Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 18, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

YET MORE QUESTIONS....Ilan Goldenberg reads the Pentagon's September report to Congress on stability and security in Iraq and notices something odd: you'd think that the Pentagon's civilian casualty figures (dead and wounded) and Gen. Petraeus's civilian fatality figures would track each other in some consistent way, but they don't — and they especially don't track each other during the surge.

Goldenberg charts the two lines here, and the main difference is that Petraeus's figures show a steady decline in fatalities since December while the Pentagon's casualty figures don't show any decline at all. Hmmm.

According to the MNC-I data there has been no improvement since either December (The numbers Petraeus and the Administration often cite) or February (when the surge actually began). Why wasn't Congress shown these numbers in the presentation by General Petraeus? Why only the good news numbers? Why the lack of clarity on Petraeus's sourcing? Especially since he himself acknowledged that the best numbers come from the MNC-I database.

....Overall, the numbers used by Petraeus have the same effect as all the other inconsistencies. They make the numbers right before the surge look extremely bad and the numbers during the surge look much better. Maybe that's just a coincidence. But it does raise more questions.

Yep. This might all be completely legit. Maybe we're the ones reading the data incorrectly. But why should we be playing these guessing games in the first place? Why doesn't the Pentagon simply release its figures to independent analysts and answer questions about its methodology forthrightly? What are they afraid of?

Kevin Drum 1:02 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (35)

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Comments

Until they retire, everybody close to this administration is afraid of the wrath of Cheney.

Posted by: nemo on September 18, 2007 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

I have long suspected that somehow Cheney has
the equivalent of enormous blackmail power over
a large swath of Washington elites. Its like
he somehow inherited the Hoover files, or the
Hoover apparautus for collecting dirt. It seems
like anyone who has ever had any kind of connection
with him comes under his sway. It cannot be that
Cheney has this influence because of his persuasiveness, or his amazing competence- he seems
to be a pretty transparent liar, and the confidence
of his public utterances are inversely proportional
to how demonstrably incorrect they are in a pretty
short period of time, and his business career seems to have similar lurches, wasn't his big accomplismnent of his haliburton tenure the saddling of them with HUGE asbestos liability?

So How does cheney do it? Either
- jedi mind control on weak-minded
- Blackmail

Posted by: rms on September 18, 2007 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

What are they afraid of? Exposure.

Posted by: fostert on September 18, 2007 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

OT: GOP: FISA's "Minimization" Can Protect Civil Liberties

Nazis: Concentration camps can protect the Jews . . .

Posted by: anonymous on September 18, 2007 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Shocked. I'm shocked I tell you, to find out that The Little Idiot's mouthpiece is cooking the numbers.

Posted by: Cal Gal on September 18, 2007 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

I love how the headlines are making it seem as if it is Kerry or his supporters that are somehow responsible, rather than conservative reactionaries upset at questions that were implicitly critical of Bush.

Posted by: anonymous on September 18, 2007 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

The good general wrote a "rah rah Iraq" editorial right before the 2004 election.

Tell me again why anyone takes him remotely seriously?

(I would really like to know.)

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on September 18, 2007 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

The headlines should have read . . .

"Student Tasered For Posing Questions Critical of President Bush"

Posted by: anonymous on September 18, 2007 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

Obfuscate.

The problem with body counts is that they tell you nothing about the quality of life in Iraq. I'd actually like to see daily postings of,say, the number of megawatts produced daily. (or the number of hours/day that folks have electricity).

The Pentagon has the means to do this reporting.

When the world sees how little electricity is reaching the Iraqis customers then more folks can question the success of our mission (or lack thereof). Body counts are too gruesome. Available electricity is an easy "benchmark" for anyone to grasp.

After that, how about clean water?

Then....healthcare,etc.

It's the life beyond the IED's that the Pentagon needs to accurately portray.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on September 18, 2007 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

"If we were to retreat from the Middle East, the enemy would not be content to remain where they are," he said. "They would follow us."

