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Willisms

« Quotational Therapy: Part 133 -- JFK On Taxes. | WILLisms.com | The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down »

More Media Malpractice

It is this kind of dishonest, defeatist article that drives conservatives absolutely nuts about the liberal, agenda-driven press. Surrender advocate (i.e., 'journalist') Mark Thompson of TIME claims that the U.S. military is 'broken-down', and profiles a young soldier named Matthew Zeimer killed in Iraq as proof. Thompson claims that the soldier received inadequate training, and implies that this is what killed him (never mind that another soldier killed alongside Zeimer was a 14-month Iraq combat veteran). Here is what Thompson says about Zeimer's training:

Zeimer and about 140 other members of the 4,000-strong brigade got a cut-rate, 10-day course on weapon use, first aid and Iraqi culture. That's the same length as the course that teaches soldiers assigned to generals' household staffs the finer points of table service.

Ray Robinson at RealClearPolitics absolutely excoriates Thompson's shoddy reporting here, by actually researching Zeimer's background. Lo and behold, Zeimer actually had months and months of training, including training in Kuwait, before he went to Iraq. Robinson was able to Google this information in mere moments.

Either Mark Thomspon doesn't know how to Google, or . . . he is a partisan hack more interested in delivering John Murtha's talking points than the truth. Either way, he should not be employed at a supposedly prestigious publication like TIME.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 7 April 2007 01:28 PM

Comments

The covers of Time and Newsweek - which are about all anyone sees anymore - are usually masterpieces of propagandistic art. Doing a parody of them would be almost too easy.

They are increasingly only waiting-room material.

Posted by: Assistant Village Idiot at April 7, 2007 02:24 PM

Sorry, but Robinson's rebuttal is just pure nonsense. Robinson quotes a local paper as saying Zeimer had 5 months of Basic Training. Nobody goes through five months of Basic unless they're recycled for a medical reason (i.e., breaking a leg). Even then, it's pretty unlikely the Army would offer a recycle and instead discharge the recruit on medical grounds.

Second, Robinson never addresses what is the core issue. The fact is Zeimer did not receive the full 30 day course pre-Iraq combat training. He received an abbreviated 10 day course.

It's likely Zeimer was killed by 'friendly fire' so whether Zeimer was the best trained or least is probably moot. But it does point out the fact we're rushing troops to Iraq who aren't fully trained and prepared.

Posted by: Jadegold at April 8, 2007 11:22 AM

AVI,
I agree with you. Time magazine, along with The New York Times and other national publications have become mouthpieces for the Far left.
I would not rip a page out of either publication to wipe my ass.

Posted by: Eneils Bailey at April 8, 2007 11:52 AM

JadeGold, once again your reading comprehension skills fail you.

Robinson did not say Zeimer went through '5 months' of basic training. He said Zeimer went through 9 weeks of basic training, and then 2 more months of AIT as a 13X.

Posted by: Ken McCracken at April 8, 2007 01:30 PM

Robinson cited a local MT paper that said Zeimer had 5 months of Basic.

Again, the point isn't that Zeimer did or didn't have 5 months of Basic; it is that he didn't get the full pre-Iraq combat training. Instead, he got the Cliff's Notes 10 day version.

That is the issue; that the Army is stretched so thin, we're sending in troops with less training.

Posted by: Jadegold at April 8, 2007 01:51 PM

10 months training, which is what Zeimer received, seems like more than enough training to be sent to Iraq.

And if our troops are 'stretched thin' - so what? What do you propose, that we just cut and run from Iraq because the army is 'stretched thin'?

Heh, yeah, the Spartans shouldn't have fought at Thermopylae because they were 'stretched thin' I suppose.

This seems to be the subtext that you, Murtha, TIME magazine, and the 'we (really don't) support the troops' Democrats seem to be working on.

Posted by: Ken McCracken at April 8, 2007 02:44 PM

Is it a bad thing that the American army should be broken by a madcap adventure in Iraq? Well, for 640,000 iraqis, obviously it turned out rather shitty. For the rest of the world, the humiliation of reckless, unthinking military power is not something to mourn.

That poor kid - 18, his whole life ahead of him, offered up for the honor and glory of clockwork patriots who pay him back with a mindless chant of "Support de roops!"

