Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Iraq and Afghanistan: Losses and...Well, Losses.

The Mathematics of a Zero-Gain Equation...and Other Fallacies:
Iraq and Afghanistan 

In March 2002 – before the Iraq War – at a news conference held at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, U.S. General Tommy Franks had said, "we don't do body counts."


Oh...well let me elaborate for you, Tommy:
Saddam Hussein: Dead.

Osama bin Laden: Dead. After an extended holiday with one of our 'new' friends.

America has been saved millions in rent by housing our entire Armed Forces overseas. Hmm.


The CIA was finally able to perfect waterboarding.


Naked gymnastics by suspected terrorists now Olympic venue.

Gasoline is cheaper...

 The Iraqi and Afghan people are all now happily living in the bosom of democracy and busily shopping at Wal-Mart...uh, I better stop here.


Confucius say: “If one seeks revenge, they must first dig two graves.”
Hope you have a few minutes...

Civilian Casualties of the Conflict in Iraq Since 2003:


(Beginning with the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and continuing with the ensuing occupation and insurgency) have come in many forms, and the accuracy of the information available on different types of Iraq War casualties varies greatly.

The table below summarizes various estimates of the Iraqi casualty figures:

SourceCasualtiesTime period
Associated Press110,600 violent deathsMarch 2003 to April 2009
Costs of War Project176,000–189,000 violent deaths including 134,000 civilians[1][2][3]March 2003 to February 2013
Iraq Body Count project112,667–123,284 civilian deaths from violence. 174,000 civilian and combatant deaths[4][5][6][7]March 2003 to March 2013
Iraq Family Health Survey151,000 violent deathsMarch 2003 to June 2006
Lancet survey601,027 violent deaths out of 654,965 excess deathsMarch 2003 to June 2006
Opinion Research Business survey1,033,000 deaths as a result of the conflictMarch 2003 to August 2007
WikiLeaks. Classified Iraq War Logs[4][8][9][10]109,032 deaths including 66,081 civilian deaths.[11][12]January 2004 to December 2009

Remember too, that this conflict created 5 million orphans -- 1/2 the children of Iraq.
1.8 million refugees in neighboring countries,
1.6 million displaced internally.

And according to classified documents (via Wikileaks): 176,382 injuries to civilians.
              16,283 Iraqi police and military personnel killed.
  However, the Iraqi human Rights Ministry places this figure at closer to 250,000 civilian injuries.


 Civilian  Casualties of the Conflict in Afghanistan Since 2001:

The decade-long War in Afghanistan (2001–present) has caused the deaths of thousands of Afghan civilians directly from insurgent and foreign military action, as well as the deaths of possibly tens of thousands of Afghan civilians indirectly as a consequence of displacement, starvation, disease, exposure, lack of medical treatment, and crime resulting from the war. The war, launched by the United States as "Operation Enduring Freedom" in 2001, began with an initial air campaign that almost immediately prompted concerns over the number of Afghan civilians being killed[1] as well as international protests. With civilian deaths from air strikes rising again in recent years,[2] the number of Afghan civilians being killed by foreign military operations has led to mounting tension between the foreign countries and the government of Afghanistan. In May 2007, President Hamid Karzai summoned foreign military commanders to warn them of the consequences of further Afghan civilian deaths.[3] The civilian losses are a continuation of the extremely high civilian losses experienced during the Soviet Afghan war in the 1980s, and the three periods of civil war following it: 1989–1992, 1992–1996, and 1996–2001. [Wikipedia -- some figures leaked via Wikileaks.com]

2001:  4700, though it is estimated that 20,000+ were killed in initial air strikes.
2002:  1200+
2003:  3600
2004: unknown/unreported
2005: 478 direct, indirect unknown
2006: 768 direct, though Associated Press estimated: 4000; Human Rights Watch: 4400.
2007: 629 direct.  UN Assistance Mission Afghanistan: 1523 direct. Indirect unknown.
2008: 3917 killed, 6800 wounded...120,000 displaced.
2009: 2412
2010: 2777
2011: 1462...and on and on and on...nor do we know for sure on those deaths resulting from disease, starvation...or those that fled the country. Nor do we have an idea on infant mortality rates generated by a continuing conflict.
  • *Note: In UNAMA/AIHRC methodology, whenever it remains uncertain whether a victim is a civilian after they have assessed the facts available to them, UNAMA/AIHRC does not count that victim as a possible civilian casualty. The number of such victims is not provided.[26]

