Spiegel: "The U.S. military is more successful in Iraq than the world wants to believe"

This is making the rounds on the strength of the irresistible quote in the headline but the big picture is, of course, considerably more complicated. Most of the success is in Anbar, which we knew; Baghdad and the surrounding areas are a different story:

[I]t’s not a war between Iraqis and Americans, as some might think. It’s a war between everyone and everyone else — a war of Shiites against Sunnis, Sunnis against Christians, competing terrorist cells fighting for territory, private militias against the Iraqi police, drug gangs, apolitical criminal kidnappers interested purely in ransom money and Iraqi mafiosos.

Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that in this southern part of Baghdad, a few kilometers as the crow flies from the Green Zone’s fortresses, civil order has vanished entirely. The mob rules here in this area of major and minor warlords, who do their utmost to sabotage the work of city officials desperately trying to rebuild the infrastructure. They cut power lines, destroy water pipes and blow up sewage canals. The Americans are no longer the main enemy here, but only one of many parties. Although their mission is to smoke out the terrorists, they also play the contradictory role of peacekeepers.

WaPo had precisely the same take last week. Even so, morale seems to be high:

Gibbs commands seven battalions here in the south of Baghdad, in an area the size of San Francisco with 700,000 residents. His entire brigade, part of the troop surge, has been stationed here since March. In the months since then, the colonel has learned what the issues are here. He says: “We need mass plus time.” In other words, US troops should unquestionably remain in Iraq. If it were Gibbs’ decision to make, they would remain here for years to come. It is unacceptable, he says, to allow sadists to shoot at women and children from rooftops, or to allow a bunch of punks to lay bombs whenever they feel like it.

A terrorist emir, it has been said, has to have killed 600 Americans. The terrorists pay $10,000 for a bombed-out Humvee and $15,000 to anyone who destroys a tank. “We’ve found torture chambers here and shut them down,” says Gibbs. “We’ve found enough weapons for an entire army. But we’ll get them all. We’ll kill them. We’ll win.”

It’s a long one but at least read pages 7 and 8, when Crocker talks about the obligations of a “moral nation” and Spiegel describes the birth of Iraqi heroes. The new Gallup poll shows support for the war is up and support for withdrawal down over the last month, but it’s hard to believe Petraeus will have anything to say next month that will cut substantially into this deficit:


Meanwhile, Matt Sanchez is still embedded outside Sadr City in northern Baghdad, where the power’s still on only one or two hours a day and Iraqis are sleeping on rooftops for (slight) relief. Here’s the scene captured by Sanchez of Shiites making their pilgrimage. No car bombs yet.