Sunday, November 25, 2007

Surge is working; people keep dying

First Lt. Walter Bryan Jackson, a 2005 West Point grad who recently received the Distinguished Service Cross for service in Iraq, is profiled in today's Washington Post. He's been operated on a dozen times for wounds he received under fire in Iraq. His best friend and college roommate was just killed in an Afghanistan ambush. The Post reporter talked to him as he was shipping off to a new assignment, this one in South Korea:

"It's kind of hard to explain" how it feels to be part of a small segment of the U.S. population that is "bearing the brunt of the responsibilities" from today's conflicts, Jackson said as he waited for his flight at Dulles International Airport. "It doesn't affect society at large in the slightest. Life just goes on, and a lot of people . . . are more concerned about the price of gas than about soldiers fighting and dying," said Jackson, who has lost several comrades in the wars.

So far in November, 32 Americans have been killed in Iraq. Total deaths on the U.S. side are approaching 3,900. Total wounded are in the tens of thousands, although now we hear that some 20,000 returning G.I.s not previously counted in the wounded ranks have returned with some kind of brain damage.

The surge, of course, have reduced overall incidents of violence and U.S. casualties. But is that due to the surge or other factors? Depends which side of the U.S. political fence you live on. I can give credit to Bush & Petreaus for a change in policy. But the Republicans are anxious to pile on the praise for the surge because, overall, the Iraq War has been a disaster for their party and led directly to the Congressional shift in 2006 and most likely a democratic victory in 2008. So they endlessly praise the surge for this war that's lasted longer than World War II.

Our new Wyoming senator, John Barrasso of Casper, was just in Iraq for two days and has heard from Wyoming fighting men and women that the surge is working. Here's an excerpt from a story in today's Casper Star-Tribune by Joshua Wolfson:

He also visited with Wyoming soldiers and gave them quarters, hats and patches from the Cowboy State. After speaking with the troops, Barrasso said the United States has "absolutely" achieved a significant military success since the troop surge began earlier this year. "There has been measurable progress," he said, pointing to figures that show the number of injuries and deaths of Iraqi citizens and U.S. soldiers on the decline.

Reminders of home are much appreciated when you are thousands of miles away in a war zone. But Barrasso may have brought with him another reminder of home, that American Senators have the luxury of flying to Iraq for a two-day jaunt and then returning home to loved ones for the holidays and little post-Thanksgiving shopping. Sen. Barrasso can now return to the Senate in good conscience and keep blocking Dem efforts to set a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. He and Sen. Enzi have voted in lockstep with other Republican Senators to keep the war going and ensure that this time next year another Congressional contingent will be on the ground in Baghdad.

But the senator gave a stern warning to the Iraqi leader:

During his visit to Iraq, Sen. John Barrasso delivered a message on behalf of his Wyoming constituents to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki."I specifically told him I was the newest United States senator, I was from Wyoming," Barrasso recalled Saturday afternoon, a few hours after arriving in Casper. "We are very direct. We are rugged individualists and we like to have things done quickly. And that I wanted him to know that the people of Wyoming were expecting quicker progress politically in Iraq."

If Barrasso constituents are rugged individualists who want things done quickly, why are they so willing to support an endless war? Bush declared "Mission Accomplished" on May 1, 2003, just weeks after the Iraq invasion. That's 54 months ago. Wyomingites (without my help) voted for Bush and the status quo in 2004. They sent Barbara Cubin back to the U.S. House in 2006. Cubin votes the Bush line every time. I voted for the other guy, Gary Trauner, who's running again.

Quick results. Endless war. Those don't go together at all.

Welcome home, Sen. Barrasso. Now let's get the G.I.s back home where they belong.

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