Why The Civil War Is Over

So what happened to that Iraqi civil war? Apparently the factions all took up a life of crime.

On Sept. 1, the bullet-riddled bodies of four Iraqi men were found on a Baghdad street. Two days later, a single dead man, with one bullet in his head, was found on a different street. According to the U.S. military in Iraq, the solitary man was a victim of sectarian violence. The first four were not.

Such determinations are the building blocks for what the Bush administration has declared a downward trend in sectarian deaths and a sign that its war strategy is working. They are made by a specialized team of soldiers who spend their nights at computer terminals, sifting through data on the day’s civilian victims for clues to the motivations of killers.

The soldiers have a manual telling them what to look for. Signs of torture or a single shot to the head, corpses left in a “known body dump” — as the body of the Sunni man found on Sept. 3 was — spell sectarian violence, said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dan Macomber, the team leader. Macomber, who has been at his job in Baghdad since February, rarely has to look it up anymore.

“If you were just a criminal and you just wanted to take somebody’s money, just wanted to discipline them, you’re not going to take the time to bind them up, burn their bodies, cut their arms off, cut their head off,” he explained. “You’re just going to shoot them in the body and get it over with.” That, the team judged, is what happened to the four Shiite men, sprayed with gunfire and left where they dropped.

Drive-by AK47 robberies – just like Detroit!

If I wanted to give this silly exercise the benefit of the doubt I would ask whether anybody bothers to check whether the bullet riddled “crime victims” still have their wallets. But let’s get real. The idea that a FOB computer ranger can divine the motives behind a killing based on an Excel spreadsheet is simply ludicrous. It took these people years to grasp the difference between Shiite and Sunni. Like so many that have come before, this story just lays bare the fundamental dishonesty of general Petraeus’s slick, hyper stage managed sales job.

But hey, thumbing the casualty counts only seems fitting for a war sold on the basis of slick, hyper-stage managed, consciously dishonest sales jobs. Or have we found those WMDs yet? No? Looks like Petraeus fits right in.






24 replies
  1. 1
    Pb says:

    The idea that a FOB computer ranger can divine the motives behind a killing based on an Excel spreadsheet

    …will provide more Wingnut Welfare for more Keyboard Kommandos, yay!

  2. 2
    jenniebee says:

    Anybody else seen the Code Pink photos on Sadly, No?

    I mean, as long as we’re on the topic of totally making shit up…

  3. 3
    Jake says:

    If I wanted to give this silly exercise the benefit of the doubt I would ask whether anybody bothers to check whether the bullet riddled “crime victims” still have their wallets.

    I bet they do and I bet they use that as “proof” that it was a crime. Because we all know insurgents don’t need cash. The Iranians give them weapons for free. No wait. The Iranians pay them to take the weapons. And of course no insurgent would never dream of maiming a person beyond recognition and then misusing the victim’s identification. Goodness no. They may be insurgents but they’re not thugs.

  4. 4
    Tax Analyst says:

    “If you were just a criminal and you just wanted to take somebody’s money, just wanted to discipline them, you’re not going to take the time to bind them up, burn their bodies, cut their arms off, cut their head off,” he explained. “You’re just going to shoot them in the body and get it over with.” That, the team judged, is what happened to the four Shiite men, sprayed with gunfire and left where they dropped.

    This is SO COOL!!! We’ve drastically reduced sectarian violence with SPREADSHEETS. Crime? Hell, there’s crime everywhere, you know, and that’s a LOCAL issue, not a problem the US Gummint or Military can or should be expected to solve.

    So, let’s see…we’re killing more and more insurgents (people who pick stuff up off the ground), right? And “sectarian violence” is down, right? And “crime” is not our problem, right? The Iraqi’s haveta figure out how to deal with that by themselves, right? We can’t do EVERYTHING for them, can we? I mean don’t these people know anything at all about “Rule of Law”? So we just HAVETA be winning, right?

    Can I just have double candy? I’m allergic to most flowers.

