Mounting Deaths, Narrow Vote Underscore Iraq Dilemma
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
The deepening dilemma of Iraq is written in two current sets of numbers.
SIEGEL: That's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr.
SCHORR: One is the constitution referendum on which the Bush administration has reposed--its fingers crossed, hoped--for a functioning democratic authority that will permit a phase-out of American troops. But although a high voter turnout was reported, most Sunnis turned out just to vote no. And the constitution won by a whisker, with the Sunni vote for rejection just short of the needed two-thirds in one Sunni province. Already the Sunnis have started mobilizing for sweeping amendments after the December parliamentary election to protect their threatened minority position. And some militant Sunnis are negotiating with bomb and bullet.
The sectarian tension helps to explain the second set of numbers: the toll that insurgent violence is taking. This country yesterday marked a gloomy point where Americans killed since the invasion reached the 2,000 mark. It took 18 months for the first thousand to be killed and 14 months for the second thousand, meaning the pace is accelerating. But less attention has been given to the number of Iraqi casualties. The Pentagon keeps no official count, but private research organizations estimate 20,000 to 30,000 Iraqis dead, at least 10 Iraqis to every American.
The insurgents are clearly engaged in an assault on the effort to create a unified government, and it's likely that violence will be accelerated as the election nears. The insurgents have displayed a growing and deadly efficiency at bomb-making and delivery, often by suicide bombers. It appears that the Iraqi vote count is running up against the Iraqi body count. This is Daniel Schorr.