Tuesday, March 21, 2006

How many more?

Home from Iraq
Christian Fuchs has a beautiful photo-essay up from the funeral of National Guard Spc. Eric Ramirez, killed in Iraq in February 2004.

As we enter year four, 2318 American soldiers have died in Iraq, a total of 2525 coalition soldiers. Credible reports attribute 33,710-37,832 Iraqi civilian casualties to military actions since the invasion, credible epidemiological research puts the number of excess fatalities above 100,000. In 1,100 days, that amounts to ten people a day who didn't have to die. There have been more than 16,000 soldiers wounded, many permanently crippled, and huge numbers of the soldiers returning from Iraq have some form of psychological damage.

And that's a cost we have to pay, sometimes. Putting soldiers at risk in Haiti or in Darfur would do real good for lots of people. That would be worth it. Iraq hasn't been worth it. I didn't think it would be beforehand, and it hasn't been.

There was no nuclear program, so the smoking gun wasn't going to look like a mushroom cloud. Al Qaeda was in Afghanistan, and we pulled the experts out of the hunt for terrorists who do exist to hunt for WMD that didn't.

For this, we've pissed away colossal amounts of money, and far too many lives, not to mention the stain on America's soul that is Abu Ghraib. Stains like that can't just be washed away. It takes time and change to bury that shame.

Anniversaries aren't just good for looking backward, of course. We have to look forward, and I have to say it's a lot harder to dig your way out of a hole than it is to dig the hole in the first place. The first step is to stop digging. Stop with the torture centers. Pick one city and concentrate American and Iraqi forces there in densities adequate to pacify it and rebuild it. Succeed in one city, use that as a model and move to nearby cities. Use American force only when Iraqi units are in danger of being overpowered.

That's a start.