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Tilting at Windmills

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February 1, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

IRAQ UPDATE....Here are the monthly civilian casualty figures from Iraq, once again plucked from our friend Engram, who is plenty pissed:

What you see is yet another month of dramatically reduced casualties, an outcome that almost no one thought possible as recently as August of 2007 (when violence was still very high). Why isn't this chart (or one just like it) on the front page of every newspaper in America? Because it is not important news? Or because it is important news that would help Bush?

....The number of lives being saved per month now exceeds 1000 according to ICCC. However, the real number is closer to 2000 per month according to more complete statistics maintained by Iraq Body Count....Neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama seem to care at all about a reduction in civilian casualties of 2000 per month. Their hearts have become so hard that they cannot even concede the remarkable progress that has obviously occurred as a result of George Bush's troop surge. They should be congratulating George Bush for his excellent judgment on this issue, and they should be apologizing both for their own misguided assessment of the situation and for their callous disregard for innocent human life in Iraq.

Matt Yglesias, noting the news that the highly touted de-Baathification law is not only a bad law, but probably will be vetoed anyway, has a different take:

Meanwhile, if I've said it once I've said it a thousand times — the [stated] purpose of the surge was to lay the groundwork for political reconciliation, reconciliation looks further away than ever and the surge is about to run out of time. That's a failed policy.

The reduction in violence is important news, and unlike Engram it seems to me that it's gotten a fair amount of attention — although obviously the news cycle ebbs and flows on this. Needless to say, though, I think Matt has the better of the argument. The point of the surge really was to provide "breathing space" for political reconciliation, and there's just been no movement on that score. Unless decades of tribal history in Iraq suddenly turn around in the next few months and the Maliki government produces a genuine and lasting peace — something there's no sign of so far — violence will continue into the foreseeable future and the surge will indeed have been a failure.

Would things have turned out differently if we'd given the Iraqis a real incentive to make progress by setting out a credible timeline for withdrawal? There's no way to know. What we do know, however, is that in the absence of a timeline the Iraqis have done nothing — and that's even with the tailwind of a dramatic reduction in violence. For five years we've tried the same policy of open-ended support over and over, and for five years it hasn't worked. It's well past time to try something different.

Kevin Drum 1:58 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (79)

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Comments

"What we do know, however, is that even with the reduction in violence, without a timeline the Iraqis have done nothing. For five years we've tried the same policy of open-ended support over and over, and for five years it hasn't worked."

It seems that you make Matt Yglesias' argument for him.

Posted by: john on February 1, 2008 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

I am glad the violence is down, but it seems odd to look at four hundred deaths a month and say a thousand or two thousand lives have been saved.

And while I one of the few liberals who believes we have an obligation to clean up our mess as best we can before leaving, I cant help but notice that the argument regarding the surge or our presence in Iraq is completely divorced from what is in our national interest.

I dont really see how violence in Iraq is more important to America than violence in Kenya. Iraq might need the US but the US does not need Iraq.

Posted by: Jimmy on February 1, 2008 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

Not to mention the incredible insensitivity of bragging for political gain to America that troop casualties are down thanks to the wisdom and foresight of The Great Bush. I'm sure the families of about 500 troops still dying every month will understand.

Posted by: Howard on February 1, 2008 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

It might be callous or naive or shortsighted on my part, but how much praise this Engram guy believes Bush should get for getting better on his attempts to fix a mess he himself decided to bring about, against better advice and by means of false premises, to solve a problem that would not be solved by it?

Posted by: Tricolaco on February 1, 2008 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

It stands to reason that political progress can't happen the very day after violence goes down. An atmosphere of reduced violence probably has to mentally sink in, which probably doesn't happen until a few months have passed, before people begin to unbend.

Posted by: captcrisis on February 1, 2008 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

Civilians, not troops. Sorry for the fast fingers.

Posted by: Howard on February 1, 2008 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

We have been told that there are goalposts around here somewhere.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on February 1, 2008 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

I think a better argument against the surge than the lack of political provess is the fact that it's unsustainable.

Sure, casualties are down. But we're keep almost the entire U.S. military deployed as an occupation force in Iraq to do that, and the U.S. military was not organized to be able to permanently keep over 100,000 troops as an occupation force in a violent foreign country. Sure, deaths are down now, but we'll have to withdraw troops eventually, and then will it get worse again? Probably, yes. And even though we haven't withdrawn surge troops yet, the casualties among both Iraqi civillians and the U.S. personnel have started to inch up again.

Of course, lack of political progress among the Iraqis will only aggravate the inability to sustain the success of the surge.

Posted by: Swan on February 1, 2008 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

As Sen. Obama said last night:

"But the notion that somehow we have succeeded as a consequence of the recent reductions in violence means that we have set the bar so low it's buried in the sand at this point.

"We -- and I said this before -- we went from intolerable levels of violence and a dysfunctional government to spikes and horrific levels of violence and a dysfunctional government, and now two years later we're back to intolerable levels of violence and a dysfunctional government."

