'Boots on the Ground' in Iraq
"We thank the 36 nations who have troops on the ground in Iraq and the many others who are helping that young democracy."
--President George Bush, television address, September 13, 2007.
The White House can never get this one straight. Today, following Britain's announcement that it is halving its troop presence in Iraq, we inaugurate the Official Fact Checker Coalition of the Willing database as a public service to administration speech-writers.
We have to concede that the figures are very confusing, and change constantly. Several members of the coalition only ever had one or two "troops" in Iraq, some in the guise of "information officers", so it can be difficult to keep track. Some countries have withdrawn their representative(s), making the official White House list out of date.
Our goal here is the same as that of the White House: to get the figure as high as possible. With this in mind, we will include lone soldiers in the database, even though technically "troops" implies at least two soldiers. By adopting the more flexible definition "boots on the ground," we can include one soldier, as long as he wears a uniform and has the appropriate footware.
On the other hand, we are sticklers for accuracy. If the lone soldier goes on leave, or is withdrawn for any reason, we will need to update the database. We ask the Washington embassies of all members of the Coalition of the Willing to flag us with troop arrivals and departures. We ask members of some of the smaller units (e.g. New Zealand, one representative at the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq) to inform us directly when he or she is leaving the country. Further reporting is required on whether some of these lonely "troops" can fairly be described as soldiers.
In the meantime, here is our official Coalition of the Willing pie chart.
Excluding the United States, the pie chart looks like this.
By our count, there are 33 countries represented in Iraq, not 36 as President Bush claimed. There are 200 Japanese troops stationed next door in Kuwait, but that is not Iraq, unless you accept Saddam Hussein's definition of Kuwait as Iraq's "nineteenth province." The Japanese pulled out of Iraq in July 2006. Iceland pulled its lone "public information officer" out of the NATO training program in Iraq on October 1. Singapore, another Coalition of the Willing member cited by the White House, dispatched a naval ship on September 1. Not clear whether Singaporean boots will touch Iraqi soil, but we will keep you all informed.
So here it is: the full, complete, most recently updated, list of countries "with boots on the ground" in Iraq.
|Countries With |
Boots on Ground
|Est. personnel |
(CRS Report & news reports)
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||46|
* Participation in NATO training.
** Participation in United Nations Assistance misson.
*** Canadian officers serve in military exchange program with U.S.
Please note: All other countries are part of the Multi-National Force - Iraq led by the U.S.
The Turkish contribution is in dispute. A Turkish embassy press official iin Washington said that, as far as he knew, there were no Turkish soldiers in Iraq but it could take "up to three weeks" to get clarification from Ankara. We wait with bated breath.
In the meantime, Britain announced this week that it is reducing its military presence in Iraq from around 5,500 soldiers to 2,500 by next spring. That will increase the size of the U.S. slice of the Coalition of the Willing pie chart to nearly 95 per cent.
The custodian of the Official Fact Checker Coalition of the Willing Database is chief researcher Alice Crites. She needs all the help you can give her in keeping the database constantly updated, so please email her at email@example.com.
The Pinocchio Test
We are feeling in a charitable mood, so we will only award President Bush one Pinocchio at this time, for exaggeration, pending further investigation.(About our rating scale.)
Washington Post editors
| October 9, 2007; 10:00 AM ET
Categories: 1 Pinocchio, Gov Watch, Iraq
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