“Since the administration keeps saying that failure is not an option, they are redefining success in a way that suits them.” James Denselow, Iraq specialist, Chatham House

Iraqis remove charred body from explosion

Iraqi firefighters evacuate a burned body from the site of a car bomb explosion at a market in Baghdad’s al-Sadriyah neighborhood, April 18, 2007 Ahmad al-Rubaye / AFP / Getty

Bush administration officials have been using the drop in Iraqi fatalities as proof that the surge is working and leading to defused tensions between the Sunnis and Shias. What they don’t tell you is that the figures they cite do not include Iraqis killed by car bombs. The fatalities they count are the dead bodies that turn up on streets which they attribute to “sectarian murders” and not the death squads which freely roam the environs of Baghdad armed with US provided Gluck pistols and shiny new vehicles courtesy of the US taxpayer, in particular the Wolf Brigade.

“We would go into a Sunni town, cordon the town, search it [and] confiscate weapons. The searches would go great because [of the] American presence. We would leave, and the Wolf Brigade went back in that night and started kidnapping and killing people, [and] burned a couple of houses down.” U.S. Army Maj. Charles Miller, advisor to the Wolf Brigade in Iraq

Don’t forget that the death squads and the US helped stoke these sectarian killings and right now the US is hard at work building a five-kilometer “neighbourhood wall” of 3.5-meter-high concrete blocks around Adhamiya which will close off the largest Sunni neighbourhood in Baghdad from surrounding areas completely, making the ethnicization of the conflict physical.

The U.S. military described the wall as “one of the centerpieces of a new strategy by coalition and Iraqi forces to break the cycle of sectarian violence,” in a statement. But few Iraqis agreed.

“Surrounding areas of the capital with barbed wire and concrete blocks would harm these areas economically and socially,” said the Islamic Party, a predominantly Sunni formation. “In addition, it will enhance sectarian feelings. This will cause great damage to the neighborhood’s residents and have a negative effect on these areas instead of solving problems. It will deepen the gap between the people and encourage sectarianism.”

Whatever happens to the wall around Adhamiya, the U.S. military isn’t likely to abandon its strategy of carving up Baghdad neighborhoods.

“The U.S. military is walling off at least 10 of Baghdad’s most violent neighborhoods and using biometric technology to track some of their residents, creating what officers call ‘gated communities’ in an attempt to carve out oases of safety in this war-ravaged city,” reported the Washington Post.

“In some sealed-off areas, troops armed with biometric scanning devices will compile a neighborhood census by recording residents’ fingerprints and eye patterns, and will perhaps issue them special badges, military officials said.”

The logic is simple, according to one U.S. military officer: “If we keep the bad guys out, then we win.”

The logic is simple but flawed. Riverbend poignantly recalls Baghdad before the war, “One could live anywhere. We didn’t know what our neighbors were- we didn’t care. No one asked about religion or sect. No one bothered with what was considered a trivial topic: are you Sunni or Shia? You only asked something like that if you were uncouth and backward. Our lives revolve around it now. Our existence depends on hiding it or highlighting it- depending on the group of masked men who stop you or raid your home in the middle of the night.” The wall will only make matters worse. See Warsaw Ghetto.

Google Earth photo of Adhamiya Neighbourhood (see here for full picture as above image needs to be resized to appear correctly in blog.) The Wall was begun on April 10th and is currently being built overnight by US troops despite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s order to stop.

There will only be one entrance into and out of Adhamiya and biometric passports will be used to check the identity of everyone entering and leaving.

The red X shows where the Sarafiya Bridge once graced the Tigris River until it was recently destroyed in an an attack on the Green Zone. Now see following map:

adhamiya sunni green zone bridge

It is quite obvious that somebody wants to isolate the Sunni. There will be no escape routes for the Sunni of Adhamiya should they need to flee an attack by Maliki forces.

In the meantime, while the number of tortured bodies being found dumped on the streets is down the number of Iraqis killed by car bombs has risen.

According to Juan cole:

Iraqis killed in February: 1806 (64.5/day)
Iraqis killed in March: 2078 (67/day)

That’s not a significant drop but a rise! Meanwhile, deaths in Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city, have risen.

Bush administration officials have pointed to a dramatic decline in one category of deaths — the bodies dumped daily in Baghdad streets, which officials call sectarian murders — as evidence that the security plan is working. Bush said this week that that number had declined by 50 percent, a number confirmed by statistics compiled by McClatchy Newspapers.

But the number of people killed in explosive attacks is rising, the same statistics show — up from 323 in March, the first full month of the security plan, to 365 through April 24.

Overall, statistics indicate that the number of violent deaths has declined significantly since December, when 1,391 people died in Baghdad, either executed and found dead on the street or killed by bomb blasts. That number was 796 in March and 691 through April 24.

