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Archives, 2004

War archives, etc.


Monthly archives
(all categories)

U.S. war fatalities
in Iraq

Month Monthly deaths Cum. deaths
Mar. 2003 65 65
Apr. 2003 73 138
May 2003 37 175
June 2003 30 205
July 2003 47 252
Aug. 2003 35 287
Sept. 2003 30 317
Oct. 2003 43 360
Nov. 2003 82 442
Dec. 2003 40 482
Jan. 2004 47 529
Feb. 2004 19 548
Mar. 2004 52 600
Apr. 2004 135 735
May 2004 80 815
June 2004 42 857
July 2004 54 905
Aug. 2004 66 971
Sept. 2004 81 1052
Oct. 2004 63 1121
Nov. 2004 137 1258
Dec. 2004 72 1330
Jan. 2005 107 1437
Feb. 2005 58 1495
Mar. 2005 36 1531
Apr. 2005 52 1583
May 2005 79 1662
June 2005 77 1739
July 2005 54 1793
Aug. 2005 84 1877
Sept. 2005 48 1925
Oct. 2005 96 2021
Nov. 2005 83 2104
Dec. 2005 66 2170
Jan. 2006 61 2231
Feb. 2006 53 2284
Mar. 2006 30 2314
Apr. 2006 74 2388
May 2006 69 2457
June 2006 59 2516
July 2006 42 2558
Aug. 2006 65 2623
Sept. 2006 70 2693
Oct. 2006 100 2793
Nov. 2006 63 2856
Dec. 2006 105 2961
Jan. 2007 82 3043
Feb. 2007 81 3124
Mar. 2007 75 3199
Apr. 2007 102 3301
May 2007 121 3422
June 2007 98 3520
July 2007 75 3595
Aug. 2007 77 3672
Sept. 2007 62 3734
Oct. 2007 37 3771
Nov. 2007 35 3806
Dec. 2007 23 3829
Jan. 2008 40 3869
Feb. 2008 29 3898
Mar. 2008 37 3935
Apr. 2008 51 3988
May 2008 20 4008
June 2008 28 4036
July 2008 13 4049
Aug. 2008 22 4071
Sept. 2008 25 4097
Oct. 2008 13 4110
Nov. 2008 16 4126
Dec. 2008 12 4138
* so far

NOTE: Includes all deaths, caused by enemy forces or not. Excludes military personnel (currently 72) whose names have not been released because their next of kin have not yet been contacted.

Washington Post, Sept. 8, 2004

Andrew Clem archives

December 9, 2004 [LINK]

Was Rummy blindsided?

According to, the soldier who asked the pointed question to Donald Rumsfeld yesterday (in Kuwait, not Iraq, as I had written) was coached to speak up by a reporter from the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Edward Lee Pitts. This doesn't detract from the basic grievance, but it does put the incident in better perspective. The soldier, Spec. Thomas Wilson, was also from Tennessee. He complained that his men had to scrounge through junkyards to find scrap metal plate to protect their vehicles. As Rush Limbaugh pointed out today, it's a lot like U.S. Army troops in Normandy who rigged their Sherman tanks with devices to cut through the hedgerows. Such resourceful adaptation under fire is the stuff of military legend.

UPDATE: Lefty cartoonist Dan Perkins (of This Modern World fame) made a good observation about the "unfair questioning" by the reporter: "only one question is relevant--did the reporter also engineer the spontaneous roar of applause from the rest of the troops in the audience?" Indeed, it would be hard to interpret that as anything else but a clear indication of discontent within the ranks. It's worth mentioning that other soldiers complained about the lack of supplies and "antiquated equipment" made available to National Guard units, and delays in paycheck delivery. Guard and Reserve units, composed of older civilians who are more likely to speak their mind without regard to military protocol, currently account for 45 percent of all U.S. forces in Iraq. (See the transcript of Rumsfeld's meeting with troops; link via Washington Post.)

