Body Count Redux

Category: Americas, World Affairs Topics: Conflicts And War, Iraq, War Views: 3486

During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military released body counts of enemy and friendly dead to the media, which reported them voraciously. Invariably, the military's data-showing more enemy than friendly dead-was designed to give the illusion that the United States was winning the war. What the data didn't show was more important: that a tenacious enemy fighting for its homeland would be willing to incur high casualties and outwait an opponent with a short attention span. Similarly, in Iraq, the U.S. military gleefully reports that attacks against U.S. soldiers have dropped by more than half since their peak in November of last year and that firefights between U.S. soldiers and Iraqi guerrillas in Iraqi towns have also diminished. But like the body counts in Vietnam, the American public should be wary of such rosy assessments.

The major reason that fighting between the U.S. military and the insurgents has declined is that the American forces have vacated the field of battle. However unfortunate, with a competitive election coming up this year, the White House knows that the only thing in Iraq that matters to the American public is how many U.S. soldiers are killed and wounded there. Thus, "force protection" has become the number one unstated goal in Iraq. American forces have been pulled out of Iraqi cities and towns and most security functions have been turned over to the amateurish, ill-trained and poorly equipped Iraqi security forces. This same phenomenon occurred in Bosnia in the mid-to late-nineties, when American public support for U.S. involvement in peacekeeping there was lukewarm. American soldiers were ridiculed by the peacekeeping forces of other nations for rarely coming out of their fortified bastions.

What is the result of a policy designed more to avoid a catastrophe before the election than to pacify Iraq? Answer: One of the worst weeks of violence since America's occupation began. Last week, 125 people were killed in suicide bombings of a police station and an Iraqi Army recruiting station and a violent raid on an Iraqi police station to free prisoners. In addition, guerillas, seemingly tipped off that a VIP would be visiting, attacked the motorcade of John Abizaid, the American general in-charge of all U.S. forces in the Middle East. Most of those attacked or killed in this recent spate of attacks-save the U.S. general-were Iraqi police or military people perceived as collaborating with the American occupation.

Although U.S. officials claim that security in Iraq is improving, a confidential and little noticed report by the American occupation authority itself belies those statements and confirms the intuitive impression that attacks by insurgents are getting worse. The occupation authority's findings, as reported by London's Financial Times, state that "January has been the highest rate of violence since September 2003. The violence continues despite the expansion of the Iraqi security services and increased arrests by coalition forces in December and January." The report concludes that in recent months, attacks against international and nongovernmental organizations, strikes using mortars and explosives (including roadside bombs), strikes in Baghdad and attacks that were non-life threatening have all increased substantially. Also, attacks on military targets rose faster than strikes on their civilian counterparts.

Yet the only recent public indication of underlying security problems was made by Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator of Iraq, who was forced by last week's mayhem to admit that the indigenous security services would not be ready to guarantee public safety in time for the ostensible mid-year turn over of Iraq to the Iraqis, "I think it's quite clear the Iraqi security forces, brave as they are, and beaten and attacked as they are, are not going to be ready by July 1." Ideally suited for his job, Mr. Bremer has a gift for understatement.

So if the Iraqi security forces are in shambles and insurgent attacks are rising, the casual observe might ask why are the Americans pulling back to fortified garrisons outside Iraqi cities? Answer: That policy saves the lives of American soldiers while leaving the Iraqi citizenry to the wolves. Strangely, the U.S. military admits this increased risk to Iraqis. So much for the Bush administration's high-flying rhetoric about making Iraq a better place for its citizens. If a civil war eventually breaks out-as a U.N. representative recently warned and as the occupation authority worried euphemistically in its report-Saddam Hussein's regime could seem like the good ole' days for Iraqis.

So although the Bush administration's policy may be achieving its primary goal-avoiding a sharp escalation in the U.S. body count before November-the voting public should not mistakenly conclude that the United States is winning this war. A reckless Bush administration-like the Johnson and Nixon administrations during the Vietnam War-has stumbled into a war that it can neither win nor escape from gracefully.

