What Petraeus left
out of last week's
what's really going
on in Iraq.
The American Spark
Bush Playing 'Patriot Game' With General Petraeus
By Cliff Montgomery - Sept. 17th, 2007
By purposely selecting facts to fit pre-conceived notions, General David Petraeus gave George W. Bush what
he's been looking for--style over substance, via a respected man in uniform who will now serve as the de-facto
"face" of the Iraq War.
The general's congressional testimony last week primarily served as little more than yet another attempt by this
White House to control the public debate on Iraq. But a keener eye will note that Petraeus made claims which
fly in the face of numerous facts recently verified by top Middle East and U.S. intelligence analysts.
For while General Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker--the two highest-ranking Bush Administration
officials currently in Iraq--gave six hours of questionable claims to apparently gullible lawmakers last week, what
they left out of their testimony speaks volumes about what's really going on there.
One chart displayed by Gen. Petraeus appeared to show an eventual decline of sectarian fighting in Baghdad
from December 2006 to August 2007. But it conveniently failed to show that this coincided with a massive
change in the religious character of several Baghdad neighborhoods, from a primarily Sunni Muslim to a
majority Shi'ite Muslim population--which occurred as a direct result of fierce ethnic and religious violence. The
violence only declined after the areas had been "cleansed" by sectarian militias.
Nor did Petraeus or Crocker mention to lawmakers that since the beginning of the U.S. troop surge, Iraq has
seen a sharp rise in the number of civilians forced to become refugees. They also failed to say that a whopping
86 percent of Iraqi refugees say they'd been attacked because of their religious or ethnic sect, according to
statistics from the International Organization for Migration.
And though Petraeus claimed that civilian casualties had decreased in the last five weeks, he failed to explain
how that assertion was apparently contradicted by a chart he himself displayed during his testimony, revealing
that violent attacks actually rose through one of those weeks at the very least.
Petraeus may not have realized it, but his charts only further verified that "ethno-sectarian" killings in
August--though down from July--remained at a higher level than in June.
He also failed to explain to Congress why the greatest decrease in such violence occurred during a period
lasting from January through February of this year, before Bush's "surge" began.
And while both administration officials testified to lawmakers that Iraq's security forces have improved, neither
mentioned how deeply those forces have been infiltrated by partisan militias. Petraeus only gave a quick
acknowledgment that in 2006 a number of "Iraqi security forces" were themselves conducting ethnic violence.
Petraeus further claimed that 445,000 individuals were on the Iraq security forces' payroll; but he failed to add
that several officials suspect that thousands of these "individuals" don't actually exist. It's thought many Iraqi
"security personnel" are mere phantoms, whose salaries fatten the bank accounts of corrupt ministry officials.
In fact, many experts who've examined all the U.S. government's statistics on Iraqi violence accuse American
military brass of again cherry-picking the data which best suit their bosses' political hopes. That the data are
primarily classified can only aid such cherry-picking of facts.
"Let's just say that there are several different sources within the administration on violence, and those sources
do not agree," said Comptroller General David Walker to Congress during a Sept. 4th discussion on the
release of a new, rather damning Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on Iraq.
Senior American military brass have denied the accuracy of the primarily negative GAO report. But many
conclusions from its so-called 'flawed' methodology were echoed in August's disheartening National
Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq, a separate study created by America's top intelligence analysts.
Among the worst problems documented by the NIE? The clearly escalating state of war between competing
Shi'ite militias in southern Iraq. The violence for instance has taken over the southern port city of Basra, which
last month resulted in the murder of two provincial governors.
A Baghdad-based spokesman for the Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNF-I) recently admitted to The Washington
Post that such killings are not counted by U.S. military statisticians.
"Given a lack of capability to accurately track Shi'ite-on-Shi'ite and Sunni-on-Sunni violence, except in certain
instances," the spokesman told the Post, "we do not track this data to any significant degree."
The December 2006 report of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group likewise identified a "significant underreporting
of violence" by Bush Administration officials like Petraeus and Crocker.
General Petraeus told lawmakers, "We are not trying to mislead, I assure you that." But his empty assurance is
disproven by the clear facts.
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