(Guest blogged by Logan Murphy)
Not so much. Nicole and Silent Patriot have touched on the ongoing refugee crisis in Iraq and the millions of civilians who have been forced to leave their homes, lives and their country behind. Despite evidence to the contrary, U.S. officials continue to put a positive spin on King George's surge, but unfortunately, some the early successes aren't quite panning out.
The Baghdad Security Plan is going so well that Iraqis displaced by sectarian violence are flocking back to their homes in Baghdad, so a number of officials are telling us. The only problem with that: it's probably not true. General David Petraeus, in an interview with the BBC on March 18, said hundreds and even up to a thousand Iraqis had already returned, although he warned the plan is still in its early stages--a hopeful sign. On March 20, a Pentagon official, Major General Michael Barbero, gave a briefing in Washington during which that statistic morphed into hundreds of Iraqi families, which at a conservative multiplier of six to a family, bumps that number well above a thousand people. Meanwhile, Brig. General Qassim Atta al-Moussawi, the Iraqi spokesman for the Baghdad Security Plan, confidently asserted that 2,000 families had returned.
Good luck finding them all. Tufan Abdu-Wahab, head of the Baghdad section in the Ministry of Migration and Displaced People, said in an interview that only a handful of Iraqi families had returned, and most of those were Shias returning to Shia districts, rather than to formerly mixed communities. Officials have a pretty good handle on this, he said, because the government is offering a bounty of 250,000 dinars (about $192) to each family that returns to its home, and they also pay a small benefit to families who are displaced, so people both fleeing and returning have a big incentive to register. So as of the end of February, 35,000 families--210,000 people approximately--had registered as displaced, he said. Of those, Abdu-Wahab says that only about 1 percent have come back--which would be 350 families in the first month of the security plan--but many of those have only returned to check on their belongings and leave again. Meanwhile, families continue to flee at the rate of 25 a day, according to the ministry's registration statistics, easily outstripping any returns.