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Thursday, June 13, 2013


Why I'm skeptical about Syrian death toll

I've written about this before. Today the U.N. released a report asserting that an average of 5,000 per month had been killed every month for the last year, bringing the total deaths in Syria to 93,000. One reason this report has little credibility is the assertion that "the figure of 92,901 was reached at the end of April." Really? With no one on the ground, the U.N. can confidently state that not 92,000, not even 92,500, but "92,901" was the death toll at the end of April? One part in nearly 100,000 precision? You couldn't come up with a statistic that precise in the United States for the number of people who died last year, and yet we're meant to believe that the U.N. can do so in Syria? No.

The other reason I don't believe it is this: 5,000 people a month is 167 people per day. Average. Now if that's the average, there must be some days when 300, even 400 people are killed. That's how averages work. But just yesterday, there were stories all over the news (well, not so much in the U.S. corporate news, because the "villains" in the piece were the Syrian rebels) about the killing of 60 Shia in the town of Hatla. Now it's true that if one person were being killed per day in 167 different towns and villages, we wouldn't expect that to make the news. But there don't seem to be that many "fronts" in the war that is going on in Syria. And with a supposed average of 167 people being killed per day, there would be a lot more "major" battles in which 100, 200, or even 300 people were killed on a single day. Yet the number of such reports in the news is small.

My conclusion: there is no way that 167 people per day are being killed in Syria.

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