  5. 5

    Spooky – all too reminiscent of the Pentagon’s use of “attrition” in Vietnam to keep selling that war — hey, so long as we’re killing more of them, we’re winning!

    The methods are different but the idea is the same — using a clever metric or numbering system to show victory.

    DU

  6. 6
    Kafka Lives says:

    What does it matter? If they aren’t Americans, they don’t count anyway. And of course if they *are* American soldiers, even then they don’t count a great deal more (thank you, Sen. Boehner).

    I remember the body count machinations from Vietnam, but it wasn’t this fantasy-ridden.

  7. 7
    Dadmanly says:

    You people need to get a clue.

    The Analysts described here are Army All Source Intelligence Analysts, MOS 96B. They staff Intel sections from BN sized units up through Bridge and Divisions and higher HQ commands.

    What they are doing is a form of what the Army calls Battle Damage Assessment (BDA). In prior conflicts, BDA might be as simple as trying to determine the number of enemy killed or wounded based on combat SITREPS, open source reporting, really anything that gave any hint of enemy casualties.

    Now, in the glassbowl that is the modern battlefield, in a Counterinsurgency effort, the Army is being pressed by military and civilian leadership to determine civilian casualties, and attempt to assess the nature/cause of those casualties. There are obvious reasons to do this, not least the extreme level of criticism and politicization that is driving both sides of the debate about Iraq. Complaints and criticisms from war opponents, such as found here, is a big reason the Army bothers to derive this kind of detail. That, and the new COIN doctrine suggests that protecting civilian populations can be more vital to success than force protection. (And that’s right.)

    Think about this for a minute. If what the Intel analysts are doing here is so nefarious, would you be reading about it in the Washington Post?

    Really, consider that the good professor’s bona fides in military matters consists of watching most of the episodes of M.A.S.H. I’d say, not much more based on his lack of understanding of military matters.

  8. 8
    Dadmanly says:

    Sorry, didn’t realize this was posted by Tim F. My criticism about lack of military knowledge should apply to him, not Professor Cole. (Though from previous posts, I suspect the same holds true for the Professor.)

  9. 9
    Tax Analyst says:

    Think about this for a minute. If what the Intel analysts are doing here is so nefarious, would you be reading about it in the Washington Post?

    So you’re saying this has nothing to do with the reports of “reduced sectarian violence” that are being bandied about? Just some sort of “accounting” exercise? I’m not a “Military Man”, but in my line of work they call it “cooking the books”. So I think I have to call “bullshit” on you, sir.

  10. 10
    Dadmanly says:

    Accounts of reduced sectarian violence are reflected in the military’s data, but also widely supported by independent journalists acrossed the board, and even grudgingly acknowledged by war opponents in the Democratic party.

    You can continue to imagie conspiracies where all manner of soldiers — which include a fair amount of voting Democrats, even if they’re the minority in uniform — would have to be complicit, and someone no one comes forward to blow the whistle. They’d make a fortune to do so as well, don’t you think?

    People who don’t understand the military or how it operates labor under all manner of misconceptions and ignorance, and will generally believe the wildest falsehoods.

    Find a soldier anywhere in your world, and ask him all about how we get hypnotized and brainwashed, and ask how long your average Joe or Jane would put up with being asked to do something unethical or illegal.

    That’s if you even can find a soldier you know.

  11. 11
    Bruce Moomaw says:

    Let’s quote from that Post article for Dadmanly, since he apparently needs serious help in the reading-comprehension department. “Such determinations are the building blocks for what the Bush administration has declared a downward trend in sectarian deaths and a sign that its war strategy is working.” In other words, even if the actual number of people being killed in Iraq is not decreasing, they’re being killed now by secular criminal gangs rather than by religiously motivated factions. Clearly, having Iraq run by Al Capone rather than Torquemada is an enormous improvement, and solid evidence that things are looking up there. (Of course, before we went in, Iraq WAS run by a local Al Capone…)

  12. 12
    Bruce Moomaw says:

    During the few mintues while I was writing that last entry, Dadmanly has provided further evidence of his reading-comprehension problems. “You can continue to imagine conspiracies where all manner of soldiers — which include a fair amount of voting Democrats, even if they’re the minority in uniform — would have to be complicit, and someone no one comes forward to blow the whistle. They’d make a fortune to do so as well, don’t you think?”

