Appearing on CNN’s Late Edition this morning, Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA), who recently returned from Iraq, asserted “some major improvements” are being witnessed in Iraq. Echoing claims made by Gen. David Petraeus, Boustany said “sectarian deaths are down.”
Host Wolf Blitzer corrected Boustany’s assertion, citing Iraqi health ministry statistics that report Iraqi civilian deaths have been climbing. The LA Times reports:
Bombings, sectarian slayings and other violence related to the war killed at least 1,773 Iraqi civilians in August, the second month in a row that civilian deaths have risen, according to government figures obtained Friday. In July, the civilian death toll was 1,753, and in June it was 1,227.
Blitzer emphasized, “In terms of Iraqi dead people, those numbers are high and getting worse despite the increased military troop levels of the United States — the so-called surge — having been in effect over the past couple of months.”
Confronted with factual evidence proving his claims incorrect, Boustany attempted to pivot to anecdotal evidence of what he saw on the ground. “I want to point out that just two or three months ago, I would have never thought that four members of Congress would be able to walk through the streets of Fallujah,” he said. But Blitzer quickly noted “you had a lot of security with you,” forcing Boustany to acknowledge he walked with “a platoon of Marines.”
BOUSTANY: We’re clearly seeing some major improvements. Clearly in the Anbar Province, we’ve seen significant improvement. We were able to walk the streets of Fallujah. Sectarian deaths are down.
BLITZER: And Congressman Boustany, you say that the number of casualties is going down. But we took a closer look — and The Los Angeles Times did as well — citing Iraqi Health Ministry numbers. In June, it was 1,227 civilian deaths in Iraq. In July, it went up to 1,753 civilian deaths in Iraq. And in August, the month that just ended, 1,773 civilian deaths in Iraq. Those numbers are going in the wrong direction.
BOUSTANY: Well, I think what I mentioned earlier, Wolf, was the number of attacks. And, clearly, we have to look at all the metrics very carefully.
BLITZER: But statistics — you can play a lot of room with statistics. In terms of dead people, civilians, Iraqi dead people, those numbers are high and they’re getting worse, despite the increased military troop levels of the United States, the so-called surge having been in effect over the past couple of months.
BOUSTANY: Well, Wolf, I want to point out that just two or three months ago, I would have never thought that four members of Congress would be able to walk through the streets of Fallujah. That’s a major…
BLITZER: But you had a lot of security with you. You had a lot of U.S. military protection.
BOUSTANY: We had a platoon of Marines.
BLITZER: Yes, well, a platoon of Marines is a lot of Marines to walk through Fallujah. That’s not like…
BOUSTANY: But, Wolf, three months ago, two months ago, not even that could have happened so I think that’s…
BLITZER: I was in Fallujah two years ago, and it was a bad situation then. But some argue that maybe there’s a slight improvement right now, but it’s still very dangerous.
BOUSTANY: I would argue that the improvement is major.
BLITZER: And if you didn’t have a platoon of Marines with you, you couldn’t be walking around by yourself.