The best "Top Ten" list for the year 2007 is from Juan Cole: The Top Ten Myths About Iraq. This has been a myth-making year in Iraq, starting with the major media climbing aboard the Bush Administration effort to spin the "surge" as a big success in reducing violence–which is Myth #1. That has led to all manner of other myths, such as Cole’s #10 — that the war is no longer a major issue in the presidential campaign, or Cole’s #8, that the surge reduced (or maybe eliminated) sectarian violence.
Cole also includes some other, almost unrelated, myths that are also very important to debunk. Like that the Iraqi north is quiet and has been making economic progress (Myth #3); or that the Iraqi public wants the U.S. to stay (Myth #2).
I want to add one myth to his list, the one I find most galling and least debunked: that the surge has led to the pacification of large parts of Anbar province and Baghdad. Quiescence and pacification are simply not the same thing, and this is definitely a case of quiescence. In fact, the reduction in violence we are witnessing is really a result of the U.S. discontinuing its vicious raids into insurgent territory, which have been — from the beginning of the war — the largest source of violence and civilian casualties in Iraq. These raids, which consist of home invasions in search of suspected insurgents, trigger brutal arrests and assaults by American soldiers who are worried about resistance, gun fights when families resist the intrusions into their homes, and road side bombs set to deter and distract the invasions. Whenever Iraqis fight back against these raids, there is the risk of sustained gun battles that, in turn, produce U.S. artillery and air assaults that, in turn, annihilate buildings and even whole blocks.
The "surge" has reduced this violence, but not because the Iraqis have stopped resisting raids or supporting the insurgency. Violence has decreased in many Anbar towns and Baghdad neighborhoods because the U.S. has agreed to discontinue these raids; that is, the U.S. would no longer seek to capture or kill the Sunni insurgents they have been fighting for four years. In exchange the insurgents agree to police their own neighborhoods (which they had been doing all along, in defiance of the U.S.), and also suppress jihadist car bombs.
The result is that the U.S. troops now stay outside of previously insurgent communities, or march through without invading any houses or attacking any buildings.
So, ironically, this new success has not pacified these communities, but rather acknowledged the insurgents’ sovereignty over the communities, and even provided them with pay and equipment to sustain and extend their control over the communities.
Hey, but that is just one of many myths that need debunking. Cole has 10 others that are just as worthy.
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