The Bush administration has begun a full-court press for continuing the Iraq war with exaggerated and fabricated claims of progress in Iraq. But the Center for American Progress throws cold water on those current and forthcoming claims with a thoughtful series of statistics and questions for Congress when the administration releases its ballyhooed report by Gen. David Petraeus next week.
Some sample questions, and what we know now:
Here are the questions Congress should ask Gen. Petreaus and Ambassador Crocker:
1. Is violence in Iraq down?
Overall civilian deaths in all of Iraq have risen.
The number of civilian deaths increased to 1,809 in August from 1,760 in July.
The number of car bombings in July was 5 percent higher than in December 2006.
May was the deadliest month in 2007, with 1,901 civilian deaths in comparison to 2,172 in December of 2006.
2. Have sectarian deaths in Iraq been significantly reduced?
The Pentagon's own numbers do not include Shi'a-on-Shi'a violence, Sunni-on-Sunni violence, car bombings, or people being shot in the head from in front. For example, the Pentagon does not consider large-scale bombings such as the bombing in northern Iraq last month that killed more than 500 ethnic Yezidis an example of sectarian violence.
3. Is a possible drop in violence in Baghdad the result of the surge or some other factor?
The recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq indicates that some of the reduced violence may be a product of population displacements and sectarian cleansing.
U.S. officials report that Baghdad had a 65 percent Sunni-majority population around the start of the war. It is now a 75 percent Shi'a-majority city.
The number of internally displaced persons has doubled to 1.1 million, according to the Iraqi Red Crescent. This includes nearly 200,000 in Baghdad alone.
More than half of all Baghdad's neighborhoods are now Shi'a-dominated as compared to "a couple" in February 2006.
4. Are U.S. military casualties down?
Every month in 2007 has seen more U.S. military casualties than the same month in 2006.
Will Congress ask tough questions and stand up to Bush's unending, hopeless war in Iraq? Unfortunately, that's not likely, with Democrats seeming all-too-willing to abandon their previous interest in setting firm deadlines for withdrawal when faced with near-unanimous GOP opposition.