"Upbeat" U.S. Deluded About Decline of Civilian Fatalities in Iraq?

The Times used a suicide bombing in Baghdad to suggest the U.S. military's claims of success are deluded and played with statistics to downplay the sharp decline in civilian casualties in Iraq this year.


Richard Oppel Jr. and Qais Mizher reported from Baghdad Wednesday, and the headline explained it all: "Bomber Kills 30 in Baghdad's Worst Attack in Months."


"Thirty people were killed Tuesday when a suicide bomber strode into a gathering of mourners at a home in eastern Baghdad and detonated an explosives-packed vest, the Interior Ministry said. It was the most brazen and deadly attack in the capital in months.


"The force of the blast scattered severed arms and legs about the site of the attack, a house where scores of friends and relatives had gathered to pay tribute to a man killed three days earlier by a car bomb in Tayaran Square in central Baghdad.


"One survivor ran in the street outside screaming and crying that five of her sons had been killed. Then she collapsed, said a car salesman who works nearby.


"'There were many children killed,' said the salesman, who gave his name as Abu Firas. 'You could see pieces of flesh everywhere.'


"The late-afternoon blast in the Zayuna neighborhood, days after American officials gave an upbeat briefing about how civilian casualties had declined significantly, was one in a string of attacks on Tuesday that included the killing of five family members in volatile Diyala Province. The violence underscored how dangerous Iraq remained despite a drop in killings to what Iraqi authorities had said was the lowest level in two years."


....


"The Ministry of Interior reported that 246 civilians were killed in Baghdad last month, according to data provided by an official at the ministry on Tuesday. That compared with 275 killed in Baghdad in November, and 1,093 in May.


"Across the country, 462 civilians were killed in December, according to icasualties.org, which tracks fatalities, down from 471 in November and 1,629 in December 2006.


"Though far fewer civilian deaths have been reported in the last five months than the same period in 2006, recent civilian casualty trends track closely with late 2005, before the bombing of a Shiite shrine enveloped the country in a brutal sectarian war."