Posted by: Steph on February 1, 2008 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, civilian deaths are down to about they were two years ago.

How about Engram extending the chart out to say, February 2003 and then see what progress is like.

This is like Bush claiming the stock market hit record highs after it caught up to where it was when he took office.

The war and occupation are a disgrace, no amount of surging will undo that

Posted by: Martin on February 1, 2008 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, civilian deaths are down to about they were two years ago.

How about Engram extending the chart out to say, February 2003 and then see what progress is like.

This is like Bush claiming the stock market hit record highs after it caught up to where it was when he took office.

The war and occupation are a disgrace, no amount of surging will undo that

Posted by: Martin on February 1, 2008 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Why doesn't "Engram" ask why Bush didn't send enough troops in the first place? Fuck him.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on February 1, 2008 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

It is gratifying to see that the monthly civilian casualty rates are down, for whatever reason. However, while this is coincident with the surge, it would be premature to conclude that the two are causally related without considering other possible causes of a decrease in the civilian death rate. The end results of ethnic cleansing of neighborhoods and the wide scale hiring of unemployed Iraqi men by US forces are two alternative causes, amongst many others, that should be considered.

In any event, the surge has not yet achieved its major long term goal of facilitating political reconciliation, a fact that does not bode well for the future.

Posted by: Platypus on February 1, 2008 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

The rate of civilian deaths now is nearly exactly what it was in 2005.

Is there anybody who claimed in 2005 that the war had essentially been fully won, the insurgents had been routed, security was stable, and it was near time to reduce troops and get out?

Posted by: frankly0 on February 1, 2008 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

My neighbor was always pissing me off, giving me the finger and I suspect hoarding guns in his basement. I took to chopping down his rose bushes to get even and prove I wasn't intimidated. Then I found out those guns in his basement didn't exist. I continued to chop down the rose bushes though, albeit it at much reduced rate. Now the goddamned rest of the neighborhood wants to harp on my continued chopping, totally unwilling to acknowledge the noticeable ebb in my swinging of the axe. Buncha whiny fucking liberals, I swear!

Posted by: steve duncan on February 1, 2008 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

How many factors go into explaining this trend? The carving up of Iraq into semi-autonomous zones, the blood satisfaction of groups, the exodus of huge portions of the population, paying off combatants, the decline of foreign occupation in the south, political intervention by Iraq's neighbors, the overall reduction of American exposure and better occupation tactics must all play a part in reduction of civilian deaths. Grown ups cannot see this as a vindication of Dick Cheney, the liberal hawks, and the invasion of Iraq. The brutality continues; it is a failed state. Life was better under the tyranny of Saddam, for tyranny is better than anarchy.

The invasion and continued occupation of Iraq is classic imperialism. It is immoral and counter to everything the United States claims to stand for. Perhaps it is a necessity for oil, the undemocratic oil states, Israel, and American prestige, but it is counter to liberty and the ideal of national self-determination.

Posted by: bellumregio on February 1, 2008 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

Why is it assumed that the civilian casualty rate would remain steady anyway, considering that people are leaving Iraq, learning how to secure themselves in Iraq, and so on?

Being the "size of California", so I hear, there are only so many civilians to kill, and once the initial feast of killing takes place, those who remain are going to take measures to secure themselves, whether or not there is a "surge" that will not be able to continue endlessly, and whose effectiveness will not be measured by civilian casualties, which were never prioritized as a measurement by the military in the first place, or prioritized by the defenders of the invasion, but will instead be measured by achieving its stated goals of creating room for political reconciliation and rooting out extremists (and who knows if the extremists are really rooted out or just laying low?).

Posted by: Jimm on February 1, 2008 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, one other thing. OF COURSE increasing the number of troops had a greater chance of bringing down violence than withdrawing them - this is what troops (when acting as police) are for. However, this looks to me a bit like throwing money at a problem; more often than not it will suffice, but it doesn't mean it's necessarily the best available option. It certainly could be, in this case, the only option, but even a complete and total lay person like me on these matters would think that increasing troops would make perfect sense as a means to reduce violence. I'd be surprised, in fact, if Clinton or Obama (don't know if that's what happened) had argued for the contrary - that withdrawing troops would REDUCE violence, simply on the assumption that the troop presence is what causes violence in the first place. It would be like arguing that cutting taxes increases overall government revenues.

Posted by: Tricolaco on February 1, 2008 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

The number of lives being saved per month now exceeds 1000 according to ICCC. And Engram is pissed that no one seems to care.

I empathize with Engram. I stopped beating my wife, and she is still pissed with me.


Obama and Clinton and Liberals are really very stupid not to care about the reduction in Iraqi deaths.

Posted by: gregor on February 1, 2008 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

I think it's great that violence in Iraq is down. But what I can't understand is why no conservatives are willing to take the next step and say that the reduction in violence means that we're winning and we'll be able to bring the troops home soon.

