Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Care To Reassess?

6Yesterday, Joel Gaines at Winds of Change linked approvingly to this Robert Kaplan interview in which the author stated this about the recent violence in Iraq [emphasis mine throughout]:

Look, the place could descend into civil war, but it's worth keeping the following facts in mind. As of a few minutes ago, the New York Times is reporting 138 people killed out of a population of 23 million. It's not a civil war yet. In fact, I'm kind of surprised it's not a lot worse, given what happened. Given that this is such a major symbol, I would have predicted you would have had like 500 killed by this point....
Well, perhaps Mr. Kaplan would like to revise his earlier statements in light of recent revelations:

Grisly attacks and other sectarian violence unleashed by last week's bombing of a Shiite Muslim shrine have killed more than 1,300 Iraqis, making the past few days the deadliest of the war outside of major U.S. offensives, according to Baghdad's main morgue. The toll was more than three times higher than the figure previously reported by the U.S. military and the news media.

Hundreds of unclaimed dead lay at the morgue at midday Monday -- blood-caked men who had been shot, knifed, garroted or apparently suffocated by the plastic bags still over their heads. Many of the bodies were sprawled with their hands still bound -- and many of them had wound up at the morgue after what their families said was their abduction by the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
1,300 dead in roughly five days is pretty significant, no? Almost three times as many as Kaplan would have "predicted" - which means things are worse than expected. And it's not like the situation is getting any better. From the AP:

A suicide bomber detonated an explosives belt at a crowded gas station Tuesday — one of five attacks that rocked Baghdad in quick succession, killing at least 66 people and wounding scores, police said.

The surge of violence, including three car bombs, unsettled an Iraqi capital already shaken by fears the country teeters on the brink of sectarian civil war. Iraqis have suffered through days of reprisal killings and attacks on Sunni mosques since bombers blew apart the gold dome of a Shiite Muslim shrine north of Baghdad on Wednesday. [...]

There was more sectarian violence in the wake of Wednesday's blast at the revered Shiite Askariya shrine in Samarra. North of Baghdad, a blast badly damaged a Sunni mosque where the father of Saddam Hussein was buried in the family's ancestral hometown, Tikrit. [...]

The Iraqi Islamic Party reported a Sunni mosque in Baghdad's northern al-Hurriyah neighborhood was destroyed in an explosion before dawn Tuesday. The Sunni organization blamed the Shiite-dominated government that, it said, "cooperates with the criminal hands that sabotaged God's houses and lighted the fires of sedition."

At a gas station in the mostly Shiite eastern New Baghdad neighborhood, a suicide attacker joined a line of people waiting to buy kerosene before detonating the explosives strapped to his body, witnesses said. The blast killed 23 people and injured 51, Interior Ministry official Maj. Falah al-Mohammedawi said.

In the same region, a car bomb targeting a police patrol killed nine people and wounded 17 — all civilians, police and paramedics said.

Another car bomb exploded near a Shiite mosque in the crowded southeastern Karada neighborhood, killing four and wounding 16, al-Mohammedawi said.
There were also casualties and fatalities suffered by US forces, as well as two British soldiers killed in the relatively peaceful and calm southern regions of Iraq. Despite public pleas by leaders of the respective groups, the violence continues apace. Which, again, raises the questions I discussed in my prior post: Who is in charge? And do the leaders in charge have control over those perpetrating the violence?

Kaplan also had this to say:

We had 250,000 people killed in sectarian violence in the former Yugoslavia. And you had intellectuals throughout the United States claiming it was not a civil war, it was just bad people and it was only cynics calling it a civil war. You've had people calling this a civil war from a year ago, when you had like ten people killed a day, out of a population of a country the same size as Yugoslavia. Will it descend into civil war? Possible. Who knows? You know, it's in the balance. But you know, it's worth keeping things in perspective, is all I can say.
I would point out, contra Kaplan, that according to Iraqi Interior Ministry reports and statements by President Bush (as well as independent research by Iraq Body Count and other groups), there have been roughly 30-35,000 Iraqi civilians killed in mostly ethnic/sectarian violence over the course of less than three years. That breaks out to a rate of over 10,000 a year. In other words, I don't think there was ever a time when "you had like ten people killed a day." And if there was, then the daily violence after that "ten a day" period has increased exponentially - enough to make up for the earlier lull in order to push the death toll to its current ghastly total.

One last point, observing that other civil wars were bloodier or more costly in terms of lives lost is not dispositive of whether or not the current conflict in Iraq could or should be categorized as a civil war. Nor is the fact that there are certain "intellectuals" who made academic arguments about prior conflicts. Some civil wars take more lives than others, but that doesn't mean that the persistent, continuous and targeted sectarian/ethnic violence over the course of almost three years in Iraq is not such.

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?