1,220,580 - None Dare Call It Genocide
September 17, 2007 11:20 PM   Subscribe

...These findings come from a poll released today by ORB, the British polling agency that has been tracking public opinion in Iraq since 2005. In conjunction with their Iraqi fieldwork agency a representative sample of 1,499 adults aged 18+ answered the following question: How many members of your household, if any, have died as a result of the conflict in Iraq since 2003 (ie as a result of violence rather than a natural death such as old age)?
Answer: 1,220,580
Tables pdf
FinalDeadNumbersWEIGHTED.xls
See also Poll: Civilian toll in Iraq may top 1M
See also None Dare Call It Genocide
posted by y2karl (131 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
These results are obviously skewed.

For example, no data would be available for households in which every member has been killed.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:26 PM on September 17, 2007 [23 favorites]


Violence is down because everyone's dead.
posted by delmoi at 11:26 PM on September 17, 2007


Everyone is dead because "The Surge" is working.
posted by Poolio at 11:32 PM on September 17, 2007


At some point, one has to discard all the silly nostrums about oil and democracy and stability and face the facts: The Republicans are attempting to prolong the war in order to kill enough people to release sufficient energy for the entire Reagan Administration to become transcendentally illuminated.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:43 PM on September 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


To put this in perspective. Iraq has a population of about 26 million (or had). After the 1-2 million refugees who have left the country and the million deaths it will have fewer.

So about 5% of the Iraqi population has been killed with another 5-10% displaced.

So, for Iraq, the invasion has been as bad as WWII was for most combatants excluding Germany, Poland and Russia.

.
posted by sien at 11:46 PM on September 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


This is good, since now I can actually say Bush = Hitler*0.2. When the last Lancet study came out, I could only say Bush = Hitler*0.1. Not very impressive.

On the other hand, it's bad, since 600,000 additional people died.
posted by delmoi at 11:51 PM on September 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


Freedom is on the march!
posted by [expletive deleted] at 11:53 PM on September 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


delmoi, what figure are you aiming at for Hitler? The Holocaust claimed about 12 million people. Are you referring to war deaths?
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:54 PM on September 17, 2007


"There are already at least two million Iraqi refugees in the Middle East. For a long time, the Administration’s policy was to pretend that they didn’t exist. When officials began to acknowledge the refugees, earlier this year, their statements gave the impression that these Iraqis were waiting out a bad spell and were ready to go back any day. Only recently has the Administration begun seriously to address what’s become one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world."
posted by gwint at 11:59 PM on September 17, 2007


STW?
posted by well_balanced at 12:14 AM on September 18, 2007


I have a question: we've all seen these figures: which are horrifying. The usual spin machine will come on. It will fade into news background over britney/tomkat/sports etc. No draft=someone else's problem. We're all wringing our hands like good liberals.

What is to be done?

I mean, what would be effective. Not what would feel good, or feel right, or give us a "I told you so" or proves-us-right moment. Not a protest: they aren't working. Not a re-election: the millitary industrial machine needs a war every 10 years or so, to keep those arms flowing. Look at the timeline of american involvement in wars/police actions etc. Republican. Democrat. You can change the monkey but the organ grinder stays the same. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. It doesn't matter: all that changes is the degree of carnage.

What is to be done about a situation that despite the protests, despite the logic, despite the draining of intellectual physical and ethical capital, despite the lack of rationale and the vast, senseless killing, still runs away from us ?

What is to be done to stop the systemic need for us to initiate war to in order to make money and to stop those in power being made or choosing to be made complicit with the death machine?
posted by lalochezia at 12:20 AM on September 18, 2007


Vote Nader?
posted by mek at 12:21 AM on September 18, 2007


.
posted by zouhair at 12:22 AM on September 18, 2007


.
posted by mr. strange at 12:35 AM on September 18, 2007


Move to Iraq? If 5-10,000 Americans moved to Iraq, wrote about what they saw to their families, and maybe started a newspaper, it could make the truth about Iraq stay illuminated.
posted by Citizen Premier at 12:37 AM on September 18, 2007


delmoi, what figure are you aiming at for Hitler? The Holocaust claimed about 12 million people. Are you referring to war deaths?

Oh, I was thinking of the "six million" figure that's mentioned so often. I guess that only counts Jewish people. The entire war killed as many as 40 million.
posted by delmoi at 12:45 AM on September 18, 2007


But... but... but... Clinton Saddam!
posted by Poolio at 12:45 AM on September 18, 2007


"it could make the truth about Iraq stay illuminated."


The truth is illuminated. But people go on. Even if 5-10k of people tried to move to to iraq, w/o serious help, it it logistically nigh impossible, legally easy to stop, and potentially treasonous. Next suggestion.
posted by lalochezia at 12:55 AM on September 18, 2007


tod macht frei
posted by stavrogin at 1:17 AM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


That would pretty much be because it isn't genocide.

Also, sampling 1499 people in a country of ~25million is going to be rather hard to do in a representative way surely? I mean, unless you already know the relative distribution of moralities geographically, how are you meant to figure who and where to poll?
posted by public at 1:58 AM on September 18, 2007


When is it genocide? How much accuracy does this count need? Is a ballpark of 1.2 million give or take 50k "good" enough?
posted by blixco at 2:15 AM on September 18, 2007


Also, sampling 1499 people in a country of ~25million is going to be rather hard to do in a representative way surely? I mean, unless you already know the relative distribution of moralities geographically, how are you meant to figure who and where to poll?

Please take a research design course, or at least read up on the subject, so you understand sampling techniques and statistical power before you start throwing around pseudo-critiques. Then read the article so you can see what sampling technique was actually used (multi-stage random probability sampling).

Then feel free to attack it on its strengths and weaknesses.

how are you meant to figure who and where to poll?

This just says you don't have a clue since the whole point of random sampling is that you are not supposed to pick interview subjects based on the question you are interested in.
posted by srboisvert at 2:18 AM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


I indeed do not have a clue, however I'm not generally given to just believing everything I read because a research company says it is true or reliable.
posted by public at 2:21 AM on September 18, 2007


I still fail to see how you are meant to draw conclusions about the overall mortality rate in Iraq using such a tiny sample of the general population. They have asked a proportionally representative number of people, selected at random, from various areas in Iraq about family deaths. Yet combat deaths seem like exactly the sort of thing that would have dramatic local variations.

For example, the road adjacent to where I live has one of the highest car crime rates in London, however neither I, nor any of my neighbors have ever had an issues what so ever with theft or damage to our cars in the last 5 years.

If I am missing something incredibly obvious, please educate me.
posted by public at 2:29 AM on September 18, 2007


The only way to restore a semblance of respect for the US and UK on an international scale is to prosecute the war criminals Blair, Bush and their cronies. This would also have the effect of revitalising trust in democracy in the US and UK for the internal populations.

In a world where they will be increasingly politically marginalised as China and India become the big consumers, the 'West' needs some moral authority to hope to be trusted by the rest of the marginal countries. Otherwise they will continue to be treated like the gun dealing diseased-crack-whore that they are acting like.

Coupled with a UN Arab lead peace keeping mission, there is some chance that a level of stability may be acheived in the area over the next ten years or so.

Also

.
posted by asok at 3:05 AM on September 18, 2007


I'm not sure you MeFites understand the actual meaning of these numbers. Let me illuminate you, please...

You see, the death toll must be levied against the success of the mission in Iraq. This equation has numerous factors involved such as U.S Casualties, injured soldiers, decline or increase in sectarian violence, etc.

For instance, when we compare 1.2 million dead versus just the movement in the sectarian violence column, we come up with a figure of 1.2 million deaths/(+/-)0 it appears that we have a core success margin of (+/-) infinity.

However, by changing only one small variable, say whether you were shot in the front of the head or the back, we find that we have a severe decrease in sectarian violence, which plots a positive success vector for our mission in Iraq.

This is only one factor. We must also consider how much money we've made for private corporations versus the near negligible cost to taxpayers, as well as determining a reasonable freedom and democracy index, before we can even begin to understand what those numbers mean.

Clearly, this is the only unbiased way to evaluate the war in the proper context, and must be left to our trusted political, military, and media leaders. It is just too big a number for laymen to understand.

Thank you for your time,
The Administration
posted by softriver at 3:51 AM on September 18, 2007 [7 favorites]


lalochezia- what would be effective is a public (i.e. government) confession that a huge mistake was made, a heartfelt apology to Iraq with a promise of rebuilding the infrastructures, and especially some humility in asking other countries that have not lost their honor and credibility to intervene and fix our messes. It will never happen.
posted by francesca too at 3:52 AM on September 18, 2007


public What you ask is not something that can be easily covered in a metafilter thread, its more along the lines of an intro to statistics class.

