Thursday, February 07, 2008

The numbers

Top Defense Department officials testified Wednesday that the Bush administration's plan to withdraw some 20,000 U.S. troops from Iraq this summer will do little to relieve the stress on the Army and Marine Corps.
Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the military was exhausted by the repeated deployments to Iraq.
Finding a way to reduce the amount of time troops are deployed to Iraq is critical, he said. Currently, soldiers are sent to Iraq for 15-month tours, and Marines serve seven-month stints, followed by seven months at home.
"The well is deep, but it is not infinite," Mullen said. "We must get Army deployments down to 12 months as soon as possible. People are tired."
Mullen and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates appeared before the committee to discuss the administration's request for $588.3 billion in defense spending for the 2009 budget year, which begins Oct. 1.

The above is from Nancy A. Youssef's "Planned troop withdrawals won't bring much relief to U.S. military" (McClatchy Newspapers) covering the testimony to the US Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday. It was begging time again and Gates and Mullen had their hands out for, as David Stout and Thom Shanker (New York Times) point out, a lot of money:
"The military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan could cost $170 billion in the next fiscal year over and above the $515.4 billion regular Pentagon budget that President Bush has proposed, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said on Wednesday." A lot of money, an obscene amount, but not discussed on Democracy Now! yesterday. It, like the working class choice in the Democratic primaries, wasn't judged important enough for discussion.

As the debt and deaths pile up . . . Today the US military announces [PDF format warning]: "A Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldier was killed when the Soldier's vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device in western Baghdad Feb. 6." The ICCC total since the start of the illegal war for US service members killed while serving in Iraq is 3950 with 6 for the month. 50 away from the 4,000 mark but since Ted Koppel stepped down from Nightline does the media -- big or small -- even bother to let those numbers register?

Numbers? Let's return to the myth of 'The Great Return'. Remember that? All Iraqi externally displaced refugees were rushing back to Iraq. That was the lie. Then it got exposed as the lie it was and we don't hear so much about it. From the Taipei Times (crediting AP and AFP):

Iraqis are once again leaving Iraq for Syria in greater numbers than they are returning, despite the decreasing levels of bloodshed in their homeland, the UN refugee agency said yesterday.
A report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), citing Syrian immigration officials, said that late last month, an average of 1,200 Iraqis came to Syria every day compared with around 700 who returned.
Most of those Iraqis who are returning say they are doing so more because their Syrian visas have expired or because they have run out of money, rather than because of an improvement in conditions in Iraq, the report said.
"The UNHCR has observed that the return movement to Iraq that increased immediately after the imposition of new visa regulations appears to have subsided," the report said.
The figures will disappoint Iraqi officials, who have pointed to a number of high-profile convoys of returning refugees as evidence that safety is returning to their war-torn cities after a year of battles with insurgents.

Reuters reports that the UN is not the only one with those findings:

The number of Iraqis returning to their homes from refuge elsewhere in the country has slowed markedly as fears over security remain, the latest report by the Iraqi Red Crescent (IRC) says.
Its findings echo those of a new U.N. study which said most Iraqis returning home after fleeing to Syria were doing so not because they felt Iraq was safer but because they could no longer afford to live abroad.

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