Monday, July 02, 2007

Comparisons and Verificiation

Protein Wisdom links to a piece on an Al-Quaeda in Iraq massacre and slams the non-26%er crowd at the same time:

Michael Yon has just posted a report of an entire farming village liquidated by al-Qaeda “fighters” in anticipation of the arrival of American forces. I think that it will be instructive to compare the number of column inches devoted to this with those devoted to Haditha.

Of course, they may just be voicing their frustration with the declining numbers of civilian deaths in June, the poor dears.

Two very simple points:

1) Everyone agrees that AQI, and Al-Queada are barbarians. That is not in doubt. We should be better than comparing ourselves to barbarians and when that comparison comes out, we should be in a different moral universe, and not just marginally better. That is why Haditha received the response it did.

2) On casualty figures, the first reports for June are an improvement. However, I remember Operation Forward Together and how that aggressive sweep, patrol and presence campaign last summer was supposed to be producing significantly positive results including reducing the civilian death toll due to sectarian fighting. Last August Centcom announced some good news,
a 60% reduction in civilian deaths. A couple of weeks later, the rest of the story came out: (Via the Reaction)

It turns out the official toll of violent deaths in August was just revised upwards to 1535 from 550, tripling the total. Now, we're depressingly used to hearing about deaths here, so much so that the numbers can be numbing. But this means that a much-publicized drop-off in violence in August – heralded by both the Iraqi government and the US military as a sign that a new security effort in Baghdad was working -- apparently didn't exist.....

Violent deaths now appear roughly in line with the earlier trend: 1855 in July and 1595 in June

We have a GIGO problem, and it is a problem that goes beyond Centcom and MNF-I. It is a systemic information gathering system that has failed as reported by a Washington Post reporter:

News services reported 1,227 civilians died violently in June, a 36 percent decrease from May and the lowest monthly total since the Baghdad security plan started in mid-February.

The figure was provided by the Iraqi ministries of interior, defense and health, according to the news services. Iraqi state television reported the same death toll.

A spokesman for the Interior Ministry, Brig. Abdul Kareem Khalaf, said that he did not know whether the death toll was correct and that no one from the Interior Ministry was authorized to release fatality figures.....

Establishing the number of civilians killed in Iraq is difficult because there is no reliable or transparent system to track the figures.

The U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq had been providing periodic statistics on civilian casualties but did not include death tolls in its last human rights report in April because the Iraqi government failed to provide them.

"We have no way of determining the veracity of these figures," said Said Arikat, a U.N. spokesman in Baghdad. "We call on the government to release those figures to us. I think it's important for Iraq and important for the government of Iraq."

Wait until there is some significant confirmation one way or another for we are dealing with known prevaricators and a shitty information system.

No comments: