Military officials here are fond of saying that progress can coexist with violence. I think it's true -- one doesn't necessarily cancel out the other. Nor does the experience of one of the many Iraqis grappling with almost unimaginable losses make the kind of sweeping political statement that some readers see lurking there.
My colleague, who wrote about his preoccupation with people dying, would be one of the last people to say that things were better under Saddam. He's just trying to get by, not make comparisons.
"Blood is still blood and human beings are still human beings," he says. That doesn't mean he doesn't have a right to the fear and uncertainty and overwhelming grief that characterizes life in Baghdad for a lot of people now.
I've always thought Americans were known for their compassion. So why is it that this young father, a quite typical Iraqi, isn't allowed to mourn all the people he knows who have died? If your friends or your neighbors were blown to pieces or shot in the street would people have quite this reaction?
We can debate the figures. We should debate the figures. We have no way of proving that hundreds of thousands have died apart from the daily death toll and the knowledge that deaths are officially under-reported here.
But we can't debate that by almost every measure this is the most complicated conflict the United States has entered.
I interviewed Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the commander of ground forces here, yesterday. I'd covered him when he was in charge of the 4th Infantry Division in 2003 and 2004 and asked him what U.S. forces understand now that they didn't then.
"First," he said, "We understand that it's much more complex than we expected. I think we understand the psychological aspects of this. You know that fundamentally the Iraqis, they are a different culture than we are, and I think we're a bit more attuned to that than we were initially."
So if a three-star general is telling us that Iraqis are complicated and it's really important to the U.S. to understand them, we might want to listen to some Iraqis. Like my colleague.
As I write this, there are mortars landing in a neighborhood not far from here. It's so normal that unless they're close enough to rattle the windows no one even comments on it. That doesn't mean that a lot of people in that neighborhood won't get up and go to work the next morning and even send their children to school. It also doesn't erase the fact that mortars fell there tonight.
I would assume that people who use the word "fraud" so easily aren't really open to other opinions but since a blog is by nature a bit more personal, let me tell you a bit about my credentials.
I've covered Iraq since 1991. I was the only Western reporter based here in the late 1990s. I have had the privilege of reporting from the front lines with soldiers and Marines in almost every major battle of this war - Najaf, Samarra, Fallujah, Tal Afar and a lot of them in between. I have been to those soldiers' homecoming ceremonies, their memorials, and met their families. Most of those men and women would laugh at the idea that any of them are ever "for war."
I can't imagine that anyone wouldn't want this to be better than it is right now. That doesn't mean that we can afford not to acknowledge the complexity of what it's like here. Until those people who want to believe we're making this all up come and walk in these streets -- or better yet -- talk to an Iraqi who lives here, we reporters are the closest thing you've got to being here.