'Totally,' Gen. David Petraeus, commander of coalition forces, told reporters today in Baghdad. 'I don't see how you could conclude otherwise after yesterday afternoon.'
Petraeus was referring to statistics released by the Pentagon this morning that reveal a 14-percent decrease in killings of coalition forces and Iraqi civilians yesterday afternoon, making it the afternoon with the fewest war-related killings since the afternoon of April 18, 2007, one of the bloodiest afternoons since the beginning of the four-year occupation of Iraq.
'A lot can happen in an afternoon, and it usually does in a war zone,' the commander said.
'But yesterday afternoon was very quiet, one of the quietest I've seen since I took over command of coalition forces in February. I think the sharp decrease in killings in Baghdad and all over Iraq during the entire course of yesterday afternoon--from between around 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.--suggests that the surge is working, and we can probably expect to see more afternoons like yesterday in the days ahead.'
Earlier today in a press conference, White House spokesperson Dana Perino concurred. 'Yesterday afternoon's decline in violence proves that the surge is working,' she said. 'The president is very encouraged by the progress of yesterday afternoon and looks forward to seeing the numbers for this afternoon just as soon as they become available.'
So far, the number of casualties from this afternoon's suicide bombings, car bombings, air and sniper attacks and other violent incidents has not been added up by the U.S. Office of Counting, so it is too soon to determine if this afternoon's casualty total is as low as yesterday afternoon's.
Skeptics within the administration have been more cautious in assessing the significance of yesterday afternoon's decrease in violence. 'I don't know, is it just me or does it seem kind of retarded to conclude anything based on what happened in one afternoon?' asked one official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he's not authorized to say anything on record other than 'talk to the hand.'
The official pointed out that yesterday was marked with quite a few violent incidents across the country and cited several examples: The head of a Sunni Arab tribal group reported that U.S. aircraft had bombed his men at checkpoints north of Baghdad, killing 45 pro-U.S. fighters; six bodies were found in different areas of Baghdad; one U.S. soldier was killed and four others wounded by a bomb blast in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad; gunmen killed a principal of a high school in a drive-by shooting in the Shi'ite district of Kadhimiya in northern Baghdad; and police found the body of a 25-year-old woman who was shot and tortured in the town of Mahaweel, 45 miles south of Baghdad.
'What is an acceptable level of violence? Haven't there been more killings this year than any other so far? Is there any end in sight? Why has this war cost one-and-a-half trillion dollars? How many thousands more have to die? Why are we really there?' asked the official, with a tone of exasperated incredulity.
But when asked by a reporter to respond to charges that the narrow focus on yesterday afternoon's decrease in violence is another in a series of blatant efforts by the administration to 'put a smiley face on a turd,' Perino countered that 'most of the violence yesterday occurred either right after lunch or well into the evening,' leaving no doubt that yesterday afternoon was 'as peaceful as a baby deer quietly lapping water from a gentle stream coursing through a wooded nook.'
Likewise, in a hastily arranged press conference in the White House Shuffleboard Room hours ago, President Bush responded directly to questions from reporters about whether the relative calm of yesterday afternoon really proves that the surge is working. 'Those who doubt that the surge is working,' the president said, 'are terrorist-loving pussies,' adding, 'who are on crack.'
Petraeus said the fewest number of attacks on coalition troops and Iraqi civilians yesterday afternoon took place within a small neighborhood in Basra known as 'The Magenta Zone.'
'Having determined that it is a pleasure to say ‘green zone,' we recently divided each city in Iraq into 120 color zones based on the jumbo box of Crayolas,' the commander explained.
'Most of the violence of yesterday afternoon within the city of Basra took place here in the Periwinkle and Turquoise zones--your more cerulean areas of the city,' Petraeus said, pointing to a small blue square on a multi-hued map of the embattled country. 'But if you look at the more reddish colored areas in Basra--this is where coalition forces have made significant strides in limiting attacks during the entire three-hour period.'
Asked by a reporter whether he found promising the dramatic three-hour decrease in violence within the Magenta, Maroon, Brick Red and Red-Orange neighborhoods of Basra, the anonymous official said, 'You're kidding, right?'
The reporter paused before blankly answering, 'Most of us just pretty much repeat what the administration says.'
Responding to this frank admission, the anonymous official muttered, 'Me, too,' gazing at the ground and slowly shaking his head from side to side in what was either shame or confusion.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon has released this afternoon's casualty statistics, and the decrease in troop and civilian deaths within specific areas of some cities was markedly down again, particularly between 3:30 and 4:30 p.m.
Asked what he thought about that, the anonymous official said he didn't want to talk about it anymore. Then, after quite a bit of nagging from the reporter, he replied tersely, 'They don't want us here. Get it? If they took a vote tomorrow, the overwhelming majority of Iraqis would vote to kick us out. And, like, about half of them want to blow us to smithereens.'
Later, the anonymous official was ratted out and fired.
Regarding the firing, the White House has just issued the following statement: 'Forget about it; wait till you see tomorrow afternoon's casualty statistics from the Tikrit Lavender Zone!'