And yet, according to the administration itself, they have not been content to remain where they are and they're already here in America and elsewhere in the West.

Thus, staying in Iraq isn't keeping them there and the president is clearly lying.

What's new.

Posted by: anonymous on September 18, 2007 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

"The Pentagon has the means to do this reporting."

The pentagon has a surge to sell, and real data doesn't help.

Coincident with the surge the government stopped reporting Baghdad electricity stats:
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/072707E.shtml

Posted by: jefff on September 18, 2007 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

Why doesn't the Pentagon simply release its figures to independent analysts and answer questions about its methodology forthrightly? What are they afraid of?

They're afraid of a bunch of folks like the team at Th Lancet tendentiously gaming the medhodology to make us look bad.

Posted by: minion on September 18, 2007 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

jefff:

The same report Goldenberg gets his casualty numbers from also describes the electricity numbers. Pages 12-15.

Posted by: harry on September 18, 2007 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

Excellent minion parody.

Posted by: Disputo on September 18, 2007 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

What are they afraid of?

The truth?

Posted by: ckelly on September 18, 2007 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

I see the Dick in Hand pattern in the graph of the Patraeus' data.

Posted by: gregor on September 18, 2007 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Yep. This might all be completely legit.

You forgot the Wayne's World punchline, "...and monkeys might fly out of my butt!"

Posted by: Gregory on September 18, 2007 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

If the Pentagon is afraid of the folks at The Lancet, how are they gonna' beat al Qaeda?

And who gave minion the word-a-day calendar?

Posted by: Tendentious D on September 18, 2007 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

The data from Iraq Body Count (IBC) is consistent with Petraeus, i.e. a peak in early 2007, which has tapered off by July 2007, but still higher than before the Samarra bombing in Feb 2006.

IBC has consistent methodology (tracking what has appeared in news reports) applied since the war began, and is obviously no shill for the Bush admin.

Posted by: The Commissar on September 18, 2007 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

There must be a Laffer curve in there somewhere.

Posted by: Nemo on September 18, 2007 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

[Posting the same thing on every thread, no matter the topic is considered spam and we delete spam here.]

Posted by: kyle on September 18, 2007 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

Obama does not have as much experience (relevant to being president) as Bill Clinton and JFK did.

He may nevertheless be experienced enough, but saying he's as experienced as either Clinton or JFK is just flat out wrong.

Posted by: anonymous on September 18, 2007 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

One might note that the casualty figures come nowhere close to the figure of one million dead Iraqis caused by the war. In order to reach that number, casualties would have to have been somewhere between 18,000 and 20,000 Iraqis per month since the beginning of the war.

Posted by: Trashhauler on September 18, 2007 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

Truthmauler once again pushes information that has no relevance to anything.

Posted by: anonymous on September 18, 2007 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

Well, it's certainly inconvenient information, ain't it now, anonymous? If the issue is credibility of statistics and methodology, surely information that illuminates or debunks other much beloved "facts" is relevant.

By the way, calling me "truthmauler" might seem quite cutting by your way of thinking. But casually and repetitively insulting someone isn't especially clever. Negation through ad hominem innuendo is pretty thin rhetoric.

Posted by: Trashhauler on September 18, 2007 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK
One might note that the casualty figures come nowhere close to the figure of one million dead Iraqis caused by the war.

Evidence?

In order to reach that number, casualties would have to have been somewhere between 18,000 and 20,000 Iraqis per month since the beginning of the war.

This in no way demonstrates that the total is nowhere close to a million. Only that for the total to be that horrific, the pace would also have to be horrific, which point is not at all in dispute.

If the issue is credibility of statistics and methodology, surely information that illuminates or debunks other much beloved "facts" is relevant.

Your unsupported assertions neither illuminate nor debunk anything.

By the way, calling me "truthmauler" might seem quite cutting by your way of thinking.

I wouldn't say that.

