Some uncomfortable data on Iraq

By Molly Ivins Published:

By Molly Ivins

AUSTIN, Texas Were on the offensive in Iraq, with a clear plan for victory. First, we are helping Iraqis build an inclusive government, so that old resentments will be eased and the insurgency will be marginalized. Second, were continuing reconstruction efforts and helping the Iraqi government to fight corruption and build a modern economy, so all Iraqis can experience the benefit of freedom. And, third, were striking terrorist targets while we train Iraqi forces that are increasingly capable of defeating the enemy. George W. Bush

The Iraq war has been a disaster. CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour.

The number of terrorist attacks per day in Iraq grew from 55 in December 2004 to 77 per day in December 2005.

Electricity production in Iraq has not yet recovered to prewar levels, and the electricity in Baghdad is on less today than it was under Saddam Hussein. On the other hand, telephone and Internet use are up.

While there are no hard numbers, there are repeated reports of the loss of educated, middle-class Iraqis, especially doctors, fleeing the country because of lack of security.

Iraq today produces less oil than it did under Saddam Hussein. The current oil minister is Ahmad Chalabi, onetime darling of the neo-con set and convicted of bank fraud in Jordan.

The majority of Iraqis favor complete American troop withdrawal, though the timeframes they prefer vary.

To the extent we stay there with big forces indefinitely, Iraqis will come up with all these theories that we really want to stay here for their oil. We want to use their country as a springboard for more aggression. They still see us as occupiers ... Michael OHanlon, Brookings Institute.

A sudden withdrawal of our forces from Iraq would abandon our allies to death and prison ... and put men like bin Laden and Zarqawi in charge of a strategic country. George W. Bush.

Actually, the insurgency in Iraqi is comprised mostly of native Iraqis old Baathists and others who dont like being occupied by infidels. International terrorist jihadists are a negligible fraction of those fighting, and they are there to fight Americans, not to take over Iraq.

The war in Iraq costs the United States $1 billion per week, $251 billion so far. Bush originally said it would cost $70 billion. Before the war, he fired his top economic adviser, Larry Lindsay, who said it would cost $200 billion.

Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel economist, now estimates the total cost between $1 trillion and $2 trillion. He includes lifetime care of the wounded, the economic value of destroyed and lost lives, and the opportunity cost of resources diverted to the war.

Over 2,200 Americans have been killed in action in Iraq and 16,000 seriously wounded. Because we are doing a better job saving the lives of the wounded, those who survive often have devastating injuries from which there is no recovery.

After our main purpose in invading Iraq stopped being the presence of weapons of mass destruction (the smoking gun in the form of a mushroom cloud), or the nonexistent linkage between Saddam Hussein and 9-11, or alleged links between Saddam Hussein and terrorists in general, our main purpose in invading Iraq became the spread of democracy in the Middle East. So far, weve boosted the electoral results for Hamas in Palestine, Hezbollah in Lebanon and, next, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

The remaining allies in Iraq plan to withdraw 25 percent or more of their 22,000 troops this year.

The special inspector general for Iraqi reconstruction released an audit last week containing extensive findings of fraud, incompetence and confusion. Among the billions of dollars listed as wasted, I especially liked the $100,000 someone decided to spend to refurbish an Olympic-sized swimming pool, except that all that got done was shining the pumps. Soldiers used reconstruction money for gambling, and millions were stored in footlockers and bathrooms. Three Iraqis fell to their deaths in a supposedly rebuilt hospital elevator that had been certified as safe.

Because of its total misjudgment of the war in Iraq, the administration has failed to enlarge the regular Army and has therefore put the entire institution under immense strain. The stop-loss refusal to let people leave at the end of their enlistments now affects 50,000 soldiers, and mobilization of the reserves and extended service are a form of draft.

Despite chipper denials from the Pentagon, the Army has serious problems with recruiting, especially getting quality recruits, and with regular Army re-enlistment. The reason the numbers are not worse is because of the bonuses being offered.

The officer corps is also being hollowed out, as younger officers quit in such numbers that 100 percent of those remaining are automatically moved up the ladder. For example, last year the Army promoted 97 percent of all eligible captains, up from as historical average of 70 percent to 80 percent. This information is from Pentagon data in a report by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. It is quite possible this administration is destroying the professional Army.

The most important question about the war in Iraq is whether it is doing any good, and an increasing pool of evidence shows that it has become a rallying and recruiting tool for global terrorists. Like the other information in this article, the evidence comes from official reports.

I do hope this is responsible criticism that aims for cures, not defeatism that refuses to acknowledge anything but failure.

Crow Eaten Here: In Tuesdays column, I mentioned that the Bush administration was still blocking the release of a Commerce Department report on the outsourcing of jobs. A sanitized version of the report was, in fact, released in September 2005, with all discussion of the harmful effects of outsourcing removed.

2006 Creators Syndicate Inc.

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