I’ve just seen a little snippet of BBC News 24. According to its report, the President of Iraq claims that since the bombing of the Shia Shrine in Samarra, 379 Iraqis have been killed.

Fair enough, Auntie – but how do I know that 379 people weren’t also killed in the six days prior to the shrine bombing? Without some kind of comparison to the ‘normal’ level of violence in Iraq (which, as we by now know, is depressingly high), the figures are useless – or worse, misleading.

That kind of thing isn’t even difficult to find out. Look here, the Guardian did it. Finding this kind of thing out doesn’t involve tramping around Baghdad’s dangerous streets, like serious reports about the level of material deprivation in the Iraqi capital and its effect on Iraqis. (Such reports are relatively scarce – type ‘shortages’ and ‘Iraq’ into Google and half of the results, tellingly, concern equipment shortages facing American troops. Typing ‘material deprivation’ and ‘Iraq’ yields even sparser results.) Yet it is the kind of sloppy journalism that makes me wonder how accurate many reports coming out of Iraq truly are.

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