Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Yes Surge, No Surge
An interesting piece in Salon about how the Bush Administration has been spinning (mostly successfully) the effects of the surge of US forces in Iraq. Even with no real reduction in violence and the impending collapse of the Maliki government, we are still being told the surge is working.
Money quote: "The reporters and editors who gave U.S. headlines such as "U.S. Death Toll in Iraq in July Expected to Be Lowest in '07" (New York Times) were being assiduously spun. Bush officials were undoubtedly pushing the information that produced these headlines in an attempt to give Republicans in Congress some good news to take back to their constituents during the August recess.
In late July, CNN interviewed Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, war propagandist-in-chief in Baghdad, about the casualty numbers, reporting: "Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, commanding general of the Multi-National Corps-Iraq, called the development in recent weeks "an initial positive sign." "This is what we thought would happen once we get control of the real key areas that are controlled by these terrorists," Odierno said at a press conference. At the same time, he said, "I need a bit more time to make an assessment of whether it's a true trend or not."
Odierno's performance was unconvincing to anyone who knew the score. He was speaking on July 24, well before the month had ended. By the time all the casualties were counted and reported (not until early August), icasualties.org was giving the July toll as 80, only one less than in March, during the opening stages of the surge.
Worse, comparisons to previous months in the spring don't take into account the searing summer environment. Baghdad in July is one of those torrid colonial locales of which Noel Coward was speaking in his 1923 song when he wrote that only "mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun." The dip in casualties is always substantial in July, since guerrillas usually prefer not to operate with heavy explosives when it is 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade.
And as a tally noted on Foreign Policy magazine's blog, the number of U.S. troop deaths in July, compared with previous years of the war, is anything but a turn for the better:
July 2003: 48
July 2004: 54
July 2005: 54
July 2006: 43
July 2007: 80"