Blood, sweat and tears for US in Iraq
by Jitendra Joshi
44 minutes ago
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States is paying an oppressive price for the war in Iraq in terms of blood, treasure and its global image, creating a crescendo of calls to withdraw sooner rather than later.
Since the March 2003 invasion, more than 3,600 US personnel have been killed in Iraq, while independent researchers for Congress say the "war on terror" as a whole is costing a stunning 12 billion dollars a month.
But beyond the brutal costs in lives and cash, the United States has rarely stood so low in its historic role as a moral force for good in a restive world.
The "war on terror" detainment camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, and scandals such as the abuse of prisoners in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib jail, are seen as shocking stains on US foreign policy.
More Europeans see the United States as a threat to global stability than Iran and North Korea combined, according to a Harris Interactive survey for the Financial Times published last week.
At home, President George W. Bush has paid the price in terms of crashing poll ratings and dwindling support in Congress, where some Republicans have joined Democrats in demanding an early end to the US presence in Iraq.
The new intensity to the Iraq debate has come as the administration prepares to unveil an interim report by Sunday on the progress of Bush's recent deployment of nearly 30,000 extra soldiers into the war-torn nation.
"The surge is not working," Senate Majority leader Harry Reid said, as anti-war Democrats filed legislation to withdraw most combat troops from Iraq by the end of next April.
"No matter how many different ways you explain it, it hasn't worked -- six months, 600 dead Americans, 60 billion dollars," Reid said.
But Bush, rejecting talk of withdrawal timetables, pleaded Tuesday with rebellious lawmakers to hold their fire until a broader progress report in September.
"We've got a plan to lead to victory," he told a friendly audience of business leaders in Cleveland. "In the meantime, the Iraqis have got to do more work," the embattled president stressed.
Mis-steps in Iraq are said to have hobbled the United States in Afghanistan, where the fundamentalist Taliban is again on the rise, and Iran, which stands emboldened in its defiance of global disapproval of its nuclear drive.
"The current Iraq strategy is exactly what Al-Qaeda wants -- the United States distracted and pinned down by Iraq's internal conflicts and trapped in a quagmire that has become the perfect rallying cry and recruitment tool for Al-Qaeda," according to a study by the liberal Center for American Progress.
"The United States must reclaim control of its core national security interests by taking active steps to stabilize the entire Middle East and abandon the delusions at the heart of President Bush's policies," it said.
New figures by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service projected the costs of US military operations into years to come -- saying the war on terror could have churned through a stunning 1.4 trillion dollars by 2017.
Since the strike on Afghanistan launched after the September 11 attacks in 2001, the United States has spent 610 billion dollars on the two wars, and on protecting US bases worldwide, said the report, updated late last month.
The figure includes 450 billion dollars for Iraq alone, with another 116 billion requested by the administration from Congress for the fiscal year starting in October.
As a result of its post 9/11 duties in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, the world's most powerful military is close to breaking point, according to several observers including former secretary of state Colin Powell.
Tours of duty in Iraq have been extended to 15 months, while complaints are rife that overseas deployments of reservists from the National Guard have left many parts of the United States vulnerable in case of natural disaster.
The US Army fell short of its recruiting goal in June for the second straight month, the Pentagon said, raising concerns over the impact of the unpopular war in Iraq.
The army signed up only 7,031 recruits in June, well below its target for the month of 8,400.
"When you are in a long protracted war, nobody wants to see their kids get hurt," one defense official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
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