As ISIS kills, media can’t count the dead

Peter Schwartzstein reports: In any war, it’s the wanton acts of barbarism that grab the headlines and reel in the news teams. But when it comes to showcasing the true measure of a conflict’s horror, there are few statistics starker than a sky-high civilian death toll.

In Iraq, where hostilities have raged in fits and starts for over a decade since the US-led invasion of 2003, non-combatants have been particularly hard hit by the violence. Many were caught up in the “Shock and Awe” aerial campaign that marked the beginning of the war, some succumbed to disease as the country’s infrastructure collapsed, and still others died in the brutal bouts of tribal in-fighting that marred the years following the toppling of Saddam Hussein.

Through it all, an eclectic band of organizations, ranging from a multinational team of anti-war activists to the UN’s local office, maintained scrupulous records of the dead. They logged every incident and released depressing day-by-day accounts of the carnage.

The emergence of the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL) jihadist group has, however, plunged Iraq into a period of turbulence so debilitating that, for the first time, these death counts can no longer keep up with the killing. [Continue reading…]

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