One Hundred Days of Ineptitude
On May 1st, dressed in a naval flight suit, President Bush dropped onto the deck of the USS Lincoln sitting off the coast of California. Posing beneath a "Mission Accomplished" banner the president announced the end to major combat operations in Iraq. One-hundred days later, vacationing on his Crawford, Texas ranch the president assessed the invasion: "We've made a lot of progress in a hundred days, and I am pleased with the progress we've made, but fully recognize we've got a lot more work to do."
Bush's pronouncement was timed with the White House release of a 24-page report called "Results in Iraq: 100 Days Toward Security and Freedom," detailing "highlights of the successes" in Iraq. Prepared by the White House Office of Global Communications and the staff of L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Iraq, the report claims to focus "on 10 areas where the liberation of Iraq has improved the lives of Iraqis and the safety and security of the world."
The report's claims differ significantly from the dozens of daily reports filed by journalists on the ground. Through a finely-honed rose-colored lens the document claims: Electricity "is now more equitably distributed"; water supplies are "now at pre-conflict levels"; the oil distribution system is being repaired and modernized; road repairs are underway and the Baghdad and Basra airports will soon reopen; democracy is being institutionalized -- "more than 150 newspapers are now published in Iraq"; and "health care, previously available only for Baathist elite, is now available to all Iraqis." (For the full report, see http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/iraq/100days/100days.pdf.)
The report fails to mention the ongoing casualties being taken by both U.S. forces and Iraqi civilians.
As of the morning of August 14, "Casualties in Iraq: The Human Cost of Occupation" -- a Web site affiliated with Antiwar.com -- places the total American casualties in Iraq since the president's May 1st photo op at 130: 59 have been killed in combat; dozens of have died in accidents; several have committed suicide; two are dead from a still-to-be-explained cluster of pneumonia cases; and three have died mysteriously in their sleep.
CNN.com also has a special Web site called "Forces: U.S. & Coalition/Casualties", which provides a list of coalition casualties and includes pictures of the victims (when available), and the ages, units, hometowns and an explanation of how each soldier died.
Trying to ascertain totals of U.S. wounded in Iraq is a much more difficult task. According to report in the Guardian, the Pentagon puts the number of wounded at 827 but reporter Julian Borger claims that "unofficial figures are in the thousands." Central Command in Qatar claims 926 wounded, but "that too is understated," Borger writes. Lieutenant-Colonel Allen DeLane, who is in charge of the airlift of the wounded into Andrews air base, recently told National Public Radio that "Since the war has started, I can't give you an exact number because that's classified information, but I can say to you over 4,000 have stayed here at Andrews, and that number doubles when you count the people that come here to Andrews and then we send them to other places like Walter Reed and Bethesda, which are in this area also."
Regarding U.S. casualties, the president said that Americans "suffer when we lose life," and that the country "grieves with those who sacrifice."
A report issued August 7th by the Iraq Body Count (IBC) claims that nearly 20,000 civilians have been wounded in the Iraq war. "The maimed civilians of Iraq have been brushed under the carpet," the IBC report said. According to IBC, there have been close to 7,800 deaths since the beginning of the U.S. invasion. In this new report, derived from data gathered from over 300 published reports, the IBC claims that "three times as many injuries as deaths have been reported."
In addition, IBC cites a report from UNICEF which claims that "more than 1,000 children have been injured by unexploded ordnance since the end of the war, including by cluster bombs (and now unguarded) Iraqi munitions, and emphasized that 'the coalition forces have a clear obligation under humanitarian law to remove these dangers from communities'" (For more see, www.un.org.)
And, contrary to the White House's assessment that health care is now "available to all Iraqis," the IBC report claims that Iraq's hospitals, "run-down and neglected for years under the sanctions regime, have suffered looting, vandalism, loss of electrical power, the deaths of staff and even (in at least three of them) direct bombardment, all attributable to the war; however heroic the efforts of their staff, there is no denying that the country's health system is now in a desperate state."
The president was asked to give an estimate of how much it will cost the American people to attempt to stabilize Iraq over the next year. "We generally don't do our estimates on the back of an envelope," he said. President Bush added that he had faith that planners will bring "good, sound data," to Congress "at the appropriate time." Bush's faith in "good, sound" budget data sounds eerily reminiscent to his comments that he had faith in the "good, sound intelligence" that he receives; intelligence that led to him making the phony charge that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger, a claim that had been included in his State of the Union address.
