Tuesday, February 28, 2006

So much depends on a red wheelbarrow

Or on what the meaning of "is" is.

The story of the death toll in Iraq last week from the Washington Post is already being picked up around the world:

SECTARIAN violence unleashed by last week's bombing of a Shia shrine has killed more than 1300 Iraqis, making the past few days the deadliest of the war outside of major US offensives.

A report in The Washington Post based on figures from Baghdad's main morgue said the death toll from the blizzard of violence following the shrine attack was more than three times higher than the figure previously reported by the US military.

Last night, a further 27 people were killed and more than 100 wounded when three bombs went off in quick succession in Baghdad Shia neighbourhoods.

The Post reported that hundreds of unclaimed dead lay at the morgue at midday on Monday - blood-caked men who had been shot, knifed, garrotted or apparently suffocated by the plastic bags still over their heads.
And is already being denied:

In an unusual statement, issued in English, the office of Prime Minister Ibrahim Al-Jaafari, said media reports that the death toll was well over 1,000 were "inaccurate and exaggerated."

But the size of the crowd outside the morgue suggests the death toll following the Golden Mosque shrine attack could be higher in a country where keeping accurate statistics is extremely difficult.
Issued in English? Gee, I wonder who that statement was meant for?

And how long has this been going on? Read between the lines:

It was a familiar scene outside the morgue. Grim-faced men and teenagers waited to load up crude wooden coffins bearing the names of mosques which have loaned caskets to the relatives of victims who could not afford their own.

Some people said two or three of their relatives had been caught up in the latest orgy of killing to hit Iraq since a U.S.-led invasion toppled former President Saddam Hussein in 2003.
And, as Holden points out, Bush thinks its all the fault of the Iraqis:

PRESIDENT BUSH: The United States strongly condemns the bombing of holy sites. We believe people should be allowed to worship freely. Obviously, there are some who are trying to sow the seeds of sectarian violence. They destroy in order to create chaos. And now the people of Iraq and their leaders must make a choice. The choice is chaos or unity. The choice is a free society, or a society dictated by the -- by evil people who will kill innocents.
You'd never know the US started this mess by first kicking over the anthill. There is not one statement of responsibility in that quote. The Idea remains sacrosanct.

As it did for William Kristol; as it did for William Buckley. As it has done since Vietnam. The Idea is never wrong. It is the execution in which people fail. But never "we;" never "us:" always "them."

The Iraqi office of Prime Minister Ibrahim Al-Jaafari all bus asks: "Who you gonna believe? Me? or your lyin' eyes?" And it is all in defense of the idea that, since Samarrah, Iraq has not descended into civil war, which is apparently the ne plus ultra of societal chaos, the point at which even Kristol and Buckley agree, we must withdraw.

And so we come back to this legalistic matter of definition. Is it a "civil war" because the Powers That Be say so? Or because the death toll for Iraqis is finally being taken seriously by the US MSM? Or because it's exceeded 1000 in one week?If so, then we just lower the reported number, right? Remain calm, all is well?Is Iraq actually more dangerous now than before Samarra? If so, by how much? On what scale do we measure chaos and atrocity and declare one state worse than the other?

Or am I just talking to myself? It doesn't matter, in the end. The Reuter's article, ironically, gets it right:

Haedar Nabil has been searching for his brother for four days. He returns
home each night in despair and then starts looking again at dawn.

"We can only rely on God's mercy," he said.

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