From Joe Conason Salon:
When Gen. David Petraeus testifies Monday on the effects of the American troop escalation in Iraq, don’t expect him to dwell on the strategic irrelevance of the “surge,” which was supposed to revive chances for political reconciliation among that country’s warring ethnic and religious factions. Were the surge to be judged by that original metric — a reduction in violence sufficient to encourage real cooperation among the warring sides — then it has certainly failed so far.
The commanding general can be expected to sidestep such unpleasant topics and to focus attention instead on Anbar province, which President Bush himself has declared an exemplary “success” — and on the Pentagon’s hotly disputed casualty and incident statistics, which supposedly prove the value of the surge.
But now the White House and the Pentagon, up against growing domestic pressure for withdrawal from Iraq, would like to convince us that they have happy numbers showing that more U.S. troops has meant fewer dead Iraqis. The underlying methodology may be highly questionable, as the Government Accountability Office has argued. (Petraeus has retorted that the GAO methodology is wrong because it makes the same alleged mistakes as the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency — a somewhat confusing response, since the DIA is the Pentagon’s own agency.)
The results may depend on how military analysts decide to enumerate each specific incident — determining whether a killing should be categorized as sectarian, combat related or criminal. And such results can be altered depending on the political needs of the moment.
Indeed, the Pentagon has reportedly gone back over the 2006 data in anticipation of the upcoming hearings on Iraq policy. Meanwhile, however, the safest assumption is that the numbers cited by Petraeus and U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker to measure the success of the surge reflect the broadly flawed approach criticized last year by the Iraq Study Group.
Whether the escalation has made any substantial impact on Iraqi security will remain arguable, perhaps, although the numbers above, bolstered by many others, suggest strongly that it has not. There is, however, one number that can only rise as we deploy more U.S. troops to Iraq: the number of American combat deaths. For the six-month Friedman Unit in 2005, that statistic was 384; for the FU in 2006, it was 345; and for the FU just completed in August, the number was 577.
Now there’s a way to measure success.
We’re kicking ass!! (Winky-winky!)
Get pissed off and do something!! Get on the Road2DC