Andrew Clem archives

December 8, 2004 [LINK]

Rummy visits [Kuwait]

During his visit to [Kuwait] today, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was asked by a soldier why more armored vehicles haven't been delivered to our troops serving in the hazardous "front lines." His answer that it's simply a problem with production, and that we can't expect to have all the equipment we would like to have, struck me as lame and dispiriting. I hope that was not an indication of Bush administration attitudes toward our incredibly brave soldiers in harm's way. They deserve better, from the American government as well as from the American people. Rumsfeld was the top military official bears some responsibility for what happened at Abu Ghraib, and has a lot to answer for, in my view. The fact that he is one of the few cabinet officials being kept on into the second term, while others who have performed their jobs perfectly well are leaving, concerns me.

Guarded optimism

Andrew Sullivan has sharply criticized President Bush for failing to prosecute the war against Islamic fascists (a.k.a. "terrorists") more effectively. Thus, his relatively upbeat assessment of the situation in Iraq, appearing in the The New Republic Online, bears reading.

The Kurds and the Shia understand that their interest today lies in a successful election. They're not unhappy to see Sunni and Baathist rebels get pummeled by American arms. In that, you see the beginning of the new Iraqi reality: a place where 80 percent of the country wants the democratic transition to succeed.

Andrew Clem archives

December 7, 2004 [LINK]

War escalates and spreads

The successful capture of Fallujah by U.S. forces last month was followed by terrorist counterattacks in other parts of Iraq. Today a suicide terrorist squad breached the outer perimeter of the U.S. consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, marking a possible step toward increased coordination among terrorist groups that could cause the war to spill across Iraq's borders. Many war critics feel the apparent chaos vindicates their position, which is of course exactly what the terrorists want them to feel. Max Boot provided a confident yet sober perspective last week in the, "What We Won in Fallouja":

Thus, for all their success in Fallouja, we should not expect U.S. troops to completely pacify Iraq anytime soon. What they can do -- what they are doing -- is to keep the insurgents from derailing a political process that, one hopes, will soon result in the creation of a legitimate government that can field indigenous security forces and defend itself.

In other words, no one should be under any illusion about an imminent return to "normalcy" in Iraq, whatever that is. The terrorist counterattacks are obvously aimed at getting back the momentum after their base of operations in Fallujah was dismantled. In Mosul, which is home to Kurds as well as Sunni Arabs, U.S. forces had to restore order after most Iraqi police fled their posts. That was a worrisome indicator that "Iraqicization" may be stalling, one of the few genuine parallels between this war and Vietnam. In the end, if Iraqi leaders don't step up to the plate and take charge, there is not much we can do about it. Ironically, President Bush's original skepticism about Clintonian "nation building" (or "state building," more accurately) would be validated. Government authority cannot be willed into existence from the outside.

These difficulties do not by any means signify the war has become a hopeless quagmire, but they are clear signs that American forces are stretched to the limit. No one doubts that the violence will probably get worse before it gets better, and the Pentagon announced that 12,000 additional U.S. troops will be sent to Iraq to provide extra security for the elections scheduled for late January. This will raise the total U.S. force commitment to 150,000, the highest since the invasion began in March 2003; see Bush has consistently ruled out any resort to drafting soldiers, and indeed that is not necessary or appropriate at this time. If he does not find some equivalent manner of exerting force in response to the terrorist upsurge, however, we will be back to where we were a few months ago. It is imperative that we make clear, concrete advances (such as holding elections on schedule, whether the Sunnis are ready or not) in order to maintain the vital psychological edge. Otherwise, terrorists may start making inroads in nearby fence-sitting countries with weak governments.

Smaller-scale military advances are described by W. Thomas Smith Jr. in the In Operation "Plymouth Rock" (launched during Thanksgiving week), U.S. and Coalition forces are employing new, highly adaptive tactics in the "Triangle of Death" south of Baghdad. They target particular enemy strongholds based on new intelligence gleaned from previous raids, which then provides information for the next raid on the next town, and so on. What looks to casual observers as endless, random violence is, in fact, bearing fruit, slowly but surely.

Pearl Harbor

Sixty three years ago today, hundreds of Japanese carrier-based planes bombed Pearl Harbor, destroying most of the U.S. Pacific fleet. It's a good thing the American people back then had enough gumption and determination to believe they could manage to resist the fascist onslaught long enough to rebuild and eventually win the war. What about us?

