Wishful Thinking and Iraq
We’ve got “troops coming home from Iraq!” (of course it’s only 5,000 and that leaves over 162,000 not counting mercenaries.) And “refugees are heading home!” – but you have to look hard to find the UNCHR report that:
According to a survey done by our staff in Syria, there are many reasons for returns to Iraq other than considerations of improved security. Of some 110 Iraqi families UNHCR spoke with in Syria the majority said they are returning because they are running out of money and/or resources, face difficult living conditions, or because their visas have expired. As a result of recent visa restrictions, a number of Iraqis have been unable to shuttle back and forth between Iraq and Syria to get additional resources, make some money or collect food distributions or pensions. The incentives offered by the Iraqi government of some $700-$800 to return home, as well as free bus and plane rides, have also played a role in returns. The survey also highlighted that this is the first time in recent years that Iraqi refugees are actually discussing return, which was not the case a few months ago.
UNHCR staff also did quick interviews with returnees in Baghdad, who cited economic difficulties caused by their long displacement as a major reason for going home. Many had run out of or nearly depleted their savings. Some returned as it was the last chance to get their children back into Iraqi schools before the end of the first term. Some were indeed encouraged by the reports regarding improvement of security, but many expressed concern about longer-term security, citing the fact that militias are still around and many areas remain insecure. People have mainly been returning to areas where they feel that local security forces are working properly and are maintaining control.
Still, conservative editorials tout all this success!
Something remarkable is happening in Iraq. A war that America and its allies seemed in danger of losing just a year ago now appears to offer a far more hopeful prospect. The reasons for this dramatic turnaround are varied but, taken together, they provide realistic hope that the U.S. mission in Iraq can yet succeed.
The U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and his deputies are properly cautious about all this, warning there is still a long way to go. But it’s just as clear that recent months have seen stunning progress.
The UK’s Gordon Brown is upbeat:
“I think, in Iraq, that – while there have been huge difficulties in previous years and it is undoubtedly the case that this has divided public opinion right across the world, whether in Australia, Britain or America – people are now seeing Iraq in a different position from where it was even a few months ago,” he added.
Even a leading Democratic advisor is singing this song in the New York Times article “As Democrats See Security Gains in Iraq, Tone Shifts.” One of Hilary Clinton’s foreign policy advisors – our old friend Michael O’Hanlon says:
“The politics of Iraq are going to change dramatically in the general election, assuming Iraq continues to show some hopefulness,” said Michael E. O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who is a supporter of Mrs. Clinton’s and a proponent of the military buildup. “If Iraq looks at least partly salvageable, it will be important to explain as a candidate how you would salvage it — how you would get our troops out and not lose the war. The Democrats need to be very careful with what they say and not hem themselves in.
All this good news of course ignores some key facts:
During an Oct. 30 House Appropriations Committee hearing regarding a recent Government Accountability Office study that found that overall attacks in Iraq have declined, director of international affairs and trade, Joseph A. Christoff told the committee that the GAO’s figures do “not tak[e] into consideration the fact that there might be fewer attacks [on civilians] because you have ethnically cleansed neighbourhoods.”
Or as David Swanson says more strongly at After Downing Street:
If you kill and exile and segregate and imprison enough Iraqis and then fudge the reporting on the violence, what will happen? The New York Times will claim success…
Perhaps the comment by Mohammad Sammy, an aid worker for the Iraqi Red Crescent, to Ali al-Fadhily, Dahr Jamail’s Iraq based colleague about currrent conditions in Fallujah sums it up best:
“You, people of the media, say things in Fallujah are good. Then why don’t you come and live in this paradise with us? It is so easy to say things for you, isn’t it?”
Photo: Taken by the GorillasGuides team, the photo above – “Scenes From An Iraki Childhood – Waiting for food charity Basrah” shows a recent food distribution in Basrah. The team notes that the recipients line up as follows: Children who are orphaned, then widows with children, then widows. Follow the link to see the tiny amount of food they receive when their turn comes. Perhaps a few of the surge cheerleaders would like to subsist on the equivalent for a week or so – it might help sharpen their understanding of all this “improvement.”
PS: Two videos worth checking out:
Howie passed this around in email last week – Art of Mental Warfare
and Amnesty International’s new Unsubscribe campaign.