The pro-war crowd has been emphasizing the recent drop in American casualties in Iraq, measured by the month, but the fact remains that 2007 has been the most lethal year of war for Americans, and it's not over yet.
At this writing, 853 Americans have died in 2007, which tops the previous record of 849 in 2004. Altogether, 3,858 Americans have lost their lives in Iraq. The sad thing is that they are dying for nothing, because the cowardly Congress refuses to stop the war by cutting off the funds.
The administration defines "winning" as a stable, democratic Iraq able to defend itself. That's really a definition of a no-win war. The only way to establish stability with Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites at each other's throats is to find another dictator ruthless enough to force stability at the point of a gun. In other words, you can have stability with no democracy or democracy with no stability. Take your choice.
Either way, it is not worth the life of a single American.
It's time for the American people to face the question, "What's in it for us?" That's not being selfish. It's our blood and our treasure, so surely the American people have a right to expect some gain for this sacrifice. So what is it?
The answer is nothing. The corporate friends of the Bush-Cheney gang have gained plenty of profits, but they haven't shared them with the dead soldiers — or with the American people, for that matter. Whether Iraq has a new dictator or becomes an Islamic republic aligned with Iran, Americans will have no friends in a country we wrecked while killing at least 100,000 Iraqis and displacing 2 million more. It will be a long time before any nonsuicidal Americans put Iraq on their places-to-visit list.
The Bush administration has been the most secretive and deceptive bunch to occupy the White House in history. The truth is, nobody knows for sure what the motive for going to war against Iraq really was. I read one theory that the neocons, the chief proponents and pushers of the war, envisioned the convicted embezzler and exile Ahmad Chalabi running the country and making peace with Israel. If it's true, it was a pipe dream based on ignorance. Nobody in Iraq who had suffered through Saddam Hussein's rule was going to turn the country over to some corrupt exile who had been living the high life in London and Washington.
Regardless of why we went in, it's past time for us to get out. The Iraqi people don't want us. As long as we stay, we will be looked upon as occupiers, and the insurgents will keep whittling away at our forces. Occupation cannot be sustained in a hostile environment, and bribery won't change the way the Iraqis feel. We have done the people of Iraq way too much harm for them to forgive us.
There is no reasoning with President Bush. He's as likely to attack Iran as he is to withdraw troops from Iraq. The only answer is to pressure Congress to find the nerve to cut the purse strings. There will be enough money in the pipeline to safely withdraw the troops. Keeping young Americans in harm's way when their lives and limbs will be lost for no gains is not by any stretch supporting the troops. You support the troops by getting them out of harm's way, just as Ronald Reagan did after we lost the Marines in Lebanon.
Iraq may or may not have a bloody war after we leave. That's up to the Iraqis. It's no skin off our nose whether they reconcile or draw their knives. It's their country. Let them fight over it if that's what they want to do. The Bush administration has not done one single thing right in the Middle East, and the situation in the whole area is worse and more dangerous because of these blunders.
America's withdrawal would be a blessing to everyone concerned.
Charley Reese has been a journalist for 50 years.