Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Relative progress in Iraq

By Libby

The usual suspects are all aglow this morning over a NYT report on some families who have moved back into their neighborhoods in Baghdad. The piece features Mrs. Aasan, 45, a Shiite librarian who returned with her family to Dora. Don't get me wrong. It's a heartening development and I think the Aasans are brave souls, but let's look at what else the story tells if you take off the rose colored glasses.

Dora was a neighborhood that was made a chief focus under the surge strategy. This was the market that all the politicians toured, while under heavy guard, and proclaimed as a sign of surge success. The Aasans live in an empty apartment building and their 10 year old son never leaves his mother's side. In the end they are one of small handful of intrepid souls willing to test the limits of the 'new security.'
About 20,000 Iraqis have gone back to their Baghdad homes, a fraction of the more than 4 million who fled nationwide, and the 1.4 million people in Baghdad who are still internally displaced, according to a recent Iraqi Red Crescent Society survey.
Most refugees are still saying they want to leave Iraq, not come back in and those in mixed marriages don't see enough progress to go back to their homes, assuming someone else hasn't already moved into them.
...Baghdad would be truly safe only when the Iraqi forces were mixed with Sunnis and Shiites operating checkpoints side by side — otherwise the city would remain a patchwork of Sunni and Shiite enclaves. “The police, the army, it has to be Sunni next to Shiite next to Sunni next to Shiite,” Abu Nebras said.
Meanwhile, how secure is the security when "Mrs. Aasan said she was thrilled and relieved just a few days ago, when her college-aged son got stuck at work after dark and his father managed to pick him up and drive home without being killed." The husband felt like a hero for surviving a trip across town at 8:00pm. I would hate to call that normal myself.

And how is security outside of Dora? Not so great.
[O]n Monday, the governor of Muthanna province said U.S. troops were no longer welcomed in the town of Samawa after U.S. troops opened fire on civilians there Sunday. Two people were reported dead in that incident on Sunday; a hospital worker said a third died Monday.

According to police Capt. Nayef Salem Ali, who's responsible for checkpoints in the city, the U.S. convoy was traveling down a two-way street when it encountered traffic coming in the opposite direction. The U.S. troops opened fire on the oncoming vehicles, which included cars and trucks, striking five.
And hot on the heels of yesterday's celebration of juice bars in Karrada.
According to the Iraqi police, a private-security company opened fire on a woman as she crossed the street in the busy shopping district of Karrada. Two men also were injured, Iraqi police said.
Iraqi police chased down the perps and arrested 33 people. "It was the first time that Iraqi police had detained foreigners after such an incident."
The U.S. military identified the detained men as employees of ALMCO, a Dubai-based company that has contracts with the U.S. military to provide catering and life-support functions for the Multi-National Security Transition Command, as well as a contract with the Joint Contracting Command to build a courthouse.
And then there's this little incident.
Iraqi police in Babil province, south of Baghdad, also reported a shooting incident Sunday involving a U.S. military convoy. No details were available, but police said a taxi driver was killed and his wife wounded when U.S. soldiers opened fire.
As Devilstower reminds us, we're been here before. Every lull is treated like a major victory by the occupation cheerleaders only to fail in the long run. Contrary to the false accusations from the wingers, I hope and pray that this time the gains stick, but absent in their chest-thumping declarations of victory is any acknowledgement that the whole point of the surge was to give the government space to reconcile and they haven't made an inch of real progress.

Iraq's 'leaders' are still talking about talking about it while the majority of Iraqis and the Parliament that they elected want us to go home. I'd suggest we give them what they want. That would be a real victory.

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