Very briefly: what appears to be an extremely small samle can, and does, reflect the whole provided that the sample is properly random. Your observation re: crime rates is why randomity is key. The sample would include people from both high and low crime areas and thus provide a picture of what crime rates were on average. If you're looking for a more fine grained study (ie: where is crime high and where is crime low) that's a completely different sort of thing and naturally requires completely different techniques.

Take, however, the question of America and presidential elections. Despite the occasional hiccup [1] scientific polling does reveal, with a startling degree of accuracy, the overall political picture in America, population around 300 million. Those polls usually have a sample of around 1,300. Microscopic compared to the overall population, yet sufficent to give accurate results.

The amazing thing about this study is how large their sample was relative to the overall population, not how small it was.

As for what to do about Iraq?

I have no idea. I'm not an expert on the region, all I know is what I see in the news and got from a few books. Addressing the situation honestly, admitting that Iraq is currently in a state of civil war for example, seems like the minimum starting position for effective analysis, and the Bushies seem incapiable of that.

Partitioning the country sounds good at first, but then you've got to consider oil revenue, and the fact that Turkey, at the least, would oppose, probably to the point of war, the idea of Iraqi Kurdistan.

[1] Or possibly election fraud.
posted by sotonohito at 3:54 AM on September 18, 2007


I should add that the accuracy of small samples is extremely counterintuative, so its perfectly natural that you'd be suspicious. It seems as if you'd have to count everyone, or at least a huge number of people, to get an accurate picture of what is going on. Just remember that common sense is what tells us the Earth is flat and the center of the universe. Intuition, especially when it comes to scientific matters, is wrong more often than not.

Unless you are willing to either take a class on the subject, or even read a few introductory books on the topic, I'm afraid you'll have to take the experts at their word. It isn't something that can be explained in anything smaller than a book.
posted by sotonohito at 4:03 AM on September 18, 2007


We've been going about this whole war the wrong way - we were supposed to save the cheerleader first.

... kicking the can down the road.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 4:14 AM on September 18, 2007


The amazing thing about this study is how large their sample was relative to the overall population, not how small it was.

I suspect the sample size was driven up by the stratification. I actually thought the most amazing thing was the compliance rates. 87% is an almost unbelievable.
posted by srboisvert at 4:23 AM on September 18, 2007


I don't want to sound like I "SUPPORT TEH TROOPS!!!11" or approve of the Bush Regime in any way shape or form, but "genocide" != a lot of people killed.
posted by DU at 4:25 AM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


For a long time, I have wanted to some hard data on questions like this concerning Iraq. But as much as I might be inclined to, I can't use statistical data like this until I can understand it. And there are a great many things that I don't understand.

Keeping in mind public's question about reaching a figure of a million from a sample of around 1,500, I also have my doubts about the original survey question; could there not be certain cultural issues related to the use of the notion, 'household'? Even with the caveat, 'I mean those who were actually living under your roof,' there still seems to be an issue regarding the time period within, and the extent to which, that particular person was part of the household. In a time of war, where it is expected that people will move around alot, this seems relevant.

Perhaps that seems like splitting hairs, but then there seem to be issues with creating true randomness for their sample as well. From what I can tell, they looked at sixteen sites across four regions. The thing is, one is obviously going to want to look more at the hot spots like Bagdhad or Najaf, in order to see how people have been killed there. But isn't that always going to affect randomness?

Finally, there is the issue of good faith. People might find they have lots of good reasons for wanting their murdered loved ones to be counted, for their death to mean something in a bigger picture. This is understandable, but how can statistical science calibrate for this?

As is so obvious, I am not a statistician. If anyone would be so inclined, I'd be grateful if they could help me understand how to defend the basis for these figures, and to dispel the concerns I've mentioned.

on preview; the accuracy of small samples for 'Is it x or y' questions, as in elections, seems to be a completely different sort of problem when compared to this sort of poll, where much more interpretation is required, and where issues of displacement and grief might be involved. And it seems quite artificial to divide portions of Iraq simply into polarities like 'high/low violence areas.'
posted by rudster at 4:42 AM on September 18, 2007


sien: Was _just_ going to mention that. Cheers!
posted by the cydonian at 5:09 AM on September 18, 2007


I'm just wondering where Bush hid all those bodies. At 800+ per day - they must be piling up somewhere.
posted by bovious at 5:19 AM on September 18, 2007


For all who want to put their focus and or disbelief into the accuracy/methodology of the poll in question, you may do well to consider the possibility of a +/- error of 75%.
Let us set aside the upper figure of 2,000,000. It still leaves 300,000 deaths.
That is an awful lot of people killed to supposedly save the U.S. from Saddam's WMD, rid Iraq of Sadaam, bring democracy to Iraq and insure peace and stability in the middle east.
Oh, and I read somewhere that many of those deaths were of non combatants including women and children. Also read somewhere there were a number of life altering injuries.
Where the hell is that 'think of the children' thing when they could benefit from people thinking of them.
posted by notreally at 5:21 AM on September 18, 2007


rudster wrote: "I have wanted to some hard data on questions like this concerning Iraq. But as much as I might be inclined to, I can't use statistical data like this until I can understand it." and later wrote "As is so obvious, I am not a statistician."

The solution to your conundrum is to study statistics and sampling, not to imply that a properly done study is not properly done. The problems you have with the study are a result of your own lack of understanding, not a flaw in the study itself.

It is not wrong to say "I don't understand this, but the people who do understand such things have no complaint about the study, further the only people complaining about the study are non-experts with a political agenda therefore I'll take the study at face value".

In today's world there's a crapload of stuff that you must be an expert to understand, and its impossible to be an expert in all fields. The reasonable position, therefore, seems to be that unless the experts dispute the findings, assume that the findings are correct. Someone, I'm sure, will now scream "appeal to authority", before you do so I recommend you look at the actual definition of that falacy. Its only a falacy if the "expert" you cite isn't actually an expert.

I will agree with DU that it isn't genocide, its just fucking horrible. Genocide is a deliberate attempt to wipe out a group of people, this seems to be a combination of civil war and insane amounts of incompetence on the part of the US government.
posted by sotonohito at 5:49 AM on September 18, 2007


I should note that I'm not an expert on the subject either. I am, however, an educated layman, in that I have taken classes on the subject and can, with great effort, work through the math if I really need to. Or, at least, once back when I was in the class I could work through the math.

But the results can't be argued with, and the math is solid. You don't, in fact, have to count every jellybean in a jar to find out (roughly anyway) how many are red and how many are blue. Random sampling does work, within its margin of error, quite well, and its results can be safely taken as fact.
posted by sotonohito at 5:52 AM on September 18, 2007


rudster and public
Are you saying that because you don't understand the math involved you won't believe the results?
posted by RussHy at 6:13 AM on September 18, 2007


So Bush, with his Harvard MBA, spends a trillion dollars to kill a million people. Not efficient at all. He could have got the same result much cheaper with a few neutron bombs. In fact, a real businessman would offshore it: sell the bombs to Iran and have them nuke Iraq.
posted by RussHy at 6:19 AM on September 18, 2007


I still fail to see how you are meant to draw conclusions about the overall mortality rate in Iraq using such a tiny sample of the general population. They have asked a proportionally representative number of people, selected at random, from various areas in Iraq about family deaths.

Right, but the reason you fail to see is because you don't understand how it works. The only question is how 'random' they managed to actually be. The closer to true randomness, the more valid their results were be. In fact, if they tried to guess what areas were most violent, and poll there, their results would be totally useless.

And they're not trying to get an exact figure. Their MoE is +/- 2.5 (so like 3,000 people) but I suspect their true margin of error is much higher. I know in the lancet study it was +/- 200,000 out of 600,000.

But in terms of the actual sample size, 1499 is actually pretty big. One of the things about statistics is that after a certain point, it doesn't matter how big the actual pool is, given your sample size. So a 1000 person poll of 12 million is just as valid as a 1000 person poll of 12 billion.
posted by delmoi at 6:21 AM on September 18, 2007


How do we know he didn't use neutron bombs? I mean, with a kill rate like this, troops and citizens and journalists should be wading through piles and piles of dead bodies. Maybe they were all incinerated in a flash while nobody was looking?
posted by bovious at 6:23 AM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


His kid. Faces of the US military dead. Iraq war dead.
posted by nickyskye at 6:25 AM on September 18, 2007


Back in '92 I interviewed the owner of a funeral parlor for a school essay. He told me the entire population of the US could be buried in New Jersey with space left over.

Let's see. If you lose 1,000,000 in 5 years the average is 200,000 per year, which is about 550 per day. Spread them out and they don't need to pile up.
posted by RussHy at 6:33 AM on September 18, 2007


sotonohito, you again raise some interesting questions. While running the risk of a derail, I might like to wonder here whether the fallacy 'appeal to authority' could only exist in situations where there already is a community of experts, and then only when those experts are in disagreement.

One important mitigating factor here would of course be whether the norms for being an expert could accomodate any form of inaccuracy or imprecision in the expert's statements, which is to say whether all the expert's judgments would have to be true all the time in order to be an expert.

