by Frank James
The National Security Network, a group of national-security experts critical of the surge from the progressive wing of U.S. politics has issued its own fact check of Gen. David Petraeus's testimony so far.
Their take on his testimony is that the general states as facts statistics whose sources are in doubt or disputed.
The use of "fact-checking" by a group that is a party to the debate resembles what happens in political campaigns and demonstrates how much the debate over the future U.S. course in Iraq has indeed become something of a political campaign in its own right.
National Security Network Fact Check: Petraeus Quotes
Petraeus: Iraq-wide, as shown by the top line on this chart, the number of ethno-sectarian deaths has come down by over 55%.
The Pentagon and Administration’s definition of “Ethno sectarian violence” excludes many types of violence that would indicate that the security situation in Iraq is not improving. Shi’a on Shi’a violence in the South is not included. Sunni on Sunni violence in the central part of the country is not included. “According to one senior intelligence official in Washington. ‘If a bullet went through the back of the head, it's sectarian,’ the official said. ‘If it went through the front, it's criminal.’" [Washington Post, 9/6/07]
According to figures compiled by the Associated Press, Iraq is suffering approximately double the number of war-related deaths throughout the country compared with last year. The average daily toll has risen from 33 in 2006, to 62 so far this year. Nearly 1,000 more people have been killed in violence across Iraq in the first eight months of this year than in all of 2006. The AP tracking includes Iraqi civilians, government officials, police and security forces killed in attacks such as gunfights and bombings, which are frequently blamed on Sunni suicide strikes. It also includes execution-style killings — largely the work of Shi’a death squads. Insurgent deaths are not a part of the Iraqi count. These figures are considered a minimum and only based on AP reporting. The actual numbers are likely higher, as many killings go unreported or uncounted. That said, the AP notes that UN figures for 2006 are higher than the AP’s. [AP, 8/25/07]
According to numbers released by the Iraqi government, since July civilian casualties have risen 20% across Iraq. The numbers fell significantly in Baghdad. The figures, provided by Iraqi Interior Ministry officials on Saturday, mirrored the geographic pattern of the troop increase, which is focused on Baghdad. The national rise in mortality is partly a result of more than 500 deaths, in an August truck bomb attack on a Yazidi community in August north of the capital, outside the areas directly affected by the additional troops. [NY Times, 9/2/07]
Various numbers from the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior show no drop in violence. According to the Iraqi Ministry of Interior, 984 people were killed across Iraq in February, and 1,011 died in violence in August. No July numbers were released because the ministry said the numbers weren't clear. But an official in the ministry who spoke anonymously because he wasn't authorized to release numbers said those numbers were heavily manipulated. The official said 1,980 Iraqis had been killed in July and that violent deaths soared in August, to 2,890. [McClatchy, 9/10/07]
Petraeus: "Though the improvements have been uneven across Iraq, the overall number of security incidents in Iraq has declined in 8 of the past 12 weeks, with the numbers of incidents in the last two weeks at the lowest levels seen since June 2006."
According to General Petraeus attacks are only down in one of the last three weeks, but at the same time we have hit an all time low? In the National Intelligence Estimate released three weeks ago said that overall attacks had fallen in 7 out of 9 weeks. “The steep escalation of rates of violence has been checked for now, and overall attack levels across Iraq have fallen during seven of the last nine weeks.” [National Intelligence Estimate]
The DIA’s statistics show that attacks on civilians were at the same level in July that they were in, back in January. The defense intelligence chart makes the point, with figures from Petraeus' command in Baghdad, the Multinational Force-Iraq. Congressional auditors used the same numbers to conclude that Iraqis are as unsafe now as they were six months ago; the Bush administration and military officials also using those figures say that finding is flawed. [AP, 9/9/07]
Petraeus: We endeavor to ensure our analysis of that data is conducted with rigor and consistency, as our ability to achieve a nuanced understanding of the security environment is dependent on collecting and analyzing data in a consistent way over time.
There were significant revisions to the way the Pentagon’s reports measure sectarian violence between its March 2007 report and its June 2007 report. The original data for the five months before the surge began (September 2006 through January 2007) indicated approximately 5,500 sectarian killings. In the revised data in the June 2007 report, those numbers had been adjusted to roughly 7,400 killings – a 35% increase. These discrepancies have the impact of making the sectarian violence appear significantly worse during the fall and winter of 2006 before the President’s “surge” began. [DOD, 11/2006. 3/2007. 6/2007]
Petraeus claimed that the surge helped transform Anbar Province from one of the most dangerous areas to one of the safest.
The “Anbar Awakening” began long before the “surge” and occurred because local Sunni tribes did not agree with Al Qaeda. The Anbar Salvation Council, which was formed by tribal sheikhs to fight the more extreme elements, was established in September 2006 and was showing significant results by early March of 2007 when the “surge” was just beginning. [NY Times, 3/3/2007]
The Sunni tribes attribute the change to a political agreement not to increased forces. The sheik who forged the alliance with the Americans, Abdul Sattar Buzaigh al-Rishawi, traced the decision to fight al-Qaeda to Sept. 14, 2006, long before the new Bush strategy, but the president's plan dispatched another 4,000 U.S. troops to Anbar to exploit the situation. As security improved, the White House eagerly took credit. [Washington Post, 9/9/07]
The “surge” has only added 4,000 troops to Anbar. The main focus was Baghdad. “Recently, local tribal leaders have begun to show their willingness to take on al Qaeda. And as a result, our commanders believe we have an opportunity to deal a serious blow to the terrorists. So I have given orders to increase American forces in Anbar Province by 4,000 troops.” [White House, 1/10/07]