by Brandon Friedman
(Posted first at Vet Voice and reposted here with permission.)
When a mortar landed just outside Tikrit on Thursday, the round killed one American soldier and wounded another. We still don’t know their names. Yet despite all the cheering we’ve heard about the success of the surge recently, this death made January the deadliest month for Americans in Iraq since September. Let that sink in.
When 39 Americans are killed in January at the highest rate since September (which marked the end of the single bloodiest period to date in Iraq) we cannot say things are improving. Call it a spike, call it a bump, call it whatever you want: Just don’t call it success. The bottom line is that despite what the chickenhawk pundits and politicians are saying about the surge, American troop deaths are up 70 percent from December to January.
To further highlight the fact that the success of the surge is largely a myth, two explosions rocked Baghdad today, killing over 70 people in the deadliest bombing in the capital since last summer. From the AP:
Remote-controlled explosives strapped to two mentally handicapped women detonated in a coordinated attack on pet bazaars Friday, police and Iraqi officials said, killing at least 73 people in the deadliest day since the U.S. sent 30,000 extra troops to the capital this spring.
Unfortunately, this violence is occurring beneath the shadow of Moqtada al Sadr–as Iraq awaits his decision on whether or not to declare an end to his ceasefire with American troops and Sunni militias. And despite what American commanders are saying publicly, influential members of the Mahdi Army are urging Sadr to end the ceasefire. Should that happen, violence would literally explode across central Iraq.
Therefore, given this significant rise in violence, coupled with the perpetual uncertainty that hangs over Iraq, I’ve come up with a list of people, along with some key statements they’ve made in the last month–the deadliest month for American troops since last summer. It’s called:
The List of People Who Are in the Process of Making Premature, Ignorant Statements about the Success of the Surge
“Unresolved problem” segment tonight, by all accounts, the security situation in Iraq has improved drastically in just a few months. The surge by American troops has worked.”
When Bill says, “by all accounts,” he really means by all accounts that don’t figure in the upcoming American casualty rate, major terrorist attacks on the horizon, and those that wrongly predict the future.
The full surge has been in place and operating for just over six months, and already violence has fallen dramatically across the country. The achievement in such a short time of significant legislation that requires all sides to accept risk and compromise with people they had been fighting only a few months ago is remarkable.
Well, Kagan’s been ahead of himself for years now, but that’s understandable when a Napoleonic historian tries to tackle modern Middle Eastern problems. And O’Hanlon jumps the gun because he thinks he’s an expert after spending a few days on the ground in Iraq. That often happens to highly educated, but inexperienced people when they try to untangle guerrilla war in Arab countries. As for Keane, well. . .I would’ve expected more from him. Oh well.
The Iraq debate in 2007 focused on whether the new strategy and troop increase could stem violence in Iraq. It did.
It did? That’s probably news to the men and women serving in Diyalah. It’s probably also news to the Iraqi Army units attempting to quell the violence in Mosul this week. Jeez. This is another chickenhawk Kagan (wife of Frederick) who knows absolutely nothing about the fighting in Iraq, and yet still tries to offer advice to the commanders on the ground.
This is a position so utterly disconnected from the on-the-ground reality I discovered in Iraq during a recent 11-day visit that it boggles the mind. The ability of our forces to rout Al Qaeda during the past year was due precisely to abandoning the Special Forces-centric approach we had utilized in the past.
Routing al Qaeda during the past year? Hey buddy, last year was the deadliest of the war for Americans. And the American death rate was higher in January than in any month since September. We can do without the chickenhawkish self-congratulation, desk jockey.
The Democrats are having the hardest time with the new reality. Every candidate is committed to “ending the war” and bringing our troops back home. The trouble is, the war has largely ended, and precisely because our troops are in the middle of it.
I love this one from Zakaria: “The war has largely ended.” That doesn’t even merit a response. The troops in theater hate guys like this.
While the enemy is still dangerous and more work remains, the American and Iraqi surges have achieved results few of us could have imagined just one year ago. (Applause.) When we met last year, many said that containing the violence was impossible. A year later, high profile terrorist attacks are down, civilian deaths are down, sectarian killings are down.
Right. Until now. This is nothing we haven’t heard dozens of times in the past. We’re about to turn that corner. Last throes. Unimaginable success. Same stuff.
Progress here is undeniable, both in terms of security on the ground and in the political bargaining among Iraq’s parties and ethnic groups. You see this on the streets, in the faces of people you meet in shops and teahouses.
Do you see it in the torn bodies and bloodied sandals that littered Baghdad’s streets this morning, David?
And finally, though he hasn’t said it in the past month (as far as I know), I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring John McCain into this for his series of remarks:
“We can win in Iraq, and we are winning in Iraq,” he told voters crammed into Hudson’s Smokehouse on this rainy Carolina Monday. “The surge is working and Baghdad is better off for it.”
Keep in mind that McCain said exactly the same thing exactly four years earlier:
We are winning in Iraq, but we sow the seeds of our own failure by contemplating a premature military drawdown and tempering our ambitions to democratize Iraqi politics.
The bottom line, as I’ve said before, is that the violence in Iraq is cyclical, and will remain so until we leave. Anyone who tells you otherwise–anyone who tries to sell you a “surge” as the solution to all your problems, for instance–is full of garbage.