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 Numbers –The 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.
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.