MADRE Articles

Report vs. Reality: What General Petraeus Didn't Say

Posted on: Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Keywords: Women's Health, Combating Violence Against Women, Peace Building, Iraq, Middle East

September 11, 2007


The General claimed that the surge has reduced the killing of Iraqi civilians.


  • No independent assessments support this assertion. In fact, the head of the Congressional Government Accountability Office says his agency has a “strong difference of opinion” with Petraeus’ claim. McClatchy Newspapers report that “The military has provided no hard numbers to back the claim.”
  • Petraeus’ statistical illusions come from arbitrarily excluding people killed by car bombs (more than 2,600 people this year), by members of their own religious group, and by bullet wounds to the front of the head.
  • Figures from Iraqi hospitals, morgues, and police logs show that civilian killings are double what they were this time last year.
  • Women from MADRE’s Iraqi sister organization, the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), have taken on the gruesome task of visiting morgues to try to assess the number of women killed in gender-based attacks. They report that the killings of women have skyrocketed under US occupation and that the “surge” has done nothing to diminish the trend.


The General claimed that “the most significant development in the past six months” was cooperation between US troops and local Sunni tribes in the fight against al Qaeda. Touting the province of Anbar as a model, the General said, “Coalition and Iraqi forces have dealt significant blows to al Qaeda-Iraq” and “thrown al Qaeda off balance.”


  • Anbar’s anti-al Qaeda initiative has nothing to do with the surge. It was organized by tribal leaders last September, four months before additional US troops were stationed in Anbar. According to McClatchy Newspapers, the tribes had previously asked for US help in confronting al Qaeda, “but had been rebuffed. By the time U.S. troops began working with the tribes, the battle against al Qaeda was well under way.”
  • Petraeus’ focus on al Qaeda is misleading. Al Qaeda in Iraq represents less than five percent of the anti-US insurgency, which shows no signs of wearing out. In fact, a recent Brookings Institution report shows that the insurgency has more than quadrupled since the occupation began. Moreover, both al Qaeda in Iraq and the overall insurgency are merely products of the US occupation itself. As for the the broader al Qaeda organization, a July 2007 National Intelligence Estimate reports that it is alive and well, with its operations in full swing in US-allied Pakistan.


The General claimed that sectarian violence has been sharply reduced by the surge.


  • Since the surge began, the pace of “sectarian cleansing” has actually increased, bringing the total number of Iraqis who have been driven from their homes to over four million. Iraqi Red Crescent figures show an average of 100,000 people fleeing their homes each month that the surge has been in place.
  • Petraeus’ figures reflect the success of ethnic cleansing across Iraq, not the success of the surge. Where violence has decreased, it is mainly in areas where the bloody project of ethnic cleansing is now complete: killing is down because there is no one left to kill.
  • According to the New York Times, “Iraq’s mixed neighborhoods are sliding towards extinction. During the troop increase, Shiite militias have continued to drive Sunnis out of at least seven neighborhoods in Baghdad.”
  • In August 2007, Shiite militiamen drove out Sunnis and Christians from Baghdad’s Dora District. The move was followed by the violent imposition of the militia’s brand of Islamic law. Women are now forbidden to be in public without their husbands, and girls were forbidden to enroll in school when summer vacation ended. Violence against women and girls has been an invisible but constant feature of ethnic cleansing, which the US continues to ignore.

As expected, the Petraeus Report asks for more time to prosecute a war that should never have been launched in the first place. The only “progress” it anticipates is a reduction of US combat troops to “pre-surge levels” by mid-2008. In other words, we’ll be back where we were in January 2007, when Bush first announced his escalation of the war. Iraqi women and families can’t wait that long—and neither can we. With a third of the Senate and the entire House of Representatives up for election, now is the time to let Congress know that ending the surge is not nearly enough: we need to end the occupation of Iraq and bring all of the troops home now.

By Yifat Susskind, Communications Director

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