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Commentary ::
At What Cost the Bush Wars?
16 Feb 2004
An analysis of the cost of the Bush wars in terms of the casualties; Americans perceptions of defeat and victory; a degrading U.S. Military; the probable reactivation of the draft; and ways in which these wars will end. The author concludes the article by discussing the awakening of Americans to what these wars are costing them and the world.

To read with sources and references, go to the The Original Source


"The war of resistance against U.S. aggression may drag on. Our people may have to face new sacrifices of life and property. Whatever happens, we must keep firm our resolve to fight the U.S. aggressors till total victory. Our mountains will always be, our rivers will always be, our people will always be, The American invaders defeated, we will rebuild our land ten times more beautiful."

-Ho Chi Minh, Oct. 5, 1969


I. The Dead and Wounded

We recently learned that an average of more than one-U.S. soldier is killed every day in Iraq. In a recent report we read that two more soldiers were killed in Iraq and 6 more wounded. This is the way AFP reported these casualties:

BAGHDAD - Two US soldiers were killed and six wounded in an explosion as they tried to dispose of weaponry in northern Iraq (news-web sites).

"US Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt told reporters Mondat that the blast at Sinjar, 120 kilometers (74 miles) west of the main northern city of Mosul, did not appear to involve hostile action.

"We have reports that two US soldiers were killed in action, and six wounded in the vicinity of Sinjar while conducting ordnance disposal operations," said Kimmitt, the deputy director of coalition military operations."

"... did not appear to involve hostile action" -- How many times have we read this lame, nuanced-phrasing in the corporate press, designed to somehow minimize the deaths? I also find it to be interesting that at the time I wrote this, neither Associated Press nor Reuters have reported these deaths of 2 U.S. Soldiers, nor anything about the other 6 who were wounded in Iraq.

It appears they find Janet Jackson's right breast and the mindless, pre-fab entertainment of the Grammy Awards to be more news-worthy than the blood of American soldiers spilt in the name of another dirty corporate war. But today both corporate news brokers were quick to report that 50 Iraqis were killed by a truck bomb. AP added that "most of the victims appeared to be Iraqi civilians" and ""No U.S. or other coalition forces were hurt" - obviously evoking the reader's outrage toward the Iraqi Resistance.

II. The Deceptions

As a teenager, I once told my father (1906-1984) a lie about where I had been the night before. He knew it was a lie. The only thing he said to me was this: "Just remember this: A man is only as good as his word".

How many U.S. soldiers have been killed and wounded in Iraq since the first missles were launched into Baghdad last spring? How many are dying and being wounded now? Does anyone outside the Pentagon know the exact number?

Last week, we posted a story by Robert Burns, AP Military Writer, who reported that U.S. soldiers are dying at a higher rate than 1 a day - "despite some commanders' recent claims to have broken the back of the insurgency".

On February 4, David Walsh wrote for WSWS (U.S. Conceals US Casualties in Iraq) :

"Estimates on the number of US soldiers, sailors and Marines medically evacuated from Iraq by the end of 2003 because of battlefield wounds, illness or other reasons range from 11,000 to 22,000, a staggering figure by any standard. Thousands of these young men and women have been physically or psychologically damaged for life, in turn affecting the lives of tens of thousands of family members and friends. And the war in Iraq is less than one year old."

Deception and Propaganda: Those of us who have been around for a while remember too well the U.S. Government lies about the body-counts, the hills taken and battles won, the bombing of Cambodia and the promises that the collapse of Ho Chi Minh and his "rag-tag army" was "just around the corner". Some of these kinds of lies are lies we have come to expect; they are called "necessary propaganda" and part of the strategy of waging war. I call them lies - lies to the American people whose funding and support are needed to wage wars and continue their wars until certain corporate/political objectives have been met.

We have often said that the Neocon/Bush administration in Washington has learned-well from the Vietnam experience. It is well-known -Increased U.S. casualties result in a loss of popular support for the whatever war happens to fancy the current ruling party who happen to be in power at the time.

On November 21, 2003, I wrote: The Ingenuity of the Iraqi Resistance and Exit Strategy, in which I included a Reuters analysis:

"The number of U.S. Troops killed in Iraq now exceeds the number killed in the early years of Viet Nam according to a recent Reuters analysis:

"The U.S. death toll in Iraq has surpassed the number of American soldiers killed during the first three years of the Vietnam War, the brutal Cold War conflict that cast a shadow over U.S. affairs for more than a generation ... The latest US military deaths take to more than 530 the number of American soldiers killed in combat, by accident or suicide since the US-led invasion of Iraq last March."

