Saturday, November 19, 2005

Will Iraq Policy Improve Because Of The Debate?

War hero, Representative John Murtha hoped to elevate a debate about Iraq with his call to withdraw troops unless either conditions for the American soldiers improve or else they should be withdrawn to safer positions outside of Iraq. The first premise is excellent. But the second position to place U.S. troops outside of Iraq is unworkable for Iraqi security reasons and for any efforts to train Iraqi troops.

But the first premise deserves some immediate action by the White House, the Pentagon and other Iraq War planners.

According to the American military officer in charge of overseeing electrical energy production, this has actually fallen below the levels of prewar production. Oil production is also below prewar production. Security problems have left many reconstruction projects unfinished, where only $9 billion of the planned $18 billion in Iraq reconstruction projects have been finished. Unemployment in Iraq is at 60%. As many as 2 million Iraqis in Baghdad were recently without clean water, where only $500 million of the planned $2.2 billion meanyt to be spent on clean water projects has been spent. Insurgent attacks have increased from 150 a week a year ago to 700 per week now. An average of 68 Iraqi citizens lose their lives to such attacks each and everyday. And yesterday, peaceful mosque worshippers were murdered by two suicide attacks aimed at Shiite mosques. And many Western journalists narrowly escaped death in another attack.

40% of all American troops in Iraq are National Guard members. And the experience of Oregon National Guard members is typical. They were sent to Iraq with woefully insufficient equipment such as underprotected Humvees that were prone to needless deaths from roadside bombs. Oregon National Guard members used pieces of plywood and sandbags to reinforce their vehicles against bullets and roadside bombs. But National Guardsmen suffered needless deaths from roadside bombs and bullets that better armor could have kept out of their Humvee. Now unfortunately, Hezbollah has brought even dealier bombs to Iraq, where even tanks weighing as much as 13 tons can be penetrated or tipped over by the blast.

Oregon citizens even contributed vital equipment to the Guard members such as radios and night vision equipment. But even ammunition was in short supply to many National Guard units, who had to sparingly use ammunition to defend themselves not knowing when new supplies would be forthcoming, and not wanting to be without bullets for possible future engagements.

And the training of the Iraqi military and police are largely failures because so little equipment has come their way. The best trained Iraqi soldiers have only 10 old Soviet T55 tanks left from Saddam's army and 4 old armored personnel carriers. Iraqi police have little more than an American issued shirt and pants and pistol. Police cars are virtually nonexistent.

Rep. Murtha wanted conditions for the American troops to improve, and real efforts to improve Iraq to be progressing. But likely little will change, some Republican blogs are arguing silly and juvenile arguments with childish name calling or using Michael Moore images to tar Murtha, rather than a serious discussion of what is wrong with the Iraq War policy to show improvement so that the situation becomes more stable and safer for our soldiers. And the Republican effort to force an up or down vote on troop withdrawal for purely temporary political reasons. While American troops and Iraqi citizens continue to die daily in the unstable situation in Iraq, Republicans failed to commit themselves to improvements in policy to save lives there and stabilize the situation. And this is deeply unfortunate.


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