The evidence of a drop in violence in Iraq is becoming hard to dispute
NEWS COVERAGE and debate about Iraq during the past couple of weeks have centered on the alleged abuses of private security firms like Blackwater USA. Getting such firms into a legal regime is vital, as we've said. But meanwhile, some seemingly important facts about the main subject of discussion last month -- whether there has been a decrease in violence in Iraq -- have gotten relatively little attention. A congressional study and several news stories in September questioned reports by the U.S. military that casualties were down. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), challenging the testimony of Gen. David H. Petraeus, asserted that "civilian deaths have risen" during this year's surge of American forces.This decline in Iraqis killing each other has indeed put the spotlight on the psychopathic cowboys of Blackwater and other private security firms who have been doing most of the killing recently but why are the other deaths down. With more US troops temporarily on patrol one would expect deaths to decrease. The key word here is "temporarily". It has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with logistics - current troop levels simply can't be maintained. So what happens when the US starts drawing down it's troops?
A month later, there isn't much room for such debate, at least about the latest figures. In September, Iraqi civilian deaths were down 52 percent from August and 77 percent from September 2006, according to the Web site icasualties.org. The Iraqi Health Ministry and the Associated Press reported similar results. U.S. soldiers killed in action numbered 43 -- down 43 percent from August and 64 percent from May, which had the highest monthly figure so far this year. The American combat death total was the lowest since July 2006 and was one of the five lowest monthly counts since the insurgency in Iraq took off in April 2004.
During the first 12 days of October the death rates of Iraqis and Americans fell still further. So far during the Muslim month of Ramadan, which began Sept. 13 and ends this weekend, 36 U.S. soldiers have been reported as killed in hostile actions. That is remarkable given that the surge has deployed more American troops in more dangerous places and that in the past al-Qaeda has staged major offensives during Ramadan. Last year, at least 97 American troops died in combat during Ramadan. Al-Qaeda tried to step up attacks this year, U.S. commanders say -- so far, with stunningly little success.
More important may be that the ethnic cleansing in Baghdad is nearly complete. Most of the Sunnis have either been driven out of Baghdad or killed already. That has nothing to do with the Petraeus surge.
Hiatt concludes with this:
This doesn't necessarily mean the war is being won. U.S. military commanders have said that no reduction in violence will be sustainable unless Iraqis reach political solutions -- and there has been little progress on that front. Nevertheless, it's looking more and more as though those in and outside of Congress who last month were assailing Gen. Petraeus's credibility and insisting that there was no letup in Iraq's bloodshed were -- to put it simply -- wrong.I was not surprised that there was a decline in deaths but I think we can still be justified to question Gen. Petraeus's credibility. If you go here and see that when Petraeus talked about reduced Ethno Sectarian violence in Baghdad he failed to mention that most of the Sunnis were gone.