WASHINGTON—Citing a sharp increase in casualties among combat troops in Syria, top military officers Wednesday called for the distribution of improved body armor to all soldiers in the region while also expressing regret for informing the nation of the ongoing Syrian War in this admittedly awkward way.
With 2010 already the deadliest year yet in the five-year conflict that officials reiterated could have been revealed to the American people much more gracefully, the U.S. Army's highest-ranking officer told reporters that the government should not hesitate to protect service members from enemy attacks that grow more sophisticated and lethal every day.
"If we can't keep our soldiers from harm we cannot effectively wage this war, which, it should be noted, we're truly sorry for not bringing up earlier," said Army chief of staff Gen. George Casey, adding that there was now a page on the military's website where Americans could catch up on all the developments in Operation Righteous Sword since 2005. "Unfortunately, the enemy has made significant improvements in its battlefield tactics. By the way, 'the enemy' refers to regional Syrian militias, Hezbollah paramilitary groups, and multinational fighters from al-Qaeda."
"We've already lost almost 4,000 brave men and women," Casey added. "Which actually does sound like a lot now that I'm saying it out loud to the whole nation for the first time."
Casey said that American soldiers—who the general sheepishly explained are now engaged in urban warfare with guerillas after defeating the Syrian national army and conquering the capital of Damascus in 2008—were driving vehicles that were particularly vulnerable to the powerful improvised explosive devices used by followers of the radical Syrian warrior-cleric Abd al-Rahman Kuki.
While insisting that losses of life on the scale of last June's As-Suwayda Offensive were an anomaly, Casey acknowledged that the military had been slow to adapt to the flood of al-Qaeda militants into the region over the past three years and that Americans everywhere, had they known about any of this, would have been rightly concerned about the security risks to their men and women in uniform.
Casey also said that the public, once it had fully grasped that the United States was embroiled in a third major war, would not tolerate anything less than total victory.
"The American people will always support the troops no matter where they end up standing on this war—and, again, we can't say enough how embarrassed we are to have dropped it on them like this," said Casey, who also wished to apologize to Muslim-Americans for not informing them of last December's botched midnight bombing raids on a number of mosques in Aleppo. "We'd honestly wanted everyone to hear it from the president first. It just didn't work out that way."
When pressed by reporters to explain why the military had failed to disclose the existence of the Syrian War, one senior official said that after the resounding success of the battle of Deir ez-Zor in the closing months of 2005, everyone expected a swift victory to follow, with Americans too caught up in the celebration to be upset.
Casey also claimed that with all that's been going on politically and economically over the past five years, the time to tell Americans about the deadly, escalating conflict currently engaging one third of the nation's standing army "just never seemed quite right."
Despite the call for more body armor, officials sought to reassure the public that the Syrian War was being conducted with the benefit of lessons learned from previous conflicts.
"I want to say loud and clear that this war is being fought the right way for the right reasons," said outgoing defense secretary Robert Gates, conceding that it still would have been nice if even one person involved in national security had mentioned it. "This is not another Iraq. This is not another Afghanistan, and it is certainly not another Yemen."
"Whoops," Gates added.