Petraeus: Life In Iraq Showing ‘Astonishing Signs Of Normalcy’

petra.jpg 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.

Jordan Grossman