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September 06, 2007

Getting Shot in the Front of the Head Doesn't Count
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

Karen DeYoung does a great job of breaking down the various questions with the "sectarian violence" numbers that are being quoted by Petraeus and Bush.  My favorite

according to one senior intelligence official in Washington. "If a bullet went through the back of the head, it's sectarian," the official said. "If it went through the front, it's criminal."

So to recap.  The violence numbers do not include:  1) Sunni on Sunni violence. 2) Shi'a on Shi'a violence  3)  Car bombs  4)  Getting shot in the front of the head. 

But violence is down.  Trust me.

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I noticed the very oblique mention of NS Network:
"In a letter last week to the leadership of both parties, a group of influential academics and former Clinton administration officials called on Congress to examine 'the exact nature and methodology that is being used to track the security situation in Iraq and specifically the assertions that sectarian violence is down.'"

Too bad they couldn't give the name, though.

Everyone in the blogosphere is using the same quote from an unnamed intelligence official depicted in DeYoung's article as a critic of the military's methodology as an accurate description of that methodology.

No doubt the officials actual views are more nuanced than this. They surely ought to be, for the task of assessing the level of violence in a country most of which is not under the direct observation of American troops is an extraordinarily demanding one. A large amount of guesswork is inevitable, and the best the military is going to be able to do is report general trends in those areas in which American units are actively patrolling.

A larger number of reporters embedded with American military units in Iraq would help address questions as to the reliability of the data on violence being generated by coalition forces. But it should be obvious by this time that it is the use of such data by officials in the highest echelons of the Bush administration that is the real problem here.

Why? Because the data are being and will continue to be used as a measure of progress toward a goal that is assumed. That is the problem right there -- what we ought to be arguing about is whether maintaining the American commitment in Iraq into the indefinite future is in the national interests of the United States. Instead, everyone is arguing about tactical considerations, like whether and how we can measure progress toward a goal -- a political end-state in Iraq -- the attainment of which requires maintaining the American commitment in Iraq into the indefinite future.

The assumption is that what is good for Iraq is good for the United States. But this is absurd. The resources available to the United States to conduct a foreign policy are finite. For the last four years -- actually the last five, counting the preparation for the invasion -- resources of money, military manpower, and the time and attention of senior levels of the government have been monopolized by Iraq. The rewards for success there, however we choose to define it, would have to be absolutely enormous to have been worth the price we have already paid, and much larger than that to justify pouring more resources into Iraq for many years more. And they aren't.

Jim Lehrer was asking Josh Bolten on the Newshour the other day how we got around to making one general a kind of oracle to show us the way forward in a war the whole American government has been kicking around for a good half-decade. This is how.

As Tom Engelhardt explains here, all this nonsense about body counts and "metrics" is due to the fact that our government can't lay out any other remotely achievable goal in Iraq.

When we first invaded, our elites knew exactly what they wanted: a pro-US Iraqi government, a model free-market economy, and lots of oil and reconstruction contracts for politically-connected US companies. Now, all of those goals are completely unachievable, and yet they can't publicly acknowlege this, and therefore they can't choose a new set of achievable goals.

And so, as in Vietnam, the body count becomes all when you have no other idea what to call "progress".

This shot in the head in front versus the back are more liberal lies and bullsh*t.

Last Tuesday, October 7th, the second presidential debate that took place in Belmont University in Nashville attracted over 60 million viewers. Instead of coming to a more firm deliberation on how to improve the well-being of the United States and all of the American citizens who inhabit it, more questions have raised about how exactly these presidential candidates intend to better our obliterated economy. Frequent questions asked about the $700 billion Wall Street bailout were left unanswered. People are upset and even fear that it would not work and are in search of reassurance and a solution. It seems like their main focus is basically to criticize each other in hopes of rounding up a larger number of followers than the other. Their proposed intentions are based on completely irrelevant issues. Let’s take Barak Obama’s stance on payday advance lenders for an instance. He categorized them as “predatory lending”- effectively sanctioning the industry. This is not an issue that is downheartedly affecting our economy. As the real economic problems are ignored, they spend more time finding and using the pettiest affairs to add spice to the banking production.
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