Andrew Clem archives

November 19, 2004 [LINK]

Bloody mess in Fallujah

The apparent killing of a wounded Iraqi fighter by U.S. Marines was shocking and appalling, and some worry that it indicates a breakdown in discipline. Like most things in wartime, all this must be seen in proper context. Other U.S. soldiers have been killed by bombs strapped to dead and dying Iraqi combatants. As Clauswitz wrote, war leads to a limitless escalation toward ever-more awful forms of violence, which in our day means that forces fighting terrorist movements are under growing temptation to respond in kind for the lawless brutalities inflicted upon them. For an on-the-scene perspective, see "A Marine Writes Home" at powerlineblog. Lest anyone forget, any pretense about "winning hearts and minds" in the Sunni Fascist heartland is in vain. The die-hard Baathists there will hate us for stripping away the privilege they once enjoyed, no matter what. For the near term, the best we can hope for in that part of Iraq is that there be a respectable turnout in the upcoming elections. No easy task.

Andrew Clem archives

November 11, 2004 [LINK]

Veterans Day, 2004

This Veterans Day is more special than others because American soldiers are engaged in combat at this very moment, in Fallujah. The city is largely under U.S. control now, but the ability of Iraqi government police to maintain the peace remains in grave doubt. Lack of willpower and leadership on the part of the friendly government forces is one of the valid parallels with Vietnam. Belmont Club has press statement by an Iraqi resistance leader that sheds light on the strategy of the formerly dominant Sunni faction. The factionalized sociopolitical structure in Iraq stands in sharp contrast to Vietnam, having both postive and negative aspects. For thoughtful perspectives on what's going on in Iraq, I'd recommend Sgt. Stryker. For an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of those who have made bodily sacrifices, visit Disabled American Veterans.

Faces of the Fallen Some heroes never get to become veterans, however. It is for those who have died in service of our country that we have Memorial Day. Today's Washington Post included another installment of the "Faces of the Fallen," an appropriate way to remind ourselves of the human cost of war. (Pictured are, clockwise from the top left, Sgt. Jack Hennessy, Sgt. Russell Collier, Spc. Christopher Merville, and Pfc. Oscar Martinez.)

Until 1954, Veterans Day was known as Armistice Day, commemorating the end of The (First) World War in 1918. Even as we honor the sacrifices of soldiers, airmen, and sailors, we might also reflect on the original meaning of this holiday by celebrating peace -- when we are so fortunate -- or else by rededicating ourselves to understand how peace is best preserved.

Andrew Clem archives

November 10, 2004 [LINK]

The Battle for Fallujah

Will we have to level the place before the Sunni resistance begins to break down? It's shocking how few news reports mention that the violence in Fallujah, Baghdad, Baquba, etc. do not represent a nationwide rejection of U.S. occupation forces in Iraq, but is rather the last-gasp effort by the Sunni minority to prevent the establishment of a new pluralistic, democratic political order. Belmont Club has been making very good observations on happenings in the Heartland of Sunni Terror. U.S. troops are making effective use of high-tech communication, night vision, and remote photographic equipment, putting the terrorists at a big disadvantage. Army and Marine units have taken control over at least 70 percent of the city, but it will be several months before we get a clear idea of which way the tides of war are turning. Here's a satellite photo of the Fallujah area, showing deployment of U.S. units, from:

The timing of this offensive so soon after the U.S. election is definitely not coincidental, as Austin Bay makes clear in Strategy Page:

The re-election of George W. Bush bodes well for peace in 2020. A John Kerry victory would have cost us an additional two years of blood, toil, sweat, and tears -- the two years it would take the Kerry Administration to discover that the Bush Administration's strategy in the War on Terror is the right one.

