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Mission creep

07/17/03 12:00AM By Bill Seamans
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(Host) Commentator Bill Seamans says that an expression taken from the Viet Nam war lexicon is beginning to sound applicable to Iraq.

(Seamans) Two of the most contentious words to rise out of the Vietnam tragedy were "mission creep." They were a description of a military operation creeping out of control far beyond its stated mission. The question today is - are we experiencing mission creep in Iraq? The facts tell us the answer beyond spin and denial is "yes!"

While Defense Secretary Rumsfeld understandably tries to put a positive spin on his handiwork, his own words tell us how the Iraqui mission is creeping - getting larger and larger seemingly out of control.

For instance, Rumsfeld now says that it's costing us taxpayers 3.9 Billion dollars a month to keep our troops in Iraq - that's twice the amount he told us to expect last April. Sounds like Mission creep.

Rumsfeld said on Meet the Press last Sunday that we will need more troops than the 150,000 we now have in Iraq to quell the guerilla uprising. His original estimate was that we would need only about 30,000 to stabilize the postwar period. More troops means Mission Creep.

At first Rumsfeld said the guerilla attacks were randon actions by small groups acting on their own. Now Rumsfeld says the attacks are being coordinated on a regional level and maybe even on a national level - which in Pentagon-speak is a very serious threat. That surely is Mission Creep.

Meanwhile, young Americans are being killed almost daily since President Bush declared the war was over. Retiring Gen. Tommy Franks said the guerilla attacks were running up to 25 a day. The Washington Post suggests there may be even more - alleging that many non-lethal attacks are not being reported so that we don't have an accurate figure on how many or our troops are being wounded. As the number of ambush deaths climbs toward the toll killed in the war - it's called Mission Creep.

How high must the death toll go before the public is roused out of what appears to be a lethargy of denial - until the youth next door comes home in a flag-draped coffin. Is this a kind of creeping public tolerance of the mission's rising death toll?

From another perspective one could justifiably infer that mission creep will be a big campaign problem for President Bush. If the guerillas kill more American troops than died in the war, then Bush's machismo top-gun photo op aboard the carrier Lincoln will be about as politically useful as that famous and much ridiculed 1988 campaign photo of Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis riding very uneasily aboard that army tank.

This is Bill Seamans.
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