Editor’s Note: It is an overpowering consensus in Washington that the relative decline in Iraqi violence must be attributed to President George W. Bush’s “courageous” decision in 2007 to “surge” U.S. troop levels, a lesson that now must be repeated in Afghanistan.

This conventional wisdom has been pushed especially hard by the influential neoconservatives and the Republicans, but also has been accepted by many liberals and Democrats fearful of being viewed as out of step or not fully behind “the troops.”

However, as author William Blum at killinghope.org notes in this guest essay, there is another side to the story:

Our admirable leaders and our mainstream media that love to interview them would like us to believe that escalation of the war in Afghanistan is in effect a "surge," like the one in Iraq which, they believe, has proven so successful.

But the reality of the surge in Iraq was nothing like its promotional campaign.

To the extent that there has been a reduction in violence in Iraq (now down to a level that virtually any other society in the world would find horrible and intolerable, including Iraqi society before the U.S. invasion and occupation), we must keep in mind the following summary of how and why it "succeeded":

--Thanks to America's lovely little war, there are many millions Iraqis either dead, wounded, crippled, homebound or otherwise physically limited, internally displaced, in foreign exile, or in bursting American and Iraqi prisons. Many others have been so traumatized that they are concerned simply for their own survival. Thus, a huge number of potential victims and killers has been markedly reduced.

--Extensive ethnic cleansing has taken place: Sunnis and Shiites are now living much more than before in their own special enclaves, with entire neighborhoods surrounded by high concrete walls and strict security checkpoints; violence of the sectarian type has accordingly gone down.

--In the face of numerous "improvised explosive devices" on the roads, U.S. soldiers venture out a lot less, so the violence against them has been sharply down. It should be kept in mind that insurgent attacks on American forces in 2003 were how the post-invasion phase of the Iraqi violence began.

--For a long period, the U.S. military was paying insurgents (or "former insurgents") to not attack occupation forces.

--The powerful Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr declared a unilateral cease-fire for his militia, including attacks against U.S. troops, that was in effect for an extended period; this was totally unconnected to the surge.

We should never forget that Iraqi society has been destroyed.

The people of that unhappy land have lost everything — their homes, their schools, their neighborhoods, their mosques, their jobs, their careers, their professionals, their health care, their legal system, their women's rights, their religious tolerance, their security, their friends, their families, their past, their present, their future, their lives.

But they do have their surge.

For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “The Rising Cost of the Iraq Surge” and “Afghan Lessons from the Iraq War.”

William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II. For more of Blum’s December commentaries, go to http://killinghope.org/bblum6/aer76.html      

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