Urbin Report

Thursday, August 24, 2006

More updates on Iraq

Not the typical "Doom & Gloom" FUD news.
The Daily Dispatch takes a critical look at the NY Times and their reporting.

According to the New York Times, civilian deaths in Baghdad are at an all-time high, marking the failure of the Baghdad security plan launched by the al-Maliki government, and the descent of Iraq into civil war.

But according to Iraq’s national security minister Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, the sectarian violence peaked in mid-July, and has declined sharply since then, indicating the success of the security plan.

The first viewpoint has been promulgated in most metropolitan dailies, all the broadcast networks, and on CNN and MSNBC. (FOX News has actually presented both contentions, although with scant detail.)

We dug up the second viewpoint in the Malaysia Star, August 22, 2006. It is not readily available to consumers of American media. But the underlying data – the civilian death toll — is accessible via the internet. Civilian deaths are falling rapidly, as al-Rubaie contends, not spiraling out of control, as the New York Times implies.
The two most meticulous English-language sources on Iraqi civilian casualties are maintained by Leftwing opponents of the Iraq War.
www.icasualties.org and www.iraqbodycount.net

These websites list every “war-related” civilian death reported by the international press corps in Iraq. The sites can be faulted for attributing certain crime-related deaths to the war. But they cannot be faulted for failing to document their sources. “IraqBodyCount” goes a step further, noting contradictions between the highest and lowest death-reports associated with a given incident. The site maintains a simultaneous running tally of the “maximum” and “minimum” casualties reported.

In July, icausalties.org reported 1063 civilian casualties. In the first 22 days of August, icasualties reports 593 civilian casualties. Extrapolated for a full month, this would yield a net August death-decrease of 21.4%.

But that isn’t the whole story. Comparing the first 11 days of August against the second 11 days, there has been a hefty relative drop. Using the icausualty.org numbers, we find that Iraqi civilian casualties, Aug. 12-Aug. 22, declined 25.1% from early August.

Bagdad required a different approach.
Starting August 9th, the government beefed up the security detail in Baghdad for a “clear and hold” operation called “Operation Forward Together.” Iraqi security forces took the lead, with coalition embeds providing professional advice and logistic support. The most violent areas of Baghdad were targeted first, and each “cleared” area was garrisoned by a standing ISF presence. “Clearing” meant hunting down the bad guys where they live, killing or arresting them, and confiscating their weapons stockpiles.

Committees of safety were organized across sectarian lines, often with the help of local imams and tribal leaders, to keep lines of communication open between the communities. The number of anti-terrorist tips promptly increased, allowing the ISF to focus on the gangs and individuals at the core of the problem. Police presence reduced the civilian pressure for tit-for-tat killings. The sectarian violence in Baghdad has NEVER been popular.

In a weird way, the difference between the two strategies recapitulated American arguments over the war on terror. The first strategy – dependence on checkpoints – was defensive, and didn’t work. The second – killing the bad guys where they live – paid immediate dividends.

Emphasis added by me. Cutting and running is bad policy at this point. The better plan is to channel General George S. Patton, Jr. and not Howard Dean.

Civil War v. Police Action. Daily Dispatch nails it with this analysis:
A final irony of the failure of MSM to report strategy, tactics, and results in Operation Forward Together, launched two weeks ago, is that what the media has ignored is essentially a police action – precisely how the MSM wants to fight the “War on Terror.” The guys slaughtering dozens of unarmed people at markets in Sadr City are not an army. They have no government-in-exile, no territorial base.

They are simply criminal gangs that hire out to jihadi ideologues, local militias, or revenge-seeking tribal leaders – i.e., anyone who will pay them. A dead giveaway that this is NOT a civil war is the continued decline in coalition casualties, despite the presence of more Americans embedded with the ISF at the center of the violence.

Go read the whole thing.

Via Gateway Pundit is Back Talk's look at the numbers and how they don't match what the NY Times is trying to tell you.

The idea that the insurgency has gotten worse "by almost all measures" is amazingly off the mark. In fact, it is not worse according to the most obvious measures. To appreciate why this is so, you need to understand that measures taken over the short term are inherently noisy. So, looking at one month of casualty figures tells you very little in the same way that looking at the outcome of a single baseball game tells you very little about the strength of the two teams. To get a clear picture, you need to aggregate the numbers over time. Since we have complete data for the first 7 months of 2006 (January through July), I looked at what has happened over the first 7 months of this year compared to the immediately preceding 7 months (i.e., the last 7 months of 2005). Here is what I found:

US military fatalities are down in the first 7 months of 2006 (average of 57 per month) compared to last 7 months of 2005 (average of 73 per month).
Is the number of wounded really soaring? In truth, the number of US wounded is down in the first 7 months of 2006 (average of 425 per month) compared to last 7 months of 2005 (average of 499 per month). This is easily confirmed by going here.

I am surprised that the New York Times cannot even be trusted to consult readily available data that can be easily examined to evaluate their judgment of the strength of the insurgency. At the very least, they should have a paragraph in their article that begins like this: "Despite many figures suggesting that the strength of the insurgency is, if anything, declining, our belief is that it is actually gaining in strength because the number of IEDs being planted is on the increase. The reason why many other indicators suggest a weakening insurgency is that..."

I have no idea how they'd complete that sentence, but that's what the reporters need to do if they wish to grapple with the actual evidence (big "if" there).

Gateway Pundit follows up with this bit of news that probably didn't make the pages of the NY Times:
"Coalition and Iraqi forced captured "well over" 100 known Al Qaeda terrorists and associates in the last week!"