Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Potemkin Petraeus

Just like back in Indiana... well, maybe except for the Blackhawks, Kevlar vests on the greeters at al-Walmart, bullet holes in the Acme circulars...

Weighing the 'Surge' - washingtonpost.com
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.

"This is General Petraeus's baby," said Staff Sgt. Josh Campbell, 24, of Winfield, Kan., as he set out on a patrol near the market on a hot evening in mid-August.


If there is one indisputable truth regarding the current offensive, it is this: When large numbers of U.S. troops are funneled into areas, security improves. But the numbers only partly describe the reality on the ground. Visits to key U.S. bases and neighborhoods in and around Baghdad show that recent improvements are sometimes tenuous, temporary, even illusory.


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.


Minty met with community leaders who included Ramzi al-Shamary, the head of the Chamber of Commerce for Rashid, the district where the Dora market is located. Minty urged them to encourage people to open more stores, adding that in the past month alone the military had approved 35 grants totaling more than $87,000.

Then Minty invited Shamary to visit the market. Shamary agreed on the condition that the U.S. military escort him. The previous director of the chamber had been murdered. Shamary was not about to enter the Dora market alone.
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