While General Petraeus issues a generally positive assessment of the situation in Iraq, one of the finest journalists of the war, Patrick Cockburn, offers his sombre reading of the situation:
At first sight the Petraeus report looks as if it is going to be one of the spurious milestones in the war in Iraq which is heavily publicised at the time, but does not affect the political and military stalemate there.
Unfortunately, the propaganda effort by the White House may have a more malign impact than most propaganda exercises. It claims that victory is possible where failure has already occurred. It manipulates figures and facts to produce a picture of Iraq that is not only distorted but false.
The “surge” – the dispatch of 30,000 US reinforcements, was announced by President Bush on 10 January as a bid to regain control of Baghdad and reduce the level of violence. But the achievements are more apparent than real. The Interior Ministry in Baghdad says that 1,011 people died violently in Iraq in August, but an official at the ministry revealed to the US news agency McClatchy that the true figure is 2,890.
The truest indicator of the level of violence is the number of people fleeing their homes. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees the number of refugees has risen from 50,000 to 60,000 a month, and none are returning.
Iraqi society is breaking down. It is no longer possible to get medical treatment for many ailments because 75 per cent of doctors and pharmacists have left. Most have joined the 2.2 million Iraqis who have fled abroad.
For supporters of the surge, the Iraqi people have become an irrelevance. As long as America can claim “victory”, and convince enough voters that Iraq is worth the price, the war will be “won.” Like Vietnam, US defeat, already a foregone conclusion years ago, should be celebrated and the real victims, the Iraqi people, supported through the carnage. The only way to achieve this is to withdraw US troops.