Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 13, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

IED ATTACKS....A couple of days ago I mentioned that Gen. Petraeus's PowerPoint chart showing IED attacks in Iraq included "hoaxes" in its count. That seemed odd, and I wondered what the chart would look like if it showed only actual IED attacks.

Over at Newshoggers, Cernig delivers. By abstracting data from another one of Petraeus's charts, he replots the graph without the hoaxes. Result: there's still a dropoff in attacks over the past eight weeks (Cernig's weekly count provides the best view), but it looks rather more modest than it does in Petraeus's chart. Funny how that works.

Kevin Drum 12:59 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (34)

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Comments

Did you see the Petraeus chart that clearly demonstrated the growth in domestic Iraqi pony production?

Posted by: Disputo on September 13, 2007 at 1:29 AM | PERMALINK

Hoaxes are taken seriously. Hoaxes are used by insurgents to keep coalition forces "off-balance." It's easy to dismiss them in hindsight, but it's not so easy when the situation is evolving. Hoaxes can have very real effects. I don't really get your beef with including them.

Posted by: pidgas on September 13, 2007 at 2:08 AM | PERMALINK

I just got through watching the highlights of the Bush administration's latest dog-and-pony show on Capitol Hill.

You know, if all these fuckin' assholes in the White House -- the duplicitous and faustian Gen. David Petraeus now included in their ranks -- had only used but half as much creativity and ingenuity in actually conducting their business in a fair, decent, competent and ethical manner, as they do in trying perpetually to bullshit everyone into believing that they are, our mission would be over by now, Osama bin Laden and al-Qa'eda would be fuckin' toast, and our troops would be home with their families and friends where they belong.

Worst. Administration. Ever. Period. End of discussion.

Aloha.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on September 13, 2007 at 2:55 AM | PERMALINK

What the heck is an IED hoax?

Not a bomb?

Then how'd you know it was there?

Posted by: Crissa on September 13, 2007 at 3:17 AM | PERMALINK

This is a good news story no matter how you try to spin it. Al Qaeda is running out of explosives to make IEDs with, and are forced to using decoys.

Or would liberals prefer they were still using real bombs?

Posted by: Al on September 13, 2007 at 7:58 AM | PERMALINK

Stopping to investigate if something suspicious is not an attack on US troops; it is an example of US troops providing good force protection for themselves.

It also provides cover for the fact that, over four years into this war, the Pentagon simply cannot deploy enough equipment to help in the fight. There are not enough sophisticated jammers, bomb sniffing dogs, Mine Resistant Vehicles, or remote operated robots to clear suspicious devices. Instead of talking about why we are deficient in these areas, despite knowing for over four years that this is what we face in Iraq every day and this is what kills the majority of our troops, they would rather confuse the issue and talk about "IED hoaxes,"

These "IED hoaxes" are a way to cook the books and change the statistical data in a way that favors a predetermined set of conclusions. You can add it to the lexicon, I suppose. There are dozens of other methods used by insurgents to slow, redirect or change the behavior of our troops in the field. The use of graffitti, roadblocks, burning tires and placing barrels of trash in certain configurations also approximates a "fake" IED. How many unnecessary roadblocks are our troops facing each day, created by flattening the tires of abandoned vehicles and dragging them out into roadways? What's the fake roadblock count, general? How many burning barrels of shit did they leave along the road to the Baghdad airport, general? That number is down thirty percent? Wow! I guess we're winning.

Pathetic.

The only thing missing from Petraeus' report was a conclusive body count, showing how our units are trading casualties ten to one with the insurgents and that the light at the end of the tunnel is nearer than it was a year ago.

Posted by: Pale Rider on September 13, 2007 at 8:13 AM | PERMALINK

Come on! Give the man six more months alone with powerpoint and this war will be over.

Posted by: B on September 13, 2007 at 8:32 AM | PERMALINK

Al-- But now that the insurgents know that we're tabulating IED hoaxes as a key measure of success, they know to increase them! Petraeus is worse than the traitors at the New York Times! OH NOOOOOOE!!1!1!!!1eleven!!!

