BY STEVEN JONAS
Simulpost with BuzzFlash on Wed, 11/21/2007
The President, his loyal generals, the PMoP (Privatized Ministry of Propaganda), and even the news media that are not part of the latter (like, for the most part, CNN), are making a big thing about the “success of the surge.” Iraqi civilian deaths are down, violence in Baghdad is down, roadside bombings aimed at U.S. troops are down, U.S. troop deaths are down. Of course, “down” means, variously, halved (although for those killed still a large number) back to where the numbers were in 2006, still approaching 4,000 (reported as combat-related) U.S. military deaths.
But pause, one must, to consider several points. “Victory” is still left undefined by the Republican Scream Machine that is still calling for it. The “successes” that have been achieved seem to be the result of U.S. policing in Baghdad and elsewhere, and is policing really what our military is designed to do, and do we really want it doing that? Bush is now talking about withdrawing troops, which he doesn’t go out of his way to note, would get the number back down to the level it was at before the “surge” started. That’s still lots (120,000-130,000). Is that withdrawal really related to the “success” of the surge? Or is the latter just a lucky happenstance since BushCheney have worn down our ground forces to such an extent that U.S. forces simply cannot be maintained at the “surge” level for very much longer.
Further, the timing of the projected withdrawal, next spring-summer, is interesting. It would come just as the Presidential campaign itself is getting underway. (Couldn’t be related, now could it, like certain military events in the past were related to upcoming elections?) Most importantly, but not noted by Bush and his claque, is that the Iraqi political process for “reconciliation,” the achievement of which the “surge” was supposed to enable, has apparently not gotten underway even at the most perfunctory level.
Many critics of the BushCheney policy have widely and correctly noted these points. What has not been so widely noted, and upon which I comment very briefly here, is the change in the environment in Iraq and what that might have to do with the reduction-in-violence figures noted above. I am a public health physician and we are trained to look at context. For example, could there be any relationship between the U.S. obesity epidemic and the fact that the U.S. food industry produces 3,700 calories of food per person per day and proceeds to sell it when the average person needs 2,200-2,500 calories per day to maintain good health? And so, what might the following factors have to do with the “reduction in violence” in Iraq?
— Falluja, the former home base for a major fraction of the Iraqi resistance, is a largely destroyed, rather non-functioning city. So the “terrorists” or the “freedom fighters” or whatever one wants to call them, simply ain’t there any more.
— Major sections of Baghdad have been ethnically cleansed, creating much more uniform Sunni, Shiite, and other neighborhoods (a wonderful outcome of the U.S. occupation, don’t you think). That in itself would produce a major drop in violence, one would suppose.
— An enormous number of Iraqis have left (estimates are up to 2 million), either as émigrés (if they are lucky) or as refugees (if they are not). That has certainly changed the dynamic in-country.
— It may well be that the U.S. forces have changed their tactics so as to simply not present so many moving targets for Iraqi roadside bombs. Such a change would be well known to the Iraqis but hardly likely to be publicized on U.S. television (for reasons of “national security,” of course).
— Apparently, Iran has significantly reduced its weapons supply to various Iraqi factions in their attempt to reduce the chances that the Cheney/O’RHannibaugh Wing of the Georgites will be able to manufacture an excuse to “nuke ‘em,” (the Iranians simply not understanding that when these people go looking for an excuse to attack another country, they don’t care about facts-on-the-ground; if they are no real ones, they just go ahead and make them up).
So maybe the “surge” has indeed “worked,” but maybe that has more to do with the changing environment in Iraq than with having more U.S. troops there. Of course facts and questions such as these will have not one bit of influence on what the PMoP spews out and how the non-PMoP U.S. media reacts to it.