The Surge and Iraqi Ethnic Cleansing


The October death toll for American troops in Iraq (where I spent most of 2005) was down to 36, which is the lowest death toll since March of 2006. (That’s small consolation though, for the families of those 36 soldiers.)
Not only was the American military death toll down, so was the Iraqi civilian death toll, as reported by the LA Times.
According to the article,

�The civilian death toll plummeted nationwide in the last two months; the toll was 2,076 in January but 884 in September and 758 in October, according to the Iraqi Health Ministry.�[Iraqi Civilian Deaths Plunge, Ned Parker, LA Times, Nov. 1st, 2007]

Why is the death toll of both American troops and Iraqi civilians lower? U.S. commanders credit the troop surge, which in June reached full strength, and has slowed sectarian bloodshed:

�They [commanders] say the decision to send 28,500 more troops to Iraq has made a difference by allowing them to send soldiers to live on the fault lines between Sunni Arab and Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad, and to conduct sweeping offensives in provinces east and south of the capital against strongholds of Shiite Muslim militias and Sunni militants linked to foreign insurgents.�

OK, so the surge is part of it, however there’s another reason also:

�….others say that the picture is more complicated than that because those seeking to cleanse their neighborhoods of rival religious sects have largely succeeded.�

In other words, ethnic cleansing has reduced violence. For example, in the formerly mixed Ghazaliya district of Baghdad, scene of heavy sectarian fighting a year ago, things have cooled down considerably. Why? According to resident Mohammed Azzawi,

â€?Everyone in our neighborhood is Sunni, even the birds flying above us are Sunni… I expect to live in Ghazaliya the rest of my life. This is our home. Now that it is pure Sunni, it is better for us.”

In another part of town, the Rashid district formerly had a majority Sunni population. That has changed, it is now 70% Shiite.
And, as residents are driven out of one neighborhood, they can settle in another neighborhood which had people of the other sect driven out of it. The Hurriyah neighborhood is a haven for Shiites chased out of other parts of the city. There is space for the refugees, because the Shiites drove the Sunnis out of the neighborhood.

Dana Graber Ladek, Iraqi case officer for the International Organization for Migration credits both U.S. troop presence and ethnic cleansing:

“Certainly the presence of [U.S.] soldiers in insecure neighborhoods in Baghdad could stabilize the neighborhood, resulting in less violence and fewer people fleeing the neighborhood. In addition, as neighborhoods become homogeneous, violence is likely to decrease and fewer people are likely to flee these areas.”

Nevertheless, though violence is reduced, it’s still high. About 200 Iraqis are being killed a week.

So is Diversity really Strength, as we`re constantly lectured? When I was in Iraq, I wrote some “Memos from Mesopotamia” concerning Iraqi diversity, they are located here, here and here.