Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Facts and Truth

Unfortunately, October is shaping up to be a deadly month for American troops in Iraq. With our forces at a higher level and more aggressive seeking out the enemy, this is tragic but to be expected:

The U.S. military reported Wednesday that 10 American troops had been killed the day before, raising the death toll so far this month to 69 and putting October on track to be the deadliest month for coalition forces since January 2005.

So far, nothing to complain about in the article. The casualties are real so there is nothing to do but report on it.

Note also this conclusion, however:

According to an Associated Press count, October also is on the way to being the deadliest month for Iraqis since the AP began tracking deaths in April 2005. In October, 767 Iraqis have been killed in war-related violence, an average of 45 every day.

That would be nearly 1400 for the month of October if this trend continues. Is this evidence of mounting civilian casualties? Our military casualties could be quite high at this rate, but is it also safe to extend this conclustion to civilians?

Let's look at Strategypage's assessment:

Iraqi deaths (civilians and security forces) are down about 40 percent from the September rate. Last month, there were nearly 4,000 civilian and security force deaths (plus 76 Americans, a steady increase from the July low of 46.) Like lights going out on a Christmas tree, the Sunni Arab suicide bomber cells are being taken down. The anti-terrorist tribal alliance in Anbar province has forced terrorists to concentrate on defending themselves. These defensive operations are carried out by directing attacks against tribal militia, or U.S. troops that are assisting. Rather than drive into Baghdad (which is not as easy as it used to be, what with all the additional roadblocks and security checks), the Islamic terrorists can now set up roadside bombs in their own neighborhoods, which are now patrolled by U.S. troops.

Note that Strategypage isn't hiding US deaths. But they note that Iraqi deaths are down 40% from last month's rate. They didn't compare them to April 2005. We all know that civilian casualties are up since the spring Golden Dome mosque bombing in Samarra. What is happening lately is more important. (And as an aside, who is dying is important. How many are victims of Sunnis and how many victims of Shias--which would mean a counter-terror terror campaign rather than an increase in the original terror campaign.)

Plus, Strategypage puts our casualties in the context of our successes in keeping terrorists from killing civilians at last month's rate.

The article seems to have accurately reported US military casualties but made a comparison of civilian deaths that is not terribly relevant to the conclusion that violence is rising. Plus there is the total lack of context. So even without falsifying the basic facts, the truth is not quite part of this article, it seems.

But we have to fight a war with the press we have--not the press we wish we had. Pity.