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The Other Things That Happened Two Weeks Ago...

Though our partisan sides have their differences, no one doubts that what happened in Arizona on two Saturdays ago was a tragedy.

Half a world away, unnoticed by the American media, Iraq suffered its own tragedies. Around the country, four people died in attacks by insurgents, including two children. Unlike America, though, Iraq’s violence continues on a daily basis. On Sunday, a police chief in the village of Hit was assassinated and four of his guards wounded. On Tuesday, a series of attacks across Baghdad wounded nineteen people.

Most Americans didn’t notice, but can you blame them? In August, President Obama declared combat missions over in Iraq. In 2010, the deaths of US troops plummeted to all time lows. Former congressman Duncan Hunter even released a book called, Victory in Iraq: How America Won. On Tuesday, the USA Today noted that “bloodshed ebb[ed] in Iraq in 2010,” reinforcing to the casual news reader that Iraq is on track to becoming a stable and democratic nation.

Iraq is now forgotten, like Afghanistan three years ago.

As Americans we shouldn’t forget that Iraq is still incredibly violent. The government of Iraq has made huge strides since 2007--I don’t doubt that--but Iraq merely moved from fantastically violent to just plain violent. According to the Iraq Body Count, and verified by news agencies, over 4,000 Iraqis died in insurgent violence in 2010. To put that in perspective, if Iraq were the size of America that would mean the equivalent of 40,000 Americans dead in one year, or 13 separate September 11ths.

I can’t say it enough: Iraq is violent. Explosions regularly kill civilians. Assassinations regularly kill leaders. Criminals regularly kill civilians. Insurgents regularly kill Iraqi troops. Iraq is one of only seven active war zones to suffer over a thousand fatalities last year. It is a war zone where over two hundred people died in February, March, April, May, July and August of last year. In 2010, it averaged two explosions every day.

Dramatic terrorist attacks punctuate the death toll every month. Like the hostage situation on October 31st that ended in the deaths of fifty civilians and police. Like the July 18th suicide bombing that killed 39 Sons of Iraq. Like the May 10th attacks that killed 125 people in one day of co-ordinated car bombs and suicide attacks. In 2010, Iraq witnessed nine attacks that killed over 50 people.

And that’s just the violence we know about. Iraqi police don’t conduct routine investigations like American police; they struggle to survive. The Iraqi government knows that 350 political leaders and government workers were assassinated last year, but the police can’t investigate those crimes. How many murders occur every day, week and month that go unreported or unsolved?

We don’t know.

We can guess--the US military, the Iraq Body Count and Associated Press give estimations--but even they can only give us the lower estimate at best. The Iraq Body Count increased by 15,000 names after the release of the Iraq War Logs, and they are still limited to what the US military knew. The murder of civilians, more often than not, goes unreported.

Which means other crimes barely register for the police. Baghdad--not Phoenix, Arizona--is the kidnapping capital of the world. Combine an under-staffed police force with rampant corruption, and kidnappings become a lucrative business. And they usually end in death, not repatriation.

While Iraq is at a critical juncture in its future, US interest has almost completely evaporated. The biggest change in Iraq since 2009 wasn’t the lowering of casualties, it was the shrinking of American media coverage. As the numbers show, Iraq’s violence stabilized in 2010, it didn’t go down that much from 2009. With so little news coverage, it is easy to see why Americans think that the violence in Iraq isn’t that bad.

It is, we just aren’t paying attention.

five comments

Weirdly, Rumsfeld and his known knowns and known unknowns was really accurate: we have no idea how much violence truly plagues the country.

We have discussed this topic before and my feelings then, as of now, revolve around which party controls the Oval Office.

“Mission Accomplished!”

As an addendum, the last week has been horrifically violent, and not surprisingly has gone almost relatively unnoticed by the media, of all political persuasions.

I am growing convinced that the most dangerous occupation in the world is Iraqi police officer. It seems in every incidence of violence, whether on civilians or military forces, numerous Iraqi police are killed as well. Not to mention the specific targeting of the police stations themselves. According to a 2006 congressional report, over 6000 Iraqi police have died and 40,000 were wounded between 2003 and 2006. IBC has more updated statistics, but I can’t find anything on cumulative for Iraqi police forces.

@ Matty – Michael would know, but I’d agree with that.