The mantra emerging from the Pentagon and U.S. military officials, including Gen . David Petraeus, for the past month is: Security is improving in Iraq, violence is down, why, it’s like we’re back in 2005 – not like that terrible 2006 or awful first half of 2007. Any drop in the killing is welcome, but I decided to dig around a bit to refresh my memory on what the good old days of 2005 in Iraq were really like. You remember 2005: That year Vice President Cheney declared that the insurgency was in its “last throes.”
The Washington Post, citing Petraeus, noted last week that attacks in Iraq as of the end of November had declined to a level not seen consistently since mid-2005. Iraqi civilian deaths are at their lowest level since the end of 2005, and November had the lowest number of U.S. troop deaths since 2005.
So what was 2005 like in Iraq? For starters, 846 American troops died that year. Let’s not forget the nearly 6000 wounded. Iraq Security Forces lost over 2500 killed. In 2005 an average of 5.8 Iraqi civilians died per day in vehicle/explosions, and 25 per day in shootings/executions. Just taking those two categories gets you over 10,000 civilian deaths, according to Iraq Body Count, the authoritative site which offers lower-end numbers.
There were also 32 journalists killed. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis fled their homeland. Other highlights from 2005: On July 27, the U.S. military leader in Iraq said there would be “fairly substantial” withdrawals of some of the 135,000 U.S. troops as early as the following spring. The killing of more than two dozen civilians in Haditha took place in November.
“The violence has dropped to levels of 2005,” Leila Fadel, the Baghdad chief for McClatchy wrote recently, adding, “I still wake up to shooting outside the windows and we hear explosions that shake our desks or sometimes are just a distant boom.”
Coming in tomorrow’s edition of Time magazine, its former Baghdad bureau chief Bobby Ghosh writes, “In truth Baghdad is nothing like normal and still some distance from safe … While there’s a trickle of [Iraqi] refugees coming home, many Iraqis continue to leave Baghdad. Here are four reasons why people…are not packing their bags for home—and why the successes of the ‘surge’ could easily unravel: 1) the killers are still at large; 2) the Sunnis are still out in the cold; 3) crooked state, crooked services; and 4) there’s no political leadership.”