The Iraqis who died in May

While the military reports "absolutely tremendous" morale in Iraq, the number of Iraqi dead grows.

Published June 1, 2006 2:34PM (EDT)

In response to yesterday's honor roll of May's military deaths in Iraq, a reader wrote in to suggest that I list the Iraqi dead.

The best estimates I know of come from, which bases its numbers on news reports. ("This is not a complete list," the Web site warns.) In May, 148 police and military and 979 Iraqi civilians died, according to news reports. In terms of Iraqi civilians, this makes May the deadliest month in Iraq since August 2005, when about 1,524 died. Their names, with few exceptions, are not available. For the most part, these are deaths caused by Iraqis killing other Iraqis.

These are, more than anything else, statistics of a civil war. And they remind me of a weekend essay by Nir Rosen, an intrepid freelancer in Iraq. "Every morning the streets of Baghdad are littered with dozens of bodies, bruised, torn, mutilated, executed only because they are Sunni or because they are Shiite. Power drills are an especially popular torture device."

Rosen continues, "Now in Baghdad, you can go days without seeing American soldiers. Instead, it feels as if Iraqis are occupying Iraq, their masked militiamen blasting through traffic in anonymous security vehicles, shooting into the air, angrily shouting orders on loudspeakers, pointing their Kalashnikovs at passersby. Today, the Americans are just one more militia lost in the anarchy."

Sobering stuff, indeed. But don't get disillusioned. As Steve Clemons points out, the U.S. military is reporting "absolutely tremendous" morale in Baghdad. I'm not kidding.

From the Armed Forces Press Service: "WASHINGTON, May 26, 2006 -- The morale of U.S. soldiers in Baghdad is 'absolutely tremendous,' a U.S. Army commander there said today."

You have to see this story to believe it.

By Michael Scherer

Michael Scherer is Salon's Washington correspondent. Read his other articles here.

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