Operation Iraqi Freedom/External links: Beginnings of a quagmire (January-March 2004)

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The Beginnings of a Quagmire in Operation Iraqi Freedom become blatantly apparent in the headlines following the "successful conclusion" of the preemptive war waged by the U.S.-led coalition of the willing in Post-war Iraq. U.S. military activities in the Persian Gulf promises to become a major issue for the U.S. presidential election, 2004.

This article covers the time period January to March 18, 2004.

  • Also see:

Published/Released December 2003

  • 29 December 2003/5 January 2004 (Issue): "Operation Hearts and Minds. HARD LESSONS: With Saddam behind bars, Iraq is now a test of counterinsurgency, where you can win battles but still lose the war" by Evan Thomas, Rod Nordland and Christian Caryl, Newsweek.
  • 1 January 2004: "Phoenix Rising", American Prospect: "The U.S. occupation of Iraq is beginning to resemble Vietnam in more ways than one. American forces under attack are reportedly responding with indiscriminate fire, often killing combatants and innocents alike. Body counts are disputed, ... Houses of suspected insurgents are being blown up. ... The entire village of Auja, Hussein's hometown near Tikrit, was surrounded by barbed wire and turned into a strategic hamlet, with ID cards issued by U.S. forces needed to enter and exit it."
  • Published 19 December 2003: "Faces of Valor: Those killed supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom". Listings can be found both by date and alphabetically.
  • 30 December 2003: "Their Photos Tell the Story" by Jimmy Breslin, New York Newsday: "The Army Times, a civilian newspaper that is sold mainly on military bases and thus reaches the prime wartime audience, uses eight pages of its year-end review, out now, to run photos of all those who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, except 35. ... There were 506 killed by the time the newspaper closed last Friday. Since then, another seven have died. The newspaper has said this is the deadliest year for the U.S. military since 1972, when 640 were killed in Vietnam."

