Iraq: Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

General Petraeus is bringing new meaning to the phrase ‘head count‘:

Intelligence analysts computing aggregate levels of violence against civilians for the NIE puzzled over how the military designated attacks as combat, sectarian or criminal, according to one senior intelligence official in Washington. “If a bullet went through the back of the head, it’s sectarian,” the official said. “If it went through the front, it’s criminal.”

Which led to this assessment:

“Depending on which numbers you pick,” he said, “you get a different outcome.”

Gee, do ya think?
So let’s think about this ‘metric’ some more. What if the guy you’re shooting in the back of the head suddenly twists (because people don’t like being shot in the back of the head), and now said head shootee has been shot kinda in the back of the head? Is that now a two thirds sectarian, one third criminal attack? Not even Ionesco could have thought of this absurdity.
I suggest a different metric to measure security:

The number of people shot in the fucking head. From any angle.

This would be funny, except for all of the dead people.

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7 Responses to Iraq: Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

  1. Coin says:

    Hm, when I first read that artilce I interpreted the front/back side of the head comment as a sort of joke– i.e. the official was saying that the rubrics were so convoluted and arbitrary, it was akin to categorizing types of deaths based on the side of the head the person was shot from. If that’s literally an example of one of their metrics, though, that’s kind of alarming.
    Personally the problem as I see it is that we’re trying to keep different metrics for sectarian and criminal violence at all. The idea seems to be that we can somehow separate the anarchy into neat little “sectarian”, “terrorist” and “criminal” boxes, and then even though the amount of overall insecurity is going up we pretend things are getting better because one of the boxes is getting smaller as the others get bigger. But this is crazy, not just because a person getting shot in the head doesn’t care whether it was a sectarian bullet or a criminal bullet that hit them– but because in Iraq as it’s existed during this war there often isn’t a difference, in some cases, between sectarian, terrorist, and criminal forces, and people or groups from any one of these three boxes have at various times during the war been seen to be working for or allied with either of the other two…

  2. J-Dog says:

    How is it counted when you are out hunting, you are the VP, and you shoot a friend “by accident”?

  3. HP says:

    Compare the current Iraq metric to the old Viet Nam body count metric: “If it’s dead and it’s Vietnamese, it’s VC.”
    In Viet Nam, the aim was to maximize the VC body count; in Iraq, the aim is to minimize the sectarian body count. Same ideological mindset; different incentives.

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  7. afghanistan, iraq , every war is lie…….

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