Lies, Damn Lies, And...

With the release of the GAO report on Iraq coming out, and positioning in advance of next week well underway, you’re likely to hear quite a few numbers being tossed around. When it comes to the surge, keep in mind that even the encouraging news is not quite what it seems.

According to U.S. military figures, an average of 1,000 Iraqis have died each month since March in sectarian violence. That compares with about 1,200 a month at the start of the security plan, the military said in an e-mailed response to queries. This does not include deaths from car bombings, which the military said have numbered more than 2,600 this year.

What’s more, Matt Yglesias notes, “It seems that when a Shiite kills a Shiite (as happens frequently in the south) that doesn’t count. Similarly, when a Sunni kills a Sunni, that doesn’t count. Nor does it count when the death was caused by a car bomb since, obvious, well, um, I couldn’t even say. The exclusion of Shiite-on-Shiite and Sunni-on-Sunni violence seems like a clever-if-underhanded exploitation of critics’ tendency to deploy the phrase “sectarian violence” even though there’s a lot of politically motivated violence that isn’t sectarian in nature. The car bomb exclusion seems entirely unprincipled.”


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