Today is our 1,770th day in Iraq.
We'll start this morning as we always do, with the latest casualty figures from the warron terra, courtesy of Antiwar.com:
Since war began (3/19/03): 3929
Since "Mission Accomplished" (5/1/03): 3790
Since Capture of Saddam (12/13/03): 3468
Since Handover (6/29/04): 3070
Since Election (1/31/05): 2492
Other Coalition Troops: 307
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 480
We find this morning's cost of war
passing through $487,842,800,000.00
Checking in with our friends at IAVA
, we find that one of their bloggers is wondering "What's Next?"
and why aren't the candidates really
talking about the war in Iraq?
...To some extent, we were lulled by our relative (and bloodless, at least for our folks) successes in Bosnia and Kosovo. We allowed ourselves to believe in the idea that our ideals and image were powerful enough to change the world all by themselves.
Now the hard reality has come crashing in. Such aspirations, noble as they may be, are enormously expensive in money, manpower, and political capital. Power projection and nation building can no longer be something that the American government simply does on the side and leaves for the military to clean up afterwards. If we are to continue on this path, the interagency coordination, strategic patience, and multi-lateral cooperation that are the hallmarks of successful counterinsurgency and foreign internal defense will have to become core competencies of the US government.
This is the question that now confronts us in this stage of our Republic, and yet itís one that politicians and thinkers on both sides of the aisle seem strangely unwilling to confront. Both sides focus intently on Iraq as confirmation of their core principles, and yet both are unwilling to acknowledge that there are other potential major tasks looming in the distance, ones that will further test whether we truly wish to continue exporting our beliefs and ideals or retreat back into our relative continental safety.
In this election season, Iím looking for the candidate who is ready and willing to articulate a coherent, consistent vision of American power. Iím ready to hear from the candidate who acknowledges that we have taken on both great rights and great responsibilities in the global community, both of which may be more than we can bear. I want to hear if that candidate believes that it is necessary for our prosperity and survival that we continue to provide robust support to fledgling representative governments abroad, or if they believe we are better off focusing that time and energy within our own borders.
This isnít intended to be a leading question. It isnít intended to force the candidate into an answer that will match a carefully focus-grouped consensus. Itís intended to be an honest statement and vision of how American power fits into an interconnected, globalized world. I donít presuppose an answer at all, and Iím willing to have my own beliefs and perceptions rudely challenged in the process.
But what I really want to hear from McCain, Obama, Huckabee, Clinton, Romney, et al, is - Whatís Next?
Veering slightly away from the veterans, we have a local story from Manchester, NH about Iraqi refugees integrating themselves into American society. Given that so few of them have been allowed into these United States, it's a rare story indeed.
MANCHESTER, N.H. - It has been two months since the new refugees from Iraq arrived in this former mill city - alone, relieved, and too dazed to even register the snow piled high on the streets.
more stories like this
Only their nightmares are familiar: the thunder of bombing outside their little yellow house in Baghdad, the shattering of windows, and the echo of their children's screams. The family is grateful to be safely out of Iraq, but they are anxious in their new home, unsure whether to even call on their neighbors, anxious over how those neighbors might greet them.
"I am afraid that they will close the door in my face," said Almas Zaya, 33, a warm woman with a wide smile, who arrived with her husband, Yousif Toma, 36, and their two children, Andy, 12, and Linda, 9.
As the US military continues to battle insurgents in Iraq, the Toma family finds itself in a most unusual spot. They are among little more than 1,000 Iraqi refugee families who have trickled into the country that is occupying their native land, and, as such, they are left to not only adapt to a new culture but to worry about the increasing unpopularity of the war in the United States.
So far, they've been cloistered, rarely venturing out into the city on their own, and no anger has been directed at them. But uncertainty accompanies them wherever they go - uncertainty over their new land, the reception they'll get, whether they'll ever be embraced given the war back home.
The young family arrived in Manchester more than a year after they fled Baghdad in 2006 with only two suitcases of clothes. They decided to leave after Zaya's uncle, a government official, was killed in front of his home, and threats from extremists against their Catholic church intensified.
"I saw the fear in my kids' eyes," Toma said.
They landed in Turkey and asked for help from the United Nations, which works with countries to resettle refugees, hoping they would be accepted and sent to a peaceful country. They had hoped to land in Luxembourg, where relatives had fled.
They did not expect to go to New Hampshire, a state where skiing is more popular than soccer, their favorite sport. Manchester, a city of 100,000, is more diverse than the rest of the Granite State - almost 11 percent of the city's residents are immigrants, compared with 5 percent statewide. Few Iraqis have ever settled here, but they remained hopeful. "The dream of every person is to be in the United States," Toma said.
The family arrived at Manchester's airport on Nov. 20, with their two children, and their knowledge of the United States limited to snippets of information gleaned from a crash course taught by US officials in Turkey. They knew a smattering of English words, that smoking is banned in government buildings, and how to dial 911.
Finally, as we head through the election season, let's focus in on a couple of candidates and see where they stand on Iraq. Today, it's John Edwards.
"We don't need debate; we don't need non-binding resolutions; we need to end this war. In order to get the Iraqi people to take responsibility for their country, we must show them that we are serious about leaving, and the best way to do that is to actually start leaving." -- John Edwards
There is no military solution to the chaos in Iraq. Instead, the Iraqi people must solve the problem politically by taking responsibility for their country. By leaving Iraq, America will prompt the Iraqi people, regional powers, and the entire international community to find the political solution that will end the sectarian violence and create a stable Iraq. We must show the Iraqis that we are serious about leaving by actually starting to leave, with an immediate withdrawal of 40,000-50,000 troops and a complete withdrawal within nine to ten months. We should leave behind in Iraq only a brigade of 3,500 to 5,000 troops to protect the embassy and possibly a few hundred troops to guard humanitarian workers.
We can only achieve these steps through legislative action. Edwards strongly supports the supplemental spending bill passed by both Houses of Congress and vetoed by President Bush that funds the troops with a timetable for withdrawal. He has called for Congress to respond to the President's veto by sending back the same billóand doing this as many times as it takes for the President to end the war.
Ah, I know that's a lot to read today, but it's a busy time...and as our header notes, we'll have a new president in 364 days!