"Civilian Death Toll Reaches New High in Iraq, U.N. Says
"BAGHDAD, Nov. 22 — More Iraqi civilians were killed in October than in any other month since the American invasion in 2003, a report released by the United Nations on Wednesday said, a rise that underscored the growing cost of Iraq’s deepening sectarian war.
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According to the report, 3,709 Iraqis were killed in October, up slightly from the previous high in July, and an increase of about 11 percent from the number in September.
The figures, which include totals from the Baghdad morgue and hospitals and morgues across the country, have become a central barometer of the war here and a gauge of the progress of the American military as it tries to bring stability to this exhausted country.
A dangerous trend has surfaced: Sixty-five percent of all deaths in Baghdad were categorized as unidentified corpses, the signature of militias, who kidnap, kill and throw away bodies at a rate that now outstrips the slaughter inflicted by suicide bombers. The report did not offer a breakdown by sect, and it is impossible to tell who is dying in greater numbers.
Indeed, the 52 bodies found by the authorities on Wednesday were far more than the 16 Iraqis reported killed in Baghdad and Baquba, a violent city north of the capital.
“We have a situation in which impunity prevails,” said Gianni Magazzeni, chief of the United Nations’ Human Rights Office in Baghdad, which compiled the report. “It’s critically important for the government to ensure that justice is done.”
Even daily life spoke of war and a society in collapse. The report painted a portrait of social calamity that included 100,000 Iraqis a month fleeing to Syria and Jordan, and schools in some of the most violent areas of the country almost completely shut down. Areas that are not mixed — Iraq’s Kurdish north and portions of its Shiite south — were far safer.
The figures illustrate in stark percentages just how deeply the killing has sunk into Iraqi society. They had been a point of contention for the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, which suppressed them in September after criticizing them as inflated. The American military has also criticized the figures as high, but it does not release statistics of its own.
President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are preparing for meetings next week with Mr. Maliki, in part to discuss the security situation in Iraq. [Page A22.]
But the United Nations stands by the count, which tallies unclaimed bodies from Iraq’s approximately six morgues and from death certificates — required for burial and for inheritance procedures. If anything, the numbers are low. Figures from hospitals come from the Ministry of Health, which counts deaths only on the day of the attack. Victims who die a day later are not counted.
Deaths declined slightly in Baghdad, by 2 percent in September and October, from the total for July and August. The killing picked up in other areas, like Diyala, a mixed province north of Baghdad, and in Balad, a town where sectarian killing exploded briefly in October. The numbers of wounded in Iraq were slightly lower than in the summer.
After Baghdad, the highest death tolls, in descending order, were registered in Diyala Province, the city of Mosul, Salahuddin Province and, in a very distant fifth place, the city of Kirkuk.
The cycle of violence here is one that American military commanders have made substantial efforts to try to stop. Most recently, they conducted a broad series of sweeps in the capital this summer. But their task has become far more complicated since February, when Shiites began to fight back against attacks by Sunni militants. Now the monthly totals of the dead in Baghdad are running about double what they were in 2005.
Nearly three-quarters of all the nation’s deaths in October occurred in the capital, home to a quarter of the country’s population and its political and economic heart.
That statistic crashed into the life of Sabah, a 41-year-old Shiite, who was returning from lunch with her Sunni husband in northeastern Baghdad in late August, when men in plain clothes standing near a police car approached them at a traffic light. They asked to look at the couple’s national identification cards. Sabah’s husband’s last name is obviously Sunni, and the men grabbed them both in front of a crowd.
“They put me in the trunk, in front of all the people,” said Sabah, her face intense yet distant, experiencing the pain of the memory. “That scene, I cannot forget it.”
"Last year, a majority of deaths were of Shiites in bombings. Now the dying has shifted, and Sabah’s story follows the grim pattern that is typical of most killings these days.
The Kentucky Fifth District of the U.S. House voted to "stay the course" in the continued American occupation of Iraq. Three Kentuckians were killed in combat in Iraq in October. The people of the Fifth District of Kentucky have voted that the continuing deaths of American youth in Iraq is worth it, and that America will "continue the course." Kenneth Stepp predicts that the American Army will "stay the course" and continue the U.S. military occupation in Iraq for two more years, because that is what the people of the 5th Congressional District of Kentucky have indicated that they want by their recent re-election of the "stay the course" candidate for U.S. House, KY-05.