Here’s a bit of good news:
An ambitious military sweep appears to be dramatically reducing Baghdad’s homicide rate, U.S. and Iraqi officials said Sunday — even as violence nationwide killed at least 80 people, including six U.S. soldiers in and around the capital.
Last month, the Baghdad morgue received more than 1,800 bodies, a record high. This month, the morgue is on track to receive less than a quarter of that.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki seized on the drop in slayings during a CNN interview.
“The violence is not increasing…. No, we’re not in a civil war,” Maliki said. “In Iraq, we’ll never be in civil war. What you see is an atmosphere of reconciliation.”
Although the smaller monthly tally offers encouragement to U.S. and Iraqi officials, it remains a triple-digit reminder that sectarian violence and insurgent activity continue to roil the country.
“It is not possible to create a democracy at the barrel of a gun…. We cannot even work freely as politicians,” said Saleh Mutlak, a Sunni Arab member of parliament. “It is not possible for us to even hold meetings. We cannot travel between one province and another.”
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. James D. Thurman, commander of military forces in Baghdad, attributed the capital’s declining violence to a sweep involving 8,000 U.S. soldiers and 3,000 Iraqi troops aimed at stopping sectarian violence.
The numbers certainly are still unpleasantly high — it’s not nice to live in a City that has close to 400 homicides per month — but the decline (more than 75%) is staggering and impressive. Many congratulations to both the U.S. and Iraqi forces for bringing this sea-change about.