Topic(s): Iraq | Comments Off on Rene — MCCAIN IS DELUDING HIMSELF OVER THE 'SURGE'

by Johann Hari
The Independent
October 6, 2008 UK
There’s a hole in the US argument, and blood is rushing through
John McCain is desperate to talk about the surge rather than the
splurge. His Iraq war is set to cost one trillion dollars, and his
deregulation-mania has cost hundreds of billions. So in order to
maintain his facade of being “tough on spending”, he needs to shift
the subject. That’s why he has tried to shrink the debate about the
Iraq War to one small question. Not: did Saddam have Weapons of Mass
Destruction? Not: did Saddam have links to 9/11? Not: why do 70 per
cent of Iraqis think the presence of US troops make them less safe
and they should go home now?
McCain knows he will lose those arguments, so he wants us to talk
solely about whether the surge of US troops last year has been
successful. But a hole was just blown in that argument – and blood
is rushing through.
Those of us who got Iraq wrong have a particular duty to honestly
describe what is happening now. A major study by the distinguished
scientific journal Environment and Planning A has just revealed the
real picture. The Republican nominee claims the US troops have stopped
the violence by their physical presence. To test this, Professor John
Agnew and his colleagues used the same techniques the US government
has adopted to monito r ethnic-cleansing in Burma and Uganda.
Here’s how it works. When an entire ethnic or religious group is
driven out, they abandon their houses – and aren’t there to switch
on the lights. Their areas become much more dark. If satellite images
show night-light remains the same in the areas dominated by one ethnic
group but significantly falls in mixed areas, you know ethnic cleansing
is happening.
So what happened in Iraq? Before, during and after the surge, the
areas that had always been Sunni and those that had always been Shia
were brighter than ever. But in the vast mixed areas, half or more of
the lights went out in the six months leading up to the surge. They
then stabilised in half-darkness. By the time the US troops arrived,
there were no more mixed areas left. The easy pickings – the Shia
who lived next door, or the Sunni who lived up the road – had all
been attacked. Sunni and Shia weren’t killing each other any more
because they had retreated into vast enclaves, cleansed and armed,
surrounded by barriers manned by militias. Four million people had
been driven from their homes.
Professor Agnew explains: “Our findings suggest the surge has had
no observable effect, except insofar as it has helped to provide a
seal of approval for the process of ethno-sectarian neighbourhood
homogenisation that is now largely achieved.” The new US troops have
simply built concrete walls between the newly-cle ansed areas.
This study is a bleak vindication of my colleague Patrick Cockburn,
who has been almost alone in telling the human story of the
cleansing. Here’s an example. In May 2006, four gunmen turned up at
the house of Leila Mohammed, a pregnant mother of three children in
north-east of Baghdad. “Be gone by evening prayers or we will kill
you,” they said. She was a Shia in a Sunni neighbourhood, so she had
to run, or die. “Later I went back to try to get our furniture but
there was too much shooting and I was trapped in our house,” Leila
said. “I came away with nothing.” Now imagine millions of Leilas,
and you have much of Iraq today.
Those who try to get past the checkpoints and walls to their old
neighbourhoods find that the intercommunal hatred has not been
soothed. Cockburn gives one typical example: “When one couple, both
Shia, went last month to visit the house from which they had fled
in the Sunni al-Makanik district of Dora in south Baghdad, they were
immediately shot dead and their driver beheaded.”
Yet Obama has failed to properly challenge this propaganda-surge about
the surge. He echoes the McCain line that “the surge has succeeded
beyond our wildest dreams”, and shifts the conversation back to the
decision to invade in the first place. He has evidently concluded that
this case is too complex and too easily attacked with the ludicrous
charge that he is “criticising the tro ops.” So McCain is getting
away with braying about the “great success” of wrapping one of the
worst programmes of ethnic cleansing of our time in towering concrete
walls of reinforcement.