    Please. In this particular case, of course, there’s no need to assume a huge conspiracy — just orders at the very top that “secular killings” are not to be counted among the official war-related death toll in Iraq. (As for lower-level coverups being impossible, need I remind a self-proclaimed military man that it’s surprisingly easy to force soldiers to help cover up large-scale misbehavior if their asses happens to belong to you at the moment? There have, after all, been an impressive number of examples of that already both in this war and in Vietnam — and, as the press only recently uncovered, in the Korean War.)

  13. 13
    Tim F. says:

    Accounts of reduced sectarian violence are reflected in the military’s data, but also widely supported by independent journalists acrossed the board, and even grudgingly acknowledged by war opponents in the Democratic party.

    I assume you are ready to support that claim. Democratic politicians based their claims not on any independent reporting but on Petraeus’s carefully stage managed dog and pony shows, so we can consider their comments an outgrowth of the general flimflam coming from Petraeus’s desk.

    And for pete’s sake, let’s try to resist these protests that soldiers are holy people who would never consider flubbing a rule. You obviously have some institutional pride to defend, but let’s not take it to silly extremes. In return I promise to take seriously any independent reportage that you can find that supports your claims that civilian deaths have indeed gone down. I won’t even post the raft of reportage that says exactly the reverse. Deal?

  14. 14
    Tax Analyst says:

    Bruce M. says, “Please. In this particular case, of course, there’s no need to assume a huge conspiracy—just orders at the very top that “secular killings” are not to be counted among the official war-related death toll in Iraq.”

    Exactly. Thank you, Bruce. That saved me a overly-long reply to D.M.

    Tim F says:

    In return I promise to take seriously any independent reportage that you can find that supports your claims that civilian deaths have indeed gone down. I won’t even post the raft of reportage that says exactly the reverse. Deal?

    Sounds like a fair offer…we breathlessly await the verification of your claims.

  15. 15
    Tax Analyst says:

    You can continue to imagie conspiracies where all manner of soldiers—which include a fair amount of voting Democrats, even if they’re the minority in uniform

    BTW, how do you know that Democrats would be a minority in the current Armed Forces, particularly those currently on active Combat duty in Iraq? Are you basing that on voting in previous elections or some sort of current polling survey, and if so, by whom? I’m truly curious.

  16. 16
    Bruce Moomaw says:

    This is probably an appropriate time to quote further from that same Washington Post article:

    “In recent months, most of the military’s indicators have pointed in a favorable direction. As with all statistics, however, their meaning depends on how they are gathered and analyzed. ‘Everybody has their own way of doing it,’ [team leader] Macomber said of his sectarian analyses. ‘If you and I . . . pulled from the same database, and I pulled one day and you pulled the next, we would have totally different numbers.’

    “Apparent contradictions are relatively easy to find in the flood of bar charts and trend lines the military produces. Civilian casualty numbers in the Pentagon’s latest quarterly report on Iraq last week, for example, differ significantly from those presented by the top commander in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus, in his recent congressional testimony. Petraeus’s chart was limited to numbers of dead, while the Pentagon combined the numbers of dead and wounded — a figure that should be greater. Yet Petraeus’s numbers were higher than the Pentagon’s for the months preceding this year’s increase of U.S. troops to Iraq, and lower since U.S. operations escalated this summer.

    “The charts are difficult to compare: Petraeus used monthly figures on a line graph, while the Pentagon computed ‘Average Daily Casualties’ on a bar chart, and neither included actual numbers. But the numerical differences are still stark, and the reasons offered can be hard to parse. The Pentagon, in a written clarification, said that ‘Gen. Petraeus reported civilian deaths based on incidents reported by Coalition forces plus Iraqi government data. The [Pentagon] report only includes incidents reported by Coalition forces for civilian causality data.’ ”

    Translation, as Matt Yglesias also points out: Petraeus is deliberately incorporating the Iraqi government’s already-notoriously inaccurate estimates of the death toll into his declared figures. Now, why do you suppose he’d be doing that?