Another interesting aspect of the way you've employed the concept of 'expert,' in your couching of the 'appeal to authority,' is that it seems to come very close to debarring any common-sense or everyday-language translation of the truths ascertained by experts. In this way, you seem to be advocating a strict epistemic boundary between a so-called 'folk-statistics' mindset and an expert's understanding, where others might see this transition as more shifting and fluid.

Finally, it is worthwhile to consider whether the issues and concerns I wrote about are, as you have phrased it, 'flaws' within the scientific endeavour of data collection, or whether they are rather possibilities for influential, albeit unknown or unmeasurable, factors which the scientist must do her or his best to control for, in the process of data collection. Some might argue that given the entropy toward which every system moves, there will always be factors which skew the data, and the quality of the empirical conclusions about that system stands and falls according to the degree to which the scientist can finds ways to alleviate, so to speak, these fluctuations in their raw data. The point being that it is therefore misleading to think of these skewings as flaws, i.e. as products of human error, but rather as 'risks' inherent to the scientific endeavor itself, as well as the truths it purports to furnish us.
posted by rudster at 6:39 AM on September 18, 2007


lalochezia -- the only way to end the American compulsion to give every generation its own war is to follow the method that has guided every other decision made by your nation since its birth. War has to stop being profitable.

You're so close to it, too, yet so far. Consider the current dichotomy between the fact that the US military is at war but the citizenry is at the mall. War has ceased to be a macroeconomic plus for the country ever since the 80s, when the nation transitioned from being a production economy centered around factories to being a knowledge economy. You can't use war as an excuse to mobilize and guarantee full employment for a bunch of accountants and middle managers. War still functions, though, as a viable market for a whole host of corporations who derive revenue and profit from selling equipment to the militaries of the world. So long, as there's money to be made, there will be excuses to make it.

The only way to achieve that in this lifetime -- prosecute Iraq to its bitter, bitter end. Let it bleed your nation white. Let it empty your coffers and force you to sell every share of corporate stock and every parcel of available land to the Chinese. Give your country an unforgettable scar about what it means to have national hubris and unchecked concepts of American exceptionalism. Then live in the shadow of a Chinese military machine who has eclipsed your place and will make you step to their tune. Because somebody has to make money and if America won't then the Europeans, Russians or Chinese will. But, hey, at least Americans can now sleep with a clean but scarred conscience knowing that it isn't their missiles, bombs and wrong decisions creating the grief in the world.

The only way to keep war in general from being profitable? Give everyone nuclear weapons. The only way to counter infinite potential for revenue is to promote inifinite cost.
posted by bl1nk at 6:41 AM on September 18, 2007


rudster
I don't understand what you are saying. Do you challenge the results based on your ignorance of the math and/or mistrust of the people who did the study?
posted by RussHy at 6:44 AM on September 18, 2007


Its only a falacy if the "expert" you cite isn't actually an expert.

Of course, most people don't have the qualifications to determine who is an expert. Who's even heard of ORB before today?
posted by smackfu at 6:44 AM on September 18, 2007


RussHy, above I was responding to points made by sotonohito. But to come back to my original comment, I do not mean to sow distrust concerning the people who did the study. I do, however, wonder about the science used to produce their results. It seems to me the science should easily be able to address such concerns, and I was wondering whether anyone here could might like to give a layman's account as to how it does so.

This question is this; how can the math, the formulas, correct for certain incertainties which may creep into the data as a result of the complexity of the situation in Iraq, any *potential* vagueness in the natural language used in their survey, or other factors that might influence the data? I thought it was a simple question, and I had thought someone might look at the .pdf's and such and be like, 'Aha it looks they're using the ....-ian method, which has shown promise in .... situations in contrast to the ...-ian approach, used up to 1996, on account of its being able better to correct for ... , so you see rudster and public ..., etc., etc.'

so once again, 'I'd be grateful if [anyone] could help me understand how to defend the basis for these figures, and to dispel the concerns I've mentioned.'
posted by rudster at 7:04 AM on September 18, 2007


slightly less facetiously -- to folks who say that it'll all turn out fine if one just prosecutes BushCo for war crimes and appeals to the International Community for aid, realize that this is a cop out.

Appealing to the International Community for Aid is not like declaring Chapter 11 (at least it's not if you're the US). The International Community is not some deep-pocketed bank who will bail you out if you just admit guilt and profess conversion to a new way of life. The International Community has a budget composed of the spare change of the world -- leftover Yen, Euros and Dollars found between sofa cushions and tithed in great displays of piety that are still pitiful in the grand scheme of things. The UN can work to fix small nations like East Timor, Haiti or Cambodia. The UN cannot fix Iraq. The reconstruction of Afghanistan, which was attacked with almost unanimous sanction by the international community, is pathetic.

The UN cannot go into a country where people are still shooting at each other and driving truck bombs into buildings with big red crosses painted on them. The UN cannot compel dozens of warring militia factions to a negotiating table by itself. Somebody else needs to compel the various sides to put their arms down; and that may be a coalition of Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran, but the only player who can broker that sort of deal is the US. Every other nation with some clout (France, Russia, etc.) is not invested enough to see it through. Anything short of ending the violence is the US absconding of responsibility. It's your nation being a new single mom who decides to abandon their baby in front of a hospital while fervently claiming that you're going to use birth control from now on. Perhaps unfortunate but reasonable behavior from an unwise teenager, but intolerable from a world superpower.

What do you need to do to make the International Community come in to help out? First -- the Surge has to work, or more generally, you have to get people in Iraq to stop shooting at each other. That doesn't have to be on Bush's terms. Maybe you can do soft partition and engage in some mild ethnic cleansing to ensure that the Sunnis, Shias and Kurds are in separate zones which can help enforce some kind of ceasefire (this is also mildly facetious -- but one way or another, the country has to be stabilized before the International Community can step in). After that, go ahead and send Cheney and Rumsfeld and Bush to the Hague if the human sacrifice will help, but you can't leave now or soon. You have to stay. You have to fix your mess. And, of course, ideally after 2008 so that the Democrats can take credit for cleaning up from Republican mistakes.
posted by bl1nk at 7:21 AM on September 18, 2007


How will you know you can trust us? If you want to know, you will have to get a Statistics for Dummies type book and learn the concepts. It's not hard.
posted by RussHy at 7:22 AM on September 18, 2007


bl1nk
I like the idea of a Mild Ethnic Cleanser. We could market it to countries with complexion problems.
posted by RussHy at 7:27 AM on September 18, 2007


I'd be grateful if someone could explain epistomology to me so I can be sure that I know that Iraq exists.
posted by srboisvert at 7:36 AM on September 18, 2007 [6 favorites]


Are people seeing these numbers? Like sien said, that 5% of the country's population.

Here's some perspective for you. The U.S. Civil War, by far the bloodiest conflict in American history, killed 3% of the population. And that's with Sherman setting burning half of the South to the ground.

This is not a disaster for those people, it's an apocalypse.

lalochezia asked what we do. You know what we do? You know what to do, everybody does, but we are conditioned not to do it.

Protest marches are stupid wastes of time, and they waste energy and attention that could be put elsewhere. And as you said, when Hillary gets elected, it won't really be any different, it will just be sold better, with more polish.

You know, I had written a big long comment full of hot air about what we could do, but you know what? We can't do anything. They have power, we don't and there's no mechanism for transferring it. That's that. Bush has an all-time low approval rating and he does what he wants and no one stops him. That to me means that the people you'd expect to stop him secretly want him to keep doing what he's doing.

Unless you can find 10,000 people willing to commit about $10,000 each to a perfectly legal project, there isn't anything. If you think we can do that, we can talk about a plan.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:49 AM on September 18, 2007


War has ceased to be a macroeconomic plus for the country ever since the 80s, when the nation transitioned from being a production economy centered around factories to being a knowledge economy.

I'm with you in spirit, bl1nk, but this is wrong. The american economy depends on defense spending more than you realize. The $800 billion on defense + Iraq was basically all spent in the US economy here. Without that spending, GDP growth would have been less than 1%, and in 2004 there would have been a recession. And if people stop going to the mall, then all the people who work at the mall don't have money.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:52 AM on September 18, 2007


I_am_a_Jedi:

No, I think the problem here was that we saved the goddamn Cheerleader and he grew up to be a complete and utter shithead who became President.

Destroy the Cheerleader, save the world.
posted by mephron at 7:53 AM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


so once again, 'I'd be grateful if [anyone] could help me understand how to defend the basis for these figures, and to dispel the concerns I've mentioned.'
posted by rudster at 10:04 AM on September 18


Rudster, don't expect people to give you a BS in Statistics in a comment. Let's say the number is off by 20%, which is an insanely high error rate. So instead of a million dead, it's 800,000 (it could also be 20% too low, btw). Is that better? What difference does that make?

