Nasty numbers for nasty times
Date: Monday, January 08 2007
Will the sociopathy of the wise men of the West continue in 2007?
What do a distinguished US general and the late nefarious Saddam Hussein have in common?
Both made prognostications on the war in Iraq that have proven tragically correct, that haunt this conflict, and present indications are the situation is going to get worse rather than better.
Before the present occupation of Iraq began Saddam Hussein claimed the US could not win a war against his country because they were afraid to take the necessary casualties.
Even then there was a certain truth in the nefarious dictator’s prognostication because for Western democracies war is a commodity that must be sold. Part of the sales pitch and sustainability of this sort of military adventurism is to keep casualties low, the public in the dark and ignorant regarding the ultimate financial and human cost.
Iraq is already a trillion-dollar fiasco and the escalating numbers should terrify the most cold-blooded auditor.
One of the most conspicuous ways casualties are minimized is the indiscriminate use of air power and this has been all too prevalent in the occupation of Iraq. There is a direct correlation between the indiscriminate use of air power and an obscenely disproportionate number of civilian casualties. Politely terming this as “collateral damage,” the military is all too willing to excuse the endless slaughter. But this excessive collateral damage has gone a long way to debasing the “liberation” of Iraq. Instead of winning the hearts and minds of the populace it has fueled the conflict.
When Lancet published the Johns Hopkins/Columbia University estimate of 655,000 Iraqi deaths the number was treated with derision by the White House and neoconservative bagmen like David Frum.
The problem with the White House claim of only 30,000 Iraqi deaths is that it is obviously too low. Similarly, the British-based Iraq Body Count at 50,000 is also too low and its methodology for gathering its numbers does not have the integrity of that used by the JH/CU epidemiologists who put their numbers together in actual house to house surveys.
Given that such weapons as depleted uranium, cluster bombs, and phosphorus have been used, along with heavy-handed and indiscriminate bombing, the estimate of 655,000 becomes more believable than the mawkishly unbelievable numbers issued by the White House.
It is noteworthy that in spite of its detractors the estimate of 655,000 has gained considerable credibility as it appears regularly in various articles and publications.
Hussein could speak of taking and inflicting casualties with some authority. Presiding over the Iran-Iraq war, on behalf of his American co-sponsor, he saw tens of thousands of deaths on both sides. Ironically, he like the Americans attacking his country thought he was going to have an easy victory. Little did he suspect the Iranians would be worthy adversaries and a very bloody eight year war would end in stalemate.
Within his own country, a tribal society, Hussein was willing to court favor and assassination as necessary to sustain his power.
All of this should have been a warning to the likes of Bush and Blair that in a conflict Arabs are ruthless and willing to take heavy casualties. It is apparent that Bush and Blair are shy to take the casualties necessary to get the job done and as a consequence have inflicted unconscionable suffering on the civilian population.
A distinguished US Army general and member of the joint chiefs, Eric Shinseki, testified to Congress before the invasion of Iraq that it would probably require a force of “several hundred thousand” to secure the country. This estimate was very much at odds with the estimate of then US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld was prepared to invade with a force as small as 100,000.
Shinseki found himself quickly ostracized for uttering a truth of inconvenience and Rumsfeld arranged his early retirement. Once the war started, however, Shinseki was vindicated; and that vindication now becomes even more persistent as the US involvement in Iraq exceeds its participation in WWII, is no nearer to victory, and there are plans to inject another paltry 30,000 troops into the conflict to try and secure victory. Shinseki must be shaking his head in disbelief.
Shinseki’s estimate is an affirmation of The Powell Doctrine (Colin Powell, former US Secretary of State, former Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.) Powell’s doctrine calls for the overwhelming use of force in such an occupation so as to squelch any insurgency at the very outset. This means enough troops on the ground and not relying on indiscriminate and counterproductive air power.
Retired General Wesley Clark, former Supreme Commander of NATO, has already predicted (Independent UK) that this further deployment is far from sufficient and will be counterproductive. He extrapolates that troop levels similar to those in Vietnam are required.