According to The Economist, "The price of occupation has been estimated at $1 billion a week, contributing to what is already the largest federal deficit in American history." Hopes that this cost would be covered by oil exports have yet to be realized due to the sabotage of oil pipelines and the hesitancy of private investors to step into such a volatile situation. The president did say that he was trying to line up other nations to chip in with the costs of reconstruction, a project that has thus far met keen resistance.
The Return of Militants
On the 101st day after Bush's May Day declaration, L. Paul Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) running Iraq, told the New York Times that he feared that hundreds of fighters from Ansar al Islam, a militant organization that the United States had hoped it had destroyed during the war, had returned from their refuge in Iran and may have been responsible for the August 7 car bomb outside the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad that killed 17 people and wounded dozens of others.
"My initial instinct was to believe that this had to be done from somebody from outside," Bremer told the Times. "But I have been told we captured and spoke to some ex-regime people and that there was part of the Mukhabarat (Iraqi intelligence) that specialized in sophisticated bombing and it is possible that this kind of technique did exist."
The bombing was the most brazen attack thus far in the three-plus-months since Bush's USS Lincoln stunt, and Bremer's remarks seemed to indicate that more attacks of this nature were to be expected.
"Intelligence suggests that Ansar al Islam is planning large-scale terrorist attacks here," Bremer said. "So as long as we have ... substantial numbers of Ansar terrorists around here, I think we have to be pretty alert to the fact that we may see more of this."
Governing without Legitimacy?
A Governing Council, a group of Iraqis appointed by the CPA, was appointed several weeks ago, but according to The Economist, "the council got off to a rocky start, taking more than two weeks to decide who was to be its president," finally choosing "a nine-member rotating presidency, bringing in just about every member with an independent constituency who had a reasonable claim to the job."
Before an election can be held, a constitution must be drawn up. According to The Economist, "Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a senior cleric, has issued a fatwa stating that delegates to a constitutional convention must be elected," a proposal that would present all sorts of problems. The Economist also claims that "the council has a legitimacy problem. Its seeming ineffectualness has been mocked in newspapers, in Friday sermons and by ordinary Iraqis."
In recent comments, Bremer was hopeful that he would be heading home before next summer, and elections could be held sometime in mid-2004. Bremer's plan appears to contradict the comments by Army Lt. Gen. Richard Sanchez, who recently said that U.S. forces would remain in Iraq for two years at an "absolute minimum," and in all likelihood longer.
Fresh from meetings with the Iraq Invasion All-Stars -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force Gen. Richard Meyers, and the embattled national security advisor Condoleezza Rice, Bush told the press that the hailstorm of criticism the administration was receiving for misleading the public about his reasons for invading Iraq, was "pure politics."
According to a Washington Post reporter, the president repeated that phrase three times and added, "As far as all this political noise, it's going to get worse as time goes on, and I fully understand that, and that's just the nature of democracy." Apparently Bush won't connect the dots between the criticisms the administration is receiving and the misstatements, lies and misinformation it put forward to justify its invasion of Iraq.
While the president told reporters that the country grieves over each U.S. casualty, the 100th day after the president's "Mission Accomplished" dropdown at sea, also saw the obliteration of Adel abd al-Kerim and three of his children in Iraq.
Reports from the scene have it that the Iraqi family was killed by jittery U.S. forces as they slowly approached a checkpoint. According to the Independent's Justin Huggler, "Doctors said the father and his two daughters would have survived if they had received treatment quicker. Instead, they were left to bleed to death because the Americans refused to allow anyone to take them to hospital."
On the 102nd day, Reuters reported that "one soldier was killed and two wounded on Sunday night in a bomb blast in Baqub; three other soldiers were wounded, one seriously, in a combined bomb and rocket-propelled grenade attack Monday near the town of Shumayt, north of Tikrit."
A final note from the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count*:
- Total deaths from May 1st -- the day of Bush's USS Lincoln landing and announcement - through August 13: 127.
- Total deaths since July 2nd -- the day Bush exclaimed "Bring Them On": 62.
- Total deaths since July 22nd -- the day Odai and Qusai Hussein were killed: 34.
*Different Web sites may have different numbers due to updating capabilities.