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“Running out of People to Kill”

Today’s Washington Post reports this:

The drop in violence caused by the U.S. troop increase in Iraq prompted refugees to begin returning to their homes, American and Iraqi officials said Wednesday. Tahsin al-Sheikhly, an Iraqi government spokesman, said 46,030 displaced Iraqis had returned last month from outside the country to their homes in the capital. He declined to comment on how the government determined those statistics. “People are starting to return to their homes,” said Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil, commander of U.S. troops in Baghdad. “There’s no question about it.”

If this report is in fact true—and the Post points out that the Iraqi Red Crescent says the number of internally displaced people has increased significantly in the last year—it would be another important step in the path toward the healing of Iraqi society.

The situation in Iraq remains enormously challenging—and even if things continue to go well, it will take a long time before Iraq becomes a functioning state. At the same time, this year we have witnessed several significant developments in Iraq: a sharp drop in violence across much of the nation, al Qaeda’s taking enormous punishment, steps toward “bottom up” reconciliation, and Sunnis turning against al Qaeda and its murderous ideology. If Iraqis are beginning to return to their homes, it means we are beginning to see the positive, radiating effects of better security.

This good news should be juxtaposed with the comments made earlier this week by Representative David Obey. According to the Hill:

If violence is decreasing in Iraq, it may be because insurgents “are running out of people to kill,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) said Monday. “There are fewer targets of opportunity,” Obey said in a speech to the National Press Club. Obey was responding to a question about reports touted by Republicans that security is improving in Iraq and that President Bush’s “surge” strategy is working. He stressed that military success has not led to political reconciliation.

These kinds of comments, made by a senior Democratic lawmaker, are by now perfectly predictable—but that makes them no less irresponsible. It remains stunning that critics of the war continue to deny what is true, simply because what is true is encouraging. Mr. Obey’s words embody what many of his Democratic colleagues think—and help explain why approval ratings for this Congress have sunk to new lows. Their marks are richly deserved.


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