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 Idiocracy: Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics.
Michael Larson


Today the top story on Digg and in the coming weeks we will see it more and more is a reference to the nearing 4000 US military who have been killed in the Iraq war.

This count came off of the left leaning Huffington Post group of blogs. Now I am pretty much in the center on most things, so I tend to read things from every side so of course I keep up with the Huffington Post at times, as well as conservative blogs, down the middle blogs, and completely crazy blogs.

The one thing they all have in common is a maddening use of what many have termed the three kinds of lies. Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics.

This particular post related to how few Americans could get right the number of American casualties in Iraq. Turns out it is around 28% down from about 50% in past polls. The post is basically a way to talk about how little coverage there has been of the war lately.

There are several reasons for the lower coverage that you are not going to hear over the next few weeks as the number 4000 is reached. Mostly because since the surge deaths are way down, but that is seen as a political argument and that is not my point here.

My point is really in reference to the absurdity of the body count being so low. Put quite simply this is just a number that no one really relates to anything in the real world.  To be honest when I saw that it was only 4000 on this long protracted action, I was amazed that it was that low.

Our military has done an amazing job when you look at all these numbers is really the only thing they tell us. They do not make a point about whether we should be in Iraq or not, they are just an inflammatory tool being used to make a point. I for one think that denigrates our fine soldiers.

Let's take a look at some interesting mortality facts.

4000 Americans killed in 5 years in Iraq

*7,000 US troops were killed in the battle of Iwo Jima in *one month.* In WWII there were a total of some 291,000 killed in a 4 year period.
*In 2005, 43,443 people died from motor vehicle crashes in the US
*The 5 year US death rate for complications of medical and surgical care is 14,415

*Every year approximately 11,000 Americans are killed by assault by firearms with another 200 by sharp object assaults.
*Every year there are 14,900 deaths from accidental falls such as from ladders, down stairs, over curbs, off buses, into manholes, and through plate glass windows

That alone is enough to give you pause, but lets get into the damn liars portion of the program. The number you are seeing is completely a 100% falsehood to begin with.

The actual number of deaths in Iraq due to the war is actually at 3240 as of March 14th, 2008 the rest are due to normal accidents as we see in everyday life. Heart attacks, suicides, the things that happen to us all every day here also happen there. No one reports the difference of course as an inflated number is better to make their point.

Here is a more realistic statistical breakdown from wikipedia.

Rank   War   Years   Deaths   Deaths per Day   Deaths per Population  
1 American Civil War 1861–1865 625,000 599 1.988% (1860)
2 World War II 1941–1945 405,399 416 0.307% (1940)
3 World War I 1917–1918 116,516 279 0.110% (1920)
4 Vietnam War 1964–1973 58,151 26 0.003% (1970)
5 Korean War 1950–1953 36,516 45 0.002% (1950)
6 American Revolutionary War 1775–1783 25,000 11 0.899% (1780)
7 War of 1812 1812–1815 20,000 31 0.345% (1810)
8 Mexican-American War 1846–1848 13,283 29 0.057% (1850)
9 Philippine War 1899–1902 4,196 5 0.006% (1900)
10 Iraq War 2003–present 3,987 2.35 0.001% (2007)

Now this has nothing to do with whether we should be in Iraq or not, the point is that all concerned should make their points with facts, not Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics. Just using statistics to make your point treats all your readers as idiots, especially when your statistics are Damn Lies and really nothing more than rhetoric.



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