FOR MONTHS NOW, we’ve been hearing that Iraqi police and other security forces are being trained to take over control of their chaotic, dangerous country. But a Voice review of the Bush regime’s official weekly “status reports” indicates that the number of police may have actually fallen by more than 33 percent in the past year.
And that’s not counting Bernie Kerik, who was supposed to train them back in ’03 but left before doing anything. Before we further examine the number of Iraqis available to take over the killing for our soldiers, here’s a recent example of how numbers are just lying around waiting to be lied about. It was considered good news last week that Iraqi police commandos, with U.S. troops in only a supporting role for a change, killed 85 rebels in what was touted as a major battle at Tharthar Lake, northwest of Baghdad.
Well, that’s what the Iraqi government (our puppet regime) reported. But U.S. troops who arrived after the battle, which took place at a clandestine training camp for rebels, found no bodies, the Washington Post‘s Steve Fainaru reported. His story continued:
A spokesman for the Iraqi Interior Ministry, meanwhile, said he presumed the announced death toll was accurate, but he played down the scope of the fighting.
“I wouldn’t call it a major incident,” said the spokesman, Sabah Kadhim. Its significance, he said, was that it was “the first major operation” to be conceived and executed by the nascent Iraqi security forces with U.S. soldiers in a supporting role.
The reported rout appeared to bolster recent claims by U.S. commanders that Iraq’s beleaguered security forces are improving. U.S. officials have said repeatedly that American troops will withdraw from Iraq only after the Iraqis are deemed able to defend the country.
So how many rebels were killed in the Battle of Tharthar Lake? The Post‘s reporter tried to find out:
Major Richard L. Goldenberg, spokesman for the 42nd Infantry Division, said, “I can’t confirm the estimate” given by Iraq about the number of insurgents killed in the fight. He said that by the time additional U.S. ground forces arrived, “the insurgent forces who had fled . . . were able to recover their casualties and take them with them.”
Noting that an Islamic militant group had said 11 insurgents were killed, Goldenberg said: “I would tell you that somewhere between 11 and 80 lies an accurate number.”
Oh, between 11 and 80. Fainaru was fair, letting the American major explain:
Goldenberg said uncertainty surrounding the casualty figures should not take away from the performance of the Iraqi commandos. “We could spend years going back and forth on body counts,” he said. “The important thing is the effect this has on the organized insurgency.”
Yes, I’m sure we will spend years going back and forth on body counts. Part of the reason is that we can’t get any straight information out of the Bush regime’s puppet governments in D.C. or Baghdad about the number of people being killed. In fact, we’re no longer even being told the number of people available to do the killing.
I pointed out last month that breakdown in the breakdown of just how many Iraqis are fighting on “our” side, and how the Defense Department and now the State Department are releasing fewer and fewer details in their official weekly reports.
Astoundingly, the already hazy totals are admittedly padded: There’s an asterisk to note that “unauthorized absences personnel are included in these numbers.”
In other words, we’re counting the Iraqi cops and soldiers who have run away for fear of being branded collaborators and getting blown up by the insurgents.
The figures, bad as they were last month, are no better now. In the February 2, 2005, official report, the total number of “trained & equipped police and highway patrol” was listed by the U.S. State Department as 57,290. The March 9 report puts that figure at 55,015. That’s progress?
But of course, the total of “other forces” went up by about 5,000. What these “others” are is not known. Please. We weren’t born yesterday.
But why stop at yesterday when we’re going backward? Let’s go back a year, when the weekly reports, issued in those days by the U.S. Defense Department, provided much more detailed breakdowns. The March 2, 2004, weekly report listed the number of Iraqi police at 81,852.
So, there were 81,852 police in March 2004, and in March 2005 there are 55,015? That’s a drop of 32.8 percent.
Keep in mind that it’s difficult to compare the figures, but that’s not our fault. The reports look the same and have the same format, but the government is no longer releasing the detailed breakdowns it was routinely issuing last year.
It’s no surprise the U.S. government is trying to massage these numbers (mostly by not releasing them), considering how depressing the breakdowns were. Here’s the one from March 2, 2004:
Frightening, isn’t it? Only 2,718 fully qualified and on-duty cops.
By September 2004, the weekly reports no longer broke down the totals into untrained, trained, qualified, and all that. Guess the news was just too terrible to share with the American public.
Let’s forget about the breakdowns. That’s what our government has done. This year’s reports no longer even list the number of security forces “required.”
General Tommy Franks‘s immortal comment at the beginning of the war, “We don’t do body counts,” referred to dead Iraqis. Apparently, the news is so bad concerning live Iraqis that we’re not counting them either.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 28, 2005