The Surge: No Transparency, No Verification

The New York Times reports today the claims of Bush-lovin’, US “officials” and Maliki-lovin’, anonymous Iraqi officials that civilian deaths in Iraq were down in June.

There are two huge caveats. First:

[T]he size of the decline was hard to gauge because death counts in Iraq are highly inaccurate. Some bombing victims’ bodies are never recovered, families often collect their dead before they can be counted by officials, and the dead bodies found around Baghdad, while generally taken to the city morgue, are sometimes taken to hospitals where they may not be counted.

Second, and more astounding, is this nugget:

Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s government no longer reports civilian mortality statistics and has refused to provide figures to the United Nations. Some officials, however, sometimes make reports available to the news media on a not-for-attribution basis.

In fact, this has been policy since last October. After the U.S. military was embarrassed for giving bogus downward reports of civilian deaths following the Feb 2006 Samarra mosque bombing and during last Summer’s “Surge I,” Al-Maliki moved to restrict media access to the actual morgue counts as well as prohibiting the media from doing counts themselves. Clearly, when busted giving misinformation, the Maliki government, undoubtedly with US acquiesence if not US insistence, has simply constrained the media’s ability to further verify the civilian death numbers.

Given the history of past lies and the lack of transparency and verification, I am not buying any of this stuff. Sadly, the lessons learned from past obfuscations has not been to now be truthful but to spin harder.

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