Victory has come at last for all of those late night shoppers in Baghdad who want to get the best close-out sales. The curfew that has been held over Baghdad has been shortened by two hours so that people can be out until 10 p.m. And what, might you ask, could be the reason for such a promising sign of stability? There are actually two reasons: one is that only 18 people were found to be dead in Baghdad on Tuesday. This one-day plummet in sectarian violence prompted officials to lift the curfew a little but that wasn't all. If having one day of less than twenty people dying wasn't cause enough to celebrate, Iraqi Brigadier General Qassim al-Moussawi said also that the two hour lift was "because the security situation has improved and people needed more time to go shopping." Despite that the economy of the Baghdad marketplaces have plummeted due to a ban on vehicles and fear from insurgents, still marketplaces are the ideal location for suicide bombers to go out with a bang. And Iraqi officials say that what their people need is more time to go shopping.
And meanwhile, presidential candidate John McCain continues to rave about the safe conditions of Baghdad. And though violence within the city itself has dropped slightly, though the citizens are wary of how long the lull will last, violence outside of Baghdad has risen by 20%. John McCain has his statistic-twisting political swagger down pat. And why wouldn't he? He learned from the best: the administration that used the same sort of twisting of information that led to this war. The fact is that violence in Baghdad has dropped a little but it has been pushed elsewhere in Iraq. The killing hasn't stopped; it has merely spread out.
The security crackdown that has republicans wetting themselves is hardly worth grinning about. As was reported by Sudarsan Raghavan of the Washington Post today, "In the first three weeks of the security plan, from Feb. 14 to March 7, 125 unidentified bodies were reported. But in the next three weeks, ending March 31, they nearly doubled to 230, according to the morgue data."
Mr. McCain has his statistics and I have mine. Either way you look at it, the situation in Iraq is not really improving and signs of progress are shadowed by body count numbers. I will celebrate when people stop getting excited about less deaths and start getting excited by no deaths. In the political theater, death tolls seem to be so trivial when you can't put a face to each digit.