Two years ago, President Bush sent American troops into Iraq on the basis of claims that evaporated into thin air not long after the fighting got underway.
There was no justification for starting this war, and there is now no good reason to continue it. It is time to bring our troops home.
At this writing 1,518 American soldiers have lost their lives: 585 in the war"s first year, 933 in the second. Soldiers are dying at a rate of about two per day except during major offensives, when the death rate rises sharply.
The Pentagon has worked hard to conceal the total number of seriously wounded, but investigations by CBS and UPI allow us to estimate that around 16,000 soldiers have been wounded too badly to return to duty. Medical investigations show that one of every six returning soldiers is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and that fraction could well double within a year.
The best estimate of the number of Iraqi civilian deaths caused by the war – 100,000 – was published six months ago by Johns Hopkins and Columbia University researchers. By this two-year anniversary, the number will have increased to around 133,000. Proportional to population, that"s as if 1.5 million American citizens had been killed.
To make matters worse, much of Iraq"s infrastructure is in ruins, and the reconstruction effort is almost completely stalled because of insurgent attacks and sabotage. We are caught in a vicious cycle: our very failure to repair the war damage is fueling much of the anti-U.S. anger.
To date, the war has added $156 billion – about 20 percent – to Pentagon budget. Yet another war bill now before the Congress would tack an additional $82 billion onto a federal budget that"s already running $500 billion in the red. To help pay for it, the president has proposed severe cuts in domestic programs, including family support, health care, and education.
We have no idea when this war will end. The Bush administration has persistently refused to offer any timetable for withdrawal. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard Myers gave us a clue when he noted that insurgencies typically last seven to 12 years, making a quick withdrawal from Iraq unlikely.
Another clue: the Pentagon is continuing the construction of bases that can support a large and permanent American military presence on Iraqi soil.
The president says U.S. troops will remain in Iraq until we have trained an Iraqi army and security force capable of defeating the insurgency. That, too, would mean a long, long occupation. Military and intelligence experts dispute administration claims that more than 100,000 Iraqis have been fully trained, saying the number is closer to 5,000. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told the Senate that Iraqi army units have absentee rates of up to 40 percent.
We will withdraw if the Iraqi government asks us to leave, says the president. But U.S. authorities have many levers of control to prevent the newly elected Iraqi authorities, or their successors, from making this request – despite overwhelming support for immediate withdrawal by the Iraqi people.
President Bush plans to continue the U.S. occupation for as long as it take to accomplish his real goal – turning Iraq into an American satellite and projecting American power over world oil supplies.
Fears of violence following a U.S. withdrawal are justified. But there is no reason at all to believe that the violence would be reduced by a continued American occupation. On the contrary, almost all insurgent attacks have focused on Americans, our allies, or Iraqis associated with us.
After two years of occupation and chaos, our very presence is a lightning rod. Given that, there is simply no way that our troops can impose peace on Iraq, try as they might.
The United States will not withdraw from Iraq unless the American people demand it and force our political leadership to comply. It"s up to us.
* Thanks to AntiWar.Com
Stan Cox and John Exdell*