If the GOP nominee would talk about the gains from the surge in terms of bringing about an end to the war, he'd probably win the election.

Posted by: Boots Day on February 1, 2008 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

Two 9/11's a year and we're supposed to brag about the number of lives we're saving.

Posted by: Bloix on February 1, 2008 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

The main question regarding an increased troop presence causing less civilian casualties, if one accepts that argument as sound (i.e. logical and appropriate, which it isn't), is will it last once the there is no longer a situation with increased troops?

Unless you argue like McCain for a 100 year surge, sooner or later the actual issues in Iraq causing people to kill each other will need to be resolved.

Posted by: Jimm on February 1, 2008 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

Once again Bush's escalation is proving to be a complete failure . Thousands of Iraqis are still dying, Millions of Iraqis are still refugees, Iraq infrastructure still in shambles, Iraq society still devastated, Americans are still dying for no good cause and billions and trillions of dollars wasted for no good purpose.

This war was one of the worst foreign policy blunders in American history. It's a mystery why there are still people in the country who continue to support it, but McCain will find them each and every one plus those that don't.


Posted by: Mike on February 1, 2008 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

If Bush had proposed invading Iraq but made it clear that we would likely still be in the country 5 years later with the greatest accomplishment being a reduction in violence, and no political reconciliation, it would have gone worse than his Social Security privatization plan.

If a Democrat had proposed it, s/he would have been impeached.

Posted by: clb72 on February 1, 2008 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

Also, one could look at the casualty numbers for our American troops, compare them to the so-called declining numbers of civilian casualties, and ask oneself if the ratio between the two is more or less acceptable (i.e. is our presence and our casualties reflective of an improving or deteriorating situation in terms of value?).

If we lost 40 troops and Iraq lost 120 civilians, that would mean that the general level of violence was 1:3 in terms of troops:civilians. If that ratio were to come down to 1:2 or 1:1, would that be necessarily an improvement or deterioration of our strategy in terms of the value of human life and "treasure" this course of action is costing us, especially if the actual number of deaths is still unacceptably high?

As if our strategy has ever allowed itself to be measured by the value of human life...

Posted by: Jimm on February 1, 2008 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

An Iraqi woman used to have to worry about getting raped by some psychopath working under Saddam Hussein's orders. Now that we have "liberated" them, the same woman (if she's still alive) can worry about getting raped by her next-door neighbor (who also may even be a guy who used to work for Saddam Hussein. Big improvement.

Right now the average American is paying about $2,000 for Republican PR. We are not leaving Iraq simply to make Bush look good. Someday we will leave and then the violence will be as terrible as it used to be again. Many Iraqis left already because they know Iraq is in a bad situation and the infrastructue is terrible.

Many Iraqis do not even have clean water, electricity, or police forces to protect them. They don't have these things not just because of lack of security, but because the crooked Republican-crony contractors who were supposed to supply these things stole the money and goofed the jobs. The surge still hasn't fixed the problem of providing these needs.

Posted by: Swan on February 1, 2008 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

I don't care whether the surge is working or not, as a political point. But like above, I believe that the US has an obligation to fix what we broke over there, if it costs us 1 trillion dollars more.

But do war-whores like Engram, who surely supported the war on Arabs because he perceived a tiny threat against his tribe (U.S. or Israel), and didn't, frankly, care what happened to Arabs... do war whores like him admit that the war was a colossal mistake, immoral and criminal, BECAUSE it has killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians?

He wants war opponents to admit that the surge is working because fewer civilian deaths have resulted since its inception, so obviously civilian deaths is his key metric and concern.

**I've never read the clown Engram, but 3 seconds on his site and you know you're reading a TNR style "liberal" hawk for whom "everything changed on 9/11". He links to Little Green Footballs, while claiming to be a liberal. Somehow I doubt his "concern" for the poor beleaguered Iraqi people. Fuck-off.

BTW, continuous links to people like Engram and TNR, along with Kevin's initial support for the war against Arabs, is a reason I believe Mr. Drum is a closet liberal hawk, and discount most everything he says concerning foreign policy.

Posted by: luci on February 1, 2008 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

I know its impolitic to call peope names anonymously over the internet, but who is this idiot Engram? Liberal professor, my ass.

"Only" 400 Iraqis are dying every month, and we're supposed to congratulate Bush for "saving" a thousand Iraqi lives a month?

How about we condemn the war criminal for 600,000 civilian deaths, increasing at the now slower rate of at least 400 a month.

Posted by: Paul on February 1, 2008 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

Never before has a country kept such a big occupation force in a foreign country for so long, and accomplished so little with it, either for the occupied or occupying nation's good.

Posted by: Swan on February 1, 2008 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

However, other stated purposes of the surge included defeating al Qaeda in Iraq, reducing the violence, and allowing the withdrawal of American troops. These goals have been fulfilled to a greater degree than most of us expected.

Oh really?

