During his current tour of the Middle East, US president George Bush announced, “Iraq is now a different place from one year ago. We must do all we can to ensure that 2008 will bring even greater progress.”
He said that the “surge” of 38,000 US troops has succeeded in bringing stability and peace to Iraq.
Supporters of Bush and Gordon Brown’s “war on terror” claim that refugees in Iraq are returning to their homes and the resistance is petering out.
Yet the facts on the ground reveal a country teetering on the edge of an abyss, with rocketing levels of disease, murder and repression.
An extensive survey of Iraqi refugees in Syria by Harvard University found that 78 percent of the 1.5 million refugees were forced to flee Baghdad as US troops stormed through their neighbourhoods during the surge.
Since the invasion in 2003, Baghdad has been the centre of resistance to the occupation.
But now sectarian cleansing of the city is almost complete.
The city is criss-crossed by “security walls” trapping those who remain behind in walled compounds guarded by watchtowers.
The refugees describe 2007 as a year marked by new levels of terror and repression.
One in five said they had been tortured or suffered from violence. Over half of those surveyed said they lost a member of their family in 2007. Only 2 percent blamed “Al Qaida” for these deaths.
These figures are backed up by a secret “body count” leaked to the US military newspaper, Stars And Stripes. These show that occupation troops killed 18,832 “insurgents” in the first half of 2007 – the highest figure since the occupation began.
Tens of thousands of Iraqis have been seized in mass round-ups.
According to the Brookings Institution, the US holds over 26,000 Iraqi prisoners – double the number in January 2007. A further 24,000 are being held in Iraqi-run camps.
Meanwhile Iraqis face new levels of desperation and insecurity.
Iraq once boasted the most advanced national health system in the region, but now cholera and other waterborne diseases are rife.
One hospital in Baghdad is treating up to 70 new cholera cases a month, while the United Nations reports that there was a 30 percent increase in waterborne diseases over the summer.
The level of pollution has reached critical levels. Religious leaders issued orders banning fishing after the discovery of hundreds of corpses in the rivers. The water system is contaminated with sewage, while rubbish piles up in the streets.
Two thirds of Iraqi children have no school place and unemployment remains at 40 percent.
Electricity supplies are a fraction of levels before the invasion. Although the capital is now receiving more power – up to nine hours a day – this has come at the expense of the rest of the country.
No wonder that a recent survey found that the occupation is less popular in Iraq than at any time since 2003.
Bush has listed a number of policy “benchmarks” to track the progress of the surge. Most of these have failed.
The proposed “oil revenue sharing agreement” and a new electoral law have stalled, as have plans for local elections. The much heralded “national reconciliation” of Sunni and Shia has been replaced with plans for the “soft partition” of the country.
Bush points to the decline in the number of daily attacks on US troops as a sign the “surge” has worked.
Some areas that have been hotbeds of resistance are indeed quieter. In the Sunni city of Ramadi there were 25 attacks a day in 2006 – this has now dropped to four a day.
In other areas attacks on the US have risen. For example in the province of Diyala attacks on US troops have risen by 70 percent.
In areas where occupation forces have withdrawn, it is hardly surprising attacks have fallen. A British army spokesman recently stated that attacks on British and Iraqi troops in Basra have dropped 90 percent – since the troops withdrew from the area!
This is a sign not of success, but that the British have effectively handed control of the south to Shia resistance.
This has undermined the central aim of the surge – which was to crush the Mehdi Army of rebel cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The US was unable to provoke a showdown with the Sadr’s Mehdi Army. The military reports that Sadr’s 60,000 fighters are rearming and retraining for a battle against the US-backed forces.
As the US begin to transfer troops for a “mini surge” in Afghanistan, its occupation of Iraq continues to bring misery to thousands.