The Washington Post has a story on the Dora market in Baghdad, and island of relative tranquility created for Pentagon dog and pony shows.
Weighing the 'Surge'
BAGHDAD -- Nearly every week, American generals and politicians visit Combat Outpost Gator, nestled behind a towering blast wall in the Dora market. They arrive in convoys of armored Humvees, sometimes accompanied by helicopter gunships, to see what U.S. commanders display as proof of the effectiveness of a seven-month-long security offensive, fueled by 30,000 U.S. reinforcements. Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. military leader in Iraq, frequently cites the market as a sign of progress.Everyone knows that as soon as the Americans leave and their support ends so will the illusory tranquility.
Even U.S. soldiers assigned to protect Petraeus's showcase remain skeptical. "Personally, I think it's a false representation," Campbell said, referring to the portrayal of the Dora market as an emblem of the surge's success. "But what can I say? I'm just doing my job and don't ask questions."
Hours before Campbell spoke, a delegation led by an American general, with several reporters in tow, filed through Combat Outpost Gator. Scores of Iraqis were milling inside the fortified market, where shopkeepers were selling clothing, shoes, and other consumer goods. In December, the market was a war zone, but roadside bombings and other attacks there have dropped significantly.
After the delegation left, Maj. Ron Minty, 36, said that the generals had wanted 300 shops open for business by July 1. By the day of the delegation's visit, 303 had opened.
"It took us until August 1st -- not bad," said Minty, the acting commander of the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment. The goal by Sept. 1 was 500, he said. (By Monday, 349 stores were open. Before the U.S.-led invasion, the market had more than 850 shops.)
Still, the Dora market is a Potemkin village of sorts. The U.S. military hands out $2,500 grants to shop owners to open or improve their businesses. The military has fixed windows and doors and even helped rebuild shops that had burned down, soldiers and others said.
"We helped them a lot. We gave them money, security, even the locks on their doors," said a 36-year-old Iraqi interpreter at the outpost whom U.S. soldiers call Jimmy for security reasons. He asked that his real name not be used. "Everything we gave them. That's why the violence has stopped. That's why they cooperate with us."
Some shopkeepers said they would not do business in the market without U.S. support. "The Americans are giving money, so they're opening up stores," said Falah Hassan Fadhil, 27, who sells cosmetics.
And we have this from the LA Times:
Troop buildup fails to reconcile Iraq
Baghdad's neighborhoods continue to split along sectarian lines, violence shifts elsewhere and infighting stalls political progress.It's a hopeful sign that the MSM is seeing through the smoke and mirrors and recognizing a dog and pony show when the see it. Will the Democratic and yes Republican lawmakers be able to do the same?
BAGHDAD -- The U.S. military buildup that was supposed to calm Baghdad and other trouble spots has failed to usher in national reconciliation, as the capital's neighborhoods rupture even further along sectarian lines, violence shifts elsewhere and Iraq's government remains mired in political infighting.
In the coming days, U.S. military and government leaders will offer Congress their assessment of the 6-month-old plan's results. But a review of statistics on death and displacement, political developments and the impressions of Iraqis who are living under the heightened military presence reaches a dispiriting conclusion.
Despite the plan, which has brought an additional 28,500 U.S. troops to Iraq since February, none of the major legislation that Washington had expected the Iraqi parliament to pass into law has been approved.
The number of Iraqis fleeing their homes has increased, not decreased, according to the United Nations' International Organization for Migration and Iraq's Ministry for Displacement and Migration.
Military officials say sectarian killings in Baghdad are down more than 51% and attacks on civilians and security forces across Iraq have decreased. But this has not translated into a substantial drop in civilian deaths as insurgents take their lethal trade to more remote regions. Last month, as many as 400 people were killed in a bombing in a village near the Syrian border, the worst bombing since the war began in March 2003. In July, 150 people were reported killed in a village about 100 miles north of Baghdad.
And in a sign that tamping down Sunni-Shiite violence is no guarantee of stability, a feud between rival Shiite Muslim militias has killed scores of Iraqis in recent months. Last week, at least 52 people died in militia clashes in the Shiite holy city of Karbala.
At best, analysts, military officers and ordinary Iraqis portray the country as in a holding pattern, dependent on U.S. troops to keep the lid on violence.
"The military offensive has temporarily suppressed, or in many cases dislocated, armed groups," said Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group. "Once the military surge peters out, which it will if there is no progress on the political front, these groups will pop right back up and start going at each other's, and civilians', throats again."