Monday, September 06, 2004

A Sad Day in Iraq

On Monday, a suicide car bombing near the city of Fallujah claimed the lives of seven US Marines and three Iraqi National Guardsmen. This was the deadliest single incident involving US forces in Iraq since May. I humbly offer my condolences to the families of the fallen.

On Sunday, the Washington Post reported that the number of US troops wounded in Iraq in August reached an all-time high:

About 1,100 U.S. soldiers and Marines were wounded in Iraq (news - web sites) during August, by far the highest combat injury toll for any month since the war began and an indication of the intensity of battles flaring in urban areas.


The sharp rise in wounded was, for the first time, accompanied by a far less steep climb in battlefield fatalities. Since the start of the war in March 2003, 979 U.S. troops have died in Iraq and almost 7,000 have been wounded. Until last month, however, the monthly tallies of fatalities and wounded rose and fell roughly in proportion.

In August, 66 U.S. service personnel were killed in Iraq, according to the Defense Department. The toll was the highest since May, when 80 fatalities were recorded. But it was well below the 135 U.S. combat deaths in April, when a sporadic guerrilla war that had largely been confined to the so-called Sunni Triangle north and west of Baghdad spread to cities across the previously quiescent Shiite Muslim belt in southern Iraq. The U.S. military does not routinely release the reported number of Iraqi casualties and wounded.

War is an ugly and horrific affair. The economic costs of the Iraq campaign are utterly insignificant next to the loss of brave American men and women. I fully supported the liberation of Iraq, and still believe that it was the right thing to do. However, the knowledge that this policy has inevitably led to the death and maiming of Americans and Iraqis is difficult to bear. Yet, it would be a mistake to assume that there would be no price to pay if we had refrained from acting. I can only quote from this powerful op-ed written by a US Marine in Iraq from the August 23 New York Times:

Weapons of mass destruction or no, I'm glad that we ended the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. My brother and other American jet pilots risked their lives for years patrolling the "no fly zone" (and occasionally making page A-12 in the newspaper if they dropped a bomb on a threatening missile battery). The former dictator's attempt to assassinate George H. W. Bush, use of chemical weapons on his own people, and invasion of a neighboring country are just a few of the other reasons I believe we should have acted sooner. He eventually would have had the means to cause America great harm - no doubt in my mind.

The pre-emptive doctrine of the current administration will continue to be debated long after I'm gone, but one fact stands for itself: America has not been hit with another catastrophic attack since 9/11. I firmly believe that our actions in Afghanistan and Iraq are major reasons that we've had it so good at home. Building a "fortress America" is not only impractical, it's impossible. Prudent homeland security measures are vital, to be sure, but attacking the source of the threat remains essential.

Now we are on the verge of victory or defeat in Iraq. Success depends not only on battlefield superiority, but also on the trust and confidence of the American people. I've read some articles recently that call for cutting back our military presence in Iraq and moving our troops to the peripheries of most cities. Such advice is well-intentioned but wrong - it would soon lead to a total withdrawal. Our goal needs to be a safe Iraq, free of militias and terrorists; if we simply pull back and run, then the region will pose an even greater threat than it did before the invasion. I also fear if we do not win this battle here and now, my 7-year-old son might find himself here in 10 or 11 years, fighting the same enemies and their sons.


No, I would not sacrifice myself, my parents would not sacrifice me, and President Bush would not sacrifice a single marine or soldier simply for Falluja. Rather, that symbolic city is but one step toward a free and democratic Iraq, which is one step closer to a more safe and secure America.

I miss my family, my friends and my country, but right now there is nowhere else I'd rather be. I am a United States Marine.

My thoughts and prayers are with all of our brave men and women in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, along with their families. Please click on one of the "Supporting the Troops" links to the right to see what you can do to help them.


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