Thursday, November 08, 2007

Like violence you kill me, forever and after

From today's NYTimes, good news!
American forces have routed Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the Iraqi militant network, from every neighborhood of Baghdad, a top American general said today, allowing American troops involved in the “surge” to depart as planned.

Except this:
Maj. Gen. Joseph F. Fil Jr., commander of United States forces in Baghdad, also said that American troops had yet to clear some 13 percent of the city, including Sadr City and several other areas controlled by Shiite militias. But, he said, “there’s just no question” that violence had declined since a spike in June.

So Al Qaeda is gone from Baghdad, except for where it isn't. Sadly, the NYTimes reporters don't question this questionable statement.

So I guess this means the troops can start coming home today. Except for the troops left to fix the 13% of Baghdad let in Al Qaeda's hands. Or something. Since we've been told again and again the the true enemy is Al Qaeda in Iraq.

But a recent article in Washington Monthly begs to differ:
In March 2007, a pair of truck bombs tore through the Shiite marketplace in the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar, killing more than 150 people. The blast reduced the ancient city center to rubble, leaving body parts and charred vegetables scattered amid pools of blood. It was among the most lethal attacks to date in the five-year-old Iraq War. Within hours, Iraqi officials in Baghdad had pinned the bombing on al-Qaeda, and news reports from Reuters, the BBC, MSNBC, and others carried those remarks around the world. An Internet posting by the terrorist group known as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) took credit for the destruction. Within a few days, U.S. Army General David Petraeus publicly blamed AQI for the carnage, accusing the group of trying to foment sectarian violence and ignite a civil war. Back in Washington, pundits latched on to the attack with special interest, as President Bush had previously touted a period of calm in Tal Afar as evidence that the military's retooled counterinsurgency doctrine was working. For days, reporters and bloggers debated whether the attacks signaled a "resurgence" of al-Qaeda in the city.

Yet there's reason to doubt that AQI had any role in the bombing. In the weeks before the attack, sectarian tensions had been simmering after a local Sunni woman told Al Jazeera television that she had been gang-raped by a group of Shiite Iraqi army soldiers. Multiple insurgent groups called for violence to avenge the woman's honor. Immediately after the blast, some in uniform expressed doubts about al-Qaeda's alleged role and suggested that homegrown sectarian strife was more likely at work. "It's really not al-Qaeda who has infiltrated so much as the fact [of] what happened in 2003," said Ahmed Hashim, a professor at the Naval War College who served as an Army political adviser to the 3rd Cavalry Regiment in Tal Afar until shortly before the bombing. "The formerly dominant Sunni Turkmen majority there," he told PBS's NewsHour With Jim Lehrer soon after the bombing, "suddenly ... felt themselves having been thrown out of power. And this is essentially their revenge."

Clearly AQI is the current boogeyman, propped up as the poster boys for the Global War On Whateverthehellwe'refighting™, and referred to by GWBush, Condi Rice, Cheney, and all other government mouthpieces. And since Maj. Gen. Fil has declared Baghdad to be somewhat AQI-free, that means the war is over no?

Um, no. And violence isn't really down, either:
First of all, the assertion that US troop deaths have fallen is extremely misleading. In fact, It is only late October and already more US troops were killed in Iraq in 2007 than in all of 2006. Indeed, 2007 will almost certainly hold the record for the year of the most US military deaths since the war began.

According to the Iraq Casualties Site, these are the yearly numbers of death of US military personnel in Iraq:

Year US Deaths
2003 486
2004 849
2005 846
2006 822
2007 832

Damn this damn war. Damn GWBush.

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