What Dropoff? August Death Total in Baghdad Morgue Triples

We took an interesting phone call today from an official at the Baghdad morgue. We get these calls every day – a daily tally of the violence. But this one was particularly sobering.

It turns out the official toll of violent deaths in August was just revised upwards to 1535 from 550, tripling the total. Now, we’re depressingly used to hearing about deaths here, so much so that the numbers can be numbing. But this means that a much-publicized drop-off in violence in August – heralded by both the Iraqi government and the US military as a sign that a new security effort in Baghdad was working -- apparently didn’t exist.

Operation Together Forward, the main thrust of the new strategy, involves establishing pockets of security in select neighborhoods and then slowly adding more. These latest numbers add substance to fears Together Forward creates a whack-a-mole effect: that is, secure one area and the violence will pop up somewhere else. Violent deaths now appear roughly in line with the earlier trend: 1855 in July and 1595 in June. Officials at the Baghdad morgue have no good explanation for the dramatically revised number. We’ll see what the U.S. military has to say.

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