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Thursday, June 27, 2013


Death counts from Syria: are they believable?

The latest claims from the "Syrian Observatory for Human Rights" are now being trumpeted in the press with their total of 100,000+ dead in Syria. Here are their figures:Let's note a few things. First, the figures do not say who killed the 36,661 civilians. We know that both sides are responsible. The standard media meme is "Assad is killing his own people", but even if none of those civilians were killed by the rebels (a statement we know is false), it would still be the case that according to these figures, 42,718 of the 100,191 total deaths, 43%, were people killed by the rebels. If just 7500 of the alleged 36,661 "civilians" (just 1/5, not an unreasonable estimate) were killed by the rebels, then the death tolls on "both sides" would be essentially equal, which hardly corresponds to the "Assad is killing his own people" line.

Of course these figures are highly suspect, and not just because of the absurd level of precision they show. Of the 36,661 "civilians" who were killed, how many were in fact unacknowledged rebel fighters? We know if the rebels were the Taliban and it was the U.S. government that was doing the counting, it would be every single one of those except for the 8000 women and children.

Note also the relative death tolls. We are told repeatedly how the rebels are "outgunned" and need more weapons from the West. But according to these figures, the rebels have only lost 13,539 fighters (or 15,554 if the "defectors" are included) to 42,718 government fighters - an astonishing 1:3 ratio! Sure sounds like the rebels are doing just fine; it's hard to explain how they were pushed out of Qusair and are said to be on the verge of defeat if they don't get more weapons with those kind of numbers!

We're told that the SOHR relies "on four men inside Syria who help to report and collate information from more than 230 activists on the ground." What is unsaid is that those "230 activists" are almost entirely, if not entirely, anti-government activists, which means they are getting their numbers from the rebels, who will invariably minimize their own losses and exaggerate the government's losses. So in reality, that "1:3 ratio" is unlikely to actually be true; for all we know it may well be the opposite.

In short, the number of grains of salt with which one must take this "data" would make Lot's wife look small.

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