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December 31, 2006

Comments

It's the ripples that get me, as much as the individual person's death.

The orphans and widow(er)s.

The parents and siblings.

The books that they'll never write; the music they'll never create; the paintings and poems and movies they'll never make. The patients they'll never heal; the students they'll never teach; the theorems and equations and proofs that died with them. They people they'll never save. The beauty they'll never create.

Each person is a new universe, one unknown and unexplored, with potentials and possibilities unimaginable.

Each death is a universe lost.

"Every man's death diminishes me."

Eloquent, hil.
Thanks.

Feliz ano nuevo.

"One is too many."

Hmm. I might agree in this instance but I definitely don't agree in general. There are many worthy human endeavors (not even war related) where statistically a death is inevitable yet we still carry on. (The building of the Golden Gate bridge, a dam, or a skyscraper).

It kills me everytime I read about another Marine or soldier dying over there. It would be different if Iraq was some glorious place of freedom and safety in contrast to you-know-who's-time but it's not. Makes me angry everytime somebody else dies...

Seb--
But part of the reason you might agree in this instance is because of its being unnecessary, right? That is, this war isn't a worthy endeavour.

Sebastian,

If this was a just and rational war, I would agree with you...but it's foundations were built on sand.

Not sand. Shit.

What saddens me is all the deaths that could have been avoided if America had truly supported its soldiers. With half the country fighting against the Commander-In-Chief non-stop and providing more moral support to the enemy than our own troops one has to expect the battles to be much more deadlier for our side.

Maybe that's really the issue... our sides. With only half the country on the side of the U.S. troops nd the other half either in the middle or against the U.S. troops you have to expect these deaths to occur.

Our soldiers have to fight abroad and at home. That's a sad way to ring in the new year.

"...when the final history is written on Iraq, it will look like just a comma..." President George W. Bush

bril, that's a calumny. Not a single death can be laid at the feet of those Americans who thought the war wouldn't work. Not one. Every mission, all deployments and assignments, have been the sole responsibility of the government, and have come off completely without interference from anyone. You can't point to any act of any American opposed to the war that has lead to any death.

You want to say that the war hasn't worked out as you thought it would because not everyone thought it would. As a certain former Sec of Def would have responded to your point, you go to war with the country you have, not the fascist paradise you wish you had. Opposition (and lack of faith) of some part of the population were apparent from before Day 1. To the extent that this has led to the failure of any objectives -- and I really don't think it has -- that too is completely the fault of the people designing and implementing the plans.

Your dream was an illusion -- and lots of people knew it and told you so at every step of the way. It's lead to the deaths of untold thousands. Whining about how it's someone else's fault is not only wrong factually, it shows what pondscum a great many of the warmongering bullies really are.

I agree with Sebastian's general points (that measuring only deaths that occur as a result of an endeavor does not measure the value of the endeavor itself and that it would have been better that this particular endeavor not have been undertaken -- and these lives not lost).

Yet, that 3000 have died so far does not identify the correct course forward in Iraq. It's a data point, but not dispositive. That going in was a mistake does not mean that withdrawal is the correct course and not another mistake.

I'm willing wait to hear specifics from President Bush regarding his plan -- if (like Senator Lugar noted on yesterday's Fox News Sunday) Bush (a) presents a plan for Congressional debate rather than as fait accompli and (b) can explain precisely how the plan will improve the current situation.

I'm willing wait to hear specifics from President Bush regarding his plan

The metaphor that comes to mind here is of someone who insists that a dilapidated house be demolished immediately and, ignoring all sane counsel, douses the place with gasoline and lights a match. Then, with the place engulfed in flames and falling down all around him, he insists on sitting down in the middle of the inferno to think about solutions to the problem.

Maybe this newfound appreciation for deliberation marks a bit of personal growth on the part of the President, though I suspect his true motives are a lot more cynical.

-- if (like Senator Lugar noted on yesterday's Fox News Sunday) Bush (a) presents a plan for Congressional debate rather than as fait accompli and (b) can explain precisely how the plan will improve the current situation.