January 2004

  • 1 January 2004: This is not exactly today's "news", but the item just surfaced ... Cher visited Walter Reed Army Hospital back towards the end of October, then called in to CSPAN on October 27, 2003. Read the transcript of her call ... then ask yourself if this is, indeed, a quagmire.
  • January/February 2004: "Blind Into Baghdad" by James Fallows, The Atlantic: "The U.S. occupation of Iraq is a debacle not because the government did no planning but because a vast amount of expert planning was willfully ignored by the people in charge. The inside story of a historic failure."
  • 1 January 2004: "Most U.S. Iraq Deaths Are Reservists" by Robert Burns, AP: "As they prepare to increase their role in Iraq, including more combat duty, soldiers with the Army National Guard and Army Reserve already are experiencing a bigger share of U.S. military deaths there. ...Overall, since the start of hostilities last March, 14 percent of all U.S. military deaths have been members of the Army Guard or Reserve. The Army says it has had 68 reservists killed so far, compared with nine reservists among the Marines, two in the Navy and one in the Air Force."
  • 1 January 2004: "War takes an inhuman twist with cats, dogs and donkeys turned into bombs" by Robert Fisk, Independent/UK.
  • 1 January 2004: "Suicide bomber kills five in attack on Baghdad restaurant" by Robert Fisk, Independent/UK.
  • 1 January 2004: "Würzburg hospital relies on dozens of transfers to keep facility running," Stars & Stripes (Europe).
  • 1 January 2004: "Three Marine units likely to bypass Japan, head to Iraq" by Sandra Jontz, Stars & Stripes (Europe).
  • 1 January 2004: "Okinawa Marines slated for possible Iraq duty say they're ready" by Fred Zimmerman, Stars & Stripes (Pacific).
  • 1 January 2004: "Army Will Still Be in Iraq Next New Year's Day" by John Deane, scotsman.com: "British forces will still be in Iraq and combating security threats in a year's time, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon acknowledged today."
  • 1 January 2004: "U.S. Prepares for Risky Iraq Troop Rotation" by Will Dunham, Reuters: "The Pentagon is gearing up for a massive rotation of about a quarter million troops in and out of Iraq, a giant logistics chore complicated by concerns about opportunistic attacks targeting Americans as they arrive or depart. ... Between late January and May, 123,000 weary U.S. troops will be pulled out of Iraq and replaced with about 110,000 fresh Army soldiers and Marines. In addition, 11,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan will be brought home and replaced with about the same number."
  • 2 January 2004: "In Iraq's Murky Battle, Snipers Offer U.S. a Precision Weapon" by Eric Schmidt, New York Times.
  • 2 January 2004: "U.S. Soldier Killed as Copter Downed," Reuters.
  • 2 January 2004: "Black-market medicines are worry in Iraq" by Stephen Franklin, Chicago Tribune.
  • 4 January 2004 (Posted 2 January 2004): "Ethnic Division in Iraq" by Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld, Washington Post: "We may be the least well-equipped nation in the world to manage the kinds of group hatreds that threaten Iraqi society today. Because of our beliefs in the 'melting pot' and the United States' own relatively successful -- though halting and incomplete -- history of assimilation, Americans don't always understand the significance of ethnicity, both at home and especially abroad."
  • 3 January 2004: "US Army buys millions in anthrax shots," AEDT: "The US Defence Department has announced a $US29.7 million order for anthrax vaccine based on the assumption that a federal judge's ban on mandatory inoculations will be reversed. ... Privately held BioPort Corporation of Lansing, Michigan, was awarded the Army order on Wednesday as part of a $US245.6 million contract, the Pentagon said."
  • 3 January 2003: "U.S. Soldier Killed in Iraq Mortar Attack," Reuters: "The death of the soldier raises to 329 the number of U.S. troops killed in action since Washington launched the war to overthrow Saddam in March. Of those, 214 have been killed by guerrilla attacks since major combat was declared over in May."
  • 7 January 2004: National Public Radio: "Daniel Zwerdling reports on the number of U.S. troops wounded in Iraq. It's a number that is much higher than many think and also extremely difficult to come by. And of the close to 9,000 wounded, few details are available concerning their injuries."
  • 7 January 2004: "Analysis: Is the US Army big enough?" by Nick Childs, BBC/UK: "In the Pentagon, nobody now disputes that the US Army is really stretched at the moment. ... The latest evidence of this are the new plans to tell thousands of troops that they must put retirement plans on hold, and big new financial inducements the US Army is offering troops to re-enlist."
  • 7 January 2004: "Tactical Evolution, or Tactical Desperation?" by Ralph Omholt, Soldiers For The Truth: "It's time to be blatant: the U.S. military is getting desperate in Iraq. ... On one hand, the military is obviously desperate to retain all soldiers, while suffering recruiting shortfalls. The military is desperate to get more, from less; that's an issue, by itself. ... On the other hand, the military is radically changing its tactics within Iraq, while changing the pre-deployment training standards for soldiers slated for future deployment there. Effectiveness is the obvious goal. ... The described changes are radical. Many of the changes return to the strategies and tactics used in the Vietnam War. The new 'skills' include the recognition and evasion of booby traps and how to search towns and urban environments for guerrillas. ... The changes subtly betray the administration's worst fears - that Iraq is becoming another Vietnam. While there are some elementary differences, the Vietnam veteran quickly says, 'Same-same.'"
