Sunday, August 07, 2005

Body Count

It's been a frequent topic of conversation between Mary and me that the casualty count in Iraq is conspicuously lacking report of Iraqi civilian injury and death as reported in US Media. Seldom have I seen so much as an estimate, acknowledgement, or cumulative report of Iraqi civilians.

That tells me that we're not telling ourselves the truth about what's going on over here. It makes the "war" easier to digest if we're not actively aware that over 23,000 civilians have died in this country since 2003 (Iraq Body Count). There is a scientific study found on this site. It appears to have been compiled and reported by people from Oxford, but I'm not exactly sure. I have included the links here for you to see for yourself.

Please give me your thoughts on this. I'm curious as to what anyone else sees in these numbers, or even in the study itself. I am a mathematician with a great interest in statistical analysis, complete with awareness for how numbers can be "tweaked" to say what one wants them to say. But can you really "tweak" 23,000 from otherwise negligible numbers? Tell me what you think.

4 Comments:

At 8/07/2005 3:27 PM, Blogger Mustang 09 said...

Bottom line up front: all deaths are tragic in this hellhole. Every day I wake up with 2 thoughts on my mind; surviving this day and praying I don’t have to take a life this day.

With that said, I recommend you take a look at this report from the Brookings institution, which can hardly be accused of having a right wing agenda: http://www.brookings.edu/fp/saban/iraq/index.pdf
This report includes the good and the bad, oil production numbers which indicate production is at 97% of pre-war levels, GDP exceeding pre-war levels, electrical production in megawatt hours exceeding pre-war levels nationwide but significantly below pre-war levels in Baghdad. It also includes civilian, military and insurgent casualty estimates from several sources. Also, take a look at the cell phone usage pre and post war. Wow.

Now, some brief observations of the Iraqbodycount.org report. I threw this together pretty quick, based on a quick reading of the report, so please don’t beat me up if I missed anything!

The report itself admits that it is based upon the maximum estimated death toll according to their model, different organizations list the death total between 10,000 and 65,800 (highest estimate including deaths from crime)

No category exists for insurgents killed, the study states that they were excluded from the count, but since a significant portion of the count comes from mortuary statistics, the method used to exclude that number is unclear; implying that insurgents killed by Coalition forces are may have been counted as civilian casualties.

The only deaths attributed to “anti-occupation” forces (terrorists) are those that media reports state were the result of insurgent activity, which by default implies that Coalition forces are responsible for all deaths that can’t be proven to have been caused by insurgent or criminal activity. The spikes in civilian deaths attributed to US forces during the Fallujah and Najaf offensives could be insurgents not identified as such, or could have been killed by insurgents but lacking the “proof” of media confirmation, were attributed to US forces. In spite of this possible misattribution, insurgent activity was responsible for more civilian deaths nearly every month. If the same standard of “proof” were applied to deaths attributed to US forces, the number attributed to US forces would likely be much lower.

You and I both know from personal experience that the US troops here are not a bunch of trigger happy cowboys running around wantonly killing civilians, as this report not so subtly suggests. I do not dispute the numbers killed, nor deny the abject tragedy of those numbers. But I don’t believe for a second that US forces were responsible directly for that number of deaths or that all were innocent civilians. Just the demographic that 82% of those killed were adult males indicates at least the possibility that many of those killed were insurgents counted as civilians. Since the insurgents are doing such a fine job of dropping rockets and detonating IED’s at our gate, you’ll forgive me if I don’t mourn their passing.

 
At 8/07/2005 5:03 PM, Blogger Mary Godwin said...

However you shake out the numbers of this report, however you speculate on the implications or reasonable conclusions of who's who and how many, IF as many as 2,000 Iraqi citizens have died innocently, the ire of the American people should rise no less on account of their deaths than it does on behalf of the now (approaching) 2,000 deaths of American citizens sent to "liberate" their country. To measure the loss of life differently for one member of a team than for the other - those who are (reportedly) all on the same side in this war - is to suggest that one of the team members is more/less important than the other. Is an American life more important than an Iraqi life? I thought we were in this together. ... We're all equal, but some of us are more equal than others?

I think this is what Tommi is trying to get at with her post, and to foreground overall "quality of life" statistics in a discussion of loss of life is to miss the point. I mourn loss of all life (enemy or not, EVEN those dropping crap on the gate where my daughter is serving), but I especially mourn the loss of innocent lives - those snuffed out by a war, politic, prejudice, action, or failure of international diplomacy who died having had no choice as to whether or not they would participate in the madness.

 
At 8/08/2005 12:15 AM, Anonymous mlb said...

It is incredibly distressing that some many have died, both civilian and non-civilian in Iraq. Assigning a number to the population makes one's heart
sink.

In looking that the study you sited, it is evident that they put a lot of work and time into making it readable to the "general, educated public", this makes me question the validity and the completeness of the study.

A couple of questions to consider...only media reports that were available in english were used (biased?) and they stated that cross-checking was done (but didn't explain it very well).
I have a huge problem considering media reports as the sole source for all of this data, however I cannot think of another to use.

In no way do I believe that the validity of Iraqi civilian mortality data, in anyway makes even one persons death, on either side, any less disheartening.

 
At 8/10/2005 8:17 AM, Anonymous Randy W said...

Body count don't mean nothing! You wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night thinking is my loved ones,family, fiends, buddies or co-workers still alive. Those published numbers come with someones agenda and cannot be trusted. Unless things have changed since I was on the recieving end. I still have AP newspaper articlas about events I personaly experienced that said no American losses and I know that was no where near the truth. As I look over the list of the body count collectors each one has to many angles to work to their own advantage. I make no apology for not trusting the score keepers. I just refuse to be manipulated intellectually or emotioinally by people I do not know for reasons I do not understand. I fully understand that people are dieing or worse with injuries to body and soul. I recently spent a day at the VA hospital and saw realilty first hand. The term body count is mearly a topic uninformed journalists or politicians use to make headlines for what ever reason or political angle. I would like to have the term dropped form our language. If you have lost a loved one how would you feel about having them referreed to as a body count?
Body count....I for one don't believe it , don't trust it and don't like it! I do understand completly mustang 09's view on who he will mourn and how he starts his day.

 

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