The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

The Untold Story of U.S. Troops in Iraq

Aug 11, 2003

On August 8, the Bush administration released a 24-page report entitled "Results in Iraq: 100 Days Toward Security and Freedom." In introducing the report, Bush claimed that the U.S. is making "good progress" in Iraq.

Needless to say, the entire report is a complete fiction. It glosses over the absolutely awful, grim conditions that the Iraqi people have faced ever since the U.S. invaded, the growing Iraqi opposition to the U.S. occupation, and the continuing war itself. According to the report, for example, Iraq is calm (!) and "only in isolated areas are there still attacks."

What they don't want us to know about U.S. casualties

Something else was left out of the Bush administration's report: U.S. casualties.

These casualties have been downplayed not only by the Bush administration, but by the entire U.S. news media as well. By August 8, according to administration reports, 56 troops had been killed since May 1. In fact, 119 – more than double that number – were killed. The administration doesn't report so-called "non-combat" deaths. These include 23 U.S. soldiers killed in car or helicopter accidents – most of which were the result of enemy fire, 12 killed in accidents with weapons or explosives, three possible suicides, and three drownings. Hiding "non-combat" deaths may make Bush feel better; it doesn't make the soldiers any less dead.

The cover-up doesn't end there. The U.S. news media also almost never gives the number of U.S. soldiers who have been wounded. The official number stands at 827 since the war began, with about half being wounded since Bush's May 1 pronouncement.

But unofficial numbers are in the thousands. Lieutenant-Colonel Allen DeLane, who is in charge of the airlift of wounded into Andrews air base outside Washington D.C., told National Public Radio, "Since the war has started, I can't give you an exact number because that's classified information, but I can say to you over 4,000 stayed here at Andrews." And, said LeLane, over 90% of the injuries were war related.

Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C. was supposed to have sufficient capacity to treat all of the more serious casualties from the war. But the hospital reports that between the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, it has been so overwhelmed by the number of wounded, it has had to turn many of them away, treating them only on an "outpatient" basis while they stay at nearby hotels.

What is good for Haliburton is bad for U.S. troops

The Newhouse News Service reports, "Months after American combat troops settled into occupation duty, they were camped out in primitive, dust-blown shelters without windows or air conditioning." E-mails from soldiers in Iraq confirm this. Writes one soldier,"My soldiers and I live in sweltering hot tents. We have no air conditioning, very few fans, no buildings to live in and no running water or electricity..." Another soldier writes, "I do know there are people living in areas with running water and A.C. That, of course, is not us... although my colonel lives like that. As we crammed 50 soldiers into two medium frame tents near a pond of dead fish which was also infested with mosquitos and there was absolutely no field sanitation support for miles, he was living in his own room inside an air conditioned building, had his own king size bed, his own bathroom, his own refrigerator, and his own cappuccino machine. It was two weeks before he came down to see where the soldiers were living..."

These conditions are not just due to poor planning. The Pentagon now pays civilian contractors, like Haliburton (Vice-president Dick Cheney's old company), to provide barracks, fresh food, latrines, etc. Despite the fact that the Pentagon pays these companies in advance, they just pocket the proceeds and the necessities don't show up. According to one report, "Even mail delivery – also managed by civilian contractors – fell weeks behind." Groups of soldiers' families have been organizing drives to buy and ship drinking water for their sons and daughters.

What is good for business profits is bad for "our boys," as George Bush often calls U.S. soldiers.

Another generation of young people is discovering what it means, really means, to be cannon fodder in one of imperialism's dirty wars – like generations before them in the Gulf War, in Viet Nam, in Korea, in the world wars...