Posted by: partagon at April 8, 2007 08:44 PM

Ah yes, partagon trots out the old leftist canard that 650,000 Iraqis died - parroting the widely discredited Lancet study that on its face is simply ridiculous.

The gullible left unquestioningly believes a study that, in the age of precision-guided munitions - posits a death toll greater than Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden and Hamburg put together!

It is just amazing what the left will swallow.

Posted by: Ken McCracken at April 8, 2007 10:12 PM

Ken: It's pretty clear you've never served and that you've never read the Lancet study if you believe precision-guided weapons have kept Iraqi casualties low.

Had you read the Lancet study, you'd know the study measured excess deaths. Of the excess deaths attributable to violence, almost 60% were caused by gunfire. 15% were caused by car bombs and the remainder caused by coalition forces by all causes including airstrikes.

Also, if you had served you might know precision-guided weapons don't save many civilian lives when you use them in urban areas. First, the use of such weapons depends on intelligence for targetting info. If the intelligence is spotty, so is the target. Second, the guidance systems these weapons use are not infallible; they are often compromised by other factors. Last, putting HE in a crowded urban area will result in what is euphemistically called 'Collateral damage.'

Posted by: jadegold at April 9, 2007 08:09 AM

JadeGold, it is clear you haven't studied much history, and know nothing about the type of bombings required to reach such huge casualty totals.

Precision-guided munitions do not and cannot cause the types of casualties that the Lancet study claims were caused in Iraq. Even if you used them in urban areas, with HE as you put it, you would need to launch tens of thousands of them to cause anything close to the kinds of casualties caused in, say, the firebombing of Dresden.

You say that many of the excess deaths were cause by car bombs.

Excuse me, but the U.S. Army does not use car bombs as weapons, do they. So saying that such deaths are caused by the U.S. is of course ludicrous.

Even if the deaths are claimed to have been caused by gunfire and car bombs instead of aerial bombings, the death totals are still ridiculously high.

You expect me to believe that the invasion of Iraq cost more than twice the lives lost by the U.S. in World War II?

Greater than the total dead on both sides put together of the American Civil War?

The Lancet study is infamously irresponsible. Fred Kaplan at Slate has a great quote about it:"the authors are 95 percent confident that the war-caused deaths totaled some number between 8,000 and 194,000. (The number cited in plain language—98,000—is roughly at the halfway point in this absurdly vast range.) This isn't an estimate. It's a dart board."

The Lancet study claims deaths more than ten times higher than the next highest estimate, which is 50,000 as stated by the Iraq Body Count project, which came to its totals by, you know, actually counting the dead.

The Lancet study is a complete and abject fraud.

Posted by: Ken McCracken at April 9, 2007 01:39 PM

Ken: You continue to illustrate you haven't read the Lancet Study. The Kaplan quote ("the authors are 95 percent confident that the war-caused deaths totaled some number between 8,000 and 194,000. (The number cited in plain language—98,000—is roughly at the halfway point in this absurdly vast range.) This isn't an estimate. It's a dart board.") refers to the first Lancet Survey and is laughable. Kaplan's criticism reflects a basic understanding of fundamental statistics. Kaplan fails to understand what a confidence interval (CI) means; IOW, the survey has a CI of between 8,000 and 194,000. But it doesn’t mean that all values within the CI are equally likely, so you can just pick one. In particular, the most likely values are the ones in the center of a symmetrical confidence interval. The single most likely value is, in fact, the central estimate of 98,000 excess deaths. Put another way, the most likely accurate number is 98,000 excess deaths with other values (higher or lower) becoming increasingly more unlikely as one moves away from 98,000.

The Lancet study claims deaths more than ten times higher than the next highest estimate, which is 50,000 as stated by the Iraq Body Count project, which came to its totals by, you know, actually counting the dead.

The IBC is what is known as a passive survey. And contrary to your assertion the IBC counts the dead, the IBC gets its count from published English language press reports. Its akin to reading the NYTimes obit section and concluding only 10 people died in NYC yesterday. From the IBC's own website:

Casualty figures are derived from a comprehensive survey of online media reports from recognized sources.

You also attempt to make the rather poor argument that Iraqi casualties couldn't be as high as those incurred in the US Civil War and other conflicts. Your evidence is completely missing.

