September 7, 2006


Hatched by Dafydd

I've read at least five articles in the antique media in the last week that included some variant on the phrase "the deteriorating situation in Iraq." It was almost as if the entire MSM held a meeting and picked that week's buzz words.

According to the internationally accepted English-language dictionaries, "deteriorating" means "getting worse," of course; evidently, the media is using its own strange, new definition of which we were previously unaware.

In fact, we have several very good measures of how well or ill the Iraq strategy is working. Let's start with the easiest: how do American military personnel in Iraq fare these days?

Not too badly, actually; a lot better than in the previous two years. According to Iraq Coalition Casuality Count, the years 2004, 2005, and the first 250 days of 2006 have seen the following service deaths:

Deaths of American servicemen
and servicewomen in Iraq
Year Deaths Days Average per day
2004 848 366 2.32
2005 846 365 2.32
2006 480 250 1.92

That's a drop of 17% over 2005; and as the handoffs from Coalition forces to Iraqis continues, that number will continue to drop, as fewer American troops will be patrolling dangerous sections of Iraq. That may not be a stunning drop; but it sure as shootin' isn't any kind of an increase. Thus, by the standard of deaths (and the broader category of casualties) of our troops, Iraq is getting better, not worse.

Another metric is the number of civilians killed, wounded, or even attacked; after all, the whole purpose of an army is to do the fighting for the civilian population. If more and more Iraqi civilians were being killed every month, then that would inarguably be an example of things getting worse.

And we all know that things certain did get worse in July: Sunni and Shia militias turned on each other and began a wave of brutal "executions" and other murders. But July was more than a month ago; and the Iraqi security forces (the Iraqi Army, the Iraqi National Police, and the local, provincial police), along with their Coalition partners, responded to the spike in violence.

But was the response successful, or are the killings still proceeding apace? Alas, the website we just used doesn't report this number; instead, it combines Iraqi civilians and Iraqi military deaths into one lump sum -- which is rather useless when we're trying to separate the two.

The reality is that Operation Together Forward, despite its rather unfortunate name, has been quite successful, according to the best possible source: Multi-National Force -- Iraq, the Coalition itself.

MNF-Iraq spokesman, Maj.Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, gave a presentation and slide show to the press yesterday demonstrating how casualties, homicides, and attacks against civilians have all dropped markedly in Baghdad. But I haven't seen one word of this show up in the elite media today... so evidently, it didn't take.

(That's hardly a departure for them; as Sachi notes, they ignored the steady political and reconstruction progress made up to July, and they are ignoring the entire recovery after the July spike in violence. They focus like a laser beam, as Clinton used to say, on one bad month and pretend that's the norm.)

But in fact, we have some very cool slides from Caldwell's presentation that demonstrate this improvement in the Iraq endeavor (hat tip to Soldier's Dad; see the rest of the slides at the MNF-Iraq link above).

First, civilian killings in Baghdad -- the worst of the three provinces that are lagging the other 15:

Comparing sectarian casualties in Baghdad from July to August 2006

Comparing sectarian killings in Baghdad from July to August 2006

Gen. Caldwell, in his presentation, explains this slide:

This is what it was in density, with red being the most dense, the highest number of those who have been murdered executed being found in this location here, and then somewhat more right in the center, right up here, and to where it's less dense, down. This is across the entire Baghdad city area. These are deaths that are reported, that are recorded, that we know about. And this is what it looked like in July. This is what it looked like in August, based on the casualty figures, as reported.

And then up in the Kadhimiya and the Mansour areas, you can see literally almost down to nothing here and then a little bit here.

As easily seen, sectarian and terroristic homicides have plummeted since Operation Together Forward began. That's not a "deterioration," that's a strong improvement... and you can see it graphically with your own eyes.

"All right, Mr. Lizard," I hear you kvetch, "so much for actual deaths; but what about attacks themselves? Aren't they still rising, even if killings are decreasing?"

All right, let's take a look at another slide:

Comparing sectarian casualties in Baghdad from July to August 2006

Here is Caldwell on this slide (reparagraphed for clarity):

One more indicator that operations are in fact reducing the amount of attacks on civilians is shown here on this graph. What I'd like to do is talk you through.

This is the baseline in March. Without getting into specific, exact casualty figures, this is the casualty figures as we reported them, as we tracked them during the month of March.

