Saturday, September 1, 2007


One of the truisms of fighting a counterinsurgency is the information war is vital. One unfortunate corollary of this is that there's a natural tendency on the military's side to start trying to manipulate the numbers. There's nothing wrong with making your best case and it's useful to try to influence the perception of all parties concerned so long as it's done smartly and honestly. But it's very important that the military doesn't lose sight of the true facts of the situation. It's very easy to delude oneself and tendencies in that direction have to be resisted. if they are not, reality will eventually bite you in the ass.
One of the worst failings of the current administration has been its willingness to not only spin, but apparently believe it's own spin. This can only lead to a disaster in wartime. We made a lot of fun of Baghdad Bob and his ilk during the first part of the war. Not only did he spout nonsense, but there's every indication he believed it. There was a case of an Iraqi general who was captured in his personal car by U.S. troops during that initial campaign who had no idea the Americans were in the city. Unfortunately, it's not so funny now, as evidence mounts that our side is doing the same thing.

From Obsidian Wings/Andrew Sullivan we find out that the military's accounting of Iraqi civilian deaths is getting funky:

UPDATE: IraqSlogger has a useful story on changes in the Pentagon's figures. A graph from the story, courtesy of Ilan Goldberg of the National Security Network:

And an explanation:
"Goldberg explains the abnormalities as best he can:
Abnormality A: Between August and November 2006, DOD started reclassifying “casualties” as “deaths by execution” and suddenly you see a dramatic drop in killings. For example, in March 2006 right after the Samarra Mosque bombings you go from 1,750 “casualties” to 750 “deaths by execution.” Between November 2006 and March 2007 “Deaths by Execution” becomes “Sectarian Murders” but the numbers remain the same.
Abnormality B: Between the March 2007 report and the June 2007 report there was a dramatic change in the number of killings that were reported for the second half of 2006. In both cases the numbers were described as “sectarian murders.” The impact here is that it makes the “pre surge” situation look extraordinarily dire and therefore signals progress thereafter.
Abnormality C: Somehow the reclassification that occurred between the March and June 2007 reports caused the violence numbers in April and May of 2006 to drop dramatically. This was in the months following the Sammara bombings in February 2006 when sectarian violence was escalating."

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