It depends on where you’re looking from
The Surge has certainly changed the face of war/occupation in Iraq but the law of unintended consequences continues to play its usual roles. The surge, itself, was supposed to last no more than 6 months but the usual political word games morphed that into a 6 month buildup and then 6 months of active operations to date with promises of reductions ‘next year’.
The newspapers seem quiet on Iraq other than repeating the administrations claims of success but maybe it is just that issues in our topsy-turvy world keep happening at such breakneck speed that we’re all getting attention-deficit disorder trying to keep a watchful eye in constantly changing directions.
That we are living under an administration gifted in the tactics of diversion and distraction is undeniable. In watching/listening to public pronouncements, I often get the smell of a planned, or real, schizophrenic presentation of truth, untruth, placations, avoidances, isolation, disconnection and fuzzy logic.
“The surge is working”: Iraqis are returning home due to it being so much safer, they say. Not so, according to the returnees and the U.S. press in the area. They are returning because they are financially bereft of the ability to live in foreign lands that will not allow them to work. Essentially, they have no choice.
“The surge is working”: Fewer ‘coalition’ soldiers are being killed, fewer roadside bombs, fewer Iraqi’s killed. What would define success? Well, U.S. military deaths were 951 through 12/26/07 making it the highest death toll for the 4 years of this particular war. Of course, there were 30,000 additional troops involved in probably more aggressive actions.
For the first 3 years of the Iraq war, the U.S. cleansed the government, military and the police of any Sunni’s – the tribal base of Saddam Hussein. We called it debathification, referring to the Bathist party. Between losing their status and power in society, and having no way to earn a living, the Sunni’s fought back in the only way they could – the ‘uprising’ of guerilla warfare against the Americans and terror against the Shia.
The violent reactions throughout Iraq rose. First it was uprisings, then a rebellion, then guerilla war, insurrection and finally an insurgency. We could not control it so the surge was created – more troops, stronger responses. Still the fighting continued – Shiite vs Sunni – both fighting the Americans – the Americans fighting Shiite militias and death squads, Sunni militias and death squads and the relatively new presence of a well trained Al Qaida force. Mufta Al Sadr refused to back down from our Army and Faluja was only ‘won’ by being mostly destroyed – we occupied empty territory and declared victory.
The ‘coalition’ armed and trained innumerable Shia for the Police and the Army as well as trying to make the new Shiite dominated government appear to function. Untold billions were funneled to various Shiite leaders, either for their support or at least to keep them from loosing their own militias into the fray. Additional millions of dollars and close to a million weapons are just gone, we know not where.
This just wasn’t working so we ditched the generals and upgraded new ones.
We started an opposite tact – one that worked so well back home in the States. We quietly switched sides and enhanced the divisions already existing in Iraq. Slowly and quietly we assisted the Sunni’s by hiring them to go after Al Qaida - $300/month per soldier plus more godzillions in weapons and money. It’s all the old “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” all over yet again –and it mostly worked. Violence against the U.S. went down, Al Qaida was continually being defeated. Shiites were bogged down in trying to develop a working government.
Meanwhile, violence overall began to diminish, certainly one of the major goals of the surge. We simply armed and provided money and protection for all sides and voila! Relative peace. Or is it?
Below is a simple map of Baghdad that shows the reduction in violence over the year of the surge and provided by General Jones. Looks good, right?
And so it is. Now look at the population distribution changes underlying the violence flashes. Baghdad, always having been a mixed community is now very solidly one religion or the other, Shia or Sunni, and very much resembles the battle maps of WWII. Each faction consolidating it’s territory and having killed or chased out its enemies
It is similar throughout Iraq with the Kurds in the northeast (and 20% of the oil), the Shia in the southeast, (70% of the oil and the only water port) and the Sunni major enclaves in the capital and the central region.