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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Iraq: State of disunion

In his January 10, 2007, speech announcing "the surge," President George W. Bush explained the military rationale:
Our troops will have a well-defined mission: to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods, to help them protect the local population, and to help ensure that the Iraqi forces left behind are capable of providing the security that Baghdad needs.
Of course, this narrow military mission was not the only purpose of the surge. In fact, just a few moments later, the President explained the broader political goals:
A successful strategy for Iraq goes beyond military operations. Ordinary Iraqi citizens must see that military operations are accompanied by visible improvements in their neighborhoods and communities. So America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced.

To establish its authority, the Iraqi government plans to take responsibility for security in all of Iraq's provinces by November. To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country's economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis. To show that it is committed to delivering a better life, the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion of its own money on reconstruction and infrastructure projects that will create new jobs. To empower local leaders, Iraqis plan to hold provincial elections later this year. And to allow more Iraqis to re-enter their nation's political life, the government will reform de-Baathification laws, and establish a fair process for considering amendments to Iraq's constitution.
Many Americans need to be reminded of the President's words.

As everyone knows, and NPR explains, these goals are not being met.
The surge was designed to give the Iraqi government breathing space for reconciliation, and so far, there has been little of that. The legislation which the president sought and the "benchmarks" that he called for last year have largely not been met. There is no oil law. There have been no provincial elections. In his speech, the president noted that the Iraqi parliament recently passed a de-Baathification law; but he failed to mention that the measure is far more restrictive than the one the Bush administration had wanted.
So what did the President say about Iraq in his State of the Union address on Monday night?

Bush, SOTU, January 28, 2008:
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.
While it is true that violence in Iraq is down, it is important to keep in mind that it is basically down to 2005 levels -- worse than it was in 2004.

Iraq Body Count, January 1, 2008:
Figures for the most recent months indicate that violence in Iraq has returned to the monthly levels IBC was recording in 2005, a year which was itself (until 2006) the worst since the invasion.
Was everyone happy with Iraq in 2005? Just take a look at my archives from that year.

The IBC hasn't counted January figures yet, but it looks like the civilian death toll has nearly 700 by Monday, January 28. That's more than 24 per day. IBC frequently notes that its body counts are conservative -- as more information emerges, additional deaths may be noted.

In 2004, about 21 Iraqi civilians were dying per day. In 2005, it was 32.

Do people remember Juan Cole's September 22, 2004, post: "If America were Iraq, What would it be Like?"
What would America look like if it were in Iraq's current situation? The population of the US is over 11 times that of Iraq, so a lot of statistics would have to be multiplied by that number.

Thus, violence killed 300 Iraqis last week, the equivalent proportionately of 3,300 Americans. What if 3,300 Americans had died in car bombings, grenade and rocket attacks, machine gun spray, and aerial bombardment in the last week? That is a number greater than the deaths on September 11, and if America were Iraq, it would be an ongoing, weekly or monthly toll.
At more than 24 deaths per day, figure 170 per week. Multiply that number by 11 and the result is 1870.

So, it takes a bit more than 11 days for Iraq to experience a 9/11-like calamity.

That means 30 similar calamities per year -- almost 100,000 dead for the year...if Iraq was the US.

Should the US President -- or anyone -- be cheering that?

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