U.S. In Denial About Iraq Death Toll?

Iraqis began to clear the site of a bomb explosion in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, June 1, 2006. AP Photo/Hadi Mizban

This column was written by CBS News Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith.
There's news now that the Baghdad morgue processed 6,000 people between May and January — mostly the victims of sectarian violence.

A couple of weeks ago, two U.S. Army colonels tried to tell me that Baghdad was really not much more violent than American cities like Detroit or Los Angeles. When I brought that up to their superior officer, he said they must be in denial.

Later that week, a British army colonel who works with the Iraqi police told me he thought the death toll in Baghdad was about 100 a day. When I brought that up the general in charge in Iraq, he said, "no, a hundred a week." Let's do the math — 6,000 bodies in the Baghdad morgue since January comes out to about 300 a week … and remember, those are folks who can't be immediately identified. Surely there are thousands more who are killed in the streets where they live.

If the United States is in denial about the death toll in Baghdad, my fear is it may also be in denial about the difficulty in actually securing the country.

Harry's daily commentary can be heard on many CBS Radio News affiliates across the country.

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