September 23, 2004

Allawi in Washington

I was pleased that the networks broadcast live the statements by President Bush and Iraq's Prime Minister Ayad Allawi on the White House lawn today. Bush responded in an appropriately ambiguous fashion to a question about Gen. John Abizaid's statement that more U.S. troops are needed in Iraq. (Washington Post) Allawi doesn't want more U.S. troops, at least not right now. What he does want is a firm indication of continued strong support from Washington. John Kerry, whose degree of support for Iraq is anything but firm, criticized what he called their falsely optimistic portrayal of the situation, but he will learn if he is elected president that leaders are duty bound to err on the positive side when speaking to the public. Allawi insists that elections could be held in 15 of Iraq's 18 provinces right now, and expects them to proceed as scheduled in January. We'll see.

Unlike others who strain to portray events as much better or much worse than recent televised images would seem to indicate, I remain concerned but less than frantic about the current terrorist offensive, which should not have come as a big surprise. As for what to do about it, I believe the United States ought to make highly targeted counterstrikes while steadily reducing its profile in Iraq, actively supporting the new government militarily but not taking direct responsibility for the course of political events there. Besides trying to undermine morale back in the U.S.A., the insurgents are obviously trying to bait U.S. forces into making a heavy-handed assault that would inevitably result in civilian casualties. A combination of persistence, restraint, and iron resolve will prevail in the end, and with proper U.S. and Iraqi leadership, most people of Iraq will turn away from the deadly allure of gangs led by Moqtada al Sadr, Abu Musab Zarqawi, and their like.

September 15, 2004

Will chaos lead to partition?

But indeed, what about the mounting chaos in Iraq? For many Americans with a thin grasp of history, the latest terrorist offensive in Iraq brings new grounds for pessimism, but it should serve to remind us what a determined, vicious, and well-funded enemy we face. The timing of the attacks is obviously aimed at influencing the U.S. elections. Wiser, non-triumphalist leaders and commentators have emphasized that this conflict will almost certainly be long, bloody, and perilous, with many nasty surprises yet to come.* It is important to understand that the recent brutal attacks in the Sunni heartland of Fallujah and Baghdad, and even in the nearby Shi'ite bastion of Najaf, have been mainly of a secular nationalist origin. It doesn't mean that religious motivations are absent, just that the political direction of the terrorist campaign comes mainly from Ba'ath Party remnants and infiltrators from Iran, Jordan, etc. As far as we can tell, the rebel "cleric" (actually just a vicious warlord) Muqtada al-Sadr has been isolated, and the Ayatollah Sistani wields much greater authority and respect. Some fear that the elections scheduled for January may not be possible, but many parts of Iraq remain relatively peaceful and great strides are being made toward physical and sociopolitical reconstruction.

* (Note to war skeptics: The banner "Mission Accomplished" aboard the the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln where Bush landed in April 2003 referred merely to one campaign in a long, arduous series. Anyone who imagined the liberation of Iraq was a Hollywood happy ending has only himself or herself to blame.)

The fundamental lesson to learn from this distressing turn of events is that United States cannot impose a solution on Iraq, we can only exert influence on how the new political system Iraq evolves. The likely divergence in developmental trajectories in the three major regions of Iraq leads to only one logical conclusion: If elections can be carried out in the northern and southern regions of Iraq, but not in the center, we must prepare for the possible emergence of autonomous governments in the Shi'ite and Kurdish areas, and even the eventual establishment of separate sovereign states. It's basically up to the Sunni people themselves whether to take a stand in defense of the fledgling regime in Baghdad, thereby preserving Iraq as a unified whole, or else succumb to fear of (Iran-backed) terrorists and (anti-U.S.) xenophobia. It's not unlike the choice faced by the peoples of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. I would bet most Serbs, and possibly even many Croatians and Bosnians, would have chosen differently and made the necessary compromises to keep Yugoslavia united if they had to do it all over again. In any event, as long as the U.S. government keeps its political objectives in Iraq modest, refraining from undue interference in non-security-related matters, there is no reason to fear a "quagmire."