WRT precision weapons, you were the one who asserted Iraqi casualties were low because such weapons magically only kill bad guys.


Posted by: Jadegold at April 9, 2007 02:05 PM

You are right, the evidence IS completely missing.

Where are the mass graves, if there are so many, many dead?

There must be at least 30 or so new Arlington Cemeteries all over Iraq if there were that many dead. Surely there must be pictures, maps and descriptions of them somewhere - but funny, I can never seem to find them.

The only mass graves that seems to turn up in Iraq are those filled by Saddam Hussein.

Where are the news reports - in Arabic OR English?

Face it, those types of casualties just did not happen, and you are simply gullible and/or ideologically blinded if you think they did.

Posted by: Ken McCracken at April 9, 2007 02:11 PM

I just have to add here, you believe that Iraq lost a number of dead in mere months comparable to what they lost in a total of 8 years of war with Iran.

The Lancet study requires you to believe that there have been at least 500 Iraqis dying each and every day since the invasion began. Even in its worst days, news reports show that Iraq loses at most one hundred or so dead.

There simply is no evidence, other than this weird, outlier study, to suggest that anything on the order of 650,000 Iraqis have died since the beginning of the war.

Posted by: Ken McCracken at April 9, 2007 02:26 PM

Again, Ken it is plain you've not read either Lancet study. Yet, you feel perfectly capable of critiquing it. Further, you're comfortable making claims about the IBC (actually counting the dead) that even the IBC doesn't.

The Lancet study requires you to believe that there have been at least 500 Iraqis dying each and every day since the invasion began. Even in its worst days, news reports show that Iraq loses at most one hundred or so dead.

More evidence you didn't read the Lancet report. The Lancet survey measures excess deaths--that is, deaths that would likely not have occurred had not the US invaded and occupied Iraq. Of the 654K deaths, about 600K were attributable to violence. The delta is attributed to factors such as disease, lack of services, etc.

Remember, both Lancet studies asked for death certificates. Fully 90% of the respondents produced them.

The IBC depends on death notices in papers. Even in the US, this would be a wholly inadequate way to tally deaths. Considering it's Iraq--the notion of counting deaths by news accounts is ridiculous.

Posted by: Jadegold at April 9, 2007 05:10 PM

I feel perfectly capable of critiquing it, because its claims are prima facie so ridiculous that I figure I don't need to waste my time with it.

If it is true that the respondents came up with 650,000 death certificates as you claim . . . then why the need for a study?

The answer - there haven't been 654,000 death certificates as you seem to imply - just certificates produced by a random sample of people.

Perhaps this is why the Iraqi government maintains that this study is garbage as well. I'll take their word over the agenda-driven partisanship of the Lancet anyday, especially that of Richard Horton who blames all the deaths on 'Anglo-American imperialism'.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7BzM5mxN5U&eurl=

Oh yeah, real objective they are!

Posted by: Ken McCracken at April 9, 2007 07:01 PM

I feel perfectly capable of critiquing it, because its claims are prima facie so ridiculous that I figure I don't need to waste my time with it.

And your qualifications are?

If it is true that the respondents came up with 650,000 death certificates as you claim . . . then why the need for a study?

The Lancet survey was just that--a survey, using statistical inference. The same statistical inference methods that are used today in manufacturing, medicine, engineering, computer science and virtually every industry you can think of.

In fact, the very same methodology was used to estimate how many Iraqis Saddam Hussein killed during his reign.

You're not helping your case, Ken.

Posted by: Jadegold at April 10, 2007 07:29 AM

Didn't know I needed a masters' degree in something before I could comment on it.

Posted by: Ken McCracken at April 10, 2007 10:11 AM

Considering you haven't even read the Lancet survey, I'd say that's a basic first step before the Master's degree.

A Master's isn't necessary but an introductory course in probability and statistics is, considering you bought into Kaplan's innumeracy.

Essentially, you're rejecting the Lancet surveys as a matter of faith; you don't like the results so you choose to attack them. OTOH, the science behind the Lancet survey isn't in dispute--it's the same used by virtually every industry in the world. When you fly or ingest a medication or cross a bridge, you're relying on the same kind of statistical inference used by the Lanct Studies.

