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September Fatalities In Iraq

SEPTEMBER FATALITIES IN IRAQ....A couple of my critics have emailed to wonder why I've been so quiet about the dramatic reduction in civilian casualties in Iraq last month. Although the summer numbers showed only a modest and equivocal decrease in deaths, the September numbers show a remarkable 50% drop compared to earlier this year. The chart on the right, created by data muncher extraordinaire Engram from ICCC data, tells the basic story. In addition, he plots a 3-month moving average in the full post as well as adding details on various categories of fatalities.

Obviously this is good news, and I hope it represents the start of a long-term trend. If Anbar stays quiet, the Mahdi Army continues to stand down, and we're able to pacify more neighborhoods in Baghdad without losing control of the ones that were the initial targets of the surge, it might be.

However, as I've said a few times before (here, here, and here, for example) I don't blog much about day-to-day activity in Iraq because it really doesn't do any good to get excited about every quiet week or depressed about every major attack. I got sucked into it for a couple of weeks in late August, but then stopped. What's important is political and institutional progress, and on that score the surge simply doesn't seem to be accomplishing anything. Sectarian cleansing continues to be vicious, Kirkuk is still a timebomb, intra-Shiite fighting in Basra is heating up, refugees are fleeing the country at staggering rates, the Iraqi infrastructure is in ruins, the Iraqi security forces are a sectarian nightmare, and Maliki simply doesn't have the leverage to make progress on any of Iraq's critical political issues.

Bottom line: I'll continue to blog about underlying dynamics in Iraq, but not much about short-term violence, which has a habit of changing dramatically from week to week. But maybe I'll recap the numbers once a month from now on. That seems frequent enough to give us an idea of what's happening on the ground without overemphasizing either fleeting successes or fleeting failures.