  • 9 January 2004: "US begins huge Iraq forces switch" by Nick Childs, BBC/UK: "About 250,000 military personnel will move in and of the country over the next four months. ... Some 125,000 American troops in Iraq will be replaced by a 110,000-strong, less heavily armed force, including more National Guard and Reserve units. ... Troops are also being replaced in Kuwait and Afghanistan, where 11,000 soldiers are on active duty."
  • 10 January 2004: "US troops on the march - out the army" by Erich Marquardt, Asia Times: "But while it was expected that contingents of US troops would remain in Iraq for years after the US occupation was completed, it was not expected that over 100,000 troops would be needed for this mission. The US military, which is composed of an all-volunteer force, is not suited to handle large-scale missions - such as this one - for long periods of time. As US Representative John Spratt of South Carolina warned late last year: 'We are pushing the envelope. We are using our troops pretty much to their maximum utility.'"
  • 10 January 2004: "Stretched US pilots may quit military" by Eric Rosenberg, smh.com.au: "With the first of 118,000 US troops leaving for Iraq in a rotation aimed at replacing war-weary soldiers, analysts said the US military is overstretched by deployments in Iraq and elsewhere. They said this was forcing the Pentagon to keep thousands of soldiers and reservists in uniform long beyond their release dates, with potentially dangerous effects on morale."
  • 11 January 2004: "U.S. Mortuary Sees No Let-Up from Iraq War Dead" by David Morgan, Reuters: "Nearly a month after Saddam Hussein's capture, American war dead from Iraq continue to arrive with somber regularity at the wind-swept Air Force base in Delaware that is home to the world's largest mortuary. ... According to Pentagon statistics released on Friday, 494 military personnel have died in Iraq."
  • 12 January: "Study Published by Army Criticizes War on Terror's Scope" (by the Bush administration) by Thomas E. Ricks, Washington Post: "...accusing it of taking a detour into an 'unnecessary' war in Iraq and pursuing an 'unrealistic' quest against terrorism that may lead to U.S. wars with states that pose no serious threat. ... as a result of those mistakes, the Army is 'near the breaking point.'" See the full December 2003 report by Dr. Jeffrey Record: "Bounding the Global War on Terrorism" from the Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, Carlisle, PA.
  • 19 January 2004: "A New Milestone in Iraq: Five Hundred US Soldiers Dead" by Medea Benjamin, Common Dreams.
  • 20 January 2004: "Notice to Army Reserve members: don't count on continuing to avoid mobilization," AP: "Under a plan spelled out Tuesday by Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly, chief of the Army Reserve, the mobilization system would be changed fundamentally so that Reserve members would be scheduled for mobilization every four or five years for periods of nine to 12 months."
  • 21 January 2004: "Reserve takes aim at retention. Soldiers' expectations must change, chief says" by Robert Schlesinger, Boston Globe.
  • 25 January 2004: "Stress epidemic strikes American forces in Iraq" by Peter Beaumont, Guardian/UK: "Up to one in five of the American military personnel in Iraq will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, say senior forces' medical staff dealing with the psychiatric fallout of the war. ... This revelation follows the disclosure last month that more than 600 US servicemen and women have been evacuated from the country for psychiatric reasons since the conflict started last March. ... At least 22 US soldiers have killed themselves - a rate considered abnormally high - mostly since President George Bush declared an end to major combat on 1 May last year, These suicides have led to a high-level Department of Defence investigation, details of which will be disclosed in the next few weeks."
  • 25 January 2004: "A Look at U.S. Military Deaths in Iraq," AP: "As of Friday, Jan. 23, 505 U.S. service members have died since the beginning of military operations in Iraq, according to the Department of Defense. Of those, 349 died as a result of hostile action and 156 died of non-hostile causes, the department said. The department did not provide an update Saturday. ... The British military has reported 55 deaths; Italy, 17; Spain, eight; Bulgaria, five; Thailand, two; Denmark, Ukraine and Poland have reported one each. ... Since May 1, when President Bush declared that major combat operations in Iraq had ended, 367 U.S. soldiers have died - 234 as a result of hostile action and 133 of non-hostile causes, according to an AP analysis of releases from the Defense Department and U.S. Central Command."
  • 25 January 2004: "Returning female GIs report rapes, poor care. At least 37 allege assaults by U.S. soldiers overseas, little help afterward" by Miles Moffeit and Amy Herdy, Denver Post.
  • 2 February 2004 (issue): "Blood and Honor. Kicking down doors and stomping insurgents, raiders of the One-Eighth now face a new threat: 'bloodline' attacks" by Michael Hirsh, Newsweek/MSNBC.
  • 29 January 2004: "High Suicide Rate For Iraq War GIs," CBS News.com: "As CBS News Correspondent Bob McNamara reports, since the war in Iraq began, 519 American soldiers have died in the line of duty. But there are questions about how many soldiers were suicides. ... The Army has not released the findings of a mental-health team that went to Iraq last fall. And some charge the Pentagon is not telling the whole story. ... The Pentagon counts at least 22 GI suicides in the Iraq conflict -- 19 of those Army troops -- most after major combat was declared over last May."

