Iraq: No Light At The End Of The Tunnel

Iraq: No Light At The End Of The Tunnel
March 23rd, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: Iraq: No Light At The End Of The Tunnel

Iraq: No Light At The End Of The Tunnel
Miami Herald
March 23, 2008 By Carl Hiaasen
On the five-year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, President Bush declared that the United States is on the way to winning the war.
He made this stupefying pronouncement in the safe confines of the Pentagon, where it's unacceptable to question the commander-in-chief, no matter how dense or self-deluded he might be.
If Bush had dared to make the same speech in a public town hall, among civilians, the reception would have been chillier. According to almost every opinion poll, about two-thirds of all Americans now stand opposed to the war in Iraq.
When reminded last week of this statistic, Vice President Dick Cheney responded: ``So?''
Bush sent Cheney to Baghdad to mark the dubious anniversary of their costly, misbegotten adventure. What better way to buoy the spirits of the 160,000 U.S. soldiers who are now stuck in Iraq -- a surprise visit by The Man Who's Never Been Right.
True to form, the vice president repeated his dark assertion that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had close ties with al Qaeda, a claim discredited and rejected by every U.S. intelligence agency.
Cheney also described the American effort to bring stability and democracy to Iraq as ''a successful endeavor.'' Compared to what -- the landing of the Hindenburg?
There's still no stable, functioning democracy in Iraq. Provincial elections might finally be held in October, although the Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites continue to fight about how power should be apportioned. It's an ancient argument that won't subside anytime soon.
After years of training, the Iraqi armed forces still aren't prepared to keep order in the country, and senior U.S. military commanders don't know when that particular miracle will come to pass.
Bush acts like there's a light at the end of the tunnel. The problem is, it's not a tunnel -- it's a pit.
How many have died?
As of March 19, the American toll in Iraq stood at 3,982 deaths and nearly 30,000 combat injuries. An additional 145 U.S. soldiers have committed suicide there. Such heavy losses are difficult to absorb, impossible to rationalize.
Nobody knows for sure how many innocent Iraqi civilians have been killed during the U.S. occupation -- at least 18,600 are known to have died in 2007 alone.
The monetary cost of the war is so high that the administration cannot -- or will not -- give Congress an accurate figure.
Five years ago, the Bush-Cheney brain trust said the invasion and reconstruction of Iraq would cost between $50 billion and $60 billion. That number was every bit as reliable as the assertion that Saddam had stockpiled weapons of mass destruction.
The Pentagon now says the war has cost about $600 billion, while congressional estimates put the sum in excess of $1 trillion -- roughly 20 times more than the administration predicted.
Currently, Bush and Cheney's Iraq rodeo is sapping between $8 billion and $12 billion every month from U.S. taxpayers, just what a battered and shaky economy needs.
Five years ago, we were assured that Iraqi oil revenues would finance the rebuilding of the country after we bombed it to rubble. It was one more false promise to be discarded with all the others.
The president is feeling upbeat these days because the troop surge, which he initially resisted, has succeeded in reducing sectarian bloodshed in Baghdad, as well as U.S. casualties. Other forces have been able to leave the city and hunt down insurgents who've been targeting our troops.
However, equally important factors in the lower death toll are a ceasefire declared by a key Shiite militia and an unexpected Sunni backlash against extremists. These two key ingredients for peace could evaporate soon if the Iraqi government doesn't get its act together.
The fact that fewer U.S. soldiers are dying is welcome news, but it's not the same as winning the war. We're more deeply mired in Iraq today than we were in the spring of 2003.
Suicide bombings against civilians and police continue, and less than two weeks ago five American soldiers were blown up inside a house rigged with bombs.
In the bitterest of many ironies, the American occupation has given al Qaeda a foothold in a country where the terrorist organization had never previously been tolerated. Meanwhile, the spiritual father of the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden, remains alive and well, delousing his beard somewhere in the caves of Afghanistan.
Among the presidential candidates, only John McCain shares the president's view that the tide has turned in Iraq, and that it is there we must ultimately fight until jihadist terrorism is vanquished.
McCain has said that the United States should keep its forces in Iraq for a hundred years, if necessary. It's a statement bound to haunt him in the coming months, no matter who his opponent turns out to be. The American people have had enough.
No matter who the next president is, the road out of Iraq will not be swift or smooth. Long after Bush is chopping brush back on the ranch in Texas, young American men and women will still be coming home from Baghdad in coffins.
No. 3,982 was Lerando J. Brown, 27, an Army specialist from Gulfport, Miss.
You can put the number beside his name, but you can't put a true price. The same can be said for this war.

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