The “surge” is not working

June 21, 2008 | By | 12 Replies More

Hardly a day goes by when you don’t hear yet another Republican claiming that the “surge” is working in Iraq. And see here and here.

If the surge is really working, let’s see daily videotape showing Western reporters strolling freely through Baghdad’s neighborhoods, outside of the Green Zone, chatting with Iraqis.   Better yet, let’s celebrate the “surge” by having a parade in downtown Baghdad. Perhaps George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Condi Rice and John McCain can lead the parade.  Let’s count the number of McDonald’s in Iraq.  Let’s consider the number of Westerners going to Iraq for vacations.  Consider, also, that strong-arming the Iraqi government to build 58 permanent military bases in Iraq. That’s our long term “solution.”  Isn’t that like saying domestic violence is a “solution” in an abusive relationship?

More important, let’s count the number of Iraqis who have been permanently displaced.  If the surge is working, why are so many Iraqis still living in places like Syria?  Consider this report from DemocracyNow:

Refugees International estimates that up to five million Iraqis have been displaced since 2003. That’s one-in-five Iraqis who have had to flee their homes since the US-led invasion of their country. Two-and-a-half million Iraqis have been internally displaced, and an equal number have managed to leave the country to Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey, the Gulf States and, most of all, Syria, which hosts 1.5 million Iraqis.

Consider, too, how the “surge” is working. You won’t see this in the American corporate press.  You’ll hear a host of lies, including lies from the mouth of John McCain.

American citizens are now being conned about the “surge” just like they were conned about WMD.  Here’s the truth about the “surge.”  If we dared to freely publish photos from Iraq for only one week, that “war” would be over and the American soldiers would be on their way home.


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Category: Communication, Iraq, Media, photography, snake oil, War

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (12)

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  1. grumpypilgrim says:

    The surge is working for one simple reason: none of the people who came up with the idea of the surge ever identified any objective metrics for its success or failure. Thus, they can point to anything, or to nothing, and declare that it's working.

    What frustrates me is that so many leading congressional Democrats never pointed out this little game. All they had to do was say, "OK, neo-cons, give us some sensible, objective metrics (including timelines) for how to assess whether or not this surge of yours is achieving anything; that way we'll know if it's worthwhile or not." Instead, Dems dropped this ball and are now merely standing up and declaring that it's not working, which, without metrics, is just as absurd as declaring that it's working. No one ever declared (much less agreed) on what "working" meant, so there is very little basis now upon which to argue whether or not it's "working."

    That said, it seems reasonable to me to pose the questions that Erich does above. If the surge is such a great thing, then why is violence continuing at such a high rate?

  2. grumpypilgrim says:

    "If the surge is working, why are so many Iraqis still living in places like Syria?"

    I believe this is not a suitable metric for evaluating the surge. Iraqis who have fled Iraq have a great many reasons for not returning that have nothing to do with short-term swings in the level of violence. They've been gone for half a decade and have neither a home nor a job to return to. They have probably begun new lives where they are and, understandably, don't want to uproot again for a future that is utterly uncertain.

    BTW, here's something to give a perspective to those 5,000,000 Iraqi refugees: the U.S. State of Iowa was declared a federal disaster area a few weeks ago because of widespread floods that destroyed the homes of about 40,000 people; i.e., people who are now refugees. Multiply that destruction by a factor of 100 and you would still have *one million* fewer refugees than the number that have fled Iraq. Bottom line: the exodus from Iraq is one of the largest displacements of people in the history of our planet. The surge, whether or not it is "working," is simply too small of an event to make a significant impact on that displacement.

  3. Erich Vieth says:

    Grumpy: I chose this metric because the Administration has cleverly substituted the success of the "surge" as a measure of the "success" of the Iraq occupation. That the surge is "working" sounds so very good and impressive. What it means to say that the surge is "working" is that the occupation is a little less terrible than it otherwise might have been.

    In short, a wonderfully successful "surge" can perfectly consistent with a disasterous Iraq occupation. In fact, that is exactly what we actually have.

  4. Erich Vieth says:

    This bleak new government report leads me to ask this: The surge is "working?" Compared to what?

    The administration lacks an updated and comprehensive Iraq strategy to move beyond the "surge" of combat troops President Bush launched in January 2007 as an 18-month effort to curtail violence and build Iraqi democracy, government investigators said yesterday.

