Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Thoughts on Iraqi Casualties

I keep a fairly close track of coalition casualties in Iraq. In fact, other than the Iraq Coalition Casualties website, and the associated blog Lunaville, I am the only person I know who regularly discusses monthly fatality rate in Iraq, and, I think, the only person who discusses the hostile fatality rate for the entire coalition (as opposed to the total fatality rates for just the U.S.).

So maybe that is why I have noticed a trend that no one else has, to my knowledge, noticed. How come whenever there is an increase in fatalities, the articles about how fatalities are increasing tend to come out after we have had a few days of quiet?

For example, this article about U.S casualties climbing in Iraq would have been very, very contemporary a week ago, when the daily fatality rate for November was even higher than the high rate in October. But now that the coalition has averaged 1 fatality a day for the past four days, this article comes out.

Is the media trying to remind us that fatalities are on a general uptrend every time there is a temporary lull? Perhaps. It would lend support to the neocons' position that the media is out to get Bush on the issue of the war.

On the other hand, the only people who would notice that the trend in fatalities has been down over such a small time period (> a week) would be people like me, who meticulously check the fatality list every day. So very few people would have noticed the temporary lull and therefore there would be very few who "needed" to be reminded of the general trend (and anyone who keeps up with day-to-day fatalities is probably already aware of the general trends). So the "conspiratorial" theory of fatality rate reporting seems a little far-fetched because the payoff for antiwar forces is too small to be of much use (assuming that the media is reporting for antiwar purposes).

On a third hand, the people who report on such things probably look at the day-to-day figures and the long-term trends, so maybe they are working to prevent people from interpreting the lulls as long-term reductions in fatalities, not because there is a tremendous audience that would be influences by such reporting, but because the media people in charge of this think there is because, hey, they are interested in it, and everyone is just like them, aren't they?

That is all.

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