The Pentagon yesterday released its first quarterly report assessing President Bush’s escalation strategy, confirming that overall levels of violence in the country actually “increased throughout much of Iraq in recent months,” as attacks “shifted away from Baghdad and Anbar” and into “cities and provinces that had been relatively peaceful before the Bush administration’s troop buildup.”
Political reconciliation has almost entirely stalled, suicide bombings “more than doubled” from January to April, sectarian deaths have increased beyond pre-escalation levels, and U.S. troop deaths are spiking.
During his press briefing yesterday, White House spokesman Tony Snow said the increasing chaos was a positive sign. The new levels of attacks “fit a pattern that we see throughout the region,” he said, “which is that when you see things moving towards success, or when you see signs of success, that there are acts of violence.” Watch it:
Also yesterday, Snow sharply downplayed the importance of the September Iraq report from top U.S. commander Gen. David Petraeus. Just last month, President Bush said September would be an “important moment” in the war because “Petraeus says that’s when he’ll have a pretty good assessment as to what the effects of the surge has been.”
Yesterday, Snow described Petraeus’ report as merely a “first opportunity” to “have a little bit of a metric” to “see what happens when you have all the forces in place for the Baghdad security plan.”
Q Let me follow on that, because I think some American officials have called this an act of desperation. And I’m wondering how this is seen as an act of desperation. Does that mean that the terrorists are so concerned that they’re sort of being shut down, and that the surge is so effective that they’re now desperate to make a statement?
MR. SNOW: Well, I think, again — a couple of things. It does fit a pattern that we see throughout the region, which is that when you see things moving towards success, or when you see signs of success, that there are acts of violence. We saw that, certainly — we’ve seen that in Lebanon, once again, today, tragically. We also saw it earlier in Lebanon. We have seen it on a number of occasions where, when Israel and the Palestinians seem to be getting close to a deal, there are kidnapings and acts of violence.
Q Tony, whenever you, or the President, or anyone in the administration is asked about assessing how the surge is going, you point out not everyone is there yet, it’s going to take a while — 30 or 60 days. Are we going to see any softening of the September deadline for a pivotal assessment on how this is going?
MR. SNOW: You call it a pivotal assessment — there are going to be regular assessments of what goes on — what has been going on in Iraq. And I think in September you will have the first opportunity to have a little bit of a metric to see what happens when you have all the forces in place for the Baghdad security plan. I mean, that I think — if you want a definitive judgment, I’ve warned from the very beginning about expecting some sort of magical thing to happen in September.
This is a war, and it is the sort of thing where you want to make sure that the measures that you are taking are producing results. And I think at that juncture you’re going to be able to have a little more granularity, as they say.