Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Monday, September 10, 2007

  Progress in Iraq, again

By now you'll have heard that Gen. David Petraeus, in typically disingenuous testimony to Congress, announced immediately that under his leadership the military objectives of the "surge" are being met and coalition forces "have achieved progress in the security arena". He then bolstered this nonsense with a series of outlandish lies.

It's worth reprising a point I made in June in a post that, I regret, did not attract much attention: "Progress in Iraq". In it I showed that the phrase "progress in Iraq" has been a constant rhetorical trope going all the way back to the very beginning of the Bush administration's excuse-mongering about the disastrous occupation. Bush & Co. did not turn to fictional "progress" after other excuses had failed to convince. "Progress" has been their constant companion, as they have tried to explain away or deny all the unpleasant facts that are in front of our eyes.

From the outset "progress" was most definitely an excuse, nothing more. For over two months after declaring victory in Iraq, as I showed, Bush avoided acknowledging in public the burgeoning Iraqi insurgency. In late June 2003 he finally was forced to discuss it—in a radio address that emphasized the "progress in Iraq" being made. It immediately became Bush & Co.'s favorite catch-phrase for the (failure of the) occupation. And it remains ever thus.

So Gen. Petraeus ignores the nearly two dozen American casualties today and instead invokes "progress". Gen. Petraeus ignores the vast majority of Iraqis who believe that security has worsened under the "surge", and instead invokes "progress". Gen. Petraeus ignores the crumbling of the Iraqi government, and instead invokes "progress".

For some measure of the rank dishonesty of this shameless mouthpiece for the administration, consider that Gen. Petraeus has the audacity to claim in his opening remarks today that the murders of civilians are down, that the ethno-sectarian violence is down, that the number of "security incidents" (?) is at its lowest level since June of 2006.

The facts don't concur.

If there has been a drop in certain kinds of violence during the last few weeks, that is only because of the stifling heat which each summer tends to depress, briefly, the level of violence. The attacks and deaths each month this summer are at the highest levels ever experienced in Iraq during those months. An very basic point. But you will look in vain in Petraeus' testimony for any mention of it.

You also will not find him discussing another basic point that I've made over and over again: The ethnic/sectarian cleansing of Baghdad has picked up pace and advanced so far, under Petraeus' nose during this "surge", that Sunnis have been driven out of large parts of the city. No wonder, then, with some 35,000 fleeing the city in the last few months alone, that sectarian murders and bombings in Baghdad have stabilized.

You may recall that in January, inserting himself once again into partisan politics, Gen. Petraeus stated that the Democrats' proposal for withdrawal from Iraq would bring disaster:

Petraeus warned of incalculable dangers of any rapid U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq, as favored by many congressional Democrats, saying it would lead to intensified terrorist inroads, "ethnic cleansing" and a bloodbath in Baghdad.

Decidedly ironic, then, that his own command in Iraq has witnessed (many Iraqis would say abetted) the decisive stages of the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad.

Little wonder that Americans distrust Petraeus nearly as much as Iraqis.

Update: Here are two clear examples of Gen. Petraeus caught in outright lies today.

First, examine the third of the slides he presented to Congress (on page 4 of this PDF). It presents four maps of "ethno-sectarian violence" in the neighborhoods of Baghdad since December 2006. These maps pretend that the ethnic/sectarian mix of various neighborhoods has remained constant during this period. In fact, as I've commented here and elsewhere, the Sunnis have been driven headlong out of many neighborhoods since December 2006. Despite the map, there are no longer either majority Sunni or mixed Sunni-Shia neighborhoods east of the Tigris. And west of the Tigris, Sunni-dominated areas have shrunk considerably.

The maps falsify one of the most delicate of issues: The failure of the "surge" to stem ethnic/sectarian cleansing of Baghdad. If that information were brought to the fore, it would call into question the claims by Petraeus and other spokespeople for the Bush administration that the "surge" is responsible for an alleged drop in violence in Baghdad. If there is any such drop, it may be due in large part to the success of Shia attempts to drive Sunnis from their homes and into exile.

Secondly, Think Progress had the goods on another of Petraeus' lies. The General told Congress today that before the "surge" nobody could have predicted its success in transforming Anbar Province.

...our experience in Iraq has repeatedly shown that projecting too far into the future is not just difficult, it can be misleading and even hazardous. The events of the past six months underscore that point. When I testified in January, for example, no one would have dared to forecast that Anbar Province would have been transformed the way it has in the past 6 months.

The trouble is that when Petraeus testified to the Senate in January, he stated that the transformation in Anbar was already underway:

You’ve seen it, I know, in Anbar province, where it has sort of gone back and forth. And right now there appears to be a trend in the positive direction where sheikhs are stepping up and they do want to be affiliated with and supported by the U.S. Marines and Army forces who are in Anbar province. That was not the case as little as perhaps six months ago, or certainly before that.

So in January, Petraeus used the evidence of the shift in Sunni alliances to call for Congress to support a "surge". In September, Petraeus uses that evidence to claim success for the "surge".

"Shameless" may have been too kind.

crossposted from unbossed

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    Betrayed by such simplistic thinking
    How can the cause in triumph end?
    A world of wine and champagne drinking
    How with insurgency contend?

    Luxury of Petraeus lacks
    The necessary fighting grit
    If you believe that in Iraq's
    A contest--has he got the wit?

    Unto the finest mansion's door
    The General now holds Sadaam's key,
    At which gala events galore
    Are held, denouncing much Noam Chomsky.

    Over each glass of water sparkling,
    Over hors d'oeuvres on silver trays--
    Such ambiance around the bar clings
    Like decadencce in silver haze.

    Party time at headquarters is
    A time for snooty toot affairs,
    While how much is good judgement his
    That is in charge? What if he errs?

    The General is a "realist,"
    This he confirms without a doubt--
    Pity the fools as serve as grist
    To war's red mill and lack all clout.

    Theirs is no fine society
    As their Petraeus may enjoy,
    Nor theirs the rich variety
    Of treats that never seem to cloy.

    Perhaps betrayal-by-cocktail is
    A way in which our thoughts betray us
    By overconfidence: as this
    Of such a "realist" (Petraeus)!

    By Anonymous I.M.SMALL, at 7:45 PM  

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