I hadn't noticed any "progress" in terms of being more able to withdraw troops, on whatever metric that might be established, or in defeating Al Qaeda in Iraq, who can simply at any time just melt away and lay low if the military presence is too heavy.

Were this an American state, we could be confident in being able to keep up this military presence indefinitely until we really rooted out the cancer, but unless you subscribe to 100 years in Iraq, or at least 20 years, there will be no similar level of confidence, or chemistry/cooperation between the military and the civilian populace (actually this latter will never happen).

Posted by: Jimm on February 1, 2008 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

"Why isn't this chart (or one just like it) on the front page of every newspaper in America? Because it is not important news?"

Yes, exactly. It is not important news.
Last I checked, the goal of going into Iraq was not to reduce casualties --because if it was, we could have done a whole lot better by just staying home.
The goal was to achieve some sort of political agenda. Exactly what that agenda was remains murky, depending on exactly which speech you listen to, but whatever the hell it was, as far as I know it hasn't been close to achieved.

When someone tells you their goal is to climb Mt Everest, you don't shower them with praise because they have managed to pack their suitcase and are thinking of maybe catching the plane to the airport.

Posted by: Maynard Handley on February 1, 2008 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

All the surge has done is delay the inevitable, a large flare up of violence and death that's going to happen sooner or later. The surge just ticked down for a few months the number of deaths happening, prolonging the misery for all. It makes good cinematics for the media as their headlines on Iraq dwindle as the violence does but as the surge ends, the same time Bush leaves office, the violence will go back up. The surge was a political move on Bush's part, nothing else.

Posted by: Fred F. on February 1, 2008 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

Last month, the guy next door burned down 7 houses in the neighborhood. This month, I burned down 4 houses.

I saved 3 houses from burning down!! Yay me!

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on February 1, 2008 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

Remember back when everyone was pushing for a deadline to withdraw our troops from Iraq? Bush and his croney's argued against it because, according to the, if you told the terr'ists when we were planning to leave, they could outwait us.

Now, the same pack of morons (and their profoundly gullible enablers in the media) is crowing about how the surge has reduced civilian and coalition casualties. Has it ever occurred to any of them that the terr'ists are simply "outwaiting the surge???

Posted by: Chesire11 on February 1, 2008 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

Engram's comments remind me of Blondie (from the comic strip) coming home from shopping,loaded down with packages, and extolling Dagwood about how much money she saved at the sale.

Blondie still spent a lot of money and thousands are still dying.

Posted by: Mudge on February 1, 2008 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

Engram's comments remind me of Blondie (from the comic strip) coming home from shopping,loaded down with packages, and extolling Dagwood about how much money she saved at the sale.

Perhaps the best use of analogy I've witnessed in 5 years on the blogosphere.

Posted by: Jimm on February 1, 2008 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't the chart extremely misleading? I recall the surge started in February and was completed by June. Guess it's just convenient to put the arrow at the big drop in casualties. Propaganda 101.

Posted by: Ren on February 1, 2008 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

How ironic to see this post about the surge, when today's attacks in Baghdad mark the single bloodiest day since the surge began in that accursed city.

Jimm: "Were this an American state, we could be confident in being able to keep up this military presence indefinitely until we really rooted out the cancer ..."

I would remind you that the U.S. military's post-Civil War occupation of the American South lasted but a little over ten years.

Once the final troops departed in 1877, whatever gains were made by African-Americans were eroded away, until the U.S. Supreme Court's now-infamous 1896 "separate but equal" ruling in Plessey v. Ferguson pounded the final nail in that coffin, burying the issue of civil rights in Dixie for the next 70 years.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on February 1, 2008 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

I've always respected you Donald, but that was one of the worst uses of analogy I've ever seen (and I just got finished praising one of the best uses I've ever seen in a neighboring thread).

Posted by: Jimm on February 1, 2008 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

Engram's argument only reinforces that having decided to go to war, putting aside whether going to war AT ALL was a good idea, Gen. Shinseki (ret.) was right about troop levels. He said it would take a lot more troops than what Bush was willing to commit.

So it took more troops to return Iraq to a level of "tolerable?" chaos and destruction as opposed to an intolerable level of chaos and destruction. The difference being that the latter ends up on the front page of the big newspapers more often.

And by the way, didn't the spike in violence occur after Bush told the disgruntled Iraqis to "bring it on"? We just wasted a year and a half of our lives and all of many of our soldiers lives (and Iraqi lives).

I firmly believe Bush invaded Iraq because he wanted to get re-elected. Upon getting elected we read constantly that Bushy was intent on not replicating his father's errors? But what were Bush 41's errors. He was faced with a troublemaking despot in Iraq and built a coalition of nations to kick Saddam out of Kuwait and demolish his army in the process. Bush 41 had the good sense not to overthrow Saddam because he knew it would involve the U.S. in a long term civil war. Bush 41 was extremely popular while he took on Saddam. He even got Saudi Arabia and Japan to bankroll the entire affair. Bush 41 wrapped up the hostilities in record time and the general public remembered that the economy still sucked and no matter how well Bush 41 managed the Gulf Conflict Ver. 1, it didn't change the fact that they were hurting in the pocketbook.

