The Administration's hidden teenage graveyard

"Partially capable." That's just one of the somber conclusions reached by the DOD in its most recent assessment of Iraqi troop development. The report, given reluctantly and most of which is still classified, was forced by increased pressure by a handful of Democrats who seem to have discovered that they are actually a political party with a constituency and a responsibility to the country.

A July 22nd Washington Post article titled, "Pentagon Report Says Iraqi Forces Are Not Yet Able to Defend Country" by Josh White describes the report, in part, as follows:
The broad outline of Iraqi readiness was provided in an unclassified statement to Congress by Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He said that only a "small number of Iraqi security forces are taking on the insurgents and terrorists by themselves," and he estimated that one-third of the Iraqi army's battalions are capable of counterinsurgency operations with coalition support and two-thirds are "partially capable"...

...the "threshold condition" for success is developing Iraqi security forces to a level where they can take over primary responsibility for their security. Pentagon officials said getting troops to that level could take some time...

Gone are the wildly optimistic numbers of Iraqi troop strength bandied about with such reckless abandon by civilian and military leaders alike. At any rate, the numbers mean little if those that are counted can't, or won't, fight.

It gets worse. Sec. Rumsfeld, once maintaining that he'd be surprised if the conflict went on for 6 months, now seems surprised when people are shocked when he says that it may take 12 years (a little off on the "metrics").

The many rationales for going and staying in Iraq have basically boiled down to, "We'll stay until the Iraqis are ready to fight for themselves." This is generally followed by, "Training is going to take a while..." which, in turn, is punctuated by, "Our troops are fighting for a noble cause- to bring freedom to the Iraqi's".

These 3 phrases, taken together, mean that our troops must continue to fight and die until the Iraqi's are trained well enough to fight for their own precious freedom which would translate into the "threshold condition" for withdrawl as described above.

Superimposing those statements over, "We have the best trained troops in the world..." is intended to shut down any line of inquiry by implying that a questioning of the policy is a questioning of our troops' abilities and their commitment to freedom.

It's enough to make most turn their heads from the carnage and hope for the best. But for those willing to take a look at some basic facts, the "talking points" should mean nothing. The following clearly shows that something is awfully and terribly wrong with the current policy in Iraq:

Currently, 1774 American soldiers (all age groups) are reported as being killed in Iraq.

19 of them were only 18 years old; and
107 of them were 19 years old.

The ages of those American troops speak volumes as to the validity of the official rationales/arguments given and show just how disingenuous our leadership can be.

Perhaps there is some good explanation why a presumed irresponsible American boy or girl can be trained to be a part of "the best fighting force in the world" when adult Iraqi men can't even approach "readiness" ability in over 2 years. The "presumed irresponsible" wording is not an editorial comment. It is a reflection of the fact that our society has deemed, with a blanket application, our 18 and 19 year olds as too irresponsible to drink alcohol until they reach the age of 21.

It certainly seems that either someone is lying about the training our young soldiers are receiving and, due to troop strength shortages, they're being thrust onto the battlefield unprepared, or someone is lying about the training the Iraqi's are receiving. Furthermore, how can anyone expect American 18 year olds to be better fighters for freedom in a land that most of them couldn't even find on the map (according to a National Geographic study) prior to their deployment than the people whose roots there date back thousands of years?

Is it that the Iraqi's are unfamiliar with the concept of freedom? Has our worldview been so thoroughly corrupted that we believe that our 18 year olds, whose last big decision may very well have been deciding on who to take to the prom, understand the concept of freedom better than a 30 year old Iraqi who has lived under a one-man despotic rule and a subsequent occupation by a foreign army?

Other numbers that shed an unflattering light on our willingness to sacrifice our young to prove think tank arm-chair warriors correct and to salvage poll numbers for politicians are found in an "age-group" comparison of those killed in Iraq between the U.S. and the U.K. The fact that the U.S. has lost many more soldiers overall is addressed below.

U.S. and U.K. deaths in age-groups

U.S.- The hardest hit in terms of deaths were between 21 and 30 at 59.8% of the total. The second highest rate was 18-20 which came in at 18.2%.

U.K.- British troops suffered their highest losses among the 21-30 year olds at 48.4%. However, their second highest rate was among the 31-40 year olds at 35.5%. Their 18-20 year olds came in at 9.7%.

If one does take into account that the British have far fewer troops in Iraq than the U.S., the resulting observation clearly shows that their armed forces aren't as taxed as ours and therefore backs up the theory proposed above, namely, we're tossing our young into a conflict they have no business being in and may not be ready to fight. The larger number of U.S. troops (in total of both troops present and troops killed) has no impact on the statistical analysis but does have an impact on overall commitment and the underlying difficulty of fulfilling that commitment with willing bodies.

The fighting them "there rather than fighting them here" mantra has no bearing on who we are sending to fight or on the concept of a true threat to our freedom. If there were an obvious threat to our freedoms from an external source, the American public should be given more credit as there would certainly be lines forming in front of recruiting stations by men and women of all ages. Also, the bombings in Madrid, and now twice in London are quickly exposing that line of reasoning as a cheap applause line.

Furthermore, the fact (oft-repeated lately) that Iraqi troops are getting killed should hold no sway in this discussion. After all, it is their country. They should be willing to kill for it and to die for it.

While we certainly owe Iraq, why is our leadership so blind and unimaginative, so absolutely lacking in planning and diplomatic skills that the debt we owe is being partially paid back with the blood of our 18 and 19 year olds?

If, in fact, the Administration is hell-bent on "staying the course" and continues the current Iraqi policy regardless of consequences, it could simultaneously work on lowering the drinking age to 18. That way, returning young soldiers won't be ticketed and/or hauled off to jail while toasting their fellow "teenage" fallen comrades- in-arms.


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