This is what Obama
is celebrating when he lauds the “wild” success of the “surge”: the
extension and entrenchment of war he ostensibly opposes.
But is the surge a “success” on its
own public terms, in the way that it is portrayed almost universally
now in the media: a bold campaign that has brought peace and security
to Iraq? Of course not. As Juan Cole points out below, the “surge” (and
several other major factors unrelated to the U.S troop escalation, not
least of which is Iran’s intervention to tamp down Shiite insurgency
and bolster the allies it shares with Bush in the Baghdad government)
merely reduced the amount of violence in Iraq from that of an
unspeakable hell on earth to the level of some of the very worst
sectarian conflicts of the last century. As Cole noted a few days ago
(see original for links):
“Small scale bombings and shootings
persist in the capital — each a reminder that the war is not over and
that Baghdad remains a place where no trip is routine and residents are
still guided by precautions. Most won’t drive at night. Many try to
avoid heavily clogged streets, remembering that suicide bombers and
other attackers intent on killing large numbers of civilians favor
traffic jams or congested areas . . . [in August] at least 360
civilians were killed and more than 470 wounded in violence throughout
the country, according to an Associated Press count.”
That would be 4,320 civilians
killed in political violence every year if the level stayed that low.
(I take it this number excludes killed ‘insurgents’ and Iraqi security
forces, so that actual number of war-related deaths would be much
It is estimated that 75,000 persons have died in the civil war in Sri Lanka since 1982, or 2800 a year.
Iraq is higher, just with regard to civilian casualties.
The Kashmir conflict is estimated to have killed 70,000 persons since 1988, or about 3500 a year.
Iraq is higher.
In the Lebanon Civil War of
1975-1990, it is estimated that at least 100,000 persons were killed,
75,000 civilians and 25,000 military.
If we extrapolated out Iraq’s
August death rate for civilians over 15 years, that would be 64,000 or
not far from the toll in Lebanon’s war.
Let me repeat: The level of
violence at this moment in Iraq is similar to what prevailed on average
during one of the 20th century’s worst ethnic civil wars! It is still
higher than the casualty rates in Sri Lanka and Kashmir, two of the
worst ongoing conflicts in the world.
Only in an Orwellian society could
our press declare the relative decline in monthly death tolls in Iraq
to constitute “calm” in an absolute sense.
And that is if the August levels
are taken as the baseline and if the numbers continue to be that low.
If we averaged deaths during the previous 12 months, the baseline would
be much higher.
The current Iraq Civil War is one
of the world’s most deadly continuing conflicts, worse than Sri Lanka
and Kashmir and on a par with the 15-year long Lebanon Civil War!
This is the “success” that exceeds
all dreams, according to the Democratic candidate for President of the
United States — the voice, you’ll recall, of hope and change.
But there is no hope in Obama’s
stance on Iraq today, which does not differ in any fundamental way from
that of George W. Bush or John McCain. And given the Democrats’
agreement on every front with Republican positions — on Iraq,
Iran, Russia, the War on Terror, authoritarianism, offshore drilling,
etc., etc., etc. — there will be no change come November either.