The good news is that there has been a sharp drop in US deaths in Iraq.
As of Tuesday, the Pentagon reported 28 U.S. military deaths in October. That’s an average of about 1.2 deaths a day. The toll on U.S troops hasn’t been this low since March 2006, when 31 soldiers died – an average of one death a day.
The sad news is the Department of Defense measures U.S. military deaths in increments of 30 while measuring Iraqi civilian deaths in increments of 500. It is ludicrous for anyone to suggest that Iraqi civilians are benefiting from our war.
To what can we attribute this fall in the death count?
Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch points to what the military calls “Concerned Citizens” – both Shiites and Sunnis who have joined the American fight. He says he’s signed up 20,000 of them in the past four months.
“I’ve never been more optimistic than I am right now with the progress we’ve made in Iraq. The only people who are going to win this counterinsurgency project are the people of Iraq. We’ve said that all along. And now they’re coming forward in masses,” Lynch said in a recent interview at a U.S. base deep in hostile territory south of Baghdad. Outgoing artillery thundered as he spoke.
Lynch, who commands the 3rd Infantry Division and once served as the military spokesman in Baghdad, is a tireless cheerleader of the American effort in Iraq. But the death toll over the past two months appears to reinforce his optimism.
Also worthy of note in this story is the conversation between Major General Rick Lynch and Sunni Sheik Emad Ghurtani in which both posture and bluster in culturally different ways to achieve mutually exclusive goals. Lynch wants to go after al Qaida with information from Ghurtani and Ghurtani wants to go after al Qaida with guns and supplies from Lynch.
“Honestly, I’m not going to hide this from you, there is some al-Qaida here in this area. But, God willing, we will get rid of them. … The citizens are coming out. They’re not afraid any more,” the tall and handsome tribal leader said.
Lynch, hatless on the balmy autumn day, answered in staccato sentences. “What we really need is information. You know where al-Qaida is. You know who they are. You have to tell us.
We can use all our capabilities to take out the enemy. But you have to tell us where they are, because you know. You’ve got our total support.”
The sheik, who made Lynch promise to return for lunch one day, responded with striking eloquence. “Because of what the American forces have accomplished, instead of us moving step by step we’re going to start running toward the enemy … Instead of walking, we’re going to start running now. We just need the weapons and ammunition.”
Ghurtani also complained they hadn’t been paid the $100 a month the Americans had promised.
This exchange between the Major General and the Sheik reminds me of the relationship between Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence and Faisal I of Iraq as portrayed in the 1962 movie “Lawrence of Arabia.” In that movie, Lawrence convinced Arab leaders to co-ordinate their revolt to aid British interests. It will be interesting to see if Lynch can muster the necessary tact and finesse to do the same.
But what I really want is immediate withdrawal of troops. Which would require we let go of our own special interests, namely oil. I’d rather see the United States put the dollars they are spending on war into rehabilitating the passenger rail system.
Reducing our dependency on oil could save the lives of another couple thousand Iraqi citizens while making us more independent as a nation. Not to mention improving our health and quality of life.
But wait, how would that affect the medical industry, big oil and the pharmaceutical companies? Well, to be honest, it wouldn’t be good for our old, “tapeworm economy” but it would be great for the new local economy we need to create in order to move forward as a country.