Freedom in Iraq: Now With Rampant Assassinations

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May 6 2011 2:52 PM

Freedom in Iraq: Now With Rampant Assassinations

It's a good thing that the events of this week

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every aspect of the past decade's worth of American foreign policy. Otherwise, it might have been alarming to see this story in the Washington Post, updating the

:


The dead in April alone included generals, police commanders, a deputy minister and the head of Iraq’s tax agency. The wounded included a member of parliament, a judge and the head of the national theater, survivors of attacks on their motorcades.

Among 50 targeted killings last month, most were carried out by gunmen using silenced weapons, according to Iraq’s Interior Ministry, which oversees the country’s police forces.

Yes, eight years after the invasion of Iraq, the country has been liberated from a corrupt and brutal one-party dictatorship, so that it can enjoy a new political system in which the people cast votes for their government, and then other people murder the officials of that government. And then still other people murder more people in reprisal. It's sort of like instant-runoff voting, only in reverse, and with bullets.



According to the Post, officials have started commuting in "beat-up taxis," because riding in Iraqi government vehicles would mark them for death. Attackers on motorbikes "slap magnetic 'sticky bombs' on motorcades." The State Department, the Post wrote, calls the situation in Iraq "relatively stable."



Relatively. Iraq may look like a

, but the Post included a passage reminding readers of the great progress the country has made:


Assassinations accounted for roughly 20 percent of about 251 violent deaths in Iraq last month. The death toll is orders of magnitude smaller than what Iraq endured during the height of the country’s sectarian bloodshed in 2006 and 2007, when more than 2,000 Iraqis died in violent attacks each month. Iraq’s overall homicide rate is now lower than in most American cities.

In general usage, "orders of magnitude" refers to powers of 10. A decline from 2,000 murders to 250, then, is not quite a single order of magnitude.



The rest of the good news in there is either addled or not true. In a country of 31 million people, 250 homicides a month means an annual rate of about 0.1 per 1,000 people. That would put Iraq toward the more violent end of the

among large American cities—not safer than "most American cities."



More to the point, Iraq is not an American city. It is an entire nation, including all the people dispersed peacefully around the countryside. The comparison is meaningless. Arguing that Iraq's overall homicide rate isn't so bad is equivalent to arguing that the crime rate in West Baltimore is OK, once you average in Bethesda and the rest of Maryland. If a country's national homicide rate resembles the rate in American cities, than the cities in that country must be slaughterhouses.



Tom Scocca is the managing editor of Deadspin and the author of Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future.