Posted by: Jadegold at April 10, 2007 10:50 AM

It isn't that I don't like the results, it is that they do not square with common sense.

As for matters of faith, I get the feeling that if the Lancet study had said the totals were 6.5 million dead, you would have believed that as well, lock stock and barrel.

And sorry if I don't share your faith in the infallibility of studies as well. Especially ones conducted with such an obvious political bias on behalf of the people conducting the study.

Posted by: Ken McCracken at April 10, 2007 12:16 PM


Lets talk about training. WW 2 Fighter Pilots
went into combat with btwn 80 and 100 hrs
of training in Plane the flew into combat....

Also I did basic training at
FORT ORD CA. after 8 weeks of basic we had 4
more weeks of advanced inft training. Heavy
weapons and combat tactics,but that was then.

Last,where are the 650,000
graves or at least 10,000 mass graves...

Posted by: Jack Sparrow at April 10, 2007 01:22 PM

It isn't that I don't like the results, it is that they do not square with common sense.

Common sense is a euphemism for faith.

Statistical surveys aren't infallible but they're much better than 'common sense.'

Lets talk about training. WW 2 Fighter Pilots
went into combat with btwn 80 and 100 hrs
of training in Plane the flew into combat....

There's a reason why the military now requires over 500 flight hours before sending pilots into combat.We can always look back 50 or 100 years ago and say we sent soldiers into combat with x amount of training. But we've learned from past mistakes.

Posted by: Jadegold at April 10, 2007 02:56 PM

Sure, common sense is a euphemism for faith.

Just not in this case.

Posted by: Ken McCracken at April 10, 2007 03:20 PM

Just not in this case.

To the contrary. This is a case that exemplifies common sense as faith.

Fact: You haven't read either survey.
Fact: You offer criticisms that aren't supported by any evidence.
Fact: You misrepresent the results of other groups (IBC).

Look, Ken, here's a clue: when you attack any sort of study, you can't credibly do it by attacking the result. Instead, you have to show--specifically--what was wrong with the methodology producing said result. Otherwise, you embarrass yourself as you've done.

Posted by: Jadegold at April 10, 2007 05:27 PM

jadegold, one of the tools of my employment is understanding epidemiological studies and what their weaknesses are. The Lancet study has weaknesses in its sampling method, in that it uses a technique that is meant for events believed to be of fairly uniform occurrence, such as heart disease or autism, but applies it to war deaths, which have no theoretical basis for being thought uniform. When the numbers they arrived at - 8K-194K, with likelhood increasing as one approached the midpoint - were so out of alignment with even the highest estimates of war deaths, what we call Common Sense quite reasonably kicks in and causes us to ask "what went wrong?"

An estimate of 100,000 deaths was widely circulated in the press. It is not the fault of the authors of the study that the news organizations do not understand statistics. But the key point is that the authors did nothing to correct the misimpression when it was reported. That is simply shameful. Poorly designed work, hurried through peer review, deceitful presentation. Those pretty much overwhelm any positive parts of the study.

Posted by: Assistant Village Idiot at April 10, 2007 06:48 PM

Look JadeGold, if you can't see the impossibility of a relatively low-intensity war such as Iraq in creating World War II total war types of casualties, there is just not much I can do for you.

Methinks you are the one operating on faith here on the certainty and infallibility of statistics.

Read up and look at the images of something like, say, the Battle of Stalingrad.

That is the type of thing that produces mass casualties - not an insurgency as in Iraq.

For your death totals to be correct, you would have needed to have something like 40 battles of Fallujah put together, which was the largest battle thus far in the war. The other battles creating such high casualties just simply do not exist.

For what you say to be true, entire cities of Iraq had to have been levelled, and entire regions depopulated, and that simply has not occurred.

If you can come up with any proof other than this study (and it is quite telling that you haven't even tried) I'd be curious to see what you have.

Finally, I don't need to read garbage like the Lancet study, just like I don't need to read Hustler Magazine to know it is garbage, either.

Posted by: Ken McCracken at April 10, 2007 08:31 PM

Sadly, AVI, it's plain you have not read either Lancet survey as well.

