“I want the enemy to understand that this is a tough task, but they can’t run us out of the Middle East…that they can’t intimidate America."- President George Bush, December, 2006
There was wailing and gnashing of teeth among the lib-left, hate-America crowd recently when the Iraqi government announced that the number of deaths by violence in Iraq in September had dropped by a remarkable 50 per cent from August, showing the Surge was working. Vastly underreported by major American media outlets (p.10 in the New York Times; p.14 in the Washington Post; p.16 in USA Today; a couple paragraphs in a larger story on p.4 in The LA Times; and a couple of sentences on the CBS Evening News and the NBC Nightly News (information courtesy of Newsbusters.org)), President Bush’s committing 20,000 extra American troops to Iraq last spring is having a dramatic effect on the ability of the terrorists to operate and spread their poison.
Due to their well-known dislike for the Bush administration and their unwillingness to give it credit for anything, liberal news organizations in America are disinclined to extensively report such good tidings about the Iraq war. On the other hand, one strongly suspects they would have given major exposure to any news showing an increase in September’s violent deaths or to any other negative aspect about the war (think of the Blackwater security company story). However, sooner or later these media venues are going to have to face the facts and start reporting that President Bush’s judicious decision to send the extra Surge troops and the heroic efforts of Iraqi and American security forces are defeating the Sunni insurgents and their al Qaeda ally. Perhaps this column can help them on their reluctant way by proffering some reasons for the Surge’s success.
First, the violence is decreasing because Iraq’s Sunni Arabs fighting to restore their predominant position in society, which is the main cause of the war, finally realize that after four futile and bloody years this is never going to happen. The Americans show no sign of leaving and have instead committed 20,000 extra troops, making their chances of returning to power even more remote. And once the Sunnis realized the old order was not coming back, their tribes began making peace with the government.
Moreover, like the tribes currently seeking peace in Afghanistan, Iraq’s people are simply tired of the violence, which is producing no results except for destroyed neighborhoods, a ruined economy and a life of fear. Besides, the continuous and sickening slaughter of civilians has turned many Iraqis, including Sunnis, against those who keep it going.
As well, the number of Sunni hardliners and Saddam supporters has decreased either by death, capture or by flight into exile. One military publication estimates the hardliners’ former strength has dropped from a high of about 100,000 to only a few thousand today. Just as discouraging for the terrorists is the fact that about ten to twenty of their number die for every American soldier, whose death rate, in another underreported fact, has dropped from about four per day last May to two in September.
This overall war-weariness and discouragement caused by the firmness of the American and Iraqi defense, in turn, has led Iraq’s Sunni tribes not only to make peace with the government but also to turn on America’s other major enemy on the Iraqi front: al Qaeda. This terrorist organization went to war against America in Iraq hoping to establish a radical Islamist state, from which it could launch operations against Europe and other Middle Eastern countries. However, it is now reduced to assassinating peace-seeking Sunni tribal chiefs. As a result, Al Qaeda is now on the run as those willing to grant it hideouts are dwindling in number. Due to the Surge, American and Iraqi security forces are also chasing its members all over the Sunni areas, drastically reducing their freedom of movement.
Al Qaeda is now apparently so desperate over the success of the Surge that, according to the story in England’s Daily Telegraph, it sent a killer to Iraq’s Dora district to assassinate people with a shot to the head at close range on the open street in order to reverse its gains. The murderer’s score stands at 19 after two weeks; but American and British Special Forces are looking for him, so one can expect his career in doing what al Qaeda does best, killing, will be a short one.
But, most importantly, it was the Surge that gave the American and Iraqi government forces the critical mass to turn the security situation around that had deteriorated in 2006 due to the skillfully planned instigation of sectarian violence. Basically, the Surge called for the searching and clearing of Baghdad neighborhoods by Iraqi forces, which they did well knowing the language and local conditions, while the Americans helped deal with any armed opposition. The difference this time was that the Iraqi security forces stayed in the cleared neighborhoods, backed up by American troops, while previous sweeps had seen the terrorists and criminal gangs return once the security forces had left.
As a result of the Surge strategy, it was stated that US and Iraqi government forces now control 54 per cent of Baghdad as compared to only 20 per cent before the Surge. And as the security threat from the Sunni hardliners and al Qaeda lessens, these forces are turning their sites on the pro-Iranian Shiite militias.
Moreover, as the security situation improves, ordinary Iraqis have also been stepping up and helping out by informing the American military, often for cash rewards, about terrorist activities. This is made easy for them, one analyst noted, by the millions of cell phones now present in Iraq and by the fact American forces do not divulge their sources’ names to the Iraqi police. As well, Iraqi men have continued to join their new army and police forces despite the horrific terrorist bombings of potential recruits in lineups before recruiting offices in pre-Surge Iraq. The Iraqi security forces that numbered 120,000 in 2004 are now 320,000 strong and are improving in performance and developing an experienced leadership.
But many problems remain. Like Afghanistan, the biggest one in Iraq is corruption in the police and government. A lack of good government will doom Iraq, even without the terrorism, to a dismal future. Also like Afghanistan, the terrorists have not gone away and are still powerful, as hundreds of volunteers still flock to Iraq to fight or blow themselves up, backed by financing from abroad. According to one report, among the foreign financiers that Interpol has been asked to arrest is one of Saddam Hussein’s daughters, proving the apple does not fall far from the tree. As well, the Sunni-Shiite divide still remains to be resolved, if it ever can be.
The big problem on the American home front is the lib/left, hate-America crowd who, like in the Vietnam War, want to see America defeated and humiliated. Their inhumane demands for an American withdrawal would leave millions of Iraqis vulnerable to Islamist barbarism like their successful demands for withdrawal from Southeast Asia left millions exposed to communist barbarism. They are backed by a lib/left media that, using the war for partisan purposes, ridicules and harshly criticizes the president when they perceive the war is not going well and remain almost silent, as in the case of the Surge, when it does. Former New York Times reporter Seymour Hersh is a good example of all of the above. In an interview published in the online edition of the German magazine, Der Spiegel, last September 28, he said the Surge was a “con game”, called for an American withdrawal “by midnight tonight” and accused President Bush of accepting ethnic cleansing.
But like the true wartime leader that he is President Bush has ignored the barkings of such mad dogs and reacted to the setbacks of 2006 by not panicking or getting discouraged but by simply having the situation sized up and then deciding what needed to be done. Taking the American people into his confidence, Bush then announced and explained to them last January his decision about the Surge, showing the world and the terrorists that America will not be intimidated and will stay until victory. And due to this iron in his soul, history will eventually judge him favorably as will a grateful Iraqi people.