May 30, 2006

"Last Throes" Anniversary

A year ago, the Vice President of the United States declared on Larry King's show the insurgency in Iraq to be in its last throes: "The level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint, I think, will clearly decline. I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency."

Judge for yourself.

U.S. fatalities (not including May '05, so that the 'last throes' statement is analyzed purely as a going forward assessment):

Jun-05 78
Jul-05 54
Aug-05 85
Sep-05 49
Oct-05 96
Nov-05 84
Dec-05 68
Jan-06 62
Feb-06 55
Mar-06 31
Apr-06 76
May-06 61
_________

Total: 799

Injured: (not including May of 2005, nor May of 2006--data on this last not yet available).

Jun-05 511
Jul-05 476
Aug-05 541
Sep-05 545
Oct-05 605
Nov-05 400
Dec-05 412
Jan-06 286
Feb-06 340
Mar-06 494
Apr-06 403
_________
Total: 5013

GRAND TOTAL: U.S dead and injured, since Cheney's "last throes" statement: 5812 (and likely over 6,000 once the May '06 casualty figures are inputted).

Now let's compare fatalities with two other twelve-month time periods, first May '04 to April '05.

May-04 80
Jun-04 42
Jul-04 54
Aug-04 66
Sep-04 80
Oct-04 63
Nov-04 137
Dec-04 72
Jan-05 107
Feb-05 58
Mar-05 35
Apr-05 52

TOTAL: 846

And then May '03 to April '04.

May-03 37
Jun-03 30
Jul-03 48
Aug-03 35
Sep-03 31
Oct-03 44
Nov-03 82
Dec-03 40
Jan-04 47
Feb-04 20
Mar-04 52
Apr-04 135

TOTAL: 601

A blended average of these three 12 month periods has the US at about 749 fatalities per time period--fewer than died in the 12 month period since Cheney's "last throes" comment.

A bit after the last throes comment, in June of last year, Cheney was interviewed by Wolf Blitzer:

BLITZER: The commander of the U.S. Military Central Command, Gen. John Abizaid has been testifying on Capitol Hill.

CHENEY: Right.

BLITZER: He says that the insurgency now is at a strength undiminished as it was six months ago, and he says there are actually more foreign fighters in Iraq now than there were six months ago. That doesn't sound like the last throes.

CHENEY: No, I would disagree. If you look at what the dictionary says about throes, it can still be a violent period -- the throes of a revolution. The point would be that the conflict will be intense, but it's intense because the terrorists understand if we're successful at accomplishing our objective, standing up a democracy in Iraq, that that's a huge defeat for them. They'll do everything they can to stop it.

When you look back at World War II, the toughest battle, at the most difficult battles, both in Europe and in the Pacific, occurred just a few months before the end, the Battle of the Bulge in December of 1944 and Okinawa in the spring of 1945. And I see this as a similar situation, where they're going to go all out.

They'll do everything they can to disrupt that process, but I think we're strong enough to defeat them. And I think the process itself of establishing a democracy and a viable security force for the Iraqis will, in fact, signal the end, if you will, for the terrorists inside Iraq.

"...just a few months before the end..." Well, here we are Mr. Cheney, now a year later. The US Ambassador to Iraq has recently stated: "I believe that parts of Anbar are under the control of terrorists and insurgents". Seems like the insurgency is alive and well, alas. And since you informed the American public that the insurgency was in its "last throes", almost 1,000 Americans have died, and over 5,000 have been injured. Your titular boss recently expressed regret for some of his Iraq talk at a press conference with Tony Blair, stating: "(s)aying, 'Bring it on,' kind of tough talk, you know, that sent the wrong signal to people. I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe a little in a more sophisticated manner...I think in certain parts of the world it was misinterpreted and so I learned from that." When will you express similar regret for misleading the American people, and perhaps more important, artificially heightening expectations that the Iraq end-game was nigh, when indeed the insurgency is roughly as lethal today as it was when you made your comment a year ago?

