I'll admit I haven't watched much of General Petraeus' testimony because I'm more interested in following what is happening in Iraq. McClatchy has a detailed story that should thoroughly debunk whatever cooked statistics Petraeus is throwing out up on Capitol Hill today:
According to the Iraqi Ministry of Interior, 984 people were killed across Iraq in February, and 1,011 died in violence in August. No July numbers were released because the ministry said the numbers weren't clear.
But an official in the ministry who spoke anonymously because he wasn't authorized to release numbers said those numbers were heavily manipulated.
The official said 1,980 Iraqis had been killed in July and that violent deaths soared in August, to 2,890.
The McClatchy story explains how the shrinking Sunni population of Baghdad has been walled off into impoverished ghettos as the sectarian cleansing campaign conducted by the Shiite militias with assistance from the Iraqi police forces continues unabated. The city has gone from 65% Sunni to 75% Shiite; a remarkable transformation. Civilian casualties across the country and in Baghdad have remained steady as the number of internally displaced people has exploded. The story explains how the sectarian cleansing campaign in Baghdad has been largely uninterrupted by the surge:
Late last year, Sadr's Mahdi Army militia had moved from Baghdad's mostly Shiite eastern half across the Tigris River to the Sunni-dominated western half, pushing Sunnis out of the city's northwest. That campaign has continued during the surge, with the Mahdi Army fighting to control the Jihad, Bayaa, Amil and Saidiyah neighborhoods in the city's southwest.
An estimated 1 million Iraqis have fled the deteriorating situation in Baghdad contributing to the worst refugee crisis the region has seen in decades.
The situation in Anbar, which accounts for a scant 5% of Iraq's population, has improved largely due to a new strategy that began months before the surge in which the US is paying "protection money" to the Sunni tribes in exchange for a cessation of attacks on our forces and helping us to eradicate the Al Qaeda presence in their areas. The mere 4,000 additional surge troops in Anbar has made little difference in this strategy which relies more upon diplomatic skills and the disbursement of cold hard cash. The Sunni tribes began taking the fight to Al Qaeda in 2006 and they have met with increasing success despite the fact that the US continued to oppose them until this year.
As I predicted 6 months ago, the addition of 30,000 troops has had little impact on the nature of the conflict in Iraq which is primarily a sectarian civil war. Al Qaeda, with its 800 or so mostly Saudi jihadists in Iraq, was listed as the fifth most serious problem in Iraq by National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley last year. The Al Qaeda problem has certainly diminished thanks to the fact that the we have enlisted the Sunnis to fight them (something I was advocating years ago).
The way forward in Iraq is to immediately begin a consistent and steady withdrawal of our forces in the most rapid manner possible while ensuring the safety of the troops. There is nothing left for our forces to accomplish in Iraq: they defeated the evil dictator and ensured there were no WMDs in the country. Their job is done and it's time to bring them home.
Will Iraq collapse into a horrifying bloodbath after we leave? Probably not thanks to the effectiveness of the sectarian cleansing campaign being conducted by the Shiites. Our priority should be to assist Baghdad's remaining Sunnis in relocating to the west and the north. Separating the sects in provinces like Diyala and Ninevah will be a challenge but this sort of thing has been done before. As the sects separate, the overall level of violence should go down. On the other hand, if we remain in Iraq and continue with the same strategy we've followed for the last 4 years there is little doubt the the bloodletting will continue at the same rate.
The generals will never tell us that it's time to leave Iraq, it's up to the people to demand that the politicians follow our will on this war. Conservatives will call this a "defeat" for America but it's not. In reality, it's a defeat for the neocons and the right-wing warmongers (especially the 101st Fighting Keyboardists) and that's what really has them spooked.
Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!