Sunday, September 09, 2007

Bar Charts With No Numbers

By Cernig

Various reports trying to preview General Petreaus' coming testimony to Congress have said he will rely on bar charts with arrows showing downward trends. The same classified charts have already been shown to visiting senators and others who have taken in the Iraq dog-and-pony show.

Now, according to the AP, it appears the already-famous charts have no actual numbers on them - and that the military's own figures tell a very different story. Even the DIA doesn't agree with Saint Pet's spin.
In vertical bars of blue, green, gray and red, a briefing chart prepared by the Defense Intelligence Agency says what Gen. David Petraeus won't.

Insurgent attacks against Iraqi civilians, their security forces and U.S. troops remain high, according to the document obtained by The Associated Press. It is a conclusion that the well-regarded Army officer who is the top U.S. commander in Iraq is expected to try to counter when he and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad, testify before Congress on Monday and Tuesday.

...The report used the defense intelligence's countrywide figures to conclude that the average number of daily attacks against civilians has remained "about the same" during the past six months.

The auditors could not determine if sectarian violence had declined since the start of the president's troop increase.

The agency's findings are contentious because the Bush administration and military officials in Iraq have said security has improved over the same period due to the additional 30,000 U.S. troops in Baghdad and other trouble spots.

In July, the White House, citing "trends data" from Petraeus' command, said sectarian violence, particularly in Baghdad, had declined since the troop increase began in February.

"There's a difference of opinion — a strong difference of opinion — as to whether or not sectarian violence has decreased," David Walker, who heads the auditing agency, said last week.

In a letter to his troops Friday, Petraeus acknowledged progress has been "uneven," but said sectarian violence has fallen considerably. The number of attacks across the country has declined in eight of the past 11 weeks, he said. The letter from Petraeus does not provide any figures.

According to the DIA chart, there were 897 attacks against Iraqi civilians in January and 808 in July. There were 946 attacks against Iraqi security forces in January and 850 in July.

An attack is defined as a violent act that may or may not produce casualties.

Coalition forces, which include more than 160,000 U.S. troops, were attacked the most. Slightly more than 3,300 attacks were recorded in January and 3,143 were reported in July, the DIA said.

Charts from the Multinational Corps-Iraq, the war-fighting unit headed by Army Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, tell a different story with bar graphs and arrows. The charts contain no numbers and they focus on Baghdad, where the bulk of the additional U.S. troops went.

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