Saturday, September 6, 2008

How do you win an occupation?

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?


FranIAm said...

I can't say anything, I am speechless, however grateful I am for your writing this.

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid that there are people who are profiting from this occupation and they don't want to see it end. And they have the Republicans in their back pockets.

If there are any Dems beholden to them, I hope we'll see them run out of office or, at the very least, out of leadership roles.

no_slappz said...

After about 3.5 years of fighting in World War II, the US received unconditional surrenders from Germany and Japan.

After the surrenders, the second phase was started. The rebuilding and reconstruction of the two countries and their economies.

That took 7 years, almost twice as long as the fighting.

Things in the middle east may be less defined than they were in Germany and Japan, where MILLIONS of lives were lost in total, but we are moving along the same path.

Iraqis have begun to realize that freedom from muslim terrorists is something they want. They seem to realize the muslim terrorists are their true enemies.

Sadly, Obama wants to give back some of the gains and offer to forfeit if he is elected.

In short, if the Iraqis can handle their security -- and they're looking good now -- then we've won.

But just as in Germany and Japan, it's always a good idea for a well armed and well trained US military to remain in sight to remind enemy forces they will face an unbeatable foe if they challenge the peace and prosperity of the newly democratic and capitalistic Iraq.