Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Devil Is In the Distinctions

[Posted by reader_iam]

Or maybe precision and accuracy don't count for much?

Rick Moran takes a sharp look at a newly released study of Iraqi deaths and finds some of the assumptions and methodology questionable.

Again, the study makes absolutely no effort to differentiate between innocent civilians and Iraqis trying to kill our troops. Nor does it differentiate between civilian deaths and the deaths in the Iraqi police and armed forces.

In addition, the study includes deaths that the researchers have arbitrarily determined were caused by the invasion but not caused by violence. If they are using the same criteria as the 2004 study, some of these causes of death include:

* Malnourishment due to bad economic conditions as a result of the invasion.

* Illness due to degraded health care infrastructure.

* Deaths due to domestic violence.

* Deaths due to criminal activity unrelated to the insurgency.

* And “... civilian deaths resulting from the breakdown in law and order, and deaths due to inadequate health care or sanitation.”

By any count, the losses are tragic. But if we're going to do studies like this, integrity of the data and open admission of methodological limitations matters. And making distinctions counts.

"[A] tone of accuracy that’s just inappropriate.”