Monday, May 08, 2006

Hack Kelly is Here Again

Hack Kelly is once again claiming that we have turned a corner, with Al Qaeda determining that it will shift tactics in Iraq.

The problem with this news is that it assumes that Al Qaeda is a significant presence in Iraq. Kelly admits as much:

It's important to remember that though al-Qaida (thanks to the suicide bombers) has been responsible for most of the bloodshed in Iraq, it accounts for only a small proportion of the total number of insurgents.

But this assumes not only that suicide bombings are a leading cause of Iraqi deaths (which appears to be mostly true, although a large number of deaths seem to be due to large scale (>10) execution-style killings), but that most of the suicide bombers are part of Al Qaeda (which I wil define as being under the command of Zarqawi, either directly or through one or more people of intermediate rank).

I don't see the evidence.

Moreover, the statistics indicate that the carnage has not subsided. The May death tolls so far would, if extrapolated to the whole month, mean 1000 Iraqi civilian deaths, 170-180 Iraqi police/military deaths, and 100 coalition hostile deaths. Granted, things will likely slow down some, but unless the insurgent attacks abruptly go away, we are probably still talking >750 Iraqi civilians, >150 Iraqi security forces, and > 65 coalition soldiers.

These claims that "the insurgency is desperate" are at least two and a half years old (see here*, and here**), and tend to be based on forcing the evidence to fit the theory rather than basing the theory on the evidence. And the fact is, the insurgents are killing almost twice as many coalition troops as they were in October 2003. At a certain point, these claims of the insurgents' last gasps cross the line into self-parody.

That is all.

* Money quote: Suicide bombings are more often an indication of rising desperation on the part of the attacker than of faltering grip on the part of the government. (Whereas now desperation would be indicated by moving away from suicide bombings).

** Money quote: It is possible the Iraqis were targeted chiefly because they are easier to get at than the Americans, which does not speak well of the capabilities of the terrorists, no matter how many journalists soil their undergarments whenever a bomb goes off. This just before the deadly, deadly month of November 2003.

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