In an interview with USA Today yesterday, Gen. David Petraeus, top commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, claimed that he sees “astonishing signs of normalcy” in Baghdad:
“I’m talking about professional soccer leagues with real grass field stadiums, several amusement parks — big ones, markets that are very vibrant. … The Iraqi army has, in general, done quite well in the face of some really serious challenges.”
Petraeus painted a similarly rosy picture of progress in Iraq last week, when he declared on CNN that “what is taking place in Anbar is almost breathtaking.”
Yet, a report released yesterday by the Pentagon — “the first comprehensive statistical overview of the new U.S. military strategy in Iraq” — directly contradicts Petraeus’ optimistic assessments:
Overall, however, violence “has increased in most provinces, particularly in the outlying areas of Baghdad province and Diyala and Ninewa provinces,” … In Diyala’s restive capital of Baqubah, U.S. and Iraq forces “have been unable to diminish rising sectarian violence contributing to the volatile security situation,” [the report] said. … [I]t cited “significant evidence” of attacks on Sunni Arabs by the predominantly Shiite government security forces, which have contributed to the displacement of an estimated 2 million Iraqis from their homes.
Patraeus’s unrealistic and misleading talk of “professional soccer leagues” and “markets that are very vibrant” mirrors the rhetoric of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who recently claimed that strolling through an Iraqi market with an escort of 100 soldiers, 3 Blackhawk helicopters, and 2 Apache gunships proved that one could “walk freely” in areas of Baghdad.
Additionally, Marwan Ja’afar, a prominent Iraqi soccer player, was killed in a mortar attack last month, and 21 Iraqis who worked in the Baghdad market visited by McCain were ambushed, bound and shot dead the day after he left.
UPDATE: Spencer Ackerman at TPMmuckraker has more on Petraeus’s comments.