Gen. George Casey, America’s top military commander in Iraq, said yesterday that the wave of sectarian violence that followed the bombing of the Askariya mosque in Samarra has died out. He also said that news coverage of the violence was “exaggerated”:
The top U.S. commander in Iraq yesterday declared an end to a 10-day wave of sectarian violence that killed an estimated 350 civilians, asserting that many reports of violence were “exaggerated.”
“It appears that the crisis has passed,” said Army Gen. George Casey, giving a detailed public report card. “But we all should be clear that Iraqis remain under threat of terrorist attacks by those who will stop at nothing to undermine the formation of this constitutionally elected government. … They tried to have this [be] the straw that broke the camel’s back, and it failed.”
Casey explained in some detail why he considered the accounts of violence to be exaggerated:
He also said the number of violent incidents turned out to be lower than press and security forces reported in the immediate aftermath of the bombing…. Gen. Casey said that in a reported 30 attacks on mosques, only two were severely damaged. Of eight mosques that were reported damaged, inspections showed only one had damage — a broken window.
Hysterical news coverage has disguised the fact that suicide bombings by terrorists have fallen sharply:
Despite the sectarian violence, the number of suicide bombers in Iraqi in February stood at 17, about half the total in January. Last summer, there were about 60 per month. Suicide-bomber attacks are the main tactic of al Qaeda in Iraq, the foreign infiltrators whose numbers have declined in the face of tighter border-control measures.
Initial reports of deaths in violence that followed the mosque bombing turned out to be inflated by a factor of four. In this and other respects, reporting on sectarian violence in Iraq resembles the reporting on Hurricane Katrina. No doubt many in the press and on the left are disappointed that al Qaeda’s effort to provoke civil war in Iraq has failed. But, once again, misleading headlines do damage that subsequent corrections can’t repair.