Page 12 of a Government Accountability Office report published June 23 features data about the war in Iraq -- drawn from the Defense Intelligence Agency -- that must be central to the debate about what the United States does next in that country.
It indicates we have started to win a war we cannot afford to lose.
The GAO report is titled, "Securing, Stabilizing and Rebuilding Iraq; Progress Report: Some Gains Made, Updated Strategy Needed."
The key DIA data is presented as a chart, titled "Enemy Initiated Attacks by Month, May 2003 to May 2008."
The chart itself is comprised of color-coded vertical bars that illustrate the overall number of enemy attacks that took place in Iraq in each month from May 2003 to May 2008. Part of each bar is colored dark gray to represent the number of attacks on coalition forces, part is colored light gray to represent the attacks on civilians, and part is colored white to represent the attacks on Iraqi security forces.
The first fact the chart reveals: We are now almost two years past the point where overall enemy attacks in Iraq (the combined number of attacks against civilians, Iraqi forces and coalition forces) peaked.
The second fact the chart reveals: The peak in overall enemy attacks was reached in October 2006 -- the month leading up to the 2006 U.S. congressional elections.
The third fact the chart reveals: Attacks against coalition forces (not counting the attacks against Iraqi civilians and Iraqi forces) continued to rise after the overall number of attacks peaked, reaching their own peak in June 2007 -- the month that the U.S. troop surge went full-force.
The fourth fact the chart reveals: Since the troop surge went full-force in June 2007, enemy attacks in Iraq have dropped dramatically.
"(T)he overall levels of violence in Iraq -- as measured by enemy-initiated attacks -- decreased about 70 percent from June 2007 to February 2008," says the GAO report, "a significant reduction from the high levels of violence in 2006 and the first half of 2007."
While attacks increased somewhat in March and April of this year, they dropped again in May, falling to a level even lower than they had in February.
Meanwhile, al-Qaida in Iraq has been delivered a staggering blow -- although not a knockout punch
"According to MNF-I, DOD and State reports, rejection of al-Qaida in Iraq by significant portions of the population and operations to disrupt AQI networks have helped decrease violence in Iraq," says GAO. "However, AQI is not defeated and maintains the ability to carry out high-profile attacks."
What caused these good things to happen?