Violence In Iraq is down in October. Why and for how long

General Petraeus testified before Congress on the escalation and progress in Iraq on September 10th and 11th, 2007.

Coalition and Iraqi operations have helped reduce ethno-sectarian violence, as well, bringing down the number of ethno-sectarian deaths substantially in Baghdad and across Iraq since the height of the sectarian violence last December. The number of overall civilian deaths has also declined during this period, although the numbers in each area are still at troubling levels. (pdf)

The Right is pushing this unsigned editorial in WaPo as proof that Petraeus was right, Better NumbersThe evidence of a drop in violence in Iraq is becoming hard to dispute

Nevertheless, it’s looking more and more as though those in and outside of Congress who last month were assailing Gen. Petraeus’s credibility and insisting that there was no letup in Iraq’s bloodshed were — to put it simply — wrong.

Violence is down for the month of October, but the General did not testify over a month ago that the violence will drop in October. He testified that we were meeting certain benchmarks. There was no crystal ball sitting in front of him, Petraeus did not testify that October would be fine and dandy. The point was that his testimony back in September was somewhat deceptive and tainted by his politics and contains not one sentence of a prediction that violence would decline in a month. What he did say was, “I also believe that it is possible to achieve our objectives in Iraq over time, though doing so will be neither quick nor easy and that decline would.” Nothing that has happened in October deflects from the General’s deceptive and highly politicized words from a month ago, Petraeus’ Sectarian Death Count Methodology

MNF-I’s methodology identifies a number of factors, necessarily subjective, that help analysts determine whether an attack or a death should be considered sectarian. Ethno-sectarian violence is defined as violence “conducted by one ethnic/religious group against another ethnic/religious group, where the primary motivation for the event is based on ethnic or religious reasons.” MNF-I analysts consider the location of the attack — whether it took place in a mixed area or a homogeneous one — and the type of attack in order to determine ethnic or sectarian violence.

[ ]…For executions, murders and kidnappings — situations in which sectarianism may be difficult to determine — MNF-I says it uses “host nation” reporting in addition to its own. Many media and non-governmental organizations consider information on casualties released by the Iraqi ministries to be self-serving, misleading or contradictory.

Furthermore,

And, the GAO Found Claims of Decreased Sectarian Violence Could Not Be Verified. “On trends in sectarian violence, we could not determine if sectarian violence had declined since the start of the Baghdad Security Plan. The administration’s July 2007 report stated that MNF-I trend data demonstrated a decrease in sectarian violence since the start of the Baghdad Security Plan in mid-February 2007. The report acknowledged that precise measurements vary, and that it was too early to determine if the decrease would be sustainable.” [GAO Report: Securing, Stabilizing and Rebuilding Iraq, September 2007]

While we all hope this trend continues it might well end with the end of Ramadan, which the article mentions but fails to note the role Ramadan might play in the fall in violence this month. A commenter here But Why? complains that the non-Bush worshipers are still going after Petraeus. In a democracy run by civilians where the military is responsible to civilians Americans have every right, actually the obligation to question its generals. We have been in Iraq longer then it took a liberal president to defeat two massive militaries on two fronts. We have had over three thousand of our military killed in Iraq and it is costing us over two and half billion dollars a month. Thus we have every reason and obligation in the world to question the lack of candor in a general that has a record of glossing over the truth to serve his ideological buddies. For the sake of our troops, their families and the Iraqis no sane person would hope the sectarian violence increases. The question remains if the violence is declining because the hieght of sectarian genocide has been reached or the methods for measuring violence have been tweaked to the point of having little meaning and is this simply a lull as many other insurgencies in history have had.

“I vowed to the American people that our government would do everything within the law to protect them against another terrorist attack”

President Bush Discusses NSA Surveillance ProgramFor Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 11, 2006

THE PRESIDENT: After September the 11th, I vowed to the American people that our government would do everything within the law to protect them against another terrorist attack. As part of this effort, I authorized the National Security Agency to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. In other words, if al Qaeda or their associates are making calls into the United States or out of the United States, we want to know what they’re saying. (emphasis mine)

On its own this statement is startling in its implications, Bush “authorized the National Security Agency to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda”. If there were people with such known links to al Qaeda within the U.S. why were they allowed to freely go about there business much less make phone calls. Then there is the obvious lie he ordered such surveillance activities after 9-11. If that were the case then the administration and its supporters argument that we’re all gonna die if if don’t allow Bush nearly unlimited powers of surveillance we’ll surely have another 9-11 seems even more lame. Qwest CEO Not Alone in Alleging NSA Started Domestic Phone Record Program 7 Months Before 9/11

According to court documents unveiled this week, former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio clearly wanted to argue in court that the NSA retaliated against his company after he turned down a NSA request on February 27, 2001 that he thought was illegal.

[ ]…And in May 2006, a lawsuit filed against Verizon for allegedly turning over call records to the NSA alleged that AT&T began building a spying facility for the NSA just days after President Bush was inaugurated.

This wide dragnet approach is doomed to failure. It gives the masses, especially the paranoid Right the impression that Bush is busy fighting terrorism, but the truth of the matter is that it is more smoke then substance. Like Bush’s fake ranch its all about appearances, Spy agency data after 9/11 led FBI to dead ends

In the anxious months after the Sept. 11 attacks, the National Security Agency began sending a steady stream of telephone numbers, e-mail addresses and names to the F.B.I. in search of terrorists. The stream soon became a flood, requiring hundreds of agents to check out thousands of tips a month.

But virtually all of them, current and former officials say, led to dead ends or innocent Americans.

F.B.I. officials repeatedly complained to the spy agency that the unfiltered information was swamping investigators. The spy agency was collecting much of the data by eavesdropping on some Americans’ international communications and conducting computer searches of phone and Internet traffic. Some F.B.I. officials and prosecutors also thought the checks, which sometimes involved interviews by agents, were pointless intrusions on Americans’ privacy.