We found in the month of April we had about a 3-percent increase over that baseline of March, and in the May time frame we had about a 39 percent increase from, again, the baseline in March. By the July time frame, we had experienced a 73 percent increase in the number of casualties -- these are murders, execution, indirect fire, IEDs, whatever it was -- attacks that were being levied on civilians within the Baghdad area.

And then in August, August 7th is when you saw that the operations commenced, Operation Together Forward phase two. This month at the end of the month it's an 8 percent increase from the baseline back in March.

That is a 38% drop in attacks in a single month of Operation Together Forward. (The only bad thing about this operation is the name; couldn't they change it to Operation Guardian Angel, or something?)

Caldwell continues:

Again, what this shows is the cycle of retaliatory violence has been slowed in the target areas as we have specifically focused our efforts here within the Baghdad area. Again, we remain very cautiously optimistic about these figures, but we also recognize that the real measurement of this progress isn't just this month's but rather the sustainment of this over the long period of time. As we said many times before, this operation is going to be conducted over many months, not over several weeks.

This is part of the greatest story never told: the increasing tempo of our success in Iraq. The antique media is terrified of reporting on any of this... because it utterly undermines the Story, which is -- here comes what we in the writing biz dub the "callback" -- which is "the deteriorating situation in Iraq."

Oh, how I wish I could lock the mainstream news anchors, the elite newspaper editors, and the wire-service presidents in a room and ask them a few questions, then just keep asking and asking until they finally broke down and answered. (All right, maybe just a soupçon of waterboarding.) For people who yammer endlessly about "the public's right to know," they're remarkably unforthcoming about anything that might hurt their patrons, the Democrats.

I'm still trying to sort out which newsmen are actively evil... and which are just useful idiots.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 7, 2006, at the time of 8:13 PM

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Tracked on September 15, 2006 4:48 PM


The following hissed in response by: Robert Schwartz

It was almost as if the entire MSM held a meeting and picked that week's buzz words.

No actually, it is the pollsters and media wizards who DNC who do that. The MSM just picks them up off their fax machines.

The above hissed in response by: Robert Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 7, 2006 10:24 PM

The following hissed in response by: Redhand

Aw, C'mon Big Lizard, don't confuse me with the facts. It's painful to think when I can luxuriate in the mist (German for sh*t) of MSM/DNC (they're the same, right?) fiction.

The above hissed in response by: Redhand [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 8, 2006 5:23 AM

The following hissed in response by: MTF

Great post! After all is said and done it'll be important for everyone to ask and answer the question you close with: "which newsmen are actively evil... and which are just useful idiots."

Here's a hypothesis: there are only a few actively evil ones, but they're the ones running the main producers of news, AP, NYT, CNN, and Rueters (that's the editors and publishers, not necessarily the writers). The rest are useful idiots.

How many articles on national politics and the war get produced by those named companies, as a percentage of the whole? I don't know, but I'll bet the answer is "enough to shape the national reporting on these two subjects!"

By way of illustration, I have a vague recollection of someone, maybe LGF, tracking the spread of an AP story through the national media, well after the story had been so largely discredited it was mostly rewritten by AP. Yet, the uncorrected version was the version widely reprinted. These organizations needs to be brought to account so frequently that they themselves change their behavior, like Rumsfeld just tried to do to UPI.

BTW, OT, but we're at DAY 264 since Risen published his expose of the secret NSA program. No sources have called to account.

The above hissed in response by: MTF [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 8, 2006 10:06 AM

The following hissed in response by: exDemo

No matter what happens this November George Bush is President through 2008. The subnational organizations don't have the staying power; they don't have the GDP of one third of the world's economies as the North Vietnamese did. We aren't fighting divisions, brigades, regiments battalions companies or platoons. There is not standing full-time military units unlike Vietnam.

The al Quedist's used to brag that they had provided the equivalent of 60- 90 thousand recruits worldwide. These have pretty much been liquidated, and they are having trouble meeting never mind running training camps. The violence in Iraq resembles more the work of a hundred Ted Kozlowski Una bombers who can't attack any real military targets but just dispatch bombs to crowded places full of defenseless civilians. This does not advance their cause in any way and actually violates most of the dictum's of Guerrilla warfare as espoused by the Mao's, Giaps and Guevara's of the world. It is a mindless death rictus; it will be seen to be that soon.

