The following was written anonymously by an active-duty Air Force Master Sergeant who is a member of March Forward!.
Since the end of August, the media has been abuzz with cynically trumpeted fanfares of U.S. military success in Iraq. It was the first month since the start of the war in 2003 that zero U.S. troops were killed.
Meanwhile in Afghanistan, however, it was the single-most deadly month on record for U.S. troops since the start of the now 10-year-old occupation. And, for innocent civilians in Iraq, August saw the worst death toll in months.
Sixty-six U.S. troops alone died in Afghanistan in August, surpassing the previous record of 65 in July 2010. In the deadliest single incident for U.S. troops to date, 30 U.S. service members died when their Chinook helicopter was shot down while flying over Wardak Province on Aug. 6. Fourteen additional non-U.S. NATO service members also lost their lives last month.
“For Iraqis, August saw the worst wave of violence to strike the country in months,” reported CNN on Sept. 1. “On August 15, for example, a barrage of attacks across the country killed at least 84 people and wounded more than 200.”
According to official U.S. military sources, the impetus behind the recent drop in U.S. casualties in Iraq is the combined forces of the Iraqi government pursuing so-called Shiite militias and “aggressive unilateral strikes by United States forces.” (The New York Times, Aug. 31)
Stepped-up repulsion of alleged outside interference from neighboring Iran by the Iraqi government is also credited for decreased U.S. casualties. While such claims of Iranian interference are routinely cited by the U.S. media, they are rarely, if ever, substantiated with documented evidence.
The “aggressive unilateral strikes by United States forces,” so proudly touted by The New York Times, included the use of overwhelming lethal force endangering countless civilians. In a single day in July, the U.S. military launched 43 separate rocket attacks on the southern Iraqi province of Maysan. To allegedly “deter militias,” open desert areas were indiscriminately bombed in the middle of the night by a C-130 gunship and an Apache helicopter.
“We used them out here as a demonstration to say these are the capabilities we have, and we are willing to use it to protect ourselves,” said Col. Douglas Crissman, a commander of U.S. forces in southern Iraq. (The New York Times, Aug. 31)
In total, 4,474 U.S. troops have died in Iraq since the beginning of the U.S. invasion in 2003. (Associated Press, Sept. 1) The total death toll for combined international forces in Afghanistan this year was 403 by the end of last month, including 299 U.S. troops. (Associated Press, Aug. 30)
U.S. forces to remain in Iraq and Afghanistan indefinitely
In August of last year, President Obama announced that so-called “combat” troops were pulling out of Iraq. Today, nearly 50,000 U.S. troops remain.
The U.S. military is officially scheduled to fully withdraw from Iraq by Jan. 1, 2012. However, for months now, Pentagon and U.S. government officials have been backsliding from that position.
In Afghanistan, leading Pentagon officials have openly stated their intentions to remain indefinitely. Former General David Petraeus told the Washington Post last fall, “This is the kind of fight we’re in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids’ lives.” In the same timeframe, now-retired Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said, “We’re not leaving Afghanistan prematurely; in fact, we’re not ever leaving at all.” (Huffington Post, Sept. 29, 2010)
Now, on Sept. 7, the newly appointed U.S. secretary of defense, Leon Panetta, has announced his official support for retaining as many as 4,000 U.S. troops in Iraq for up to a year past the Jan. 1, 2012, promised deadline. (PBS, Sept. 7) It is only to be expected that gradual troop strength increases, accompanied by delayed withdrawal dates, are likely to follow.
What will it take for all the troops to come home from Iraq and Afghanistan? We cannot rely on the Pentagon brass or the politicians to bring us home. We have the right to refuse to fight in these illegal and immoral wars. If active-duty service members stand together, we can bring these occupations to an end.
Click here to join the growing movement of veterans and active-duty troops against these ongoing occupations.