Do you seriously think this is a possibility? Haven't you noticed that every time he claims he's looking for advice he then follows up by dismissing any possibility of withdrawal?

bril: "With only half the country on the side of the U.S. troops nd the other half either in the middle or against the U.S. troops..."

As CharleyCarp said, that's calumny. And not only for the reasons he mentions, but also because it's just wrong to say that half of the country has not supported the troops. At any rate, I would be fascinated to see what evidence you have for that assertion. And evidence that people opposed the war is not evidence that they didn't support the troops.

So let us know what evidence you have for saying that half the country opposed the troops, or stop saying that they did.

I should note this for the record: If Bush can, at this late date, present a plan that restores peace and civil order to Iraq, and that leads in a clear way to a stable republican government that protects fundamental civil liberties for all Iraqis, I will gladly eat a lot of crow. I am far more concerned with good outcomes for real people than I am with having been right or wrong myself about it. Give them peace and justice, and I'll rejoice.

If, on the other hand, this is yet another opportunity Bush pisses away...will it affect the war's supporters at all?

CharleyCarp,

Well said.

What CharleyCarp said (@ 9:33a).

If wars were won (or lost) merely by the repetitive expression of simpleton jingo on the home front (or not), the world - and Iraq not the least - would be quite a different place. However: they aren't; and we all have to make do with the reality that we have.
Sad as it is, I think reductionist nonsense like bril's is going to become ever more common a theme as the war-whooping "hawk" fringe will have to start flailing around ever-more-wildly to find someone/something (anyone/anything) to blame for the mess this Administration has mired us in in Iraq.

Oh well: Happy New Year to all, anyway!

Bril's statement actually shows an astonishing lack of faith in our troops. It says our fighting men and women are such emotionally tender and weak-minded shrinking violets that they cannot effectively complete a mission without first knowing that every single citizen back home supports the commander-in-chief 100%. It says US troops cannot fight for freedom and democracy abroad unless we behave like a totalitarian state at home.

Bril should look at the latest poll taken by Military Times of the soldiers. He'd be shocked to see that more than half of the military doesn't support itself. Suggesting that the other half better arrest them.

As the 3000th death passes and Hussein is hung, it strikes me as a little weird that the Iraqi engineers of this war - or at least some of them, notably Chalibi and Kanan Makiya - seemingly don't want to live in the liberated Iraq of their dreams. I've been thinking that the Immigration service should suggest rather vigorously to the likes of Chalibi that he might consider returning to his dear land. Hey, Hussein, bloody dictator that he was, didn't leave Iraq even when he was militarily defeated and a manhunt was on for him - while the Iraqi exiles leave whenever things get hot, they have stowed enough stolen money to buy London real estate, or whatever.

I've never been enthusiastic about telling American war supporters to join the army and go to Iraq - I don't want the American army in Iraq, period - but I do think Iraqi exile war mongers should not be coddled here. Send Chalabi to Baghdad for New Years!

With half the country fighting against the Commander-In-Chief non-stop and providing more moral support to the enemy than our own troops one has to expect the battles to be much more deadlier for our side.

um... posting rules ?

cleek: I went back and forth on that one, and ultimately decided that it did not clearly target anyone posting here (I mean, I suspect that the people who are supposed to not support the troops are opponents of the war, but that's not explicit), and for all I know, might be a plain description of the views of some large group of Americans I just haven't heard about. It seemed unlikely, but hey. So I thought: I should request evidence rather than calling a posting rules violation.

It's 99:1 that bril is the new name for RightWingTrollBot v. 3.1. On the one in a hundred chance I'm wrong, I look forward to hearing a reasoned explanation of how the war opponents' "lack of resolve" in any way changed the actual prosecution of this disastrous war. I'll ignore Bush-adoring boilerplate claptrap, but if you have an argument that makes me think a bit I'll respect that greatly.

Was it because our great and noble President, known for considering views contradicting his own, wouldn't press forward with a mere 90% consensus, instead waiting until every last person agreed with him to unleash our full fury and flatten Iraq?

