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     -- George M. Humphrey, U.S. Treasury Secretary, February 23, 1954.
"According to some estimates, we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions."
-- Donald H. Rumsfeld, U.S. Defense Secretary, September 10, 2001.


Measuring Success in Iraq
Posted Mar 14, 2005 | Link

When the U.S. handed over control of Iraq to their interim government last June, our media outlets started shifting news in Iraq to the back burner. When the November election promised to heat things up again, the Bush administration began to paint the rosiest possible picture. The problem, of course, was that there was no data to back up such an optimistic report.

This year, at the end of January, millions of Iraqis turned out to vote in their first democratic election since God knows when. While a positive milestone to be sure, this election was only one small step on a road that nobody is quite sure we'll see the end of. In the meantime, there is one statistic that gets underreported day after day--the fact that U.S. deaths in Iraq have been going up constantly since day one.

On May 1, 2003, President Bush announced on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln that "major combat operations in Iraq have ended" and that "the battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that [...] still goes on." In fact, major combat operations did not stop.

Ironically, despite months (and perhaps years) of planning for the Iraqi invasion, advice about necessary troop strength, from people like Army General Eric Shinseki, was ignored. Thus, we faced a dangerous security problem In Iraq from day one. Looters, insurgents, and just about anyone with a gun posed a threat to our presence there. Of course, rather than admit this oversight and deal with the threat, President Bush decided to ignore the problem entirely.

On July 2, 2003, two months after his famous "Mission Accomplished" speech, Bush responded to the growing insurgency problem in Iraq by instead challenging our opponents with the taunt "bring them on." He even went so far as to say that, "we've got the force necessary to deal with the security situation." The fact is that we didn't have the necessary force and that the insurgents did indeed continue to "bring it on."

On December 13, 2003, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was finally captured. Dazed and confused with $750,000 in U.S. currency, Hussein was pulled out of a "spider hole" behind a farm outside of Tikrit. Trumpeting this good news while completely ignoring how incongruous this all sounded, our national news media again acted as if things in Iraq were about to turn the corner. They didn't.

Perhaps the most buried (actually, left out to rot) of all the deadly stories to come out of Iraq was our failure to secure a known weapons depot at Al Qa'qaa when we invaded in March, 2003. When 340 tons of highly dangerous HMX, RDX, and PETN explosives were eventually looted from the facility, the Bush administration again denied all responsibility. In fact, the Bush launched an extensive misdirection campaign that used everything from "it wasn't our fault" to "it wasn't that bad."

While Bush apologists tried to assert how unlikely it was that the looted high explosives would turn up in the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) being used to kill our troops, they were silent when these "roadside bombs" eventually killed 9 U.S. troops by destroying or disabling both a Bradley Fighting Vehicle and an M1A2 Abrams tank--the most potent and heavily-armored tank in the world.

I think the only measure of our success (or failure) in Iraq right now is simply the number of U.S. lives that have been sacrificed in our efforts there. Most Americans seem to care little about the 16,000+ Iraqi civilians that have been killed since we invaded the country, so I'll stick with just American fatalities. The graph below shows just how little things have changed since the invasion began. I only pray that our efforts there will someday produce a better metric.

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