Does it matter if 2993 people were killed on 9-11, or if it was 2394?
posted by Pastabagel at 8:01 AM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


So wait, now I'm the one who doesn't understand. Someone comes along and asks questions about some data that fits very nicely with a certain world picture, in a discussion forum mind you, and those questions get ascribed to mere ignorance, distrust, and maybe even - wait for it - a little stupidity. Seems reminiscent, in its quite efficient execution, of a political tactic I've recently seen performed. There couldn't be any connection, could there ?!
posted by rudster at 8:07 AM on September 18, 2007


Yes I was being a moron, thank you for making me go and Google shit.
posted by public at 8:13 AM on September 18, 2007


bl1nk, generally 'Yankee go home' is the first step to regaining some stability. The US cannot fix the mess because the US lacks the reputation, ability or empathy to acheive any reduction in internal strife in Iraq.

The way the US could contribute to lessening the problems would be by not attempting to be the 'Decider' in this situation. The US seems to have a pathological inability to interact with other sovereign nations, unless by military engagement. The US military industrial complex is not known for its respect of human rights.

The internal strife that has followed the invasion of Iraq can be quelled by many years of work by the people involved, supported by a UN Arab lead peace keeping force.

Afghanistan could have been a model for the recovery of stability, had Abdul Haq survived. Because he was not a willing puppet, the US did not support him or sought to thwart his attempts to unify Afghanistan.

Look to the Isreali-Palestinian situation for another example of the US not acheiving any significant peace, for the past 50 years.
posted by asok at 8:14 AM on September 18, 2007


See also.
posted by Wonderwoman at 8:17 AM on September 18, 2007


rudster:

I agree that people here are probably unnecessarily rude, which could be for a variety of reasons, perhaps even like you suggest, I was questioning something that was convenient to a certain world view. Or maybe just do to a misplaced feeling of entitlement? Or just the usual internet shitcock effect?

That doesn't make them wrong though.
posted by public at 8:18 AM on September 18, 2007


There are really only two problems here:
1) insufficient numbers are being killed
2) certain groups are being killed more than other groups

Rectify these two mistakes, and you will have the start of a brave new era. Which will be followed, naturally, by the Glorious New Regime.

So, ratchet up the killing by at least a factor of a hundred. It'll be tough work, but I have faith in you. Second, we need to seriously investigate spreading the Iraqi Method across the world. Why New Mexico hasn't degenerated into a morass of sectarian strife is simply beyond me. Are you people asleep, or what?

Come on, we're so close here!
posted by aramaic at 8:23 AM on September 18, 2007


rudster The problem is that the question you ask is so deep that it can't be answered here. Which, I guess, is the Fermat's Last Theorem excuse, but its true. You need to find a book on introductory stats becuase its going to take something about book length to really answer the questions you are asking.

Its been forever since I took a stats class, so I can't recall the proper -ian names, but yes, of course, there are established and verified methods to avoid the problems in phrasiology, etc, that you brought up.

But even if I could give you the -ian name, what would that really do for you? You'd still be taking my word for it that its not just BS.

To take an example, most opinion polls tend to shuffle the order of questions and cycle through several paraphrases of the quesitons to minimize the risk of screwing things up, and they spend a great deal of brainpower on proper phrasiology to avoid introducing skew into the questions to begin with. Ensuring that poll questions will produce accurate numbers is something that many people devote their entire lives to.

Of course, this can be done the other way to produce polls which give a result skewed in the direction the agency wants them skewed. Which is why reputable agency will publish its methodology, questions, etc, as this agency has.

One reason for the hostility you are encountering is that your questions imply that you think of the study as just a group of random guys who asked a few Iraqis some questions without really thinking things through.
posted by sotonohito at 8:33 AM on September 18, 2007


One reason for the hostility you are encountering is that your questions imply that you think of the study as just a group of random guys who asked a few Iraqis some questions without really thinking things through.

Is there really such a thing as an expert in conducting surveys in war zones? It's a massively different environment for any civilian operator. Even those who can afford to hire companies like Blackwater.
posted by public at 8:49 AM on September 18, 2007


Guns, not roses, for Iraq: "The U.S. is selling billions in weapons to Iraq. Is the Pentagon's plan making the country secure or arming it to the teeth for civil war?"
posted by kirkaracha at 8:53 AM on September 18, 2007


rudster: start with reading about regression analysis (2nd link is a .pdf). IANAPollingExpert but I work with some.

This is a course on Understanding & Interpreting Polls, as offered by the American Association for Polling Research. It's free, though it requires registration and Flash 8.

And, for anyone else who's going to get into disputing/doubting these figures when you don't understand basic statistics and polling design (like I don't), please ask yourself first why it's so important to you that the results and/or methods be "wrong". If you read somewhere that a poll shows that 80% of drivers on your commute (assuming you drive to work) are dangerous idiots who don't know how to use a turn signal, would you doubt the methods/results? Or would you nod your head and say yes, they sure are! Confirmation bias, of a sort, is what that is.
posted by rtha at 9:17 AM on September 18, 2007


I implied no such thing. What I presupposed, on the other hand, is that after taking some time and looking at the data, I could then come here to ask what I hoped to be not too stupid questions about the data and its conclusions, in anticipation of similar questions that I might receive from those acquaintances of mine who do not share my political persuasions. But i must admit I'm used to being challenged by interlocutors of a different order of density.

So stupid as though questions may be (and probably are), they still haven't been answered (but I'm hopeful). thx, though, rtha.
posted by rudster at 9:20 AM on September 18, 2007


Or would you nod your head and say yes, they sure are! Confirmation bias, of a sort, is what that is.

Isn't thinking that pollsters know what they are up to and actually produce valid results confirmation bias as well?

/TROLLING
posted by public at 9:23 AM on September 18, 2007


rudster:

I recently read this book, which attempts to put statistics and probability in layman's terms. An entire section of the book is dedicated to explaining surveys like this one. It helped me understand how these sorts of things work and how you can get a relatively accurate result from a seemingly small sample size.
posted by kalimotxero at 9:29 AM on September 18, 2007


Sorry, rudster - didn't mean to come off as mean. Hope the links help - I'm about to start the understanding polls course myself, so that my polling expert colleagues don't run away when they see me coming!

And I wasn't necessarily directing the "Why do you need to doubt this?" at you, or not only you. I see a lot of that sort of attitude both here in MeFi and out in the non-blue/grey/green world, and I think it's just a good question to keep in mind when reading polling results: Why am I happy (or unhappy) with these results - what do I have invested in this that might not make me ask questions I should be asking?
posted by rtha at 9:34 AM on September 18, 2007


mission accomplished: roughly 2/3rds of this thread is a discussion of polling methodology.

meanwhile, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of iraqis are still just as dead. and freedom loving mercenaries on 'our side' are living it up in baghdad, playing real-life, fully-immersive video games with iraqi lives like this one.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:04 AM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


asok -- as I said, I think that a peacekeeping force of Syrians, Saudis and Iranians can probably work, but a neutral party needs to be in place to quell concerns amongst the various Middle-Eastern nations that their 'partners' aren't going to use the opportunity to merely carve out a new Baathistan, Greater Arabia and Iran+Najaf (because Iran+Najaf=Shiawesome). Perhaps the US can't or won't fashion that sort of alliance, but I can't conceive of another nation that would; and the general problem with having it go through the UN is that it's too easy for the Syrians, Saudis, etc. to nullify the Security Council by appealing to their Permanent Member allies to veto the body into paralysis.

Though ... hmm ... it might be England, if Tony Blair could actually pull some clout away from the US.

Nonetheless, until such a force is assembled and allowed in to Iraq, a US withdrawal will, imho, lead to a resurgence of militia tension. Sure, the forces that have the liberation of their country as their raison d'etre will likely evaporate once the Yankees go home, but it's equally likely that they'll be subsumed into the petty armies of factions who now want to see Iraq refashioned under a specific agenda. That, itself, can lead to civil war, and the trick is to figure out how to get out, to nullify the anti-Americanism, while ensuring that the Iraqi state doesn't disintegrate.

I also felt a great sense of disappointment during Abdul Haq's assassination, though not quite as much as Rabin's.
posted by bl1nk at 10:08 AM on September 18, 2007


...The perversion of scholarship by denial can only be eradicated if there is no need for people to deny what they truly believe. People deny genocide because genocide is socially unacceptable in the modern world; they deny global warming because pollution is socially unacceptable; they deny evolution because fundamentalist ignorance is socially unacceptable. One way of eradicating denial would be to create the conditions for the affirmation of genocide, pollution and ignorance. If supporters of these evils would affirm rather than deny them, then we could have a proper debate with them.

Unpalatable? Of course. Impractical? Of course. But consider how endless debates about "the facts" impede proper discussion of values in society. All too often, crucial arguments degenerate into endless squabbling about some detail or other. For example, rather than addressing important questions regarding humanity's relationship to the earth, the global-warming debate often ends up as a to-and-fro about the meaning of a particular graph.