I mean, seriously, when you pretty much control the entire government for six years including the first three of your own war of choice, how do you blame the opposition? That's perhaps the most absurd aspect to this theme of "We should have been more brutal but the liberals held us back." Although the idea that we could win anything without hearts and minds runs a close second.

FWIW I'm conservative in many ways (i.e. Libertarian) and I supported this war originally because I was hoodwinked and gave a certain deference to the people in charge knowing more than me.

What saddens me is all the deaths that could have been avoided if America had truly supported its soldiers.

Ladies and gentlemen "the party of accountability" in a nutshell.

I'm probably giving TrollBot far, far more credit than it deserves, and giving its fellow-travelers far, far more credit than they deserve, but I think its/their thinking runs along the lines of "We would have won in Vietnam if it weren't for the protesters, because they undermined the President's will and emboldened the Viet Cong; therefore, the same thing is happening in Iraq."

This line of thinking is Biarro World, because it accepts as true any number of erroneous premises. Not only is their originating premise re Vietnam the product of dingbat ideological revisionism, their notions of why Iraq is the way it is rely on a cause-and-effect analysis not even Stan Lee's superheroes would tolerate.

My favorite is the premise that the militias in Iraq take their strategy cues from the opponents of the war, as if the Sunni and Shia had to read blogs or watch CNN before deciding whether to make war on one another; as if nothing in Iraq's recent history, nor any of the actions and decisions made by the Bush Administration, nor the various assassinations, mosque bombings, and random mass murders since the invasion and occupation, enter into the equation at all.

My next favorite is the premise that US forces weren't brutal enough. I really like this one because it rips off the sanctimonious mask that the war crowd sported for a while: that we were invading and occupying Iraq to make Iraq a better place, and that Freedom and Democracy were things that only George Bush had thought the Iraqis were worthy of, and anyone who said different had to be an anti-Muslim bigot.

The mask never fit very well, because the people wearing it didn't have much of a history of caring about the oppressed Iraqis (or Afghanis, for that matter) before the war - or even knowing about them before the war.

At any rate, the mask started to slip around the first dust-up in Fallujah, slipped further after the Abu Ghraib and torture scandals, and fell off altogether once the insurgency/civil war really got going. From "liberals are anti-Muslim bigots for thinking George Bush can't remake Iraq into a Western-style democracy" the warhounds moved quickly (and, probably, with relief) to a viewpoint more in keeping with their basic nature: "Ungrateful ragheads! Islamofascist savages! Kill them all!"

Now that they've reached their proper level in deciding the only good Muslim is a dead Muslim, it's much easier for them to claim that Bush coulda-woulda-shoulda won in Iraq if only he'd been willing to saturate-bomb the place - oh, and Mecca, too, while he was at it; and the only reason he didn't was because liberals and the MSM and anti-war bloggers said not to. Because Bush, like the Iraqis, totally takes his cues from what liberals and the MSM and anti-war bloggers say.

Now that they've reached their proper level in deciding the only good Muslim is a dead Muslim, it's much easier for them to claim that Bush coulda-woulda-shoulda won in Iraq if only he'd been willing to saturate-bomb the place - oh, and Mecca, too, while he was at it; and the only reason he didn't was because liberals and the MSM and anti-war bloggers said not to. Because Bush, like the Iraqis, totally takes his cues from what liberals and the MSM and anti-war bloggers say.

Butbutbut.... you only have to look at Russia and Putin to see how succesfull you can occupy a country without protests at home and without media reporting all the bad news. Doesn't Chechenia (sp in english?) proof how things should be done?

Oh wait...

Equal Opportunity Cynic: That was an excellent bit of responsibility-taking. People unwilling to admit they got taken ont he war often do a lot of chest-beating about how everyone else is picking on them, but as you demonstrate, it's not hard - you admit you were wrong, you identify why, and then (hopefully) you go on to not make that mistake again. It doesn't have to be the occasion for stylized anguish, just for concise honesty.