September 9, 2004

The power of liberty

Military affairs writer (and reserve officer) Austin Bay has just returned from Iraq, as confident as ever in the U.S.-led cause. In Strategy Page, he does call attention to one weak spot in U.S. strategy, however:

If there is one mistake I think we've made in fighting this war, it's been the way we've soft-pedaled the ideological dimensions. This really is a fight for the future, between our free, open political system and the unholy alliance of despots and Islamo-fascists whose very existence depends on denying liberty. ... The lesson of 9-11, three years on, is that liberty must sustain a focused offensive if it is to survive.

That reminds me of a point made by John Kerry during the Democratic convention: He stressed that military power is never enough, that we need to supplement violent means with the force of ideas. That is quite correct, of course, but the irony is that Kerry himself is so timid about proclaiming U.S. values. When is the last time you heard him boldly championing individual liberty? As a committed collectivist, of course, he simply can't.

September 8, 2004

One thousand fallen heroes

The one-thousandth American military death was recorded in Iraq yesterday. Of this total, 75 percent were the result of hostile enemy action. Though our lossess in Iraq have been higher than most people expected, it is important to put this in context. For one thing, a high (though uncertain) proportion of U.S. losses have occurred in ambushes and terrorist attacks, not combat per se. In addition, the average of 59 deaths per month thus far (17 months) ranks very low compared to previous wars. Data on U.S. deaths in past wars are now included on the War page, which has been thoroughly revised. The various war-related pages have been revised as well, and the new Iraq war page includes an updated monthly table of U.S. fatalities in Iraq.

June 29, 2004

World War II Memorial

WW2Memorial-Atlantic We were up in Northern Virginia for the weekend, and on Sunday I escorted my niece Cathy and her friend Yanira to the brand-new World War II Memorial in Washington, shown in the adjacent photo.

In a way it's too bad that the transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis yesterday had to be moved up two days so that terrorsts wouldn't spoil the occasion. Ideally, the process would have followed the script to the letter, but under current conditions that wasn't practical. The recent beheadings committed by the resistance is disheartening, but it also reminds us of those groups' truly hideous, barbaric nature. It also makes more clear all the time that, contrary to what many critics seem to suggest, there was simply no possibility of the West living in peace with the Ba'athist Party or Al Qaeda -- regardless of whether and to what extent they may have been collaborating. Fortunately, there are growing signs that Iraqi people are turning against the terrorists in their midst. Stan Coerr, an Marine Corps Reserve officer who served in Iraq, wrote an eloquent rebuttal to the recent negativism in Strategy Page. It's entitled "No One Asked Us":

I can speak with authority on the opinions of both British and American infantry in that place and at that time. Let me make this clear: at no time did anyone say or imply to any of us that we were invading Iraq to rid the country of weapons of mass destruction, nor were we there to avenge 9/11. We knew we were there for one reason: to rid the world of a tyrant, and to give Iraq back to Iraqis. ...
The war was the right thing to do then, and in hindsight it was still the right thing to do. We can't overthrow every murderous tyrant in the world, but when we can, we should. Take it from someone who was there, and who stood to lose everything. We must, and will, stay the course. We owe it to the Iraqis, and to the world.

June 22, 2004

Today is the 63rd anniversary of Nazi Germany's surprise invasion of the Soviet Union, code-named "Operation Barbarossa." Within six short weeks, the Germans had advanced two-thirds of the way to Moscow, and nearly everyone expected the Red Army to collapse. Then Hitler interfered with the plans, sending his forces toward the south, probably losing the war in the process.

June 6, 2004

D-Day 2004

D-Day Memorial Pictured at the right is the central arch at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, VA, which on June 6, 1944 suffered a higher percentage of combat deaths than any other town in the United States. The town's soldiers who died on Omaha beach belonged to the 29th Infantry Division, a National Guard unit that is still operational. The black and white stripes were painted on all Allied aircraft flying in the congested invasion zone, to avoid friendly fire casualties. Jacqueline and I visited the memorial in 2001, not long after it opened. You can visit the D-Day Foundation Web site at:

