Positive indicators raise question: Who is winning in Iraq?
U.S. and civilian deaths, rocket attacks all down
No one is declaring victory, but cautious optimists on the U.S.-led war in Iraq suddenly find themselves armed with a growing number of indicators that the fighting has taken a new, more hopeful turn.
U.S. military fatalities are down sharply, from 101 in June to 39 in October. Iraqi civilian deaths also were down sharply, from 1,791 in August to 750 in October, according to the Associated Press. Mortar rocket attacks by insurgents in October were the lowest since February 2006, as were the number of “indirect fire” attacks on coalition forces.
Iraqi officials say they plan to reduce checkpoints, ease curfews and reopen some roads in and around Baghdad because of the improving security situation. Sunni Arab tribal leaders in western Anbar province, now allied with the U.S. military, say al Qaeda is “almost defeated” in their oncechaotic region.
Having been burned repeatedly by past expressions of optimism in the 4 1/2-year-old war, senior Bush administration officials
goal of a near-complete withdrawal by December 2008.
Republicans and supporters of the war effort said the Democrats were in “deep denial.”
Sen. Joe Lieberman, a hawkish Connecticut independent, said the war critics “remain emotionally invested in a narrative of retreat and defeat, even as facts on the ground show that we are advancing and winning.”
The troop-surge strategy implemented this summer by Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, U.S. commander in Iraq, has produced measurable gains.
U.S. military fatalities dropped sharply, from 101 in June to 39 in October. Iraqi civilian deaths also declined markedly, from 1,791 in August to 750 in October, the Associated Press reported. Mortar rocket attacks by insurgents last month were the lowest since February 2006, as were the number of “indirect-fire” attacks on coalition forces.
Iraqi officials plan to reduce checkpoints, ease curfews and reopen some roads in and around Baghdad because of improving security. Sunni Arab tribal leaders in western Anbar province, now allied with the U.S. military, say al Qaeda is “almost defeated” in their oncechaotic region.
“Democrats can’t acknowledge the fact that our troops are winning the war against al Qaeda in Iraq without admitting that they’ve been dead wrong on the biggest national challenge of our generation at the same time,” said House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican.
“Had Republicans not stood their ground and prevented Democrats from forcing a retreat — on numerous occasions, especially in the early months of the year — who knows how firmly entrenched al Qaeda in Iraq would be today and what kind of strikes they’d be planning,” he said. “It’s a scary thought that could have been a reality.”
The Democratic-controlled House passed a bill Wednesday that links $50 billion in emer- gency war funds to a complete pullout from Iraq by December. President Bush will veto the measure, which the Senate is set to consider today, because he says it usurps his authority as commander in chief.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said the money is needed to tide troops over while lawmakers debate the rest of the $196.4 billion war-funds request for 2008. Otherwise, money will run out for Iraq and Afghanistan operation and force militar y spending cuts elsewhere as soon as next month.
Marine One, carrying President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush, lands on the South Lawn of the White House on Nov. 12. Mr. Bush returned from hosting German Chancellor Angela Merkel at his Crawford, Teas ranch.