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Who "cooked the books"?
Posted by: McQ on Tuesday, September 18, 2007

On of the charges about Petraeus 'cooking the books' began with a WaPo story by Karen DeYoung entitled, “Experts Doubt Drop In Violence in Iraq,” on 9/6/07
“Intelligence analysts computing aggregate levels of violence against civilians for the NIE puzzled over how the military designated attacks as combat, sectarian or criminal, according to one senior intelligence official in Washington. ‘If a bullet went through the back of the head, it's sectarian,’ the official said. ‘If it went through the front, it's criminal.’”
A senior intelligence official? What in the world would he know about MNF-I SOP on identifying Ethno-Sectarian Violence (ESV). Apparently this reporter wasn't curious enough to ask (and the more I read Scarborough's book "Sabatoge", the less I'm inclined to believe anything attributed to a "senior intelligence official").

That story was followed by the despicable MoveOn.org "General Betrayus" ad on 9/10/07 in which they alleged:
“The Washington Post reported that assassinations only count if you're shot in the back of the head — not the front.”
Even George Will bought into the nonsense. In his column published on 9/11/07 entitled "A War Still Seeking a Mission" he claimed:
“First, measuring sectarian violence is problematic: The Post reports that a body with a bullet hole in the front of the skull is considered a victim of criminality; a hole in the back of the skull is evidence of sectarian violence.”
Question: How freakin' hard would it have been to inquire of MNF-I and ask what their criteria and methodology was for determining what was an ESV and what wasn't?

Here from their printed and unclassified SOP is how that is determined. Note I said "unclassified"?

How hard would that have been to get?

Obviously, not very.

Show/Hide

As Petraeus said in his testimony:
"We have a formula for ethno-sectarian violence. There is a very clear definition about it. It’s acts taken by individuals of one ethnic or sectarian grouping against another ethno-sectarian grouping in general for an ethno-sectarian reason. It is not that complicated candidly. If al Qaeda bombs a neighborhood that is Shia, that is an ethno sectarian incident and it is judged as such. And where this idea of the bullet entering comes into it is not something I’m aware of."
Neither, apparently, other than in the rumor mill, was the "senior intelligence official". Or the editors of the Washington Post.
 
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Comments
But it sounded so right! It fit the storyline so well....
 
Written By: SHARK
URL: http://
Sounds like it’s the dems who are cooking books here. What are the odds that this bit of "truth" will be debunked loudly enough in the mainstream for the anti-war mobs to ignore it? Odds are probably low.
 
Written By: jows
URL: http://
Hmmmm, so just because the "front/back" thing turns out to have been hyperbole, there’s no possibility that there’s anything else wrong with the way the military makes distinctions between sectarian vs. criminal violence? Good example of disproof by fallacy.
 
Written By: Platypus
URL: http://pl.atyp.us
Hmmmm, so just because the "front/back" thing turns out to have been hyperbole...
If you can’t tell the difference between "hyperbole" and an outright fabrication, then there’s not a whole bunch you have to contribute that’s worth listening too, is there?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Hmmmm, so just because the "front/back" thing turns out to have been hyperbole,
Hyperbole? More like a lie.
 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
Actually I believe the book cooking, or at least impressive spinning, questions have dogged him since his tenure running Mosul was full of such good news and then once he left it seemed to go to pot. But I’m sure that’s just envious colleagues.
 
Written By: Retief
URL: http://
Wow, Retief, it would almost seem like he had a good handle on a situation that deteriorated after he was pulled off. Almost like he was better prepared and better able than his replacements.

I’m quite sure that no one here has ever worked for a capable manager and had it gone to hell when a seat-filler took over. Never happen.

I was not there. Odds are good that you weren’t either, but it would not be the first time that some REMF with rank blew a situation and played the arse covering game.

None of that counters the dishonesty/fabrication of the story that was promulgated.

Laumer would be ashamed.
 
Written By: Uncle Pinky
URL: http://
But I’m sure that’s just envious colleagues.
Well, I’m fairly sure you’re in a position to know, right?

 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
Retief,

I’ve been looking for a copy of the short story " For the Honor of the Regiment" for some time now. If you’ve got it, I’d appreciate. My copy of "Bolo" is still in Florida, with a bunch of mooks who wouldn’t be able to discriminate ’twixt rear and hole in the ground, much less handle sending my own property through the dang-blasted mail. I’ve picked up most of my backlog from various sources, but this one seems to elude me.

Any help would be yadda yadda

Regards,

Me

P.S. I still find you exasperating in the extreme, but the mark of a good bartender is to know when to ask for assistance. I need help with this and in (advance) return I will point you to the works of Theodore Sturgeon. Go for his short stories. Shottle Bop and Maturity come to mind, but you can probably find a copy of The Worlds of Theodore Sturgeon at your used bookstore for a dime.
 
Written By: Uncle Pinky
URL: http://
Hyperbole. That’s what they claimed Jane Hamsher was doing as well. And the guy advocating a coup d’etat was doing satire.

I guess we should defend the Swiftboaters by just saying it was hyperbole...does that work for you Retief?

Heck, Bush can claim that the argument of WMDs was "hyperbole" too.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Hmm, a throw-away quip that was gobbled up by some of the punditocracy, is passed off as hyperbole, yet a 4 page document isn’t considered sufficient methodology.

Interesting point of view...
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
Q:

I think this is a good-faith effort on your part, so... thanks for trying to do some reporting. Good work. Etc.

I don’t think this demonstrates what you think it demonstrates, and I don’t really understand how you made this mistake.

The WaPo never claimed that MNF SOP officially uses that criteria, nor did the quote. The quote suggests what’s actually going on behind the criteria.