    Truth is nobody really knows Tommy...which works out well for the Public Relations Department, the American conscience and all the memoirs soon to be written about the highly successful process of forced nation building at the point of a gun.  And oh, all sources admit to these figures being gross 'underestimates.'  And too, these were not wars, just conflicts -- though the non-combatants might argue against that notion.
    Geo-political Consequences/Iraq:
    And there are many. The removal of Saddam Hussein from a leadership position in Iraq merely succeeded in placing Iran as the dominant power in the region -- a country with extremely hostile intentions toward both Israel and the United States.  Further, Iran supports a Persian majority, hence of the Shia sect of Islam.  The country also has nuclear ambitions, as well as a long standing animosity toward Iraq -- not to mention centuries of animosity toward Islam's other major sect: the Sunni Arabs, the history of which I have covered elsewhere in this blog.  Currently, Iran's more overt ambitions are hemmed-in geographically by US and Coalition military forces on two sides -- that about to end without a definitive plan for maintaining stability in the region. 
    [Note:  Was an all-out invasion of Iraq necessary?  Most likely not.  In 1986, then President Ronald Reagan, telegraphed   Libya's Moammar Qaddafi a far more subtle version of the American Big Stick...in the form of a midnight raid which also targeted his bedroom.  It amounted to behavior modification from afar.  Hussein, a man of ego, possessions...palaces, automobile collections, women...stuff.  One US aircraft carrier could have waged a war of attrition on the Iraqi leader from the relative safety of the Persian Gulf, giving the guy a chance to reflect on just how much he cared to lose personally.  But then that might not have been enough blood to quench the American desire for revenge.]  

    Who else got hurt in the geo-politics of American adventurism?  Saudi Arabia for one  You see, our expanding presence in the region, particularly on the Arabian peninsula is what created the need for an Osama bin Laden. He was nurtured as a political mercenary by the Saudi Royal Family -- an entity that rules only by the good graces of the Wahhabi majority -- the Bedouins of the vast deserts of the peninsula.  They are fundamentalist in their thinking, isolationist by intent and bent on preserving their culture and          
    lifestyle...and they had already met the west; experienced our true intentions through British colonial abuses in the region a century earlier. For them, oil was one thing, American soldiers quite another.  So in effect, bin Laden was the backdoor pipeline to the Wahhabi -- reassuring this fundamentalist majority that the Royal Family was playing two cards in the great game of world politics.
    However, his message fell on very eager ears and the Wahhabist movement globalized -- attractive to Islamic groups worldwide who felt marginalized, ignored...faces pressed to the hard, cold pavement of repression by greater powers, both foreign and domestic, Osama bin Laden the de-facto Caliphate of a resurgent Islam.  And in such cases, negotiation via violence is a legitimate tool on an uneven playing field. 

      And while his audience cheered over the 9/11 debacle -- bin Laden had really sealed his own ultimate fate -- for he had grown more powerful than the Saudi government itself...a greater threat to the Royal Family's ability to maintain power in the Kingdom than the entire United States military combined.  And so they cut him loose.  Except sadly, his grass-roots message remained.  So who really initiated this round of Jihad?   Well, get out your textbooks and re-visit a century or more of colonialism, imperialism, hegemony -- The Great Game of a never-ending Cold War...foreign-aid masked as political will, the outright theft of resources and a blatant carving up of the developing world into fences, boundaries and nations that shared no commonality whatsoever.  The real estate that viciously cut through the heart of traditional, social, cultural, tribal and family structures.  And  the long fist of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the international corporate raiders, who were more than happy to trade a groups future sustenance...their children's lives for a buck.  And many Americans still wonder:  "Why the World Trade Center?"  Wonder no more.


