Thursday, August 09, 2007

‘The Surge’: A Special Report

I wonder if Patrick Cockburn is going to be making the rounds on Hardball and Meet the Press.
It was supposed to mark a decisive new phase in America’s military campaign, but six months after George Bush sent in 20,000 extra troops, Iraq is more chaotic and dangerous than ever.
Some of the grim low lights:
- the average number of attacks on US and Iraqi forces, civilian forces and infrastructure peaked at 177.8 per day, higher than in any month since the end of May 2003.

- A US military study recently examined the weapons used by guerrillas to kill American soldiers, and reached the unsettling conclusion that the most effective were high-quality American weapons supplied to the Iraqi army by the US, which were passed on or sold to insurgents.

- In Baquba, a provincial capital north-east of Baghdad, US and Iraqi army commanders praised their own achievements at a press conference held over a video link. Chiding media critics for their pessimism, the generals claimed: “The situation in Baquba is reassuring and is under control but there are some rumors circulated by bad people.” Within hours Sunni insurgents, possibly irked by these self-congratulatory words, stormed Baquba, kidnapped the mayor and blew up his office.

- a convoy of 19 vehicles carrying 40 uniformed policemen arrived in the forecourt of the Finance Ministry. They entered the building and calmly abducted five British security men, who have not been seen since. The kidnappers may be linked to a unit of the Mehdi Army.

- One real benchmark of progress - or lack of it - is the number of Iraqis who have fled for their lives. This figure is still going up. Over one million Iraqis have become Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) since the Samarra bombing, according to the Red Crescent. A further 2.2 million people have fled the country. This exodus is bigger than anything ever seen in the Middle East, exceeding in size even the flight or expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948. A true sign of progress in Iraq will be when the number of refugees, inside and outside the country, starts to go down.

- The Iraqi government has sought to conceal civilian casualty figures by banning journalists from the scenes of bombings, and banned hospitals and the Health Ministry from giving information. In July, AP reported, 2,024 Iraqis died violently, a 23 per cent rise on June, which was the last month for which the government gave a figure.

This is almost certainly an underestimate. In a single bombing in the district of Karada in Baghdad on 26 July, Iraqi television and Western media cited the police as saying that there were 25 dead and 100 wounded. A week later, a list of the names of 92 dead and 127 wounded, compiled by municipal workers, was pinned up on shuttered shopfronts in the area.
Efforts to cover up the real situation abound:
US embassy staff complained that when the pro-war Republican Senator John McCain came to Baghdad and ludicrously claimed that security was fast improving, they were forced to doff their helmets and body armor when standing with him lest the protective equipment might be interpreted as a mute contradiction of the Senator’s assertions.

When Vice-President Dick Cheney visited the Green Zone, the sirens giving warning of incoming rockets or mortar rounds were kept silent during an attack, to prevent them booming out of every television screen in America.
Cockburn has been in Iraq for years now and didn't just skip through the country on an eight day bump and grind with US military brass. If you want to know what is really going on there, read this.


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