What are our desires? How should we live? How should we relate to the earth? These are the questions that really matter, but we are still trapped in the Enlightenment assumption that such questions can be resolved through science and rational scholarship. This will not happen. Another legacy of Enlightenment has been the impoverishment of the language of values and meaning, or their relegation to discrete areas such as academic philosophy and theology.

In the political realm, talk about values and meaning is usually just windy rhetoric, without substance. But discussions of values and meaning need not only to be complex, far-reaching and difficult. They also need to be a part of all of our lives. In the end, there is no substitute for free and open debate about our desires and our visions of a better world. Denial is a pathological symptom of modernity's suppression of such debates.
The seductions of denial
posted by y2karl at 10:11 AM on September 18, 2007 [5 favorites]


Might an answer to lalochezia's question be to open our own borders a little/lot - if not a free movement of people at least more openness for qualified people, (middle class) kids coming to educate in our Universities, scholarships paid for from our taxes. If we were to allow immigration rights on a sufficiently large scale (sure, to those with minimum qualifications) our security would be compromised, our social welfare put under strain in the short term, but maybe there'd be a bridge over the us-and-them divide so in the long-term the situation would improve. Or would there still be Qutb's like, going home preaching 'clash of civilisations'? I dunno - it'd be impossible to get done from the supply side, so I guess it's academic what the demand-side reaction would be.
posted by YouRebelScum at 10:16 AM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


What is to be done about a situation that despite the protests, despite the logic, despite the draining of intellectual physical and ethical capital, despite the lack of rationale and the vast, senseless killing, still runs away from us ?

What is to be done to stop the systemic need for us to initiate war to in order to make money and to stop those in power being made or choosing to be made complicit with the death machine?


lalochezia: Those are excellent questions and very difficult (perhaps impossible) to answer. William James confronted them a century ago in his essay The Moral Equivalent of War, which begins: "The war against war is going to be no holiday excursion or camping party. The military feelings are too deeply grounded to abdicate their place among our ideals until better substitutes are offered than the glory and shame that come to nations as well as to individuals from the ups and downs of politics and the vicissitudes of trade." His suggested solution ("To coal and iron mines, to freight trains, to fishing fleets in December, to dishwashing, clotheswashing, and windowwashing, to road-building and tunnel-making, to foundries and stoke-holes, and to the frames of skyscrapers, would our gilded youths be drafted off, according to their choice, to get the childishness knocked out of them, and to come back into society with healthier sympathies and soberer ideas") is probably impracticable and is abhorrent to my convictions, but the question remains. How do you satisfy the instincts that lead us to war without getting people killed?

Yes I was being a moron, thank you for making me go and Google shit.

Well done, public. 'Tain't easy to say "I was wrong." Gold star.
posted by languagehat at 10:34 AM on September 18, 2007


YouRebelScum -- that posits that war and invasion is motivated by xenophobia; when it's probably more accurate to say that military conflict is motivated by a few power hungry individuals who can use propaganda to create xenophobia that buttresses public support for war.

The tragedy of the Balkans illustrate that a centuries old multicultural society can be torn asunder by a few shrewd, shameless individuals who can cleverly exploit the narcissism of minor ethnic difference. Towns where Muslims, Catholics and Orthodox lived side by side and intermarried for generations were torn asunder by a relentless Serbian media campaign that painted the Bosnian Muslims as Invaders of the Barbaric East and Catholic Croats as fascists and heirs to the Nazis.
posted by bl1nk at 10:37 AM on September 18, 2007


bl1nk: I'm not thinking so much that the West is zenophobic (assuming you're talking about Bush etc as the 'power hungry individuals' not al Sadr etc.), but that our intereactions with the Islamic world is making them hate us. Is the question not how do we overcome that gap? How do we stop alienating them?
posted by YouRebelScum at 10:43 AM on September 18, 2007


"...interactions...are..." sorry.
posted by YouRebelScum at 10:44 AM on September 18, 2007


I'd be grateful if someone could explain epistomology to me so I can be sure that I know that Iraq exists.

Iraq does not exist.
posted by effwerd at 10:53 AM on September 18, 2007


"How do we stop alienating them?"
We could start by not park hundreds of thousands of troops in their countries for decades at a time.
posted by RussHy at 11:00 AM on September 18, 2007


Not parking...
posted by RussHy at 11:00 AM on September 18, 2007


ah, sorry, I thought it was more along the lines of how does the US stop being so retarded about going to war all the time.

As far not making 'them' hate 'us', that's a complicated question, and certainly more freedom of movement for people can always help, but I've also known some fairly conservative Muslims who've moved to the West for a job or school but still manage to utterly hate and reject the culture.

In some cases, immigration can get to the point where communities of immigrants develop a large enough critical mass that there is no need to adapt or interact with the host culture and you just have enclaves of foreigners living inside your border. That's an issue that is currently being faced by more diverse nations like Canada and/or the United Kingdom.

Nonetheless, the tension about 'them' hating 'us' is also underlied by trends in globalization that lead to radical cultural changes that national populations try to resist. It's not just manifested in terrorism but also in the outsourcing backlash and the Slow Food movement. It's this resistance to a world that isn't changing on terms that you are comfortable with, and I think part of the secret to relieving that tension is both figuring out how to modify globalization so that it is more reflective of a global phenomenon, rather than, say a reflection of Western capitalism -- and also, in some cases, convincing people that some of these changes are good and that, say, as storied and ancient a rite as female circumcision might be, perhaps the practicing culture ought to realize that it's time for that sort of thing to end.
posted by bl1nk at 11:00 AM on September 18, 2007


y2karl: "What are our desires? How should we live? How should we relate to the earth? These are the questions that really matter, but we are still trapped in the Enlightenment assumption that such questions can be resolved through science and rational scholarship."

Not sure I really get what the author is proposing as an alternative. Without rational scholarship and discussion you have nothing, no basis on which highly disparate viewpoints can come to the table and find common ground.

If I declare that I believe x, and someone else believes y, and we don't agree that there is an objective truth that can be discovered through rational inquiry, then there's nothing that can be done to reconcile the two viewpoints. I can just sit there and reject everything the other person says, safe in my belief, because that's all that matters. I have my reality, he has his; but when those realities conflict, conflict is the inevitable result.

Both historically and in the present, I see a lot more harm coming from arationality and fundamentalism than I see coming from rational, scientific inquiry.

Changing the topic slightly: while I originally had thought that the current Iraq War had many historical parallels to the Spanish-American War, particularly in the way the public was encouraged and supported it initially, and the overall feeling that it was supposed to be a "splendid little war" to watch on TV ... I think now that the Philippine War is a much more useful lesson.

So many things that we've seen in the current conflict have happened before -- atrocities on both sides, accusations of genocide, widespread public opposition ... even waterboarding -- but history doesn't give any easy solutions, given that we have seemingly recreated the morass in the Philippines on a much greater scale in Iraq.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:02 AM on September 18, 2007


Kadin -- while the Philippine War was apt for 2003, its relationship with Iraq diverged after 2005, largely because the Philippines never degenerated into an internecine conflict that was being incompetently refereed by the United States.

Also, the American Army was able to prevail in the Philippines by sheer force of arms and establishing safe zones around villages, a practice that is somewhat similar to the current 'secure-and-hold' strategy being used by the current surge. However, the same strategy of 'hamleting' was in place in Vietnam and failed. If anything, Vietnam was an illustration that the Philippine War cannot be repeated in modern times, especially against an insurgent force that could rely on supplies from foreign nations.
posted by bl1nk at 11:11 AM on September 18, 2007


bl1nk - I wouldn't suggest that immigration is a panacea. I'm thinking of possible mid-term options rather than the short-term of pulling troops out of Iraq (but perhaps not Afghanistan, where they fulfil the function of stopping an ethnic civil war) and the long-term/sweeping of changing global capitalism.
posted by YouRebelScum at 11:14 AM on September 18, 2007


For those looking for comparisons:
What Bush's invasion would look like in the United States
posted by psyche7 at 11:14 AM on September 18, 2007


In some cases, immigration can get to the point where communities of immigrants develop a large enough critical mass that there is no need to adapt or interact with the host culture and you just have enclaves of foreigners living inside your border. That's an issue that is currently being faced by more diverse nations like Canada and/or the United Kingdom.

Having previously lived in New York City, I'd point out that this is common in every part of the industrialized world. Unfortunately, the polarization of immigrants from similar cultural backgrounds into tightly knit communities usually breeds a high degree of racism in the naturalized citizenry of that region, making the politics of the issue increasingly more complex, as people with the ambition to go to war can manipulate those feelings to evade reasoned discourse.

In almost every major war of the last 1,500 years, this issue has provided pretext, however misguided. It didn't start with Hitler or Bush, it started in the Crusades, and we still haven't quite figured out the best way to counter it.

