In anticipation of a month-long clash over the future of Iraq, the White House has launched a preemptive P.R. campaign to convince the American people that the troop surge, or at least part of it, is working. So give us some more time.
The extra troops, so the plan goes, would create a secure environment to allow the fruits of Iraqi political compromise to bloom. And according to the White House, at least the first part is on track. "Our new strategy is showing results in terms of security," President Bush told an audience at the American Legion's annual conference on Tuesday. "Sectarian violence has sharply decreased in Baghdad. The momentum is now on our side. The surge is seizing the initiative from the enemy -- and handing it to the Iraqi people."
But is violence down in Baghdad? Is violence down across Iraq? And what is the definition of violence? There is growing concern among Bush's detractors in Washington that the White House is tinkering with the definitions and the statistics to paint a rosy scenario. "Is violence down?" the National Security Network's Ilan Goldenberg asked reporters rhetorically at a sit-down meeting on Thursday. "If violence is not down, the surge is a failure." Goldenberg says it has been extremely difficult to get the White House to show how Bush's math works.
Leaders from Goldenberg's progressive group on Thursday wrote leaders in Congress asking for an inquiry into the violence statistics, citing the dearth of evidence to back up White House claims -- and noting some data points that may undermine Bush's mantra. A recently leaked GAO report, for example, notes that there is disagreement among federal agencies about the trends of violence in Iraq. And the AP recently reported that sectarian violence didn't go down in 2007. It doubled.--Mark Benjamin