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.