Bushy's solution was to get involved in hostilities and keep them going so that he would enter an election year as a "wartime" president and used every lever of government to remind the American people to be afraid, be very afraid. Remember all those color coded terrorist warnings? Notice how they pretty much stopped after Bushy got re-elected. He didn't need them any more to scare people into thinking that only he could protect them because now he cannot be re-elected.

When the Roman emperors wanted to distract the populace from the deteriorating conditions in the Roman empire they employed Pan et Cirucusum. Bread and circuses. Today the bread are the highly publicised but ultimately costly tax cuts and the endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are the circuses. Also highly publicised and ultimately costly.

Posted by: coltergeist on February 1, 2008 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

What needs to happen is that Engram and all those that think along the same lines be shipped over to Iraq for a tour or two on the front lines. Give them flack vests, helmets & weapons to do their share of follow through on the Bush cheer leading.

Of course we all know it won`t happen.

"...It is in the religion of ignorance that tyranny begins..." - Benjamin Franklin

Posted by: daCascadian on February 1, 2008 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

update/correction:

My Latin is rusty. Both words are misspelled.

It is Panis et circensis.

Posted by: coltergeist on February 1, 2008 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

"The air war is simply not visible to most Americans who depend on the mainstream media. In part, this is because American reporters, who have covered every other sort of warfare in Iraq, simply refuse to look up."

I care because the US air war in Iraq is killing more civilians than ever. Are the civilian victims of the US air war being counted as cvilian casualties? It is doubtful.

Posted by: Brojo on February 1, 2008 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

Violence levels are a wholly irrelevant measure when it comes to evaluating "success" in Iraq or in any insurgency in that matter. That doesn't mean that saving lives isn't a value in itself, just as it doesn't imply that things are "getting better".

As the French found out in both Indo-China and Algeria, insurgents don't need things like territory to "win". All they need to do is inflict an unacceptable level of violence on their enemy. Because at some point, external powers that occupy a population are unwilling to accept the costs of their occupation, no matter their motivation.

The insurgents in Iraq are no different. You can pacify a neighborhood, confiscate arms, declare victory, etc and none of it will mean anything without a political solution to the conflict. In this case, it seems very obvious that the insurgents are just biding their time, keeping the war "warm", until the US pulls out at which point they'll go off on their own little genocide to see who gets to control the state.

There is no stopping this.

Only Iraqis will decide whether there is a genocide or not. Only Iraqis will settle the insurgency once and for all. US occupation only delays the inevitable while killing or maiming US soldiers and providing fundraising PR to the insurgents.

We lost this war the day we invaded because we lost the propaganda side. Had there really been WMDs, perhaps we could have come off well enough. As is, the world is convinced that we went to war to secure precious oil resources, nothing more, nothing less. And now we occupy an oil rich nation to ensure the flow of petrol to the West.

That's why we gotta get out post haste. The longer we stay, the less currency we have internationally. But even if a pullout doesn't help us any in the Middle East or elsewhere, it will end the useless loss of life we endure from our current pacification strategy.

Bring 'em home.

Posted by: Nobcentral on February 1, 2008 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

Besides the obvious that Matt points out, its also worth nothing that the violence totals are around the same or higher than they were before the mosque was bombed. That chart shows that too. By that point Iraq was already a disaster and could not function at that level of violence.

So, basically, Iraq went from being a hellish bloodbath to... a hellish bloodbath.

Posted by: Joshua on February 1, 2008 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

So Kevin, how many Iraqis are you prepared to sacrifice in pursuit of your little experiment?

Please post a number, rounded to the nearest 1,000.

Posted by: a on February 1, 2008 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

The Shiites have finished their ethnic cleansing of Baghdad.

Posted by: Jose Padilla on February 1, 2008 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

Don't mean to sound cynical but, with respect to today's bombings, how does anyone know that suicide bombers were mentally retarded or had Down's Syndrome? The claim was made by an Iraqi general with no corroboration. I'm not saying the claim is true or false, but there are blaring headlines emphasizing it everywhere.

Rice has picked up on it: "the most brutal and bankrupt of movements" and "It says to me that the Iraqi people have been right to turn against these terrible violent people in their midst who will do anything." Crocker too: resilient al-Qaida has "found a different, deadly way" to try to destabilize Iraq" and "There is nothing they won't do if they think it will work in creating carnage and the political fallout that comes from that," he said.

Neither the NYT or WP mentions the disabilities of the women.

Posted by: Lee on February 1, 2008 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

The chart indicates that, at this point in the surge, civilian deaths are at about the same level as they were in 2005 (400-500 a month).

It's worth noting that that is a very high level, and much higher than the violent death rate under Saddam Hussein's government in the years before the American invasion.

Both Iraqis and American soldiers were a lot safer with Saddam in power.

