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The chaos in Iraq is out of control, and the troops are paying the price

This sad AP graphic really tells you how bad it is.

Charts show U.S. military deaths and injuries as well as attacks on U.S. forces by month for 2004 and 2003; includes chart showing states with most troops killed so far this year.

In the accompanying article, Violence Against Iraq Troops Takes Toll, it’s clear that we’ve moved into a phase that requires some serious self-deluding spin to say things are going well.

The prospects in Iraq are grim,” Dan Goure, an analyst at the private Lexington Institute think tank in Washington, said Thursday. He assessed the conflict as a standoff, with no clear indication that either side will achieve victory in the coming year.

“Neither side can truly come to grips with the other so far and defeat them,” Goure said.

U.S. commanders constantly analyze the insurgents’ tactics and make adjustments. Yet although U.S. forces have found tons of hidden weaponry and ammunition, the insurgents kill almost daily with makeshift bombs known as improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. They plant the bombs along roads or stuff them into cars for suicide attacks.

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sorenson, a senior Army acquisition official, said Thursday it has taken the Army many months to counter the IED threat because war planners had not foreseen its scope.

The violence of the IEDs, the sophistication of some of those IEDs, was never anticipated,” Sorenson said. “I can certainly attest to that.”

The toll is clear.

Pentagon statistics show that for all of 2004, at least 838 U.S. troops died in Iraq. Of that total, more than 700 were killed in action, by far the highest number of American battlefield deaths since at least 1980, the first year the Pentagon compiled all-service casualty statistics.

Theresa Poulin (4th L at rear) follows the casket of her son, Maine Army National Guard Staff Sergeant Lynn Poulin, out of the Notre Dame Church after funeral services in Waterville, Maine December 30, 2004. Sergeant Poulin was among 22 soldiers and civilians killed in an explosion in their dining hall December 21 in Mosul, Iraq. (Reuters)

It almost certainly is the highest KIA total for any year since the Vietnam War.

U.S. deaths averaged 62 per month through the first half of the year. But since June 28, when U.S. officials restored Iraqi sovereignty and dissolved the U.S. civilian occupation authority, that average has jumped to about 78.

Deaths among U.S. National Guard and Reserve troops are rising, reaching a single-month peak of 27 in November. At least 17 were killed in December. Nearly 200 Guard and Reserve troops have died since the war began, and more than one-third of those deaths happened in the past four months.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding