“Nobody in uniform is doing victory dances in the end zone,” Petraeus told reporters. Gates said on Wednesday that the violence in Iraq had dropped to levels not seen since the bombing of a Shiite shrine in the central town of Samarra that unleashed brutal Shiite and Sunni conflict nearly two years ago. He said the reduction in violence meant the “goal of a secure, stable and democratic Iraq is within reach”.
But is it?
Petraeus, who in September announced to Congress the first possible elements of an American troop drawdown in Iraq, was more cautious on Thursday when he said, “We work hard to build up on the progress made” but “we have to be careful not to feel too successful.” He went on to add, “Certain days we certainly feel very good but there are still attacks. We have seen continued improvements,” he said, adding that there was “much hard work still to be done and issues to be addressed”.
iCausualities.org, a website dedicated to tracking Iraq casualties, puts the death toll of American troops for November 2007 at 37, down one from 38 in October. However there have been months with lower death totals. January of 2003, August of 2003, September of 2003, February of 2004, March of 2005, and March of 2006, all saw lower troop casualties. Furthermore, the data clearly shows consistent peaks and valleys in troop casualties and violence throughout the last four years. Furthermore, there has been no period of more than six months that shows a consistent downward trend, before violence increased again. As of now, we appear to be in one of the ‘valleys.’ This is to say, the data supports no conclusions regarding violence trends. Maybe this is why Petraeus isn’t counting his chickens just yet.
The chart above displays civilian casualty numbers from this year.Although casualties from shootings and bombings is down in the ‘Green Zone’, they appear to be flat or trending up outside of Bagdad. What conclusions can we draw?
Here is some ICCC data…
No one can say if al Qaeda has been quashed. For all we know, there may be another surtge in violence around the corner or worse. What we can conclude from the data I believe is that petraeus is painting a rosie picture for the American people and the administration. The troop surge has resulted in a reduction in casualties overall in Iraq, but this reduction is far from the knockout blow Bush is looking for. I do think that all Americans sincerely hope that the declining casualty trends continue, as I do, but I would not jump to any conclusions right now. Al Qaeda, as demonstrated in Afghanistan, is alive and well. In that country, violence and casualties are on the rise, poppy production is at an all time high, and the civilian landscape is in chaos.
Could it be that Al Qaeda has shifted fronts and is helping the Taliban, knowing we can’t effectively fight this “war on terror” on both fronts?
It makes for interesting conversation.
At a meeting with reporters last week, President Bush said that “if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing [Iran] from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.” These were not the barbs of some neoconservative crank or sidelined politician looking for publicity. This was the president of the United States, invoking the specter of World War III if Iran gained even the knowledge needed to make a nuclear weapon.
The American discussion about Iran has lost all connection to reality. Norman Podhoretz, the neoconservative ideologist whom Bush has consulted on this topic, has written that Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is “like Hitler … a revolutionary whose objective is to overturn the going international system and to replace it in the fullness of time with a new order dominated by Iran and ruled by the religio-political culture of Islamofascism.” For this staggering proposition Podhoretz provides not a scintilla of evidence.
Here is the reality. Iran has an economy the size of Finland’s and an annual defense budget of around $4.8 billion. It has not invaded a country since the late 18th century. The United States has a GDP that is 68 times larger and defense expenditures that are 110 times greater. Israel and every Arab country (except Syria and Iraq) are quietly or actively allied against Iran. And yet we are to believe that Tehran is about to overturn the international system and replace it with an Islamo-fascist order? What planet are we on?
When the relatively moderate Mohammed Khatami was elected president in Iran, American conservatives pointed out that he was just a figurehead. Real power, they said (correctly), especially control of the military and police, was wielded by the unelected “Supreme Leader,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Now that Ahmadinejad is president, they claim his finger is on the button. (Oh wait, Iran doesn’t have a nuclear button yet and won’t for at least three to eight years, according to the CIA, by which point Ahmadinejad may not be president anymore. But these are just facts.)
In a speech last week, Rudy Giuliani said that while the Soviet Union and China could be deterred during the cold war, Iran can’t be. The Soviet and Chinese regimes had a “residual rationality,” he explained. Hmm. Stalin and Mao—who casually ordered the deaths of millions of their own people, fomented insurgencies and revolutions, and starved whole regions that opposed them—were rational folk. But not Ahmadinejad, who has done what that compares? One of the bizarre twists of the current Iran hysteria is that conservatives have become surprisingly charitable about two of history’s greatest mass murderers.