Posted by: fidelio on February 1, 2008 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

From what I read, Iraq has become 'balkanized,' not just Baghdad but the whole country. Baghdad is divided by concrete blast walls that keep Sunni and Shia separated. Although the Sunni 'awakening' is doing its share of fighting al Qaeda with the US, I've read that Sunni communications are still open with al Qaeda, and after the US leaves, Sunni US-provided weapons will be turned on the Shia. However good it might look at the moment, I'm not confident that things won't go to hell after a US withdrawal. In fact, I think the Iraqis are just waiting us out.

Posted by: nepeta on February 1, 2008 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

worthless mouthpiece: However, other stated purposes of the surge included defeating al Qaeda in Iraq

Not defeated:

BAGHDAD, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Female bombers detonated by remote control killed 72 people in attacks blamed on al Qaeda at two popular Baghdad pet markets on Friday, the Iraqi capital's deadliest bombings in more than seven months.

150 people were wounded. Probably some lost their eyesight or hearing from the blast, some will have lost limbs. Some parents lost children and likely children will be orphaned from this.

There was no Al Qaeda in Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion that destabilized the country and lacked any post-occupation plan to keep order. This isn't a game. It's not a cheering match for your political party where you wear your colors and scream for your team while waving a big foam "Number 1" finger. The lives of these people are forever changed.

They're living in hell, and your idiocy helped put them there.

Posted by: trex on February 1, 2008 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

Ren (at 3:17 pm) is correct about the placement of the"Troop Surge" arrow--it's several months after the surge actually started.

This may be the worst thing about the right wing: even when they could use the truth to advance their ideas, they prefer to lie to make the story better.

Posted by: Dr. Drang on February 1, 2008 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

Seems to me the chart validates Obama's debate description of the "reduction in violence" simply being Iraq having a long period of intolerable violence interrupted with a brief spike of a horrific violence, with the return back to intolerable being described as a victory.

Seems to be there was a short-term spike in violence starting with the bombing of the Golden Mosque with what looks to be a return to roughly pre-spike levels after almost a year and a half. Whether the surge in US troops which began in January of 2007 prolonged, shortened, or had no effect on the duration of the surge in violence (which appears to have plateaud already at the time of the troop surge) seems to be an exercise in inserting one's preconceptions into the interpretation of the data.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 1, 2008 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

Would things have turned out differently if we'd given the Iraqis a real incentive to make progress by setting out a credible timeline for withdrawal?

No!

A most emphatic, no, and a shout out to my homies, who are the United States Armed Forces. Kudos to the brave men and women who did not "cut and run" and have taken the fight to our enemies. A most gregarious high five and salutes all the way around. They are winning the war and they are the best of the best. Sad sack liberals can just suck eggs compared to these heroes.

THEY have beaten our enemies. THEY are winning the war. THEY have suffered being called "baby killers" and "rapists" and "human naked monkeypile constructionists" and THEY aren't taking your guff anymore, liberals.

I have watched our surge with great interest. I have followed the developments inside of the battle space closely. Each time we defeat a small chunk of the al Qaeda in Messopotamia, they withdraw into a tighter and tighter perimeter. They are leaderless, rudderless, and running out of food, water and medicine. They are forced to use the mentally retarded to detonate their bombs--a clear indicator that their NCOs and their battle-hardened vets can no longer sustain operations.

WE are winning. And by, "we" I do mean the exclusive "we" that leaves out Defeat-o-Crat apologists and appeasers, the likes of which appear here every day.

You are morons, and that's what I've always thought.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on February 1, 2008 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

Note the Orwellian "number of lives saved" language. The "surge" has resulted that the bodies are not piling up at the previous high rates that had persisted for 5 years as a result of our invasion, so lives are being saved. I'll start treating conservative arguments seriously when they stop resorting to rhetorical devices and logical fallacies to make their points.

Posted by: Del Capslock on February 1, 2008 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

Dr. Drang on February 1, 2008 at 4:14 PM:

Ren (at 3:17 pm) is correct about the placement of the"Troop Surge" arrow--it's several months after the surge actually started.

Ren would be even more right if s/he would have mentioned that Moqtada al-Sadr announced a cease-fire on August 29th of 2007...Not a crack on Ren, who made a good observation, btw...

This may be the worst thing about the right wing..

lol..hard to pick just one 'worst thing'..

..even when they could use the truth to advance their ideas, they prefer to lie to make the story better.

That, or they just suck at determining an issue's root cause because that cause falls outside their ideology. Or both.

Posted by: grape_crush on February 1, 2008 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

Norman Rogers on February 1, 2008 at 4:29 PM:

..They are forced to use the mentally retarded to detonate their bombs.

So when's your turn, Normie?

...hate to do that to you, chap, but you left yourself wide open...

