Thursday, October 19, 2006


Unreported deaths in Iraq

Some people may think I'm making too much of the question of non-civilian deaths in Iraq as they relate to the Johns Hopkins study. But there are real implications, other than just the question of the "believability" of the JHU study, to the answer. This morning, for example, I listened to an interview with author Niall Ferguson on the local news show. Ferguson asserted that there are more Muslims killing Muslims in Iraq than Muslims killing Americans or Americans killing Muslims. Is that true?

It's certainly true that that's what we read about. A car bombing here, bodies found tortured and beheaded there, etc. But there's something missing from the news. And that's precisely those Muslims being killed by Americans, specifically the Muslims who we can call resistance fighters.

Let's look at today's news. The Los Angeles Times reports on the deaths of 12 U.S. troops in the last 48 hours, with 71 so far this month. After reporting about all sorts of "Muslim on Muslim" incidents throughout a long article, they finally get around to mentioning a bit about the circumstances of the American deaths in the last two paragraphs:

The American deaths outside Baghdad included three soldiers attached to the 3rd Brigade of the Army's 4th Infantry Division, who were killed as a result of unspecified "enemy action" in Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad, the military said. A fourth soldier was wounded in the incident.

A Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 7 and a soldier assigned to the 1st Armored Division died in operations in Al Anbar province, the Sunni Arab insurgent stronghold west of the capital that is the scene of daily battles with insurgents.
That puts them a step ahead of the New York Times, who also mention the deaths of the Americans, almost en passant, but say nothing about the circumstances. The Washington Post has the most complete coverage of the American deaths:
Five of the American troop deaths Tuesday were caused by bombs. Four soldiers were killed in Baghdad about 6:50 a.m. when a planted bomb exploded under their vehicle, the U.S. military said in a statement. Another bomb killed a single soldier north of the capital.

Three soldiers died in combat east of Baghdad, in Diyala province, the military said. One soldier was killed in north Baghdad when armed men attacked his patrol, and a Marine died in combat in the predominantly Sunni province of Anbar, in western Iraq. Since the summer, Baghdad has surpassed Anbar as the most hostile place in the country for U.S. and Iraqi forces.
OK, did you notice anything missing yet? In all of these articles, there is not a mention of a single Iraqi resistance fighter killed by the Americans. Not one! Now you can guess what you like about the IED deaths, although the traditional American response to those has been for the survivors to jump out and start shooting and killing everyone in sight. But at least some of these deaths were in firefights. Do you really think that, given the firepower, the manpower, and the proven vindictiveness and indifference to Iraqi lives of the Americans, that they didn't manage to kill a single Iraqi while losing so many of their own soldiers? No, I know you don't. Ten-to-one would be a minimum we would expect, and twenty or thirty to one is probably a lot more likely. With 71 Americans killed so far this month, that makes a thousand or so dead resistance fighters completely ignored by the media and everyone else (except myself and some future follow-up Johns Hopkins study).

Incidentally, there's something else missing from these reports - airstrikes. It once was normal to read, in articles like the ones above, about how, after ground troops ran into trouble, airstrikes were called in to demolish houses in which the resistance fighters were thought hiding. In Afghanistan, incidents like that occured a few days ago and again yesterday. Are we to believe the U.S. is no longer flying air combat missions in Iraq? Or is it simply that the press has ceased reporting on them? I honestly have no idea, but I can say that I can't remember the last time I read about one. They certainly don't appear with anywhere near the frequency they used to.

It's not too hard to see bias in the news that's printed. What's a lot more difficult is to see the bias in the news that's not printed.

Why stop here? There's more...

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