Ricks: Baghdad Only Seems ‘Peaceful’ Because 2006 Was ‘Pure Hell’

Discussing the one-year anniversary of President Bush’s call for the “surge” on MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann last night, Washington Post Pentagon reporter Thomas Ricks said that, “judged on the terms in which the president presented it, the surge has not worked.” “The purpose was to improve security, but to improve it to lead to a political breakthrough,” said Ricks. “And that political breakthrough has not happened.”

Asked about whether the Iraqis “think it has worked,” Ricks said they “recognize that large parts of Baghdad are more peaceful,” but only compared to the “pure hell” of 2006:

I think Iraqis recognize that large parts of Baghdad are more peaceful than they were, but violence is basically back to 2005 levels. And that was no picnic, 2005. It’s just 2006 was pure hell.

Watch it:


Ricks is correct that the “surge” has failed to bring the political progress Bush sought. He is also right that the security situation had already turned bad in 2005:

— “The numbers of car bombs, suicide car bombs and roadside bombs all doubled from 2004 to 2005.”

— In 2005, there were more U.S. casualties in Iraq (846) than there were in 2006 (821).

— On Feb. 27, 2005, Knight Ridder quoted then-Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman Sabah Kadhim warning about sectarian violence, “It’s the beginning, and we could go down the slippery slope very quickly. … Both sides are sharpening their knives.”

— On Sept. 26, 2005, CBS News reported that “there is an undeclared civil war already underway in Iraq, between the Sunni minority who ruled this country under Saddam and the Shiite majority.”

Ricks also criticizes Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) for their Wall Street Journal op-ed yesterday declaring that “the surge worked.” “From their perspective, perhaps, the surge is a success” because “Iraq is no longer on the front pages every day” and “that might be the exact definition of success they were looking for,” said Ricks.


As a matter of fact, McCain recently remarked on the “surge’s” effect on his political fortunes, saying “Thank God it’s off the front pages.”