Headline: 'Iraqi Deaths Up in October in Blow to US "Surge" Policy'

So, did you hear the great news about declining casualties in Iraq last month?

Well, if your outlet of choice is the wire service Agence France Presse, or maybe even Yahoo, you might have heard otherwise.

In fact, as media around the world were hailing October's casualty figures as a great sign from the region, AFP actually published an article Thursday, featured at Yahoo, with the headline "Iraqi Deaths Up in October in Blow to US 'Surge' Policy" with the following opening paragraphs (emphasis added):

The number of Iraqis killed in insurgent and sectarian attacks rose in October, according to government figures obtained on Thursday, in a blow to a nine-month-old US troop surge policy.

At least 887 Iraqis were killed last month, compared to 840 in September, according to the data compiled by the interior, defence and health ministries.

As in previous months, the dead were overwhelmingly civilians, with 758 reported killed against 116 policemen and 13 soldiers.

The October death toll remained sharply down on the August figure of 1,770 but the increase on September dented boasts from both US and Iraqi leaders that the crackdown on insurgent and militia violence was leading to a significant fall in casualties.

Yet, this wasn't how the Washington Post reported the news (emphasis added):

From store clerks selling cigarettes by generator power, to military commanders poring over aerial maps, Iraqis and Americans are striving to understand the sharp decrease in violence over the past several months and what it might herald for the future of Iraq.


An unofficial Health Ministry tally showed that civilian deaths across Iraq rose last month compared with September, but the U.S. military found that such deaths fell from a high this year of about 2,800 in January to about 800 in October.

"This trend represents the longest continuous decline in attacks on record and illustrates how our operations have improved security since the surge was emplaced," Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the commander of day-to-day military operations in Iraq, said at a briefing for reporters.

The Los Angeles Times also applauded the news (emphasis added):

Iraq's civilian body count in October was less than half that at its height in January, reflecting both the tactical successes of this year's U.S. troop buildup and the lasting impact of waves of sectarian death squad killings, car bombings and neighborhood purges.

Yet, maybe the most delicious part of AFP's disparate take on this issue was that according to LexisNexis, before author Salam Faraj penned his piece about deaths being up in October, he actually wrote one with the headline "Iraqi Death Toll Drops in October," with the following opening paragraphs (emphasis added, no link available):

At least 554 Iraqis were killed in Iraq in October, ministry data showed Thursday, the lowest death toll since an attack on a shrine in February last year unleashed violence across the nation.

Data from the interior, defence and health ministries showed that another 333 bodies were found across the country, many of whom were killed in previous months.

The toll of confirmed deaths for October is the lowest since the attack on Shiite Al-Askari shrine in Samarra in February 2006 which set off a wave of sectarian violence that has left tens of thousands of people dead.

In February 2006, the death toll was 637.

The bloodshed peaked in January this year with 1,992 deaths reported by the three ministries.

So, Salam: Which is it?

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Noel Sheppard's picture