2008 September 19 Friday
Iraq Violence Dropped Due To Ethnic Cleansing?

UCLA researchers point to satellite night light measurements as evidence that ethnic cleansing rather than the US troop surge cut violence in Baghdad.

By tracking the amount of light emitted by Baghdad neighborhoods at night, a team of UCLA geographers has uncovered fresh evidence that last year's U.S. troop surge in Iraq may not have been as effective at improving security as some U.S. officials have maintained.

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."

A few years ago I was arguing that the best way to end the inter-ethnic violence was to speed up the ethnic cleansing by helping the Shias, Sunnis, and Kurds move away from each other. That would have reduced the number injured and killed. But such realism is too far from the lame mainstream of politically correct America.

The Sunni areas of Baghdad were getting darker at night even before the surge. They've stayed darker.

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.

By contrast, the night-light signature in the notoriously impoverished, Shiite-dominated Sadr City remained constant, as it did in the American-dominated Green Zone. Light actually increased in Shiite-dominated New Baghdad, the researchers found.

Until just before the surge, the night-light signature of Baghdad had been steadily increasing overall, they report in "Baghdad Nights: Evaluating the U.S. Military 'Surge' Using Night Light Signatures."

"If the surge had truly 'worked,' we would expect to see a steady increase in night-light output over time, as electrical infrastructure continued to be repaired and restored, with little discrimination across neighborhoods," said co-author Thomas Gillespie, an associate professor of geography at UCLA. "Instead, we found that the night-light signature diminished in only in certain neighborhoods, and the pattern appears to be associated with ethno-sectarian violence and neighborhood ethnic cleansing."

We are wasting our time, money, and blood in Iraq.

"The surge really seems to have been a case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted," Agnew said.

..."The U.S. military was sealing off neighborhoods that were no longer really active ribbons of violence, largely because the Shiites were victorious in killing large numbers of Sunnis or driving them out of the city all together," Agnew said. "The large portion of the refugees from Iraq who went during this period to Jordan and Syria are from these neighborhoods."

It makes sense that ethnic cleansing would have eventually led to a decline in violence. The surge might have helped too. But another factor that helped was the split of the Sunni tribes away from foreign fighters. My guess is that American cash had a lot to do with it. Part of that cash came in the form of security jobs for Sunni fighters. But I bet substantial amounts of cash came in briefcases and suitcases for tribal leaders.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2008 September 19 11:05 PM  Mideast Iraq Ethnic Cleansing

Thai said at September 21, 2008 9:09 AM:

Nice posting

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