CIVILIAN CASUALTIES. It should go without saying that when an organization refuses to count civilian casualties, argues that civilian casualty counts are irrelevant to an evaluation of war aims, and either ignores or disputes the most sophisticated methodology for counting civilian casualties, that claims such as this...

American and Iraqi officials said Sunday that they saw a decline in the monthly civilian casualty count in June, a development that occurred as the American troop increase reached full strength.

...shouldn't be taken terribly seriously. The development and execution of doctrine does require solid quantitative data about effectiveness, but given that no such data has been accumulated in a reliable fashion, it's absurd to take this claim at face value.

That said, I certainly hope that June does herald a reduction in civilian casualty rates. I just can't believe that a military organization that has declared such counts irrelevant and an Iraqi government that has done its best to obscure the data really cares about the count.

--Robert Farley