Bruce,

Thanks. But in the era of talk radio and two-sides shouting shows, most people are willing to sacrifice nuance and intellectual honesty as the price for not having to admit that "liberals" (or "conservatives", in a sneering tone either way) could be right. Being nuanced is as useless to them as being nuanced in my support for my team to beat the other team in a sports event.

Truth is rarely so stark, so I see no major loss of face with admitting that I don't have the monopoly on it. It clear I drastically erred by assuming that the system would ensure that no President could do significantly more damage to the country than any other President. I thought the entire political duopoly was cut from the same bland, fundamentally corrupt but not terribly harmful piece of cloth.

I don't think that any more. I still don't like either of the major parties, but I think one's clearly hurting the country more than the other. Sadly, it's the one with which I should have more ideology in common!

Agreed about the perennial temptation to be on a side rather than following the evidence, logic, and morality - including of course the contrarian "I can't be on that side because it's yucky". I figure that expecting perfection is unreasonable, but looking for the willingness to make corrections isn't.

I am devastated by these numbers.

I am also devastated by the number of civilian deaths in Iraq. Has anybody been reading Riverbend's blog from Iraq, Baghdad Burning? She's an anonymous young Iraqi woman, a fine writer, whose posts have become every more despairing and angry. Her December 29 entry has some very pointed things to say about how Americans tend to value American lives ... understandably, I think, but what she has to say is worth quoting:

"Here we come to the end of 2006 and I am sad. Not simply sad for the state of the country, but for the state of our humanity, as Iraqis. We've all lost some of the compassion and civility that I felt made us special four years ago. I take myself as an example. Nearly four years ago, I cringed every time I heard about the death of an American soldier. They were occupiers, but they were humans also and the knowledge that they were being killed in my country gave me sleepless nights. Never mind they crossed oceans to attack the country, I actually felt for them.

"Had I not chronicled those feelings of agitation in this very blog, I wouldn't believe them now. Today, they simply represent numbers. 3000 Americans dead over nearly four years? Really? That's the number of dead Iraqis in less than a month. The Americans had families? Too bad. So do we. So do the corpses in the streets and the ones waiting for identification in the morgue.

"Is the American soldier that died today in Anbar more important than a cousin I have who was shot last month on the night of his engagement to a woman he's wanted to marry for the last six years? I don't think so.

"Just because Americans die in smaller numbers, it doesn't make them more significant, does it?"

I think that one of the problems is the twisting that the terms conservative and liberal have gotten in political discourse. There is nothing about regime change that can be classified as conservative, and one can see that the New Republic crew of liberal hawks hung on to (and continue to, I think) the lifeboat of the invasion because they didn't want to give up their liberal ideals about international intervention. I'd also point out that the 'liberals' I know generally tend to have these offbeat hobbies that are essentially conservative tendencies of trying to preserve things that they think are worth preserving. Ideally, conservatism should be a break slowing things down and asking people to think about what they are going to plunge into. Unfortunately, what it has become is a desire to plunge in first and then tell people that they are coming back to the good old days.

'a break'

sheesh, brake. No, I am not advocating spelling reform...

I don't know about anybody else, but I'm having a devil of a time deciphering the cryptogram in the original post...

What saddens me is all the deaths that could have been avoided if America had truly supported its soldiers.

One of the sickest aspects of Bush loyalists and war supporters is the pretense that they care about America's soldiers. The record:

1. No state funerals attended by Bush or other high officials, and the suppression of images of the returning dead.

2. For a war lasting longer than WWII, there is still inadequate armored humvees and body armor, which are probably the two most important things in protecting soldiers from day-to-day risks of the Iraq war. In the 1940s, we somehow managed to invent and field whole new categories of weapon systems so that the soldiers had what they needed (a great example being the Higgins boat -- the ubiquitous landing craft).

3. For a war lasting longer than WWII, a failure to create an army of adequate size for the mission, resulting in a brutalization of those who serve and a fraudulent misuse of the Guard and Reserves.