Note: Fatality/Casualty data sourced here.

P.S. Given the oft-repeated locution, "as they stand up, we'll stand down" it's also worth looking at the amount of Iraqi Police/Army units that have been killed since Cheney's comment, not to mention Iraqi civilians (not only from a humanitarian standpoint, but also to gauge progess towards provision of basic security in Iraq). The numbers are grim:

Jul-05 304 518
Aug-05 282 1524
Sep-05 233 640
Oct-05 215 465
Nov-05 176 583
Dec-05 193 344
Jan-06 189 591
Feb-06 158 688
Mar-06 193 901
Apr-06 201 809
May-06 145 857
_____________
2,289 Iraqi Army/Police.
7,920 Iraqi civilians.

The bottom line is that more U.S and Iraqi Army/Police forces (I'm not counting civilians, many of whom have died via generalized civil strife more than the insurgency, per se) have died since Cheney's comment than perished on 9/11. That's right, some 3,088 U.S and Iraqi forces are dead (the number is higher once you add British and other coalition forces) since May 30th of last year.

P.P.S: The WaPo reports:

The U.S. military said Monday it was deploying the main reserve fighting force for Iraq, a full 3,500-member armored brigade, as emergency reinforcements for the embattled western province of Anbar, where a surge of violence linked to the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq has severely damaged efforts to turn Sunni Arab tribal leaders against the insurgency.

The insurgents have assassinated 11 tribal leaders in the Ramadi area since the end of last year, when Sunni sheiks in the city began open cooperation with the U.S. military. That alliance was heralded by U.S. commanders as a sign of a major split between Sunni insurgents and the larger Sunni community of western Iraq.

The insurgent attacks since then have all but frozen the cooperation between Sunni tribal leaders and U.S. forces in Ramadi, local leaders say.

Disclosure of the plan came on a day when insurgent bombings and other attacks killed more than 40 people around the country, including two members of a CBS News team. The team's correspondent, Iraq veteran Kimberly Dozier, was wounded and listed in critical condition.

Last week, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad conceded, in answer to a question about Ramadi in an interview with CNN, that parts of Anbar were under insurgent control. Ramadi is the capital of the overwhelmingly Sunni province. The difficulties facing stretched-thin U.S. Marines in Ramadi suggest the continuing obstacles to a reduction of American forces in Iraq.

"We hope to get rid of al-Qaeda, which is a huge burden on the city. Unfortunately, Zarqawi's fist is stronger than the Americans'," said one Sunni sheik, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of insurgent retaliation.

Last throes...

Posted by Gregory at May 30, 2006 04:35 AM | TrackBack (0)
Comments

we may be looking at the "last throes" of the grossly misguided Bush foreign policy....

Problems in Anbar at this point have a "dog bites man" quality to them. But what are we to make of the need to send 3500 reinforcements to secure Baghdad? The increasingly chaotic situation in the once "pacified" southern Iraq?

And anti-American riots in Kabul? (I hope Brezinski is proud of himself --- )

Posted by: p,lukasiak at May 30, 2006 12:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Has Cheney been right on anything.

In the investment business we all the know the joke about the old guy in the back office who is always wrong-- finally turns bullish at peaks and bearish at bottoms. This makes him the most valuable advisor a money manager can have -- an advisor wo can be counted on to be consistent.

Isn't Cheney our old guy in the back office?

Posted by: spencer at May 30, 2006 01:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Could this Iraq situation be worse than the Vietnam situation? I'm just curious what others think.

Posted by: Daniel at May 30, 2006 03:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Some perspective.

''Per Chief of Mission order, travel to certain areas within Kosovo requires fully armored vehicles and advance RSO approval for official United States personnel and visiting dignitaries. Travel to Mitrovica is prohibited, while Peja, Decan, Klina and Istok are restricted from 2200-0700 hours for all official diplomatic personnel due to lingering security concerns. American citizens are urged to avoid these "off limits" zones.''