    [Note: Osama bin Laden experienced the same dichotomy while helping to train al Qaeda fighters in Libya.  It quickly became apparent to Qaddafi that not only was bin Laden a potential threat to his power base in Tripoli, but was attracting the wrong kind of attention from a very edgy west. There too, bin Laden found himself expelled from the host country.] 
    What happens when all US forces exit the region?  Unknown.  Iran could once again move against Iraq -- most likely with impunity.  And what if Iran does develop a deliverable nuclear device?  That scenario is a given really.  Israel has been green-lighted by every US administration since Jimmy Carter to take out Iran's capabilities.  Then what?  As it currently stands, Saudi Arabia is on the verge of going nuclear itself, if Iran should play such a card.  And it certainly has the resources.  It is the same scenario that led to the  China/India/Pakistan domino, all embracing the nuclear card as a deterrent from aggression by a neighbor.  And yet, in today's human algebra, war itself -- all-out war is obsolete, for this kind of conflict would be the final measure of man's presence on this planet.  So with no regional power to influence Iranian policies, intentions or ambitions...if they proceed on their current course, they will be hit hard.  And that will have many, unknown ramifications for the region.  Little else is really on the table. And even this action would further cement the solidarity of the Islamic world...dropping sectarian rivalries in favor of confronting a common enemy:  The West.
    What is a terrorist?  When American militia went from destroying tea stocks to assassinating British officers from behind trees...the King of England called our ancestors 'terrorists of the first order.'  Perhaps so.  However, an armed rebellion (this was not a war), is 'negotiation via violence.'  It is a legitimate tool when all other avenues have been exhausted.  A fair comparison here?  No.  Merely an observation on semantics -- according to which side of the violence you happen to experience.  And do remember that the American militia was not in uniform and not recognized by the British.  They were considered civilians and the British reciprocated by killing other civilians.  None of this right -- however, all of this is painfully predictable.      
    When no choice is offered...
    the terrorist is us.
    Saudi Arabia has also lost a tremendous amount of credibility in their own world -- the Islamic world.  Conflicts in Syria, Egypt...even Turkey could benefit greatly from a moderate Islamic ally...one with almost inexhaustible resources and access
    to the many back doors of international exchange.  But they can't really, for the legacy of bin Laden -- not only in the west, but just outside the palace gates, lingers like a bad taste in the mouths of both east and west.  And it is not likely to sweeten anytime soon.  And let's not forget that backstage, the long festering boil that is the story of Palestine and its people.  No lasting peace will ever occur in this region until their needs and aspirations are not only met, but championed as well.  A place where America could actually execute the tenets of its tarnished creed: "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."  But then we always seem to find the sword mightier than OUR word.  And that is exactly why 2/3 of the world hates our government, but somehow loves us as a people.  Friendship among nations requires honesty, accountability and trust.  And in this regard, we have failed miserably and historically as a nation among equals. 


    If two invasions of Iraq could be considered a preposterous undertaking, then entering Afghanistan would seem to be a case of incurable insanity.  An enigma wrapped in a...yep.  And don't forget that the Taliban of today are the Mujaheddin of yesterday.  The same folks that we promised schools, electricity, hospitals, machinery, water systems, food...if they'd kill a few Russians for us.  Well, they did and we rewarded them by abandoning a people and a country in ruin. So now they kill us.  Anyone notice the irony here besides me?   
    There is just possibly nowhere on earth that is so ethnically, culturally and religiously diverse than Afghanistan.  Unless you consider the United States over the last couple of decades -- diverse being the gentler of most available descriptors.  And it is tribal, geographically isolated, technologically three-steps removed from the stone age, sports 80% illiteracy -- viewing that as a positive; and is violently opposed to outside interference in its internal affairs.  And us (US) in our incredible wisdom, chose to invade this bottomless pit of rocks, sand and intolerance in spite of the fact that the entire Soviet Army was sent home like whipped dogs only fifteen or so years earlier.  Boy, now there is a case of runaway optimism by folks that should seriously know better.  But then, both Afghanistan and Iraq were nothing more than broad-based political conflicts bent on appeasing the domestic discomfort caused by the events of 9/11.  A blood feud really.  As if killing more people was the answer to less people being killed.  And of course in the overall picture, these acts of violence -- perpetrated by bin Laden and others -- clearly accomplished their goals: they undermined the very core of American security, cost this country at least a trillion dollars or more, and undermined our own democratic principles;  further, they allowed us to sanctify an unending assortment of basic human rights' violations -- causes which we once championed -- all under the collective banner of...no, not national security; not reciprocity; just a simple case of orchestrated fear.  Children fall for this kind of nonsense...you know, story-telling around a campfire on a dark night.  Yes, enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world 3-times over and we cower under our blankets because we never had the guts to simply ask the Islamic world what it really wanted from us.  We might have been surprised by the answers.
    Nation Building
    Just possibly the biggest pile of bullshit ever dumped on an audience.  No, not the Afghan people; Americans.   Like it or not, democracy is NOT exportable -- particularly to groups or cultures whose societies are tribal in nature, and who do not claim nor embrace a level of literacy commensurate to the task.  It is a dysfunctional approach to introduce -- rather force -- a system of governing on those who have no hope of understanding or implementing its complex workings.  It is arrogance administered at the point of a gun.    
    Nation building, if actually a serious intent, would require a 30-year investment in time, energy, education, infrastructure repair, technology...basically, growing a whole new generation of Afghans with the tools and abilities to accomplish such a formidable task.  And it would have to include women.  The truth is that the Taliban, and fundamentalist groups like them, fear literacy more than they fear the combined military power of the Coalition Forces sent against them.  They retain power only through ignorance, superstition and a singular flawed interpretation of Islamic doctrine.  Break the cycle of ignorance, open the doors of communication and learning -- you break the Taliban.  But you must be willing to play the long game -- something the American people fail to have the stomach for.  And too, we change leadership every 4-8 years, discounting any and all international agreements in favor of this chronic need for pandering to the home audience...most of whom seem more interested in Jerry Springer's dog and pony show than a world-wide decimation of hope and optimism in our own time -- issues that have finally crossed all borders and infected all cultures.

