24 February 2007

Americans Know US Body Count, Underestimate Iraqi Body Count

I ran across this article this morning, and found it fascinating.

Basically, a recent poll had Americans guess how many Americans had been killed in Iraq to date, and then how many Iraqis. Their average estimate of Americans (3,000) was within 4% of accurate, a reasonable margin of error. Their average estimate of Iraqis (9,890) was 82% below the current most conservative estimate.

It reminded me of the commonly cited statistic that Americans polled think the US gives too much foreign aid (they guess 10-20% of the budget) and that it should give less (~5%), when in fact foreign aid is ~1%.

As the Iraq Body Count has had on their webpage since the beginning, General Tommy Franks said at the outset that "We don't do body counts." The US (remarkably) did learn a lot of things from Vietnam about how to conduct a war and gain increased compliance from the American public. It seems clear that the mission against body counts has been successful in distracting Americans from thinking about the toll on Iraqis and how many people American troops are killing.

This is what we're up against. This is why we're taking this mission to the blogs. Information and truth are the ingredients for power. Simply informing people about the proven facts on the ground in Iraq can change people's minds. Saying something like "for every American solider killed in Iraq, more than 17 Iraqis have been killed" might just help convince someone.



At 01 March, 2007 23:11 , Damion said...

I ran across this article as well. Between disinformation and right wing propaganda we have a lot of work to do and a lot of information to ensure is told. American citizens are thus far pretty apathetic about Iraqi lives lost and that's a shame.

At 02 March, 2007 08:54 , Chad Shue said...

I believe that part of the mindset of the American public is the constant mantra from the pro-war side who keep repeating, "Better to fight them there than here."

This has the effect of lessening the imporatnce of Iraqi lives. Bush, and those who enable him, have chosen to make Iraq, America's "Battle field away from Home" so dead Iraqis are just part of the price "we" are willing to pay for American security.

Chad (The Left) Shue

At 20 March, 2007 09:27 , Guerrilla Blogger said...

I notice that while total American KIA numbers are announced, only recently with the Walter Reed flap has there been any idea of the WIA, which is at about ~25,000 roughly; ~1:7 ratio KIA:WIA. (As opposed to ~1:3, Vietnam) The numbers are scanty on other issues, and intentionally so.

For example, we do not know how many total troops have served in Iraq; there have been no sources available that give such numbers. In looking for the numbers, I've come up fairly dry on a casual search and have since intended to go through the news, figure out the rotations for OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom) and compile numbers there.

Why? Because I think the numbers can speak in many different ways, not merely for the White House; the White House fears the numbers and keeps them as vague as possible.

As to Iraqi numbers, the Lancet has gone out of their way to make rough estimations, as best they can, but I also note that America's body count obsession is hardly gone, just changed. The old whore had a facelift is all. Now when you read an account of combat in the paper, you read about how many are killed in the individual battles, to give the sense that the US is somehow winning the war through these tactical engagements.

The same inflation of numbers probably implies; civilians are counted and numbers are switched around. Of course, the guerrillas also have a part in this; the more killing that America supposedly does, the more discredited America looks; ironically, our own preoccupation with firepower means that we do most of the grave-digging for ourselves.

The point? Body count mentality lives. It's just not as blatant as in Vietnam. And the numbers are still powerful, but that applies to both sides of the coin.

At 25 March, 2007 07:25 , Red Valley said...

Simply put, in the U.S.-centric world of the mainstream American press, American lives are the only ones that really matter. I've seen headlines that read to the effect of "38 Killed in Bombing, 2 American" on many occasions. The other 36 in this example are apparently less worthy of specification than the two Americans that died. But to make a long story short, the media generally just simply doesn't report Iraqi death totals. American death totals are announced fairly routinely in the press, whereas the Iraqi death toll tends to get media commentary about once or twice a year.


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