This is seven years after the Kosovo conflict supposedly ended. They still have no elections, no independent government and continue to depend on foreign countries for security.

And that's without sharing a border with Syria and Iran, and being made a front line in the war with Islamic fundamentalists.

Posted by: chip at May 30, 2006 04:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This is a little silly and buys into the worst habits of the rabid anti-war crowd, Mr. Djerejian. The fatality and injury numbers over the past 12 months could've been _half_ that, and Cheney's comment would _still_ have been stupid. There is a political problem and progress toward a solution is slow or nonexistent right now. Well, I guess better than nonexistent -- thanks Mr. Khalilzad! -- but not much better. The body count is just pain, but if you'd had double the deaths but the emergence of a solid Iraqi politics and a good security environment, Cheney would've been dead on. Without that --- and without much sense that the White House has been honestly confronting the problems in Iraq --- well, screw Cheney.

Posted by: Sanjay Krishnaswamy at May 30, 2006 07:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Post reporting today cemented a sea change in my mind. For some time, I've looked forward to a draw down of U.S. forces. Now, I have concluded that the present policy is doomed to failure. It's insufficient. My God, Casey now has one battalion of reserve force in the region for a problem. ONE BATTALION. In the mean time, Scheuer demonstrates how dangerous al Qaeda remains.

I feel so bad that we are not fighting this war to win it, we're managing it like a small corporate catastrophe, with half-truths and spin.

Posted by: Chris at May 30, 2006 07:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I fouled up the Scheuer link: Recommend all read this.

Posted by: Chris at May 30, 2006 08:01 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Huh. Your html is acting up

Just copy and paste:

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/HE31Ak02.html

Posted by: Chris at May 30, 2006 08:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sanjay, this is judging Cheney's statements using the metrics he proposed. (See his quotes about "level of military activity" and toughest battles re Okinawa & Battle of the Bulge.)

Perhaps those aren't valid metrics. But holding him to them isn't "buying into the worst habits of the rabid anti-war crowd."

Posted by: Jon Marcus at May 30, 2006 08:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Casualties are constant or dropping even though coalition forces appear to have expanded the area, effectiveness and scope of forward operations. There is a noticeable shortage of suicide bombers. The development Iraqi government churns forward though not as quick or forcefully as we would like. This looks more like 'messy progress' than a 'quagmire'. It is not clear to me that Cheney is wrong. His predictions about outcomes in Iraq are a hell of lot more accurate than those of Saddam, Zarqawi, Osama and Moore.

Daniel: Comparisons to Vietnam are simply silly. The bad guys in Iraq do not have anything comparable to the vast resources that funneled down the Ho Chi Minh trail and nationalist impulses are increasingly running against them. Open battlefield victory of any kind is not a possibility for them.

Like Vietnam, however, there is a loud, narcissistic mode of critique stateside that insists that near-perfect alternatives have been overlooked. In ‘Nam, the only true choice was (a) continued war (or a war with changed parameters) or (b) a humanitarian nightmare for the people of the South and others. Yet we were told to "Give Peace a Chance" as if U.S. capitulation would yield nirvana rather than prisons, refugees, re-education and executions. It is this habit of the anti-war left to critique by means of idealized, fictional alternatives that I have always found disingenuous and tiresome:

.. We should have waited for a global consensus (as if France and Russia could be counted on to behave honorably—even towards a President Kerry); We should have spent more time on inspections (as if we could keep 350,000 troops in theater to threaten Saddam forever); We should have had more boots on the ground (though the exact same folks would have called it a clumsy and pointless 'occupation' if we had); and then there were the endless pontifications about Abu Graib by people who studiously ignored the far more characteristic stories of GI kindness and bravery (that is, those stories that make it past the MSM filter).

