Friday, June 08, 2007

Perspective: Iraq's Ominous Numbers Game

Above: A flower memorial commemorates the killing of 25 at a bombing in Baghdad in May.

With most of the U.S. military's surge troops already in place, the numbers are starting to come in on how well it has succeeded in its goal of reducing sectarian violence in Iraq. And they aren't encouraging. Sectarian violence is nearly back to its pre-surge levels in Iraq — and rising. Recent weeks have seen greater murder rates. And the numbers seem unlikely to go down with so much of Baghdad still uncontrolled; U.S. commanders recently acknowledged that two-thirds of the capital remain unsecured.

According to figures compiled by the Brookings Institution at the end of May, the number of sectarian murders, carried out mainly by Shi'ite death squads against Sunnis, has risen noticeably in recent weeks after a drop-off that began in the latter part of February. Sectarian deaths are often described as "extra-judicial killings" (EJKs) and involve the abduction, torture and murder of the victim, with the body usually left on the street. In May, says the Brookings report, citing Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Peter Pace, there were roughly 700 EJKs across Baghdad. While still lower than the pre-surge figure of 800 in February, that's a substantial increase from the estimated 500 in each of March and April, the first two months of the surge.

Read the rest at Time