    While agreeing with the administration that violence has decreased sharply, a report released yesterday by the Government Accountability Office concluded that many other goals Bush outlined a year and a half ago in the "New Way Forward" strategy remain unmet.

    Here's the full article from the Washington Post.

  5. Erich Vieth says:

    Here's the take of an astute commentor at Andrew Sullivan's site:

    [I] would also like to note the false analogy between war supporters and surge opponents. The war is a strategic decision. The surge is a tactic. Actually, it’s a triage decision. It’s the answer to the question, what’s the best way to stop the bleeding?

    Here's the full link.

  6. Erich Vieth says:

    The Bush Administration and the Media have surge amnesia, according to Arianna Huffington:

    the media — and even a number of Democrats — are swallowing this triumphalist nonsense whole, and washing it down with a pitcher of revisionist Kool-Aid. The result: a collective case of political amnesia. Everyone seems more than happy to forget what the president's own stated goal for the surge was: to create "the breathing space [the Iraqi government] needs to make progress in other critical areas."

    But here we are, 18 months later, and McCain and the GOP are being allowed to change the goal. . . . [E]ven though Bush originally claimed that "a successful strategy for Iraq goes beyond military operations," the surge is now being judged exclusively on the success of "military operations."

    Here's Huffington's full post.

  7. grumpypilgrim says:

    Indeed, the Bush Administration never defined what the goal was in Iraq, or what metrics would be used to measure progress toward the goal, so they can declare "success" based on any statistics they want to use and at any time they find it politically desirable.

  8. Erich Vieth says:

    The Iraqi refugee population is the third largest in the world, the IRC says, topped only by the Afghan and Palestinian refugee populations. About 2 million Iraqis have fled, mostly to Syria and Jordan, and about 2.5 million more are displaced inside Iraq.

  9. Erich Vieth says:

    According to this article by Gary Kamiya of, the "surge" is working in the same way that genocides "work":

    [T]he main reason that violence in Iraq has declined to the still-hideous levels of 2005 is probably that Shiite militias, inadvertently enabled by U.S. troops, carried out a successful mini-genocidal campaign of ethnic cleansing against Sunni residents in Baghdad. Once you've killed or expelled all those who belong to the evil tribe, there's no reason to keep killing. For McCain to praise the surge as leading to "victory" in Iraq is like praising a foreign power for "pacifying" Rwanda by alternately backing the Hutus and the Tutsi. (It goes without saying that McCain has nothing to say about the moral responsibility we bear for the nightmare in Iraq.)

    For the factors that led to a lower level of violence in Iraq — the completed ethnic cleansing, the increase in U.S. troop strength, bribery, Sunni revulsion at al-Qaida's horrific tactics, the Mahdi Army's decision to stand down — represent the reverse of the simplistic, raising-the-flag-on-Iwo-Jima vision trumpeted by McCain and the Bush administration. When America has made progress in Iraq — and all claims of "progress" must be measured against the fact that the war we started essentially destroyed the country — it has been primarily due not, as war mythology would have it, to U.S. troops killing evil jihadists, but to far murkier factors — the unintended consequences of ugly actions, canny political maneuverings, and back-room deals with deeply flawed players.

    In this well-written article, Kamiya concludes that McCain's best hope for winning the upcoming election is that "neither the media nor the American people possess much memory."

  10. Erich Vieth says:

    Here's another description of the PR gimmick called "the surge":

    The "Surge" was essentially a political gimmick designed to quell violence in specific areas and create the impression that the United States was still in control. As Obama has pointed out, it hasn't done anything to promote long term stability, it hasn't quelled the huge tensions between Sunni and Shiite faction, and hasn't strengthened the Iraqi government's ability to govern. The notion that America is now "winning the war" in Iraq is ridiculous — a short term reduction in violence does not constitute anything other than that — a short term reduction in violence (although 53 people were recently killed in a spate of suicide bombs).

    This article, by Ben Cohen, also questions John McCain's selling "of the "Surge" like a used car dealer, and questioning anyone's patriotism if they dare oppose him."

  11. Erich Vieth says:

    Here's McCain, now seeking an "economic surge."

  12. Erich Vieth says:

    Perhaps the "surge" had very little to do with the lower rates of violence in Iraq:

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Satellite images taken at night show heavily Sunni Arab neighborhoods of Baghdad began emptying before a U.S. troop surge in 2007, graphic evidence of ethnic cleansing that preceded a drop in violence, according to a report published on Friday.

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