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Wednesday, January 02, 2013


The latest Syrian "death toll"

Regular readers (if any are left) will remember that I wrote many posts on the subject of the number of dead in Iraq. There was a concerted effort on the part of the U.S. government and media to minimize that number, and to denigrate or ignore scientific studies which yielded higher numbers, in keeping with their own self-interest.

In Syria, of course, the shoe is on the other foot, and the U.S. government and media have every interest in maximizing the number of dead, and furthermore, in ignoring any breakdown of those numbers, because they want very much to leave the impression that if there are N dead, that all N of them were civilians butchered by a brutal government.

Into the fray today comes the United Nations, claiming with quite literally unbelievable precision that there were "59,648 people killed between March 15, 2011, and Nov. 30." How many people died in the United States between March 15, 2011 and Nov. 30? I absolutely guarantee you cannot find an answer to that question accurate to one part in 60,000 (that's 0.0017% accuracy). But the U.N. assures us that that's how many people were killed in Syria.

And how do they know that? Why they conducted "an 'exhaustive' five-month analysis in which researchers cross-referenced seven sources." Now note something very interesting about that claim. They don't claim to have cross-referenced seven independent sources, just "seven sources." And any reader of the media knows that virtually every article in every Western media outlet has been sourced to a single place, the "Syrian Observatory for Human Rights," described in the Washington Post article linked above as "a group based in Britain," but as far as anyone knows it's a single person. In Britain. So you can compare and cross-reference articles in The New York Times, and the Washington Post, and the Guardian, and AP, and CNN, and anything else you want, but you don't have seven sources, you have one source. The only other source routinely cited for death tolls is "Syrian opposition activists." Actually they are the single source, since the "Syrian Observatory for Human Rights" gets its claims from those same "Syrian opposition activists." About as far from trustworthy data as can be imagined.

And even more curious is this: "The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights...said last week that approximately 45,000 people have been killed in the conflict." So the group which has been the source of this data, a group with an obvious agenda (overthrowing the Assad regime) and hence obviously not an unbiased source, a group which consistently has overestimated the number of dead, even they quote a number which is a whopping 25% lower than the U.N. number.

There are 626 days in the time period in question. The U.N. numbers require that 96 people have been killed every single day in that 20 1/2 month time period. Today, for example, we are told (with the only source being "opposition activists," i.e., hardly reliable sources) that 87 people were killed. That was a major event which made the news. A few such major events have made the news over the course of the war, but not that many. Is it is any way credible that more people than that have been killed every single day? It is not.

And once again, let me note what the article throws away in passing: "It [the U.N.'s tally] does not specify whether the dead were rebels, soldiers or civilians." If the data are actually as accurate as the U.N. asserts (0.0017%!), then even if it may be hard to distinguish between "rebels" and "civilians," surely it can't be difficult at all to distinguish "soldiers" in that "59,648" that have been killed. But the U.N. doesn't say. Again, there can be only one reason - because they want people thinking "Assad has murdered 60,000 of 'his people' in cold blood." Period.

Addendum More on the subject from Moon of Alabama.

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