Wednesday, June 01, 2005

MSNBC's Mounting Mayhem 

MSNBC's front page proclaims growing "mayhem" in Iraq. They base this on:

At least 670 Iraqis, 77 Americans killed last month, officials say.
That's a lot of death, absolutely horrific, no question.

But let's see if there is any context to help us understand what these numbers mean, and why MSNBC thinks we should find them so important.

Figures released by the Iraqi government on Wednesday show that at least 670 Iraqis were killed in May. That compared to 485 who were killed in April.

Among them were 434 civilians, up from 299 killed in April, according to Health Ministry figures. Some 775 civilians were also wounded last month, compared with 598 in April.
Ok, so apparently we should care because this shows that things are getting WORSE! We can see that more people were killed in May than in April. FAILURE! Despite everything we've tried, despite all the fire power and soldiers on the ground, still, the insurgents are killing even MORE people! We have no chance! The insurgents are too strong, we should leave NOW!

Just look at the numbers. Month over month, comparison with last year, whatever! It's just carnage. We never should have waded into this cesspool. The Iraqis were better off in the old days under Saddam, before we made the insurgents angry and they started killing everybody. At least under Saddam there was stability, not these steadily rising slaughter statistics, taunting us for our failure.

You see, despite the fact that he was too inept to properly develop any weapons of mass destruction, Saddam at least understood how to manage a death toll: every month the same thing. Keep the body count stable, lest we all panic. Let's take a look at what that Baathist paradise was like:

Along with other human rights organizations, The Documental Centre for Human Rights in Iraq has compiled documentation on over 600,000 civilian executions in Iraq. Human Rights Watch reports that in one operation alone, the Anfal, Saddam killed 100,000 Kurdish Iraqis. Another 500,000 are estimated to have died in Saddam's needless war with Iran. Coldly taken as a daily average for the 24 years of Saddam's reign, these numbers give us a horrifying picture of between 70 and 125 civilian deaths per day for every one of Saddam's 8,000-odd days in power.
So Saddam was kill roughly 100 civilians a day, which is about 3000 people a month. Granted, this shows Saddam was 4 or 5 times more efficient at turning the crank of the death machine, but the key is that he did it at a steady pace, and maintained that consistency for 24 years. MSNBC can tell that the US just isn't cut out for that kind of bloodshed.

Besides, it's not entirely certain that the number of Iraqis killed is the death toll MSNBC cares about. After all, if it were, they would be trumpeting the US operation as a great success, saving over 2000 Iraqi lives every month. No, it's got to be something else.

Take for example the poll they link to from this same page: "Live Vote: Is the U.S. mission worth the death toll?" Is the death toll worth it? If this were just about Iraqis, the answer would be "Of course!" No, they want to know if we think 77 Americans killed in a month is a price worth paying to save those 2000 Iraqi lives.

And we all know that Vietnam proved the answer to that question is no. Nothing is worth the loss of American lives, not anymore.
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