Did I read that correctly? - In November, 2003, the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq, already exceeded the number killed in the first 3 years of the Vietnam War? That Reuters article (now wiped from Reuters archives) went on to say that these numbers do not include those killed in the total, so-called "war on terrorism" in Afghanistan and throughout the world. If those killed and wounded in the entire "war on terrorism" are included, the numbers are much higher, Reuters reported. When was the last time we have seen the corporate/government media report all those killed and wounded in the wider war(s)? How often are these numbers reported? Are the American people kept up-to-date on the numbers of U.S. soldiers killed and wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan?

The corporate media is fond of dating the casualties to the dead and wounded after May 2, 2003 when George W. Bush declared "victory" in his flight-suit costume on the stage of the USS Abraham Lincoln. On the surface, the numbers look smaller if you divide them into groups. Moreover, as we shall see below, the numbers of killed and wounded are further divided into those killed from "non-hostile" vs. "hostile" actions and in other ways. Even then the numbers reported are spurious.

It’s a clever way to lie, but we tell our children that lies are never wise. Perhaps the most dangerous kinds of lies are those we tell ourselves. When working in a maximum security prison years ago, a prisoner once explained to me how he deals with his 99 year sentence. With dark humor, he quipped: "It don't sound like much if you say it fast". When I was trying to come to terms with the death of my 18 year old son, I was reading everything I could find about parents who have lost children. One such story was of a father who set up and maintained a P.O. box for his deceased son in California. He wrote letters to his son for years. In the parlance of psychology it is known as the defense-mechanism of denial. Self-deception should be the fear that we fear most. For as long as we make the immoral choice to deceive ourselves, we walk in a dark room, isolated from the truth - our only source of freedom.

III. Defeat and Victory

As Americans we have grown accustomed to sporting the reputation of "being" the most powerful military in the world since the fall of the Soviet Union. Defeat? Fail? Lose? - those are words for other countries - not this one. In smug arrogance and blind belligerence, many Americans cannot even conceive the possibility that the U.S. could lose these wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. We could hear that arrogance in the ignorant jokes about France's surrender in WWII after the French declined to participate in this war on the people of Iraq. Again today, I received an e-mail from a reader who accused me of being "French", using a profane epithet referring to cowards. Can we not remember what happened in Viet Nam only 30 years ago? Why have we placed our confidence in Rumsfeld's new "technical" approach to making war, when so many seasoned U.S. military officers have denounced it as a foolish strategy? Why do we believe that this new, untested "technological strategy" will conquer the Iraqi guerillas whose numbers appear to be expanding?.

Craig B. Hulet? is a well-known veteran of war (Special Operations, 101st Airborne), Special Advisor to Congressman Jack Metcalf (ret) and a Strategic Military Analyst. In his most recent book, Hydra of Carnage, he warns that these are not terrorists the U.S. is fighting in Iraq. Rather, he says they are guerillas in the tradition of Che Gueverra and Mao Tse-Tung. He explains that they fight "wars of attrition". He writes that guerillas have never been defeated in any war in history. Mr. Hulet explains why this is so in this valuable book that every literate American should read twice before accepting Bush's declaration of victory.

Why did George W. Bush declare victory on the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 2, 2003, immediately following the invasion of Iraq? Unwarranted confidence and arrogance on the part of many Americans could be one of the reasons. Whether the "victory" is real or fantasy; whether the fantasy takes place in a football stadium or "on the ground" within the borders of another sovereign nation, Americans love the illusion that they have "won".

Years ago, Vince Lombardi, the famous coach of the Green Bay Packers wrote "Winning is the Only Thing". It was a New York Times Bestseller. Experiencing the illusion of "winning", at all and any cost, is the darling of the American psyche. It has pervaded our lives from "winning" a job promotion over our fellow workers, to "winning" a business contract, to "winning" football games and to "winning" wars. The illusion of winning is the very foundation of the corporate world.

The illusion of winning is dressed in the fine garment of "competition". How competitive is it to for Fleet Bank to merge with Bank of America and wipe out the smaller community banks? Anti-trust laws in America once broke up Ma Bell to insure a "competitive market" because the telephone giant aped the market. Where are the anti-trust laws today? How competitive is it for a bully to beat up a little kid in the playground? How "competitive" is it to drop bombs on people from five miles up? Saddam Hussein always wanted American soldiers walking the streets of Baghdad. Well, captured or not, he’s got them there now. Now our soldiers know the real meaning of competition. When war is really competitive people on both sides die; families on both sides suffer. It's just not as much fun.