President Bush showed more poise and spoke more clearly than he had on other recent occasions during his D-Day interview with Tom Brokaw from an American cementary in Normandy. He explained the similarities and differences between the current war on terrorism and World War II, above all the extremist ideologies that motivate the enemies of freedom. He reminded everyone that it took several years for Germany and Japan to become stable and democratic, and that prevailing in this conflict will required patience and determination. I was a little disappointed, hoewver, that the President declined the suggestion that he call on the American people to sacrifice and share the heavy burden shouldered by our combat troops. It would have been a perfect opportunity to get Americans to accept high gasoline prices. The transcript is at:

June 3, 2004

D-Day minus three

Three days hence will be the 60th anniversary of "D-Day," the invasion/liberation of France. Even though it was postponed by a year to build up an overwhelming numerical superiority over the Germans, the battle on the beachhead was still a very close thing, with heavy Allied casualties. Such historical perspective can help us to understand the war in Iraq today, especially the lamentably negative coverage of military events in most of the mainstream press. To see what I mean, read "If D-Day Had Been Reported On Today" by William A. Mayer, in Strategy Page. I was going to write a series of parody World War II news items like this, but someone is already on the case.

May 31, 2004

Memorial Day 2004

We usually "celebrate" this somber holiday by memorializing fallen soldiers, as Sunday's Doonesbury comic strip did for soldiers who have died in Iraq. The opening of the World War II memorial on the Washington Mall is a fitting tribute to the "Greatest Generation," but it may reinforce the unfortunate tendency to sentimentalize the past, thereby alienating ourselves from the shared harsh experiences that ought to bind us together. A recent Washington Post article shed light on the embarrassing ignorance about World War II on the part of today's school children. They know all about the internment of Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor -- no surprise there -- but are mostly in the dark about famous battles, leaders, or what it was all about. In my view, a good way for Americans to observe Memorial Day would be by remembering what was at stake in past wars, not making excuses for those who don't know or care about history.

May 25, 2004

Determination vs. disinformation

President Bush's speech last night at the Army War College in Carlisle Barracks, PA (where I presented a paper on terrorism last fall) may have been a belated attempt to shore up support, but at least he made all the important necessary points. He left no doubt about the difficulties that lie ahead, and kept the focus on the long-term goal of denying terrorists a safe haven. While the President sometimes falls short in the eloquence department, his rock solid determination to prevail are exactly what we need in a leader right now. True, his proposals are "easier said than done," but it is precisely because the goal of a free Iraq is now within our grasp that terrorist violence has escalated in recent weeks. The transcript is available from the White House Web site. Here are the five steps outlined by the President:

  1. Transfer full sovereignty to a government of Iraqi citizens on June 30th
  2. Establish the stability and security necessary to hold elections
  3. Continue rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure, leadin to economic independence
  4. Enlisting additional international support for Iraq's transition
  5. Holding free, national elections, no later than next January

Thanks to Glenn Reynold's Instapundit, I came across Jason Van Steenwyk's iraqnow blog, which calls to task the New York Times and other mainstream news sources for grossly misquoting Gen. Mattis, commander of the First Marine Division, in a news conference that focused on the recent U.S. attacks in western Iraq where a "wedding party" was underway. Otherwise minor lapses in journalistic standards become greatly magnified given the vital psychological aspect of this conflict. The BBC reports that the International Institute for Strategic Studies concludes that Al Qaeda has been "spurred on" by the U.S. campaign in Iraq, gaining new recruits and prestige in the Arab world. What did we expect, that the Arab world would be dancing in the streets after the fall of Baghdad? Unfortunately, it seems that many well-informed people are just not willing to face up to the nature of this global-scale war. It would have been easy to tiptoe around the sociopolitical malignancy that fosters terrorism, but President Bush decided, for better or worse, to resolve the matter once and for all. For anyone with a sense of history, the setbacks the U.S.-led Coalition has encountered in Iraq are part of the natural ebb and flow of war. As if that IISS report wasn't enough, Tom Clancy has hinted that he agrees with the co-author of his latest book, retired Gen. Anthony Zinni, that the U.S. war in Iraq was a mistake. If the Superhawk himself indeed has pulled the "Eject" lever, the precipitous drop in public support might make this conflict start resembling Vietnam after all.

