On Martini Revolution, Alex tells us what the Bush administration wants us to hear: “[We]â€™ve taken a 180 degree turn in Iraq from bad to good, even though most conservative narratives never conceded that it was bad in the first place.” Could it be that, after 32,000 casualties and more than $462 billion, this is finally turning into the cakewalk they always wanted?
According to Reuters, the Iraqi Interior Ministry claims that violence in that country is down 70 percent since the end of June. At the same time, the Department of Defense reports a decline in American casualties compared to 2006.
Predictably, our friends on the right Frank Staheli, Matthias, and others who get their news from Michael Yon have been triumphantly pointing to the supposed turn-around. Also, there’s a piece in The Onion parodying all the dizzy upbeat spinning (using fake quotes, of course, because it’s The Onion):
“This just shows that we are getting to a point where things here aren’t absolutely appalling and are now consistently just god- awful,” U.S. Iraq commander Gen. David Petraeus said. “And that’s great.”
In truth, by some measures in some places things have improved since 2006 (bearing in mind that 2006 was the worst year of the occupation so far). By other measures, 2007 has been bloodier and more discouraging. The U.S. troop escalation predictably intensified the violence in parts of Baghdad and Diyala Province, for example. In southern Iraq, there are four Shiite militias at war with one another as the British withdraw to Kuwait. The Kurdish PKK terrorist group is at war with Turkey. The Iraqi religious civil war between Shia and Sunni rages on. In fact, it is only late October and already more US troops have been killed in Iraq in 2007 than in all of 2006. And the occupation of Iraq is costing $400 million a day.
Item: 2007 has been marked by an increased use of air strikes and artillery targeted on civilian areas. Coalition forces launched 1,140 air strikes in the first nine months of this year compared with 229 in all of last year, according to military statistics. Currently, they are calling in up to 70 air strikes a day.
Rear Admiral Greg Smith told the New York Times, â€œWe do not target civilians…. But when our forces are fired upon, as they are routinely, then they have no option but to return fire.â€ He added, â€œThe enemy has a vote here, and when he chooses to surround himself with civilians and then fire upon US forces, our forces have no choice but to return a commensurate amount of fire.â€
That indiscriminate air attacks can be defended as commensurate reveals much about the thinking of US military planners, whose views are not shared by most Iraqis. â€œWhere can anybody be safe from Bushâ€™s democracy?â€ one surviving relative, whose pregnant cousin was killed, told the Washington Post. â€œWhenever we want to open a new chapter with the Americans, to forget the past and try all over again, they drag us into violence, weapons and fighting again.”
Item: Insurgent sniper attacks have quadrupled in the past year. But the Defense Department buried this information in the FY 2008 war supplemental funding request:
The dangers from enemy sniper attacks have increased steadily during the past year, with the number of attacks quadrupling. These attacks have not only caused numerous casualties, but have had an adverse psychological effect on both Coalition forces and the Iraqi civilian populace. Victims in sniper incidents have a fatality rate of over 70 percent. A shift in enemy tactics that increases the number of sniper attacks could potentially inflict even more casualties than IEDs.
Item: This has been the worst year for mass casualty bombings, according to Iraq Body Count– double the rate for last year.
Early indications are that roughly 20,000 violent civilian deaths will be recorded for the first 9 months of 2007. By yearâ€™s end, 2007 looks to be the second-worst calendar year for violence in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, trailing only behind 2006, and still almost twice as deadly for civilians as the first year.
One measure by which 2007 quickly exceeded 2006 was in major ground-based bombing attacks which killed more than 50 civilians (and sometimes far more). Throughout all of 2006 there were 12 such attacks. … As of this writing, there have been 20 such attacks in 2007, claiming well over 2,000 civilian lives, with the worst-ever of these attacks occurring in August and killing over 500.
UPDATE: Cal Thomas waxes ecstatic on the recent partial downturn in violence in some parts of Iraq and suggests that it’s somehow bad for the Democrats.
If the United States and its coalition forces finish on top by achieving most, if not all, of their objectives in Iraq, what can the Democrats say?
That’s a mighty big if. What coalition forces? What are these supposed objectives? Let’s look at this logically. If the mission is force protection, we can accomplish that better by removing our forces from Iraq. If the mission is to reduce the overall level of violence in Iraq, the best way is to withdraw our forces. If the mission is to allow the Iraqis to establish a stable government free of the taint of foreign occupation, the only way to do that is end the occupation. And so forth and so on.
What is the reason to keep our troops in Iraq as targets for insurgents? So that President Bush can hand over the fiasco to the next administration without having to admit making the biggest blunder in the history of U.S. foreign policy.
UPDATE: Juan Cole suggests the US military may be artificially keeping casualties down this fall by resorting to more aerial bombardment and limiting offensive operations.
UPDATE: The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the total cost of the Iraq fiasco to U.S. taxpayers will come to $1.9 trillion, including $564 billion in interest. This estimate does not include indirect economic costs, such as the increase in world oil prices. Back in 2003, the Bush administration estimated the “cakewalk” would cost no more than $50 billion.
UPDATE: According to USA Today, Pentagon sources have backtracked and now say that sniper attacks are down in Iraq.
In 2006, there were 386 sniper attacks on coalition forces, according to data from the Multi-National Force-Iraq headquarters in Iraq. Through Oct. 26 of this year, there were 269 sniper attacks, the figures show.