by Gerard Donnelly Smith
(Swans - December 31, 2007 - January 1, 2008) Has the US military surge in Iraq been successful? The debate still continues with the arguments following partisan lines; those who support the president's policies argue the surge was a success, while those who oppose the war present contradictory evidence.
Logically a thing cannot both be successful and also not successful. According to Iraq Body Count (IBC), year four of the Iraq occupation has been the deadliest: from March 2006 to March 2007, civilian casualties reached 26,500, up 11,000 from last least year, and up over 20,000 from the first year of the occupation when 6,332 civilians were killed.
In regards to the surge, according to the IBC,
It is important to place the events of 2007 in context. Levels of violence reached an all-time high in the last six months of 2006.Only in comparison to that could the first half of 2007 be regarded as an improvement. Despite any efforts put into the surge, the first six months of 2007 was still the most deadly first six months for civilians of any year since the invasion.
The intended purpose of the "New Security Plan" was increased protection and "security" for Iraqi citizens. If this were the intended purpose, then the surge does not appear to be a success. One might gauge success then by measuring whether the Iraq people feel more secure. A BBC poll published on September 10, 2007, revealed that 70% of Iraqis feel security has worsened, specifically for the area targeted by the surge.
Since the beginning of the surge, the Iraqi Red Crescent has reported monthly increases in the number of internally displaced people. In January, under 50,000 Iraqis had left their homes to find security in refugee camps or in less violent provinces. Each month thereafter, thousands more fled the increased violence caused by the surge, and in August the total number of displaced Iraqis jumped to 1,930,946. According to the Iraqi Red Crescent, that represents a 71% increase with 96.5% of those fleeing Baghdad, the center of the surge.
If a majority of Iraqis within the surge area believe security has worsened and about 1.8 million people left Baghdad since the beginning of the surge, then can anyone consider the surge a success? If the security of the Iraqi people was the intended goal of the surge, and more civilians were killed during the surge than during any previous year, then can anyone consider the surge a success?
The Pentagon admitted in June 2007 that the surge had only resulted in more violence. Justifying the surge, Gen. David Petraeus noted that attacks against U.S. troops were down. In September, Petraeus presented his Report to Congress on the Situation in Iraq, claiming that "trends have been uniformly positive across Iraq." Petraeus stated that civilian deaths declined in Baghdad by 70% and decreased 45% overall. He also noted increased success in finding al Qaeda ammunition caches, and claimed the surge resulted in the killing or capture of 100 leaders and 2,500 fighters and had resulted in disrupting "5 media cells."
Given this contradictory evidence concerning the number of civilian deaths (a 45% decrease according to Petraeus or a 28% increase from the previous year according to IBC), one must question the statistics. When one considers that the U.N. reported that 34,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in 2006, then the 26,500 reported killed in 2007 by the IBC results in a decrease.
However, in a very detailed analysis of casualty reporting, Stephen Biddle, a Senior Fellow for Defense Policy, noted that, "A misleading two-point comparison can thus easily be structured to imply that casualties are getting worse, not better, in 2007; or that the drop in 2007 is much greater than it is; or that there has been no change at all." About the Petraeus report, Biddle noted that it was neither "inaccurate or uncorroborated"; however, the implied claim that the surge itself caused a decline in civilian casualties must be questioned. (See http://www.cfr.org/publication/14295/)
So did the surge act as a swelling, sweeping body of water inundating al Qaeda in Iraq? Apparently not, even according to General Petraeus. Did the surge act like an atmospheric change in pressure? Not according to the civilians in Baghdad, who fled the surge as if a hurricane were bearing down upon them. Did the surge deliver a burst of current or voltage? Energy and money was expended. Perhaps the surge was just another violent and oscillatory disturbance, a war engine's pulsating and uneven motion.
When the final figures for 2007 are released by the United Nations and by the Pentagon, the debate will continue. However, success for the Iraqis, meaning a secure and peaceful environment, still seems a long way away. While the debate continues, more civilians are being killed, including children. One must never forget that surges in troop levels and surges in missions will result in civilian deaths. Only peace and the end of the war will bring about the surge's intended goal.
Eventually one side or the other will win after a long and bloody struggle. Regretfully, more civilians will be killed, and all Americans should morn that inevitable consequence of war. When the final body count is tallied, that number should be indelibly marked on the American conscience, so that next time, they will not allow a cowboy president to wage an illegal war against a country that did not threaten their security.
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