Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Beneath the Platitudes on "The Surge"

Again, left without benchmarks and no systematic data, the public are left grasping for a true picture of the facts on the ground, at the mercy of politicians:

Did this cost Patrick Cockburn anything to write, one wonders? (link to story)

So keen are the authorities to show that Sunni and Shia have stopped killing each other and that violence is down overall that many deaths with an obvious sectarian motive are no longer recorded. ‘I think the real figure for the number of people being killed is about twice what the government says it is,’ one local politician told me. He had just sent the death certificates of some victims of sectarian killers to the military authorities, who refused to admit that anybody had died at the time and place that the bodies were discovered.

Maliki himself went on a walkabout in central Baghdad to demonstrate how safe things have become. However, the precautions taken by his bodyguards suggested otherwise.

Baghdad is entirely divided between Sunni and Shia; the sectarianism is as deep-seated as it was before the fall in violence. In many areas, Iraqis say bitterly, ‘the killing stopped because there was nobody left to kill.’ There are very few mixed neighbourhoods left. The Mehdi Army still exists as a parallel government just beneath the surface in Shia areas, which take up most of the city.

Again, the Iraqi government has tried to prove the opposite. Last November it paid for a highly publicised convoy of buses to bring Iraqis home from Syria, an exercise designed to give the impression that hundreds of people were returning to peaceful Baghdad. It never happened. Three months later, despite much tougher Syrian visa regulations, the flow is still out of Iraq.
It goes on ...

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