a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Progress is just another word for nothing left to kill

Posted by Thomas Nephew on September 14th, 2007

Petraeus maps; click to enlarge

Jones maps; click to enlarge.

This deserves a lot more attention, I think. On September 10, General David Petraeus presented the slideshow that’s fast becoming the 2007 version of Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN back in 2003 — flashy, high stakes, and more than a little misleading.

One of the catchiest slides was the fourth one, titled “Ethno-Sectarian Violence.” Along with a standard frequency against time plot, it showed a series of map of Baghdad with “violence hot spots” — density plots of violent incidents — flaring pre-“surge” and then dying down. Visually, the effect was pretty much like watching a fire going out, and the implication was that Bush’s brilliant surge was the fire truck that did it.

But there’s another reason fires die down: they run out of fuel. Matthew Yglesias points to a post by Ilan Goldenberg (“Democracy Arsenal”) that compares Petraeus’s maps to very similar maps presented by General David Jones to Congress a few days earlier. The difference? The Petraeus maps show a Baghdad with neighborhoods that never change — this one’s majority Sunni, that one’s majority Shia, the other one’s mixed.

The Jones maps show that the Pentagon knows better: in July 2006, most of Baghdad was colored light brown for “mixed Muslim.” By July 2007, however, most of the city has been transformed into large swathes of dark green (75%+ Shia) and blue (75%+ Sunni).

In other words, there wasn’t much left to fight about; ethnic cleansing was nearing completion in Baghdad’s neighborhoods.

As smintheus (“unbossed”) — possibly the first to report this on Monday — put it:

The maps falsify one of the most delicate of issues: The failure of the “surge” to stem ethnic/sectarian cleansing of Baghdad. If that information were brought to the fore, it would call into question the claims by Petraeus and other spokespeople for the Bush administration that the “surge” is responsible for an alleged drop in violence in Baghdad. If there is any such drop, it may be due in large part to the success of Shia attempts to drive Sunnis from their homes and into exile.

Raising, in turn, other delicate issues: if ethnic cleansing in Baghdad has run its course to this extent, what good are U.S. soldiers doing there — and how much harm is left to prevent? Can they come home now — all of them?

And will Congress ever get truthful testimony about Iraq from those responsible for beginning and waging this war?

And does anyone working there care?

UPDATE, 9/14: Incredibly, that’s not all just for this one slide. Robert Waldmann noticed that the ethnic-sectarian killing levels almost certainly ignore the horrific August truck bomb attacks on the Yazidi minority that killed 572 people.
EDIT, 9/14: Link to Jones report (“Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq”) added, map images (via Yglesias) added.
UPDATE, EDIT, 9/5/08: Figure descriptions added.  Juan Cole notes that a Washington Post article by Karen DeYoung (via ThinkProgress) provides similar maps documenting ethnic cleansing in Baghdad between April 2006 and November 2007.

9 Responses to “Progress is just another word for nothing left to kill”

  1. eRobin Says:

    I think I know these answers:
    Harm to our oil, of course! And other investments yet to be made.
    No. They can never come home. And anyway, home is Iraq now. We broke it, we bought it. We own it!! It’s a fixer upper.
    No. They can’t handle the truth.
    No. They don’t need the truth. They have a cunning plan to be elected on the backs of dead US soldiers and Iraqis.
    As Colbert would say about where that consigns their mortal souls: “Table for one! Is there anything by the Lake of Fire?”

  2. Nell Says:

    And then there’s the map that all Ameriki should see but probably never will: The outlines of the many cement walls and barbed-wire fences our troops and contractors have put up this year. Many (most?) neighborhoods have become prisons, with militias as the guards.

  3. eRobin Says:

    Nell: No need to publicize those walls since they’re only temporary. It’s the permanent prisons we should be most proud of. Demand is up!

  4. » Blog Archive » On the limits of economic analysis in occupation policy evaluation Says:

    […] pull out of the hat now will be familiar to those who’ve recently read this blog: “Progress is just another word for nothing left to kill” (9/14/07). Follow the link or scroll down; by comparing maps provided under oath** to […]

  5. Thomas Nephew Says:

    For the record: this post was cited in July, 2008 by Juan Cole, whose blog post “A Social History of the Surge” is well worth everyone’s time.

  6. Obama: The surge’s success exceeded our “wildest dreams” « a blog inspired by my moodyness Says:

    […] once the ethnic cleansing was far advanced, just because there were fewer mixed neighborhoods. Newsrack was among the first to make this argument, though I was tracking the ethnic cleansing at my blog throughout 2007. See also Karen DeYoung of […]

  7. » Blog Archive » “Surge” to nowhere Says:

    […] As I wrote last September … the conclusion comes from simply looking at a series of ethnic maps of Baghdad […]

  8. » Blog Archive » The very model of a Powerpoint counterinsurgency general Says:

    […] suggests it was no mistake that Petraeus chose a much more misleading set of maps for his slideshow […]

  9. Iraq Report: The Surge Didn’t Do What John and Sarah Think | The Rag Blog Says:

    […] once the ethnic cleansing was far advanced, just because there were fewer mixed neighborhoods. Newsrack was among the first to make this argument, though I was tracking the ethnic cleansing at my blog throughout 2007. See also Karen DeYoung of […]

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