September 1, 2006

That (Not So) Gloomy Pentagon Report

Hatched by Dafydd

Or, Sen. Harry Reid Demands America Declare Defeat and Go Home

The wires and the antique media are abuzz with the report they've been salivating for; here are their headlines:

Meanwhile, Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%), reacted with his usual brand of triumphal defeatism:

In response to the Pentagon's report Friday, the Senate's top Democrat, Harry Reid of Nevada, said it showed the Bush administration is "increasingly disconnected from the facts on the ground in Iraq."

"It is time for a new direction to end the war in Iraq, win the war on terror, and give the American people the real security they deserve," Reid said.

The report covers the period from Nouri al-Maliki becoming prime minister (late May) to August 11th; but that means it misses the period of declining Iraqi violence that we discussed in Disconnections, It's Time For Maliki to Sadr Off, and more generally in "The Last Men Standing".

Here is AP on the new report, just to give you a flavor of the excited coverage:

Sectarian violence is spreading in Iraq and the security problems have become more complex than at any time since the U.S. invasion in 2003, a Pentagon report said Friday.

In a notably gloomy report to Congress, the Pentagon reported that illegal militias have become more entrenched, especially in Baghdad neighborhoods where they are seen as providers of both security and basic social services.

The report described a rising tide of sectarian violence, fed in part by interference from neighboring Iran and Syria and driven by a "vocal minority" of religious extremists who oppose the idea of a democratic Iraq.

Death squads targeting mainly Iraqi civilians are a growing problem, heightening the risk of civil war, the report said.

Well, you get the idea. Naturally, not a single one of these sources links to the report itself; I still haven't found such a link, and I'd be grateful to any Lizardite who can supply one in the comments section.

But if we don't have the report, we do have a story about the report on the Pentagon's main web page. In it, we find that the report contains several positive points undiscussed by the elite media:

  • The Iraqi government is "getting on its feet," having filled the entire cabinet during this period. The government also has a lot of support from rank and file Iraqis and is doing a good job assuming command and control of the New Iraqi Army and other Iraqi security forces (the National Police, under the control of the Interior Ministry, and local police under the control of provincial governors).
  • "The Iraqi economy is moving along. Estimates put gross domestic product growth in the country at about 4 percent for the year."
  • Oil exports are up, electricity is flowing, water is potable, sewage facilities are operational, and the rest of the country's infrastructure is rapidly recovering... not only from the war but from decades of decay during Saddam Hussein's repellant dictatorship.

The only major problem is security -- though of course that is a huge element of the equation. However, even there, the Iraqis themselves are responding, as the Pentagon story makes clear:

Violence is up, with most of the incidents being Iraqi-on-Iraqi attacks in and around Baghdad. Most of the attacks are in only four of the 18 provinces, the report notes. Fourteen provinces remain fairly peaceful and in one – Muthanna in the south –no coalition forces are operating.

Sullivan said training and equipping of Iraqi forces continues on track. Iraqi security forces are at about 278,000 trained and equipped in the Iraqi Army, National Police and local police. This is an increase of about 14,000 since the May report, he said. [Rear Adm. Bill Sullivan is the Joint Staff’s vice director for strategic plans and policy.]

What’s more, Iraqi forces are assuming the lead in their areas. This allows coalition forces to take a more supporting role. “There are currently five Iraqi divisions, 25 brigades and 85 battalions that are in the lead in their areas,” Sullivan said. “This is a 32 percent increase since the last report.”

Coalition trainers in Iraq are now focusing their attention on combat support, combat service support capabilities – medical, logistics, maintenance and so on. “That will allow the Iraqis to be more independent in their operations,” Sullivan said. “There is also a focus on improving the capabilities of the Ministry of Defense and the Interior Ministry which is required over the long [haul] for the Iraqis to assume full responsibility.”

And the plan is working; civilian casualties declined dramatically, starting just after the period of this report ended... another point the ever-so-fair elite media report only grudgingly, buried deep within the story. The Times:

The period of the study does not cover either a surge in bloody attacks during the past week nor a relatively low number of civilian casualties earlier in the month; a joint American-Iraqi security campaign in Baghdad is expected to contribute to a relatively low civilian death toll for all of August.

And AP:

Col. Thomas Vail, commander of a 101st Airborne brigade operating in the mostly Shiite areas of eastern Baghdad, told reporters at the Pentagon on Friday that an intensified effort to root out insurgents and quell sectarian violence in the capital is bearing fruit, leading to a decrease in sectarian murders in recent days.

And to be strictly fair ourselves, while Reuters doesn't mention this decline in violence in the article on the report, they do have a separate story out now that discusses the highly encouraging drop in violence the last few weeks -- even taking this week into account:

Iraq deaths down despite new carnage
Sep 1, 2006
by Alastair Macdonald

Violent deaths among civilians in Iraq may have fallen by a quarter last month, statistics indicated on Friday, despite a bloody week in Baghdad that ended with 70 dead in a series of explosions late on Thursday.

The partial data, provided by Iraq's Interior Ministry and based on figures from the Health Ministry, tend to confirm U.S. military confidence that a crackdown in the capital has slowed the bloodletting but also that dozens are still dying every day.

Yet the Times also illustrates an annoying tendency towards dissembling. Exhibit:

The assessment provides bad news on a variety of fronts.

It said that Al Qaeda [in Iraq] is active despite the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, because of the group’s “cellular structure,” that the Sunni insurgency is strong and that militias are undiminished.

