Sunday, June 18, 2006

Iraq War by the numbers

My brave friend Bill at Billy Bob's Bulletins has compiled metrics on the Iraq War into a concise chart and the numbers paint an ugly picture. A few highlights comparing May 2003 to May 2006:

  • The number of Iraqis kidnapped per day has soared from 2 to 35
  • The percent of Iraqis optimistic about their future has plummeted from 75% to 30%
  • Estimated number of insurgents has skyrocketed from 3,000 to 20,000
  • Estimated number of foreign fighters has boomed from 100 to 1,500
  • Daily attacks by insurgents have upsurged from 5 to 90
I don't know all of the sources for Bill's Iraq War metrics but a spot check confirmed Bill is on the mark or in close proximity. Good job, Bill!

For example, on kidnapped Iraqis... The Christian Science Monitor published the number of westerners who are kidnapped as of Feb. 6, 2006, a sore topic since the abduction of reporter Jill Carroll, but they also tallied that "Iraqis themselves are being kidnapped in large numbers - some months, more than 30 per day."

Another source, the Brookings Institution's Iraq Index just issued on Jun. 15, 2006, (PDF) a collection of statistical data on "economic, public opinion, and security data... including crime, telephone and water service, troop fatalities, unemployment, Iraqi security forces, oil production, and coalition troop strength," that provides a mother lode of numbers. On page 16 of the PDF, you can read that Iraqis were kidnapped at a rate of two per day in Baghdad in January 2004, up to 30 per day in all of Iraq as of December 2005, and 30-40 per day as of March 2006. Brookings also warned that the Iraqi police suggest the actual number may be underreported.

Another metric, the number of Iraqi insurgents... Bill nailed it at 20,000 as of May 2006, although Brookings added a plus sign to its statistic of 20,000+. Brookings also calculated the number of foreign fighters a bit higher than Bill's at 2,000. But you get the idea: Iraq has gotten worse. A lot worse.

What don't these numbers include? The cost of the Iraq War to American taxpayers. Based on the last congressional appropriation, Iraq expenditures have mushroomed to $315 billion, which ends on Sept. 30, 2006. More will be needed. Yeah, the Iraq War is an ugly reality, a trillion-dollar ugliness since Bush has adopted a fiscally-irresponsible tactic to borrow and spend. Whatever happened to the budget surplus Bush inherited? Oh, yeah. Tax cuts for the wealthiest. Don't they know we have a war to finance? Cough it up, Got Rocks. The middle class is tapped out.

What's uglier? The long-term impact to us all. The metrics of the Iraq War can never measure the human toll that's undermining our nation, the Iraqis, the Middle East region, the global community, and our collective future. WaPo columnist Eugene Robinson wrote on Friday:
Today's generation of jihadists was forged in Afghanistan fighting the Soviet occupation. How long will the next generation, being forged in Iraq fighting the American occupation, be with us?
Iraq is just one theater in Bush's "war." Elsewhere, Afghanistan is once again ablaze as the resurgent Taliban counterattacks. Somalia is coming under the sway of an Islamic militia that may harbor al-Qaeda militants. America's popularity in the world continues to fall.
But George W. Bush forges ahead, trying vainly to kill a poisonous, retrograde ideology with bullets and bombs. His "war" is self-perpetuating, and no one even knows what victory would look like. Long after he's gone, we'll still be looking for a way to end the mess he began.
Meanwhile in Congress during last week's debate over the war, Republicans acted as if Iraq had represented a dangerous national security threat to the U.S. in 2003, one that demanded a necessary military action of the invade-and-occupy kind that we need not abandon. Well, that's twisted truth. I'll put aside the WMD-smoke-and-mirrors game that the Bush WH played on us to address the here and now. Redeploying troops, the John Murtha plan (D-PA), doesn't mean we desert the Iraqis entirely. And what about billions of dollars we'll still pour into Iraqi reconstruction? The training and equipment, we'll still provide? That's not desertion. Ha! Yet we've already lost the Iraq War post-invasion. The military wasn't designed as an occupation, peace-keeping force and Bush certainly didn't have a post-war plan. But Republicans can't admit that their rubber-stamping Bush's glorious adventure to rush to war has screwed us for generations. Can't tell the truth during an election year, can they?

Now for the source of the ugly Iraq War. Dick Cheney only grants interviews to his con-apparatchiki. Last week he nodded to right-winger, Sean Hannity of Faux News. Cheney gave his reasons why America is safer with a debatable and errant assertion:
"Iraq was a safe haven for terrorists, it had a guy running it who had started two wars, who had produced and used weapons of mass destruction. Taking down Saddam Hussein was exactly the right thing to do.
"It's also, I think, in part responsible for the fact that we haven't been hit again in nearly five years. That's no accident. The fact is, we've taken the battle to the enemy. That's been the key to the safety and security of the American people these last few years, and we need to continue to do it."
WaPo's Dan Froomkin retorted (with emphasis):
That's quite a claim -- but does he have any evidence to back it up? Hannity certainly didn't ask for any.
An old assertion, as reported by Jonathan Weisman and Charles Babington in The Washington Post: "Vice President Cheney weighed in, taking note of [Sen. John F.] Kerry's statement earlier this week urging fellow Democrats who joined him in authorizing force in 2002 to acknowledge that the war is a mistake. 'I'm not surprised at John Kerry switching his position yet again,' Cheney said on Sean Hannity's radio talk show. Kerry is charging 'that somehow he was misled,' the vice president said. 'He wasn't misled. He saw the same intelligence all the rest of us saw. He knew what an evil actor Saddam Hussein was.' "
But of course it's been repeatedly established that members of Congress did not get to see the same intelligence as Bush and Cheney -- not even close. Just for example, as reported by Murray Waas in the National Journal in March, there was a "classified one-page summary of a National Intelligence Estimate, specifically written for Bush in October 2002. The summary said that although 'most agencies judge' that the aluminum tubes were 'related to a uranium enrichment effort,' the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research and the Energy Department's intelligence branch 'believe that the tubes more likely are intended for conventional weapons.' " Not only did Congress never get to see it, but the White House still doesn't want to acknowledge it existed.
Hannity didn't challenge Cheney's assertion, of course. And Greg Sargent , who writes the American Prospect's blog on political coverage, slams The Post for printing it without debunking it.
Cheney and his handmaiden, Rummy, need to go and now--You're fired!--to alleviate the U.S. of two major reasons America has become mired in a self-perpetuating war. We can't get rid of Bush for two more years, but we can stop Cheney and Rummy by calling for their resignations before they do anymore damage. Or better yet. Sweeping the House and/or Senate clean in November's election so Democrats can rein in the Bushnuts would stop the bleeding el pronto. If a Democratic Congress controls the presidential purse, Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld can't spiral us down any further.

When you tally up the lost lives, the injuries, the deceptions, the political dishonesty, the costs, the future impact, the damage at home and abroad, the Iraq War is not only the biggest strategic disaster in American history, but it's the ugliest blot on our nation's foreign policy. Numbers can't measure ugly but Democrats can stop the ugliness beginning in 2007.