Iraq: Facts vs Failure

The media’s portrayal of Iraq as a miserable failure proceeds apace. Dexter Filkins and David S. Cloud, in an article titled Defying U.S. Efforts, Guerrillas in Iraq Refocus and Strengthen,, declare the following about the insurgents: “They just keep getting stronger.” The Sunday Herald claims Zarqawi is moving terrorists out of Iraq and into Europe because of an abundance of fighters. John Burns states a civil war is being fought in Iraq, and asks if we know it? Edward Wong maintains Fallujah is becoming a terrorist haven all over again without providing much evidence other than bombings that occurred 20 miles outside of the city (the article is archived it is not worth your coin). Eric Schmidt reminds us the Iraqi Army is not prepared to fight independently from US forces. Contrary to the claims of Daniel Okrent, the former Reader’s Editor of the New York Time, that al Qaeda are always referred to as terrorists, Messrs. Cloud, Filkins, Burns and Wong continues to refer to Zarqawi as a “militant” and refuse to label al Qaeda as a terrorist group.

The common thread among these articles is the “militants” of al Qaeda and the insurgency have grown in strength while the Coalition is unable to stop their rise in power. But the facts do not support these assertions.

Strategy Page (July 24, 2005 entry) explains the real nature of the civil war – the resistance of Saddamists to the Coalition’s attempts to reestablish full control in the insurgency’s rear area, and notes participation in the Iraqi army is only increasing. Austin Bay notes the Sunni representatives on the constitution committee have returned to the negotiating table, and many Sunnis are the enemy of the insurgency. As far as the capabilities of the Iraqi Army, the “unable to operate independently” meme falls short as Iraqi units are engaged in combat daily and the restrictions to independent operations are logistics and heavy weapons, not morale, leadership and fighting capabilities.

Iraq rivers small.jpgThe claims the insurgency is increasing in strength are not supported by the facts. The only metrics the news outlets seem to be using are the number of attacks, and the casualties incurred by al Qaeda mass casualty attacks. But what is not explained is why the number of attacks is increasing. Coalition forces are moving further into the heart of the insurgency’s area of operations in Western Iraq and the Anbar province (click on the map for cities and towns in Western Iraq that have come und Coalition control; Global Security has a list of basing, but this does not reflect movement into Rawah and other areas).

The recent deployments to Rawah, Hit, Ramadi and Haditha is placing pressure on the insurgency, forcing them to attempt to eject Coalition forces from the region or lose their established bases. The mass casualty attacks in Baghdad and the kidnapping of foreign diplomats are an attempt to destabilize the regime and place pressure on the US and allies to withdraw from Iraq before the constitution can be completed and the next round of elections are held.

If the claims the insurgency is growing in strength are true, then why are Coalition forces moving deeper into Anbar, with what in military terms are essentially little resistance? If what the Sunday Herald claims is true, why would Zarqawi redeploy his foot soldiers when his rear area is in danger of slipping from his grasp? The advance of US forces in Western Anbar would only provide Zarqawi with a target rich environment – more US infidel solders to kill and a greater opportunity to humiliate the Great Satan. Like much of the media’s flawed analysis of the situation in Iraq, the reasons to believe Zarqawi is shifting forces from Iraq as his area of operations decrease and his targets of opportunity increase are bourn out of a failure in logic, the need to proclaim failure, or both.

Other than the brief lull after the Iraqi elections, where much of the media engaged in soul searching, the story du jour from Iraq has been failure. As Iraq continues to move forward politically and the Coalition pushes deeper into Western Iraq, the cries of failure will only grow louder. Much has been invested in this meme, and it will not die easily.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.


  • GK says:

    The MSM is managing to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Approval for the Iraq war is dropping even as we continue to make impressive gains.
    The blogosphere is the only hope. I hope enough ordinary people come to their senses and make an effort to find out what is going on.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    As Soldier’s Dad has stated, the polls rise and fall over time. If the Iraqis continue the political progress and conduct successful elections while military gains continue, the polls will turn around over time. And the media will have some ‘splainin’ to do.

  • Marlin says:

    Very nice post and very timely!!

