IRAQ UPDATE….Here are the monthly civilian casualty figures from Iraq, once again plucked from our friend Engram, who is plenty pissed:

What you see is yet another month of dramatically reduced casualties, an outcome that almost no one thought possible as recently as August of 2007 (when violence was still very high). Why isn’t this chart (or one just like it) on the front page of every newspaper in America? Because it is not important news? Or because it is important news that would help Bush?

….The number of lives being saved per month now exceeds 1000 according to ICCC. However, the real number is closer to 2000 per month according to more complete statistics maintained by Iraq Body Count….Neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama seem to care at all about a reduction in civilian casualties of 2000 per month. Their hearts have become so hard that they cannot even concede the remarkable progress that has obviously occurred as a result of George Bush’s troop surge. They should be congratulating George Bush for his excellent judgment on this issue, and they should be apologizing both for their own misguided assessment of the situation and for their callous disregard for innocent human life in Iraq.

Matt Yglesias, noting the news that the highly touted de-Baathification law is not only a bad law, but probably will be vetoed anyway, has a different take:

Meanwhile, if I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times — the [stated] purpose of the surge was to lay the groundwork for political reconciliation, reconciliation looks further away than ever and the surge is about to run out of time. That’s a failed policy.

The reduction in violence is important news, and unlike Engram it seems to me that it’s gotten a fair amount of attention — although obviously the news cycle ebbs and flows on this. Needless to say, though, I think Matt has the better of the argument. The point of the surge really was to provide “breathing space” for political reconciliation, and there’s just been no movement on that score. Unless decades of tribal history in Iraq suddenly turn around in the next few months and the Maliki government produces a genuine and lasting peace — something there’s no sign of so far — violence will continue into the foreseeable future and the surge will indeed have been a failure.

Would things have turned out differently if we’d given the Iraqis a real incentive to make progress by setting out a credible timeline for withdrawal? There’s no way to know. What we do know, however, is that in the absence of a timeline the Iraqis have done nothing — and that’s even with the tailwind of a dramatic reduction in violence. For five years we’ve tried the same policy of open-ended support over and over, and for five years it hasn’t worked. It’s well past time to try something different.