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Tuesday, January 16, 2007


More dubious statistics from Iraq

The U.N. is claiming today that "34,452 civilians were killed — an average of 94 per day — and 36,685 were wounded last year [in Iraq]." Aside from the absolute numbers, which I've discussed many times, the relative numbers of killed and wounded are, to put it mildly, simply not credible. Here are the total (not just last year) U.S. statistics: 3020 dead, and 22,834 wounded - a 7.5:1 ratio. Granted that the U.S. soldiers receive far better medical care than Iraqis, so fewer of them die from serious injuries, but even given that, the claimed 1:1 ratio of deaths to injuries among Iraqis is just out-and-out impossible. The difference must certainly be that the alleged number of Iraqi wounded are only those who were treated in hospitals, as opposed to being treated by a doctor, at home, or not at all (whereas the U.S. statistics undoubtedly reflect all soldiers who are wounded).

The real number of Iraqi wounded? Unknown, but surely many times higher than the numbers being reported in the news.

Update: Case in point: today's news, with 107 reported dead (so far) and "over 300" wounded (again, that's reported).

A friend heard an NPR report on the U.N. report this morning. After an expert guest explained the limitations of the U.N. report (e.g., some deaths go unreported), he then explained the "better method" of actually surveying the population and how it had been done twice. But, here's the kicker...no mention of Johns Hopkins or the Lancet, and no mention of the actual numbers produced by those studies! And, you won't be surprised to hear, no follow-up question from the NPR interviewer to ask what those numbers were.

Second update: Wolf Blitzer on CNN is talking about "today's extraordinary violence" in Iraq. Really? Right now there are reports of 107 dead. But the U.N. has just said that 94 people have been killed on average every day for the last year! What would be "extraordinary" (statistically speaking) is if many of those 365 days didn't have reported death counts equal to or higher than today's "extraordinary violence."

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