Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Monday, September 08, 2008

  Woodward discovers that the "surge" is overhyped

In the Washington Post today Bob Woodward reports that the reduction in violence in Iraq during the past year isn't entirely due to the increase in troops, as the Bush administration and its apologists would have it. Who would figured that out were it not for Woodward's ballyhooed access to the White House? I mean, apart from all the bloggers who've been saying this for the past year.

Woodward finally gets around to telling us the obvious because he's flogging a new book. He tries his best to dress this up as news, emphasizing three factors that helped to decrease violence in Iraq in 2007. They are in order:

(i) Assassination of anti-American terrorists and milita leaders based on new intelligence "sources, methods and operations".
(ii) The Anbar "Awakening" and "Concerned Local Citizens" groups.
(iii) Moqtada al-Sadr's ceasefire.

None of this is news, although Woodward tries hard in his book to portray the first as if it were a revelation. He also makes a big mystery of the details of how the military suddenly became more successful in identifying and locating those who were leading attacks on US forces. Woodward claims he's being vague in order to preserve military secrecy. It's all just a sham, however, and a piece with the fact that the item is listed first rather than, say, second. The sources for all this new actionable information are obvious – the former Sunni insurgents who turned against Al Qaeda in Iraq and decided to allow themselves to be bribed by the US to switch sides. Of course they were going to work with the US to settle scores against the anti-American Al Qaeda and Shia militia leaders. That was one of the points of bribing them.

So Woodward's first point is just a corollary of his second.

Meanwhile Woodward neglects to mention one of the most salient facts, a point that none of his sources in the White House or in the military command can have wanted to emphasize. The sectarian/ethnic cleansing of Baghdad (in particular) continued unabated during the first half year of the "surge", in some cases right under the noses of the stepped up American patrols. By August 2007, Sunnis had been driven out of most of the areas of Baghdad that they formally inhabited. Since that was what most of the violence was about, inevitably it subsided once the Sunnis retreated to a few enclaves to the east of the river (where most of the remaining violence is now located).

The White House and military are painfully aware of this. One of the key goals of the "surge", as Bush explained, was to put more troops in Baghdad to stop the ethnic/sectarian cleansing. It failed miserably. Thus the WH and Gen. Petraeus have had almost nothing to say on the topic of cleansing since the surge began.

In fact, as I've reported, in his first report to Congress in September 2007, Petraeus used grossly misleading slides that were designed to cover up the fact that Baghdad neighborhoods had been cleansed horrifically. And the following April, without acknowledging that he'd misled Congress the previous summer, Petraeus quietly replaced those earlier, falsified slides with accurate ones. In other words, Petraeus is highly sensitive to the significance of the sectarian/ethnic cleansing.

Bob Woodward, by contrast, neglects even to mention it. As so often, he appears to be captive to those inside sources he prizes so highly.

crossposted at

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