Thursday, October 12, 2006

As Iraq Stands Up, U.S. Stands Down? Yeah, right!

Remember when President Bush said that when Iraqi troops "stand up," the U.S. troops would "stand down"? Looks like yet another promise reneged, and during an election season no less.

The Army chief of staff, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker spoke on Wednesday and gave all of us looking for significant change and direction in Iraq the second worst news possible (behind Cory Lidle's tragic death): the U.S. Army will keep 140,000 troops in this war-torn country for another four years, which means that any talk and hope of drawing down the amount to 100,000 by year's end or anytime in the forseeable future is history. At least that's what our generals and the White House is saying now. General Abizaid warned recently that current levels of troops may have to be maintained in Iraq through next Spring, so this should not come as a suprise after all, certainly not the dreaded October Surprise. But still, this news is unsettling, and for many reasons.

The situation on the ground dictates military strategy we're constantly reminded, but it has gotten so much worse than anyone could have imagined at the start of this year. Having said that, I'm not losing hope for Iraq, even though it is engaged in a low-level civil war in and around Baghdad. My hope is that maybe by this time next year, just maybe the violence will have bottomed out and lessened to the point where these types of projections will change and render this current one meangingless. Maybe trained Iraq troops will have finally reached the 400,000 mark by mid-2007, which would get them back to square one (the CPA, led by Paul Bremer de-Baathed the Iraq Army and put 400,000 soldiers out of work with nothing to do shortly after the fall of Baghdad in 2003). But maybe I'm just too optimistic for my own good.

Ever since the Askariya shrine - one of the holiest in Shiite Islam - was destroyed in the northern town of Samarra, the sectarian violence in Iraq has gotten so bad and so frequent that the number of tortured bodies found around Bagdad now exceeds the amount that Saddam's government was responsible for. Oh, but we're supposed to believe that life without Saddam is better? Tell that to the families and surviving friends of the 48,000-650,000 victims (depending on which reports you believe is credible) of this 3-and-a-half year-old guerilla war.

Just last month, an average of 89 people died in Iraq per day. When Bob Woodward reported in his new book ("State of Denial") that there was an average of 100 attacks and other acts of violence per day in Iraq, which breaks down to one potentially deadly incident every 15 minutes, he was giving Americans and everyone else in the world for that matter the most realistic picture of daily Iraqi life possible. And when you realize that this level of violence isn't occuring in the Kurdish north or the deep South of Iraq, it's scary to think about how much worse it can get still, and what the country could look like a year or two from now if it doesn't cut down significantly. Then again, the Iraqi government could actually gain some control over their country and stop or lessen this madness. Or is that asking too much.

Our generals, including General Casey know that the coaliton of the willing is dwindling to near irrelevence, and thus have little choice but to recommend that we increase OUR troop levels and strain the National Guard and Army reserves to maintain them.

It's a tragedy that the Bush administration has failed to keep and increase significant international troop levels throughout Iraq, and our men and women are paying dearly for it, having to stay longer than expected and in some cases, having to go back to Iraq three to four times.

That's a backdoor draft, my friends, and the more our soldiers are subjected to it, the angrier and less supportive the families of these brave soldiers will be of this war and its leaders. Just ask the assembly of Alaskans who, according to CNN a week ago wanted Rumsfeld to resign for recently deciding to keep a native Army brigade in Iraq at the last minute. A few of those Alaskan soldiers from that brigade died in Iraq, and WOULD'VE been home, according to a CNN report around October 6. The fact that the Defense Department even has to consider overextending large amounts of US soldiers in this fashion shows how disastrous Bush's Iraq policies have been (not to mention administration hirees Paul Bremer, Ahmed Chalabi and Halliburton!).

I call on Bush to get his act together and get more countries, particularly Arab nations, on board and commit their soldiers to Iraq in the years to come. You wanna get Dubai to work with the US? The hell with securing our ports, how about being part of Iraqi security (if they actually have an army big and strong enough to help out).

Seriously though, is the Arab League and it's 22 member states still around? Let's get them more involved, diplomaticly AND militarily. NATO has stepped up in Afghanistan, and the UN is busy trying to hold the fort down in Lebanon and struggling to deal with the Darfur tragedy. So it is the Arab world that needs to realize they have a vested interest in a stable Iraq. Their help would not only add familiar-looking faces to the war effort (and thereby communicate with Iraqis a little better), but save countless Iraqi and Western lives. It's about time they woke up. It's not too late.

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