    'The world is often divided between science (physical knowledge) and religion.  When education (access to knowledge) is denied,  fundamental religious theology becomes the prevalent voice, the broken compass of a society; this as both the offense and defense against the fear  and uncertainty found in life itself.  Religion becomes the staple of hope…knowledge, the tool of a truly free will.  The first merely holds fear at bay, the second exposes it to the naked light of day.'


    Afghanistan?  Was thinking of some place closer to home.   





    And we must not forget the warriors who are left to execute the will of the nation-state.  They are the swords dispatched to enforce the gains sought by others.
    Yes.  The moral paradox.  The chronic disease of an acute illness that has infected mankind since the earliest days of personal cognition.  And death is merely one outcome of many.

    We ask soldiers to do the unthinkable...for nation, for God, for some insatiable political appetite not of their own making.  Yet after that first shot, soldiers fight for themselves, for the person next to them.  And we sit back, unable to comprehend the insanity produced through this collective violence.  Because we fail to realize what war requires of a person: either the highest manner of morality...or none at all.  It is the nature of a soul under siege.

    Afghanistan Deaths:  Coalition: 3231 -- US: 2220
    Iraq Deaths: Coalition: 4777 -- US: 4486
    *2012 figures
    Wounded: 22,700 of which 2.2% were major amputations.
    More frightening are the statistics coming out of the US Department of Veterans Affairs:  Estimates that 20,000 US troops "not classified as wounded," have been found with signs of brain injuries.  30% of those troops after their 3rd deployment were found to have serious mental health problems.  And 1/3 of the 103,788 veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan (2001-2005) were diagnosed with mental illness or a psycho-social disorder, 56% suffering from more than one condition. (From: US Department of Veterans Affairs: Testifying before Congress.)

    America's Collateral Damage: An Economy in Ruins



    • FY2003 Supplemental: Operation Iraqi Freedom: Passed April 2003; Total $78.5 billion, $54.4 billion Iraq War
    • FY2004 Supplemental: Iraq and Afghanistan Ongoing Operations/Reconstruction: Passed November 2003; Total $87.5 billion, $70.6 billion Iraq War
    • FY2004 DoD Budget Amendment: $25 billion Emergency Reserve Fund (Iraq Freedom Fund): Passed July 2004, Total $25 billion, $21.5 billion (estimated) Iraq War
    • FY2005 Emergency Supplemental: Operations in the War on Terror; Activities in Afghanistan; Tsunami Relief: Passed April 2005, Total $82 billion, $58 billion (estimated) Iraq War
    • FY2006 Department of Defense appropriations: Total $50 billion, $40 billion (estimated) Iraq War.
    • FY2006 Emergency Supplemental: Operations Global War on Terror; Activities in Iraq & Afghanistan: Passed February 2006, Total $72.4 billion, $60 billion (estimated) Iraq War
    • FY2007 Department of Defense appropriations: $70 billion(estimated) for Iraq War-related costs[4][5]
    • FY2007 Emergency Supplemental (proposed) $100 billion
    • FY2008 Bush administration has proposed around $190 billion for the Iraq War and Afghanistan[6]
    • FY2009 Obama administration has proposed around $130 billion in additional funding for the Iraq War and Afghanistan.[7]
    • FY2011 Obama administration proposes around $159.3 billion for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.[8]

    It is unclear why no breakdowns are offered on the basis of each war

    The Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund (IRRF) was established by the US Congress on November 6, 2003. It allocated $18.4 billion to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure, damaged from years of neglect, sanctions, and war.

