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A Sixth Year of Iraq War--How Many More Must be Killed?
by Gil Villagran, MSW (gvillagran [at]
Wednesday Mar 19th, 2008 3:38 PM
As we enter the sixth year of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, it is our duty as responsible citizens to examine what we are doing in that nation, and to our own nation.
A Sixth Year of Iraq War--How Many More Must be Killed?

By Gil Villagrán, MSW
Lecturer, School of Social Work
San Jose State University
gvillagran [at]

March 19. 2008
As we enter the sixth year of war in Iraq, as responsible citizens we must examine what we are doing to this country half a world away from our shores, as well as what this war is doing to our soldiers and our nation.

A first step is to look directly at the grim statistics resulting from our invasion five years ago: In a few days the 4,000th American soldier will be killed--likely leaving a spouse, children, siblings, parents, an extended family forever impacted with the grief of a life taken too young and too brutally. Thirty thousand have been wounded, many with lifelong disabilities, 500 amputations, 6,000 brain or spinal injuries, many with sight impairment or blind.

Almost all combat veterans experience the psychological trauma of seeing brutal deaths and injuries of fellow soldiers, innocent civilians and enemy combatants--who are human non-the-less. There is a growing awareness of veterans attempting or committing suicide, and efforts to prevent such secondary tragedies. As some Vietnam veterans remain disabled by post traumatic stress syndrome four decades after their combat experience, so we may have decades, even a half century of Iraq veterans traumatized by this war.

While it is estimated by military leaders that 55,000 insurgents have been killed, civilian deaths, so-called “excess deaths” may reach one million Iraqis. Seriously wounded Iraqis are too numerous to count accurately because many fear going to hospitals or never get there before dying of injuries. Life in Iraq has become so dangerous or difficult that an estimated two million have become internal refugees from their homes, or external refugees seeking livelihoods in nearby countries already teeming with unemployed populations and their own sectarian strife.

While Iraq was led by an often brutal kleptomaniac dictator, most citizens who did not openly oppose his rule lived secure lives in one of the most developed modern secular counties in the Middle East with an infrastructure providing a relatively high level of public utilities, education, employment, and basic needs for most citizens. Today, Baghdad homes average 5.6 hours of electricity daily, as opposed to pre-war 16-24 hours. Only 37% of homes are connected to sewage systems, while 70% of Iraqis lack adequate safe drinking water. More than one-third of physicians have left the country, and many hospitals are in great disrepair or lack essential equipment and supplies. The Iraqi unemployment rate is 27 to 60%. Millions of parents are unable to provide basic needs for their children, and millions of Iraqis are malnourished, many die of preventable illness or treatable injuries due to accidents, or violent insurgent or U.S. attacks.

Ironically, experts tabulate daily insurgents attacks have increased every year since our entry into Iraq, from 14 in Feb. 2004 to 70 in July ‘05 to 163 in May ‘07. The estimated insurgency strength has also increased with our presence, from 15,000 in Nov. 2003 to 30,000 in Oct. ‘06 to 70,000 in June ‘07. How many insurgents will there be if we remain in Iraq another year or six more years?

A critical question is: do Iraqis want our combat forces to stay or leave their country? A recent poll conducted shows that more than 80% “strongly oppose” U.S. forces. Iraqis who believe U.S. forces have improved their security: less than 1%, who feel less secure with the occupation: 67%. While such polls are not necessarily accurate, they do show a serious problem with the perception of whether our presence and role in the country is helpful, not helpful, appreciated or not appreciated.

It may be that the Iraqi people will ultimately turn against our presence in their county or we will turn against our nation’s occupation and war fighting when we can no longer stomach the grotesque mayhem and death that is taking place due in large measure to our presence in this tragic nation. How many more Iraqis and Americans must die?

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