What was the message Bush's naive declaration of victory meant to convey last May? Well, part of the message was: "Let the American people believe it is over - that we have "won"; that all we need to do now is to 'mop up' - as though the bodies of Iraqi people are slop on the floor that only needs to be "mopped up"; as though the ruins of the National Museum of Antiquities simply need to be "mopped up"; as though "mopping up" the pulverized concrete and marble will make its’ memory disappear; as though the looted contents, dating back to "our" cradle of civilization will erase it from the minds of the Iraqi people and the international community. Have we won the war in Iraq? Based upon the news I read every day - even from the corporate/government media, it does not appear to be so.

IV. A Degrading U.S. Military

Today, 10 months after Bush declared "victory" in his flight-suit costume, we now read that Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, is telling the U.S. Senate that our military is now "overstressed" - so much so that he is using "emergency powers" to expand it and will continue to increase it "if required" by the war on terrorism.

On February 5, Michael Kilian wrote for the Chicago Tribune (Rumsfeld to bolster overtasked military):

"Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told senators Wednesday that the U.S. military is so overstressed that he is using emergency powers to expand it by 33,000 troops and that he will increase it further if required by the war on terrorism."

On January 10, Erich Marquardt wrote for the Asia Times (US troops on the march - out of the army):

"As a result of the extra strain imposed on US forces due to the length of their deployments, it is becoming harder for the Pentagon to rely on an all-volunteer military force to handle the White House's foreign policy initiatives. Many soldiers in the military originally enlisted during times of relative peace and did not expect to be deployed for months at a time in the Middle East, let alone being placed in a country that is sending body bags and stretchers home on a daily basis."

In a Washington Post report, (12/30/03), Army bars troops from leaving: Order is designed to curtail shortages, we read about two U.S. soldiers who want to leave the military and "thousands of soldiers forbidden to leave military service under the Army’s stop-loss orders":

"According to their contracts, expectations and desires, both soldiers should be civilians. But Fontaine and Costas are currently serving in Iraq, and Eagle has just been deployed. On their Army paychecks, the expiration date of their military service is now listed as sometime after 2030 — the payroll computer’s way of saying, "Who knows?"

"Both are among thousands of soldiers forbidden to leave military service under the Army’s stop-loss orders, intended to stanch the seepage of troops, through retirement and discharge, from a military stretched thin by its burgeoning overseas missions.

"It reflects the fact that the military is too small, which nobody wants to admit," said Charles Moskos of Northwestern University, a leading military sociologist.

"To the Pentagon, stop-loss orders are a finger in the dike — a tool to halt the hemorrhage of personnel, and maximize cohesion and experience."

It is not only our soldiers in Iraq who are not faring well in the U.S. military. Those serving in the U.S. and in other parts of the world also being treated poorly by the military recruiters who told our teenagers to "be all that they can be", promising them college educations, careers and a way out of poverty.

On February 4, 2004, Craig B. Hulet? wrote a riveting article titled:

"President Bush and the U.S. Congress say Taking Care of U.S. Military Personnel Wasteful and Unnecessary".

In the article he documented the "rollbacks" the Bush Administration have imposed on U.S. soldiers and their families which can be nothing less than insulting - and demoralizing to men and women who are caught in the military trap from which there is no legal escape.

Is losing in ounces and dying in inches preferable to coming to the painful but necessary conclusion that we should bring our young men and women home now? - That the earlier we realize our mistake, the fewer U.S. soldiers, Iraqi Resistance fighters and Iraqi civilians will be killed? Can we continue to afford to believe the that killing Iraqis in Iraq will stop so-called "terrorists" from striking again in America?

V. The Draft

With such a strain on the U.S. military and with current attrition rates of U.S. soldiers, reinstatement of the draft is nearly a foregone conclusion.

In an article William Norman Grigg wrote for the New American, he cited a Time Magazine headline Should the Draft Be Reinstated? Already, on December 21, 2003,Time began conditioning the minds of Americans for the draft. Grigg wrote:

"Many National Guardsmen and Army Reservists — men and women who believed they had signed limited contracts to serve as part-time soldiers — are discovering that, in a very real sense, the draft has already been quietly revived."

The American War Library is currently taking an on-line poll about whether or not the draft should be reinstated. They introduce the question with the following lines:

"The Department of Defense is experiencing/forecasting a sharp and dangerous shortage of young men and women willing to serve in uniform. As more and more nations undergo re-armament either to bolster their economies or in preparation for war, the United States may not be able to appropriately respond to growing national and international security needs. In view of our military personnel shortage, should the draft be reinstated to satisfy military force levels?"

Does anyone think for a moment that this regime in Washington will hesitate to reinstate the draft as the numbers of recruits continues to shrink? Does anyone believe that they will stop at anything to prosecute their war? Does anyone really believe that the Bush Administration will pause and reflect on what they have done and reconsider their decision to go to war - or to continue their corporate-driven war? Reflection and self-examination do not seem to be in the vocabularies of these people.

