A quick note on statistics
The only problem is, is there a downward trend?
This AP story notes:
Political setbacks in Iraq could also hurt U.S. President George W. Bush, who faces a showdown in Congress next month when his ambassador and top Iraq commander give a progress report on his "surge" strategy of sending 30,000 extra troops this year.
The military reported that four more soldiers had been killed on Tuesday, July's last day, taking the month's toll to 78, the lowest since last November unless it rises further.
On its face, good news.
But after 4+ years of fighting in Iraq, certain trends should be apparent. And just as economic statisitics are always "seasonally adjusted," it may be necessary to look at US casualties in Iraq in the same light.
In July 2003, US casualties in Iraq were 48, the fourth deadliest out of 10 months of combat. In 2004, July casualties were 54, the fifth "safest" month of the year. July 2005, same thing. Fifty four Americans killed, fifth "safest" month. July 2006, 43 US fatalites, making it the second safest month of the year. (All figures from iCasualties.org)
So while it's good to note the decline in casualties month to month (July being the first month since November that the US did not suffer at least 80 fatalities, assuming, as the AP does, that no further casualties will be reported), another way to look at it is that July 2007 was the worst July in terms of fatalities since the US invaded Iraq.
And that's not a good thing.
Neither is the news of 90+ Iraqis killed today alone.
Interesting, between the time i started writing this piece, and the time i finished, AP updated its story to include these lines:
That brought to 77 the July toll of U.S. deaths in Iraq. It was the lowest monthly count in eight months, as the U.S. military said it was gaining control of former militant strongholds.
Still, it was the deadliest July for U.S. troops since the war began. For the previous three years, the month of July saw a relatively low death toll. In July 2006, 43 U.S. troops were killed in Iraq, and 54 died in each of the previous two Julys.
By contrast, July was the second-deadliest month for Iraqis so far this year, according to an Associated Press tally.
UPDATE: Reuters reports that in fact two more US soldiers were killed on Tuesday, bringing July's death toll to 80. That is now 8 consecutive months that US deaths have reached at least that number.
The bad news?
Excluding 2003, US deaths have increased in every August over the preceding July. If the government wants to really show its strategy is working, that trend will have to be reversed this year.
UPDATE 2: Latest from iCasualties.org puts the July number of US forces killed at 81, equal to both February and March of this year. It's pretty hard to put a good spin on this.