Sunday, September 05, 2004
According to the new Time poll, 53% trust Bush to handle the situation in Iraq, while 41% trust Kerry; 50% approve of the way President Bush is handling the situation in Iraq, while 46% disapprove. Far be it from us to suggest that Mr. Bush's rapidly improving numbers result from the American media's utter dereliction in covering Iraq since the June handover of "sovereignty." From the Washington Post:
About 1,100 U.S. soldiers and Marines were wounded in Iraq during August, by far the highest combat injury toll for any month since the war began and an indication of the intensity of battles flaring in urban areas.From the Guardian :
U.S. medical commanders say the sharp rise in battlefield injuries reflects more than three weeks of fighting by two Army and one Marine battalion in the southern city of Najaf. At the same time, U.S. units frequently faced combat in a sprawling Shiite Muslim slum in Baghdad and in the Sunni cities of Fallujah, Ramadi and Samarra, all of which remain under the control of insurgents two months after the transfer of political authority.
"They were doing battlefield urban operations in four places at one time," said Lt. Col. Albert Maas, operations officer for the 2nd Medical Brigade, which oversees U.S. combat hospitals in Iraq. "It's like working in downtown Detroit. You're going literally building to building."
The sharp rise in wounded was, for the first time, accompanied by a far less steep climb in battlefield fatalities. Since the start of the war in March 2003, 979 U.S. troops have died in Iraq and almost 7,000 have been wounded. Until last month, however, the monthly tallies of fatalities and wounded rose and fell roughly in proportion . . . .
Commanders said they had no immediate concrete explanation for why the number of wounded increased so sharply without a comparable rise in combat deaths.
"All I know is I've got more patients here," said Col. Ryck Beitz, commander of the 31st Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad, which admitted 425 patients last month, a new high . . . .
There were also indications that troops might have suffered more severe wounds in August than in previous months.
At the Baghdad hospital, staff members are accustomed to seeing the most severely injured soldiers and Marines. The hospital, the only one in Iraq where the military's brain and eye surgeons work, handles the worst head wounds. Normally, perhaps half the patients who come to the emergency room qualify as "acute" cases, a term that indicates severity and urgency.
In August, however, the rate of acute cases jumped to three of four ER patients.
"It was intense," said Lt. Col. Greg Kidwell, who oversees the emergency room at the hospital.
The primary task of the British troops - and the Italians, Dutch, Japanese, Lithuanians and Norwegians alongside them - is to guarantee security for 4.5 million people. In many areas Iraqis can go about their daily lives without fear, but the army flew The Observer the short distance between Basra airport and the city in a helicopter because the road is too dangerous. Intelligence officers spoke of a continuing threat from al-Qaeda-style militants, criminal racketeers and highly professional terrorists. The attacks by al-Mahdi ceased only when peace came to the shrine city of Najaf, 250 miles north. And, though there have been significant improvements in recent months, the critical oil infrastructure still needs hundreds of British troops to defend it. All this in a predominantly Shia area oppressed by Saddam.
Alongside security is reconstruction. Working to doctrines developed over decades of counter-insurgency warfare, the army stresses 'consent building'. In stark contrast to their US counterparts, every British soldier remains 'on message', talking of 'winning hearts and minds'.
A young corporal boasted that at least half his squad had basic Arabic. 'The Yanks will just start shooting. We know better,' he said.