Thursday, April 26, 2007

Sectarian Violence Down in Iraq?

General Petraeus recently told reporters that the troop surge in Iraq is working. As evidence, he presented them with the undeniable fact that sectarian murders are down:

The top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, told reporters that sectarian murders in Baghdad have been reduced by about one-third since the beginning of the year.

"That is an important development, because sectarian murders can be a cancer in a neighborhood," he said after separate briefings in the Senate and House on Wednesday.

In addition, "progress in Anbar is something that is breathtaking," he said of the vast Sunni-dominated province where many U.S. troop deaths have occurred, including one Monday.

Huge inroads have been made, he said, in regard to learning a "great deal more" of the "nefarious" Iranian involvement in the war in Iraq. He did not elaborate on whether he meant the Iranian government or outside factions.

Well, undeniable except for this one pesky, nagging fact:

U.S. officials who say there has been a dramatic drop in sectarian violence in Iraq since President Bush began sending more American troops into Baghdad aren't counting one of the main killers of Iraqi civilians.

Car bombs and other explosive devices have killed thousands of Iraqis in the past three years, but the administration doesn't include them in the casualty counts it has been citing as evidence that the surge of additional U.S. forces is beginning to defuse tensions between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

Well, McClatchy's just trying to stir up trouble, right? If they're excluding car bombs from the statistics they're using to prove their point, it must be because there haven't been very many people killed by them, right?

Bush administration officials have pointed to a dramatic decline in one category of deaths - the bodies dumped daily in Baghdad streets, which officials call sectarian murders - as evidence that the security plan is working. Bush said this week that that number had declined by 50 percent, a number confirmed by statistics compiled by McClatchy Newspapers.

But the number of people killed in explosive attacks is rising, the same statistics show - up from 323 in March, the first full month of the security plan, to 365 through April 24.

Oh. So there still are a lot of bombings going on.

To be fair, deaths are down in Baghdad since December.

Overall, statistics indicate that the number of violent deaths has declined significantly since December, when 1,391 people died in Baghdad, either executed and found dead on the street or killed by bomb blasts. That number was 796 in March and 691 through April 24.

Nearly all of that decline, however, can be attributed to a drop in executions, most of which were blamed on Shiite Muslim militias aligned with the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Much of the decline occurred before the security plan began on Feb. 15, and since then radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has ordered his Mahdi Army militia to stand down.

But if this is true even with the bombs included, why would the spokespeople for the war not include them? I don't get it. While it's good that civilian deaths are down in Baghdad, there seems to be something deeply dishonest about not including one of the major killers in the official statistics.