Nearly all of that decline, however, can be attributed to a drop in executions, most of which were blamed on Shiite Muslim militias aligned with the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Much of the decline occurred before the security plan began on Feb. 15, and since then radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has ordered his Mahdi Army militia to stand down.

According to the statistics, which McClatchy reporters in Baghdad compile daily from police reports, 1,030 bodies were found in December. In January, that number declined 32 percent, to 699. It declined to 596 February and to 473 in March.

Deaths from car bombings and improvised explosive devices, however, increased from 361 in December to a peak of 520 in February before dropping to 323 in March.

In that same period, the number of bombings has increased, as well. In December, there were 65 explosive attacks. That number was unchanged in January, but it rose to 72 in February, 74 in March and 81 through April 24.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi government refuses to hand over to the UN it’s civilian casualty numbers because they fear that the statistics would be used to undermine the work of the USUK coalition. The UN released a report citing it’s own figures which claimed that despite the surge, sectarian violence for February and March was high, contradicting Bush administration officials and Bush who in a recent interview made the following incoherent comments on the war in Iraq:

I mean, there is an acceptable level of violence in certain societies around the world. And the question is, you know, what is that level? That’s where the experts come in. You know, you and I can’t determine that sitting here in New York, but we can ask people’s advice upon it. David Petraeus is — would have an opinion on that. Ryan Crocker, our ambassador in Iraq. That’s a very interesting way of putting the question. Because all — there is an acceptable level of violence in all societies. Even our own. President George W Bush

Don’t ask the people of Iraq whether the violence is acceptable. Ask an expert like General Petraeus who sees the surge continuing “well beyond the summer.”

“Petraeus is being given a losing hand, I say that reluctantly. The war is unmistakably going in the wrong direction. The only good news in all this is that Petraeus is so incredibly intelligent and creative…. I’m sure he’ll say to himself, ‘I’m not going to be the last soldier off the roof of the embassy in the Green Zone.’ ”Gen. Barry McCaffrey. “

The longer the coalition remain, the more Iraqis that will get killed.

During the Presidential address to the US public in January Bush said,

A successful strategy for Iraq goes beyond military operations. Ordinary Iraqi citizens must see that military operations are accompanied by visible improvements in their neighborhoods and communities. So America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced.

But during his recent PBS interview with Charlie Rose, the plans changed. Visible improvements are no longer one of the benchmarks as Iraqis clearly have a higher tolerance of violence.

ROSE: There is no question on their part and on your part that catastrophe worse than it is today is inevitable if there’s not a political solution and if the United States pulls out in the near term.

BUSH: Well, first of all, you said this is a catastrophe worse today. You know, it is….

ROSE: Well, there’s sectarian violence that is of a certain level.

BUSH: It is, but it’s significantly lower than it was a couple of months ago.

ROSE: And is there an acceptable level of violence?

BUSH: Well, that’s the question to the Iraqi people. That’s a fascinating question. I mean, there is an acceptable level of violence in certain societies around the world. And the question is, you know, what is that level? That’s where the experts come in. You know, you and I can’t determine that sitting here in New York, but we can ask people’s advice upon it. David Petraeus is — would have an opinion on that. Ryan Crocker, our ambassador in Iraq. That’s a very interesting way of putting the question. Because all — there is an acceptable level of violence in all societies. Even our own.

ROSE: And where do you…

BUSH: Even though all violence needs to be abhorred — nevertheless, there is, you know, there’s certain violence, levels of violence that people say, well, gosh, I can go about my life, I’ve got…

ROSE: We can’t create zero violence is what you’re saying.

BUSH: Well — and by the way, if the standard of success is no car bombings or suicide bombings, we have just handed those who commit suicide bombings a huge victory. In other words, if you say, you know, I’m going to judge the administration’s plan based upon whether they’re able to have no car bombings in Baghdad. We will have just given — because car bombings are hard to stop, or suicide bombings, very hard to stop.

We have just given Al Qaida or any other extremist a significant victories. And that’s one of the problems I face in trying to convince the American people, one, this is doable. In other words, I wouldn’t have our troops there if I didn’t think this is, one, important; and secondly, achievable.

But I also understand on their TV screens, people are saying horrific bombings, and they’re saying to themselves, is this possible? Can we possibly succeed in the face of this kind of violence? And that’s where this enemy, the enemy of moderation, has got a, you know, they’ve got a powerful tool (inaudible).

Bush thinks that the media are handing the enemies of moderation a powerful tool by broadcasting the reality of everyday car-bombings and violence in Iraq. Focusing on suicide bombings is handing Al Qaida (the base) a significant victory? In other words, not only is the “surge” not working but Bush is losing the perception war. He knows it. We know it. So why is he sending yet more US soldiers to die in Iraq? Why does he vainly continue to sell the Iraq war to the American public as winnable? +650,000 deaths later… His sociopathology is matched by his wife’s:

“Many parts of Iraq are stable now. But, of course, what we see on television is the one bombing a day that discourages everybody.”

Bush surge