There’s plenty of wiggle room in the criteria that doesn’t specifically disallow this kind of fudging.

And frankly, fudging is the only concievable way to get
this statistic
.

General Petraeus told The Australian during a face-to-face interview at his Baghdad headquarters there had been a 75 per cent reduction in religious and ethnic killings in the capital between December last year and this month,

The question is open whether you can manipulate statistics to have this be technically correct while being wildly misleading (since violence against civilians in Baghdad is down by nothing like 75 percent!!), or whether this is an outright falsity.

And it’s impossible to know the answer for sure, when the Pentagon’s numbers and Petraeus’s numbers don’t even agree.

http://www.democracyarsenal.org/2007/09/fuzzy-numbers-a.html

But either way, this isn’t the WaPo’s fault. Petraeus has only himself to blame for, frankly, a silly claim that sectarian violence in Baghdad is down seventy-five percent. You can look at Petraeus’s own darn graphs and tell that general civilian violence in Baghdad is trending down by - generously - ten percent. Petraeus doesn’t have a theory as to why ’the surge’ would cause such a catastrophic fall in sectarian violence and a corresponding enormous spike in non-sectarian violence - and the reason is because it makes no sense. Thus, whatever methodology MNF claims to be following, they ain’t really following it - or else the methodology is screwed up. And the methodology looks ok to me, so I suggest that the senior intel official is right.

Would you care to explain exactly how this accurate methodology produced such a wildly inaccurate claim? Or are you going to look exactly as far as allows you to blame this on someone else, and no farther?


 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
The sad part of this is that commenters who let you think about this stuff so they don’t have to are going to come away from this completely misinformed. They look at the equation:
"Someone claims the MNF methdology is screwed up" + "The methodology looks fine in this here official document" =
"That guy was lying"

And they don’t even blink.

Sad.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
The question is open whether you can manipulate statistics to have this be technically correct while being wildly misleading (since violence against civilians in Baghdad is down by nothing like 75 percent!!), or whether this is an outright falsity.
And the source for your statistics is?
"That guy was lying"
Yes, your side was lying.
 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
Uncle Pinky, I don’t believe Laumer uses "For the Honor of the Regiment" as a short story title. It is the subtitle of the first Bolos collection of stories by other authors about bolos. I’ve found the quality of those stories to be quite variable, and haven’t been all that into them. The line is spoken by DNE in the story "Field Test" which is collected in Bolo along with The Night of the Trolls, Courier, The Last Command, A Relic of War, and Combat Unit.
 
Written By: Retief
URL: http://
Back to the point for a moment, in the official ESV methodology one of the criteria for calling something an incident of ESV is a gunshot wound to the head. (Right at the bottom of page three under Executions.) But what if in a random driveby the victim is sprayed with bullets and is hit in the head and chest, strictly following the guidelines means you’d have to call it ESV because of the head shot. But maybe it isn’t. Maybe not all head wounds are created equal. Why is it so hard for you to believe that one head wound could look more like an execution (and therefore ESV) than another?

Harun, I didn’t start with the hyperbole suggestions but re swiftboaters, do you mean like Tommy Franks did at the Republican National Convention?
 
Written By: Retief
URL: http://
If anyone is actually interested in what’s behind the numbers, or what the casualty trend actually is, you could do worse than looking at engram-backtalk.blogspot.com. The good professor actually gives sources for his numbers, explains any adjustments and shortfalls in them.

Now we deal with unnamed "senior intelligence officials" who are evidently lying or misinformed. That is assuming they are not a complete fabrication. Does that make me a skeptic? Yes. After Rathergate, when it comes to the media, your choice is between skeptic and fool.
 
Written By: MarkD
URL: http://
So, if one of the criteria for a good day, is that the sky is blue, then all days with blue skies are good days...

No matter that it might be 140 or -20 degrees out. The one rule says it must be a good day, since the sky is blue. Who cares what the other rules might say about determining if it’s a good day.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
You can look at Petraeus’s own darn graphs and tell that general civilian violence in Baghdad is trending down by - generously - ten percent.
Well, MarkD linked to this.

If that really is Petraeus’s graph, Iraqi civi deaths are down about 78%.

The same link indicates ICCC data suggests a 50% drop, and goes on to explain why ICCC likely undercounts.
 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
Retief, thanks. Field Test it was. Having the title wrong might, just maybe, explain why I’ve had such difficulty finding it.

Thanks again.
 
Written By: Uncle Pinky
URL: http://
Glasnost’s data source seems to have issues.
 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
As I say over at ASHC, I was partially mixing up national with Baghdad numbers. But the actual reduction is more like a third if you count from Feb 07, which is when the surge actually began, instead of December 06. The numbers aren’t fudged, but they’re pushed to the screaming limit of positive framing.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
The same link indicates ICCC data suggests a 50% drop, and goes on to explain why ICCC likely undercounts.
And if it’s methodology undercounts, it’s probably done that consistently, ergo, the rate of change is probably the same, even if the numbers are higher.

And, in all fairness, Nov/Dec was the peak in civilian deaths. If someone wants to argue that based on 2 months data (Dec, Jan) deaths were already trending downward, and so the reduction in violence was inevitable, they are free to.

But the point is still valid, civilian deaths are down. That is a fact. Everything else is statistics.

Why shouldn’t the put the most positive spin on the numbers??
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
But the actual reduction is more like a third if you count from Feb 07, which is when the surge actually began, instead of December 06. The numbers aren’t fudged, but they’re pushed to the screaming limit of positive framing.
Well, no, the actual reduction is between 50-78% (depending on whose numbers you use.)

The reduction since the surge started is roughly a third.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com

 
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