Posted by: Lister | September 11, 2007

Statistics don’t lie — people do

Shifting goal posts, benchmarks, whatever. Cherry picking the data. You pick your conclusion first and then decide how make your decision. Why worry? After all, if you loose this bet…. You can always play double or nothing until you get your money back. So easy when you are divorced from the consequences of your actions.

The President’s address to the nation, 2007:

The most urgent priority for success in Iraq is security, especially in Baghdad. Eighty percent of Iraq’s sectarian violence occurs within 30 miles of the capital. This violence is splitting Baghdad into sectarian enclaves, and shaking the confidence of all Iraqis.

[…] Our troops will have a well-defined mission: to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods, to help them protect the local population, and to help ensure that the Iraqi forces left behind are capable of providing the security that Baghdad needs.

[…] This new strategy will not yield an immediate end to suicide bombings, assassinations, or IED attacks. Our enemies in Iraq will make every effort to ensure that our television screens are filled with images of death and suffering. Yet over time, we can expect to see Iraqi troops chasing down murderers, fewer brazen acts of terror, and growing trust and cooperation from Baghdad’s residents. When this happens, daily life will improve, Iraqis will gain confidence in their leaders, and the government will have the breathing space it needs to make progress in other critical areas. Most of Iraq’s Sunni and Shia want to live together in peace — and reducing the violence in Baghdad will help make reconciliation possible.

Need a metric for success?
The progress in ethnic cleansing is a sign of success. It is the first step towards reconciliation. Therefore: continue the surge.

Under siege: what the surge really means in Baghdad

A city divided by high concrete walls, barbed wire and checkpoints; armoured columns moving through deserted evening streets lit by the glow of searchlights and emptied by official curfew and fear. This is Baghdad, seven months into the surge, and George Bush’s last throw of the dice in Iraq.

On the surface, the Iraqi capital is less overtly violent than it used to be. The number of car bombings have fallen to “only” 23 a month from 42 in the same period last year, there are fewer sounds of explosions and gunfire than in the past, and there is, generally, less tension. And some of that must be due to the presence of more troops.

But for many Iraqis, the Americans have turned their land into a prison. The barriers, which have turned Baghdad into a series of ghettos, are meant to keep the bombers out, but they also keep residents penned in. People may feel safer inside their neighbourhoods, but are more wary of venturing outside them. A short journey across the city can take hours with roads blocked off and numerous checkpoints, discouraging people from visiting relations and friends and reinforcing the sense of isolation.

[…] Shia fighters have driven out Sunni families from areas such as Huriya, Shaab and Shalla. The Sunnis, in turn, have done the same to the Shias in places such as Khradrah, Amil and Jamiya. The properties are the source of more funding for the militias who organise their rentals. The Mehdi Army, led by the radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, has been in the forefront of this ethnic cleansing, having to do little apart from put red markings on Sunni homes they want, a message the owners seldom argue with.

Residents seeing their neighbours being driven out are too afraid to do anything. At Huriya, which has lost all its Sunni households, Hakim al-Karim, a 42-year-old computer software designer, said “We know a man who was killed because he was a Sunni and they wanted his house. No one did anything, but do not blame us, there is nothing we could do. If they find out they will kill you. Who are you going to go to? The Americans? They are not going to stay in my street to protect my family. The police? You don’t even know who they really work for.”

The purge of the neighbourhoods have helped bring down the number of violent deaths, driving people out means there are fewer sectarian targets left for the militias to kill.

And here’s a lesson in how to count: Mounting death toll which makes a mockery of US optimism

Since the start of the surge, the deaths of US soldiers have fallen from a peak of 120 in May to 56 in August. But there are significant discrepancies between the figures for civilian deaths presented by the US military and independent estimates. According to American authorities, 165 civilians were murdered in Baghdad in August, a slight increase on the previous two months, but a sizeable decrease since the beginning of the surge. However, figures released by Iraq’s Interior Ministry suggest that at least 428 people were murdered in Baghdad last month, and 612 in July. The Associated Press’s tally of civilian deaths throughout Iraq in August was 1,809, the highest this year.

Under the US military’s rules, a corpse shot in the back of the head is a ” sectarian” killing, while one shot through the front is deemed to be a criminal one. Even under this arbitrary criterion it would be difficult on many occasions to distinguish which particular group a death may fall under. Attendants at the Baghdad morgue point out that victims often bear multiple gunshot wounds.


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