Ivan Eland is the Director of the Center on Peace and Liberty at the Independent Institute in Oakland, California and author of the book, Putting "Defense" Back into U.S. Defense Policy: Rethinking U.S. Security in the Post-Cold War World.

  Category: Americas, World Affairs
  Topics: Conflicts And War, Iraq, War
Views: 3486

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Older Comments:
Incidentally: regarding the recent record high prices for gasoline -- here in the United States that is -- my prayers have been answered. (Praise be to God.)

Who was really behind 9/11 attacks. Conspiracy exposed. Read this:

Nick's comments demonstrate clearly the warped mind of the typical American moron. Besides openly declaring and endorsing terrorism as a tool of foreign policy, he clearly has no shame or decency. Is it any wonder Americans are hated the world over, no doubt because they believe in terror as long as it serves their interests.
Unfortunetly for such deluded apologists for empire history has proved that them wrong at each and every turn. Let us hope that the end of the Evil empire comes within our lifetime, God willing.

Yahya Bergum, I think I you've lost me. Or perhaps I lost you, I'm not sure.

The issue of land ownership is outside the scope of what I'm discussing. As an example to illustrate, imagine there's a terrorist training camp somewhere in the wastelands of Xinjiang. Assuming our friends in the area chase the "campers" out of their base, they can use our bulldozers to flatten the remains so that if the terrorists try to return then they will have nothing to come back to.

Of course, the use of bulldozers would only play a minor part of a concerted effort to rid an area of terrorists.

The author makes a strong case as to why the U.S. is in trouble in Iraq, as a result of a war waged primarily over imperalistic desires. And as for anyone -- especially Muslims -- who are backing Mr. Bush for re-election, it's hard to understand. This man has a conservative Christian agenda and has done very little to show support for Muslims and Arab people. He has waged war on two Muslim countries, detained hundreds of Muslims and Arabs in U.S. jails following 9/11 in total disregard to the Constitution and basic human decency, and continues to keep Muslims locked up at Guantanamo who may be innocent of what they are suspected of. He fooled Muslims and Arabs in 2000, why let him fool us again?

Nick, I am all for arming the natives to the teeth and determining for themselves who leads them. I really must ask however that you carefully reconsider the bulldozer operation. Who gets the land? Think about it. (If they "who were here first" make any trouble, shoot all the buffalo!) It's a force for corruption, Nick. (That's a bad thing.)

Regardless, go to it! (Or pause and think a moment -- and then go to it!)

I believe that the best way to keep our casualty count low in our just war against tyranny and other forms of terror is to wage unconventional war against our enemies as opposed to conventional war like the recent one in Iraq. That means greater use of information dissemination and deconstruction of terrorist safehouses with Caterpillar bulldozers. Greater reliance on human intelligence and surgical neutralization of terrorist leaders through the use of specialized undercover agents operating in other countries are also vital to our success. Finally, we should encourage aggressive liberalization/democratization efforts by natives in underdeveloped countries by equipping those friendly to the U.S. with the latest technologies like night vision goggles and other essential hardware, with the hope that such well-equipped and well-trained patriots can bring about regime change in countries that side with terrorists.

If we follow this recipe, we can keep American casualty rates low as well as minimize collateral damage.

I am still trying to figure out where the author might be going with all this. For what it might be worth, considering the author's credentials, I am willing to go along with him -- for at least short a drive through the countryside. Also, with these articles and his credentials, I do not think I would be getting too wild by predicting that he may come to have considerable influence (even a "cabinet-type position") within the next administration, if the Democratic Party wins the U.S. Presidential election in 2004 (CE). I (myself) am for the incumbent -- but (especially if someone happens to be opposed to the incumbent) people might care to have a closer look at this particular author's views -- particularly in case the Democratic Party takes over the White House. That is, if people might have any interest in this sort of thing.

Assalamu alaikum (Peace be unto you.)