The U.S. military's claim that violence has decreased sharply in Iraq in recent months has come under scrutiny from many experts within and outside the government, who contend that some of the underlying statistics are questionable and selectively ignore negative trends.NPR's Morning Edition just ran a piece (available online later) on the Iraq lies, damned lies, and, well, you know.
Reductions in violence form the centerpiece of the Bush administration's claim that its war strategy is working. In congressional testimony Monday, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, is expected to cite a 75 percent decrease in sectarian attacks. According to senior U.S. military officials in Baghdad, overall attacks in Iraq were down to 960 a week in August, compared with 1,700 a week in June, and civilian casualties had fallen 17 percent between December 2006 and last month. Unofficial Iraqi figures show a similar decrease.
Others who have looked at the full range of U.S. government statistics on violence, however, accuse the military of cherry-picking positive indicators and caution that the numbers -- most of which are classified -- are often confusing and contradictory. "Let's just say that there are several different sources within the administration on violence, and those sources do not agree," Comptroller General David Walker told Congress on Tuesday in releasing a new Government Accountability Office report on Iraq.
Sometime around February 2004, a top military official in Iraq estimated that there were about 15,000 total insurgents. About a year later, U.S. military leaders in Iraq announced that 15,000 insurgents had been killed or captured in the previous year.Are we fighting the Un-dead?
In private, a skeptical military adviser pointed out to commanders that the numbers didn't make sense. "If all the insurgents were killed," he asked, "why are they fighting harder than ever?"