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IBC's continuous monitoring of daily casualties allows early detection of trends in violence. The figures for February 2008 suggest that the positive effects of the "surge" may have bottomed out.

Enforced security: solution or stopgap?

28 Feb 2008

Monthly death tolls in Iraq are on the rise again. For the first time since September 2007 the number of civilian deaths from violence were higher than in the preceding month, according to figures from the Iraq Body Count project (IBC).

Preliminary totals from IBC’s daily assessment of international and Iraqi media-reported violent incidents show 947 civilian deaths between 1st and 27th February. This is already 180 more than the equivalent January total of 767 civilian deaths, with two days of February still left (note that February is also a shorter month).

Another, possibly more revealing trend is that IBC’s monthly figures indicate a steep drop in violence affecting Iraqi civilians between August and September last year, but only a gradual reduction since. This makes it less surprising to see a single-month reversal.

In commenting on these data, IBC spokesperson John Sloboda said:

“Over the past six months there has been a steady month on month decline in the level of violence. But just as the fifth anniversary of an apparently endless war approaches, this trend has been reversed. We may all hope that the reversal is only temporary, but there are also indications that security improvements which can be achieved via current tactics have reached their limit. In fact, the monthly average for violent civilian deaths over the last six months (990) remains well above 2004 levels. Only in relation to the 2006 average of 2,300 deaths per month can such appalling figures be seen as improvements.

“We should remember that even with these much-vaunted improvements, the continuing death toll of the 2003 war and subsequent occupation keeps growing. New lives are still being sacrificed month in, month out, with the only change being the pace at which this toll is exacted. For those who lost a loved one this month, the very word ‘improvement’ will ring painfully hollow, given that their lives will have taken a dramatic and tragic turn for the worse.

“Daily existence for ordinary Iraqis remains punctuated by a continuous stream of car bombs, air strikes, and occupation-related murder and violence. If this toll of innocent lives is ever to be ended, rather than simply slowed, new tactics and new thinking will be needed. After such a long war, the time has come for the announcement of an orderly withdrawal by foreign military forces. This is something that the majority of Iraqis have been calling for almost from the moment of ‘mission accomplished.’”

Violent civilian deaths per month in Iraq, January 2006 to February 2008.

Jan 2006 1,423 Jan 2007 2,795 Jan 2008* 767
Feb 2006 1,443 Feb 2007 2,465 Feb 1-27 2008* 947
Mar 2006 1,764 Mar 2007 2,564
Apr 2006 1,589 Apr 2007 2,416
May 2006 2,083 May 2007 2,732
Jun 2006 2,423 Jun 2007 2,085
Jul 2006 3,127 Jul 2007 2,531
Aug 2006 2,738 Aug 2007 2,323
Sep 2006 2,396 Sep 2007 1,220
Oct 2006 2,926 Oct 2007 1,150
Nov 2006 2,966 Nov 2007 986
Dec 2006 2,654 Dec 2007 855

* Preliminary figure. Such figures are frequently up to 10% higher than IBC’s more formal and fully-screened count, and this tends to be consistent from month to month.