  17. 17

    You gotta respect a guy who calls himself Dadmanly. He’s a dad, and he’s manly!

    I should start calling myself Studly Steve, cause I’m a stud. Or maybe Race Horse Steve, because, well, it’s quite obvious.

    I feel sorry for dadmanly once he realizes he’s not as manly as he thinks he is.

  18. 18

    That’s if you even can find a soldier you know.

    Oh, oh… I’m hurt! This is surely the fatal blow that destroys all arguments.

    You must be more careful with your witty comebacks, or you’ll shoot someone’s eye out!

  19. 19

    Translation, as Matt Yglesias also points out: Petraeus is deliberately incorporating the Iraqi government’s already-notoriously inaccurate estimates of the death toll into his declared figures. Now, why do you suppose he’d be doing that?

    To justify bugging out of Iraq. Obviously.

    Things are going swell, time to redeploy!

  20. 20
    whippoorwill says:

    Civilian casualties are down because Baghdad and surrounding towns have been transformed into walled off armed camps populated by all Sunni or all Shia. Then consider maybe half a million killed so far and another 4 million that have fled the country. There are fewer civilians around to get killed and less opportunity for sectarian death squads to do their bloody tasks. This isn’t like Vietnam, but does resemble the devolution into a 15 year civil war in Lebanon. That was a grinding day to day fight between rival neighborhoods with militias of young fighters. The civilians that stuck around were somewhat protected by their own militia in their respected enclaves. There was little if any genocide except ones permitted by Gen Sharon.

    Think about this for a minute. If what the Intel analysts are doing here is so nefarious, would you be reading about it in the Washington Post?

    Oh please. The military in a war zone considers information a part of the battlefield. If data hurts their cause and they’re sure they won’t get caught, they’ll fudge any number in a way that promotes their goals.

  21. 21
    Redhand says:

    Like so many that have come before, this story just lays bare the fundamental dishonesty of general Petraeus’s slick, hyper stage managed sales job.

    But hey, thumbing the casualty counts only seems fitting for a war sold on the basis of slick, hyper-stage managed, consciously dishonest sales jobs. Or have we found those WMDs yet? No? Looks like Petraeus fits right in.

    I found this little piece on Petraeus to be quite an eye opener: U.S.-IRAQ: Fallon Derided Petraeus, Opposed the Surge

  22. 22
    Jake says:

    Sigh. A great handle wasted on some feeble spoof.

  23. 23
    stickler says:

    I was born in 1968, so I was too young to enjoy the Saigon “Five o’Clock Follies” in real time. But I think a reasonable imitation would look like this:

    What they are doing is a form of what the Army calls Battle Damage Assessment (BDA). In prior conflicts, BDA might be as simple as trying to determine the number of enemy killed or wounded based on combat SITREPS, open source reporting, really anything that gave any hint of enemy casualties.

    Note the heavy use of acronyms and weasel-words. And, of course, the infamous body count. Given the recent story about sniper teams “baiting” Iraqis, one might be tempted to hark back to the dark days of counting dead VC. Remember how that went? “If it’s dead, and it’s Vietnamese, it’s VC!”

    And then there’s this:

    Think about this for a minute. If what the Intel analysts are doing here is so nefarious, would you be reading about it in the Washington Post?

    Yeah. If it’s in the WaPo, it’s gotta be golden. Because it’s not like they published utter bullshit before! In service of a war which they figured would sell a hell of a lot of newspapers!

  24. 24
    TenguPhule says:

    People who don’t understand the military or how it operates labor under all manner of misconceptions and ignorance, and will generally believe the wildest falsehoods.

    Dadmanly’s Irony of the Day.

Comments are closed.