The Surge Failed
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The idea that the "surge" -- Bush's troop escalation -- is working is almost universally-embraced these days. But it's not supported by the evidence -- it's a testament to the power of American propaganda. As Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi put it, "You can run any shit up the flag pole, and these reporters will salute it."
That the troop escalation has been anything but a success is not an ideological claim, as supporters of the occupation charge, but numerical and chronological. The surge began last February, and there was something approaching a consensus at the time that the addition of about 20,000 combat troops -- the rest were support personnel -- would be a drop in the bucket in a country of 25 million people. Retired four-star General Barry McCaffrey said at the time: "I personally think the surge of five U.S. Army brigades and a few Marine battalions dribbled out over five months is a fool's errand." But the troop build-up continued in March, April and May.
The period that followed was a bloodbath -- last June and July were the most violent summer months of any year of the occupation. August was one of the bloodiest months, period. Then, that month, the powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr ordered his Mehdi Army to stand down. The number of Iraqi civilian deaths fell by about 50 percent the next month and decreased again in October and November. The militia is estimated to be 100,000 strong and is arguably the most powerful ground force in Iraq after the U.S. military. While the change can't be wholly ascribed to any single factor -- the violence has also decreased as a result of communities that have been fully "cleansed" of one or another ethnic or sectarian group -- it's clear that al-Sadr's order, not Bush's "surge," was responsible for most of whatever "success" there may have been.
Finally, there is the masterpiece of propaganda known as the "Sunni Awakening." Spun as a sign of success, the reality is that the U.S. military turned over some of the areas where they'd encountered the most violent resistance to local Sunni authorities -- many of whom they had condemned as "terrorists" previously -- and started paying their fighters to stop shooting at U.S. troops. In other words, the U.S. was defeated and surrendered territory to the "enemy," effectively paying reparations to local populations and suffering fewer casualties as a result. There are many ways to define success, but defeat and surrender are not among them. Yet, in perfectly Orwellian fashion, after four years of saying that Iraq was mostly stable aside from a few local areas and the Sunni "Triangle of Death," the administration simply stopped using the phrase and replaced it with talk of a "Sunni Awakening."
We've always been at war with Eurasia.
Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet.