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August 9, 2003, 11:00 A.M.

Here's an AP story with an updated U.S. casualty count in the war in Iraq. It's sometimes difficult to keep track of these numbers, and I've seen some conflicting reports, but these numbers jive with those that I used in my post of August 3.

August 5, 2003, 7:05 P.M.

Well, here's an unsettling thought. Read this Francis Fukuyama op-ed in today's OpinionJournal where he poses the question, "What if there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?" I'm sure this possibility has occurred to you, as it has occurred to us, but we still say, "Holy guacamole."

August 3, 2003, 10:45 A.M.

Another soldier was killed on Saturday in Iraq, bringing the total U.S. soldiers killed by hostile fire in the war in Iraq to 167, 20 more than were killed in the first Gulf war and 53 since the President declared an end to major combat operations on May 1.

Through the use of overwhelming firepower in the form of tanks, helicopters, RPGs and machine gun and rocket equipped Humvees, two of Saddam’s sons, Uday and Qusay, were killed in Mosul on July 22. Despite the elimination of these two brutal thugs, and a $25 million bounty on their father's head, ambush-type attacks on U.S. soldiers by Iraqis are continuing and are now occurring at the rate of about 12 per day. There is no end in sight as this guerrilla war continues.

Killing Saddam’s sons was an obvious strategic victory over the remnants of the old regime. The problem is that, despite the killings, it appears that decapitating Saddam’s regime may not be enough to subdue Iraqi resistance to the American occupation. There is also evidence that attacks are coming from groups other than the old regime. What happens if we capture or kill Saddam and the attacks continue or increase?

This could very well happen because it is not only the old Ba’ath party that wants us out, but fundamentalist Muslims want us out, other political factions want us out and countless other groups looking for a piece of the Iraqi pie want us out. So it seems that attacks from all of these quarters may continue long after Saddam himself is neutralized.

Bing West, former assistant secretary of defense, maintains in his editorial in last Sunday’s Wall Street Journal that American media is too focused on the number of casualties, and further, that the casualty rate is to be expected. He contests the notion that our situation in Iraq is in any analogous to Viet Nam or Somalia, and that in fact things are going swimmingly for us, especially for the Marines. He goes on to predict:

“The shootings will diminish dramatically when Saddam is put to rest and as the Iraqis establish a governance that treats Saddam loyalists as their enemy. The open terrain does not favor guerrilla bands, and the shooters, far from swimming in a sea of friendly people, are hiding their identities. As the killing of Uday and Qusay reveals, the Iraqi people are willing to give them up. President Bush has it right: If radicals sneak into Iraq to attack Americans, they will die there. That's better than having them plot against New York City. A quagmire refers to organized resistance supported and sheltered by a willing population. In Iraq, the vast majority of the people welcomed the American forces.”
Apparently US Civilian Administrator L. Paul Bremer does not agree with West, as he told CNN on Saturday that he believes that Saddam will eventually be tracked down, but that the threat from “foreign terrorists” would persist.

From my perspective, West’s simplistic outlook ignores the facts and perhaps more importantly the environment in which our occupying army is currently operating. Lest we forget, Iraq was only unified as a country under the brutal, repressive Ba’athist party and eventually Saddam’s regime. Those old religious, ethnic and political differences are beginning to fuel the ambitions of leaders who now see an opportunity for control, power, repression and revenge. Caught in the middle are U.S. troops whose mandate it is to maintain order in the fact of diverse groups who want to exercise control, not to be controlled.

This is a quagmire of the first order, as much as the administration wants us to see it otherwise. Thousands of years of history, conflict and political upheaval form the roots, branches and vines of this particular snare, and they will not be beaten back by an occupying army. It has never happened before and it will not happen now. Our army will leave some day, and Iraq will be left to sort itself out, as it always has.

Attacks on Americans at a rate of 12 a day by people trained to attack heavily armed and protected troops with sophisticated weapons sure sounds like organized resistance to me, and I’ll bet it seems that way to the troops on the ground as well.

[Ed. note: The original CNN story that we linked to in this post, "Bremer warns of 'foreign terrorists' in Iraq" has changed and material that we refer to in our story has been removed. We have a hard copy of the original story if anyone would like to see it.]

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