Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Bloodshed Has Mounted With Each U.S.-Declared Step Of Progress

Tom Lasseter of McLatchy Newspapers (formerly Knight-Ridder) has an excellent report up:

Iraq's streets tell a colder truth


Close-up view disputes U.S. talk of gains

August 17, 2006

TIKRIT, Iraq -- As security conditions continue to deteriorate in Iraq, many Iraqi politicians are challenging the optimistic forecasts of governments in Baghdad and Washington, with some worrying that the rosy views are preventing the creation of effective strategies against the escalating violence.

Their worst fear, one that some U.S. soldiers share, is that top officials don't really understand what's happening. Those concerns seem to be supported by statistics that show Iraq's violence, much of it sectarian or political in nature, has increased steadily during the past three years.

"The American policy has failed both in terms of politics and security, but the big problem is that they will not confess or admit that," said Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish member of parliament. "They are telling the American public that the situation in Iraq will be improved ... but the Iraqi citizens are seeing something different. They know the real situation."

Othman says top U.S. officials spend most of their time in the heavily guarded Green Zone in Baghdad and at large military bases across the country, and don't know what's happening in the neighborhoods and provinces beyond.

Shi'ite Muslim parliament member Jalaladin al-Saghir had a similar view.

"All the American policies have failed because the American analysis of the situation is wrong; it is not related to reality," Saghir said. "The slaughtered Iraqi man on the street conveys the best explanation."

Some U.S. soldiers in Iraq reluctantly agree.

"As an intelligence officer ... I have had the chance to move around Baghdad on mounted and dismounted patrols and see the city and violence from the ground," wrote a U.S. military officer, whose name is being withheld to protect him from possible reprimand.

"I think that the greatest problem that we deal with (besides the insurgents and militia) is that our leadership has no real comprehension of the ground truth. I wish that I could offer a solution, but I can't."


What the officials say ...

U.S. officials and the Iraqi officials they appointed continue to put on ceremonies, news conferences and speeches that suggest things are getting better.

In Tikrit last week, Gen. George Casey Jr. walked across the floor of a palace, smiling and shaking hands. It was a good day for Iraq, he said.


Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Iraq's national security adviser, stood at the lectern and, his voice rising, said to a cheering crowd of Iraqi and U.S. officials: "My dear friends, I will tell you something, the only way to end terrorism -- there is no other way -- is that we stand together."


In the week that followed, at least 110 Iraqis died in bombings and shootings, and at least eight U.S. soldiers and Marines were killed. The Iraqi death toll probably was much higher, because many bodies are undiscovered, buried or dumped in rivers.

... the numbers dispute

Nationwide statistics during the past three years suggest that U.S. efforts to secure Iraq aren't succeeding.

Various military operations have at times improved security in parts of the country, but the bloodshed has mounted with each U.S.-declared step of progress, according to figures the Brookings Institution research center compiled from news and government reports:

  • When L. Paul Bremer, then the top U.S. official in Iraq, appointed an Iraqi Governing Council in July 2003, insurgent attacks averaged 16 daily.
  • When Saddam Hussein was captured that December, the average was 19.
  • When Bremer signed the handover of sovereignty in June 2004, it was 45 attacks daily.
  • When Iraq held its elections for a transitional government in January 2005, it was 61.
  • When Iraqis voted last December for a permanent government, it was 75.
  • When U.S. forces killed terrorist mastermind Abu Musab al Zarqawi in June, it was up to 90.

Or is it an ebb and flow?

Attacks have increased in lethality as well as number: There was one multiple-fatality bombing in July 2003. Last month, there were at least 51.


In January, the month after Iraq's widely heralded national elections for a permanent government, at least 710 civilians were killed, according to a United Nations report that cited Iraqi Ministry of Health figures. The report made it clear that the actual number for January was much higher.

Six months later, Deputy Health Minister Adel Muhsin said Wednesday that about 3,500 Iraqis died in July in sectarian or political violence. He said it was the highest monthly death toll for civilians since the war started in March 2003.

Casey acknowledged in an interview with ABC News last week that things were "very difficult right now." But the remainder of his response made no reference to the trend of expanding violence.


Full article here.


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