Writing in the Wall Street Journal today, Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) accuse critics of the Iraq war of facing “a crisis of credibility” because they “confidently predicted the failure of the surge.” But in their effort to argue that anti-war critics have “been proven decidedly wrong,” Lieberman and Graham undermine their own credibility on the issue by ignoring recent developments in the war-torn country.
As proof of the surge’s success, the two hawkish senators cite statistics that they say show “dramatic improvements in security”:
No one can deny the dramatic improvements in security in Iraq achieved by Gen. Petraeus, the brave troops under his command, and the Iraqi Security Forces. From June 2007 through February 2008, deaths from ethno-sectarian violence in Baghdad have fallen approximately 90%. American casualties have also fallen sharply, down by 70%.
The fact that Lieberman and Graham only cite statistics through February — even though numbers for March 2008 are available — undercuts their argument. Perhaps they ignored March because there was “a 25 or 30 percent increase in the number of civilian casualties” from February to March:
Overall, Iraqi deaths rose from a low of 568 in December and 541 in January to roughly 721 in February to more than 1,082 in March, according to statistics compiled by Iraq’s ministries of health, interior, and defense and confirmed by Smith. The vast majority were civilians.
“There was somewhere on the order of a 25 or 30 percent increase in the number of civilian casualties when you consider March compared to February,” Smith said, although “the numbers are still nowhere near what they had been last summer.”
Lieberman and Graham also claim that “the critics in Washington have been proven wrong” about political progress in Iraq, citing the passage of “de-Baathification, amnesty, the budget and provincial elections” legislation by the Iraqi government. But this too is not an honest assessment of what has occurred in Iraq. In a report to be released today, the experts who advised the original Iraq Study Group call political progress “superficial“:
A new assessment of U.S. policy in Iraq by the same experts who advised the original Iraq Study Group concludes that political progress is “so slow, halting and superficial” and political fragmentation “so pronounced” that the United States is no closer to being able to leave Iraq than it was a year ago.
Before accusing their political opponents of “a crisis of credibility,” Lieberman and Graham should make sure their arguments don’t undermine their own credibility.
The AP reports today that “internal strife” in Iraq has been “underscored by a rise in ethno-sectarian violence between Iraqis in March, the first such monthly increase since last July.”