A couple of days ago, I wrote a post about the release of Iraqi government figures which purport to show that rates of violence in Iraq have dropped dramtically in the last month. My thesis was that neither the Surge nor the various "Awakenings" were sufficient - being gradual enterprises - to explain such a drop-off and I suggested that a ceasefire declared by the Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr may well be the primary cause.
Well, I received some very welcome feedback in that post's comments from Colonel Steven Boylan, Public Affairs Officer to General David Petraeus. Amongst other matters he noted that the Associated Press article I had originally cited edited his full response to their query and thereby lost some of the nuance of what he had written.
So I wrote the Colonel an email thanking him for his comments and making the following offer:
I and my colleagues would be delighted to read your "take" unfiltered by the mainstream's editing. I'm happy, for instance, to offer you the opportunity to write a "guest post" which I promise not to edit in any way whatsoever, should you ever wish to bypass that editing process. Likewise, should you accept, we'd like to offer an email interview where you respond to written questions. Again, we promise not to edit your replies in any manner, shape or form should you agree to such an interview.Today, Colonel Boylan emailed back to say that he would be willing, and that given his pressing schedule of meetings and duties the best way to proceed would be to email him some interview questions and he will reply as his duties allow.
We perfectly understand that Colonel Boylan is a busy man with far more to concern himself with than this small blog. We would like to thank him, again, for his time and his attention. Sometime soon, we hope, we'll be able to post that email interview, in full and unedited as per our promise.
It should be interesting - the Colonel's comments raised as many new questions as they answered. For instance, Colonel Boylan wrote that:
Sadr is only one element of the issue. If he has in fact regained control of his militia, then all the better, but the numbers of events based soley on his militia was not the prime killer or reasons for the levels of attacks.Which argues strongly against my original post, but since the U.S. military have maintained for some time now that Sadr's militia are the main group being funded and armed by Iran, it also calls into question the seriousness of the alleged Iranian threat. If Iran is indeed meddling, just not not with Sadr but rather other Shiite militias such as those allied with SCIRI and Dawa, then what does it say that our allies in the Iraqi government are in league with Iran and attacking our forces?
Colonel Boylan also told Newshoggers that:
There has been some ethnic cleansing, but not near the amount that people think there are and they also fail to notice the amount of mixed families that are here.To which my colleague Eric Martin responded "Do you have numbers to back up this claim? Are you saying that the circa 4 million internal/external displacements is too high?"
These questions are sure to come up in our email interview. I'm sure Colonel Boylan knew walking in that accepting our request wasn't going to be like accepting the softball questions of other, more pro-war, bloggers and he should be applauded for wanting to engage in such a healthy debate. We'll keep you posted as and when.