- The Washington Times - Monday, September 10, 2007

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

To no one’s surprise, the character assassins haven’t waited for Gen. David Petraeus to deliver his report on the Iraqi troop “surge” before starting the campaign to trash his honor and reputation. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid claimed Gen. Petraeus made statements “over the years that have not proved to be factual,” and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin suggested Gen. Petraeus had “manipulated” statistics. The Democrats’ ideological soulmates at MoveOn.org have an advertisement scheduled to run in today’s New York Times titled: “General Petraeus or Gen. Betray Us?” The MoveOn.org announcement in particular is worth keeping in mind the next time you hear lectures from the Democrats and the far left about how the Bush administration is “questioning our patriotism.”

While we’re on the question of using questionable statistics to prove a political point, the military is responding with factual information calling into question statistical data put together by the Government Accountability Office (and turned into a political prop last week by Sen. John Kerry at Foreign Relations Committee hearings) purporting to show that changed tactics in Iraq are having little effect. Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations asked an American officer in Baghdad about whether the levels of violence have really been going down. The officer’s response (included in “Correcting the GAO,” published Sept. 4 at www.commentarymagazine.com) is must reading for anyone interested in having a serious, thoughtful discussion about the quality of the statistics Gen. Petraeus will present to Congress this week. It describes how rigorously the data compiled by Multi-National Forces-Iraq (MNF-I) is analyzed, and how the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency, after poring over the information, decided to use it in last month’s National Intelligence Estimate. (In many Baghdad bombings, the first reports of casualties are too low, so the military adjusts the figures upward.)

Some recent numbers from MNF-I indicate that real progress is being made. For example, the number of dead civilians in all categories (not just ethno-sectarian violence) fell from 2,193 in December to 575 last month for a 74 percent drop. Wounded civilians fell from 876 in December to 302 last month, a 66 percent decline. If the the Democrats and their political allies have evidence that these statistics are erroneous, then by all means they should present it. But they should stop slandering the good name of Gen. Petraeus — especially given that favorite talking point about how much they “support the troops.”

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