If you're interested in these sorts of things, I'd encourage you to check out this book.
posted by softriver at 11:18 AM on September 18, 2007


That's an issue that is currently being faced by more diverse nations like Canada and/or the United Kingdom.

That depends on how you measure diversity. About 13.4% of Canadians were a visible minority (2001 Stats Canada). Roughly 7.9% of the UK identify as "ethnic minorities" of one type or another (2001 Home Office Census).

The US is upwards of 16% (12.9% black/african, 4.2% asian; adding in Hispanics or Pacific Islanders increases the figure).

So, "more diverse" how? Topographically? Linguistically? Economically? Percentage of people born outside the country?
posted by aramaic at 11:27 AM on September 18, 2007


aramaic -- I mean culturally. To my mind, a black/african american still largely self identifies as American. That hypothetical African American is just as likely to watch football as their white counterpart, and/or believe in the national myths of the American Dream and Rugged Individualism, or consider a hamburger and fries as comfort food.

While there are certainly multi-generational black Canadians who've lived in the country since the days of the Underground Railroad, a significant number of them are also recent emigres from the Caribbean who would prefer cricket over hockey and identify a Jamaican patty as their default fast food instead of Tim Horton's donuts.

One can, of course, point to New York as an example of an American city with a rich tapestry of immigrant culture, but New York is somewhat exceptional and that you aren't likely to find societies that are as diverse in say, Atlanta or Chicago. but, almost every major Canadian city -- Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal can give a New York a run for its money in terms of sheer number of new or recent immigrants who clearly straddle the line between host and visitor nations.
posted by bl1nk at 11:45 AM on September 18, 2007


Not sure I really get what the author is proposing as an alternative.

If you clicked on the link, you might have read the following paragraphs, which ran just prior to those quoted above:
True, experts have done tireless and valuable work in debunking the deniers' arguments, but those who confrontdenial often misunderstand the phenomenon. Denial is often dismissed as an "anti-Enlightenment" phenomenon, as "supersitition", as "pseudo-scientific", as "mumbo-jumbo". Yet deniers usually claim that they are the true upholders of the values of Enlightenment, the true seekers of truth.

Further, those who seek to debunk denial often overestimate the power of scholarship to convince deniers of their folly. Deniers are so wedded to their views that they will not revise them no matter what. Denial scholarship is based on a continuous search to find new ways to cast doubt on scientific truths, to find infinitesimal errors and inconsistencies in legitimate scholarship.

Such is the touching faith in science and progress of many experts, that they often end up being simultaneously ineffectual and bullying in their confrontations with deniers. Richard Dawkins has demolished creation science on countless occasions, and in his anger at its persistence has gone on to rage at religion and superstition as the principle cause of evil in the world. In doing so he fails to appreciate how those who deny evolution are themselves wedded to scientific language.

There is a limit to how far denial can be combatted by scholarly and scientific means alone. Rather, we need to look at why denial happens in order to prevent it. It is clear that denial is frequently used to protect vested interests. It is hardly surprising that sections of the petrochemical industry have funded studies denying global warming, as a cut in fossil-fuel consumption would threaten them. It is hardly surprising that fundamentalist Christians have denied evolution given that it threatens their literal understanding of the bible. It is hardly surprising that neo-Nazis have denied the Shoah as it makes their cause look evil.
There is a limit to how far denial can be combatted by scholarly and scientific means alone. Rather, we need to look at why denial happens in order to prevent it.

Maybe that was what the author was proposing ?
posted by y2karl at 12:03 PM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


You aren't likely to find societies that are as diverse in say, Atlanta or Chicago

Err, have you actually been to Chicago? 18% of the population are immigrants, and it's only ninth nationally in the percentage of the population born outside the country.

...of course, if Central & South America don't count, then that's another matter entirely.

Vancouver is 37% visible minority, but again, only 13.4% of Canada as a whole is a visible minority. So if New York is an outlier than can be discarded, so must Vancouver.
posted by aramaic at 12:16 PM on September 18, 2007


I've been to Chicago three times, but each time as a tourist and mostly the city struck me as being full of Chicagoans, but I stayed in and visited mostly the downtown and university areas, so I'm prepared to be guilty of using a bad example if it turns out that the outlying neighborhoods were more ethnically diverse.

And I wasn't saying that New York was an outlier to be discarded, but that, proportional to population, there are more large cities in Canada that have the diversity spread of New York than there are in the States.
posted by bl1nk at 12:33 PM on September 18, 2007


Might an answer to lalochezia's question be to open our own borders a little/lot - if not a free movement of people at least more openness for qualified people, (middle class) kids coming to educate in our Universities, scholarships paid for from our taxes. If we were to allow immigration rights on a sufficiently large scale (sure, to those with minimum qualifications) our security would be compromised, our social welfare put under strain in the short term, but maybe there'd be a bridge over the us-and-them divide so in the long-term the situation would improve.

Hear hear! You know, like when the damn country was FOUNDED? Of course, we're building a fucking WALL instead. I can only hope we can get out ...

How do you satisfy the instincts that lead us to war without getting people killed?

The rest of the world calls it "football." It works pretty well, imo.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:58 PM on September 18, 2007


One can, of course, point to New York as an example of an American city with a rich tapestry of immigrant culture, but New York is somewhat exceptional and that you aren't likely to find societies that are as diverse in say, Atlanta or Chicago.

Bro, you got no idea what your talking about.
posted by tkchrist at 1:06 PM on September 18, 2007


Come on you whiners. You can't make an omelette without killing a few people. And we're making one big fucking omelette. An omelette of FREEDOM.
posted by Justinian at 2:15 PM on September 18, 2007


bl1nk:

You've used just about the most facile characterization of cultural diversity in larger Canadian cities I can think of.

I grew up not far from Kensington Market in Toronto. When I was a child this was still largely a Hasidic area with an increasingly Caribbean and Portuguese presence. More recently a number of people from different Latin American countries have moved there. The vast majority of the people there, both then and now, would never consider themselves "not Canadian." Many of them came explicitly to be Canadian (or their parents or grandparents did). Yes, they maintain distinct elements of culture and identify with their places of origin (as do the various Bengalis, Cantonese, Koreans, West Africans and others that make up a good chunk of the GTA), but they are still Canadian. Even the separatists in Quebec, when pressed, tend to back down into some sort of "sovereignty association" position.

I'm white and I was born in Canada to American parents. I prefer a patty to Tim's and I watch neither hockey nor cricket. I watch soccer. Does this make me less of a Canadian, or does it make your argument bullshit? Perhaps you've been reading the Sun too often. Yes Canada is having some difficulty integrating recent refugees, and yes in Regents Park or Jane & Finch, you might see a disproportionate representation of recent arrivals among the poorest residents and those in crisis. This, however, does not equal problems with immigration or integration, unless your definition of "Canadian" is limited to "some hoser from Moosejaw" or "Ti Jean from the Gaspe."

For that matter, I now live in Chicago and while I see diversity all around me, I also see an intense level of segregation (of both native and non-native populations).
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:18 PM on September 18, 2007


bovious vomited: I'm just wondering where Bush hid all those bodies. At 800+ per day - they must be piling up somewhere.

...and...

How do we know he didn't use neutron bombs? I mean, with a kill rate like this, troops and citizens and journalists should be wading through piles and piles of dead bodies. Maybe they were all incinerated in a flash while nobody was looking?

Well, about 2.5 million Americans die every year (which is roughly, what, 1.3% of our population?) and we seem to dispose of all their bodies just fine. As others have mentioned, we lost about 3% of our national population during the Civil War and didn't have much trouble burying them all -- in fact, we still had room at Arlington for a couple more wars.

Oh, also, you can take your Ernst Zundel-esque "SHOW US THE BODIES" rallying cry and shove it up your tight little warmongering ass.
posted by Avenger at 2:21 PM on September 18, 2007


Ah, let's tone it down a bit, shall we ? You undercut the point you made with one intemperate remark. While you may feel bovious insulted your intelligence, he did not insult your person. That last little sentence was a little too ugly. You would have done better not to have written it. Live and let live and learn.
posted by y2karl at 6:49 PM on September 18, 2007


So about 5% of the Iraqi population has been killed with another 5-10% displaced.

I think that can be translated into real terms.

For me, that would mean at least one person I consider to be a friend, dead, and another, missing. Likewise for work, 1 dead, 1 missing. I'd probably personally know a dead kid and a missing kid. The odds are in favour for my near family being alive, but there'd be several missing or dead people in my extended family.

There'd be ten or twenty dead MeFi users, and that would include several of our most-recognized names.

Four out of every twenty-five people you know would be dead or missing.

This is a seriously fucked-up war.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:42 PM on September 18, 2007


Protest marches are stupid wastes of time, and they waste energy and attention that could be put elsewhere.

