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Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 10/ 9/2007

'Boots on the Ground' in Iraq

By Washington Post editors
"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 Facts

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 Some countries have withdrawn their representative(s), making the official White House list out of date.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 If the lone soldier goes on leave, or is withdrawn for any reason, we will need to update the database.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.

[Graph: Countries With

Excluding the United States, the pie chart looks like this.

[Graph: Non-U.S. Countries With

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)
United States169,000
United Kingdom5,500
South Korea1,200
Poland1,200
Australia900
Georgia850
Romania605
El Salvador 380
Mongolia 160
Bulgaria 154
**Fiji 150
Latvia 125
Albania 120
Czech Republic 99
Azerbaijan 90
Lithuania60
Tonga55
Denmark50
Bosnia and Herzegovina46
Armenia46
Ukraine43
Estonia40
Macedonia35
Kazakhstan27
*Hungary16
Moldova11
*Portugal10
*Italy8
Slovakia6
Slovenia2
*Turkey2
*Netherlands2
***Canada2
**New Zealand1
*Iceland0
Singapore0
Japan0

KEY
* 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 factchecker@washpost.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.)

By Washington Post editors  | October 9, 2007; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  1 Pinocchio, Gov Watch, Iraq  
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Comments

excellent report. please keep this database as up-to-date as you can. i will refer others to it often.

Posted by: mamund | October 9, 2007 11:43 AM | Report abuse

The president's exaggeration of these numbers is probably due to leftover 9/11 trauma complex that he has never been able to acknowledge or overcome.

Posted by: Victor Kelley | October 9, 2007 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Great work! Also of interest would be learning where all of these other "coalition forces" are stationed in Iraq. Certainly one hasn't heard of any non-US or non-UK casualties in a long, long time...and there were very few to begin with. My understanding is that these powerful allies are mostly there with no-fight instructions from their own governments as well as strong commitments from the USA that they will never be put in harm's way. This isn't exactly WWII, or even Korea. Also, I'd be curious to know to what extent we are "subsidizing" the presence of individuals from such poorer nations as Moldova and Tonga?

Posted by: Anthony | October 9, 2007 1:06 PM | Report abuse

This entry by the Fact Checker points up the difference between fact and truth - the truth is that the vast majority of these countries are in it for what they can get out of the United States in exchange for their nominal presence - if the infinitesimal cost of sending 50 noncombatant troops to Iraq is balanced against the worth of most-favored-nation trading status with the U.S., increased foreign aid, staying on the good side of this nutcase administration rather than the bad side, then sending the 50 troops is a no-brainer. This is a case of many opportunistic countries recognizing the chance to get some real leverage with the U.S. and jumping at it - they'd be stupid not to. Confusing this with real commitment, however, is idiotic and sophomoric.

If the Fact Checker is going to pursue the letter rather than the spirit of any set of circumstances he chooses to address, we'd be better off without him.

Posted by: achilli | October 10, 2007 9:59 AM | Report abuse

When the Fact Checker column first appeared in the Post, I was delighted: an honest, objective evaluation of weighty claims made by people in power. I've been greatly disappointed, however, in the subjectivity of recent posts.

The hard line taken against the Moveon.org ad and the Clinton "out of Iraq" promise contrast with the author's decision to take the position that "Our goal here is the same as that of the White House" and make a rating based on being "in a charitable mood."

Sadly, it appears that the "Fact Checker" is more of an opinion blog than its name implies.

Posted by: Crispin Pierce | October 10, 2007 12:09 PM | Report abuse

i wholeheartedly agree with crispin.
the so-called fact checker takes a decidedly harsh tone with anyone who questions the administration, while always assuming a "charitable" or patient stance with the administration.
the idea that bush's lies about boots on the ground only deserves one pinocchio is ridiculous. what makes the lie particularly egregious is that bush repeats some form of that lie repeatedly. the repeated stating of untrue facts is no exaggeration. it is a lie. and it deserves the strongest condemnation.
and what is worse, an advocacy group like moveon making claims that could be argued or elected officials who make policy repeatedly telling lies to the public?
again, contrast this rating to how he reacted to and rated moveon.org.
what a sham!

Posted by: frankie d | October 10, 2007 4:12 PM | Report abuse

When factcheckers says "boots on the ground", I want to know who's actually fighting or putting their lives on the line, not the paper pushers sitting behind a desk in the green zone or some safe corner far from the fighting in Iraq.

Posted by: Cheryl | October 12, 2007 7:13 AM | Report abuse

I believe W means 36+ countries because of the mercenary "boots" from different countries his administration has outsourced large roles to - the Blackwaters of the world.

In that sense, it is correct to say 1 Pinocchio, but then you see the 93% slice of the pie, and realize what a joke "Coalition of the Willing" really is...

Posted by: Ace | October 15, 2007 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Just out of curiosity, what would the rating be if you weren't in a charitable mood?

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