Wednesday, November 22, 2006

October Death Count in Iraq: 3,709

Iraq's biggest growth industry is corpses:

More than 140 bodies have been found dumped across Baghdad over the past three days, police said Wednesday.

Police said 52 bullet-riddled bodies were found Wednesday, with 20 of them blindfolded, tied up and possibly tortured.

Police also discovered 29 bodies on Tuesday and 60 on Monday.

The dead are thought to be victims of Sunni-Shiite sectarian revenge killings.

That word came as the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq issued a grim bimonthly human rights report that underscored the instability and death resulting from sectarian violence.

The report said 7,054 civilians were killed violently in September and October in Iraq, with almost 5,000 in Baghdad alone -- most of them shot to death and showing signs of torture.

Iraqis are fleeing their country at a rate of 100,000 per month -- at least 1.6 million Iraqis since the U.S. invasion in March, 2003:

Life for Iraqis, especially in Baghdad and cities and towns in the center of the country, has become increasingly untenable. Many schools failed to open at all in September, and professionals -- especially professors, physicians, politicians and journalists -- are falling to sectarian killers at a stunning pace.

Lynchings have been reported as Sunnis and Shiites conduct a merciless campaign of revenge killings. Some Shiite residents in the north Baghdad neighborhood of Hurriyah claim that militiamen and death squads are holding Sunni captives in warehouses, then slaughtering them at the funerals of Shiites killed in the tit-for-tat murders.

Pres. Bush says the lesson of Vietnam for Iraq is that the U.S. "needs to stay in Iraq and 'win' this time." Most Americans disagree.

In Iraq, a new survey shows that Iraqis are more united than ever in their desire for U.S. troops to leave:

Past surveys have hinted at this result, but a new poll in Iraq makes it more stark than ever: the Iraqi people want the U.S. to exit their country. And most Iraqis now approve of attacks on U.S. forces, even though 94% express disapproval of al-Qaeda.

At one time, this was primarily a call by the Sunni minority, but now the Shiites have also come around to this view. The survey by much-respected World Public Opinion (WPO), taken in September, found that 74% of Shiites and 91% of Sunnis in Iraq want us to leave within a year. The number of Shiites making this call in Baghdad, where the U.S. may send more troops to bring order, is even higher (80%). In contrast, earlier this year, 57% of this same group backed an "open-ended" U.S. stay.

By a wide margin, both groups believe U.S. forces are provoking more violence than they're preventing -- and that day-to-day security would improve if we left.

Support for attacks on U.S. forces now commands majority support among both Shiites and Sunnis. The report states: "Support for attacks on U.S.-led forces has grown to a majority position—now six in ten. Support appears to be related to widespread perception, held by all ethnic groups, that the U.S. government plans to have permanent military bases in Iraq and would not withdraw its forces from Iraq even if the Iraqi government asked it to. If the U.S. were to commit to withdraw, more than half of those who approve of attacks on US troops say that their support for attacks would diminish."

The backing for attacks on our forces has jumped to 61% from 47% in January.

Here is another very significant report in this week's Editor & Publisher:

A stunning new death count emerged Thursday, as Iraq's health minister estimated at least 150,000 civilians have been killed in the war -- about three times previously accepted offiical estimates.

Previous offiicial estimates of Iraq deaths held that 45,000-50,000 have been killed in the nearly 44-month-old conflict, according to partial figures from Iraqi institutions and media reports. This is a number cited by President Bush and some U.S. generals.

The recent on-the-ground survey, later published in the respected medical journal Lancet, had a different estimate: in the range of 400,000 to 800,000. This was attacked by the White House and many conservatives as far too high. While it is still well above the figures released today by the Iraqis, the Lancet numbers included all Iraqis killed -- including insurgents and soldiers, and covering both the killings in the invasion and since. This number, added to the 150,000 might not [be] far off the Lancet tally, which had already draw support from many experts in the field.

No official count has ever been available, and Health Minister Ali al-Shemari did not detail how he arrived at the new estimate of 150,000, which he provided to reporters during a visit to the Austrian capital.

But later Thursday, Hassan Salem, of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI, said the 150,000 figure included civilians, police and the bodies of people who were abducted, later found dead and collected at morgues run by the Health Ministry. SCIRI is Iraq's largest Shiite political organization and holds the largest number of seats in parliament.

Al-Shemari continued to dispute the Lancet numbers on Thursday.

"Since three and a half years, since the change of the Saddam regime, some people say we have 600,000 are killed. This is an exaggerated number. I think 150 is OK," he said.

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