In Baghdad, leaving home to work, shop or visit family has become an increasingly dangerous proposition. Violence rears up without warning; residents navigate a citywide obstacle course of roadside bombs, shootouts and security checkpoints.
The city just had its deadliest month since U.S.-led forces invaded the country in 2003, new Iraqi government documents indicate. More people were shot, stabbed or otherwise violently killed in May than in any other month since the invasion, according to Health Ministry statistics. The figure does not include slain soldiers or civilians killed in bombings, on whom autopsies are not usually performed.
Last month alone, 1,398 bodies were brought to Baghdad’s central morgue, the ministry said. All over the city and out into the provinces, corpses surface on a daily basis in garbage dumps, in abandoned cars or along roadsides. They often bear marks of bondage and torture.
The worst month in over three years. Whatever it is that’s on the march, it’s not freedom.
In related news, the Wall Street Journal had an interesting item today on American troops shooting fewer Iraqis at checkpoints and in convoys.
The U.S. military has cut the number of Iraqi civilians killed at U.S. checkpoints or shot by U.S. convoys to about one a week today from about seven a week in July, according to U.S. defense officials in Iraq.
The reduction in civilian casualties shows that months before the killing of 24 Iraqis in the western Iraqi town of Haditha came to light, the military was pushing to reduce the number of Iraqi civilians killed or wounded at the hands of U.S. forces.
The once-a-day shootings last July were the first month in which the military kept track of these incidents, suggesting, the WSJ noted, that at least “hundreds of Iraqi civilians were killed at U.S. checkpoints or on Iraqi highways during the first two years of the war.”
An average of one a week is clearly better than one a day, so I guess if you’re desperate to find progress, this counts?
But, war supporters argue, what about the Washington Post item this morning that points to a new report showing that “Iraqis believe violence will abate”? There’s ample reason for skepticism. The report is the Defense Department’s quarterly report to Congress, which apparently includes the results of a “nationwide” poll gauging Iraqis’ attitudes about the future. Unfortunately, the Pentagon report offers “no explanation of who was polled and how.” I guess we’re supposed to take Donald Rumsfeld’s word for it?