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Saturday, July 01, 2006


Rape and murder in Mahmudiya

I heard a commentator on TV talking about the latest reported American atrocity in Iraq, an incident of rape and murder in Mahmudiya. He noted that "these things happen in war" and also that "there are criminals in society in general, and it's no surprise there are in the military, just like in government and the clergy and everywhere else, as well." Both of those observations are certainly true. But they only reinforce the point that wasn't made, which is that these are just some of the many reasons why you don't launch an illegal war under false pretenses. Had Iraq actually attacked the United States (a highly improbable event), then this atrocity, like all the others (reported and unreported), could indeed be excused by the "these things happen in war" excuse. But it wasn't, and they can't.

But the main point I wanted to make about this incident is actually hidden in the fine print:

The killing of the family was originally reported by the military as due to "insurgent activity," American officials said.
The same, of course, was true in the Haditha massacre of 24 Iraqis, who were also originally reported as being killed by "insurgent activity" (i.e., IED). So the next time you see statistics, also reported by the American military, about the percentage of the deaths in Iraq which are caused by "insurgent activity," keep these incidents in mind. Statistics only have validity when the underlying data is valid. When the underlying data is provided by the U.S. military, forget about it.

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