How many of gen giaps staff were killed or captured? How any of Ho chi Minh's Politburo leaders did we kill or capture ? Any? Any atall? but a week hardly goes by wihtout a major terrorist leader being killed or captured. No poliitcal organization can with stand a rain of these kind of blows,and continue to function. It is apparent to all, save the MSM, that this is so.

The only reason that Iran didn't dispatch thousands more Iranian "volunteers" to come to the aid of HezbAllah was the blocking force of the US military which stood in the way.

Syria was also paralyzed by the American presence on its other non Lebanese frontier. These countries and North Korea have failed economies, are isolated and can score propaganda points but don't really amount to much. They certainly don't compare to the old East bloc in resources that they can command.

All are barely able to suppress incipient internal rebellion. sure two may get nukes or maybe all three but their ruling cliques are likely to survive no longer. Ten years seems like an eternity to conclude any of these regimes may survive.

The above hissed in response by: exDemo [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 8, 2006 12:32 PM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye

Two or three mornings ago I was listening to the radio in my car and at the top of the hourthe news came on and there was the blurb from ABC news saying that in spite of the much "ballyhooed" news that casualties were down in Iraq during August, the Baghdad morgue had said that there were 1500 bodies brought there in that month....ergo the Pentagon line was "patently false"..

I listened to that and I thought to myself are these people completely stupid or are they just incapable of changing the story from month to month. I guess this means that unless there is a death free month in a city of 6 million people there can be no good news.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 8, 2006 12:49 PM

The following hissed in response by: Rob in Mass

Not only is the situation "deteriorating" but the violence is always, always "spiralling". Not content with reporting facts, reporters seem compelled to attach some evocative kinetic element to their description. "Spiralling" signals that everything is not only deteriorating but deteriorating at an accelerating pace and suggests movement toward some dread end point of irrevocable disaster. But, strangely, after "spiralling" daily for 18 months it's not quite as bad as it was. Why is that? I search my Boston Globe in vain to understand and begin to feel dizzy.

The above hissed in response by: Rob in Mass [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 8, 2006 1:39 PM

The following hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist

First...a most EXCELLENT Post!!!

(All right, maybe just a soupçon of waterboarding.)

That would eliminate the rather boring task of "just keep asking and asking" questions, and would be the most gentle way of gaining factual answers...hey, just pass out a list of questions, then bring in the waterboard, and have the 'Goon Squad' lock all exits from the auditorium (or stadium, if the crowd is large enough). That way, you give them some choices...

Now, have you considered sending your Post here to the New York Times, as an Op-Ed??? Humble me suspects that they would publish it...well, after some editing. Perhaps dropping that 2004-2006 'death chart', and the two slides would get it published immediately. ;)

The above hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 8, 2006 3:07 PM

The following hissed in response by: vnjagvet

Thank you for posting this, DaH. I suspect if the progress in August continues into September and October, it will be difficult to hide. Especially with appropriate publicity from the DOD and White House.

Something tells me Tony Snow will not be silent.

The above hissed in response by: vnjagvet [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 8, 2006 6:24 PM

The following hissed in response by: Patterico

I want to believe this is not getting worse. But what about the Pentagon report?

"This is a pretty sober report," said Peter Rodman, the assistant secretary of Defense for international security. "The last quarter has been rough. The level of violence is up. And the sectarian quality of the violence is particularly acute and disturbing."

And what about the escalation in civilian deaths in Baghdad at the beginning of the month?

The above hissed in response by: Patterico [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 9, 2006 12:28 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


But what about the Pentagon report?

Note the timeline:

The current report covers a three-month period that ended in early August.

The period covered by the Pentagon report is the part in graphic 2 above that ends at the 173% bar.

And what about the escalation in civilian deaths in Baghdad at the beginning of the month?

That's why we look at the long-term trend, not day by day. Let's see what the entire month of September works out to be. Recall that August started out very bad, too; then it tapered off.

We won't know for sure until we see the complete September figures, which won't come out until October, of course.

"Patience the way of the Jedi is!"


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 9, 2006 2:58 PM

The following hissed in response by: Big D

Why do you assume that evil and stupid cannot happily co-exist in a single news anchor?

"The only bad thing about this operation is the name; couldn't they change it to Operation Guardian Angel, or something?"

How about:

"Operation Muktada Mop Up?"

"Operation Jihadi Go Boom?"

Thank you, I'll be here all week.

The above hissed in response by: Big D [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 11, 2006 11:18 AM

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