Wednesday, December 20, 2006

New data on Iraq

The New York Times prints an interesting chart on today's op-ed page.

It is a rather extraordinary record of how things have gone completely to hell over the last year. Just to list a few key findings, all based on comparisons of November 2006 and November 2005:

Civilian fatalities have more than doubled; muti-fatality bombings have increased more than 50%, to more than two every day; despite American boasts of heavy casualties inflicted on the enemy, the insurgency is estimated to have grown by 25%, to 25,000; the size of Shi'ite militias has more than doubled, although the number of foreign fighters has hardly increased at all. The biggest impacts are on the civilian population. 450,000 Iraqis have had to move within Iraq during the last year, making a total of 650,000; refugees leaving the country have doubled in the last year, reaching 1.8 million; and 1,250 new doctors have been killed or kidnapped (for a total of 2,250), and 7,000 have left the country (for a total of 12,000) in the last twelve months. Oil production is stable, but the fuel situation of the average household is much worse. In the most chilling statistic, "technically proficient" Iraqi security forces are estimated to have increased from 35,000 to 115,000 over the last year, but "politically dependable" security forces have gone from just 5,000 to 10,000. Those figures suggest that we are training the fighters in the civil war that has obviously engulfed Iraq.

On the same page appears an article by Thomas Friedman about the nature of Middle Eastern politics. I have been very critical of Friedman in the past, mainly for always being so right even when he is totatally reversing what he said earlier, but it's a basic principle of mine not to let anything stand in the way of acknowledging an insightful piece. This one has to be read in its entirety, but the most striking and provocative statement holds that Arab politicians, unlike their western counterparts, tell the truth in public but lie in private. Certainly there is nothing in his article to contradict the argument I made over the weekend. Here is the link:

It's available for subscribers only but will probably pop up somewhere on the net within a day or two.

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