As stated earlier, the Lancet surveys (both of them) measure excess deaths. As such, your criticism as to the non-uniformity of war deaths is meaningless. I believe the argument you wish to convey concerns the author's use of cluster sampling. Cluster sampling is not considered the best methodology for use in rare effects--such as deaths by violence in a population that has been exposed non-uniformly to rare events. Unfortunately for that argument, the reason cluster sampling is not generally recommended is that it tends to *underestimate* the rare effects.

Further, your claim that 100K *must* be wrong because it out of alignment with other estimates simply repeats Ken's erroneous argument concerning the IBC.

Lastly, you succumb to a typical conspiracy theory: peer review is bad, scientists are hacks, the authors are mendacious. But, of course, 'common sense' with neither evidence nor a single fact is infallible.

Posted by: Jadegold at April 10, 2007 08:33 PM

Ken: Once more, you offer no facts, no evidence.

I will note, however, that the casualties at Stalingrad were estimated using statistical inference---not unlike the Lancet surveys.

Perhaps you believe WWII was equivalent to Hustler magazine.

Posted by: Jadegold at April 10, 2007 08:38 PM

I have offered tons of evidence for my position - comparisons to actual conflicts where such death totals occur - as opposed to the low-intensity nature of the Iraq war.

Please read up and study what real total war looks like. It just isn't happening in Iraq.

I have also pointed out that, other than the Lancet study, there is not one shred of evidence that such woefully huge death tolls took place.

You on the other hand, can point to no evidence whatsoever other than a flimsy, tainted study.

Again, JadeGold, if you have any evidence other than the study, show it to us.

And you completely miss my point about Stalingrad. The issue is not the accuracy of the death count there, the issue is that is the kind of warfare and devastation that bring death tolls in the hundreds of thousands. There is nothing at all comparable to that level of damage in the entire Iraq War.

Posted by: Ken McCracken at April 10, 2007 09:18 PM

Still no facts from Ken.

Ken is still confused as to what's taking place in Iraq and chooses to try to make comparisons to the US Civil War and WWII where huge armies would confront each other in one, specific battle theater.

What Ken fails to understand is Iraq isn't a conventional war. It is a series of wars spread thoughout the entire country, pitting various sects against each other as well as US forces against some of the sects. Plus, Iraq has the involvement of foreign terrorist groups who seem to target eveyone.

Ken also believes that only total, conventional warfare kills people. Of course, we have seen various ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Rwanda kill millions as well as in Darfur without even the civil war that is occurring in Iraq.

Posted by: Jadegold at April 11, 2007 10:42 AM

Just to pile on Ken a bit more.

British Govt Scientists Endorse Lancet Survey:

The British government was advised against publicly criticising a report estimating that 655,000 Iraqis had died due to the war, the BBC has learnt. Iraqi Health Ministry figures put the toll at less than 10% of the total in the survey, published in the Lancet.

But the Ministry of Defence's chief scientific adviser said the survey's methods were "close to best practice" and the study design was "robust".

Another expert agreed the method was "tried and tested".

Posted by: Jadegold at April 11, 2007 01:15 PM

jadegold, you did not read carefully. The points you do address are not refuted by your follow comments. I spoke in favor of peer review. Cluster sampling can lead to underestimates. It can also lead to overestimates. The other estimates are to be preferred because they count on the basis of evidence of some death, not a theory of what death there must be.

I will repeat, you do not discuss in order to discover truth. You seek to win arguments by any manipulation.

Posted by: Assistant Village Idiot at April 11, 2007 07:02 PM

Sorry, AVI, but you seek to win arguments by dishonesty and misrepresentation. Cluster sampling most often leads to underestimation; the liklihood it leads to overestimation is remote. Had you read the study, you'd know the authors took steps (rejecting data from areas of intense combat such as Falluja) in order to further eliminate the remote chance of overestimation.

WRT peer review, the surveys were peer-reviewed prior to publication. Pretending they weren't is simply dishonest. The Lancet is one of the preeminent medical journals in the world. Johns Hopkins is one of the leaders in the field of epidemiology.

Posted by: Jadegold at April 12, 2007 09:08 AM

If that's your best shot, then I'll let my argument stand as is.

Posted by: Assistant Village Idiot at April 12, 2007 09:14 PM