Saturday, January 03, 2009

Just another day in the life and death of Iraq LXXXV

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I explained back in October why I haven't been adding much to this ongoing series lately. Although I still blame the media for its negligent coverage of the situation in Iraq, there is no denying that Iraq isn't as deadly as it used to be. Indeed, according to both the Iraqi government and the non-governmental Iraq Body Count, the number of civilian deaths was down by two-thirds last year compared to 2007. (The official number is 5,714, whereas IBC puts the number between 8,315 and 9,028.) U.S. military deaths were also down, from about 900 to about 300.

But let's keep this in perspective. Civilians deaths may have declined significantly from 2007 to 2008, but there were still thousands and thousands of them. I suspect that the official number is low, but even if the IBC range is high the number of deaths was still about 6,500 to 7,500. And 2009 has gotten off to a predictably violent start:

At least 23 people have been killed in a suicide bombing in a town south of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, police say.

About 110 people were also injured in the attack at a gathering of Sunni Muslim tribal leaders in Yusufiya, 20km (12 miles) from Baghdad.

Don't get me wrong, the decline in civilian deaths is nothing if not a positive development. It's just that the level of violence in previous years, which may have been unsustainable even without the surge (which was only partly responsible for the decline), shouldn't be the sole standard by which to judge the current level of violence.

The numbers are down, but the context is that Iraq remains an incredibly violence place. There is much blame to go around, to be sure, but it is the Iraqi people who are suffering.

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