Deep Underground with Raul Groom

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Thanksgiving is over, and while I was cooking for the Allende-Groom clan I missed a couple of key developments in Iraq. We passed a very significant number in the Iraq War, and I cannot say whether it was remarked upon in the press because I wasn't paying close attention due to my culinary pursuits. But here it is:

The first year of the Iraq War, March 21, 2003 to March 20, 2004, saw 582 American soldiers killed in Iraq. We passed that number for Year 2 of the war on November 24th. This means that the pace of American deaths has accelerated by about 50% in year two, from about 1.6 per day to about 2.3. If the current pace continues until next March, 850 U.S. soldiers will die in the second year of the war. More likely, the pace will accelerate as January approaches, pushing the number closer to 1000.

The last two weeks were the deadliest two weeks of the war; the month of November was the second-deadliest month, second to April by six or fewer deaths and ahead of last November by a substantial margin. The four week moving average of deaths moved above 30 and remained there for three straight weeks, the first time that has happened since the war began. The average will necessarily remain above 30 again this week, as this week (which began on the 28th) already has a higher death toll than the week it will be replacing.

What all of this means, clearly, is that the danger to American troops in Iraq is steadily increasing. The longer those troops are in Iraq, the more likely they are to be killed. Their presence for the better part of two years has not resulted in significant gains for the security or prosperity of the Iraqi people, has produced no benefits to American security, and has cost hundreds of billions of dollars over and above the money that has been spent out of the Pentagon's normal operating budget. We are farther from a stable Iraq than we were a year ago, and we are more isolated in the international community. The dollar is weaker, as is Iraq's economy.

Yet still there is no call for removing the troops from Iraq. Why? What will another year of death accomplish? How much longer are we to pretend that this was not the single worst foreign-policy error since Vietnam? How many have to die? Can we have a number? Five thousand? Ten thousand? Fifty thousand?

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