Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Armor of Lies

If it's August, it must be time for another comparison of firearm deaths in Baghdad and Washington DC:

There has been a monthly average of 160,000 troops in the Iraq theatre of operations during the last 22 months, and a total of 2,112 deaths. That gives a firearm death rate of 60 per 100,000 soldiers.

The firearm death rate in Washington D.C. is 80.6 per 100,000 persons for the same period. That means that you are about 25% more likely to be shot and killed in the U.S. Capital than you are in Iraq.

Conclusion: The U.S. should pull out of Washington.
I could point out that Washington DC has been mercifully free of IED fatalities over the last 22 months, but why bother? The main reason we know this comparison is false is that Washington DC is swarming with bright young conservative apparatchiks, and Baghdad isn't.

Speaking of IEDs, Newsweek asks a silly question:
How do you defeat a foe who can destroy million-dollar machines with devices that can be built off the Internet for about the cost of a pizza, especially if that foe doesn't particularly worry about dying?
By circulating phony statistics that make attending the National Conservative Student Conference seem more heroic than serving in Baghdad, natch.

Since firearm deaths are the only fatalities worth counting, I suppose there's not much point in dwelling on the fact that suicides among American soldiers have reached their highest level in 26 years:
"[T]here was a significant relationship between suicide attempts and number of days deployed" in Iraq, Afghanistan or nearby countries where troops are participating in the war effort, it said. The same pattern seemed to hold true for those who not only attempted, but succeeded in killing themselves.
Which puts me in mind of a quote from Simone Weil about the fate of people who aren't protected, like us, by "the armor of the lie":
Thus violence obliterates anyone who feels its touch. It comes to seem just as external to its employer as to its victim. And from this springs the idea of a destiny before which executioner and victim stand equally innocent, before which conqueror and conquered are brothers in the same distress.
UPDATE: In the comments, Mikej emphasizes an additional point:
Yes, it's in the linked article, but you should probably mention in your story too, that the actual firearm death rate in DC is 31.2 per 100k, not the 80 the wingers claim.
(Photo: Washington DC Baghdad, 2/11/05.)


MikeJ said...

Yes, it's in the linked article, but you should probably mention in your story too, that the actual firearm death rate in DC is 31.2 per 100k, not the 80 the wingers claim. I'd hate for somebody to point to this story as "evidence" of something bogus.

jimbobboy said...

To my knowledge, the very best post on this subject was by John Rogers.
The "Washington is worse than Baghdad" meme is so demented, and the pseudo-math behind it so beyond stupid, that the beholder does not know whether to laugh or cry. Maybe that is why no one seems to know how to stop this kind of thing -- they have hypnotized us with their stupidity!

whisker said...

There's one problem with this comparison which is you are comparing U.S. soldiers deaths to U.S. civilian deaths. Now a better match would be how many Iraqi died in Baghdad compared to how many American citizens died in Washington D.C. An equally grim match would be comparing Iraqi police deaths to D.C. police deaths. Once again any idiot who tries to justify the war casualties with this train of thought is subscribing to fuzzy math and comparing apples to oranges. They should look at real facts and not fiction.
Just a few thoughts