The Surge Isn't Working
BOUSTANY: We’re clearly seeing some major improvements. Clearly in the Anbar Province, we’ve seen significant improvement. We were able to walk the streets of Fallujah. Sectarian deaths are down.Ah, the numbers. It is rather alarming how often important news comes without any specific discussion of the numbers upon which it hinges. Someone needs to send Mr. Blitzer a pundit-snack. Good pundit.
BLITZER: And Congressman Boustany, you say that the number of casualties is going down. But we took a closer look — and The Los Angeles Times did as well — citing Iraqi Health Ministry numbers. In June, it was 1,227 civilian deaths in Iraq. In July, it went up to 1,753 civilian deaths in Iraq. And in August, the month that just ended, 1,773 civilian deaths in Iraq. Those numbers are going in the wrong direction.
But reading a triad of four digit numbers from a teleprompter (or maybe even from memory) is not the best way to communicate about numbers. That might be appropriate for MegaMillions, but we owe these particular numbers more careful examination. We are, after all, talking about the deaths of human beings as a direct result of our collective decisions at the ballot box.
So, I looked up the data on conformed killings of Iraqi civilians. Against the background of men and women and children turning up as abandoned corpses on the street, there are a lot of mass-casualty events. There are also a few rare days when there are no confirmed killings. It's somewhat difficult to see the trend in the raw data. So, I borrowed an analytical tool from the financial world -- the moving average.
That looks like a slight upward trend to me. The GAO agrees. Their data measures the number of attacks, rather than the number of dead, but one would expect attacks and deaths to correlate.
General Patreous is going to make his presentation in a few days, which everyone assumes is going to say that the surge is working. If it doesn't explain these numbers, then the report should be ignored.