  • GK says:

    The fact that US casualty rates have not really been dropping is what makes it hard to convince the average person that we are progressing.
    While it is true that 1400 hostile deaths is tiny compared 50,000 in Vietnam and Korea, and 300,000 in WW2, that sense of perspective is not there. The fact we steadily lose 50-80 a month, with no dropoff in rate, is what people see.
    Do you see any dwindling off in casualty rate? Or is the current 50-80 month likely to me the minimum continuing level based on the skirmishes in Iraq?
    Also, do you think we will be able to pull back at least half our our troops by mid-2006? Do you think that the Iraqi army and police force will be up and running by then?

  • Bill Roggio says:

    The casualty rate is probably about steady for the level of ops and the amount of policing being donw. You can see the sharp spikes when big operations occur (Fallujah, Matador, etc,) are conducted, and these ops push the numbers up.
    Reduce 1/2 troops by mid 2006… No, unless the next round of elections brings in a sizable block of the Sunnis in from the cold, or ops in Anbar remove many from the game. Another factor is removing US/Coalition troops from the mainly Shiite and Kurdish provences. However this just means more Iraqi troops are needed to secure these areas. Lots of factors in play here, to difficult to project a year in advance. Picture should be clearer by January.

  • GK says:

    OK. More questions :
    1) If we still can’t reduce troops by half by 2006, we might have a problem. The MSM’s unrelenting propaganda war will wear down the public. When we cross the milestone of 2000 casualties in 3-4 months, that too will be another propaganda-fest. Do you think we might have to leave prematurely if approval drops to only 35% or so by mid-2006?
    2) Why do we still need troops in the Shiite or Kurdish areas? They are mostly friendly to us. Is it because Zarqawi’s non-Iraqi operatives are doing things there? Are most US casualties in Sunni-majority areas, or also in Shiite/Kurd areas?

  • Bill Roggio says:

    GK (not Marlin, my apologies),
    1) That’s where leadership comes in, something which Presendent Bush must provide a LOT more of when it comes to Iraq. That being said, I do not see a cut-and-run based on poll numbers. And the 2,000 figure will be weathered just as the 1,000 one was. I happen to believe the next round of politcal progress will take some of the wind out of the sails of the Iraq naysayers.
    2) Most of the casualties are in the Sunni areas, and mixed areas such as Baghdad and Mosul. Do you want to commit the fully trained troops to the peaceful areas, or in areas more in need of Iraqi troops? I happen to believe the US troops being relived in the more peaceful areas should push west, not head home…

  • Dave Schuler says:

    My trackbacks to this post seem to be bouncing, so ping!

  • Justin B says:

    the support numbers are a strange thing. the vast majority of Americans do not want a full and immediate withdrawl. Leave that to the lefty moonbats. Those numbers are around 30% that want full and immediate withdrawl. Of the rest, it is about 30% that say some reduction needs to start or they want a timetable. The other 40% say stay the course.

    the waning support is a media distortion. There is a movement from category 3 to category 2, but very little movement of people from category 3/2 to category 1. I am not concerned with the 70% that say either win at all costs or start slowly reducing troop levels. It is when the “Bring em home right now and screw the consquences” numbers start approaching 45% or 50% that the consequences will be felt. And London reminds us how dangerous it is to let these lefty folks run things or determine how we are going to handle the WOT.

  • GK says:

    Justin and Bill,
    Yes, you are right. It is hard to get the average people to be well informed (I read this blog daily and ask many questions, and STILL know relatively little about how well things are going. The scary thing is that 98% probably know even less than me).
    We are overdue from some significant positive milestone. Milestones such as :
    1) Fall of Saddam’s statue 5/03
    2) Shootout with Uday/Qusay 7/03
    3) Capture of Saddam 12/03
    4) Iraqi elections 1/05
    One very important point that goes unnoticed in measuring the success of the Iraq war is the stockmarkets of countries in the region. The stockmarkets of Israel, Turkey, Egypt, and the UAE have risen 150-200% since the capture of Saddam 18 months ago. Greater stability in the region and an influx of capital into Iraq has caused this massive stockmarket boom. Stockmarkets are unriggable and the most unbiased, indisputable metric of whether an economic/political climate is improving or not.
    Check this out on Yahoo finance under international indices.

