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Iraq’s Deadly “Improvement”

0fca07a3-af2a-4221-90d3-b4ada785fe6f.jpgThe new issue of Newsweek announces “A Decline in Bloodshed” in Iraq and asks:

The crucial question is, why? Administration spokesmen have publicly attributed the decline in violence to the success of the administration’s troop “surge” policies as well as military operations against Al Qaeda in Iraq. Other factors include improvements to Iraqi security forces and growing revulsion among Sunni tribal leaders over jihadi attacks on their communities. The decline in Iranian-backed violence is harder to explain—and despite the new data, some officers on the ground in Baghdad still aren’t buying it.

Perhaps Newsweek would like to take a few reporting tips from Hubris Sonic and Red Dan at The Group News Blog – they have analyzed the real data (go to their post for the charts):

No, what we are seeing here is a shell game. The violence is not dropping. Its ending. It’s ending wherever we withdraw from and spiking were we are digging in. It only appears to drop because violence in Al Anbar, Basra, Najaf, Karbala, Wasit, Dhiqar, etc, etc, has ended. This drop obscures the spike in Baghdad.

This information shows a trend up in the Baghdad region and shows that Iraq does not devolve into civil war when the US pulls out. Does not let al Qaeda take over in their absence. In fact the complete opposite, the local security forces quickly run to ground AQI and end them. It seems once the US forces leave the area the score settling and inter-tribal violence ends. Life seems cheap with tanks and machine guns on every corner. Remove those visual and physical reminders and people work out their differences with something other than a pistol and a power-drill. So when some tells you we have to stay, ask them why.

This is a very important analysis but I would add that the spike in Baghdad is not simply caused by “those visual and physical reminders” but by the actions of the “dug in” US forces – just look at what happened overnight in Sadr City:

Two toddlers have been killed by US air strikes which left another 13 people dead and at least 69 wounded in a Shi’ite stronghold of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

As doctors treated wounded men and boys, the bodies of the two young children, one in a nappy, lay on crumpled blankets in the morgue of Imam Ali hospital in Sadr City – the main stronghold in Baghdad for the Mehdi Army, a Shi’ite militia loyal to cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Clouds of black smoke rose from Sadr City as sirens wailed, heavy gunfire echoed and US attack helicopters circled overhead, according to television reports.

A visibly-upset man held up a photo of one of the dead children in a house where one of the toddlers lived and pointed to bloodstained mattresses and blood-splattered pillows.

Outside the house, a woman said: “We were waking in the morning and all of a sudden rockets landed in the house and the children were screaming.”

The US military claimed to be unaware of civilian casualties and said:

The statement by the US military said: “Coalition forces estimate that 49 criminals were killed in three separate engagements during this operation.”

The Iraqi government is very aware of these deaths – and is protesting the use of excessive force:

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbaugh says Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki quickly called in the U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus.

He says during their meeting, the prime minister filed a formal protest against what is seen in Baghdad as a use of excessive force.

“You cannot kill the civilians in this way,” said Ali al-Dabbaugh. “I do understand there are a lot of people violating our law and then you have criminals. But do not use the power this way.”

And so we have a rather simple logic puzzle here: If the data shows that violence in Iraq goes down, in fact virtually ceases, when US troops leave an area – and spikes, as it is doing in Baghdad, when US troop presence surges – and if your goal is ending the violence – then QED: Leave.


Take a moment to check the NYT Video OpEd today from the directors of Meeting Resistance – it’s important. I’ve sent the filmakers a note to see if they can visit with us sometime soon. Meanwhile, check the listing of screenings – this is a must see.

Photo: Ajeel Ali, second left, is comforted by friends after his brother, Ismael, 10, was killed in an overnight raid in the Shiite enclave of Sadr City in Baghdad, Iraq on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2007. (AP Photo/Adil al-Khazali) 

Extra big h/t to Jane for the link to The Group News Blog!

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Siun is a proud Old Town resident who shares her home with two cats and a Great Pyrenees. She’s worked in media relations and on the net since before the www, led the development of a corporate responsibility news service, and knows what a mult box is thanks to Nico. When not swimming in the Lake, she leads a team working on sustainability tools.

Email: media dot firedoglake at gmail dot com