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March 29, 2007

Killing The Surge

A new USA Today/Gallup poll finds that most Americans don't believe the surge is working.


Incroyable... now where on earth could they have gotten a crazy idea like that?

Surely it could have nothing at all to do with the fact that day in and day out, the lamestream media hype the successes of our enemies while somehow "forgetting" to report how many of the enemy our own side kills and captures? If we didn't know better, we'd start to wonder whose side they were on.

Surely it could have nothing to do with lopsided reports like this one from Thomas Ricks, entitled, "McCaffrey Paints Gloomy Picture of Iraq - In Contrast to His Previous Views, Retired General Writes of 'Strategic Peril'?

So... what does General McCaffrey say in his "gloomy" report?

since the arrival of Petraeus last month, "the situation on the ground has clearly and measurably improved."

...Among McCaffrey's reasons for new optimism were that the Maliki government is permitting the United States to attack rogue leaders in the Mahdi Army of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Also, he noted that U.S. and Iraqi forces have changed their basic approach to operations, with soldiers now living on small outposts across Baghdad. Iraqi forces also are better equipped than before. In Anbar province, he noted, "There is a real and growing groundswell of Sunni tribal opposition to the al-Qaeda-in-Iraq terror formations."

Admittedly (read the entire article) McCaffrey had some negative things to say, but the bulk of his negative comments addressed conditions before the onset of the surge. And more importantly, as Ricks admits, his "gloomy" assessment is not shared by other advisors:

McCaffrey's assessment contrasts with other recent reports on Iraq by visiting experts.

Former Australian military officer David Kilcullen, who is advising Petraeus on counterinsurgency methods, recently commented on the Web site of Small Wars Journal: "It is still early days for Fardh al-Qanoon (a.k.a. the 'Baghdad Security Plan') and thus too soon to tell for sure how things will play out. But, though the challenges remain extremely severe, early trends are quite positive." He added that "the general trajectory of the campaign seems to be changing, in subtle ways that may yet prove decisive."

Move along, nothing to see here folks. Unfortunately for Herr Ricks, his reference to "other experts" aroused a sense of curiosity. What did those other experts have to say? Turns out they were anything but "gloomy":

On March 17th Al Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) set off a truck bomb, including chlorine gas canisters, in a Sunni marketplace. Though everyone affected by the gas walked away, there were about 250 injured, and the attack happened on the 19th anniversary, to the day, of Saddam’s use of poison gas against the Kurds at Halabja. Local Sunnis were appalled and furious.

Think about that for a moment. If insurgents are the fish, and the community is the sea in which they swim, then AQI just showed an incredible level of desperation – attacking its own potential constituents, applying a uniquely repellent form of attack, and emulating Saddam on the anniversary of one of his worst atrocities, into the bargain. What were they thinking?

Or consider another recent attack, where extremists bombed a Sunni moderate mosque because its Imam dared to suggest that maybe it’s time to stop fighting, that there is an honorable path of resistance through political participation and the ballot box rather than pointless violence. Many Sunnis were killed – again, extremists targeting moderates for fear that they are about to lose the influence conferred by intimidation.

Both of these attacks were political “own goals” for the terrorists - the mask is slipping, and people are seeing the real face beneath.

With this kind of inept political action by the insurgents, it’s small wonder that in al Anbar, where only one out of 18 major tribes supported the Iraqi government a year ago, today 14 out of the 18 tribes are actively securing their people, providing recruits to the Iraqi police and hunting down al Qa’ida.

And then there are the car bombings in market places. Since the cooperative coalition-Iraqi effort to secure Baghdad’s population, extremists have continued trying to target Shi’a communities, particularly markets. But efforts to harden market places and public areas have paid dividends – almost all the recent bombs exploded at checkpoints well away from their intended targets, killing far fewer people than intended, and far fewer than in similar attacks last year. And several failed to explode at all, showing a loss of skill as key bomb-makers are taken off the streets.

To cap it off, this week coalition forces captured the leader of the Rusafa car bomb network, the AQI organization responsible for some of the most horrific recent bombings in East Baghdad. Along with captures of bomb-making gear, explosives, and a vehicle rigged as a bomb, this puts a severe dent in the network’s capabilities.

What does this all mean? Well, as I have previously said, car bombs – in terms of size and frequency – are not a good indicator of progress since it will always remain possible to pull off an attack, even when all other aspects of security have developed fully. So as professionals we need to be wary of rushing to judgment, either positive or negative, here. But events of the past few weeks tend to suggest that the extremists have begun targeting their own potential supporters, indicating a degree of political desperation, and a likely drop in support. And the attacks – though still atrocious – have become less effective. Both of these are significant indicators, independent of the bombings themselves.

Though we still need to be extremely cautious and realistic about progress, these are positive signs. We are into the fifth year of the war, and only the fifth week of this operation - so it is still very early days. Tough times and setbacks undoubtedly lie ahead. But the general trajectory of the campaign seems to be changing, in subtle ways that may yet prove decisive.

Why isn't analysis like this on every major newspaper in America? And then there are direct reports from Baghdad:

You look around in Baghdad now and see hundreds of men working in the streets to pick up garbage; to plant flowers and paint the blast walls in joyful colors. Many of Baghdad's squares are becoming green and clean. The picture isn't perfect, but it's a clear attempt to beat violence and ease pain through giving the spring a chance to shine.