4. For a war lasting longer than WWII, Bush has spent the last seven weeks trying to come up with a plan for what to do after years of failure. It took a stunning electoral defeat before he would acknowledge the need to do so -- had 11/8 gone better, he would not have bothered and continued with the same failed plan (or more accurately, the same non-plan in view of the complete failure to do anything pre-war to plan for the post-war occupation).

There are countless other examples.

One of the sickest aspects of the Bush loyalist such as bril -- a willingness to pervert the basic value of doing the right thing for the troops in favor of hero worship.

I don't know about anybody else, but I'm having a devil of a time deciphering the cryptogram in the original post...

LOL... the healing power of gallows humor.

clue -- "X" means "don't invade Iraq."

In the 1940s, we somehow managed to invent and field whole new categories of weapon systems

I agree with you 99%, but on this, to be fair, there was a lot more space to invent in WWII because 1)it was a traditional high intensity conflict and 2) many of the strategies and tactics were completely new so it was easier to create complementary new weapon systems.

If we view this as a traditional colonial occupation type conflict, the west has been at this for over 100 years, and there has been precious little to show from that long experience because the area where inventiveness needs to expand is not in more efficient killing technology, but in conflict resolution before it escalates into actual violence. Which, in a way, bothers me more, in that we have had ample time to see the problems of COIN and avoid the worst mistakes, but we seem to be intent on repeating every one of them.

I am also devastated by the number of civilian deaths in Iraq.

Yeah, even if we disregarded the Lancet study, 300K dead Iraqis sounds like it's on the very low end ... & that would be 100 times as much scrolling down as Hilzoy's post.

lj:

Interesting take -- the point of my comment was noting how much problem solving and innovation was accomplished in less time in WWII than by the alleged troop lovers during the Iraq war. The point is not so much based on any equivalence between the two wars for the necessity for problem solving -- just to show how much can be done when someone really really cares.

Without question, the shock of WWII combat experience created a unique fever for innovation for every type of weapons system -- not something one could fairly expect to exist for lower level conflicts like Iraq. But when you compare WWII problem-solving to up-armored humvees and body armor, its just sickening how little has been done on something so basic.

Which, in a way, bothers me more, in that we have had ample time to see the problems of COIN and avoid the worst mistakes, but we seem to be intent on repeating every one of them.

One of the sad things about the Iraq war is the extent to which the US military, despite all of its brainpower on the subject, still does not seem able to implement effective COIN. Not that it makes much difference for this absurd conflict which has been misfought in so many more important ways than this, but still a discouraging thing to see should we actually need the skill for some other war.

My own guess (would love to hear Andrew on the topic) is that training for COIN involves skills that are not only in addition to those needed for basic military training, but in some ways contrary to basic military training -- and that this is true at all levels of command (the grunts and sargeants, the lieutenants and captains, and the higher ups). Since its viewed as a secondary and less glamorous mission, it just doesn't get the attention it needs to be done well.

After 2003, it was probably pointless anyway, as COIN can never be effective when everyone hates you.

This is a challenge, but an honest one, to supporters of the war. If you can fill in a gap in my knowledge, I will gratefully acknowledge it.

There have been public reports of the armed forces falling short on manpower since 2004. In the years since then, has any war-supporting magazine, TV show, or commentator turned directly to its audience to say something like this? "We believe that the conflict in Iraq is the centerpiece of an epic struggle of civilizations. With the armed forces having trouble meeting their own manpower goals, let alone having any extras, we call upon you our viewers/readers to enlist. If you're an eligible man or woman, please consider seriously making the sacrifice of some of your time and effort for the sake of us all. Do it for your parents, your loved ones, your children. Do it for the society that allows you the freedom to choose your destiny. Do it for the values that define our civilization, so that others will not have to make a greater sacrifice later." Did anyone prominently in favor of the war make the slightest effort to get their own audience mobilized?

Brill -- the real reason we are losing this war is that Bush sent the army into battle without giving them the resources they needed to win. Why? Because if Bush had been honest about the true cost of the war he would have had to give up his tax cut for the wealthy. So it is not those who opposed the war that are causing us to lose, it is The Bush admininstration that gave its tax cuts top priority over winning the war. Do you have a single bit of evidence to disprove this?

