Saturday, July 31, 2010

Ominous news from Afghanistan; even worse news from Iraq

A number of notices have appeared in the last day or two about this just-ended July being the worst month ever for US troop deaths (66 dead) in Afghanistan.  Not good . . . but at least it's being duly noted here in the US, and people are talking about it, at least in Congress and at the think-tanks.

Not being noted - at least in the updates I'm getting from various sources - is a statistic that's even more frightening, in my opinion: the number of violent deaths this month in Iraq was the highest in more than two years.  More specifically,

A total of 396 civilians, 89 policemen and 50 soldiers died in attacks in July, data compiled by the health, defence and interior ministries showed.

The death toll is the highest for a single month since May 2008 when 563 people were killed in violence. July's figure is significantly higher than that for June, when 284 people died, and is nearly double the death toll from the same month a year ago, when 275 people were killed.

Saturday's figures also showed that 1,043 people -- 680 civilians, 198 policemen and 165 soldiers -- were injured in attacks this month, the highest such number this year.

The data also showed that 100 insurgents were killed and 955 were arrested.

Let's remember that the US does have a way of reducing US military casualties in Afghanistan - by getting out.  Despite all the White House insistence that the US military presence - including the ongoing "surge" of US forces into the region - is necessary, any number of well-informed observers have begged to differ, and have pointed out the reasons why withdrawal makes sense.  No, Mr. Obama chose to send in more Americans.

And let's not forget: the US Army and Marines are all-volunteer forces.  Bottom line: they may not have asked to be sent to Afghanistan, but they chose to enlist, knowing (some of them hoping) that they might be put in harm's way.

Of the Iraqis who were killed this month, 198 were policemen and 165 were soldiers: professionals who understand that their professions entail some risk (especially these days).  But the vast majority of the Iraqis who were killed  - the 680 civilians - were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, caught up in re-accelerating violence that was brought upon them (if I may borrow a line from the 2001 "hit" of country singer Toby Keith) "courtesy of the Red White and Blue."

You can bet that more deaths - exponentially more than the number of US soldiers and marines who will be killed in Afghanistan - are in store.  And the poor Iraqis involved have no way out except fleeing, joining the 4 million of their countrymen who've already been forced into either internal or foreign exile.  They can't be "withdrawn.  Indeed, they're being used as pawns in a struggle over which they have no control.

Again, my friends, Iraq is not "over."  And if it spins out of control, the consequences may be much more dire than those of any withdrawal from Afghanistan.

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