Gun-totin', Chronic-smokin' Hearse Initiator (ludickid) wrote,
Gun-totin', Chronic-smokin' Hearse Initiator

Dandy Don's numbers game

Every so often, a public figure says something so completely stupid that one wonders how a presumably intelligent human being could have formulated the sentence at all. Today, at a briefing in which he was quizzed about the rather unseemly number of Iraqi civilians in Baghdad who have been killed or hurt by American troops, Defense Secretary Donald von Rumsfeld made such a statement. Let's take a look.

At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Wednesday sought to put a new perspective on the recent deaths and injuries in Iraq, pointing out that Baghdad is a big place with a lower violent crime rate than Washington, D.C.

"You've got to remember that if Washington, D.C., were the size of Baghdad, we would be having something like 215 murders a month," said Rumsfeld. "There's going to be violence in a big city."

Now, let's examine the many reasons this is idiotic.

FAILURE OF DIRECTNESS: The statement completely avoids the question ("Why are American troops killing so many civilians in Baghdad?").

FAILURE OF ANALOGY: Washington, D.C. is nothing like Baghdad, because the latter is occupied by an invading foreign army which exercises martial law, and the former is not.

FAILURE OF RHETORIC: The question ("Why are American troops killing so many civilians in Baghdad?") and the answer ("Big cities tend to have a problem with violent crime") have nothing to do with each other.

FAILURE OF LOGIC: Stating that Baghdad has a lower violent crime rate than Washington, DC is not relevant, since civilian homicide is not logically comparable to military killing of citizens.

FAILURE OF STATISTICS: If Washington, DC (metro population of just over 600,000) were to grow to the size of Baghdad (metro population of just over 4,000,000), the seven-fold increase in population would not necessarily increase the murder rate by a factor of seven.

FAILURE OF MATHEMATICS: Even if the increase in the murder rate were directly proportional to the increase in population, it would still not even begin to approach 215 murders a month. No city in America, not even Washington -- which leads the nation in murders per capita -- is even remotely close to that number. (Washington had 252 murders in 2002, or 21 murders per month. A sevenfold growth in the murder rate would still leave them at 147 per month.)

FAILURE OF STATISTICS II: Washington, DC's murder rate is a statistical red herring. It could just as easily be pointed out that New York, which is actually larger than Baghdad, has a lower murder rate than DC, and Tokyo, which is larger than New York, has a lower rate still.

FAILURE OF ANALOGY II: Even if the population of DC was the same as that of Baghdad, while its murder rate might somehow possibly reach 215 a month, the rate of civilians killed by soldiers would probably not be very high.
Tags: politics

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