October 30, 2003
US Military Death Toll Goes Up

The number of US soldiers killed in combat in postwar Iraq rose yesterday above the number killed before May 1, the day President George Bush declared victory.

The almost daily casualties, many of them aged 21 or younger, are beginning to impact on the US domestic agenda and, with the presidential election looming next year, could put pressure on Mr Bush to get out of Iraq as quickly as possible.

The British government is backing those in Washington pushing for as speedy an exit from Iraq as possible. It wants a quick handover of power to Iraqis. An official from the US-UK coalition headquarters in Baghdad confirmed yesterday the coalition was urgently looking at ways to transfer some security responsibilities.

This would be a mistake according to Thomas L. Friedman in a New York Times Editorial today.

Let's get real. What the people who blew up the Red Cross and the Iraqi police fear is not that we're going to permanently occupy Iraq. They fear that we're going to permanently change Iraq. The great irony is that the Baathists and Arab dictators are opposing the U.S. in Iraq because — unlike many leftists — they understand exactly what this war is about. They understand that U.S. power is not being used in Iraq for oil, or imperialism, or to shore up a corrupt status quo, as it was in Vietnam and elsewhere in the Arab world during the cold war. They understand that this is the most radical-liberal revolutionary war the U.S. has ever launched — a war of choice to install some democracy in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world.

Most of the troubles we have encountered in Iraq (and will in the future) are not because of "occupation" but because of "empowerment." The U.S. invasion has overturned a whole set of vested interests, particularly those of Iraq's Sunni Baathist establishment, and begun to empower instead a whole new set of actors: Shiites, Kurds, non-Baathist Sunnis, women and locally elected officials and police. The Qaeda nihilists, the Saddamists, and all the Europeans and the Arab autocrats who had a vested interest in the old status quo are threatened by this.

Many liberals oppose this war because they can't believe that someone as radically conservative as George W. Bush could be mounting such a radically liberal war. Some, though, just don't believe the Bush team will do it right.

Thomas L. Friedman

Posted by tstubbs at October 30, 2003 06:23 AM | Trackback
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