February 2004

  • 4 February 2004: "Deadly Attacks on GIs on the Rise in Iraq," AP: "Nearly two months have passed since Saddam Hussein's capture, yet American soldiers still are dying at a rate of more than one a day. Forty-five soldiers died in January and three more in the first three days of February. The January toll was five more than in December, despite hopes that Saddam's Dec. 13 capture would weaken the Iraqi insurgency and slow the killings from roadside bombs and other attacks."
  • 4 February 2004: "US general predicts six to 12 more months of low-level violence in Iraq," AFP: "Major General Raymond Odierno, who heads the Tikrit-based 4th Infantry Division, told reporters Wednesday ... predicted that the insurgency would be quelled within a year and played down the anti-coalition attacks plaguing the country."
  • 8 February 2004: "The terrible human cost of Bush and Blair's military adventure: 10,000 civilian deaths. UK and US authorities discourage counting of deaths as a result of the conflict. But academics are monitoring the toll and have identified a grim new milestone" by David Randall, Independent/UK. Also see Iraq Bodycount.net.
  • 9 February 2004, "Warning of Uranium Contamination Risks to NGO Staff, Coalition Forces, Foreign Contract Personnel and Civilians in Iraq", Uranium Medical Research Centre (UMRC).
  • 10 February 2004: "10,000 Iraqi Civilians Dead" by Lakshmi, AlterNet.
  • 15 February 2004: "The Permanent Scars of Iraq" by Sara Corbett, New York Times.
  • 18 February 2004: "Bush Honors Soldiers, Prepares Them for More. President Tells Members of National Guard He Won't Relent Until Threat Is Removed" by Dana Milbank, Washington Post.
  • 18 February 2004: "Maimed in Iraq, then mistreated, neglected, and hidden in America" by Frederick Sweet, Intervention Magazine.
  • 18 February 2004: "Report says military distorts war deaths" by Brian Bender, Boston Globe: "By refusing to make public its estimates of civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon has undercut international support for the US campaigns in those countries and has made the postwar stabilization of the two societies more difficult, according to an independent report to be released today [by the Project on Defense Alternatives, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington], that accuses the Pentagon of appearing indifferent to the civilian cost of war."
  • 21 February 2004: "Tents in Kuwait Serve As U.S. Mortuary" by Jim Krane, Guardian/UK.
  • 22 February 2004: "10% At Hospital Had Mental Problems", UPI: "As many as 1 of every 10 soldiers from the war on terror evacuated to the Army's biggest hospital in Europe was sent there for mental problems. ... Between 8 and 10 percent of nearly 12,000 soldiers from the war on terror, mostly from Iraq, treated at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany had 'psychiatric or behavioral health issues,' according to the commander of the hospital, Col. Rhonda Cornum. ... That means about 1,000 soldiers were evacuated for mental problems."
  • 23 February 2004 (Issue): "Making Money on Terrorism" by William D. Hartung, The Nation: "We all know that Halliburton Company is raking in billions from the Bush Administration's occupation and rebuilding of Iraq. But in the long run, the biggest beneficiaries of the Administration's 'war on terror' may be the 'destroyers,' not the rebuilders. The nation's 'Big Three' weapons makers--Lockheed Martin, Boeing Company and Northrop Grumman--are cashing in on the Bush policies of regime change abroad and surveillance at home."
  • 29 February 2004: "Iraq may become 'another Vietnam'", smh.com.au: Retired Army General Brent Scowcroft, "A former US national security adviser who served in the administration of the first president Bush, warned today that the war in Iraq threatens to grind on for years like the Vietnam conflict."

March 1-20, 2004

  • March 2004 (edition): "The Hollow Army. The U.S. military is stretched to the breaking point--and one more crisis could break it" by James Fallows, The Atlantic Monthly.
  • 1 March 2004: "'Bullet magnets' prepare for Iraqi frontline. The largest troop rotation in US history starts this month - but the reservists have little training or appetite for battle" by Suzanne Goldenber, Guardian/UK.
  • 2 March 2004: "18,000 more Guard, Reserve soldiers alerted," AP: "They will be mobilized over the next several months to conduct training before their new assignment, the Pentagon said. ... The Guardsmen will be part of a larger force, probably totaling about 100,000 active duty and reserve troops, that is expected to take over for the contingent just beginning a one-year tour in Iraq. ... The length of their mobilization depends on how much training they need as well as the requirements of the U.S. Central Command commander, Gen. John P. Abizaid, who manages the Iraq operation. ... The Pentagon said additional Guard forces will be alerted and mobilized for Iraq duty, but did not say how many or from which states. Officials said these probably would be combat support and service support units that will be mobilized after the combat units go on active duty."
  • March/April 2004 (Issue): "The Damage Done. It's easy to send soldiers off to war. It's a lot harder to face them when they come home." Photo Essay by Nina Berman; Text By Verlyn Klinkenborg, Mother Jones.
  • 11 March 2004: "Military Families vs. the War. Organized Opposition Is Small, but Some See It as Historic" by Paula Span, Washington Post. Also at MSNBC.
  • 11 March 2004: "Our Wounded Warriors" by Bob Herbert, New York Times Op-Ed: "The troops who are selflessly sacrificing their bodies and their dreams in Iraq (as troops always do in war), are not getting a lot of attention here at home. Most of us are busy with other things -- presidential politics, Martha Stewart's rise and fall, the use of steroids in baseball. ... Thousands of U.S. troops have been wounded and injured in Iraq. They have been paralyzed, lost limbs, suffered blindness, been horribly burned and so on. They are heroes, without question, but their stories have largely gone untold."
  • 13 March 2004: "U.S. Launches New Afghanistan Offensive" by Stephen Graham, AP: "The U.S. military on Saturday announced a sweeping new operation across troubled southern and eastern Afghanistan, with the aim of destroying al-Qaida and the Taliban and ultimately reeling in Osama bin Laden."
  • 16 March 2004: "Iraq war objector surrenders with fanfare" by Kirsten Schamberg, Chicago Tribune: An "...estimated 600 soldiers who have gone AWOL to avoid service in Iraq."