Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sunni Baghdad Dark on Satellite

September 20, 2008

Kagan Proved Wrong Again

by Juan Cole

Fred Kagan has once more been proved wrong. He called the ethnic cleansing of Sunni Arabs in Baghdad a 'myth.' For all their arrogance and academic credentials, the Neoconservatives keep having trouble with that reality-based thing.

Satellite imaging that shows Sunni Arab neighborhoods in Baghdad dark gives evidence that the ethnic cleansing of the Sunnis by Shiite militias accounts for the fall in violence in Baghdad, not the extra troops Bush sent, called the 'surge.'

'Night light in neighborhoods populated primarily by embattled Sunni residents declined dramatically just before the February 2007 surge and never returned, suggesting that ethnic cleansing by rival Shiites may have been largely responsible for the decrease in violence for which the U.S. military has claimed credit, the team reports in a new study based on publicly available satellite imagery. "Essentially, our interpretation is that violence has declined in Baghdad because of intercommunal violence that reached a climax as the surge was beginning," said lead author John Agnew, a UCLA professor of geography and authority on ethnic conflict. "By the launch of the surge, many of the targets of conflict had either been killed or fled the country, and they turned off the lights when they left." The night-light signature in four other large Iraqi cities — Kirkuk, Mosul, Tikrit and Karbala — held steady or increased between the spring of 2006 and the winter of 2007, the UCLA team found. None of these cities were targets of the surge. Baghdad's decreases were centered in the southwestern Sunni strongholds of East and West Rashid, where the light signature dropped 57 percent and 80 percent, respectively, during the same period.'

I've been saying this for some time. US officials more or less admitted it to Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post last December (and reading between the lines they also seem not to have been so disturbed by the ethnic cleansing and seemed to have hoped that those people would just find someplace else to live.

I visited some of these displaced Iraqis in one of the 'some place elses,' i.e. Amman, in August; 50,000 of them are considered 'vulnerable' by the aid agencies and their situation is desperate. Some Iraqis in exile told me that they could never return. They were Sunni and their own neighborhoods were now 100% Shiite. Or their spouse was a Shiite and they were Sunni, and there was no mixed neighborhood left where they would feel comfortable. Some 25% had had a child kidnapped. Many had received personal threats from militias that they are convinced are still in their old neighborhood.(E.g. 'If Ahmad Adib shows his face in this neighborhood again he will be shot on sight .. .') Indeed, sometimes the militias track them down in Amman and threaten them there again. A lot of Iraqis in Jordan move from apartment to apartment frequently so as to avoid the long arm of the militias.

As noted, Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute has denied the ethnic cleansing even took place. US military propagandists sometimes point to continued small Sunni enclaves such as Adhamiya in Baghdad as proof that there was no ethnic cleansing. But neighborhoods near Adhamiya that used to be mixed are almost all Shiite now. I'd guess that 700,000 or 800,000 Sunnis were ethnically cleansed from the capital from June 2006-September 2007. Imagine, to lose everything, to huddle dispossessed in a foreign land worrying where your next meal is coming from, and then to have the powerful and wealthy Kagans deny your very existence.

Oh. It isn't the first time for that sort of thing, is it?

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