    As of March 29, 2006, approximately $16.3 billion, or 89%, had been obligated and $11.4 billion had been expended. The fund has come under some criticism due to the slowness with which the allocated money has been disbursed, largely because of the time-consuming US procurement process.
    Truth is, nobody knows.  Best guesstimate: $3.4 trillion +  another $1 trillion servicing the debt. Not to mention the billions that never quite made the official ledger.  Hard to imagine what could have been done in this country over those same 10 years.  Fund universal access to Healthcare maybe?  Yeah, rhetorical question...all I'm left with here.
    Reconstruction and the 'Exit Plan.'
    Basically, no and no. For Iraq, most reconstruction surrounded oil facilities and military needs.  NGO's did the heavy lifting, more often than not in a dangerous and volatile environment.  Sectarian violence continues while the 'new' Iraqi Army is left ill-equipped to deal with either domestic or international security in the region.  And as bad storekeepers we were kind enough to leave sufficient (and modern) munitions lying about to propagate a continuation of violence for years to come.  No, nothing even approaching the common sense investment found in World War II's great Marshall Plan.
    For Afghanistan, the picture is even more bleak.  Karzai has his castle in Kabul, but as the last American soldier trudges out the gate, this leader...our guy -- his life expectancy will take a sudden turn for the worse.  Yes, a repeat of the last hours of Saigon...so many decades ago, so poignant in its message of a failed foreign policy...but obviously worth repeating.
    Around 2011, Mother Jones published a rather intriguing survey conducted in Afghanistan...posing the question of what Afghans  themselves wanted from us.  At the head of the list?  No, not peace.  Electricity. Second was communication, education...the free access to knowledge.  What we promised and withdrew from the Mujaheddin a long time and a few American presidents ago. After 10 years, we leave them in the same state of ruination, the same world of intolerance and suppression; the same bleak vision for their aspirations as humans.  More friends tossed on the rubbish pile of our misguided, intemperate political will.  And yes, once again, the women and children are left to endure the consequences...to pick up the pieces of what might be left of life.  As a nation, as a people...we should be ashamed.  But hell, it's not our problem...is it?
    The real face of war...


    The entire operation in Iraq went south about 30-days before it even began.  No one had bothered to ask the most basic of questions:  "What do we do if we win?"  Those running the game; Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld (The Three Mosquitos), had never been on the ground in Iraq.  Neither had Bremer or any other key players.  General Sanduski...bathed in experience in Bosnia was largely ignored when he stated that at least 300,000 troops would be needed.  Not to win this pissing contest, but to 'manage' and 'administer' the political vacuum that would occur in the wake of Saddam's forced departure.  Rumsfeld overruled him and would only agree to 160,000 initial forces.
    Of greater note was the fact that 2/3rds of the Iraqi population (as well as key elements of the Iraqi military), were in support of the US action.  Within thirty days of our occupation, those 2/3rds had decided that killing Americans would be far more productive to their immediate future.  Why?  Because Bremer (and Rumsfeld) -- refused to listen to those with experience in Iraq; folks who knew the culture, the animosities and importantly, the aspirations of the Iraqi people.  So he ordered the disbanding of the entire Iraqi military, even in light of the Iraqi command's willingness to put multiple (and existing) divisions to work on policing, logistics and infrastructure repair.  America's notion?  All Muslims are terrorists.
    So the US Army was charged with policing the country -- a job they had no experience (or even a plan), to work with...not to mention the sensitivity needed to maintain any kind of civil order.  And with the Iraqi Army unemployed -- meaning, unable to support their families -- they too turned on the occupiers...that's us.  Further complicating the issue, almost all rebuilding projects (a source of employment; more importantly self-worth), was handed over to the likes of Hallaburton [sic] and others, who already had a history of profiteering through corruption.  So within weeks of the occupation, the entire country fell into distrust, outright hatred and anarchy.  
    And a bunch of marginally educated high school drop-outs with a little too much testosterone became the new police force in Iraq...egged on by a CIA that Rumsfeld and others had turned loose on the land.  In the end our actions made Saddam Hussein look like a three-legged poodle.  And why?  Because a bunch of creative malcontents hit us on 9/11.  An attack that was remarkably light in comparison to what 50-years of US Cold War policy had reaped on the developing world.  We made enemies...tons of them, and like Custer on Little Big Horn, one day your behavior will come home to roost.    
    So read those casualty lists as something far more ominous than just lives lost.  Add in the 2-3  million still dislocated in both conflicts.  Think about your own abilities at memory, your own capacity for vengeance.  And wonder no more.