Friday, August 01, 2008

"Casualties" Down in Iraq

We're being told now that Casualties are Dropping in Iraq.

Rest assured, first of all, that we're only talking about American and coalition forces. (Is there anyone left in that coalition?) No need to discuss all of the Iraqis fleeing, starving and dying. We didn't talk about them when Clinton and Blair were starving them with sanctions, sewage and dirty water so we definitely don't need to talk about them now.

But there they have a graph which purports to show that Americans are dying less and less each month in Iraq and, we are to assume, therefore things are getting better. We're winning. Yay!

Not quite. Let's take a moment and pretend that someone had handed this to us as a study, something entitled, "Trends in Violence in Iraq Indicate Success", or some such thing. Then we'd have to examine the methodology of the whole thing.

1. Is it true that we're actually on a downward trend? It certainly looks like it from the way the G&M has snipped out the last year of data. But suppose we look at the data from October 2004 to September 2005. Would we not see the same apparent "trend" only to watch it disappear in noise a month later? Human eyes and brains are terrible for seeing patterns where none exist. The same phenomenon leads millions of people to believe in psychics and mediums the world over.

2. Is it true that reducing the casualties on the invading side of the war actually means that life is getting better for the occupied people? I don't see how this is true. Maybe the Americans finally started buying good armour for their soldiers and their vehicles. A better graph might depict how many Iraqis are being killed by occupying soldiers.

3. Are there other, artificial factors which might lead to this occurrence? For instance, there's an American presidential election coming up. Is it possible that, just as past presidents have opened up the strategic oil reserve in order to lower gas prices and win reelection, the president might also order reduced patrolling in order to lower the casualty rate and provide his successor with better debating ground? I don't see any evidence of this, but I know that Bush and McCain aren't above this sort of thing and I'd hardly expect any evidence.

No, this is a flawed, feel-good piece of nonsense that fails to analyze properly all of the factors that might have contributed to whatever effect it is that is actually seen.

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