Figures Don’t Lie

But…well, you know the rest of that old saying:

BAGHDAD, Iraq — U.S. officials, seeking a way to measure the results of a program aimed at decreasing violence in Baghdad, aren’t counting scores of dead killed in car bombings and mortar attacks as victims of the country’s sectarian violence.

In a distinction previously undisclosed, U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Barry Johnson said Friday that the United States is including in its tabulations of sectarian violence only deaths of individuals killed in drive-by shootings or by torture and execution.

That has allowed U.S. officials to boast that the number of deaths from sectarian violence in Baghdad declined by more than 52 percent in August over July.

But it eliminates from tabulation huge numbers of people whose deaths are certainly part of the ongoing conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Not included, for example, are scores of people who died in a highly coordinated bombing that leveled an entire apartment building in eastern Baghdad, a stronghold of rebel Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Johnson declined to provide an actual number for the U.S. tally of August deaths or for July, when the Baghdad city morgue counted a record 1,855 violent deaths.

Violent deaths for August, a morgue official told McClatchy Newspapers on Friday, totaled 1,526, a 17.7 percent decline from July and about the same as died violently in June.

The truth will ultimately come out. The question is whether it will come quickly enough for the American people to demand a change in our policy in Iraq or whether it will simply be a footnote in history, like the recent admission by the NSA that the second attack in the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin affair, the trigger for American commitment to the Vietnam War, never happened.

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