We believe that the conflict in Iraq is the centerpiece of an epic struggle of civilizations. With the armed forces having trouble meeting their own manpower goals, let alone having any extras, we call upon you our viewers/readers to enlist.

Many of the most vocal war supporters seem to have convinced themselves of the convenient fiction that we can do just as much to defeat the Islamofascist threat by enlisting in "the war at home." This goes hand in glove with the fundamental belief that domestic opponents, i.e. liberals, are the "real" adversary. It's a shame that such extreme views are not seen as utterly marginal, but that's wartime jingoism for you.

Well, yeah, obviously I agree, Steve. I'm just interetsed in honorable exceptions, if any.

How about Steven Vincent? He didn't literally enlist, but there's little doubt about the personal risk to which he exposed himself. What's telling about his story is that he risked life and limb to go to Iraq and find out the truth for himself, and then when he reported back, his conservative co-bloggers were so invested in the right-wing narrative that they refused to believe him. R.I.P. to a brave soul.

Remember that the death rate is much lower in this war than in the past. IIRC and my source was correct, only about 10% of military personnel wounded in Iraq die from their injuries compared with about 30% in Viet Nam. More survive now, but not without problems. For every X in this post, there are two more X's who are living with missing limbs, severe trauma to the brain, horrific scarring, PTSD, etc. And how did our wonderful C-in-C "support" the troops who have risked themselves and been mutilated in his service? By cutting their benefits and decreasing funding to the VA system so that they have an even harder time moving on with their lives.

And how did our wonderful C-in-C "support" the troops who have risked themselves and been mutilated in his service? By cutting their benefits and decreasing funding to the VA system so that they have an even harder time moving on with their lives.

it's an Ownership Society. he's giving them full ownership of their wounds.

@dmb re counterinsurgency: I've said it before, I'll say it again. If we are doing counterinsurgency (or, as it was called in the 1980s, 'low intensity conflict'), we are somewhere we shouldn't be.

Insurgencies develop when there's an illegitimate government that will not respond to legitimate demands by the population. They cannot be maintained in the absence of popular support. They are the expression of a failure to resolve a political conflict.

Weighing in militarily against an insurgency is a way to avoid (and/or postpone at horrific human and usually also economic cost) a political solution.

There are very few situations in which I would support U.S. military intervention to "put down" an insurgency. The current situation, in which the insurgency was invited and created by U.S. invasion with no plan for the aftermath, disbanding of the former army, and encouragement of sectarian militias, is one in which U.S. forces are completely illegitimate. The troops should be withdrawn completely, beginning now.

Steven Vincent! Couldn't remember his name, but certainly a worthy exception. And of course there are individual conservatives and libertarians doing what they see as their duty, like Andrew. But I was really thinking more of the big-name individuals and groups.

Bruce: The loathsome Michael Ledeen's son is a Marine, which I assume means he has deployed to Iraq at least once. Closest thing to sacrifice I know of among the mouthpieces for endless, preemptive war.

Hmm. I might agree in this instance but I definitely don't agree in general.

Agreed. And that is the heart of the matter. American willingness to accept casualties in Iraq is flimsy because the case for our involvement there is flimsy.

Americans have always been willing to pay the price when it's necessary. They still are. The problem is not with the will of the American people. It's with what they are being asked to give their lives, and the lives of their loved ones, for.

With half the country fighting against the Commander-In-Chief non-stop and providing more moral support to the enemy than our own troops one has to expect the battles to be much more deadlier for our side.

bril, don't you have something better to do?

Thanks -

Nell:

Agree with you largely, but there are situations in which you need effective COIN and it makes sense to be there. For example, Bosnia could have had an insurgent element. Plenty of humanitarian interventions, suchg as Darfur, would face insurgency conflicts.

None of this applies to Iraq.

Nell: I had no idea about Ledeen. Thanks.

The question is: does the sacrifice of Michael Ledeen's son outweigh the disaster engendered by his daughter?

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