In a presentation yesterday at the American Enterprise Institute, escalation architect Frederick Kagan repeated his claim that sectarian cleansing has not affected the drop in violence in Iraq. Kagan called it a “myth”:
The bad news from this perspective is that the sectarian areas of Iraq is still mixed. The good news is that the sectarian areas of Iraq are still mixed. And there is a myth out there that the violence has fallen because all of the cleansing is done. That is absolutely not the case.
Kagan makes the same claim in his new report, “Iraq: The Way Ahead“:
One of the persistent myths about the reasons for the success of coalition efforts in 2007 is that the killing stopped because the sectarian cleansing was completed. This myth is absolutely false. Baghdad remains a mixed city. The traditionally Sunni neighborhoods of Adhamiya, Mansour, and Rashid remain predominantly Sunni, and Shiite enclaves in East Rashid remain Shiite. Shia have moved into some parts of the Sunni neighborhoods, and many sub-districts within neighborhoods that had been mixed are now much more homogeneous. But the key components of a mixed Baghdad remain.
Kagan’s claim is contested by major news organizations and the U.S. military’s own data. In December 2007, the Washington Post published the maps below, comparing the sectarian make-up of Baghdad’s neighborhoods in April 2006 and November 2007, and revealing the transformation of the city resulting from sectarian cleansing:
The Post’s distribution of sectarian enclaves corresponds closely with these graphs, provided by Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNF-I), that chart sectarian violence in Baghdad between July 2006 and July 2007, which is the period in which the U.S. military escalation, also known as the Baghdad Security Plan, took place.
The August 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq also rebuts Kagan’s mythmaking. One of the NIE’s judgements was that where some “conflict levels have diminished,” it was due to sectarian “separation.”
Kagan’s view is also challenged by Joe Christoff of the Government Accountability Office, who stated in congressional testimony in October 2007 that sectarian cleansing was “an important consideration in even assessing the overall security situation in Iraq”:
We look at the attack data going down, but it’s not taking into consideration that there might be fewer attacks because you have ethnically cleansed neighborhoods, particularly in the Baghdad area. […]
It’s produced 2.2. million refugees that have left, it’s produced two million internally displaced persons within the country as well.
In August 2007, the Iraqi Red Crescent Organization indicated that “the total number of internally displaced Iraqis [had] more than doubled, to 1.1 million from 499,000″ since the surge started in February. Center for American Progress Iraq analyst Brian Katulis estimated that Baghdad, which once used to be a 65 percent Sunni majority city, “is now 75 percent Shia.”
Kagan’s claim that Baghdad “remains a mixed city,” severely understates both the drastic transformation of the city’s sectarian make-up and the suffering that attended that transformation. It also casually ignores the fact that one of the most intense and violent periods of sectarian cleansing took place under the aegis of the military escalation Kagan now claims credit for.