Thursday, February 09, 2006

Facing Facts

As previously mentioned, John Reid was again trying to sell the idea of some sort of progress in Iraq this week. The government has had to lower expectation as to what can be achieved in Iraq yet again. We're still on course though, Reid assures us. Like the Titanic was still on course, I presume.

Here's the reality (via Unity who's really on top form at the moment). Yuval Diskin, head of Israel's domestic security agency, Shin Bet, has been speaking about the consequences to Israel of the invasion of Iraq. His speech was secretly recorded and broadcast on Israeli TV.
When asked about the growing destabilisation of Iraq, Mr Diskin said Israel might come to rue its decision to support the US-led invasion in 2003.

"When you dismantle a system in which there is a despot who controls his people by force, you have chaos," he said. "I'm not sure we won't miss Saddam."
This, as Unity says, is from a man who cannot afford to ignore the realities of the situation in the Middle East. This is a top Israeli security official who's not sure it's a good thing that Saddam - Scudman - Hussein has been removed from Baghdad. Have a think about that. How unstable do you think Iraq is exactly?

In the meantime, here are two more realistic assessments of the security situation in Iraq today:
  • We strongly advise against all travel to Baghdad and the surrounding area, and the southern provinces of Basra and Maysan. In addition, we also advise against all travel to the provinces of Al Anbar, Salah Ad Din, Diyala, Wasit and Babiland to Ninawa province in north-west Iraq. We advise against all but essential travel to the rest of Iraq.
  • There have been numerous kidnappings of foreign nationals across Iraq. Some of those kidnapped have been killed. In the last quarter of 2005, there has been an increased spate of kidnappings. There is a high threat of kidnapping in Baghdad and Basra, particularly in hotels frequented by western nationals.
  • The security situation is highly dangerous. We urge all British nationals in Iraq to consider whether their presence in Iraq is essential. If you consider that your presence is essential you should review your security arrangements and seek professional security advice on whether they are adequate.
That's from the UK embassy in Baghdad. And from the US state department:
The Department of State continues to strongly warn U.S. citizens against travel to Iraq, which remains very dangerous. Remnants of the former Ba’ath regime, transnational terrorists, criminal elements and numerous insurgent groups remain active. Attacks against military and civilian targets throughout Iraq continue, including in the International (or “Green”) Zone. Targets include convoys en-route to venues, hotels, restaurants, police stations, checkpoints, foreign diplomatic missions, international organizations and other locations with expatriate personnel. These attacks have resulted in deaths and injuries of American citizens, including those doing humanitarian work. In addition, there have been planned and random killings, as well as extortions and kidnappings. U.S. citizens have been kidnapped and several were subsequently murdered by terrorists in Iraq. U.S. citizens and other foreigners continue to be targeted by insurgent groups and opportunistic criminals for kidnapping and murder. Military operations continue. There are daily attacks against Multinational Forces - Iraq (MNF-I), Iraqi Security Forces and Iraqi Police throughout the country.
Don't let anyone tell you the security situation isn't improving though. That'd just by lying liberal journalists trying to make Bush and Blair look bad. Why don't the deskbound gits go there for themselves and see the improvements on the ground with their own eyes? It's because they don't want to see the improvements. That's the only explanation which makes sense.

Apart from the fact that they'd be killed, obviously. I genuinely don't understand why people believe the media are exaggerating the problems in Iraq. As someone who reads a fair amount of stuff about Iraq, it seems obvious to me that the media are not willing or able to accurately report the severity of the situation. The "proper journalists", for example, have continued to ignore the fact that insurgent attacks in the country increased by almost 30% in 2005 and:
Instances of pedestrian suicide bombing also rose, from seven in 2004 to 67 in 2005. Similarly, suicide attacks using car bombs rose in numbers from 133 to 411 for the same period.
These are very significant facts, that's facts, but they have been virtually ignored by the press. Last week, I even wrote to the BBC to ask them why they didn't give that announcement any coverage. I can find not one mention of it on the BBC website. I've not received a reply yet (it was only last week, mind).

They are doing a spot of decent reporting today.
In his testimony to the US Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, Joseph Christoff [director of the US Government Accountability Office] said newly declassified figures went against previous statements by US and Iraqi officials, who said the insurgency was abating. "There are peaks and valleys, but if you look at every peak, it's higher than the peak before," he said.
That's the reality.

I've read positive opinions from people with vested political interests. Not credible. I've read soldiers talking about successfully completed missions. Usual proviso* about the Vietnam comparison but it's like the man said;"you can win every battle but that doesn't mean you'll win the war". Individual missions in Iraq are succeeding, no doubt about it, but they aren't improving the overall situation.

I've also read soldiers expressing complaints about media bias; that's something they undoubtedly genuinely believe but something which is equally undoubtedly being instilled in them by the top brass in order to sustain morale. They are soldiers in combat; of course they're been given morale boosting propaganda. I don't wish to disparage the intelligence of soldiers but that's just the way it is.

Make no mistake, genuine lasting improvements in the situation in Iraq are very thin on the ground. The areas which are peaceful are, for the most part, policed by militia groups. The Islamists of the various factions of the UIA control many of these groups. The situation is almost certainly already out of the control of the US or UK governments.

If you disagreed and I was to say "why don't you go there then and find out for yourself then?", you'd immediately know I was being facetious and possibly downright insulting. That's how much the security situation has improved in the soon to be three years since we first occupied the country. Don't tell me that's the media's fault because it's not.

How did we get into this? Oh, yes, it was because of lies by a liar.

* Iraq and Vietnam are very different. Direct comparisons are of dubious value. There are some similarities though.

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