Monday, July 30, 2007

One-third decline or "All-time high"?

An opinion piece in the NYT today that alleges we are winning in Iraq has been getting whacked around a bit, but there seems to be a question about one of the statistics the authors chucked out there, specifically: "[C]ivilian fatality rates are down roughly a third since the surge began."

The authors seem to be relying on a Defense Department report obtained by Reuters, which, indeed, notes a sharp decrease in attacks against civilians in June (Following a four-month rise). But what O'Hanlon and Pollack fail to note is that the same Reuters report noted that the civilian decline was offset in recent months by sharp increases in attacks on Iraqi and "Coalition" forces. Indeed, June was the month when the average daily attacks reached an all-time high -- 177.8.

One could argue that one of the new strategies of the surge was to move troops from giant Forward Operating Bases into smaller posts in Iraqi cities -- which could lead to higher attack rates. But the authors don't even bother addressing this issue -- they only cherry-pick the stat to make things look more stable than they really are.

ALSO: In the article the authors claim that in Ramadi they "strolled down its streets without body armor" and in a Baghdad neighorhood they walked around without incident. Wouldn't it be worth noting whether these leisurely strolls were achieved with or without military cover? I'm assuming it's the former, but less informed readers might conclude the latter.

UPDATE: Robert Farley performs a much more thorough -- and devastating, I think -- dissection of the piece, including a discussion of the "one-third" number.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 10:21 AM

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