SYDNEY, Australia - America's troop buildup in Iraq has sharply reduced sectarian killings and roadside bombings and lowered al-Qaida's influence, the top U.S. general in the country said in an interview published Friday.
"We say we have achieved progress, and we are obviously going to do everything we can to build on that progress and we believe al-Qaida is off balance at the very least," The Australian newspaper quoted Gen. David Petraeus as saying.
Petraeus said there had been a 75 percent drop in ethnic and religious killings since last year, a doubling in the number of seizures of insurgent weapons caches between January and August, a drop in the number of coalition deaths from roadside bombs, and an increase in the killing and capture of al-Qaida fighters, the newspaper said.
Now for the actual figures. From Reuters:
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Civilian deaths from violence in Iraq rose in August, with 1,773 people killed, government data showed on Saturday, just days before the U.S. Congress gets a slew of reports on President George W. Bush's war strategy.
The civilian death toll was up 7 percent from 1,653 people killed in July, according to figures from various ministries.
Meanwhile, the LA Times reports on a cholera outbreak in northern Iraq caused by poor living conditions and lack of access to clean, drinkable water:
SULAYMANIYA, IRAQ -- A cholera outbreak in northern Iraq, where thousands of people have sought refuge from sectarian violence, is overwhelming hospitals and has killed as many as 10 people, health officials said Friday.
The outbreak in Sulaymaniya and Kirkuk is seen as the latest example of the displacement and deterioration of living conditions caused by the Iraqi conflict.
Yet how is the elite mainstream media reporting on the "surge?" Here's CBS's National Security Correspondent David Martin:
The Pentagon believes it has broken the cycle of violence in Iraq, and there are a lot of statistics to support that -- decrease in American casualties, in roadside bombs, in car bombs, in sectarian killings; increase in numbers of al Qaida killed or captured, weapons caches discovered, tips from the local population. The only negative trend cited by military officers is a continuing increase in the number of sophistcated roadside bombs smuggled in from Iran and the number of mortar and rocket attacks using Iranian weapons and training.
The surge is working. Now what do we do? Militarily, it's a no-brainer -- U.S. troops have seized the momentum and they should continue to exploit it. That means continuing the surge until next April when the first of the five brigades sent in as part of the surge will have completed their 15 month tour. [Emphasis mine]
That's right -- no mention of increased civilian deaths, the internal displacement of perhaps a million Iraqi civilians with more than two million living in refugee camps in countries like Syria and Jordan. Instead, the senior correspondent at one of the nation's leading news outlets relies solely on Pentagon news releases to come to the determination that "the surge is working." Consider this yet another example of why inside-the-beltway pundits and reporters may be good at propagating the latest in Pentagon spin and "conventional wisdom" on Iraq, but they're out of their element when it comes to relaying the actual reality on the ground.
Be sure to check out Patrick Cockburn's latest report for a realistic view of life in Iraq and for more details on the collapse of the country's health services.