and why you haven’t heard
According to the New York Times, civilian deaths in Baghdad are at an all-time high, marking the failure of the Baghdad security plan launched by the al-Maliki government, and the descent of Iraq into civil war.
But according to Iraq’s national security minister Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, the sectarian violence peaked in mid-July, and has declined sharply since then, indicating the success of the security plan.
The first viewpoint has been promulgated in most metropolitan dailies, all the broadcast networks, and on CNN and MSNBC. (FOX News has actually presented both contentions, although with scant detail.)
We dug up the second viewpoint in the Malaysia Star, August 22, 2006. It is not readily available to consumers of American media. But the underlying data – the civilian death toll — is accessible via the internet. Civilian deaths are falling rapidly, as al-Rubaie contends, not spiraling out of control, as the New York Times implies.
In the Aug. 15, 2006 NYT, Edward Wong and Damien Cave wrote:
July appears to have been the deadliest month of the war for Iraqi civilians, according to figures from the Health Ministry and the Baghdad morgue, reinforcing criticism that the Baghdad security plan started in June by the new Iraqi government has failed.
In the Aug. 22, 2006 Malaysia Star, John Chambers wrote:
He [National Security Minister al-Rubaie] challenged the notion that violence was out of control in the Iraqi capital, saying it had peaked last month. “The surge was only until mid-July,” he said. “The number of attacks is down from mid-July by 45 percent and extra-judicial murders… are down 35 percent since mid-July. We’re there, we’re definitely on the mend.”
Look who agrees with al-Rubaie…
The two most meticulous English-language sources on Iraqi civilian casualties are maintained by Leftwing opponents of the Iraq War.
www.icasualties.org and www.iraqbodycount.net
These websites list every “war-related” civilian death reported by the international press corps in Iraq. The sites can be faulted for attributing certain crime-related deaths to the war. But they cannot be faulted for failing to document their sources. “IraqBodyCount” goes a step further, noting contradictions between the highest and lowest death-reports associated with a given incident. The site maintains a simultaneous running tally of the “maximum” and “minimum” casualties reported.
In July, icausalties.org reported 1063 civilian casualties. In the first 22 days of August, icasualties reports 593 civilian casualties. Extrapolated for a full month, this would yield a net August death-decrease of 21.4%.
But that isn’t the whole story. Comparing the first 11 days of August against the second 11 days, there has been a hefty relative drop. Using the icausualty.org numbers, we find that Iraqi civilian casualties, Aug. 12-Aug. 22, declined 25.1% from early August.
This is significant because coalition tactics in Baghdad changed on August 9th Prior to that time, the government attempted to control the movement of terrorists and incendiary ordnance through a series of check points. This system worked very well in the Kurdish North, where the Peshmerga militia has brought terrorist attacks to a grinding halt.
But the key to the Kurdish anti-terror checkpoints is the Kurdish language. Kurds are not interested in perpetrating acts of terror. The Peshmerga militia keep terrorists out by excluding, or grilling, anyone who doesn’t speak fluent Kurdish. In other words, they PROFILE.
This doesn’t work in Baghdad, with its ethnically and linguistically mixed population. The New York Times authors, Cave and Wong, described the breakdown of the system:
The plan, much touted by top Iraqi and American officials at the time, relied on setting up more Iraqi-run checkpoints to stymie the movement by insurgents. Those officials have since acknowledged the plan has fallen far short of its aims, forcing the American military to add thousands of soldiers to the capital this month…”
Precisely. Starting August 9th, the government beefed up the security detail in Baghdad for a “clear and hold” operation called “Operation Forward Together.” Iraqi security forces took the lead, with coalition embeds providing professional advice and logistic support. The most violent areas of Baghdad were targeted first, and each “cleared” area was garrisoned by a standing ISF presence. “Clearing” meant hunting down the bad guys where they live, killing or arresting them, and confiscating their weapons stockpiles.
Committees of safety were organized across sectarian lines, often with the help of local imams and tribal leaders, to keep lines of communication open between the communities. The number of anti-terrorist tips promptly increased, allowing the ISF to focus on the gangs and individuals at the core of the problem. Police presence reduced the civilian pressure for tit-for-tat killings. The sectarian violence in Baghdad has NEVER been popular.
In a weird way, the difference between the two strategies recapitulated American arguments over the war on terror. The first strategy – dependence on checkpoints – was defensive, and didn’t work. The second – killing the bad guys where they live – paid immediate dividends.
Our question to the NYT…
Why are Edward Wong and Damien Cave reporting July news in mid-August? Why are they savaging an abandoned policy that didn’t work very well, while ignoring an ongoing policy that is working?
Why are they allowing the editorial policy of the New York Times to interfere with real-time reporting on ongoing operations?
Civil war v. police action
A final irony of the failure of MSM to report strategy, tactics, and results in Operation Forward Together, launched two weeks ago, is that what the media has ignored is essentially a police action – precisely how the MSM wants to fight the “War on Terror.” The guys slaughtering dozens of unarmed people at markets in Sadr City are not an army. They have no government-in-exile, no territorial base.
They are simply criminal gangs that hire out to jihadi ideologues, local militias, or revenge-seeking tribal leaders – i.e., anyone who will pay them. A dead giveaway that this is NOT a civil war is the continued decline in coalition casualties, despite the presence of more Americans embedded with the ISF at the center of the violence.
We will report more fully on the results of Operation Forward Together at the end of this month. In the meantime, we urge our readers to ignore the misrepresentations of MSM. This operation is NOT the most difficult thing the coalition has undertaken. And, after a shaky start, it is going rather well.