VIOLENCE IN IRAQ….The LA Times, in a survey of fatalities that doesn’t try to cherry pick the data, provides its latest summary of civilian violence in Iraq:

Bombings, sectarian slayings and other violence related to the war killed at least 1,773 Iraqi civilians in August, the second month in a row that civilian deaths have risen….The numbers are based on morgue, hospital and police records and come from officials in the ministries of Health, Defense and the Interior. The statistics appear to indicate that the increase in troops ordered by President Bush this year has done little to curb civilian bloodshed, despite U.S. military statements to the contrary.

Military officials have said the security plan is showing progress because the number of attacks on civilians has decreased and sectarian killings have dropped….The U.S. military says the numbers it gathers are lower than those provided by Iraqi ministries, but it does not release them.

The chart above shows war-related violent deaths for the entire year of 2007 as compiled by the Times. What’s remarkable is that not only does it not show any decrease since the beginning of the surge in February, but it doesn’t even show a significant dip during summer, traditionally the quietest season in Iraq.

It’s simply not plausible that the Pentagon has credible numbers demonstrating that the surge is successful but is refusing to release them. No agency refuses to release good news that it can back up rigorously, after all. Bottom line: If the Pentagon wants to continue claiming that violence in Iraq is down due to the surge, it had better start producing public numbers and public justification for its methodology, and it had better start doing it fast. From where I sit, their classified briefings look more like politically motivated flimflammery than an honest accounting of progress.