Posted by: Elvis Elvisberg on September 13, 2007 at 8:38 AM | PERMALINK

Real Al once again fails his reading comprehension test.

There aren't more fake bombs. There are fewer. In fact we've nearly defeated the fake bombers.

Posted by: toast on September 13, 2007 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

"This is a good news story no matter how you try to spin it."

The fact that they use any graph documenting the use of IEDs as "good news" is troubling and offensive. Put yourself in the place of soldiers patroling the outskirts of Baghdad on foot, not knowing when you might encounter such a device. I know of one such soldier (the son of a friend) who was seriously wounded when an IED exploded close by. His best friend stepped on it and the only thing he recognized of his friend's remains was his head, lying on the road detached from his body. In another incident, another of his friends was killed near a bridge in an IED explosion. As they searched for remains of his friend he found one of his boots on the edge of the river. When he picked it up his friend's foot was still in the boot.

Imagine trying to live with those images burned into your memory. PLEASE don't try to justify anything about this idiotic "war" until you've walked in the shoes of a soldier serving in that God-forsaken place.

Posted by: lamonte on September 13, 2007 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

Would you not expect a reduction in IED's to produce a reduction in wounded and killed Americans???? I see no such reduction. I would like to see if this reduction of IEDs is related to the number of American patrols.

Posted by: jerri on September 13, 2007 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

I believe it was Michael Yon who described some troops going through a field that was covered with tripwires that might or might not be attached to an IED. The idea is to slow the troops down and force them to spend time clearing an area that may or may not have one or more IED buried in it.

Quite a nerve racking read because, unfortunately, of the dozens of tripwires the guys were up against in that one field, it would only took one to kill them. And, of course, if the troops let the fake IEDs make them complacent it can make the real thing quite a bit more effective.

Besides, all those cautiously moving troops make easier targets for snipers.

So, decoys and "hoaxes" can be quite deadly in their own way.

Posted by: Strick on September 13, 2007 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

"So, decoys and 'hoaxes' can be quite deadly in their own way"

As well, as going into rescue those injured from a real event. A young Captain, from the Portland area, assigned to the Stryker Brigade, while on his second tour, was struck in June by a sniper while leading a rescue mission following an IED explosion. He died a couple of days ago at the military hospital near Ft Lewis from the injury.

But, as Bill O'Reilly said, a thousand more in the next year should be worth the price.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on September 13, 2007 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

Hoaxes are taken seriously. Hoaxes are used by insurgents to keep coalition forces "off-balance." It's easy to dismiss them in hindsight, but it's not so easy when the situation is evolving. Hoaxes can have very real effects. I don't really get your beef with including them.

I see this has been said in longer-form a few times above, but counting the hoaxes makes it look like IED attacks have gone down a lot, when actual bomb attacks have not gone down nearly as much. It's misleading, then, to count them, and most probably intentionally so, if when Petraeus offered the statistic he didn't explicitly and up-front point out that the statistics includes hoaxes. That's the point.

Posted by: Swan on September 13, 2007 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

crissa wrote:

What the heck is an IED hoax?

Not a bomb?

Then how'd you know it was there?
_______________________

crissa, an IED hoax is meant to be noticed. It can be used to slow a patrol or to get infantry to dismount from their armored vehicles so as to be targeted by snipers or grenadiers with RPGs. Stringing dummy wires that have to be followed to their end takes up time, frays the nerves, and can lead to complaicancy. Also, a real IED can be command detonated close to a fake IED being examined by our soldiers.

Posted by: trashhauler on September 13, 2007 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

Also, a real IED can be command detonated close to a fake IED being examined by our soldiers.

A roadblock, a pile of garbage, a scarecrow with women's underwear on it--these can all do the same thing.

A "Fake IED" is not an attack on US troops, as you posited yesterday. Responding to a "Fake IED" is simply good force protection.