Already, Blair, Bush and their cohorts have done nothing but defend, distort, and deny in the face of incontrovertible evidence that their invasion of Iraq was built on lies about the existance of a credible threat from Iraq and the alleged WMD. Do you think your government will reinstate the draft after the 2004 elections, regardless of which party wins? Failing a complete pullout of American troops from Iraq and losing the corporate "spoils", it appears that reinstatement of the draft will be on the government agenda for 2004.

In the article cited above, Craig B. Hulet?, he stated:

"It is going to get much tougher on the troops over these next years, including new troops that are part of the planned military draft."

VI. When, How Will it End?

When and how will this war end? In 2001, a day after George W. Bush visited the destruction of the World Trade Center, he read from a foreboding speech, warning us that his "war on terrorism" will not be won in a single battle:

"I will not settle for a token act. Our response must be sweeping, sustained and effective. We have much to do and much to ask of the American people. You will be asked for your patience, for the conflict will not be short. You will be asked for resolve, for the conflict will not be easy. You will be asked for your strength because the course to victory may be long."

In speaking those words, he paved the way to conduct a war, prosecuted in secrecy, with no accountability to the American people, no measures for success or failure, and no "exit strategy". Forget the old warnings of "mission creep". Forget formulation of an "exit strategy". This was to be a war like no other in the history of man - a promise he has delivered in spades. Asking how and when it would end is now a "foolish question". But ask we will.

Noone can say what the end will look like. But we can and should learn from our own history. Consider this from the article I wrote in November and cited earlier:

"How often I hear folks ask, 'Did we learn nothing from Viet Nam?' Can the embarrassing, tragic and costly American exit from Viet Nam on April 29, 1975 be considered an 'exit strategy'? Can any rational mind consider it an 'exit strategy' when the invaders flee their victim-country with their asses on fire? Can we imagine any scenario in which the U.S. and British governments could possibly consider this to have been a 'successful war'?

"- Perhaps only in the minds of those White House advisors who apparently wanted only to destabilize the Middle East and turn Iraq into another Palestine and Baghdad into another Beirut. Also, perhaps those "rebuild Iraq" companies, friendly to the Bush family, who with their crooked no-bid contracts profit from the war on Iraq. Perhaps they will have considered it a success. But how can this ever be considered 'a success' in the minds of civilized, sane and rational human beings?"

VII. Awakening

When will America wake up to the fact that these numbers of killed and wounded in Iraq will continue to mount? Do we have to wait until 58,000 are killed in this so-called "War on Terrorism" which, according to George W. Bush, has no end in sight? Must we to listen to this AWOL-Commander in Chief invite more Iraqi Resistance Fighters to "Bring it on" to our sons and daughters while we stand by to read of their deaths in tomorrow's newspaper? Do we have to wait until then before we show up on the street with sufficient numbers to demand an end to the madness? Do we have to wait for a repeat of the Kent State University killings at the hands of the government police (aka The National Guard)? For more DNC riots like we had in Chicago? For more campus protests ending in violence? For more families devastated? For more veterans who have to relive the nightmares of what they have done and of what has been done to them for the balance of their lives? For more ripping apart of the fabric of our society? For thousands, tens of thousands more Iraqis slaughtered like their lives and families mean nothing? What ever happened to the so-called and highly-touted "Powell Doctrine"? Where is the exit strategy?

How will we get out of this, another dirty, Godless war, fought in the service of Global Corporatism? What will the "Exit Strategy" from this mess look like -when it is all over? The images of U.S. soldiers fleeing Vietnam have been burned into our minds for 30+ years with U.S. helicopters pushed off the sterns of ships, decades of suffering by Vietnam Veterans with disabilities, their broken families, the never-ending searches for MIAs and a national guilt that will haunt us for years to come. To these memories, the Wars on Afghanistan and Iraq will carry the additional baggage of the effects of depleted uranium on Afghan and Iraqi children and the loss of the culture to which all human beings owe their genesis. What images will be burned into our minds 30 years hence? Indeed, what images of us will be carried into history for those looking back?

© Copyright 2004 by


About the author

Les Blough is founding editor of Axis of Logic, launched May 18, 2003. He grew up in the country in Pennsylvania where he began working on a dairy farm in his youth. He has been writing poetry since the age of 12 and political essays for many years. Currently, his work is divided between his counseling & forensics practice and his work as a poet, political activist, writer and editor. He is a graduate of Bob Jones University, University of Tennessee (Nashville) and Penn State University (College Park). He lives in Boston, Massachusetts with his family. More biographical information about him is provided in the About Us section on the front page of Axis of Logic. He welcomes your comments: He welcomes your comments.

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