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July 6, 2005

Judgment day

Time for a reality-check:

President Bush is facing a legal deadline to deliver what he has been most resistant to providing: a set of specific benchmarks for measuring progress toward military and political stability in Iraq.
Under a little-noticed provision of the defense spending bill passed by Congress in May, Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld has until July 11 to send Capitol Hill a “comprehensive set of performance indicators and measures of stability and security” two years after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
… Last week, Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, the ranking Democrat on the Defense Appropriations subcommittee, pointed to language in the report accompanying last May’s Iraq funding bill that… orders the first detailed status report on July 11 and follow-ups every 90 days.
The information required is specific and detailed. It includes measures of the security environment, including the number of engagements per day, the count of trained Iraqi forces and more. It orders up indicators of economic activity. It directs Rumsfeld to provide – either in public or in classified annexes – an estimate of U.S. military forces need in Iraq through the end of calendar 2006 and the criteria the administration will use to determine when it is safe to begin withdrawing forces.

Of course it depends which reality you’re checking. The Iraq Weekly Status Report produced by the Commerce Department’s Iraq Investment and Reconstruction Task Force (IIRTF) describes a poster-child for progress: Almost 33,000 secondary teachers and administrative staff, including more than 17,000 females, were trained in programs funded by USAID … Trade volume in the Iraq Stock Exchange (ISX) spiked on June 27 to $8 million, more than twice the average volume recorded in the twelve months since the exchange was reopened … On June 23, 96 police commandos graduated from the first class offered at the Special Police Forces Academy in Baghdad … The three major cell phone companies in Iraq (Asiacell, Iraqna, and Atheer) continue to enroll new subscribers at healthy rates … and so on, triumph after trivial triumph over adversity.

Of course, that adversity isn’t covered in much detail in the report. But for those keeping count, a total of 411 U.S. troops died in Iraq in the first six months of this year, compared with 376 in the same period of 2004. So far in 2005, insurgents have killed almost as many Iraqi military and police personnel as were killed in the previous 18 months. Since the Shiite-led government was announced on April 28th, a total of 1,758 Iraqis have lost their lives. And major attacks have killed at least 79 people since the start of July alone, with many more deaths uncounted.

As for the economy, you can find some recent indicators here, here … and of course in the whimsical IIRTF report. A few June 2005 numbers stand out:

  • Oil production: 2.2 million barrels a day (June 2004: 2.3 million)

  • Oil-export revenue: $0.61 billion (June 2004: $1.38 billion)

  • Average electricity generated: 4,035 MW (June 2004: 4,293 MW)

  • Estimated unemployment rate: 27-40% (June 2004: 30-40%)

  • Cumulative U.S aid for relief/reconstruction: $8.2 billion (June 2004: $0.3 billion)

Inevitably, all this will somehow be shown to prove that “stability and security” are being achieved, even if in reality it proves exactly the opposite.

Posted by Stephen at 12:23 AM in War | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

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