Posted by: grape_crush on February 1, 2008 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK
other stated purposes of the surge included....These goals have been fulfilled ....ex-lax at 2:35 PM
Not true: Bush said:

...This new strategy will not yield an immediate end to suicide bombings, assassinations, or IED attacks. Our enemies in Iraq will make every effort to ensure that our television screens are filled with images of death and suffering. Yet over time, we can expect to see Iraqi troops chasing down murderers, fewer brazen acts of terror, and growing trust and cooperation from Baghdad's residents. When this happens, daily life will improve, Iraqis will gain confidence in their leaders, and the government will have the breathing space it needs to make progress in other critical areas. Most of Iraq's Sunni and Shia want to live together in peace -- and reducing the violence in Baghdad will help make reconciliation possible.
A successful strategy for Iraq goes beyond military operations. Ordinary Iraqi citizens must see that military operations are accompanied by visible improvements in their neighborhoods and communities. So America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced.
To establish its authority, the Iraqi government plans to take responsibility for security in all of Iraq's provinces by November. To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country's economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis. To show that it is committed to delivering a better life, the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion of its own money on reconstruction and infrastructure projects that will create new jobs. To empower local leaders, Iraqis plan to hold provincial elections later this year. And to allow more Iraqis to re-enter their nation's political life, the government will reform de-Baathification laws, and establish a fair process for considering amendments to Iraq's constitution....

None, not one, of the benchmarks have been met.

...it is Panis et circensis.coltergeist at 3:35 PM

My latin book has: Panem et circenses. (Juvenalis)
....shout out to my homies, who are the United States Armed Forces.....ab-Norman Rogers at 4:29 PM

Your homies are calling you, sonny: cheap cannon fodder needed.

Posted by: Mike on February 1, 2008 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK

The number of lives being saved per month now exceeds 1000...

Fuzzy math. In other words now only 500 people die per month from Bush's inane war policy instead of the former 1500. And this is reason to hail the genius of W. Bush? I'll pass. Along these same lines, my wife saved me $200 because that $700 dress she bought was on sale for $500.

Posted by: ckelly on February 1, 2008 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

Mudge beat me to it [damn].

Posted by: ckelly on February 1, 2008 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

They need to update their statistics after today's horrific double suicide bomb attacks.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on February 1, 2008 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK


SocraticGadfly: Why doesn't "Engram" ask why Bush didn't send enough troops in the first place?


"Sending more Americans would undermine our strategy of encouraging Iraqis to take the lead in this fight."
- President Bush 6/28/05

how'd that go?

Posted by: mr. irony on February 1, 2008 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

Many of us who opposed the war opposed it because Iraq would be plunged into violent anarchy unless we kept a large occupying force there for years to come.

The success of the surge proves that ... we can avoid violent murderous anarchy in Iraq by keeping a large occupying force there.

How is this news?

Posted by: mdl on February 1, 2008 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK

Jimm: "I've always respected you Donald, but that was one of the worst uses of analogy I've ever seen ..."

How so?

You first broached the idea ( at 2:49pm) that "[were] this an American state, we could be confident in being able to keep up this military presence indefinitely until we really rooted out the cancer ..."

I merely pointed out to you (at 3:21pm) that following our own U.S. Civil War, our government proved unable to sustain an indefinite military presence in the South to do exactly that.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on February 1, 2008 at 6:29 PM | PERMALINK

Norman Rogers "WE are winning."

And what exactly are we winning, O Bloviating One?

I am reminded of Roman Gen. Falvius Silva's lament in A.D. 73, upon receiving congratulations from his superiors for finally overcoming the Jewish zealots who were holding out at Masada: "We now possess a barren mountaintop in the middle of a desert, next to a dead sea."

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on February 1, 2008 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK

How does one win an occupation Norman?

We already occupy Iraq and its not a war with the Iraqi government or its military force and much of thw violence is due to sectarian violence that began after toppling Saddam to free the oppressed. As well its never been declared a war and most of the insurgents come from ally countries.

Posted by: Ya Know... on February 1, 2008 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

Look at it this way: If war supporters think things are really that great, then let's use that as an excuse to say we can leave now.

Posted by: Neil B. on February 1, 2008 at 7:44 PM | PERMALINK
The "surge" has resulted that the bodies are not piling up at the previous high rates that had persisted for 5 years as a result of our invasion, so lives are being saved.

Its worse than that: the "surge" has resulted in the bodies piling up at about the same high rates that had persisted for years as a result of our invasion, but not the higher rates they spiked to for part of that time, so lives are being "saved".

Posted by: cmdicely on February 1, 2008 at 7:54 PM | PERMALINK

Like I said, you're being dumb, why emphasize it to everyone else?

:)

Posted by: Jimm on February 1, 2008 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

4:29. The last time Nor-not-a-man-thang commented.

Dude, your balls are so small they don't have to hide...

Posted by: elmo on February 1, 2008 at 10:05 PM | PERMALINK

If "engram", "back talk" made it at all easy to post a comment, (s)he might be a lot better educated than (s)he allows themself to be.

