Saturday, March 25, 2006

And you think you have a crime problem 

Of late I've of given up on reporting on all the good economic news coming out of Venezuela because there is simply too much of it and it gets rather repetative after a while. How many posts can I write about automobile sales setting a new record when they do so virtually every month? And anyways, the point has already been made - the Venezuelan economy is booming.

I have the same problem regarding posting on Iraq, but in reverse. I've stopped posting on a lot of the dismal numbers comming out of that country because by this point they are well known, oil production is tanking and electricity is ever scarcer to name but two examples. Nevertheless, even when you think Iraq has hit bottom something comes along that shows it can sink even lower. Such is this
BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 25 — Mohannad al-Azawi had just finished sprinkling food in his bird cages at his pet shop in southern Baghdad, when three carloads of gunmen pulled up.

In front of a crowd, he was grabbed by his shirt and driven off.

Mr. Azawi was among the few Sunni Arabs on the block, and, according to witnesses, when a Shiite friend tried to intervene, a gunman stuck a pistol to his head and said, "You want us to blow your brains out, too?"

Mr. Azawi's body was found the next morning at a sewage treatment plant. A slight man who raised nightingales, he had been hogtied, drilled with power tools and shot.

In the last month, hundreds of men have been kidnapped, tortured and executed in Baghdad. As Iraqi and American leaders struggle to avert a civil war, the bodies keep piling up. The city's homicide rate has tripled from 11 to 33 a day, military officials said. The period from March 7 to March 21 was typically brutal: at least 191 bodies, many mutilated, surfaced in garbage bins, drainage ditches, minibuses and pickup trucks.

There were the four Duleimi brothers, Khalid, Tarek, Taleb and Salaam, seized from their home in front of their wives. And Achmed Abdulsalam, last seen at a checkpoint in his freshly painted BMW and found dead under a bridge two days later. And Mushtak al-Nidawi, a law student nicknamed Titanic for his Leonardo DiCaprio good looks, whose body was returned to his family with his skull chopped in half.

What frightens Iraqis most about these gangland-style killings is the impunity. According to reports filed by family members and more than a dozen interviews, many men were taken in daylight, in public, with witnesses all around. Few cases, if any, have been investigated.

Now, overlooking the heartbreaking details here lets look at just the cold numbers. Annualizing 33 murders per day gives over 12,000 murders per year in Baghdad. Given the population of Baghdad is about 5 million this gives a murder rate of 240 per hundred thousand. By way of comparison the murder rates in 2002 for the three most violent U.S. cities were:

Washington, DC 45.8
Detroit 42.0
Baltimore 38.3

I imagine this is yet one more reason why the U.S. occupation of Iraq is increasingly unpopular. And it gives more lie to the notion that the U.S. "liberated" Iraq. It seems what many Iraqis are being "liberated" from are their lives.


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