Today is our 341st day back in Iraq.
On this day after Memorial Day, we'll take a look back at the casualties wrought in our name in this century...as always, courtesy of Antiwar.com:
Since war began (3/19/03): 4493
Since "Mission Accomplished" (5/1/03): 4347
Since Handover (6/29/04): 3627
Since Obama Inauguration (1/20/09): 256
Since Operation New Dawn: 66
Other Coalition Troops - Iraq: 320
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 2357
Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 1127
Contractor Employee Deaths - Iraq: 1,487
Journalists - Iraq: 348
Academics Killed - Iraq: 448
We find this morning's Cost of War
passing through: $ 1, 629, 223, 450, 000 .00 So let's start out today by hearing from the mother of one of those casualties.
Her son was killed fighting for Ramadi when we were there the first time.
Debbie Lee says she’s sickened that the city her son sacrificed his life defending has fallen—and furious at the Joint Chiefs chairman’s insistence Ramadi is ‘not symbolic in any way.’
Nine years after Marc Alan Lee became the first Navy SEAL killed in the Iraq War, his mother sat watching TV images of the black flag of ISIS flying over the city where her son died.
“Gut wrenching,” Debbie Lee said on Monday. “The sacrifices that were made, the blood that's been shed.”
The city is Ramadi, and the mother had gone there herself in the year after her son was cut down in a ferocious firefight where he showed such courage that he was awarded a Silver Star.
His comrades had further honored him by naming their Ramadi base Camp Marc Alan Lee. His mother returned from her visit to the city in 2007 with some of its powdery soil in a clear plastic bag. The bag and its contents sat in her Arizona home as the news came that Ramadi had fallen to ISIS.
“That place where my son’s blood was shed,” she said.
This past April, Debbie had seen remarks about Ramadi made at a press conference by General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Dempsey suggested that the city is “not symbolic in any way” and that losing it would not be a major setback.
“I would much rather that Ramadi not fall, but it won’t be the end of the campaign should it fall,” General Dempsey said.
In response, Lee wrote him an open letter.
“I am shaking and tears are flowing down my cheeks as I watch the news and listen to the insensitive, pain-inflicting comments made by you in regards to the fall of Ramadi,” the mother told the general. “My son and many others gave their future in Ramadi. Ramadi mattered to them. Many military analysts say that as goes Ramadi so goes Iraq.”
She went on, “What about the troops who sacrificed their limbs and whose lives will never be the same? Our brave warriors who left a piece of themselves in Ramadi? What about the troops who struggle with PTS/TBI who watched their teammates breathe their last or carried their wounded bodies to be medevac’d out of Ramadi?”
She continued: “You, sir, owe an apology to the families whose loved ones’ blood was shed in Ramadi. Ramadi matters to us and is very symbolic to us. You need to apologize to our troops whose bodies were blown to pieces from IEDs and bullet holes leaving parts and pieces behind. Ramadi matters to them. You need to apologize to our troops who endured the extreme temperatures and battled the terrorists in some of the worst battlefields in Iraq. Ramadi matters to them. They carry vivid memories of the battles and the teammates whose future is gone. Ramadi matters to them.”
She concluded: “You and this administration have minimized that Ramadi could fall. Now you are minimizing that it is falling, but you Sir WILL NOT minimize the sacrifice my son Marc Lee made or any of our brave warriors!”
She ended the letter with “Awaiting an Apology.”
And not long afterward, that is what she got.
“I do apologize if I’ve added to your grief,” Dempsey wrote. “Marc and so many others died fighting to provide a better future for Iraq. He and those with whom he served did all that their nation asked. They won their fight, and nothing will ever diminish their accomplishments nor the honor in which we hold their service.”
Dempsey then sought to reconcile those words with the present reality, saying, “We are in a different fight now, with a different enemy, and with a different relationship with the Government of Iraq. They must determine the path and pace of this fight.”
Dempsey did not add that the path and pace of the fight as set by the government of Iraq is generally to abandon its U.S.-supplied weapons and flee. That was again evidenced in Ramadi over the weekend.
“It is sickening to me,” Debbie Lee said.
But that's not all. When we pulled out, it was decided that an awful lot of supplies and equipment was going to be left behind. It just wasn't "cost effective" to ship it back to the United States. Supposedly, the best and most modern equipment was to go to the Iraq Army...but guess who has it now?
The ISIS fleet of captured U.S. military vehicles, including M1A1 tanks, grew by more than 100 when Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) fled the provincial capital of Ramadi 60 miles west of Baghdad and abandoned their equipment , Pentagon officials said Tuesday.
In addition, "there were some artillery pieces left behind," said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, but he could not say how many.
About 100 wheeled vehicles and "in the neighborhood of dozens of tracked vehicles" were lost to ISIS when the last remaining Iraqi defenders abandoned the city of about 500,000, Warren said.
The tracked vehicles were mostly armored personnel carriers but "maybe half a dozen tanks" were in the mix, Warren said. He did not say what type of tanks they were. Photos posted by ISIS on social media purported to show about 10 M1A1 Abrams tanks in their possession and large amounts of captured ammunition.
In Ramadi, ISIS displayed some of their captured vehicles in a victory parade of Toyota land cruisers as black-clad fighters brandished weapons and the black flag of ISIS through the streets of the shattered city. Videos posted by ISIS on social media showed children in Ramadi celebrating with the militants.
ISIS fighters reportedly were on the move again to the east of Ramadi toward the Iraqi army and air base at Habbaniya, where Shiite militias who had been ordered to stay out of the fight in Ramadi, were gathering for a possible counter-attack.
Warren said "this is an Iraqi decision on when to conduct a counter-attack." The U.S. has said it would use airstrikes to back Shiite militias acting at the direction of the central government in Baghdad but would withhold support from militias aligned with Iran. "It will be a difficult fight" to retake Ramadi, Warren said.
U.S. Central Command estimated that "several thousand" ISF defenders were in Ramadi over the weekend and were facing ISIS fighters also numbering in the thousands. The ISIS fighters kept attacking despite a sandstorm that limited U.S. air support, Warren said.
The sandstorm hindered the defense but Warren wouldn't say it was the main reason for the defeat. "No, it was a factor," Warren said. There were other factors - "leadership being one of them, tactics being one of them," Warren said.
The fall of Ramadi prompted Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to argue that the U.S. should boost the U.S. training and advisory contingent in Iraq - now numbering about 3,000 - to 10.000.
Defeat is a difficult concept for us Americans to grasp. Since our founding, pretty much every war we've ever fought, we won. It didn't matter - colonial oppressors, pirates, ourselves, fascism...we beat all comers. Cities captured by Americans simply don't fall back into enemy hands.
Unfortunately, there isn't going to be any way back short of another war. (See the 10,000 soldiers proposed above.) Many empires perished in the Middle East (and Afghanistan), and with the back-and-forth of the last 24 years, it often seems like we might be the next.