Through it all, talking heads (and bloggers) whose ignorance of the military is exceeded only by their contempt for it opine on military matters with a confidence that MacArthur or Patton would envy.

What is absolutely constant is the meme that (a) the critic is clever and that Bush et al are not and (b) Bush et al are immoral for not accepting the opinions of the clever. There is probably some gnostic psychological syndrome at work in all that but I will not delve.

I don’t think there were any perfect choices missed. I think that Iraq was going to be messy and protracted regardless of whether the 4th ID had access through Turkey or Rumsfeld had resigned early on. Leaving Saddam in place to defy the world was lousy option in any case.

The possibilities that (1) our commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan are inherently painful, messy but winnable undertakings and that (2) there may actually be some duty on our part to support them and endure despite our grandiose op-ed impulses are alternative attitudes that need to be explored more seriously. That we are at the point where we are in Iraq and Afganistan with as few casualties as we have sustained is a spectular achievement. To piss it all away in a hissy fit of post hoc mourning for false alternative expectations would be wrong and not even very clever.

Posted by: GeorgeT at May 30, 2006 08:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

GeorgeT,

"Daniel: Comparisons to Vietnam are simply silly. The bad guys in Iraq do not have anything comparable to the vast resources that funneled down the Ho Chi Minh trail and nationalist impulses are increasingly running against them. Open battlefield victory of any kind is not a possibility for them."

I'm not trying to compare the two, necessarily in the traditional way some anti-war folks have compared them. We lost Vietnam and high-tailed it out of there. If we lose Iraq (it doesn't look good right now), is it worse than the loss of Vietnam? that's what I'm asking basically.

"Through it all, talking heads (and bloggers) whose ignorance of the military is exceeded only by their contempt for it opine on military matters with a confidence that MacArthur or Patton would envy."

what makes you think any of us are ignorant of the military? Because we don't back this war? somehow that makes us ignorant of how the military runs or should operate? please!

"That we are at the point where we are in Iraq and Afganistan with as few casualties as we have sustained is a spectular achievement."

I've seen many reports that basically say the reason US body count is so low is due to 1. a lower-grade of warfare compared to Vietnam, and 2. improved technology and medicine techniques that have saved lives normally lost in previous wars.

Taking that into account, how many wounded do we have from this conflict in Iraq? What, about 15,000 to 20,000? There are definitely a much higher number of wounded soldiers in this conflict compared to previous conflicts.

Posted by: Daniel at May 30, 2006 09:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Daniel: Comparisons to Vietnam are simply silly. The bad guys in Iraq do not have anything comparable to the vast resources that funneled down the Ho Chi Minh trail and nationalist impulses are increasingly running against them. Open battlefield victory of any kind is not a possibility for them.

No, it's statements like this that are silly. Do you honestly think that the uncounted quantities of arms left unsecured in Iraq count for nothing? Do you think that informal networks in the surrounding Islamic world are incapable of sending material and fighters into Iraq? So there's no Shi'a air force, no bin Ladenite tank division -- so what? The guerrillas seem perfectly adept at using the resources at hand. And when a buried artillery shell (price -- essentially zero) can disable or destroy vehicles and crews worth millions of dollars, you don't need to be an economics professor to see that the cost-benefit ratios are almost entirely one-sided.

I remember how, before this bastard adventure, war advocates were blithely saying how Iraq couldn't possibly be another Vietnam, because there's no jungle. I always wondered if the French said the same thing about Algeria.... What I wonder even more is, why do the war apologists think they have even an atom of credibility, after they've been proven wrong so consistently, so often, on so many topics?