An actual IED is an actual attack, whether it explodes or not.

This is the statistical game these bean-counting idiots want people to play. They come up with VBIED, VOIED, EFP, and a host of other acronyms to further break down and dilute the actual number of attacks and play this tricky little game.

It's a bomb used against our troops. They copied it straight out of the Viet Cong handbook and updated it to take into account our vehicles and our body armor. I'm sure there was a dude two hundred years ago buring a clay pot full of gunpowder somewhere with a slow burning fuse. And he copied it from a two hundred year old book. And so on and so forth.

Only a bureaucrat with a diseased mind and a ghoulish need to count more beans a slightly different way would sit there and parse this into new and different metrics.

Puh-leeze...

Posted by: Pale Rider on September 13, 2007 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

The bottom line has to be the number of casualties inflicted by the attacks. Those were at record levels for Summer, so we can infer the insurgents are getting more efficient.

Posted by: bob h on September 13, 2007 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

Wait. There was actually data in Petraeus' charts? I didn't see anything...of substance.

Posted by: ckelly on September 13, 2007 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

Al wrote:

This is a good news story no matter how you try to spin it. Al Qaeda is running out of explosives to make IEDs with, and are forced to using decoys.

Or would liberals prefer they were still using real bombs?

Well if it's the number of decoy attacks not being counted that makes the decline in total attacks look a lot smaller, then- all else being equal- that would seem to suggest there are less total attacks not because the Iraqis are running out of explosives, but rather because they are not going out. That is, it's the number of decoy attacks (which don't require explosives) not the number of real attacks (which do require explosives) that really dropped a lot.

And that in turn could mean that once the forces are gone, they will go back out again. Therefore, explosive attacks could go back up after the surge ends.

Posted by: Swan on September 13, 2007 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

Oops- html mistake- this sentence, Or would liberals prefer they were still using real bombs? was supposed to be italicized in my last comment, as part of the quote from Al.

Posted by: Swan on September 13, 2007 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

This is a good news story no matter how you try to spin it. Al Qaeda is running out of explosives to make IEDs with, and are forced to using decoys.

Or would liberals prefer they were still using real bombs?

Al

Liberals would prefer that clowns like you go out and deal with these things, and take Bush and Cheney along with you.

If you had clicked the link (as you used to say) you would have read that the number of actual bombs was greater (19,000) in the 7 months of the surge compared to the 7 months before the surge (15,000).

They're running out of decoys, Al, not bombs. Now try to spin that one into your usual good news.

Posted by: tomeck on September 13, 2007 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

pidgas: I don't really get your beef with including them.

Hoaxes are not violence; exploding IEDs are violence.

If one is trying to prove a reduction in violence, then including hoaxes is misleading.

I don't really get your beef with the critics beef.

Hoaxes may have real effects, but they don't directly result in violence and therefore are not a measure of violence.

Your interpretation is like measuring the crime rate by including pranks that aren't also actual crimes and claiming that some pranks can turn into crimes or can result in civil harm so its okay to include them.

Posted by: anonymous on September 13, 2007 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

"A "Fake IED" is not an attack on US troops, as you posited yesterday."
_____________________

Actually, I said it was an indication of enemy activity.

It's correct to say that anything can be called a fake or hoax IED, but there is another reason to keep track of them. Fake IEDs can be set up be sympathetic, but otherwise inactive, supporters of the insurgency. It can give a person some measure of street cred with the local toughs and is more safely done than actually planting a bomb. A drop in hoax IEDs can indicate that people don't think they need to bother with such things anymore.

Has anyone given thought to the idea that the power point ranger who did the slide innocently decided to simply the slide or forgot to add explanatory notes? (By the way, did the slide have briefing notes attached?) Happens all the time, especially when the slide is a regular item in daily briefings - the people who normally see it tend to forget the assumptions behind the slide and don't include explanations when using it for another purpose, counting on the General to comment on it if asked. I've done it myself. Sometimes it's come back to bite me, in the form of followup Congressional questions. There might be somebody writing an expansive paper on the subject right now, cursing his failure to add notes to the slide in the first place.

