McClatchy: "What Crocker and Petraeus didn't say"
The Bush administration's top two officials in Iraq answered questions from Congress for more than six hours on Monday, but their testimony may have been as important for what they didn't say as for what they did.
A chart displayed by Army Gen. David Petraeus that purported to show the decline in sectarian violence in Baghdad between December and August made no effort to show that the ethnic character of many of the neighborhoods had changed in that same period from majority Sunni Muslim or mixed to majority Shiite Muslim.
Neither Petraeus nor U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker talked about the fact that since the troop surge began the pace by which Iraqis were abandoning their homes in search of safety had increased. They didn't mention that 86 percent of Iraqis who've fled their homes said they'd been targeted because of their sect, according to the International Organization for Migration.
While Petraeus stressed that civilian casualties were down over the last five weeks, he drew no connection between that statement and a chart he displayed that showed that the number of attacks rose during at least one of those weeks.
Petraeus also didn't highlight the fact that his charts showed that "ethno-sectarian" deaths in August, down from July, were still higher than in June, and he didn't explain why the greatest drop in such deaths, which peaked in December, occurred between January and February, before the surge began.
And while both officials said that the Iraqi security forces were improving, neither talked about how those forces had been infiltrated by militias, though Petraeus acknowledged that during 2006 some Iraqi security forces had participated in the ethnic violence.[...]
Petraeus conceded that that success didn't extend to Ninevah province, where progress "has been much more up and down." But he didn't say that many believe that al Qaida numbers increased there only after the surge began. Ninevah is where some of the largest bombings of the year occurred, including the attack on the Yazidis, which killed more than 300.[...]
[Patraeus] said 445,000 people were on the security forces' payroll, but didn't discuss that many officials believe that thousands of those don't actually exist, but are phantoms whose salaries actually go into ministry officials' pockets.
Both Iraqis and U.S. officials concede that militias have infiltrated the security forces and that political leaders continue to interfere with their operations to serve their sects' interests.
Petraeus presented a series of maps to show how sectarian violence had dropped in Baghdad from December 2006 to August 2007. But all of the maps showed the same color-coding for Sunni, Shiite and mixed neighborhoods, even though the ethnicity of many neighborhoods have shifted dramatically over the previous year. U.S. military officials say that Baghdad was once 65 percent Sunni and is now 75 percent Shiite.[...]
Retired Army Lt. Gen. Robert Gard said that it was understandable that Petraeus emphasized the positive.
"He's a human being and he's a military human being that wants to accomplish the mission," Gard said.
Emphasizing the positive in a desire to complete the misssion is not the same as telling the whole story -- and the American public deserves the whole story, not some whitewashed PR push - which is all we got yesterday from Petraeus and Crocker.
Why isn't this administration telling us the whole story?
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