Did you see all the news reports on the number of American casualties in Iraq for the month of June 2007?
Neither did I. I had to go hunting for them on the Internet and while it was easy to find them, the best sources of information were NOT in the news media.
For the record, according to icasualties.org, which seems have an accurate accounting of American and British casualties month by month, a total of 101 American troops died in Iraq in June. That is 101 more American troop deaths than I would have preferred, but apparently it is not enough to get big headlines, because by that count, June 2007 was only the 8th deadliest month in the war.
In the grand media scheme of things, 8th doesn't cut it on the headline parade, so, since there isn't sufficient political equity attached to the number, the brave men and women who died fighting for our freedom last month are relegated to statistics that you have to search for if you have an interest.
There are a number of ways to view the casualties in Iraq, the most sincere of which is that each and every one is a loss of a valued life that should not go unnoticed. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with George Bush and his decision to invade Iraq, we are at war with an extremist sect of a major religion that would be at war with us regardless of where we choose to fight them. Their ultimate goal is total world domination, nothing less, and we ignore that at our own peril.
Every single death the US has suffered since the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 is a tragedy. But there is another number that we also should be looking at when we talk about casualties, and that is the number America would suffer if we weren't fighting terrorists elsewhere, thus preventing them from launching further attacks on our homeland.
Islamo-fascists killed some 3,000 Americans in a matter of hours on one day. That number would explode exponentially if we hadn't taken strong military action against them. We have, like it or not, followed through on what President Bush promised in the days after the 9-11 attacks, to "smoke out" and "hunt down" terrorists wherever they were hiding.
We only have to look at the attempted bombings in England and Scotland in the last week to understand that we are not safe from these fanatics and disengaging in the one place where we can engage large groups of them will only serve to encourage more attacks, not fewer.
But the War on Terror has become such a political football, and the media has played so fast and loose with our military's sacrifices that it is hard to keep our eye on the overall goal, which is to defeat those forces that attacked us. Our troops performed magnificently in Afghanistan, destroying the Taliban and its associated political structure, returning a semblance of normality to that country and stabilizing the military situation long enough for political reforms and institutions to take hold.
But because remnants of the Taliban regrouped in Pakistan, where we have an ally of sorts, and now train new recruits to make occasional forays across the border, suddenly the earlier battles there were a failure, at least according to political critics, few of whom have any military background whatsoever. The fact that these cross-border forays repeatedly result in dismal failure for the Taliban is glossed over, and the ability of Afghan and NATO forces to dominate each and every time is ignored.
But we have to ask the question, if we had stayed at full strength in Afghanistan, exactly how many American troops would have been "bogged down," waiting for the reappearance of a minimally resurgent extremist force, while running the huge risk of alienating a thankful nation by our continued presence on their soil?
And yes, I realize that the same could be said of Iraq. But since terrorists are flocking to Iraq in droves to be gunned down by coalition troops, I have to conclude that our time there is being spent more constructively than it would have been if our forces were in Afghanistan waiting for the next cross-border raid.
In fact, considering that we have less than 10 percent of our active duty and reserve forces actively engaged in Iraq, while terrorists worldwide are putting the majority of their forces into the unsuccessful fight against us there, just who is "bogged down?" From here, considering the pounding the terrorists are taking, and the absence of any discernible gains on their part, other than the number of babies they kill each month, I'd say the terrorists are caught in a "quagmire!"
As a point of reference, in July 1944, a month after the D-Day invasion was launched, American and British troops were still "bogged down" in the bocage country in Normandy, France. It was an area where centuries old hedgerows used as borders for fields also provided German troops and armor with a murderous defensive line against advancing allied forces. Our pre-invasion intelligence either didn't address the difficulties in fighting through this country, or it was ignored.
Movement through the area was painfully slow, our troops had to improvise tactics to make even minimal advances, and the equipment that landed with them on D-Day and thereafter was not appropriate for that type of fighting. So troops improvised attack methodology and trained others. One ingenious NCO came up with a modification to Sherman tanks, using steel scrap from German beach obstacles and roadblocks, that helped cut through the hedgerows and ultimately gave our forces the upper hand.
Yet, it took six weeks from D-Day, until July 18, 1944, for our troops to take St. Lo, less than 20 miles from the beachhead, and make the breakout from Normandy. By the end of July, 1944, the American First Army had suffered 100,000 casualties.
So maybe I'm belaboring the obvious, but declaring the Surge to be a failure before it even kicked off is akin to declaring the invasion of Normandy a failure on June 5, 1944, a day before it was launched.
We also have to understand that the war we are fighting today is vastly different from the one fought in Normandy 63 years ago. In fighting against terrorists we can't take their territory because they have none, we can't defeat a standing 'army' because they fight in small groups using attacks on civilians as a weapon, and we can't overthrow their government because they adhere to no government except the leaders of their very narrowly defined brand of religion.
We can only win by continually defeating their military arm wherever it surfaces, and working worldwide to change their mindset. This takes time, determination, unity of purpose, and a much higher level of debate than we see in Congress and in the media.
I recently received a terrorist casualty update, backed by incident reports including time, location, and units involved, that the terrorists lost more than 1,800 fighters in Iraq between January and May of this year. Since then, hundreds more have been killed in battles with US and Iraqi forces. Conservative estimates put the number of terrorist deaths since 9-11 in excess of 40,000.
But these figures again receive scant notice in the media.
I believe the world needs to know just how bad the terrorists are being beaten. If politicians and the media are going to make a point of using casualties to further their points of view it is only right that they use all the casualty figures, and put them into perspective.
I wish I could bring back every single victim of this war, and I wish there was a way to achieve true world peace without having to fight to do it. But terrorists are no more and no less than rabid mindless predators, and the only successful way to deal with rabid predators is to put them down.
After the physical danger is eliminated, and only then, can we can make real progress on eradicating the causes.
Thursday, July 05, 2007