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War in Iraq surpasses World War Two
The Sydney Morning Herald (AU)
Cynthia Banham
November 24, 2006

THEY were America's days of infamy, 60 years apart - Pearl Harbour and September 11. The first led the US into World War II, a conflict it endured for 1348 days; the second was followed by a war that from tomorrow will have lasted even longer.

America's involvement in Iraq will reach that milestone at a time when the clamour for withdrawal has never been louder, and the possibility of achieving it has never seemed so difficult. The decisive end of World War II in 1945 delivers no lessons that could be applied to a very different war in a very different era.

If anything, things seem to be getting worse, the options less appealing. Baghdad is reeling from the deadliest assault on Iraqi civilians since the start of the US invasion in March 2003. At least 200 people died and more than 250 were injured after six car bombs, mortar attacks and missiles battered the Shiite Muslim slum of Sadr City.

Plumes of black smoke and anguished screams rose above a chaotic landscape of flames and charred cars, witnesses said.

Violence later spread to other neighbourhoods in retaliatory attacks across Baghdad, even as politicians and senior religious clerics appealed for calm.

The Iraqi Government locked down the capital with an indefinite curfew and shut the airport to commercial flights.

It is a long way from Mission Accomplished - the banner that decorated a US aircraft carrier on May 1, 2003 as the US President, George Bush, proclaimed the end of "major combat operations". Forty-four months on, Americans still count the cost of the war: more than 2860 US soldiers dead, more than 21,000 injured.

Those figures do not compare with US casualties in World War II, when 406,000 American soldiers died and 671,000 were wounded. But the Iraq campaign has become a symbol of the pitfalls of a new style of conflict - a war against an ill-defined enemy with no end in sight.

American politicians have not failed to note the symbolism of the milestone.

The top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Carl Levin, pointed to it as he pushed for a phased withdrawal within four to six months.

"We are 3 years into a conflict which has already lasted longer than the Korean conflict and almost as long as World War II. We should put the responsibility for Iraq's future squarely where it belongs: on the Iraqis."

In Canberra, the Prime Minister, John Howard, acknowledged Iraq was "going through a bad phase" and that nobody was "other than horrified at the continued loss of life". Mr Howard said any change in the role of Australia's troops would depend on "what's involved in any possible British reduction" of its commitment.

"We haven't agreed to anything else and if there are any proposals that we do something differently, well they will have to be assessed on their merits and according to our judgement as to whether it's appropriate."

Agence France-Presse

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