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Patricia L Johnson: Sidestepping Reality

Sidestepping Reality

By Patricia L Johnson

The National Intelligence Council recently released its January 2007 report "Prospects for Iraq's Stability: A Challenging Road Ahead" providing a bleak outlook for Iraq's stability.

The situation in Iraq is described in the report as far too complex to even be considered a 'civil war'.

"The Intelligence Community judges that the term “civil war” does not adequately capture the complexity of the conflict in Iraq, which includes extensive Shia-on-Shia violence, al-Qa’ida and Sunni insurgent attacks on Coalition forces, and widespread criminally motivated violence. Nonetheless, the term “civil war” accurately describes key elements of the Iraqi conflict, including the hardening of ethno-sectarian identities, a sea change in the character of the violence, ethno-sectarian mobilization, and population displacements."

The report indicates that unless security conditions are changed within the next 12-18 months the situation in Iraq will continue to deteriorate.

Iraqi society’s growing polarization, the persistent weakness of the security forces and the state in general, and all sides’ ready recourse to violence are collectively driving an increase in communal and insurgent violence and political extremism. Unless efforts to reverse these conditions show measurable progress during the term of this Estimate, the coming 12 to 18 months, we assess that the overall security situation will continue to deteriorate at rates comparable to the latter part of 2006.

Many articles have been written in past weeks about President Bush's plan to 'surge' the troops in Iraq in hopes that additional training and troops will provide Iraq with the boost needed to get the violence under control.

With all due respect to President Bush his plan makes absolutely no sense. We've been there, done that and it hasn't worked. We previously had additional boots on the ground and the increased number of troops did virtually nothing to quell the rising violence in Iraq.

More than 300,000 members of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) have been trained and equipped and they are quite simply ineffective. The reason they are ineffective is partly due to the fact that some members of the ISF are actually contributing to the violence.

Although 300,000 have been trained and equipped, fewer numbers are available for duty on any given day. Combat losses, desertion, attrition and leave account for the majority of absences. Adding equipment shortages to fact that many Iraqi units refuse to serve in areas outside their area of recruitment, indicates there are major problems with ISF that will not be resolved in a short period of time.

We have been in Iraq since March 19, 2003, just shy of four years and the violence continues to escalate on a daily basis. Do you really think 20,000+ additional troops will turn Iraq into the non-violent democracy needed in the Middle East?

Probably not in this lifetime.

How much money are you, the average American taxpayer, willing to pay on trial runs in Iraq?

The Honorable John M. Spratt Jr. recently requested an estimate from the Congressional Budget Office on funding required for the troop surge (dollar amounts indicated are for fiscal, not calendar, years).

To sustain an additional 20,000 troops in Iraq for a four-month deployment the cost would be 13 billion dollars, split as follows - 9 billion in 2007 and 3 billion in 2008 (rounded). A 20,000 increase in deployed combat troops would require 28,000 support troops so we would actually be sending 48,000 troops.

If we reduce the number of support troops to a minimal amount the cost would be 9 billion dollars for a four-month deployment - 7 billion in 2007 and 2 billion in 2008.

The figures are spread over a period of more than one year due to the fact that a three-month buildup and three-month withdrawal is required for each deployment.

Historically, the only thing we've been able to accomplish in Iraq in any four-month period of time is to aggravate the situation so it's obvious our four-month scenario would have to be extended to at least a twelve-month deployment.

If it would cost 13 billion to send 20,000 combat troops, plus support troops for a period of four-months, then it should cost 3 times that much to send troops for a full year, but it looks like the CBO is going to give us a long-term discount as it will only cost U.S. taxpayers 27 billion to sustain our 48,000 troops for a full year.

What would $27 billion buy if used in this country?

Although, President Bush's FY 2007 budget calls for an 8.8 billion dollar increase in Department of Veterans Affairs resources, it also asks for Priority 7 and 8 veterans to pay a $250 annual enrollment fee, in addition to almost doubling pharmacy co-payments from $8 to $15.

Since total VA budget for FY 2007 is only $80.6 billion, an additional $27 billion dollars would go a long way towards ensuring all veterans receive free health coverage and medications at VA facilities.

When do we take time out to put the needs of the citizens of our country ahead of the needs of others?


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