If I had to choose whom to describe as a madman, North Korea’s Kim Jong Il or Ahmadinejad, I do not think there is really any contest. A decade ago Kim Jong Il allowed a famine to kill 2 million of his own people, forcing the others to survive by eating grass, while he imported gallons of expensive French wine. He has sold nuclear technology to other rogue states and threatened his neighbors with test-firings of rockets and missiles. Yet the United States will be participating in international relief efforts to Pyongyang worth billions of dollar.
We’re on a path to irreversible confrontation with a country we know almost nothing about. The United States government has had no diplomats in Iran for almost 30 years. American officials have barely met with any senior Iranian politicians or officials. We have no contact with the country’s vibrant civil society. Iran is a black hole to us—just as Iraq had become in 2003.
The one time we seriously negotiated with Tehran was in the closing days of the war in Afghanistan, in order to create a new political order in the country. Bush’s representative to the Bonn conference, James Dobbins, says that “the Iranians were very professional, straightforward, reliable and helpful. They were also critical to our success. They persuaded the Northern Alliance to make the final concessions that we asked for.” Dobbins says the Iranians made overtures to have better relations with the United States through him and others in 2001 and later, but got no reply. Even after the Axis of Evil speech, he recalls, they offered to cooperate in Afghanistan. Dobbins took the proposal to a principals meeting in Washington only to have it met with dead silence. The then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, he says, “looked down and rustled his papers.” No reply was ever sent back to the Iranians. Why bother? They’re mad.
Last year, the Princeton scholar, Bernard Lewis, a close adviser to Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal predicting that on Aug. 22, 2006, President Ahmadinejad was going to end the world. The date, he explained, “is the night when many Muslims commemorate the night flight of the Prophet Muhammad on the winged horse Buraq, first to ‘the farthest mosque,’ usually identified with Jerusalem, and then to heaven and back. This might well be deemed an appropriate date for the apocalyptic ending of Israel and if necessary of the world” (my emphasis). This would all be funny if it weren’t so dangerous.
© Newsweek, Inc.
Commentary from MJ “revoltingpawn”…
I had to post this article since felt there has been a lack of common sense and reporting of facts from the media in regards to Iran. Fareed Zakaria you are breath of fresh air on the Iranian situation and I am hoping more people will read this article. My questions are… Are the American people gullible enough to believe another set of lies from the Bush administration as we beat the war drum once again? Will the mainstream media again be a willing accomplice for another possible Bush manufactured war? Let’s hope we have different outcome with Iran then what happened in Iraq.
Its business as usual from the Bush administration as mouthpiece David Patraeous flatly announced that no troops will be drawn down until 2008, reinforced by ambassador Crocker, who emphasized leaving is defeat. Nothing progressive – nothing new, no regret over the dead, no remorse or reflection. What was delivered was more of the same shortsighted lip service that has come to define the Bush administration and his blind loyalists who are apparently willing to trade American blood for career advancement and war profit.
On a day that saw 7 Americans killed as the total American death toll flirts with 3800, it begs the question – what is victory defined as? Petraeous, obviously in an effort to avoid going the way of General Casey, who opposed troop build-up and was quickly given his walking papers, predictably was all too willing to bend to Bush’s public relations demands that call for the mindless continuation of an unwinnable war.
Sadly enough, “W” has dug up yet another ‘yes man.’ Why are the Democrats not holding an all night session as they dissect this wholly artificial report? With only casual research, here are some relevant questions that were colored or went altogether unanswered…
Fact: Under Petreaous’s command, training of the Iraqi military has continued to founder, and any subsequent training program will simply be a ‘do-over’ in an effort to band-aid his incompetent efforts under his leadership. Fact: There have been repeated disappearances, of weapons that were grossly mismanaged under Petreaous’s and his predecessor’s commands. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that those weapons are ultimately falling in to the hands of insurgents as the chaos in the streets persists.Fact: Shortly before the 2004 presidential election Petraeous wrote an op-ed piece for The Washington Post as a favor to the Bush campaign, in which he applauded what he referred to as “major progress” by the Iraqi military, Iraqi police and Iraqi leadership, when the opposite was clearly the case by all independent accounts.Fact: Iraqi civilian and U.S. and Iraqi military and police deaths are up under Petraeous and continue to riseFact: The Iraqi Government continues to flounder, unable to achieve political reconciliation among warring factions on a national level, only able to foster loose knit local governing bodiesFact: The Iraqi people, are still living without regular electricity or water, fearing for their lives whenever they go out to buy groceries or by chance talk to the wrong person – which is usually a death sentenceFact: Forty percent of the middle class in Iraq has fled the country while Iran looms as the largest regional threatAmericans deserve an even-handed assessment of conditions in Iraq. However what we got was a propaganda snapshot from the same fools who told us “Mission accomplished” and “The insurgency is in the last throws…” Bush’s messenger boy Petraeous has sold out the American people and his good name as a straight shooter to appease our clown-like president.