May 19, 2004

WMDs: confirmed at last

Iraqi insurgents recently tried to use an artillery shell containing the nerve gas sarin in an attack on U.S. forces in Baghdad. Fortunately, it was discovered in time, but it detonated before it could be disarmed, and two U.S. soldiers had to be treated for exposure. This comes on the heels of other recent reports of chemical weapons related equipment in Iraq, but the mainstream press has been largely silent on the matter. The story was on page A14 of the Washington Post yesterday. Just what does this prove? It's too early to say for sure. The shell could have been part of a hidden stockpile, or it could have been just a loose "stray." Whoever planted it might not have even known that it was a chemical weapon. Properly used, however, such a weapon could kill hundreds of people, and there must be hundreds of terrorists in Iraq with sufficient training to use it effectively. At the very least, no one can doubt any longer that Saddam Hussein did in fact possess weapons of mass destruction, contrary to what his government claimed to U.N. inspectors. Will such concrete evidence help narrow the sharp division of opinion among American people regarding the war in Iraq?

The Pentagon announced that the 2nd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division will be tranferred from South Korea to Iraq this summer, further evidence of the dangerous overextension of U.S. military forces worldwide. Meanwhile, tensions between China and Taiwan are heating up again as pro-independence President Chen Shui-bian prepares for his second inauguration. The United States is obviously in no position to do very much to protect either South Korea or Taiwan from a surprise attack at this point.

Everyone's favorite no-nonsense military and security affairs columnist Austin Bay has been called up to active duty again, and will be shipping off to Iraq very soon. Read his parting thoughts (titled "Everyone is Part of the War") at: It's a good tonic for those who are discouraged by the recent upsurge in violence in Iraq.

April 21, 2004

The Counterattack: Now what?

The awful wave of guerrilla attacks and suicide bombings in Iraq over the past few weeks have unnerved many Americans who blithely assumed we would be welcomed as liberators. The comparisons many people have made between this surge of violence and the Tet Offensive in Vietnam are not very apt, since the scale in the former episode was much larger, with hundreds of deaths daily, and control of most major South Vietnamese cities remaining in doubt for a week or more. True, Coalition forces have proved to be insufficient to maintain complete control of Iraqi cities, but there is no danger that they will be pushed out. Ironically, the Tet analogy is very apt in highlighting the psychological angle, which is of supreme importance in this war: If enough Americans are convinced that we are losing, then we will have lost. President Bush's press conference last week started and closed on a pretty good note, but there was one distressing interlude of uncertain stammering, when he was asked what mistakes he thought he had made in the war, and he said couldn't think of any. The President should have nothing to be ashamed of in admitting he wasn't as attuned to terrorist threats before September 11 as he wished he had been. I think any decent person in his shoes would feel awful about not having paid closer attention to reports about Al Qaeda's intentions. If he doesn't start speaking in a more candid fashion about his own decision-making, and about the need for Americans to make big sacrifices in the war against Arab-Islamic fascism (which he has yet to identify as such, unfortunately), he may well lose the election to Senator Kerry.

So what should Bush do differently in Iraq now? I say move ahead with the plan to transfer sovereign authority to Iraqis by June 30, come hell or high water. Dare the Iraqi leaders to step up to the plate and work out their differences among each other right away, or else face sheer chaos for months and years to come. Of course, U.S. troops will be present in Iraq for years, but the sooner we let go of formal governing responsibilities, the less excuse the ultra-nationalists in Iraq and neighboring countries will have for waging "war" against us. Which reminds me of another lame parallel often made with Vietnam: We should NOT worry about trying to win "the hearts and minds" of the Iraqi people, or of Arabs in general. Their hatred, resentment, and suspicion of the U.S. and Western Civilization is so deep at this point that no appeal to reason is even remotely possible. The best we can really hope for is to convince enough of them that their own interests lie in cooperating with us and distancing themselves from terrorism. I am under no illusions about this conflict ending any time soon, and the ugliness and despair are likely to get worse before they get better. ("Blood, toil, sweat, and tears...") Whatever kind of regime eventually emerges in Iraq, democratic or not, our bottom line has to be no safe haven for terrorism.