U.S. officials, seeking a way to measure the results of a program aimed at decreasing violence in Baghdad, aren’t counting scores of dead killed in car bombings and mortar attacks as victims of the country’s sectarian violence.
In a distinction previously undisclosed, U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Barry Johnson said Friday that the United States is including in its tabulations of sectarian violence only deaths of individuals killed in drive-by shootings or by torture and execution.
That has allowed U.S. officials to boast that the number of deaths from sectarian violence in Baghdad declined by more than 52 percent in August over July.
But it eliminates from tabulation huge numbers of people whose deaths are certainly part of the ongoing conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Not included, for example, are scores of people who died in a highly coordinated bombing that leveled an entire apartment building in eastern Baghdad, a stronghold of rebel Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
In related news, the president has 85 percent approval ratings if you don’t count the people who disapprove. It reminds me of fifth graders playing with their first graphing calculator. Except that the little blips are dead people. But hey, whatever.
On the outrage meter this strikes me as a fairly typical Rumsfeldian decision, on par with threatening to fire any generals who persisted in asking for a postwar plan. At this point it seems naive to expect anything different.