Wednesday, March 19, 2008

5 years ... and counting ...

(Occasional sobering thoughts.) As we noted this time last year, today marks the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. Five years ago today, a U.S.-led coalition entered the country, without authorization of the U.N. Security Council, and began a military operation that soon deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Eventually the operation won the Security Council's post hoc OK, and eventually Hussein was executed, following his conviction by a U.S.-supported special Iraqi tribunal.
What failed to follow were other primary objectives -- not only the building of a new and democratic (or at least, less autocratic) nation-state, but also, the establishment of security for all in Iraq, civilians and servicemembers alike. Debate continues on whether continued U.S. presence is necessary to combat al Qaeda; that is, whether troops will enhance or undermine any progress toward security. Many politicians in the United States tend toward the former choice, although they differ on the size of that continued presence. In an International Herald Tribune op-ed entitled "Iraq will not be a Qaedistan," French political scientist Olivier Roy has offered a useful contrary view.
Meanwhile, despite some spikes in casualty rates, it seems that among the U.S. populace, nobody knows, or takes time to find out, the human toll the Iraq conflict is taking. Those who do know, and care, wait still for a comprehensive, workable plan for withdrawal.
With that, here's the count this past month:
According to Iraq Body Count, between 82,240 and 89,751 Iraqi women, children, and men had died in the conflict -- an increase of between 814 and 865 deaths in the last 4 weeks. Regarding servicemembers: by the U.S. Defense Department's figures, as of Sunday 3,990 American servicemembers had been killed in Iraq. Total coalition fatalities: 4,298 persons. (That's 24 servicemember deaths in 4 weeks, all but 1 of them Americans.) The Department stated that 29,320 servicemembers have been wounded, and that 8,904 of them required medical air transport. Military casualties in the conflict in Afghanistan stand at 487 Americans and 293 other coalition servicemembers, an increase of 4 and 10, respectively, in the last 4 weeks.

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