Posted by: sglover at May 30, 2006 10:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Thanks for responding Jon -- but, no, it's _not_ using Cheney's own metrics. The question Cheney asked wasn't about casualties, it was about foreign fighters. And his answer wasn't about ending casualties, it was about "accomplishing our objectivs, standing up a democracy in Iraq," en route to "establishing a democracy and a viable secyurity force." _That's_ the ground the war needs to be fought on and on which the Administration should be roundly castigated. When Mr. Djerejian totals up the bodies without reference to that he screws up royally, both failing to hit the administration where it should be hit and giving them an easy out (sure, guys got killed but hey! look at all the schools we built!) The war will be won or lost, and debate on the war will be useful or a sideshow, by addressing the buildup of security and politics, not the body count. Unless it's lost altogether and then we've nothing but so many thousands of dead men.

Posted by: Sanjay Krishnaswamy at May 30, 2006 11:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Thanks for responding Jon -- but, no, it's _not_ using Cheney's own metrics. The question Cheney asked wasn't about casualties, it was about foreign fighters.

although we don't hear much about the presence of foreign fighters anymore, that doesn't mean they aren't involved. Its just that the indigenously-based civil war has made "foreign terrorists" almost irrelevant....

...almost, because as Iraq descends into "failed state" status, al Qaeda finds itself with a new base in "the Sunni triangle".... a place where perhaps/probably the residents are not al Qaeda adherents, but are perfectly happy to have them there.....

Posted by: p,lukasiak at May 31, 2006 12:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You is this Sanjay Krishnaswamy? He writes about body counts as if he is trading commodities in NY or Chicago. The dead and wounded, on both sides, are somebodies sons or fathers. This war is a mess and "staying the course" will not work.

Posted by: Rudi at May 31, 2006 01:15 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"although we don't hear much about the presence of foreign fighters anymore, that doesn't mean they aren't involved. Its just that the indigenously-based civil war has made "foreign terrorists" almost irrelevant...."

Al Qaida has achieved step #1, which was to put Iraq into chaos.

Posted by: Barry at May 31, 2006 02:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Chip, I noticed that you didn't compare coalition casualty counts between Kosovo and Iraq. Could there be a reason for this omission?

Posted by: Barry at May 31, 2006 02:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Didn’t the Soviets lose fewer soldiers in Afghanistan than in WW2?

Yet, they loss Afghanistan, while winning WW2.

The logic of body counts is a weird thing.

Posted by: NeoDude at May 31, 2006 05:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

> Didn’t the Soviets lose fewer soldiers in Afghanistan than in WW2?

I'm inclined to suggest that everyone lost fewer soldiers everywhere than the Soviets lost in WW2...

Posted by: frank wallace at May 31, 2006 06:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Interesting the criteria you choose to use as the foundation of your position.

Brilliant

Posted by: joe at May 31, 2006 10:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

In at least one big way, the Iraqi insurgents are like the Viet Cong in that they have a protected area, Syria, that can serve as a rear base and which has a long border with Iraq that is impossible to seal off, at least anywhere near the current troop strength of the US and Iraqi Armies.
Note: the Iraq-Syria border represents where the British & French decided should be the border between their new colonies following the defeat & collaspe of the Ottoman Empire at the end of WWI. There are plenty of people on both sides of that colonial boundary who are related to each other and who have little regard for any authority that tries to keep them from crossing the border whenever they like and carrying with them whatever items including weapons that people are willing to pay for.

Posted by: David All at May 31, 2006 10:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Casualties are constant or dropping Not how I read the numbers. even though coalition forces appear to have expanded the area, effectiveness and scope of forward operations. What? In comparison to when? Are you kidding? Evidence, please? There is a noticeable shortage of suicide bombers. What? Like the ones that killed 50 people yesterday? What shortage? Are you on the same planet as us? The development Iraqi government churns forward though not as quick or forcefully as we would like. It churns forward at creating gangs of armed thugs and not in any single other quantifiable category of development or consolidation. This looks more like 'messy progress' than a 'quagmire'. Congradulations, you have an opinion. It is not clear to me that Cheney is wrong. His predictions about outcomes in Iraq are a hell of lot more accurate than those of Saddam, Zarqawi, Osama and Moore F*** you, for that morally incomparable characterization, unless michael moore has killed hundreds of thousands of people when I wasn't looking. Furthermore, Cheney's predictions have been accurate - are those the ones about Saddamn's nuclear program or the ones stating that the insurgency was in its last throes? Are you really making that case? Would you like to try to find some facts, somewhere, somehow, that support it? Or are you an unrepentant political hack?