At the peak of the Vietnam War the US had over a half million troops in that country and suffered over 55,000 casualties. Yet this was not enough to secure victory. Clearly, the ghost of the Vietnam War haunts this current conflict in Iraq as the willingness to take the necessary casualties is not there; nor is there a willingness to deploy anywhere near the number of troops necessary to pacify the country-nor are they available.
Afghanistan becomes another case in point. There are presently 30,000 NATO troops in that country along with 8000 American troops. Many of the NATO troops are there as non-combatants as stipulated by their home governments.
This conflict is also haunted by a historical precedent; that of the USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan. It had over 100,000 troops in the country and fought the Mujahideen for eight years, suffered 15,000 casualties, 53,000 wounded, and in the end, like the US in Vietnam, victory eluded them.
The US conceived the war against Iraq as a cheap and easy walkover. They expected to be greeted with rose petals and wine. Little did they expect that their state of the art expeditionary force--180,000 strong--would be thwarted by an ill-equipped, undermanned, homegrown insurgency using rudimentary weaponry.
The insurgents' most daunting weapon is that they, unlike the Western forces, are willing to take massive casualties for their cause. How many American or NATO troops would be willing to load themselves up with explosives and go for that final walk down the road?: Or drive a ramshackle Toyota loaded with explosives to its final resting place? The insurgents are winning in large part because they are willing to lay down their lives indiscriminately.
The wise men of the West are trying to win wars on the cheap and it is obvious the numbers are against them. They are fighting wars that cannot be won. Their strategies are bankrupt.
The war in Iraq is steeped in fraudulence. It was started on the false claim that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction when it was obvious to anybody who was paying attention that Iraq was a country ravaged by over a decade of sanctions. Both its military and civilian infrastructures were gutted. UN weapons inspectors had fulfilled their mandate in Spades.
Where the occupation of Iraq is claimed to be a necessary part of the war on terrorism it is in fact an add-on to that war and serves to inflame it.
Where this occupation was claimed to be a liberation its real purpose was to take over the country and seize the world’s third largest oil reserves. The claim that the US will eventually leave the country is fatuous nonsense. There will be an eventual reduction in troops but the US has established permanent bases in the country and a permanent foot print in the Middle East.
For the foreseeable future Iraq will be a fractured country rife with sectarian conflict, dotted with US military enclaves and the infamous “green zone” where “government” exists under siege. With the good old Western style lynching of Saddam Hussein the errant puppet has been silenced and a new one takes his place leading a sham democratic government.
The wise men of the West are delusional. They have painted themselves into a corner and the paint is an endless flow of Arab blood. They have created a tyranny that rivals that of the errant puppet.
As the US tries to extricate itself from and excuse this atrocity it quite hideously blames the victim, impatient with the country’s inability to put itself back together and to stem the violence when the occupiers and their utter incompetence are the root cause of the imbroglio.
As long as this imbroglio is driven by self-serving neo-imperialistic ambitions on the part of the US there will be no resolution.
As Ali Allawi, former Iraqi Defense Minister, points out in For the first time, a real blueprint for peace in Iraq (The Independent UK):
No foreign power, no matter how benevolent, should be allowed to dictate the terms of a possible historic and stable settlement in the Middle East. No other region in the world would tolerate such a wanton interference in its affairs.
Allawi’s blue print for peace is a highly credible proposal and very real!
As long as the wise men of the West ignore the horrendous numbers, the humanitarian, social, financial and strategic cost of these wars they are rendered sociopathic.
They must start being honest with themselves and their constituents. They must ask some hard questions. Are they, as Allawi suggests, willing to stand down and let the countries of the region seek their own solution? Is there a willingness to assume casualties in the 10s of thousands in wars that will ultimately prove futile? Is there a willingness to risk escalation into larger wars or plunge this region into a state of continuous warfare? Is there a willingness to unquestioningly support a military-industrial complex that is out of control, sorely corrupted and ultimately ruinous?
Those who must enforce accountability and vigorously advance a peaceful resolution can no longer stand by benumbed and part of the babble.
Robert Billyard ©
[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on January 10, 2006]