I would say it seems quite accurate, though.

Posted by: cmdicely on September 18, 2007 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

The evidence, cm, is from Mr. Goldenberg's article. Please note that he took issue with "the Pentagon's data on civilian casualties from its latest report (Pg 20)."

Mr. Goldenberg graphed the Pentagon's data and arrived at deaths per month occassionally exceeding 3,000 and averaging somewhat less. While he took issue with the Pentagon's count, he did not suggest that USCENTCOM was undercounting deaths by a factor or six or seven. In fact, the USCENTCOM chart on page 20 shows that total daily deaths did not exceed 100 until May of 2006, after which they rose to exceed 150 per day in some months.

This evidence can be refuted, of course, if not disproven. Either we can assume our deployed forces and allies somehow missed five or six hundred deaths each day for four years or they have collectively conspired to suppress data nearly from the time we entered Iraq. I submit that the latter would take such extreme effort only a dyed-in-the-wool truther could believe it.

Equally, we must acknowledge there is always the chance that the famous Lancet count and its successor lacked a bit on the methodology side of things.

You should also note that I made no assertions about the accuracy of either the USCENTCOM numbers or the vastly higher study count. I merely pointed out that one does not support the other. And it is true that information that contradicts other facts entered into argument is always relevant. I thought that you, being a lawyer, would at least agree with that.

Finally, cm, your supposition that use of the insulting name "truthmauler" seems accurate doesn't bother me overmuch. You know better, though you'd doubtless bite your tongue before you admitted it.

Posted by: trashhauler on September 18, 2007 at 9:06 PM | PERMALINK

Finally, cm, your supposition that use of the insulting name "truthmauler" seems accurate doesn't bother me overmuch. You know better, though you'd doubtless bite your tongue before you admitted it.

It doesn't suprise me, Trashy, that you revel in you role as a pusher of bullshit GOP talking points, but you're quite mistaken if you imagine anyone confuses you with an honest commentator.

Posted by: Gregory on September 19, 2007 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

Greg, you have no purpose beyond giving insult, therefore you wouldn't recognize bullshit if your mailing address was in the Augean stables.

Posted by: Trashhauler on September 19, 2007 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

How extraordinary, then, that the Augean content of your own posts is obvious even to me; as I said, it's certainly obvious to everyone else here, none of whom mistake you for an honest commentator.

As for the insult, Trashy, if you find being called on your dishonest water carrying for this Administration insulting...well, good.

Posted by: Gregory on September 19, 2007 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

Trashmauler: Well, it's certainly inconvenient information, ain't it now, anonymous?

Who has claimed 1 million dead by the war?

Are you referring to unproven claims that one million Iraqis died during the sanctions as proof that fewer allegedly dying during the war (using a deceptive monthly comparator) makes it a good thing?

You are, of course, ignoring the fact that the war is only a little over four years old, but the sanctions lasted thirteen years, so comparing totals from the two periods, particularly by posing a monthly rate for the war while ignoring any monthly calculations for the sanctions, is dishonestly comparing apples to buffalo chips.

Not to mention . . .

. . . there is no verification of the far-fetched claims of one million Iraqis dead from the sanctions,

. . . the US was not responsible for the choices Saddam made with the funds and resources that were available under the sanction regime (which were sufficient to prevent any extraordinary mortality rates) but is responsible for the war in Iraq and the violence resulting therefrom,

. . . it was a conservative like you and Bush who first imposed the sanctions with nearly full support by fellow conservatives,

. . . it was conservatives like you and Bush that armed Saddam (including with the resources to manufacture chemical and biological weapons) and encouraged his violence both against his people and against his neighbors,

. . . it was conservatives like you and Bush who turned a blind eye to his genocidal attacks on the Kurds showing their tears for any deaths due to sanctions are crocodile tears,

. . . and it is conservatives like you and Bush who continue to support similar sanctions against other countries imposing similar tragedies (since YOU believe sanctions impose these tragedies).

