Reality Check on Iraq

On Wednesday, President Bush will deliver an address at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, in which, he is “expected to herald the improved readiness of Iraqi troops, which he has identified as the key condition for pulling out U.S. forces.” The speech appears to be an effort by the Bush administration to lay the groundwork for potentially large withdrawals of troops in 2006 and 2007.

While Bush and critics of his Iraq policy may agree that a drawdown could be the proper action to take, they differ in one key respect — the rationale for why such a withdrawal is necessary. Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) recently argued that pulling out of Iraq is necessary because “the war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion.” Bush, on the other hand, is trying to suggest that a drawdown is the fruits of “good progress” being made in Iraq.

A review of the situation on the ground in Iraq demonstrates clearly that things are getting worse, not better:

– Approximately 100 Attacks Per Day; All-Time High. “Pentagon officials said that in October there were about 100 attacks a day in Iraq compared with 85 to 90 attacks a day in September — and about half of all attacks involve homemade bombs.” That is the highest recorded level since the Iraq war began. By comparison, in January, nationwide figures hovered around 50 to 70 attacks per day. [CNN, 11/3/05; Boston Globe, 1/21/05; Brookings Iraq Index, p. 20]

– One of the Deadliest Attacks In Iraq Occurred Less Ten Days Ago.
“Suicide bombers killed nearly 100 people Friday in one of the deadliest days of Iraq’s insurgency, bringing houses down on sleeping families in Baghdad and shredding Shiite Muslim worshipers in two mosques in the eastern part of the country just as the victims turned their faces up to the preachers to hear their Friday sermons”¦ Nationwide, the attacks were the deadliest since Sept. 14, when at least 14 insurgent bombings in Baghdad killed more than 160 people.” [Washington Post, 11/19/05]

– Unemployment Rates At 40 Percent. [Biden speech, 11/21/05]

– Iraq Oil Production Is Below Pre-War Levels. Iraq’s oil production “has fallen below prewar levels to its lowest point in a decade, depriving the country’s fledgling government of badly needed income and preventing the United States from achieving one of its main reconstruction goals.” [USA Today, 10/11/04]

– Water, Electricity, Health Networks Are Below Prewar Levels. “Stuart W. Bowen Jr., special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, said administration promises to use $18 billion Congress allocated to rebuild water, electricity, health and oil networks to prewar levels or better are running into cold reality. ‘We are going to provide something less than that,’ he said.” [Washington Post, 10/19/05]

– As of November 28, 2005, at least 2,107 U.S. Troops Had Died In Iraq and Over 15,500 Were Wounded. [AP, 11/28/05;]

– Almost 94 Percent of All U.S. Fatalities Have Occurred Since “Mission Accomplished” (5/1/03). Over 2,059 U.S. troop fatalities since that date. []

– Almost 60 percent of All U.S. Fatalities Have Occurred After The Transfer of Sovereignty (6/28/04).
At Least 1,246 U.S. troop fatalities since that date. []

– Insurgents in Iraq Have Kidnapped More Than 225 Foreigners.
[Washington Post, 11/28/05]

– Over $250 Billion Spent On Iraq War. [Chicago Tribune, 11/16/05]

– Reconstruction of Iraq Has Been Spotty. “As the money runs out on the $30 billion American-financed reconstruction of Iraq, the officials in charge cannot say how many planned projects they will complete, and there is no clear source for the hundreds of millions of dollars a year needed to operate the projects that have been finished, according to a report to the U.S. Congress released Sunday.” [NYT, 10/31/05]

– Number of Troops Trained. “[A]s it has been for the past two and a half years, it is unclear exactly what measuring sticks [Bush] is using, and whether they present the full picture.” [NYT, 11/28/05]
February 2004: Number of Iraqi Troops Reportedly Trained = 210,000 [Rumsfeld, 2/23/04]
September 2004: Number of Iraqi Troops Reportedly Trained = 95,000 [CNN, 9/12/04]
Now: Number of Iraqi Troops Reportedly Trained = 212,000 [AP, 11/28/05]

– Dwindling Coalition.
Peak # of Countries in Coalition: 37
Current # of Countries in Coalition: 27 [Boston Globe, 11/27/05]

– Almost 3 Years Later, More Troops In Iraq.
# of American Troops In Iraq In May 2003: 150,000
# of American Troops In Iraq In February 2005: 155,000 [Reuters, 11/23/05; Brookings Iraq Index, p. 18]