Iraq, By The Numbers

From the San Diego Union Tribune:

To all those who said the “surge” in U.S. forces in Iraq was doomed to fail, a look at the latest results should be instructive, if not humbling.

Start with American military casualties. For October (36 Americans killed in action), they were the lowest for any month since February 2004, more than three years ago.

U.S. casualties have now declined for five consecutive months even as American forces press the fight against al-Qaeda-in-Iraq terrorists and move out of their mega-bases to operate from security outposts in Iraqi neighborhoods.

Army Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno reported the following arms captures: “Over 37,000 pounds of explosives, a thousand gallons of nitric acid used to make homemade explosives, over 2,000 artillery rounds and over 500 rockets, 136 assembled explosively formed penetrator IEDs (improvised explosive devices), along with 359 copper discs used to make more EFPs, and hundreds of rifles, grenades, anti-tank weapons and suicide vests.” Odierno attributed these arms captures largely to tips from local Iraqi civilians.

Iraqi civilian deaths are down more than 60 percent since their peak last December, from 3,000 that month to just over 700 in October.

The incidence of mass-casualty terrorist attacks (truck bombs, car bombs and the like) in Iraq's capital city is down 75 percent in recent months.

Overall, the declining numbers of terrorist attacks and security incidents represent, as Gen. Odierno noted, “the longest continuous decline in attacks on record.”

Yet another thing you won't hear about on the evening news, because it doesn't fit the narrative, is that for the first time since the war started there were five days in October when not a single Coalition forces service member was killed as a result of hostile action. But you see, we wouldn't want to take notice of such developments prematurely. They might result in outbreaks of irrational exuberance.

As the San Diego Tribune author points out, progress on the political front in Iraq is still not where we'd like it to be, but in an insecure environment sectarian reconciliation was never even a possibility. Advocates of an immediate withdrawal from Iraq have used the absence of hope as their primary argument for abandoning the Iraqis to their tormentors. The success of the Surge, following on the dramatic turnaround in Anbar province this Spring, makes this the second time they've been wrong.

But more importantly, the opinions of average Americans - those who vote, and those who make up those all-important opinion polls used to drive public sentiment on the war - are based on what they see and hear in their newspapers and on the nightly news. Perhaps it is time for us to wake up and ask ourselves who has a vested interest in consistently portraying things as worse than they are, and to what end?

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