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April 08, 2008

Placing the Violence In Perspective

At a time when we're being joyously informed that "Mayhem and misery are back in Baghdad", "The streets of Sadr City in eastern Baghdad have become a bloody battleground", and (most incredibly - or should it be incredulously):

"... Everything got burned up. Everything was destroyed.’"

... it may help to keep a few things in mind.

1. Historically, upswings in violence have been closely tied to events here at home:

Data from the Defense Intelligence Agency indicates that enemy-initiated attacks on U.S. troops, Iraqi security forces and Iraqi civilians peaked in October 2006, the month leading up to the U.S. midterm elections.

The DIA data shows that between November 2006 and May 2007, attacks remained at the highest levels of the five-year conflict. Since last summer, however, when the surge in U.S. forces in Iraq reached full strength, attacks have precipitously declined, dropping almost 70 percent between June 2007 and January 2008.

Click for larger

2. Several studies have shown a close correlation between intensive and negative media coverage of the violence and insurgent attacks:

Are insurgents affected by information on US casualty sensitivity? Using data on attacks and variation in access to international news across Iraqi provinces, we identify an "emboldenment" effect by comparing the rate of insurgent attacks in areas with higher and lower access to information about U.S news after public statements critical of the war. We find in periods after a spike in war-critical statements, insurgent attacks increases by 5-10 percent. The results suggest that insurgent groups respond rationally to expected probability of US withdrawal.

3. Despite their frequent statements that dissent is patriotic, many critics of the war are damned by their own words. They are not only aware quite of the damage they are doing but wish they could be doing more to help the other side:

Pardon the Editorial Staff for finding it a bit... well... rich for Frank to liken Basra to the Tet Offensive: a Viet Cong psy ops attack the American media were duped into aiding and abetting.

It's not so much the comparison itself that amuses. It's Mr. Rich's attitude. Some folks might think that, having been fooled once, the media would not wish to be made fools of again. Those people would be wrong.

Frank Rich, you see, having himself told us he thinks Basra is (like Tet) an enemy propaganda attack aimed at undermining support for the war, is positively peeved the media haven't covered it more.

As CBS's Lara Logan notes with oblivious irony, the attacks in Basra come at an inconvenient time for the administration:

"This latest spike in violence coming at a very awkward time for the U.S. government. As America's top officials, General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker are due to testify before Congress tomorrow".

Gee. What were the odds?

Update: We'd say this news comes at an extremely awkward time for CBS:

"On the political front, Sadr now finds himself completely isolated."

UPDATE: Mahdi Army offers to lay down its arms. Plus, Top-level Iraqi Body Calls for Immediate Disarming of Militias.

Damn. That had to hurt.

Posted by Cassandra at April 8, 2008 10:09 AM

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Mahdi clarification. "If the Iran clerics tell them to lay down arms". Not likely. Iran wants to disrupt this whole thing.

Link to "several studies" doesn't link to sources. Logic would suggest that as Bush's popularity plummeted since the surge, violence would increase. But it didn't. Do you really think insurgents really care about our mid-term elections? That sounds like some justification for Congress swinging democractic. Clearly, a show of force quashed violence. However, it seems to have emboldened the Iranian factor. Puts us in a quandary. If we leave, the place will explode. If we gradual reduce, we need to create an international coalition. That is if the World wants to avoid a powder keg going of in the region. A fine mess we created. Now we must deal with it. I recognize we now own this (ala Colin Powell). And we didn't have to do it this way. That is the disappointment.

Posted by: Miguel at April 9, 2008 01:27 AM

I blame the "mainstream" media...Al Qaeda's most potent WMD.

Posted by: camojack at April 9, 2008 01:43 AM

Shall we blame the the media for bringing al Qaeda to Iraq? Or for pushing to administration for pushing for an invasion of Iraq? Or for helping Iran to infiltrate Iraq after the invasion. Or for ten years of sorties under Clinton and Bush in which we bombed the country? The media is a great scapegoat. It seems, if you watch the "mainstream media" that they've embraced the surge and our presence in Iraq. Not one voice in mainstream media that is something other than an op-ed guy or gal is opposed to what is happening in Iraq. As well, if you look at the editorial staff at any newspaper and television network, the number of hawks and rationalists out number those opposed to our presence in Iraq.

Also, it is surreal to see Karl Rove as a "expert pundit" on Fox. You talk about propaganda. Amazing. CNN isn't any better. Also, remember NY Times was a huge cheerleader for the Bush team. Judith Miller is a neocon who now writes for the Manhattan Institute. Bill Keller has been unapologetic about the way the Times reported the war and the leaked info from the Office of Special Plans. The media morphs to the state of the day. It covers what sells.

Posted by: Miguel at April 9, 2008 01:53 AM

Link to "several studies" doesn't link to sources.

You don't give a damn about sources unless the source is gushing propaganda for your tribe and faction, m.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at April 9, 2008 11:52 AM

Shall we blame the the media for bringing al Qaeda to Iraq?
Posted by: Miguel at April 9, 2008 01:53 AM

Not at all...but we didn't bring them there either.

Callate la boca, puñeta.

Posted by: camojack at April 10, 2008 03:43 AM

> The results suggest that insurgent groups respond rationally to expected probability of US withdrawal.

What? They have an actual clue, unlike Dems?

Nawwwwww!!!! Cain't be! Theys Dems ah owah 'lectid leadahs. Theys th' mos' in- intel- inteli-- Theys th' smahtest among us!!

Posted by: obloodyhell at April 10, 2008 02:19 PM

"Theys Dems ah owah 'lectid leadahs. Theys th' mos' in- intel- inteli-- Theys th' smahtest among us!!"
Naw suh... theys jus tha Sphinctus Maximus amongst us, typicahlee preocahupied wit ahtainin tha mostest deviatus septimus coitalus chephalgius position, relahtive ta each othah...

Thunk well coiffed criminal lubriciousness performin an act of sexual exploitation of the unwashed., i.e. General Ordah #1 of tha U.S. Congress... Suh!

Posted by: Dr. Mahcus Welby at April 10, 2008 06:12 PM