By Workers World Service
"U.S. battlefield casualties in Iraq are increasing dramatically in the face of continued attacks," reported the Washington Post of Sept. 2, "... with almost 10 American troops a day now being officially declared `wounded in action.`
"The number of those wounded in action, which totals 1,124 since the war began in March, has grown so large, and attacks have become so commonplace, that U.S. Central Command usually issues news releases listing injuries only when the attacks kill one or more troops. The result is that many injuries go unreported."
An "increasing number" of soldiers are being wounded "through small arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades, remote controlled mines and what the Pentagon refers to as `improvised explosive devices,`" continued the Post. The number of troops wounded in action increased more than 35 percent in August--with an average of almost 10 troops a day injured.
"With no fanfare and almost no public notice, giant C-17 transport jets arrive virtually every night at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, on medical evacuation missions. Since the war began, more than 6,000 service members have been flown back to the United States. The number includes the 1,124 wounded in action, 301 who received non- hostile injuries ... and thousands who became physically or mentally ill."
U.S. Forces `stretched to Limit`
A new study by the Congressional Budget Office warns that "the Army lacks sufficient active-duty forces to maintain its current level of nearly 150,000 troops beyond next spring," wrote the Washing ton Post the next day. With all the calls for more troops to Iraq as the solution to crushing the resistance, the fact is that, according to the CBO, "it would take five years to create and staff two new divisions that would permit the deployment of an additional 20,000 troops. It also would cost nearly $20 billion to start up those divisions ... and about another $10 billion annually to keep them running."
Sen. Robert Byrd, who requested the CBO study, called the report "quantified evidence that the long-term occupation is straining our forces close to the breaking point."
The only recourse to maintain the occupation at present levels is to call up National Guard and Reserve units. But, according to the New York Times of Sept. 3, the CBO report said that "the need to maintain levels of training and readiness, limit family separation and involuntary mobilization and retain high-quality personnel would most likely constrain the U.S. occupation force to be smaller than its current size."
The overriding problem of the Pentagon is "not necessarily money," wrote the Times. "Rather the problem is the Army`s need to keep occupying troops fresh using a unit rotation system, where a unit serves in Iraq for 6 or 12 months and then comes home for rest and training, replaced by another unit. The report says the Pentagon does not have enough personnel to keep the troops fresh and still conduct operations in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia and Korea."
Thus, without the draft, the prospect of ripping tens of thousands of reservists and National Guard troops with jobs and families out of their lives and sending them to carry out the hellish task of killing and being killed in a brutal and hated occupation is not an option. Washington has to find cannon fodder somewhere else.
Source: Workers World Service