“We know that the surge has to come to an end,” Petraeous said, according to the Associated Press. “I think everyone understands that, by about a year or so from now, we’ve got to be a good bit smaller than we are right now. The question is how do you do that . . . so that you can retain the gains we have fought so hard to achieve and so you can keep going.”
Translation – Here’s another excuse America, while we figure out what to do, if a solution even exists. There’s no doubt the country will swallow it because the only people we can rally behind to fight Bush’s folly and foolishness are the Democrats…and what have they done to counter Bush lately?
Personally, I knew things were going well in Iraq back in May, because I knew (through some cognitive extra-sensory miracle) that Bush’s September report on Iraq would be nothing but roses and strawberry wine. How you ask? Because our president is a liar of epidemic proportion and possesses no morals whatsoever. He treats the American people like so many sheep as he trys to distract us from the cold brutal fact that we are failing in Iraq. And now, senator Durbin has called him on it.
Days before Gen. David Petraeus testifies before Congress on the progress of the troop “surge” in Iraq, the Senate’s number two Democrat is accusing the administration of manipulating information in the highly anticipated Iraq report due out next week. “By carefully manipulating the statistics, the Bush-Petraeus report will try to persuade us that violence in Iraq is decreasing and thus the surge is working,” Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said at a Washington think tank. Durbin, a war critic, said that he has exchanged e-mail with civilian employees who were being prodded by the administation into ‘sunshining’ the report drafts. “Some of them I correspond with almost on a daily basis. And when they sent a discouraging report about things that were happening in Baghdad, they were reminded by their superiors that’s unacceptable; we need a positive report. They were sent back for editing changes. Now that’s a fact,” Durbin said.
Its about time the Democrats, or at least one of them, is willings to go all chips in to expose this horse shit of a president for what he really is – an incompetent fool who does not understand the intricate nature of foreign policy and ramifications of that policy, who resorts to deception and bravado to cover up his lack of intelligence. Make no mistake, the decision to manipulate this data and the upcoming report was made the moment Democrats wilted on war funding earlier this year. Petraeus’ credibility should be questioned simply based on the fact he is willing to cow-tow to Bush. This report will not be General Petraeus’s report, it will be President Bush’s report. However, Petraeus’ approval rating is about four times higher than the Democrat Congresses right now so the American people will probably swallow it and the Republicans will get what they wanted from the start, more war and a brief election year reprieve. This is what happens when you can’t find your spine and vote to cut war funding.
How ridiculous is the manipulation? The report contains methodology outlines for classifying murders as criminal or sectarian reprisals in nature. In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Friday, David Walker, the head of the non-partisan Government Accountability Office, raised questions about how those statistics were compiled. He said he is “not comfortable” with the methodology used to count the death toll. Specifically, he highlighted the fact that if a body is found with a gunshot wound in the front of the head it is classified as an ordinary crime but if the wound is in the back of the head it is considered sectarian violence.
This is the level of desparation Bush has sunk to in order to force feed us this illegal war. It is sickening.
Well, the Democrats are up to their old tricks again. A few precious months of defiance is up in smoke after King George vetoed the war spending bill with troop withdrawals attached. “Darth Cheney” predicted it a few weeks ago. He said that the Democrats would back down and assured right-wing war wackos everywhere that things would mercilessly grind on as usual. It’s pathetic and sickening really. I’m fairly certain that the Democrats can read if they choose to – and when they do – they might notice that King George’s approval rating has sunk to 28% in most national polls. Call me kooky but that seems like a ripe environment for a stand-off with this moron of a president who we are collectively forced to endure. If “Commander Guy” thought for one minute that he had even the most remote morsel of an idea as to how we might get out this mess, he would have done it by now…believe me. Conservatives are stubborn and foolish but they’re even more famous for being opportunistic. The Democrats can’t seem to wrap their head around the fact that the administration has absolutely no way out of Iraq. Story over. I say, step on Bush’s throat while he is down. He did it to Democrats for six years. Cut the war spending and let Bush eat it. And by the way Democrats, don’t let Bush and his possie of the brainless try to brainwash America into thinking that cutting funding will leave troops stranded in the sand – because that is their latest line of bullshit that is on the street right now. Start a PR campaign immediately that ensures that every man woman and child breathing knows that troops will be brought home on the back of funds already in place and that they will not be stranded in Iraq like someone at the mall without bus fare home – as “Commander Guy” and the “Stupid League” would have us believe. 72% of America is behind you…do the right thing.