Sunday, October 5, 2008

"It was not a miracle at all. It is very easily explained."

One of the most frustrating things over the past few years has been the Bush administration's failure to challenge the lies and misinterpretations propagated by the media, activists and its political opponents. So it is good to see that Gen. Petraeus is willing to directly correct the media's spin:

SPIEGEL: One of the great miracles in all this is the behavior of Moqtada al-Sadr, who for some time now has kept his Mahdi Army quiet.

Petraeus: It was not a miracle at all. It is very easily explained. The Sadr movement’s reputation was tarnished badly by the actions of the militia that bear the Sadr name. The Shiite population came to reject the militia as it no longer needed militia protection from al-Qaida. Elements of the militia were extorting money from shopkeepers, they were kidnapping for ransom, they were linked to the killing of two southern governors and three police chiefs and they caused reprehensible violence in the whole city of Karbala in August 2007. Al-Sadr realized that his movement was on the verge of the worst possible situation -- popular rejection -- and he declared a cease-fire. The same followed the violence precipitated by the militia and so-called special groups in March and April of this year, when those elements sustained very significant losses in terms of leaders and fighters -- and was, again, in jeopardy of being rejected by the people. Al-Sadr really had no logical alternative.

SPIEGEL: And the Sunnis, on the other hand, were bribed into cooperation, as Bob Woodward writes in his new book "The War Within"?

Petraeus: That's not completely accurate. I will tell you what we have done. The Sunni Arabs began to realize that they had made a huge mistake by not voting in the election of 2005 and by not being part of the new Iraq. They had reasons for this: They were effected by the disestablishment of the military and by de-Baathification (the dismantling of Saddam Hussein's party) in winter 2007-2007. They increasingly recognized that their future lay in being part of the solution rather than a continuing part of the problem. But they couldn't reject al-Qaida without our provision of security. So we took care of their security, we moved into their neighborhoods, we protected their tribal leaders who led the rejection of al-Qaida. And then we cleared many of their towns and cities and rural areas of al-Qaida Iraq and other insurgents, sometimes with their help, but often without it. And once their areas were clear, many of them sought to help us keep them secure -- and, over time, we began hiring them to man checkpoints and help keep their areas clear. You know, we had money for emergency reconstruction programs, and this seemed a wise investment -- as reconstruction is not possible without security -- and they helped to maintain it.

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