Monday, August 28, 2006


On Saturday the Washington Post published a patently hocus-pocus analysis of death-rates in Iraq and found it to be really safe:

The death rate for U.S. men ages 18 to 39 in 2003 was 1.53 per 1,000 -- 39 percent of that of troops in Iraq. But one can also find something equivalent to combat conditions on home soil. The death rate for African American men ages 20 to 34 in Philadelphia was 4.37 per 1,000 in 2002, 11 percent higher than among troops in Iraq. Slightly more than half the Philadelphia deaths were homicides.

Naturally, war enabler emeritus Ernest T. Bass, ESQ jumped on this as being proof that things are not so bad over there.

As is, of course, this raises five immediate questions.

1. Notice that "casualties" are not included, Reynolds, who is certainly no military scholar has previously equated "casualties" as deaths, something that is not how it is traditionally defined, casualties includes not just dead but wounded. There have been more than 20,000 American casualties in Iraq.

2. The study really under-reports several key differences between a current American Soldier and an average citizen in this country. The average american soldier is heavily armed himself, wearing personal body armor, as well as being accompanied typically by other heavily armed men in vehiclies while perhaps not adequately armored for full effectiveness are certainly better armored than your typical Honda Civic. They are also trained to be wary and take such action as to minimize their exposure to injury.

3. I don't know about the city any of you live in, but I would bet you do not have instant communications systems that quickly brings medical assistance of those specializing in treating gunshot and shrapnel wounds, including a fleet of helicopters that can get you to a nearby medical unit with an even higher level of specialization that has you treated almost immediately. This was pointed out by an emailer to Reynolds, which to his credit he published:

Among my other duties in Iraq, I was a convoy gunner. I am also a native of inner city Philadelphia who has spent almost all of my life in some of the city's toughest neighborhoods. I can say from direct experience that combat duty in Iraq isn't as easy or as safe as walking down the street in Philadelphia. This is a simple fact that the statistics you've linked to attempt to obfuscate. The statistics don't take into account the fact that the majority of servicemen in Iraq spend their deployments behind rows of T-walls, Hesco barriers, and checkpoints, and that the much smaller number of troops that spend their time outside the wire face far greater danger than young black men walking the streets of Philly. The statistics also ignore the fact that the American military has some of the best trauma care in the world, and that the number of people who live despite grave injuries vastly outnumbers those who die from them. (If I remember correctly, the Army said a little while ago that the number of deaths in Iraq would be four times greater if not for its ability to quickly evacuate casualties to top quality medical facilities.) This means that a lot more soldiers have faced potentially life-threatening injuries than just those who have died. If the proper statistics were referenced (or even available) I'd bet my next paycheck that they would back up the obvious reality: Iraq is a warzone that is vastly more dangerous than even the deadliest sections of Philadelphia.

4. The statistics do not include the deaths and injuries among Iraqi soldiers...OR CIVILIANS. Sixty-plus of whom died in bombings alone yesterday. Even the most conservative county of deaths places the total at well over 50,000 over three years, but some estimate more than 200,000 deaths. And that is DEATHS alone, as for casualties, who the hell really knows? There were nearly 3,500 violent deaths in Baghdad alone. A total that puts any American city to shame. New York City came no where near that total...even during the month of September 2001 -- and they got a 2,900 death head start!

5. Even if you interpret the stats as the authors intend it raises a serious question of how much it sucks to be a black male in this country, and how unserious our effort has been to alleviate that problem.

And then there is a final obvious question that comes out of this question if as Insty and others want to interpret the stats...


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