Over 1,291 days after the first "shock-and-awe" attack on downtown Baghdad, it's not unreasonable to speak of George Bush's Iraq. The President himself likes to refer to that country as the "central front [or theater] in our fight against terrorism" and the recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), a small part of which was finally released by the President, confirms that Iraq is now just that -- a literal motor for the creation of terrorism.
So what exactly does George Bush's Iraq look like? A surprising amount of information has appeared in the press recently, but in scattershot form. Here are four questions that bring some of it together, offering a grim snapshot of Bush's Iraq.
How many freelance militias are there in Baghdad?
The answer is "23" according to a "senior [U.S.] military official" in Baghdad -- so write Richard A. Oppel, Jr. and Hosham Hussein in the New York Times; according to National Public Radio, the answer is "at least 23." Antonio Castaneda of the Associated Press says that there are 23 "known" militias. However you figure it, that's a staggering number of militias, mainly Shiite but some Sunni, for one large city.
How many civilians are dying in the capital?
5,106 people in July and August, according to a United Nations report. The previous figure of 3,391 offered for those months relied on body counts only from the city morgue. The UN report includes deaths at the city's overtaxed hospitals. With the Bush administration bringing thousands of extra soldiers into Baghdad in August, death tolls went down for a few weeks, but began rising again towards month's end. August figures on civilian wounded -- 4,309 -- rose 14% over July's figures and, by late September, suicide bombings were at their highest level since the invasion.
How many Iraqis are being tortured in Baghdad at present?
Large numbers of bodies are found around the capital every day. These, as Oppel of the Times describes them, commonly display such signs of torture as "gouged-out eyeballs… broken bones of legs and hands, electric and cigarette burns… missing teeth and wounds caused by power drills or nails." The UN's chief anti-torture expert, Manfred Nowak, believes torture in Iraq is now "worse" than under Saddam Hussein.
How many Iraqi civilians are being killed countrywide?
For those two months, the UN Report offers the figure of 1,493 dead outside of Baghdad. However, this is surely an undercount. Oppel points out that officials in al-Anbar Province, "one of the deadliest regions in Iraq, reported no deaths in July." Meanwhile, in Diyala Province, northeast of Baghdad, deaths seem to be on the rise. The intrepid British journalist Patrick Cockburn recently visited the head of Diyala's Provincial Council (who has so far escaped two assassination attempts). He believes "on average, 100 people are being killed in Diyala every week." ("Many of those who die disappear forever, thrown into the Diyala River or buried in date palm groves and fruit orchards.") Based on the UN report, we're talking close to 40,000 Iraqi deaths a year. We have no way of knowing how much higher the real figure is.
Last week, the count of American war dead in Iraq passed 2,700. The Iraqi dead are literally uncountable. Iraq is the tragedy of our times, carnage incarnate. Every time the President mentions "victory" these days, the word "loss" should come to our minds. A few more victories like this one and the world will be an unimaginable place.
For a full 21 questions (and answers) on George Bush's Iraq visit Tomdispatch.com.