quagmire (plural quagmires)

1. A swampy, soggy area of ground.

2. (figuratively) A mixed up and troubled situation; a hopeless tangle; a predicament.

The paperwork got lost in a quagmire of bureaucracy.
The invasion of the country went smoothly, but the subsequent occupation became a quagmire.

Growing up, I remember hearing how the war in Viet Nam was a quagmire, how leaving was bad, but staying would have been worse. How it was very much a situation to be avoided, and only a fool enters a war without a decent exit strategy. And yet, here we are again. Perhaps partially because the Chickenhawks in charge weren’t in Viet Nam, and didn’t learn from the mistakes made there.

So here we are, stuck in a situation where if we pull our troops from Iraq, all hell is going to break loose, and we’ll find ourselves to blame for a humanitarian crisis. Yet if we stay, our troops are going to continue dying, continue being wounded and scarred for life. And Iraqi citizens will continue dying as well. This is a no win situation, and the most frustrating part of it all is that we had no business being there to begin with, and many of us knew it.  I fear that we will soon find ourselves in a war with Iran as well. I wish I knew what the best answer is, to deal with this situation in a way that mitigates the harm to the people in Iraq, and at the same time allows American & allied forces to come home quickly and safely. Sadly, I’m not sure that there is such an answer.

Some sobering stats (as of March 4, 2008 – you can find an updated list here), from Foreign Policy in Focus:

U.S. military killed in Iraq: 3,973
Number of U.S. troops wounded in combat since the war began: 29,203
Iraqi Security Force deaths: 7,924
Iraqi civilians killed: Estimates range from 81,632-1,120,000

Internally displaced refugees in Iraq: 3.4 million
Iraqi refugees living abroad: 2.2-2.4 million
Iraqi refugees admitted to the U.S.: 3,222

Number of U.S. soldiers in Iraq: 155,000
Number of “Coalition of the Willing” soldiers in Iraq:
February 2008: 9,895
September 2006: 18,000
November 2004: 25,595

Army soldiers in Iraq who have served two or more tours: 74%
Number of Private Military Contractors in Iraq: 180,000
Number of Private Military Contractors criminally prosecuted by the U.S. government for violence or abuse in Iraq: 1
Number of contract workers killed: 917

What the Iraq war has created, according to the U.S. National Intelligence Council: “A training and recruitment ground (for terrorists), and an opportunity for terrorists to enhance their technical skills.”

Effect on al Qaeda of the Iraq War, according to International Institute for Strategic Studies: “Accelerated recruitment”

The bill so far: $526 billion
Cost per day: $275 million
Cost per household: $4,100
The estimated long-term bill: $3 trillion

What $526 billion could have paid for in the U.S. in one year:
Children with health care: 223 million or
Scholarships for university students: 86 million or
Head Start places for children: 72 million

Cost of 22 days in Iraq could safeguard our nation’s ports from attack for ten years.
Cost of 18 hours in Iraq could secure U.S. chemical plants for five years.

Iraqi Unemployment level: 25-40%
*U.S. unemployment during the Great Depression: 25%
70% of the Iraqi population is without access to clean water.
80% is without sanitation.
90% of Iraq’s 180 hospitals lack basic medical and surgical supplies.

79% of Iraqis oppose the presence of Coalition Forces.
78% of Iraqis believe things are going badly in Iraq overall.
64% of Americans oppose the war in Iraq.

A quagmire indeed.

6 thoughts on “Quagmire

  1. Very sobering numbers. It doesn’t look as though there is any hope for the Iraqis civilians at the moment? It hardly seems possible that after all these years they are far worse off than at the time before the war.

  2. There’s an article on Salon that will make you even more depressed (if McCain wins the presidency). Here’s the synopsis:

    “The former POW’s Senate career has been marked by his outspoken determination never to repeat Vietnam mistakes. So why does he support the Iraq war?”

  3. According to this website, which is updated regularly, the number of American lives lost is 4037. And it sickens me that the way this administration is able to downplay each milestone is by saying “the Xthousandth death is no more significant than any other. Each death is tragic, and we want to make sure that none of our brave men and women die in vain…yada yada yada.” This is how he justifies their deaths? By adding more to the toll? There is blood all over his hands. What a legacy he has.

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