Posted by: trashhauler on September 13, 2007 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

I meant "simplify the slide"

Posted by: trashhauler on September 13, 2007 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

Has anyone given thought to the idea that the power point ranger who did the slide innocently decided to simply the slide or forgot to add explanatory notes?

How droll...Trashy still pretends this Administration acts in good faith.

But then, pretending that someone "forgot to add explanatory notes" on this Administration's Hail Mary dog-and-pony show -- its desperation effort to punt the Iraq mess into the lap of the next President -- hardly smaks of good faith either.

Par for the course for Trashy.

Posted by: Gregory on September 13, 2007 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Oh goody, a Power Point Ranger tab to wear on his uniform - Only decent one he now adorns himself with is the CIB.

Now, if only he could wear a PPR Presenter ribbon with oak leaf clusters.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on September 13, 2007 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

Truthmauler: I said it was an indication of enemy activity.

So are shipments of medical supplies. Has nothing to do with measuring violence.

It's correct to say that anything can be called a fake or hoax IED, but there is another reason to keep track of them.

No one is arguing that we shouldn't be keeping track of them.

The argument is that we shouldn't be tracking them as incidents of violence and, thus, measuring the level of violence with them included.

"Enemy activity" does not equal "violent activity;" measuring "enemy activity" is not measuring "violence" any more than measuring criminal activity is a measurement of criminal violence.

Which is why "violent crime" is treated as a separate category when opining on crime statistics.

Your attempt to dissemble and confuse the issues is unsuccessful.

Posted by: anonymous on September 13, 2007 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

About tracking hoax IEDs being enemy activity, anonymous wrote:

"So are shipments of medical supplies. Has nothing to do with measuring violence."
______________________

And, we'll track medical supplies, if that's what it takes to achieve a greater understanding about how the enemy operates. Violence is not the only metric used in warfare.

This brouhaha about the dark motivations behind what is probably nothing more than a less-than-ept slide is similar to the heavy breathing about the Beauchamp articles in TNR.

Posted by: Trashhauler on September 13, 2007 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

This brouhaha about the dark motivations behind what is probably nothing more than a less-than-ept slide

Actually, Bush apologist Trashy's decreasingly convincing fantasies of Administration good faith leads one to suspect not only that the metrics are bullshit, but also that everyone knows it, and Republicans are beginning to panic at how much of a flop Petraeus' shilling was.

Posted by: Gregory on September 13, 2007 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

"Oh goody, a Power Point Ranger tab to wear on his uniform....."
_____________________

Nobody starts out to be a Power Point Ranger, Paul, and General Petraeus almost certainly didn't do his own slides. It's a chore and penance for most officers, but someone has to do it. As you certainly know, most staff officers endure the duty only as a necessary stop between operational assignments. One suspects you would have been just as skeptical about hand-drawn charts done with felt tip pens.

Posted by: Trashhauler on September 13, 2007 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

Another possible explanation for the reduction in IED attacks is that the military could be reducing patrols and staying on base in the runup to the Pretraeus report.

Posted by: croatoan on September 13, 2007 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

It seems that the new up-armored vehicles touted by Joe Biden have considerable practical drawbacks and a likely short period of being effective.

http://www.washingtonspectator.com/articles/20070915heavymetal.cfm

Posted by: Bob Putnam on September 13, 2007 at 8:25 PM | PERMALINK
.... One suspects you would have been just as skeptical about hand-drawn charts ... Trashhauler at 2:14 PM
If derived from the same massaged data, of course Posted by: Mike on September 14, 2007 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

Truthmauler: Violence is not the only metric used in warfare.

It is, however, the metric being used by Bush.

Which is why you are dissembling and interjecting irrelevancies.

Bush lied; soldiers died.

"Betray-us" lied and more soldiers died.

Truthmauler lied and soldiers families cried.

Posted by: anonymous on September 14, 2007 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK
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