Sunday, May 20, 2007

The surge that isn't working

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I've been saying over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again that the so-called "surge" in Baghdad isn't working, that it was never going to work, that it's perceived successes are either temporary or illusory, but you don't have to listen to me. Consider this:

The "troop surge" by American soldiers in Iraq is not working, one of Britain's senior military officials in Baghdad has said.

In a pessimistic assessment of the strategy designed to pull Iraq back from all-out civil war, Alastair Campbell, the outgoing defence attaché at the British Embassy in Baghdad, claimed that extra US forces were not achieving the desired drop in violence.

Mr Campbell, whose remarks may cause embarrassment to Downing Street and anger in Washington, said that the casualty figures for April -- in which 1,500 civilians are believed to have been killed -- provided no "encouraging" evidence.

Proponents of the surge, and of the war generally, could argue that Campbell is wrong to cite only casualty figures, that success may be defined differently, that success will take time, but:

In unusually candid comments, Mr Campbell also disclosed that American commanders had decided that the criteria for the "success" of the troop surge would be nothing more than a reduction in violence to the level prior to last year's al-Qaeda bombing of the al-Askari Mosque in Samarra, which destroyed its golden dome.

The destruction of the shrine, one of the most important Shia sites in the world, led to a dramatic escalation in sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shia factions, peaking at 3,500 deaths in September last year. Casualty figures had been running at 800 a month before that, a level that few would regard as anything approaching peace.

Just ask yourself: What is peace? What is stability? What would constitute success?

Whatever the spin coming from those who continue to support the war, who want the war to go on either as is or in some escalated form, what we are witnessing is what I've called the perseverance of failure in Iraq.

Reality bites, eh?

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