  • THE CROG says:

    How about a flash presentation with some positive milestones? Is that harder to do?
    The last one was so instructive.

  • Justin Capone says:

    There are three upcoming events in Iraq that have the potental to bring the numbers up on the war. The trial of Saddam in September, the voting on of the Constitution in October, and the final election in December. I really hope they can keep the date of the Constitution and Saddam’s trial, if they can everything else will fall into place.
    By the end of December if things go right with all three of these things in the best case it could boost the numbers on the war to the low 50s.
    That will give us about 6-7 months before the media starts screaming again about leaving Iraq. Public opinion on the war may continue to drop even after we have Anbar under control and Iraq has 300,000 trained security forces.
    Zarqawi can massively effect public opinion with his suicide bombers, because the media covers them front and center every day which gives the strong impression as if Iraq is in chaos and we are losing. It is nearly impossible to stop the suicide bombers until very late into winning the war, hell we can’t even stop them in nations like the UK, Israel, or Egypt and they have great security forces.
    And, support for the war will peak after the December elections and then keep on going down, because as long as Zarqawi has any Sunni supporters at all he can continue to send in suicide bombers to kill Iraqis which get played up on our TV screens every night. It is patheic that an al-Qaeda overlord is doing this much damage to the war effort and the media is letting him and helping him, because they really don’t see Iraq as part of the War on Terror. Morons.
    The only thing that will boost support for the war after the December elections will be the capture of either Bin Laden and Zarqawi. Getting either would boost support for Iraq and the War on Terror. Most Americans seems to think the two are totally different things thanks to the media that endless repeats Saddam wasn’t liked to al-Qaeda, didn’t cause 911, and Zarqawi is a insurgent, a rebel, a militant, or a fighter, but not a terrorist.
    al-Qaeda can set off suicide bombs in Iraq for years to come, but they can’t win unless we give up.

  • Enigma says:

    Looks like Hanoi Jane is throwing her support to the terrorists.
    “I can’t go into any detail except to say that it’s going to be pretty exciting,” she said.
    I bet it will be. I wonder if they’ll photograph her behind the wheel of a suicide bomber’s car?

  • GK says:

    Jane Honda truly is a ridiculous human being. Few people have benefited from America as much as she has, yet few work so actively to undermine America.
    The hypocrisy has no end. On one hand, Barbarella was a great ‘liberation’ for the women’s movement in the late 1960s. On the other hand, she sides with those who stone women for having pre-marital sex.
    Jane Fonda’s name will go down in history as being synonymous with hypocrisy and treason.

  • If casualty rates among American forces determined whether we were winning or loosing, then we were definately loosing the war against Germany in January of 1945, and the war against Japan in April-May-June of 1945.
    How so? Because we lost more troops in those battles than in any other of the war; 19,000 dead in the Battle of the Bulge and 12,500 at Okinawa.
    The apparent belief among the MSM is that wars follow a nice, neat linear path. A failure to read any history other than that of the Vietnam War is the cause.

  • Justin B says:

    How can you fault Jane Fonda for touring to get us to pull out of Iraq. She no longer is married to Ted and they no longer have Eason to advocate their positions for them at CNN. With no media network to pollute our minds she has to do it with a bus running on vegie oil.

  • Justin Capone says:

    The vast majority of our toops are getting killed by the goddam IEDs, would it be better if we got Iraqi troops to patrol more in Humvees? How can we deal with this problem, everything we do seems to fail.

  • Justin Capone says:

    Here is another example of bullshit reporting by the AP. I guess they forgot that there were two Shia uprisings last year and all the air has been sucked out of Sadr’s ballon by the Shia voting in the January elections, since the Sunnis weren’t involved in the January elections it did nothing to stop the Sunni insurgency. But, it is very very damn premature to say if the Constitution is ok’ed by the Sunnis in the October and they vote in December that it won’t suck the air out of the insurgecy. But, the AP supports the “resistance” or “rebels” as they sometime call them without knowing it so what else is new.
    Clear political progress does not calm insurgency
    BAGHDAD, Iraq — Six months after Iraq’s historic election, the country is on the verge of another political breakthrough, the successful writing of a new constitution. Yet there are growing worries the political momentum is doing nothing to calm a bloody insurgency.
    Indeed, the insurgents appear closer than ever to tipping the country into civil war, leaving many Iraqis profoundly gloomy in this summer of relentless car bombs, scorching heat and sporadic electricity.
    The issue is of keen interest to Americans, whose president has pledged that the U.S. military will stay in Iraq at its current level until the country can defend itself.

