Tuesday, September 9, 2008

MEASURING 'SUCCESS' IN IRAQ

Michael Schwartz and Tom Engelhardt, Tom Dispatch - As for "success" in Iraq, which we've been hearing quite a lot about lately in the U.S., here's one way to measure the administration's trust in its own "success": The Pentagon, we now learn, has just "recommended" to President Bush that there should be no further troop drawdowns in Iraq until a new president enters office in January 2009 - and even then, possibly in February, that no more than 7,500 Americans should be withdrawn, and only if "conditions" permit. So the administration's "success" in Iraq could, in terms of troop levels, be measured this way: The U.S. invaded and occupied that country in the spring of 2003 with approximately 130,000 troops. According to Thomas Ricks in his best-selling book Fiasco, by that fall, its top officials fully expected to have only about 30,000 troops still in the country, stationed at newly built American bases largely outside major urban areas.

In January 2007, when the president's desperate "surge" strategy was launched, there were still approximately 130,000 U.S. troops in the country, and, of course, tens of thousands of hired guns from firms like Blackwater Worldwide. Today, there are approximately 146,000 troops in Iraq (and the U.S. is spending more money on armed "private security contractors" than ever before). By next February, according to Pentagon plans, there would still be about 139,000 troops in Iraq, 9,000 more than in April 2003, as well as more than early in Bush's second term, as Juan Cole pointed out recently - and that's if everything goes reasonably well, which, under the circumstances, is a big "if" indeed.

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