August 31, 2007
The Surge's Untrustworthy Numbers
The big factoid in favor of the surge is that violence is down. As Bush put it a few months back, "Within Baghdad, our military reports that despite an upward trend in May, sectarian murders in the capital are significantly down from what they were in January."
Devil, meet details. The Pentagon classifies violence as "sectarian killings," not simple murders. So those numbers don't count, among other things, Shia on Shia violence in the South, Sunni on Sunni violence -- including between al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and Iraqis Sunnis -- in the North, carbombings, and much else. But even within this vastly constrained definition, the Pentagon, without letting anyone in on their methodology, is changing the definition from month to month. Ilan Goldberg did the lord's work by graphing the Pentagon's numbers from the last few reports, and watch how the numbers for the very same months change with each successive report:
And we're not just seeing random fluctuations -- they're mainly changing downward, in order to reflect lower sectarian violence. But why would the January 2006 be lower in the June report than in the March report? Were the dead resurrected?
"But wait!" You say (because you're rude, and you interrupt a lot). "In the June report, killings were revised upward! That's true. But the timing matters. As Goldberg explains, "The impact here is that it makes the “pre surge” situation look extraordinarily dire and therefore signals progress thereafter."
The shell game here has to do with the term "sectarian murders," which the Pentagon is apparently defining differently from month to month, albeit without telling anyone what's changed. In other words, you can't trust these numbers. But they're the ones that are being used -- and will be used -- to argue for the Surge's success.
we carpet the area with a vast, military machine that destroys the fabric of iranian lives, costs human lives, destroys their ecology and infrastructure... costs us billions of dollars.
...the area must crawl with soldiers with pointed guns and tanks...what must it be like to live there, in dusty,bloody heat and constant fear?
...the measure of success.
........and when the carpet of soldiers and tanks and guns, leaves....then what?
...if any more funds are authorized for this hellwar, by congress, it will be past lunacy.
..but now i understand it is not about withdrawal.
...we are there permanently now, one way or the other, and it doesnt matter what the human or material cost of this war will be.
we have dug in our heels.
the occupation has been a success.
Posted by: jacqueline | Aug 31, 2007 10:15:17 AM
sorry, meant iraqi lives..
was just reading something about iran,
and it all blurs.
Posted by: jacqueline | Aug 31, 2007 10:21:13 AM
You mean that not all violence in Iraq can be attributed to sectarian motivation?
What a mind-blowingly unusual idea that no one has ever blogged about before.
Posted by: Stephen | Aug 31, 2007 10:22:05 AM
It's a good graph, but Nov 07 should read Nov 06. I dropped a comment on Ilan Goldbeg's piece in Democracy Arsenal but he doesn't seem to have noticed it. I'm not trying to be pedantic here, I just figure we want this to get widely disseminated and thus best to fix typos and save some push back later.
Posted by: Greg Sanders | Aug 31, 2007 10:32:56 AM
tch tch tch the correct title for this post was "The Goldberg Variations" also Goldberg must by psychic or something since he has data from November 07.
Posted by: Robert Waldmann | Aug 31, 2007 12:06:15 PM
I think his name is Goldenberg?
Posted by: josh | Aug 31, 2007 1:43:25 PM
Posted by: judy | Oct 11, 2007 6:38:18 AM
The comments to this entry are closed.