Nights in Baghdad now are far from quiet, but the sounds cause less anxiety for me than they did before. I recognize the rumble of armor and thump of guns and they assure me that the gangs and militias do not dominate the night as they once did.

Can't have that! It's not "gritty" enough! And hope is breaking out even at the Huffington Post - it's heresy!

The "surge" programme initiated last month by General Petraeus in Baghdad is the first intelligent thing the Americans have done in four years. By swamping neighbourhoods, monitoring entry, patrolling streets and giving personal protection to residents and tradesmen troops are able to restore some order to portions of the city. Petraeus is replacing vigilantes, militias and corrupt police with his own soldiers. He cannot reverse the ethnic cleansing that is fast partitioning Baghdad into Sunni and Shia quarters, but he can stabilise what has occurred. He can fortify the ghettos.

Economies recover, the more quickly the sooner they are left in peace. The hoodlums and gangsters now rich on American aid will harness the oil exports and eventually find a vested interest in protecting infrastructure and utilities. Religious segregation will enable the ghettos to feel more secure. Business will emerge from the bottom up and doctors, teachers and merchants start to move back from Amman and Damascus, once they hear that their old homes are safe and the Mahdists and Badrists are confined to barracks. Economic activity will return to the streets, as it has done to Beirut.

On Sunday, one more symbol of Iraq's growing freedom and commitment to unity launched, but very likely you will hear little about it in the American media:

The Independent Radio and Television Network officially launched during a ceremony held in the heart of Iraq’s troubled Diyala Province Sunday.

Rafed Mahmood, IRTN co-founder and general manager, spoke passionately at the event about his commitment to the station and what it meant to him to help spread an independent voice of reconciliation throughout Iraq.

“It is time for the people of Iraq to stand together as one — Sunni and Shia — and say, ‘enough’,” Mahmood said. “We have suffered enough. This conflict between Sunni and Shia never existed before. There is no reason for it to continue now.”

Mahmood also spoke of his optimism for the future of Iraq, much in the tone of Martin Luther King during the American civil rights movement of the 1960s.

“I believe the day is coming when Sunnis, Shias and Kurds; old women and old men; husbands and wives; and all of our children will march arm-in-arm together through the streets of Baghdad,” Mahmood said. “Now is the time to rise up and become the new leaders of freedom.”

Although Mahmood was optimistic in his remarks, he was realistic about the price that must often be paid for freedom; however, he urged those who would work tirelessly toward a free Iraq to not lose heart in the face of adversity.

“Some of us may die,” Mahmood said. “That may be the cost of freedom, but let us not be so afraid of dying that we forget how to live. God gave us life to live; so, let us live.”

With jumper cables and a 12-volt battery, this Saddam era media station began broadcasting two weeks ago. Four Iraqis — two Sunnis and two Shias — are quickly becoming the voices of sectarian reconciliation, unity and freedom in the central part of Iraq.

“We respect our new government and all of our religious leaders, but this network is completely independent,” Mahmood said. “Our voice is independent. No one tells us what to say.”

The station uses a 3,000-kilowatt transmitter line cabled to the top of a 350-meter tower that a Japanese manufacturer built for Saddam in 1986. The facility is located south of Ba’Qubah, near the town of Buhriz.

“Our radio signal is reaching south to Hillah and west to all of Baghdad and Fallujah. We reach parts of Tikrit and all of Diyala Province,” Samir Kamies, co-founder and television manager, said. “We are easily reaching 11 million people.”

Eleven million people. Sunni and Shia.

That ain't beanbag.

And Congress wants to shut us down. Go figure.

Posted by Cassandra at March 29, 2007 08:36 AM

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You mean the media's reporting is selective and distorted?

Color me so very surprised!

Posted by: JannyMae at March 29, 2007 11:37 AM

Yes, I was shocked and appalled at my own bias. Shame on me. Next thing you know, I'll be passing on leaks of classified information from my own government.

Posted by: Thomas Ricks at March 29, 2007 12:48 PM

This just in: the Senate Democratic majority was able to pork their way to a cowardly surrender. I'm sickened.

Posted by: daveg at March 29, 2007 01:24 PM

Daveg; c'mon, cowboy up. :)

This isn't the end, and the articles sited by Cassandra are just of a piece with the general dis-information campaign fomented by the major media outlets.

There will be a showdown, of sorts, after the Congressional Break now coming. NOW is the time for the President and his administration to go on a domestic information offensive, while the Congress is scattered and won't be able to focus on their negative message. I hope someone on the President's staff is thinking this way. A series of important appearances by the President and others to talk up the positives (to date) of the Surge and the revised ROE, and talk down, in the most negative polite words possible, what the Democrat majority has just done.
Right now, and faster than before. And more of it tomorrow, and plenty more next week.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at March 29, 2007 02:51 PM

A personal friend of mine (a full colonel in the chaplain corps) sent me a copy of a letter from General Petraeus; I can post it if you'd like...

Posted by: camojack at March 30, 2007 01:27 AM

Sure :)

I have it buried somewhere in my email but I would never be able to find it in a million years, camo. It was excellent.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 30, 2007 08:32 AM

Actually, I just now did a web search to find it; my copy is at home and I'm at my job in the Military-Industrial Complex at present.

Here 'tis...

Posted by: camojack at April 2, 2007 01:25 AM

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