Thursday, November 01, 2007

Un-Grim Non-Milestone


News organizations have to fill a lot of space and time and one of the easiest articles or pieces for them to produce is to have someone look at a couple websites that collect data and then write up a summary. When the number of fatalities in Iraq began to increase this year, news organizations like the Washington Post started to reserve every first of the month for a tally of the dead.

WaPo, May 1, 2007: "April Toll Is Highest Of '07 for U.S. Troops"

WaPo today, November 1, 2007. No mention of the dramatically low figures for both U.S. and Iraqi fatalities during the month of October. Instead, the Iraq-related headlines are about Rumsfeld's memos and State Dept. embassy assignments.

As many of you have recognized, the MSM uses a playbook in which a dramatic increase in Iraqi and US deaths is "newsworthy" but a dramatic decrease is not.


The most intriguing response to the pacification of Anbar and the sharp decrease in both Iraqi and US deaths has been that of the Iraqi blogosphere. Zeyad, BT, and Omar (24 Steps), for example, have gone more or less silent. It almost seems like they identified so much with their country in the midst of the death and carnage wrought by the insurgents and foreign jihadis that they find it very difficult to acknowledge that their country may now be changing for the better. One would think these declining figures would be good news to them, right? Listen, I understand if they're a bit wary of these numbers. To be sure, while AQI has been beaten badly in Iraq, the fringes of Muqtada's Madhi militia could still create a lot of death, as they did back in 2004. But I think several of the Iraqi bloggers in the States don't want to talk about the improvements in Iraq primarily because others may then accuse them of being America's "puppets" or part of a "Bushco psy-ops" operation. It would take real courage for them to acknowledge the facts on the ground.


I'm searching around for any news organizations that have written about the October statistics for Iraq. So far I've found:

Washington Post: nothing
UPDATE (November 2, 2007): Although we had to wait a day for the WaPo article, it turned out to be a reasonable interpretation of the numbers and gathered a balanced collection of responses. It was, however, according to another blogger, pushed back to around page 14 in the paper edition. November 2, 2007: "In Iraq, a Lull or Hopeful Trend?"
New York Times: nothing
UPDATE (November 6, 2007): I had underestimated the cunning of the NYTimes. They were silent on November 1 simply because they were waiting for a few more US military deaths in order to announce their latest GRIM MILESTONE:

2007 Deadliest Year for U.S. Troops in Iraq.

This allowed Damien Cave to push the decline in military deaths for October down a few paragraphs:

The deaths come only a few days after the military announced a steep drop in the rate of American deaths this year. In October, 38 American service members died in Iraq, the third lowest monthly tally since 2003, according to Iraq Casualty Count, a web site that tracks military deaths. November’s total, if the current pace continues, would be higher but still far below the war’s average of 69 American military deaths per month.

Despite the decline, American commanders acknowledged that 2007 will be far deadlier than the second worst year, 2004, when 849 Americans died, many of them in major battles for control of insurgent strongholds like Falluja.

History shows that 1944-5 were also the deadliest years of WWII, but don't expect a reporter like Damien Cave to use historical context when a chance to use American deaths to attack the Bush administration is at hand.

I'm now noticing that all the other MSM websites that were silent on November 1 are now following the NYTimes grim milestone.
Boston Globe: nothing

CNN: nothing

ABC News: nothing

CBS News: nothing

MSNBC: nothing

Reuters: Iraq civilian, U.S. military tolls at new low in Oct

Los Angeles Times: "Iraqi civilian deaths plunge"

BBC: "Deaths in Iraq 'continue to fall'"

If anyone finds any other articles, link them on the comments page. Thanks.


Here are the statistics for US fatalities and wounded over the last seven months (

117 -- 651 (April)
131 -- 655 (May)
108 -- 749 (June)
87 -- 614 (July)
88 -- 563 (August
69 -- 358 (September)
41 -- 47 (October)

And here are the Iraqi Civilian/Police/Military fatalities for the last nine months:

3,014 (Feb.)
2,977 (March)
1,821 (April)
1,980 (May)
1,345 (June)
1,690 (July)
1,674 (August)
848 (September)
676 (October)


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