges imperfect. Asked whether he would release such ranges to permit a useful public debate on the subject, Mr. Rumsfeld said, "I've already decided that. It's not useful."
It’s not useful, I suppose, to review these oil-clouded delusions and wild miscalculations. It’s impossible, however, not to wonder why these men, discounted and disgraced as they are -- along with our president and his Vice and a whole slew of others -- aren’t being held accountable for the extraordinary losses they’ve inflicted on our nation.
But there's shopping to be done, and Memorial Day picnics to plan, so we can honor our dead.