Four years ago today, the United States began its shock-and-awe invasion of Iraq. It's the anniversary few want to remember; and yet, for all the disillusionment in this country, getting out of Iraq doesn't exactly seem to be on the agenda either. Not really. Here's a little tip, when you want to assess the "withdrawal" proposals now being offered by members of Congress. If what's being called for is a withdrawal of American "combat troops" or brigades, or forces, then watch out. "Combat troops" turns out to be a technical term, covering less than half of the American military personnel actually in Iraq.
Here, on the other hand, is a simple argument for withdrawal from Iraq -- and not just of those "combat troops" either. The military newspaper Stars and Stripes reports that, in January 2007, attacks on American troops surged to 180 a day, the highest rate since Baghdad fell in 2003, and double the previous year's numbers. Let's take that as our baseline figure.
Now, get out your calculator: There are 288 days left in 2007. Multiply those by 180 attacks a day -- remembering that the insurgents in Iraq are growing increasingly skilled and using ever more sophisticated weaponry -- and you get 51,840 more attacks on American troops this year. Add in another 65,700 for next year--remembering that if, for instance, Shiite militias get more involved in fighting American troops at some point, the figures could go far higher--and you know at least one grim thing likely to be in store for Americans if a withdrawal doesn't happen. And a decision to withdraw only American "combat troops," under such circumstances, is likely to be a less than halfway step to greater, not lesser, catastrophe.
Those of us who remember the Vietnam era also recall living through years of similar non-withdrawal withdrawal proposals. It won't turn out better this time around.