When speaking of homicide, there are two separate frames to contend with in the popular media. The first probably consists of reporting murders within the country, and to that end it is likely to be a quick number and brief details on the nightly news of who was killed in a major metropolitan area. The second frame must contend with deaths outside of America, and then it is most likely a total reported via a conflict of some sort.
Just comparing basic statistics for a major metropolitan area inside the borders of the United States, the murder rate can be gathered year by year and compared historically. For the metro area in and around Washington D.C., the number of homicides for 2005 was 466. The year prior the number hit 420. Obviously that is more than one slaying per day in the general vicinity of the nation's capital and a grisly reminder of the rate of violent crime in the area.
For the month of April, Baghdad tallied almost 1,100 dead by violence. Pause on that figure for a moment. This is not crime-related violence, or a surge in drug gangs and turf wars. Rather, this is one ethnic group taking on another ethnic group and bodies are piling up.
If Baghdad has a homicide rate of 10,000 per year, would that be enough to state that there is a civil war raging in Iraq, or is it that a civil war is classified when one side wears dark blue uniforms and the other butternut gray?