The Pentagon is asking for $3.5 billion (in the fiscal year 2009) in order to move forward with its Future Combat Systems (FCS) program. The program is being promoted as a way to make soldiers safer and smarter on the battlefield but does little to address civilian casualties.
This $3.5 billion is important in the eyes of Army Chief of Staff General George Casey who is calling for earlier than scheduled testing of key technology in the FCS program. The two key devices being tested are the Micro Air Vehicle (MAV), which is an unmanned surveillance device, as well as the Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle(SUGV). If testing goes as planned the devices could be ready for combat five years prior to their originally scheduled 2015 arrival.
I firmly believe that any American soldier’s life that could be saved by this technology should be saved by this technology. I want to be very clear that I have nothing against protecting American lives. It is important however to view the arrival of this technology in the context of the discussion we are having in this country about whether or not to remove American troops from the Middle East.
John McCain, when asked a week ago during a town hall meeting in New Hampshire how long the troops would be in the Middle East region, he stated, “make it 100…as long as Americans are not being wounded or killed…it would be fine with me, I hope it would be fine with you…”
The way the discussion about the War in Iraq has been framed in the MSM in this election year is either you are for the continuation of the war or you are against it, and generally the only reason you can be against the Iraqi War is because American soldiers are dying.
The severe price that Iraqi civilians pay is often ignored; very rarely does the MSM cite the fact that innocent Iraqi civilians are dying every day in the crossfire of this conflict.
The most often quoted statistic of the war is the American soldier’s death toll, which as of today is 3921.
The most recent guess at the Iraqi death toll released today by the World Health Organization is between 104,000 and 223,000. So while the American troop death toll has every dead US soldier accounted for, as they should be. The civilian death toll has a range of 119,000 human lives. And this estimate by the World Health Organization is conservative when compared to Johns Hopkins University study which estimated the Iraqi civilian death toll at 600,000 in mid-2006.
Many civilians died in the initial bombing by coalition forces back in 2003, but a substantial number of civilians continue to die by the hand of American soldiers. According to IraqiBodyCount.com, in a five month span 600 Iraqi civilians were killed by US forces, with 15 women and children being killed in a single air raid in October of last year. Most often US forces do not intentionally kill civilians but it inevitably happens when a military force occupies urban terrain where civilians are residing. Read this government document of a fisherman’s death for a perfect example of how easily life is taken in this environment: http://www.aclu.org/natsec/foia/pdf/Army0550_0554.pdf
Even rarer than the mention of the Iraqi civilian death toll is the mention of the Iraqi civilian refugee population which has now reached an estimated 2,000,000 in Syria and 800,000 in Jordan.
And then the Pentagon and Administration still have the nerve to quote the reason for the reduction of violence being the US troop surge. Even a casual observer when shown these numbers would conclude that the reduction of violence is directly linked to the reduction of 3,000,000 people in the region.
So as the technology coming out of the Pentagon improves and begins to save more and more US soldier’s lives let us not forget the full scope of the tragedy of warfare and military occupation when discussing decisions to be made in regards to American foreign policy.