To the extent you are referring to the sanctions deaths versus war deaths, you would also be falsely comparing "casualties" from the war to overall mortality rates during the sanctions. "Casualties" for purposes of the Iraq war ignores men, women, and children killed due to lack of food, water, shelter, or medicine during the war, but includes only those killed directly by combat-related activities. The mortality rates for the sanctions were not so limited.

If you are not comparing the number of Iraqis killed by the sanctions to the number killed by the war, then you are simply throwing a strawman on the fire, since no one in this thread has referred to one million dead Iraqis from the war and neither did Kevin in his post.

Finally, the sanctions at least worked and brought the benefit of disarming Saddam, making both the region and the world safer.

The war in Iraq has not worked, has not brought any benefits to date to the Iraqis, the region, the US, or the world, but has instead decreased security both here and abroad and resulted in the deaths of thousands of Americans, more Americans in fact than killed by all the terrorist attacks against the West by Islamic radicals and funneled an amount of funds to waste, fraud, and futility that could have instead saved a vast number of people in the US and throughout the world by providing food, shelter, clothing, education, intelligence, and security.

Thus, you maul the truth.

When it comes to a liar like you, calling you out is your just desserts, whether it be by properly characterizing you with a descriptive nickname or simply pointing out your mendacity.

Posted by: anonymous on September 20, 2007 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, anonymous, no, I wasn't referring to deaths that might have been caused by the sanctions.

I was referring to the British Lancet study and this successor study, which some on this forum (though not this thread) have claimed to be the real figures for Iraqi deaths caused by the war.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/10/AR2006101001442.html

Some people, here and elsewhere, have gone on to surmise that the actual deaths by now might have exceeded the one million number.

Since the general topic of the thread was the accuracy of the USCENTCOM reported figures, noting that the military count doesn't support the Lancet/Johns Hopkins studies isn't too far off topic. It certainly doesn't come under any definition of "truthmauling."

You ascribe all sorts of beliefs to me that you have no way of knowing if I hold or not. Just to take one example, I am not, nor have I ever been, convinced that general sanctions against a country work when that country is ruled by a totalitarian regime, as Iraq was under Saddam Hussein. Historically, such sanctions have worked best when the subject government actually cares about the effect of sanctions on its own people. Totalitarians value their own power and survival over that of their people, so generally applied sanctions tend to hurt the innocent more than the guilty. The chief effect on the typical totalitarian goverment is to make it even more oppressive in the effort to keep hold of its power. (Hence, as illustration, sanctions worked against apartheid South Africa, but by now make little sense against Cuba.) In the case of Iraq, I believed that sanctions were not hurting the Baathists and were not going to lead to their overthrow or replacement.

Your personal sense of moral indignation about all that is wrong with our Middle East and Iraq policies is your own affair. But assigning guilt to me personally for all those things of which you disapprove in no way makes me a "truthmauler." It simply makes you look like an ideologue looking to lash out at someone you think is a good target for your wrath.

Posted by: trashhauler on September 20, 2007 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

Truthmauler: In the case of Iraq, I believed that sanctions were not hurting the Baathists and were not going to lead to their overthrow or replacement.

Since neither was an intent of the sanctions, your beliefs are irrelevant.

The sanctions accomplished exactly what they were supposed to: the discontinuation of Iraq's WMD programs and the destruction of their WMD arsenals.

I was referring to the British Lancet study and this successor study, which some on this forum (though not this thread) have claimed to be the real figures for Iraqi deaths caused by the war.

Yes, this is off-topic and irrelevant to any issue in this thread.

It is also irrelevant whether the Lancet study is correct or not, unless you think that anything under a million war casualties is a "small price to pay" for, well, nothing.

Posted by: anonymous on September 20, 2007 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

Okay, so we get down to you think my post was off topic. That's your privilege. Noted. Have a nice day.

Posted by: trashhauler on September 20, 2007 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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