To hear the media tell it, Iraq is disintegrating. Violence is widespread and progress made since the fall of Saddam has stagnated or even reversed. Others, like Iraqi bloggers or returning US military tell a different story. I decided to try to map the violence in the country to try to get an visual idea how widespread the violence was. I wanted to see how much of the country of Iraq was shooting at the Coalition.
First here is a map of Iraqi population distribution. Notice that most of Iraq’s population lives east and north of the Euphrates river which nearly bisects the country. The greyish areas in the east between the Tigres and the Iranian border are analgous to the American mid-west, with lot of contiguous habitation, small farms and towns and no major dead zones. The areas east of the Tigres turn rapidally to desert. Population hugs the rivers. Most of the area south and west of the Euphrates is functionally uninhabited. The Al-Anbar province in particular is nearly completely deserted except for the river valley.
I mapped all 58 U.S. combat fatalities for the month of September to date using data made available at GlobalSecurity.org. The map color codes the number of U.S. fatalities resulting from enemy action in each of Iraq’s 18 provinces. Only four of the provinces had any U.S. fatalities. 14 of the provinces had zero fatalities. (The British down in Basra had zero fatalities from combat in September).
See all the green?
Heres the breakdown fatalities by province:
Salah ad Din: 2
Al Basrah: zero
Dhi Qar: zero
Al Muthanna: zero
Al Qadisyah: zero
Al Karbala: zero
An Najaf: zero
Al Anbar: 30
At Ta’mim: zero
As Sulaymaniyah: zero
Area unknown: 3
See all the zeros?
Of course, other months would have slightly different maps. During Al-Sadar’s uprising the province of Al Najaf would have been red for example. But the overall pattern is clear. The “insurgency” is geographically concentrated. Most of Iraq sees little or no violence directed against the Coalition. For example, a minimum of 29 of the fatalities occured within a 50 kilometer radius of a point halfway between Falujah and Baghdad.
The violence shown on TV seems intense but remember that it would take only a few hundred individuals to carry out these attacks. 9/11 was carried out by 19 individuals with a supporting group of another 40 or so. It takes a team of only 2 or 3 individuals to assemble, deploy and detonate a roadside bomb of the kind that has killed the majority of U.S. personnel. Terrorism does not have to involve a large section of the population in order to create a mediaphillic event.
We are looking at a small scale, localized “insurgency” with a very limited operational range. There is no evidence the “insurgency” has wide support within the population either numerically or geographically. Given time, they can be squeezed and destroyed.
(cross posted at Shannon Love’s Blog)
(Update 30 Sept: Somethings brought out in the comments. (1) The map was accurate as of 25 Sept 2004. Deaths have occurred since then in other areas. The British had suffered no causalities in the month of Sept until the 27th for example. (2) I mapped combat fatalities only because they are the best indicators for the intensity of the fighting. Injuries are inconsistently reported and non-combat deaths don’t tell up much about the intensity or distribution of the insurgents and terrorist. (3) September has been a relatively quite month overall. My main point in creating the map was to make that graphically clear. The media was in my opinion letting its if-it-bleeds-leads mentality convey a distorted picture of the conflict during the month of Sept.)