The implication is that al-Qaeda in Iraq is just as strong as ever, despite us sending Musab Zarqawi on to meet Allah. But that isn't what the report says at all; in fact, it says precisely the opposite. From Reuters:

Conditions that could lead to a civil war exist in Iraq, the Pentagon said in a new report on Friday, as the "core conflict" has changed into one pitting Sunni Muslims against Shi'ites, with the Sunni Arab insurgency [al-Qaeda in Iraq] overshadowed.

But wait... wouldn't a general civil war be even worse than what Zarqawi was doing? Perhaps; but on the other hand, a civil war is primarily dangerous to Iraq, while Zarqawi -- having a wider vision of jihad via his close connection to Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri -- was more dangerous to the United States.

Since our purpose in invading Iraq was not to liberate Iraqis but rather to protect America, even a civil war in Iraq is preferable to a strong al-Qaeda presence there. But in any event, there is no indication that such a war has started; indeed, even Reuters admits the report makes that clear:

"Conditions that could lead to civil war exist in Iraq," the report stated, adding that concern about civil war has increased within the Iraqi civilian population.

"Nevertheless, the current violence is not a civil war, and movement toward a civil war can be prevented," added the report, which said the security environment was at its most complex state since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 that toppled President Saddam Hussein.

The Pentagon story underlines this critical point:

The fact that the national government is functioning is “one relevant data point” that shows Iraq is not engaged in a civil war, he said. ["He" is Peter Rodman, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs.]

So the real bottom line is that:

  • There was a big surge of sectarian violence in Baghdad --
  • Though it fell short of a civil war --
  • And was partially mitigated by a collapse in al-Qaeda in Iraq's terrorist war --
  • That started with the formation of the government...
  • But a major counteroffensive by Coalition and Iraqi forces in recent weeks has started to quell this violence --
  • Even taking into account several major massacres by Sunnis these last few days.

And brief though that summary is, it's deeper than anything you'll read in today's newspapers.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 1, 2006, at the time of 5:51 PM

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Tracked on September 2, 2006 4:02 PM


The following hissed in response by: LiveFreeOrDie

What if they moved, or even attempted to move, the Capital away from Baghdad?

Would that do anything?

The above hissed in response by: LiveFreeOrDie [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 1, 2006 6:43 PM

The following hissed in response by: Karl

Even that more positive Reuters piece tells you a lot about the coverage of Iraq.

In particular, the story emphasizes the significance of the Baghdad morgue figures in calculating deaths, but then avers:

Morgue statistics for August were not available on Friday.

That may be technically true, but somehow, the L.A. Times -- hardly a right-wing propaganda organ -- seems to be able to get info from the morgue:

Last month, the Baghdad morgue received more than 1,800 bodies, a record high. This month, the morgue is on track to receive less than a quarter of that.

After weeks of reporting how bad things are in Baghdad, US and Iraqi forces are making big progress... so Reuters switches to the stats for Iraq as a whole and don't report what the morgue is apparently willing to tell anyone who asks. And the overall stats? Reuters certainly doesn't consider the possibility that overall number of Iraqi deaths is down in August, according to the left-wing Iraq Coalition Casualty Count.

You might also want to look at today's second New York Times story, headlined Violence Grows, Killing 52 Iraqis, in Face of Security Plan. In the body of this gem, the recent success of ops in Baghdad is reported like this:

Three years into the war, American and Iraqi officials have grown increasingly eager to show progress. In recent weeks, they have repeatedly trumpeted evidence of a decline in killings this month after increases in June and July.

Yet the bloodshed of the past few days suggests that the gains might be temporary.

So good news is: (a) US military propaganda; and (b) dismissed in favor of speculation based on a few days of data.

The above hissed in response by: Karl [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 1, 2006 8:00 PM

The following hissed in response by: rich

The link for the report is on the NY Times site at:

It was in the left margin of the linked story.

I looked all over the DOD site and could not find it, but did find the prior two reports. (By Searching for Iraq Security and Stability Report.)

So the report will probably be posted Tuesday.

The above hissed in response by: rich [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 1, 2006 8:58 PM

The following hissed in response by: rich

Found the report on the DOD site:

In the process I found a whole lot of reports.

In case anyone is interested here is a list:

Government Reports on Iraq

State Department

Weekly Status Report on Iraq:

US AID Updates:

Section 1227 Report on Iraq:

Section 2207 Report on Iraq Relief and Reconstruction:

Department of Defense

Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq:

The former web site for these reports is at:

White House web site on Iraq:

National Defense University Iraq-US Policy Documents website:

DOD Current Publications List:

The above hissed in response by: rich [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 2, 2006 11:13 AM

The following hissed in response by: Bill Faith

Excerpted and linked at Old War Dogs >> Bill's Bites.

The above hissed in response by: Bill Faith [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 2, 2006 12:44 PM

The following hissed in response by: Big D

What strikes me (other than the occasional inside curve ball) is the expectation of it all.

News is based on the unexpected. The sun coming up this morning is expected. Therefore, when that great burning ball of hydrogen, that immense fusion explosion occurring only one pharsec away, happens each morning it is not news. It is an extraordinary event, but not unexpected.

It is expected that the U.S. Army and Iraqi government would beat the insurgents. It is expected that we are good and the terrorists are bad. It is expected that the insurgents would kidnap people, lie, cheat, terrorize. It is all expected. Therefore none of it is newsworthy.

For this reason we can have victories and successes in Iraq that are not reported, since it is expected we will win. This in a way is a backhanded compliment. Newsrooms expect the U.S. to perform two miracles before lunch, before knocking off for an afternoon nap. It is news whenever that doesn't occur.

The above hissed in response by: Big D [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 5, 2006 10:41 AM

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