I don’t think there were any perfect choices missed. I think that Iraq was going to be messy and protracted regardless of whether the 4th ID had access through Turkey or Rumsfeld had resigned early on.

You know what? This is a nice-sounding statement that everything was going to be screwed up no matter what that absolves us of all resonsibility, which would be great except for the fact that Iraqis are dying at a rate exceeding 400% of the rate they were dying before we invaded them. We're the ones trying to take responsibility and ownership of the carnage and suffering exported to an independent nation on false premises, supported by people like you.

And if you want to support my number, Please regard the figures at Iraqbodycount.org, which its own website admits are underestimated by at least a factor of two, and then do some research on violent death in Saddamn's Iraq between 1999 and 2003.

Don't ask us to believe in your humanitarian nobility, when the only achievement you have to demonstrate it, is a giant meat grinder.

Posted by: glasnost at June 1, 2006 12:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Without doubt, the whole of the political leadership and large swathes of senior military leadership failed to understand the situation in Iraq immediately after the cessation of major military operations.

To me, it seemed they were in denial, a blind denial, of the most obvious of facts: the insurgency was not latent but insipient. In al Anbar, it was positively shifting to conventional combat operations!

I'm unsure why this happened, but I have my suspicions. Perhaps, the politicians and senior military were executing the plan, not seeking to adapt faster than the enemy.

I am reasonably confident that this would have occurred even if the CENTCOM plan had been followed; hence, blaming Rumsfeld is rather off point. The problem is systemic.

Senior officers at the Pentagon have held up transformation for twenty years. Rumsfeld is reviled at the Pentagon because he actually accomplished the transformation initiative, laying waste to many powerful fiefdoms. The new brigade concept reduced the power of many Army generals; the new Air-Ground task force concept reduced the authority of Air Force generals; many wasteful pet projects were defunded; politically difficult projects were forced through over the generals heads. The same generals who have held up transformation for twenty years. That's why Rumsfeld is reviled.

Blaming one person for systemic failure is dumb.

Posted by: Jeff Younger at June 2, 2006 05:01 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Usually when you try to make big changes in a giant complex system, the odds are against you. One approach that can help is to get in communication with the various experts who understand pieces of the system, and present your big plan to each of them, and ask what they know about that it would break. Then you look for ways to change the plan so it ought to work, and you run the revised plan by the experts. And when it looks promising then you try a pilot project. Etc. It takes a long time but it has a chance. Shinseki was following that approach toward transforming the US military. Making some progress.

By various accounts, Rumsfeld didn't particularly consult the experts. He got a plan and he ordered people to make it work. Too soon to tell whether they can make it work.

Also, he took the position that he had the power and he could make the whole Pentagon do what he wanted. Usually, when you start a plan to transform a giant system that a whole lot of people depend on for their livelihood, you want to reassure them. Everybody that the change hurts is a threat to the change. If a few of them can munkeywrench it just enough, then the change is not going to happen. Ideally you arrange not to hurt many people, and the ones who'll be most hurt should get some status and loot while they're being shuffled off. Rumsfeld didn't do that either.

It isn't clear how much Rumsfeld's transformation is actually working. It might be working in spite of him -- I hope so, we need something to work. He's clearly incompetent to reach his goals. They're tremendously ambitious goals. I wouldn't know how to reach them if I was in Rumsfeld's place.

Posted by: J Thomas at June 3, 2006 03:38 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

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Gregory Djerejian comments intermittently on global politics, finance & diplomacy at this site. The views expressed herein are solely his own and do not represent those of any organization.


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