Friday, June 16, 2006

Putting Statistics in Perspective

The media keeps a running tab on the number of American servicemen and women killed in Iraq, the purpose of which, evidently is to hasten the day when the public decides it has had enough. Never is it mentioned, when this tally is updated, how remarkably low a number it really is. After four years of fighting the number of American military deaths has just topped 2500, roughly the same number of troops who died on a single day, D-Day at Normandy, during WWII.

In the Pacific during WWII we lost 6900 Marines taking Iwo Jima and 13,000 troops securing Okinawa.

Twenty eight thousand Confederates and 23,000 Union troops died at Gettysburg in three days.

Shifting perspective away from combat casualties, in the four years from 2001 through 2004 traffic fatalities in the U.S. exceeded 153,000, homicides in 2005 alone surpassed 16,900, and approximately 1200 people nationwide have died from heat exposure since 2003.

Indeed, an American is almost safer in the military in Iraq than in some American cities where the number of murders exceeds 300 per year.

Twenty five hundred deaths over four years is a terrible statistic, and the families of the dead find no consolation in comparisons such as this one. Nevertheless, politicians have to look at the cost through the lens of historical and actuarial realities, and in that perspective the number of military deaths is remarkably low, especially considering the extraordinarily high stakes involved in the Iraqi undertaking.

Don't Quit!

The text of the document found in the building where al-Zarqawi was killed is revealing, and it explicitly affirms Bush's policy of resolute refusal to cut and run and absolutely demolishes the Democrat rationale for a premature withdrawal. The text can be read here.

The short version is that the insurgents acknowledge that they're being worn down and degraded, the American strategy is working, and the best thing we could do, from their point of view, is to follow the advice of the "Last Helicopter" wing of the Democratic party and begin to withdraw. Since Bush is not likely to do that the next best thing is for al-Qaeda in Iraq to instigate a war between the U.S. and Iran to divert our resources out of Iraq and relieve the pressure on the insurgents.

The terrorists are on the ropes, and the Murtha, Pelosi, Kerry crowd, desperately fearful that Bush will succeed and be hailed by the public for his achievement, are riding to the terrorists' rescue with demands that we get out before they're absolutely defeated.

Read the insurgents' reasoning and the strategy laid out in the document at the link.

Class Act

The president's detractors have much to apologize for but rarely do. Contrast that with the president himself:

President Bush, who often teases members of the White House press corps, apologized Wednesday after he poked fun at a reporter for wearing sunglasses without realizing they were needed for vision loss. The exchange occurred at a news conference in the Rose Garden.

Bush called on Los Angeles Times reporter Peter Wallsten and asked if he was going to ask his question with his "shades" on. "For the viewers, there's no sun," Bush said to the television cameras.

But even though the sun was behind the clouds, Wallsten still needs the sunglasses because he has Stargardt's disease, a form of macular degeneration that causes progressive vision loss. The condition causes Wallsten to be sensitive to glare and even on a cloudy day, can cause pain and increase the loss of sight.

Wallsten said Bush called his cell phone later in the day to apologize and tell him that he didn't know he had the disease. Wallsten said he interrupted and told the president that no apology was necessary and that he didn't feel offended since he hadn't told anyone at the White House about his condition.

"He said, `I needle you guys out of affection,"' Wallsten said. "I said, 'I understand that, but I don't want you to treat me any differently because of this."' Wallsten said the president said he would not treat him differently, so Wallsten encouraged him to "needle away."

"He said, `I will. Next time I'll just use a different needle,"' Wallsten said.

If only those of his opponents in the media and in Congress who have vitriolically accused President Bush of lying to the American people in order to cajole us into war, as well as numerous other impeachable offenses, could display just half as much class and grace as he does.

Another Dubious Atrocity

Another apparently fabricated atrocity unravels in Gaza. News reports which claimed that Israeli artillary had killed Palestinian beachgoers, including an entire family, turn out to be highly dubious:

An Israel Defense Forces intelligence officer has confirmed that the explosion that killed eight Palestinians on Friday, was caused by a stockpile of Hamas explosives.

"Shortly after we stopped defensive firing at Hamas rocket launch pads which were deployed behind Palestinian human shields, members of Hamas scrambled to fire more rockets at our positions," said Col. M. "We have eyes on every meter of Gaza, from the sky, from the ground and from the sea. One of their rocket tripods collapsed inadvertently setting off an explosion of a stockpile of Qassam rockets. The Palestinians killed their own children. And this was not the first time."

Hamas terrorists fired rockets and mortar bombs from a crowded Gaza beach at southern Israel. Some of the rockets fell near the Israel city of Ashkelon. Some 17 rockets were fired between Saturday and Sunday morning. A man at a school in the Israel town of Sderot was wounded, Israel officials said.

Israel Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant said today that the Israel Defense Forces has additional evidence that it wasn't Israel artillery that hit the beach in Gaza. Galant, who commands Israel's southern command, said Israel stopped firing 15 minutes before the explosion. It's all on secure videotape from both sides of the conflict. Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he was sorry about the deaths, which included three children.

There's more information at the link. It is a tactic of terrorists everywhere in the Middle East, it seems, to use civilians as shields and then when something goes wrong to report an atrocity perpetrated by the Israelis or the Americans against the dead innocents. Few people in the region ever find out about the truth and in the West many of the critics of American and Israeli policy don't care what the facts are.

All that matters to many is the first impression made by the allegation. When the truth trickles out a few days later it scarcely makes a ripple in the public perception and is often overwhelmed by yet another false allegation of another atrocity being amplified in a complient press.