"The country is not a one-size-fits-all, a one-description-fits-all. It's much more a mosaic," the U.S. official in charge of training Iraqi security forces, Lieutenant General James Dubik, told military analysts today on a conference call. And he's got a point. So maybe it's fitting that the Pentagon's last two quarterly reports show all sorts of unexplained shifts -- even on the exact same pieces of data.
Brian Katulis, a senior fellow at the liberal Center for American Progress, told reporters at a National Security Network briefing today that the Pentagon reports can't keep their stories straight when it comes to the incidences of sectarian attacks and murders. Take two most recent reports, from March (pdf) and June (pdf).
On page 17 of both reports is a graph entitled "Sectarian Murders and Incidents" that tallies sectarian attacks by month. The March report lists that, for instance, December 2006 hosted over 900 sectarian "incidents" resulting in just under 1300 murders. But in the June report, the numbers shade up: December 2006 hosted over 1000 incidents yielding over 1600 murders.
Similarly, the March report listed a decline of about 150 sectarian murders from September to October 2006. But the June report changes that to an increase of nearly 400 murders during that same time period. Speaking generally, the June report makes 2006 look like a more deadly, sectarian year than did its March predecessor, but there are exceptions: April 2006 had 700 sectarian murders in the March report, but somehow, that figure drops to under 400 murders in the June report.
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