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At what cost Iraq? How many troops are enough?

 

Soldier in IraqPresident George Bush’s Wednesday night (1/10/07) speech, with details leaked earlier during the day, is expected to call for an additional 21,150 troops to be deployed to Iraq within the next few weeks. That news (a badly kept ‘secret’) was released in tandem with the news that tours of duty for army and marine troops will be increased by anywhere from three to five months. A full year for marines (up from seven months) and fifteen months for army forces (up from a year). With troops already stressed, and some forces heading for second and third tours, how much is enough? Will it make a difference?

Bush seems to think so, but the rest of the country doesn’t seem quite so sure. In a word, “confidence is NOT high” on the Main Streets of America. Bush expects the additional forces will be able to quell the country’s in-fighting and insurgency, and has also put a time line of sorts on the Iraqi government to take control of their country within the coming year. That sounds like a good idea, but can it be done?

Polls show confidence of the American people in this war strategy at an all time low of 27%, and Democrats are already setting battle plans of their own to potentially halt funding for escalation of this war effort, which, if you track its public relations history, we supposedly won over three years ago. So why are we still there? What’s wrong with this picture?

On December 31, the odometer of American casualties in Iraq turned 3,000. I was told by someone that “3,000 is not a grim number; we lost 56,000 in Vietnam.” Yes, we did, and if we stay the course in Iraq as long as we did in Vietnam, it could become a case of instant replay.

The 3,000 number is just Iraq military fatalities. It does not cover other coalition fatalities. It does not count American and coalition civilian casualties. It does not cover Iraqi civilian deaths. It does not count the tens of thousands of non-fatal injuries or the tens of thousands of psychological and emotional problems our troops and their families are suffering.
If we have not been able to bring Iraqi forces up to a standard and number that can control their own country, and get their new ‘Democracy’ to take control after nearly four years of fighting, resistance, death and destruction, what makes Bush think that 21,150 extra pairs of boots on the ground will make a difference.
Let’s hope that the new Democratic majority, perhaps with aid of some realistic Republicans, can hold Bush’s Presidential feet to the fire and demand a true assessment and timely strategy to break free of the desert quicksand our country and our troops are in.
Otherwise it’s Vietnam, redux. Nobody wins.


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