  • Paul says:

    This month is not yet over but getting close. We have lost 37 Americans in July vs. 78 in June and 80 in May. It may be that the offensive operations which cost us are paying off now.

    The media used to guage the Iraq occupation by one statistic, Americans killed. When that wasn’t horrifying enough to sway public opinion they started counting Iraqi civilians killed by terrorists. Suddenly, after thirty years Iraqi civilian lives are suddenly meaningful.

    Another example of the mdeia at work was Afghanistan this spring. We were told by newpaper and TV reports that the situation there was deteriorating because over 600 people had been killed. In the fine print was the news that 500 of them were Taliban guerillas who made the mistake of massing their numbers. What was actually a crushing defeat for the Taliban was portrayed as them “reorganizing” and “reconstituting”. In reality they were being exterminated. Now we hear they are conscripting 14 year old boys at gunpoint. Certainly not indicative of an insurgency on the rise.

  • steve says:

    It’s deja vue all over again. The left’s biggest domestic success after the leaked Watergate Scandal was our forced defeat in Vietnam. Their tired strategy is on display again.
    Here’s how it goes…
    1. the left opposes any military response to the attacks on our country (circuitously asserting in this current case that it will “cause attacks on our country.”)
    2. despite huge successes, the anti-war media

    a. propagandize for the nation’s enemy (“freedom fighter,” “root-causes,” “Why do they hate us?”)

    b. drive home the impression of defeat to dampen public support for the effort.

    3. Then clueless gliteratti visit our “militant” enemies to humanize them and lend comfort to them (ie, “Have you hugged a cuddly Islamofascist today?”)
    The stategy worked well for them then. Is it 1970 all over again?

  • Zsa Zsa says:

    Who cares what the MSM thinks or says?… They all are so anti-America. I go to the blogs to get most of my news because it is very hard to listen to most of these “Reporters”! They don’t just report they give their liberal biased opinions! If they continue with the news on the path they are headed. It will become obsolete… sent me over with his Classey Blogs addition! Thanks for having me!

  • leaddog2 says:

    When was the last time you heard an MSM comment or story that was True? ????? You have to think “real hard” to answer that question, don’t you? I know I DID!
    In fact, I think it was in 1991, or maybe it was 1992. Seriously!

  • newsblaze says:

    I agree with your analysis. – Also, the MSM has lost the plot and can’t see what is in front of them I don’t know why that is or why they are so hell-bent on painting such a terrible picture, unless they have a bet on with a bookie and they’re doing their best to make sure they get paid.

    About a month ago, I wrote War in Iraq turning a corner?

    The Sunnis is Iraq were just coming to the realisation that the terrorists were not on their side. The terrorists had their own agenda and they didn’t care about the Sunnis at all.
    Its possible the terrorists think they don’t need them any more. Hopefully this will be the start of their undoing. It may be because nobody isn’t controlling them – they have been taught to operate on their own. So that means they don’t have the benefit of someone with the big picture in their head, who can keep them in line and set on a path that will lead them where they want to go. They are all doing their own thing and that means uncoordinated and out of control and hopefully defeatable because they will lose the support they had, as long as we don’t screw it up.

  • unaha-closp says:

    Zarqawi is not confronting operations in the Anbar province because he knows direct confrontation with the Americans is not a battle he will win and it is not a crucial battle for him to win. The Anbar province is not Zarqawi’s rear area. Zarqawi commands an army of foreign fighters so his rear area is in Saudi, Yemen, Gulf States – his supply chain passes through Syria and then finally the Anbar province into the mixed areas of Iraq. All he needs to do is redirect his supply chain away from US military operations.


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