More Sacrifice

CBS News leads its 10 a.m. hourly radio news with Bush giving a speech to military wives. He’s got a comforting message for them: The road to “total victory” — his recently declared goal in Iraq — will be paved by “more sacrifice.” Let’s not dwell too long on who will make the sacrifice. The military wives already know.

The sacrifice talk — Bush sounded the same theme in his weekly radio talk last Saturday — is prompted by the U.S. military death toll in Operation Mission Accomplished reaching 2,000 (along with 15,220 wounded).

The other side to Bush’s talk about the need to stay the course, shed as much blood and spend as much money as it takes, is that each passing day shows the war in Iraq to be a more and more fabulous success.

If, like me, you’ve missed that story — OK, yes, Iraq did just have the best election our money could buy, and that’s sure a change from the reign of Saddam Hussein — here are a few examples:

Unseen Enemy Is at Its Fiercest in a Sunni City

New York Times, October 23, 2005

RAMADI, Iraq, Oct. 22 – The Bradley fighting vehicles moved slowly down this city’s main boulevard. Suddenly, a homemade bomb exploded, punching into one vehicle. Then another explosion hit, briefly lifting a second vehicle up onto its side before it dropped back down again.

Two American soldiers climbed out of a hatch, the first with his pant leg on fire, and the other completely in flames. The first rolled over to help the other man, but when they touched, the first man also burst into flames. Insurgent gunfire began to pop.

Several blocks away, Lance Cpl. Jeffrey Rosener, 20, from Minneapolis, watched the two men die from a lookout post at a Marine encampment. His heart reached out to them, but he could not. In Ramadi, Iraq’s most violent city, two blocks may as well be 10 miles.

“I couldn’t do anything,” he said of the incident, which he saw on Oct. 10. He spoke quietly, sitting in the post and looking straight ahead. “It’s bad down there. You hear all the rumors. We didn’t know it was going to be like this.” …

US troops fighting losing battle for Sunni triangle

London Telegraph, October 22, 2005

The mob grew more frenzied as the gunmen dragged the two surviving Americans from the cab of their bullet-ridden lorry and forced them to kneel on the street.

Killing one of the men with a rifle round fired into the back of his head, they doused the other with petrol and set him alight. Barefoot children, yelping in delight, piled straw on to the screaming man’s body to stoke the flames.

It had taken just one wrong turn for disaster to unfold. Less than a mile from the base it was heading to, the convoy turned left instead of right and lumbered down one of the most anti-American streets in Iraq, a narrow bottleneck in Duluiya town, on a peninsular jutting into the Tigris river named after the Jibouri tribe that lives there. …

… Within minutes, four American contractors, all employees of the Halliburton subsidiary Kellog, Brown & Root, were dead. The jubilant crowd dragged their corpses through the street, chanting anti-US slogans. An investigation has been launched into why the contractors were not better protected.

Perhaps fearful of public reaction in America, where support for the war is falling, US officials suppressed details of the Sept 20 attack, which bore a striking resemblance to the murder of four other contractors in Fallujah last year.

Secret MoD poll: Iraqis support attacks on British troops

London Telegraph, October 23, 2005

Millions of Iraqis believe that suicide attacks against British troops are justified, a secret military poll commissioned by senior officers has revealed. …

…The survey was conducted by an Iraqi university research team that, for security reasons, was not told the data it compiled would be used by coalition forces. It reveals:

• Forty-five per cent of Iraqis believe attacks against British and American troops are justified – rising to 65 per cent in the British-controlled Maysan province;

• 82 per cent are “strongly opposed” to the presence of coalition troops;

• less than one per cent of the population believes coalition forces are responsible for any improvement in security;

• 67 per cent of Iraqis feel less secure because of the occupation;

• 43 per cent of Iraqis believe conditions for peace and stability have worsened;

• 72 per cent do not have confidence in the multi-national forces.

In Iraq

Word, first of all that 14 Marines were killed by a bomb in a place called Haditha. Six more were killed there the day before yesterday. So far, 22 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq in the first three days of August.

Then there’s this: Steven Vincent, a freelance writer and blogger who had an op-ed piece in this past Sunday’s New York Times describing Basra’s police force and its growing allegiance to religious parties rather than the national government (or citizens), has been killed. He and his interpreter were kidnapped and shot, and the thinking is that he was assassinated because of his recent reporting. I haven’t read a lot of his stuff — his blog, occasionally, but not his Iraq book, “In the Red Zone” — but he struck me as a meticulously honest observer who was trying to look at the war in terms of the people we say we’re trying to help. Someone capable of seeing what is at stake for ordinary citizens in this struggle and the big gap between our declared ideals and goals and our execution. For instance, one of his last posts, “The Naive American.”

[Later: The New York Times did a nice short profile on Vincent. Among other things, turns out he was a Bay Area kid who went to Cal.]

One Thousand Seven Hundred and Two

It’s a beautiful, dry, warm day in the Bay Area. What’s mostly preoccupying us here today, if you go by the local media: a recent fatal pit bull attack on a 12-year-old boy; the woeful state of our resident sports franchises; a deadly highway accident; the cost of replacing the Bay Bridge. We know there’s a war on out there someplace. But most of us are lucky enough to live outside the pall it casts, even when we hear the latest news mentioned: Twenty U.S. troops (and scores more Iraqis) have died in the last four or five days; a total of 1,702 American soldiers, Marines and sailors have died since the first casualty was recorded on March 21, 2003. Check back tomorrow. The number will be higher, and the end won’t be any clearer.


Not that numbers ever tell the whole story, one view of the U.S. killed and wounded in Iraq:


Year 1 (March 20, 2003-March 19, 2004): 583

Year 2: (March 20, 2004-March 19, 2005): 938


Year 1: (March 19, 2003-April 2, 2004): 2,988

Year 2: (April 3, 2004-March 14, 2005): 8,256

(Source: Iraq Coalition Casualties)


Today in Iraq:

“BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) The number of U.S. military deaths in the Iraq campaign rose to 1,500 on Thursday, an Associated Press count showed, as the military announced the latest death of one of its troops.

The soldier was killed Wednesday in Babil province, just south of Baghdad, part of an area known as the ‘Triangle of Death’ because of the frequency of insurgent attacks on U.S.- and Iraqi-led forces there. …”