Orange Revolution.

Pony up a million man march on the White House, Senate, and Congress, wholly occupying the area for days on end. Change would happen.

Dress as pirates.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:04 PM on September 18, 2007


I guess she got her wish.
posted by Mur at 6:44 AM on September 19, 2007


Hee. "Vomited."

They must have a really crackerjack funeral industry to keep the streets, morgues, and cemeteries from overflowing. I'm pretty sure that's how we do it in the US. I wonder if David Fisher is over there? *That* would make an interesting "Six Feet Under" Very Special Episode.

As for the Civil War, well, maybe we need to send Matthew Brady over to Iraq. He could probably find the piles of bodies that we have to go from door to door in Iraq to find out about.

Cognitive dissonance -- it's not just for breakfast any more!

And, as for Zundel...I can't figure out if Godwin is pleased or not.
posted by bovious at 7:40 AM on September 19, 2007


You're beautiful when you're stupid. Knock out drop dead gorgeous.
posted by y2karl at 8:09 AM on September 19, 2007


blovious: so it really doesn't bother you even a little that you're unironically trotting out one of the most well-known and roundly debunked holocaust-deniers' arguments in this context? jesus.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:41 AM on September 19, 2007


I'm not familiar with that holocaust denier's argument, but it does sound like a pretty stupid way to deny such a well-documented event as the holocaust.

(Where "well-documented" > "some poll that everybody's all excited about.")

This isn't the holocaust, it's insane to compare me to a holocaust denier simply because I don't swallow the poll and it'd be stupid for me to argue about the poll with people who have latched onto it with nearly religious fervor.

So, I snark. Don't tase me, bro!
posted by bovious at 8:47 AM on September 19, 2007


(tases bovious repeatedly)
posted by Justinian at 10:35 AM on September 19, 2007


it's insane to compare me to a holocaust denier simply because I don't swallow the poll and it'd be stupid for me to argue about the poll with people who have latched onto it with nearly religious fervor.

Masterclass trolling. Your critics are insane, they swallow and latch onto a poll with religious fervor. This reminds me of the new Romney campaign meme that the Republican party needs to shape up and stop acting like Democrats.
posted by srboisvert at 11:01 AM on September 19, 2007


it's insane to compare me to a holocaust denier

nah. it's really not at this point. maybe after the first lancet study. maybe after some of the reports that made questionable projections based on the lancet results. but not anymore. the underlying psychological motivations for iraq war death-denying and holocaust denying are probably pretty similar, so some degree of comparison seems pretty apt, actually.

but more to the point, if you look back, you'll see you're accusing me of a comparison i never made. i only pointed out that your specific argument (that is, the "oh yeah--well if that many iraqis were killed, where'd they hide all the bodies?" argument) is essentially identical to a well-known holocaust-denier argument that's been soundly debunked on principle as a valid line of argument. i attempted to draw no further parallels between you and holocaust deniers, so your assertion that my plain statement of fact is insane is, ironically, a little insane itself.

meanwhile, as pastabagel noted up-thread, even if these figures are off by as much as 25% (statistically unlikely, but just for the sake of argument), we're still talking about a minimum of 700,000--800,000 dead.

but you're right: let's keep talking polling methodologies.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:16 AM on September 19, 2007


Well, the subtext here was denial. And, Google and it's bovious. Links to or membership in at Dean Esmay, LGF and the Free Republic should be a clue. Life is too short to waste another keystroke at such boviating disingenuosity.
posted by y2karl at 12:07 PM on September 19, 2007


A vast internal migration is radically reshaping Iraq’s ethnic and sectarian landscape, according to new data collected by thousands of relief workers, but displacement in the most populous and mixed areas is surprisingly complex, suggesting that partitioning the country into semiautonomous Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish enclaves would not be easy.

The migration data, which are expected to be released this week by the Iraqi Red Crescent Organization but were given in advance to The New York Times, indicate that in Baghdad alone there are now nearly 170,000 families, accounting for almost a million people, that have fled their homes in search of security, shelter, water, electricity, functioning schools or jobs to support their families.
Future Look of Iraq Complicated by Internal Migration

I can hear it now: I mean, with a refugee rate like this, troops and citizens and journalists should be wading through piles and piles of displaced bodies. Maybe they were all incinerated in a flash while nobody was looking ?
posted by y2karl at 12:39 PM on September 19, 2007


I haven't seen this much hand-waving since I dropped in on a Pentecostal service. Lordy! You'd think we were talking about Global Warming or something. I wonder if the pollsters asked about rising local temperatures while they were there.

Pay attention: among the signal aspects of the documentation of the Holocaust is -- what? Piles of bodies. We've all seen the photos, and read and heard the accounts of those bodies' disposal.

What is the corresponding aspect of this poll that places questioning it in the same camp as Holocaust denial? I appreciate that you don't want the poll questioned, but directing ad hominem at me isn't going to stop it. If you think the poll is so dad-blamed unassailable, why are you stooping so low? This level of personal vitriol and artful abuse-as-rebuttal says more about your cause than it does mine, I think. Not that I have much of a cause, really. Just snarking a stupid poll that doesn't make sense if you apply a little thought to it.

PS No fair linking to my blog. I haven't updated it in months!

PPS You can't fool me with your talk of refugees. I happen to know it would take months for someone to ride a home-made boat from Umm Qasr to Miami.
posted by bovious at 1:18 PM on September 19, 2007


It is the death of history
2,000-year-old Sumerian cities torn apart and plundered by robbers. The very walls of the mighty Ur of the Chaldees cracking under the strain of massive troop movements, the privatisation of looting as landlords buy up the remaining sites of ancient Mesopotamia to strip them of their artefacts and wealth. The near total destruction of Iraq's historic past – the very cradle of human civilisation – has emerged as one of the most shameful symbols of our disastrous occupation.
posted by homunculus at 1:27 PM on September 19, 2007


bovious: first, i think you're probably just being an ass for fun in this thread. second, nevertheless, let me repeat a point RussHy made up-thread:

Let's see. If you lose 1,000,000 in 5 years the average is 200,000 per year, which is about 550 per day. Spread them out and they don't need to pile up.

iraq, i remind you, is roughly the size of california.

and with that, i wash my hands of this subject.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:55 PM on September 19, 2007


Pay attention: among the signal aspects of the documentation of the Holocaust is -- what? Piles of bodies. We've all seen the photos, and read and heard the accounts of those bodies' disposal.

And did we see them at the time ? Pay attention: the coverage of this war is markedly different than previous wars. Coverage is rigidly controlled by coalition armed forces is areas under their control while the rest of Iraq is far too dangerous for Western journalists to visit. Plus no real effort has ever been made eo document these deaths. If the Army wanted to, this could be solved in a matter of weeks with a real poll done in plain sight.

Trick questions aside, what makes you think there are no pictures ? Just because they are not broadcast on American television does not mean there are not pictures. I have seen dozens of photographs online of bodies piled on Iraqi hospital floors waiting for relatives to ID them because there were far too many for the morgues to hold. There are pictures, plenty of pcitures. If they were linked to, you would play the same game with the pictures: "I only see five bodies..."

There have been now two polls done by reputable researchers using standard polling methods.

Fact: Les Roberts who did the Lancet study, used the same methods to estimate the deaths in the Rwandan genocide and Darfur. Are those imaginary events as well ? By your lights, they are.

After all, we only saw a few score corpses of Holocaust victims, not millions. We have only seen a few score of Cambodian skulls, not hundreds of thousands. Those claims must be fake, too.

Fact: You are using the same rhetorical questions used by Holocaust deniers. That's just the simple truth.
posted by y2karl at 2:35 PM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Where are the bodies? They are buried (by their families, if they get them back), or thrown in rivers (by whoever killed them), or there isn't enough left to be considered a "body."

550 people a day is a couple of carbombs, a few IEDs, and maybe two or three round-em-up kidnap-and-kill a whole office full of people.

550 people a day, spread out over several cities and a large country, is nothing.

You want bodies? U.S. Civil War, Union troops killed in a two-day battle (The Wilderness): more than 17,000. That's a hard number of bodies to hide. First World War? Lotta bodies - tens of thousands in a single day. Hard to hide. 1M over five years? Not so hard.
posted by rtha at 3:49 PM on September 19, 2007


Holocaust deniers are insane. Put me in the "against Holocaust deniers" camp. If Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were here, I'd slap him across the face with an anvil-filled Isotoner.

Asking "where are the bodies" in re: the Holocaust is sinister and stupid because the events of the Holocaust (including the disposition of many, many, many bodies) are overwhelmingly demonstrated, settled fact.

However, that does not mean that there is anything wrong with asking "where are the bodies" in other events that are not settled fact.

If you wish to regard the death of 1 million as settled fact on the basis of this poll, you are welcome to do so. I find that to be somewhat credulous, to engage in a bit of kindly understatement.

