A middle-aged man dreaming of the day when he can stop begging for scraps and write for a living.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Plot Twist That Wasn't

There are great moments in storytelling when the author dramatically reveals the plot twist that makes the story: when Darth Vader reveals that he is Luke's father, or when we discover that Bruce Willis has been a ghost through the entire movie. Sadly, Petraeus' revelation to Congress that the Surge is working Iraq isn't one of them. We knew what he was going to say almost word-for-word a long time ago.

Surprisingly, CNN actually reported more than just the White House Press Release.

"I hope, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, that you can persuade us that there is substantial reason to believe that Iraq will turn around in the very near future," [Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Missouri] said.

Did that sound like skepticism? I dearly hope so.

And referring to congressional critics of Petraeus' independence, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, "I also resent the comments of those who sat comfortably in their air-conditioned offices thousands of miles away from the firefights and roadside bombs and tried their Washington best in recent days to impugn the general's good name."

This, of course, from a corporate-sponsored politician who sits comfortably in his air-conditioned office thousands of miles away from the firefights and roadside bombs he sent thousands of American troops to face.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, a vocal critic of the war in Iraq, has accused the White House of twisting data to suit its needs.

"By carefully manipulating the statistics, the Bush-Petraeus report will try to persuade us that violence in Iraq is decreasing and thus the surge is working," said the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, addressing a Washington think tank last week.

Durbin's criticism was echoed by David Walker, head of the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office, who also raised questions about how the statistics were compiled.

In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Friday, Walker said he is not comfortable with the methodology used to track the death toll driven by sectarian violence.

For instance, he said, a body found with a gunshot to the front of the head is classified as an ordinary crime, while a body with a gunshot to the back of the head is attributed to sectarian violence.

So at least somebody is calling the administration on its bullshit. Let's see if the rest of the Democrats grow a spine and show some genuine opposition.

The U.S. military data obtained by CNN indicates that 165 Iraqis were murdered in Baghdad last month, a slight increase from the previous two months. However, the number represents a significant decrease since the Baghdad security plan began earlier this year.

It is not clear how the U.S. military obtained the number, but CNN statistics -- compiled from numbers released by the Iraqi Interior Ministry -- suggest 428 Iraqis were murdered in Baghdad in August, their bodies dumped in the streets. In July, 612 Iraqis were murdered, according to the Interior Ministry.

A U.S. military chart indicates monthly casualties in Baghdad, which spiked in November at 2,200, dropped to 980 last month. The chart does not break the casualties down into deaths and injuries.

The military data focus only on Baghdad and do not address the increase in violence in other parts of the country since the Baghdad security plan kicked off in February.

I think that's a fairly significant caveat there at the end. The military data focus only on Baghdad and do not address the increase in violence in other parts of the country. They increased spending and troop numbers in order to try to secure Baghdad, reducing but not eliminating the violence in that area, but it increases elsewhere. Meanwhile, the locals think that all the Surge has done is made things worse, and more Iraqis than ever support attacks against coalition forces.

Heck of a job, Petty.

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