In his testimony before the Congress on September 10 and 11, General Petraeus will make the case that, despite the fact that the Iraqi government is not meeting the benchmarks proposed by the White House a year ago, certain positive developments during the last nine months since the surge began make it clear that the U.S. should continue to maintain some 170,000 troops in Iraq for several more months. His comments will no doubt be echoed by President Bush when he addresses the nation later in the week.
Petraeus and Bush will claim that violence in Baghdad is down, that overall sectarian deaths in Iraq have been reduced, that Iraqi security forces are standing up, and that some Sunni tribes are turning against al-Qaeda. But they will not point out that overall civilian deaths in all of Iraq are increasing; civilian deaths in August were 1809, up by 49 compared to July's 1760 deaths.
Nor will they point out that May was the deadliest month in 2007, with over 1900 civilian deaths. Nor will they note that the Pentagon's estimate of sectarian deaths does not include Shi'a on Shi'a violence, Sunni on Sunni violence, car bombings or people being shot in the head from in front.
Nor will they admit that the drop in violence in Baghdad has more to do with population displacement than the surge. Before the war, Baghdad had a 65 percent Sunni majority. It is now 75 percent Shi'a. More than half of all Baghdad's neighborhoods are now Shi'a dominated as compared to a handful just a year ago.
Nor will Petraeus and Bush tell us that, since the surge began, the number of internally displaced persons in Iraq has doubled to 1.1 million, 200,000 of whom are in Baghdad alone. And that every month in 2007 has seen more American casualties than the same month in 2006. Since the surge began more than 800 American servicemen have died.
Petraeus and Bush will not tell us that the quality of life for ordinary Iraqi's continues to deteriorate. Some 70 percent of Iraqi's lack adequate water supplies, compared to 50 percent before the invasion, nearly 30 percent of Iraqi children are malnourished, and Iraq is meeting only 50 percent of its electrical demand. It is no wonder that 2.4 million people have already left Iraq and are living as refugees throughout the Middle East and that Iraq is second on a the list of the world's most badly failing states.
The General and the President will not let us know that the Iraqi national police are so ineffective that an independent group of military officers said that they should be disbanded, and that the number of Army units capable of operating independently dropped by 40 percent over the past six months.
Finally, they will not point out that in the long run, the current Sunni tribal cooperation with American Forces will intensify sectarian divisions and undermine the Maliki government, the very government which the surge was designed to prop up, as the recent National Intelligence Estimate points out.
It is time to admit that the purpose of the surge, which was supposed to provide space for the Iraqi politicians to undertake political reconciliation, has failed. Let us not use it to provide cover for those who got us into this mess in the first place. Let's begin a phased withdrawal.
Lawrence Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and a senior advisor to the Center for Defense Information, handled manpower issues in the Reagan administration.