This was a question posed by a protestor at the Republican Convention this week. Thankfully, the crowd was able to chant "U. S. A.! U. S. A.!" loud enough that he could not be heard while the police escorted him out of the building.
But still, the question remains. When George W. Bush declared Mission Accomplished, there was no army that opposed us, and Saddam Hussein had no power. There were some American casualties in 2003 after those first few weeks, but as the Iraqis saw we had no intention of leaving and would give the Iraqi people nearly none of the wealth that comes from the oil under their soil, the bitterness against Americans escalated, and every year was worse than the last.
But the Surge ended all that. 2008 will be better than 2007 in terms of loss of American life. Let's see what we bought with just over 900 dead American soldiers and untold hundreds of billions of dollars last year.
We will still spend over 100 billion dollars this year in Iraq to continue our occupation, an occupation which Iraqi leaders want to see ended sooner rather than later. This year the death rate for U.S. soldiers is way down. It's the 250th day of the year, and 246 troops have died in Iraq so far.
A soldier a day, hundreds of billions of dollars a year for the foreseeable future. Is this the victory? Will victory be achieved when only 100 Americans die each year protecting Iraqis from Iraqis?
Violence is down across the country and in Baghdad compared to last year, but even still the death by violence rate per 100,000 citizens in Baghdad is worse than Compton, CA or Gary, IN or any American slum you can name, with the sickening added statistic that the most dangerous cities in the U.S. have populations of about 100,000, while Baghdad was home to 5,000,000 souls before all this violence began. I've followed the numbers and trends, keeping track on my own of the deaths in Baghdad. (UPDATE from 2012: here is a working link for Iraq War information.)
Besides an overall reduction in loss of life in Baghdad since the dark days of Summer 2007, one type of story disappeared from the website, the daily report of "__ bodies found in Baghdad". For years, there were bodies found shot to death in Baghdad every day, but near the end of 2007, these reports effectively vanished. There were still car bombs and other deaths, but the bullet ridden corpses were gone.
Until this month. Now, the "__ bodies in Baghdad" are back, maybe three to five days a week, from one to three bodies in each report.
Things are improving overall in Iraq, but they are still not good, and the answer to the question is that you can't win an occupation. You can either crush the spirit of the occupied people like the Chinese did to the Tibetans all those years ago, or you can leave. Those are our options. Which one should we choose now?