But let's waive that for the present. Having accepted the death of 1M as settled fact, what do you do now? The US is trying to root out the killers of most of those people, yet you lot don't sound like you're of a mind to support that mission. I support the mission even though I believe that 1M killed is likely an order of magnitude off.

What I would find sinister is using this poll as cover to pull out of Iraq and let it fend for itself. Because then, I wouldn't have any trouble anticipating the deaths of 1 million or more. However, I don't think that's what this administration is about, and for that I am thankful.

Of course, we could be talking at cross purposes. The pollsters seems not to have asked how many of the dead were involved in insurgency or military action against coalition forces (maybe I missed the question). I wouldn't be surprised if we've killed 10 of their fighters to every one of ours killed. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised at 100. And I'm certainly not trying to deny that civilians are killed. Only pointing out that yelling "genocide" in the middle of a shooting war seems somewhat disingenuous. "Genocide" is the targeting of a people for extinction. It happened in the Holocaust. Even if this 1M were (sadly) true, it would not be genocide because extinction is not the intent of the US (of course, I could be misreading you folks entirely and you're actually calling for more action to stop the genocidal intentions of others on the ground in Iraq.)

And if you're speaking from a pacifist standpoint, and regard even the deaths of combatants in a shooting war the same as permitting or causing the death of civilians, well, welcome to your worldview and all but we don't really have anything to talk about.

I believe I've made an honest attempt at explaining my thinking. If you're tempted to insult me some more, just know that you are not the target of this comment.
posted by bovious at 8:13 PM on September 19, 2007


Whatever, dude. Let's talk numbers: what's your best guess as to civvie casualties?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:41 PM on September 19, 2007


However, that does not mean that there is anything wrong with asking "where are the bodies" in other events that are not settled fact.

Well, in this case, it's kind of stupid. With a little bit of research and a teeny bit of imagination, you can imagine what might happen to ~500 bodies/day in a country of 168,743 sq mi (yes, about the size of California). Iraq is not in fact so war-torn that their funeral industry has stopped - NPR did a story a couple of months ago about women whose job it is to prepare bodies for funerals.

Several hundred dead people per day, when spread out across a wide geographic area, does not a big pile o' bodies make. Your question makes it sound like all those people were killed in a single place at a sinlge point in time and should therefore be available for viewing, as if they were all piled around a mass grave. That ain't it.

As for some percentage of the dead being insurgents - well, before the US invaded Iraq, there weren't insurgents the way there are now, so they wouldn't be dead.

But let's waive that for the present. Having accepted the death of 1M as settled fact, what do you do now?

An excellent question. They're fucked if we leave, and we're all fucked if we stay. As people way smarter than me have pointed out (and have been pointing out for several years), we've gone past the point where the situation can be stabilized militarily; the solutions now are diplomatic and political. But since the Bush administration insisted on staffing the reconstruction team with loyal Christian Republican 25-year-old graduates of Liberty University who were no more competent to set up a stock exchange than I am, it hasn't gone well.
posted by rtha at 10:18 AM on September 20, 2007


Thanks, I'll settle for being called stupid over evil. I'm used to that.

Yes: having whisked away the ameliorating effects of having a homicidal maniac and his sons running things, we (the coalition) have unleashed a murderous insurgency. I'm not sure that was a complete surprise, and it's been a bitch to deal with. But it's our bitch.

I said I thought 1M was high by an order of magnitude so I'll stick with that. But it's just a guess, of course. And even if it's "only" 100K the point is taken that this has been a horrifying process. I'm just not sure what is the point of claiming "genocide," and that's what really set me off here.

Couldn't 100K deaths amount to a genocide, depending on the circumstances? Leaving aside the number of deaths, what aspect of the current circumstances rises to the definition of "genocide"? Is this post claiming that the US has genocidal intent in Iraq? Or that we've contributed to a genocide? Or is it merely sloppy rhetoric?
posted by bovious at 12:26 PM on September 21, 2007


Cases of Cholera Reach Baghdad
posted by homunculus at 1:57 PM on September 21, 2007


No, you're certainly right about the genocide issue: it was a stupid way to phrase the issue. There isn't anything the least genocidal about it.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:07 PM on September 21, 2007


There isn't anything the least genocidal about it.

Except, well, for that one million dead. Saddam Hussein could not hold a candle to that part. The only even possibly credible estimate, which was a guesstimate at that, on the number of Iraqis he killed before the invasion came from Human Rights Watch and that was 100,000. Human Rights Watch made a guess. The one million figure comes from now two studies individually conducted by two respected organizations, one conducted by the same people who came up with the estimates of the dead in Darfur and Rwanda.

One can split hairs as fine as can be but one million dead is far more people than died in either Rwanda or Cambodia genocides. It may not be genocide in the denotative sense but it more than fills the bill in the connotative. That's one million people who wouldn't be dead had we not invaded.
posted by y2karl at 7:04 PM on September 22, 2007


One in twenty isn't genocide, is it? And that's the highest estimate, and that's also pretending that Iraqi is a race and not a nationality of sorts.

Genocide isn't a term that can be used all that easily. It's the wiping-out of a race, which is a tenous sort of concept to begin with.

A disgusting wholesale slaughter, that I'll agree with in spades.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:02 PM on September 22, 2007


Regardless of this definition and doubtlessly influenced by the Holocaust, ordinary usage and that by students of genocide have tended to wholly equate it with the murder and only the murder by government of people due to their national, ethnical, racial or religious (or, what is called indelible) group membership. This way of viewing genocide has become so ingrained that it seems utterly false to say, for example, that the United States committed genocide against ethnic Hawaiians by forcing their children to study English and behave according to American norms and values. Yet, in the legal view of genocide, this is arguably true. The equating of genocide with the killing people because of their indelible group membership I will label the common meaning of genocide.

In some usage and especially among some students of genocide, the concept has been redefined to fill a void. What about government murdering people for other reasons than their indelible group membership? What about government organized death squads eliminating communist sympathizers, assassinating political opponents, or cleansing the population of antirevolutionaries. What about simply fulfilling a government death quota (as in the Soviet Union under Stalin). None of such murders are genocide according the legal and common meanings. Therefore, some students of genocide have stretched its meaning to include all government murder, whether or not because of group membership. This may be aptly named the generalized meaning of genocide.

As obvious, the problem with the generalized meaning of genocide is that to fill one void it creates another. For if genocide refers to all government murder, what are we to call the murder of people because of their group membership? It is precisely because of this conceptual problem that I created the concept of democide.
Democide Vs. Genocide: Which Is What ?
posted by y2karl at 8:02 AM on September 23, 2007


...The US has unleashed bloodshed in Iraq that is rarely known even in countries we think of as violent and torn by civil strife. It is amazing to think that this has occurred in what was only recently a liberal and civilized country by the region’s standards. This was a country that had a problem with immigration, particularly among the well-educated and talented classes. They went to Iraq because it was the closest Arab proxy to Western-style society that one could find in the area.

It was the US that turned this country into a killing field. Why won’t we face this? Why won't we take responsibility ?
None Dare Call It Genocide

Old times there are not forgotten,
Look away, Look away....


Hairsplitting definitions aside, if the numbers both Les Roberts and ORB in their surveys gave for the excess civilian deaths in Iraq since the invasion are true--and, given the even the slightest possiblity that they are true, should we not do everything we can to prove or disprove them once and for all as soon as we can ?--this is what matters:

It was the US that turned this country into a killing field. Why won’t we face this? Why won't we take responsibility ?
posted by y2karl at 8:19 AM on September 23, 2007


and, given the even the slightest possiblity that they are true, should we not do everything we can to prove or disprove them once and for all as soon as we can ?-

Heh, that sounds like GWB talking about WMD.
posted by smackfu at 6:29 AM on September 24, 2007


I agree: none dare call it genocide. Also, none dare call it a ham sandwich, a flotilla of tape dispensers, a rubberized hammock, a telephone sex tape, or a pair of mittens. It's a pity, but words do mean something.
posted by bovious at 4:58 AM on September 25, 2007


genocide... ham sandwich, a flotilla of tape dispensers, a rubberized hammock, a telephone sex tape, or a pair of mittens...

Hmmm. For which of the previous would 1,220,580 excess civilian deaths since the invasion be the best fit ?
posted by y2karl at 5:48 AM on September 25, 2007


Oh, I don't know.

Why, when it suits your purposes, are you willing to engage in such sloppy rhetoric? There are words for what's going on...whether or not the figure of 1M dead is off by an order of magnitude, as I believe it likely is.

Of course, I could be missing something. Is it truly the contention of you folks defending the use of this word, that the US is engaging in the deliberate extermination of a people? Or are you claiming what is more likely but I still don't believe has been demonstrated, that our enemy is doing so?
posted by bovious at 7:54 AM on September 25, 2007


Denial ain't just a river in Egypt, honey.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:46 AM on September 25, 2007


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