Obvioulsy (s)he has a very limited idea about science, statistics, prognostication and tea leaves. Or associating action with possibly coincidental result.

The argument is pretty narrow and unsubstantiated.

Posted by: notthere on February 1, 2008 at 10:34 PM | PERMALINK

Jimm: "Like I said, you're being dumb, why emphasize it to everyone else?"

Whatever, clown. I offered an apt historical analogy that directly contradicted your supposition. You're the one who can't back up what he said. All you do is obfuscate that with personal insults.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on February 2, 2008 at 12:30 AM | PERMALINK

Norman Rogers,

no one else said it, but you need to know, you really got a little way out there back up thread.

You are a "homie" of the armed forces? Which service? And no one else who posts here is?

al-Qaeda is not the real target. They weren't there until after we got there. Remember?

Hello! Security in Iraq is the goal. Political stabilization? National unity? Democracy? Yeah. Not part of your horizon now, huh?

Don't know if that was drink or drugs, but it didn't look good.

Do you ever realize how mad you sound? As in Dr. Strangelove. Perhaps you are the USAF general?:

"WE are winning. And by, "we" I do mean the exclusive "we" that leaves out Defeat-o-Crat apologists and appeasers, the likes of which appear here every day.

You are morons, and that's what I've always thought."

Onward to a better world. Right?

Posted by: notthere on February 2, 2008 at 2:00 AM | PERMALINK

How come when the economy was doing OK and the Iraq War was going so badly, Republicans kept whining about the economy not getting enough attention. Now that people are focusing on the economy more, it's the Iraq situation that's not getting enough attention? I would say the economy's pushing everything off the front page now (and that would have been true with this economy even at the height of the violence in Iraq). I would say that people want to know how things are helping them, and with no indication that we're leaving Iraq anytime soon, the reduced violence levels even if they remain that way don't help the average American at all.

Posted by: Guscat on February 2, 2008 at 3:16 AM | PERMALINK

"...remarkable progress that has obviously occurred as a result of George Bush's troop surge. They should be congratulating George Bush for his excellent judgment on this issue..."

Oh yeah? Why the hell didn't he have more troops from the beginning? Engram needs to take his head out of Bush's ass so he can speak rationally.

Posted by: plane on February 2, 2008 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

I hate to belabor the obvious, but the real point of the surge, what motivated it for BushCo, was its impact on domestic American politics. The temporary fall in violence will give them the breathing room to declare that they have a policy success, so that when the impending return to violence happens at the end of the surge, it can be blamed either on the next administration (if it's a Democratic one) or on the Iraqis themselves (if the next administration is a Republican one).

From the point of view of Bush's legacy management and partisan point-scoring back at home, in other words, the surge has been a pretty unqualified success for Bush, I'd say.

Shorter: it's all about laying the groundwork for propagating the Dolchstosslegende.

Posted by: Nils Gilman on February 2, 2008 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK

The surge reminds me of the way they did things in my office. Every few months they'd implement a new policy, then claim that it needed time to work. That way they'd always be able to tell the main office that we needed more time to tell whether it was working or not. Bushco is essentially doing the same thing, kicking the can down the road.

My own sense is that the violence is really a temporary lull, anyway. All these Sunnis that for the moment appear to be on our side are only there till they become convinced that the Shia have no intention of letting them into the government (and who can blame the Shia, given the history of Iraq?), and that we really don't have the power to control any of this.

This was in The Independent earlier this week:

"If there is no change in three months there will be war again," said Abu Marouf, the commander of 13,000 fighters who formerly fought the Americans. He and his men switched sides last year to battle al-Qa'ida and defeated it in its main stronghold in and around Fallujah.

"If the Americans think they can use us to crush al-Qa'ida and then push us to one side, they are mistaken," Abu Marouf told The Independent in an interview in a scantily furnished villa beside an abandoned cemetery near the village of Khandari outside Fallujah. He said that all he and his tribal following had to do was stand aside and al-Qa'ida's fighters would automatically come back. If they did so he might have to ally himself to a resurgent al-Qa'ida in order to "protect myself and my men".

This war is a clusterfuck of colossal proportions under any definition anyone wants to use, and it's irksome that the Dems are still hedging their bets, afraid that somehow, at the last minute, it might turn out to be a tremendous success, when anyone with half a brain can see that it's too late. I don't pretend to have any solutions, and have absolutely no trust in anyone who says he/she does. And screw anyone who says this is what any of us really want.

Posted by: dogofthesouth on February 2, 2008 at 9:08 PM | PERMALINK

Strange, the arrow labelled "surge" is about four months after the surge began and exactly at the point of the Sadrist ceasefire. Could somebody be...lying?

Posted by: Alex on February 3, 2008 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

Iraqis are dying, corruption is rampant, the situation is guaranteed to remain chaotic, and a wonderful distraction occupies everyone while America's economy and civil rights are eviscerated on the home front.
You only have to work on a little perspective to realize things are moving along as planned.

Posted by: opit on February 3, 2008 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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