Two stories in the news are more evidence for what I recently called a criminal escalation of an unjust war. The war in Iraq has so stretched the U.S. military that the escalation now initiated by President Bush means troops with inadequate training and short of the necessary supplies are being rushed into a situation for which they are not prepared. The Washington Post reported:
Boosting U.S. troop levels in Iraq by 21,500 would create major logistical hurdles for the Army and Marine Corps, which are short thousands of vehicles, armor kits and other equipment needed to supply the extra forces, U.S. officials said. The increase would also further degrade the readiness of U.S.-based ground forces, hampering their ability to respond quickly, fully trained and well equipped in the case of other military contingencies around the world and increasing the risk of U.S. casualties.
The story goes on to quote Lt. Gen. Stephen Speakes, the Army’s deputy chief of staff for force development: “We can fulfill the national strategy, but it will take more time and it will also take us increased casualties to do the job.” As of today, there are 3,076 confirmed U.S. casualties.
Rep. John Murtha, a strong opponent of the war in the House of Representatives, testified last week to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:
At the beginning of the Iraq war, 80 percent of ALL Army units and almost 100 percent of active combat units were rated at the highest state of readiness. Today, virtually all of our active-duty combat units at home and ALL of our guard units are at the lowest state of readiness, primarily due to equipment shortages resulting from repeated and extended deployments to Iraq.
To put the human face on the numbers, another story in the Post made it real. Soldier’s Death Strengthens Senators’ Antiwar Resolve:
Just before Christmas, an Army captain named Brian Freeman cornered Sens. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) and John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) at a Baghdad helicopter landing zone. The war was going badly, he told them. Troops were stretched so thin they were doing tasks they never dreamed of, let alone trained for. Freeman, 31, took a short holiday leave to see his 14-month-old daughter and 2-year-old son, returned to his base in Karbala, Iraq, and less than two weeks ago died in a hail of bullets and grenades.
Capt. Freeman had served a five-year term of active duty and then moved into the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR), former soldiers who are not assigned to a specific unit. In 2005, he was recalled to duty. The story continued, quoting his wife:
Once in Iraq, Freeman was dismayed to find that his training “had no relation to what they were actually doing,” Charlotte Freeman said. “He was appalled,” enduring danger but seeing no clear mission,” she said. … Late last year, Freeman approached the senators at Landing Zone Washington, in Baghdad’s Green Zone, “almost out of the shadows,” Dodd recalled. Even though he felt nervous, he told his wife later, he delivered his message with urgency. Soldiers were being deployed to do missions that they were utterly untrained to do; Freeman, for example, an armor officer, had been sent to help foster democracy and rebuild an Iraqi civil society.
Every day, the devastating human cost of this war continues to mount on every side. I would hope that those who still support the war and Bush’s “surge” could agree that at the very least, our men and women in uniform should not be sent untrained and unequipped to be slaughtered on the streets of Baghdad.