Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Sectarian Deaths Shell Game

You've heard it from The Decider. You've heard it from Gen. Petraeus in his recent Congressional testimony. The administration boasts of the downward trend in sectarian deaths in Iraq.... therefore, their Iraq strategy is working. Send more money!

But that depends upon "What Defines a Killing as Sectarian?" (WaPo)

On September 1, the bullet-riddled bodies of four Iraqi men were found on a Baghdad street. Counted in the sectarian body count.... right? Not by standards used by the U.S. military number crunchers. These violent deaths didn't meet the criteria of the military manual defining sectarian violence.... signs of torture, a single shot to the head, or car bombs for example.

The Iraq assessment released this month by the bipartisan Government Accounting Office wasn't buying this "manual" count. It said they "could not determine if sectarian violence had declined" since the U.S. troop buildup began in the spring. The GAO recommended that the administration expand its statistical sources.

That probably won't happen because the actual body count wouldn't support the White House's rosy rhetoric.

Meanwhile, two Iraqis killed by a car bomb on September 3 were not included in the sectarian database. The attack occurred on a road near Ramadi, not far from where The Decider was meeting with government officials that day. The victims were Iraqi policemen. They were counted elsewhere.

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