(Note: Sadly, No! beat me to this punch by about an hour or two. They have nicely enough saved me some math. You should read them. They are very funny. I'm still doing this post as opposed to simply linking, because I want to slap that title into the Google algorithm)
Welcome to Kung Fu Monkey! Don't be alarmed by all the swearing and such, we're quite friendly.
Now, you've been sent this link because you sent somebody you love a piece of e-mail about how the murder rate in Baghdad or Iraq is no worse than the murder rate in Washington DC back in 1991 or so. That is very funny and ironic, I know. I myself am chuckling over the third such missive I've received, the latest just this morning.
Your friend would like to help you correct this misapprehension, so he or she sent you here.
What follows is the nice version:
The annual murder rate for urban Washington DC in 1991 was 482 murders for 598,000 inhabitants; roughly 80 per 100,000 people. You see that number used a lot. That is because it is the absolutely highest per capita murder rate in modern American history one can dig up. (The 2005 murder rate is about 35 per 100,000. Good job, D.C. law enforcement! We should make them a state.)
The murder rate in Iraq in October 2006 was, according to UN sources (pdf so no link, but you can find it easily enough), 3709 in total. That number's probably a little low, as counting dead folk is tricky in a culture that buries people quickly out of both tradition and fear of reprisal. But it's a good lower bar.
You may wish to use the US Army's estimates, which tend to be even lower. However, the US Army has admitted it doesn't count bombs, mortars or rocket attacks in its estimates. Personally, if I die in a mortar attack launched by my Sunni/Shia neighbor with the explicit intent on killing me, I count that as "violent death". We're going to stick with the UN estimate, thank you.
Now, what someone has done, when they sent YOU the very neat little letter you sent ME (or your concerned love one) was then figure out that ...
3709 murders/month for roughly 26,000,000 Iraqis works out to , ooooh ...
171 murders per 100,000 annually in Iraq.
Okay, bad, but not too bad. However, those numbers are comparing the murder rates of a city to the murder rates of a country.
A city and a country are two entirely different things. You do not compare the murder rates of cities and countries. It is just generally ... wrong. When someone does that, they are either stupid or lying to you. Feel free to look back on who cooked up the numbers in the letter you forwarded and draw your own conclusions.
More specifically, large swaths of Kurd-controlled territory are relatively peaceful (have been for a decade). Large sections of the south are both sparsely populated and got their ethnic cleansing out of the way early. Those aren't where we have most of our troops, and aren't where the fighting is. When the civil war comes, it will be in the urban areas.
But let's do the math thew way its supposed to be done, eh? Compare a city to a city.
According to the same UN sources, 2722 of those murders occurred in Baghdad. Hmm. Okay, and there are about 6,000,000 people in Baghdad ...
2722 murders/month/6000000 people times x/100,000 = ... carry the two ...
544 murders per 100,000 in Baghdad.
Ah. Now THAT is an unpleasant place. Is it civil-war levels? I don't know. But that's not my job. The person who sent you the letter was implying something with their flawed numbers. All I'm doing is pointing out that if these numbers are significant, the above number is the one you should be looking at.
Bonus round for the other e-mail meme going around: average 130,000 US troops in Iraq, 2872 dead, 44 months ...
"murder" rate of 602 US soldiers per 100,000 per year.
Is that a bad number? Again, not my job to say. But if somebody sends you a "US troops are safer than in Washington DC" e-mail, then you now know that this person is, again, either stupid or lying. For this particular statistic, I would add "flaming asshole." But that's just me.
Glad to help. You may wish to go now. Seriously, you should leave. Because here comes the ...
... not-so-nice version:
ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR FUCKING MIND? In what major American city do people get set on fire while soldiers stand around and do nothing? In what major American city do they find a hundred or so bodies a day with FUCKING DRILLHOLES IN THEIR NECK? In what major American city do car bombs go off killing 200 hundred people, in what major American city are there FUCKING MORTAR ATTACKS FOR CHRISSAKE!!! They seized the media today, people. Remember when the Crips took over Channel 10 and spent the day rallying Compton to declare war on its neighbors?
I don't know what shattered pathetic character defect keeps some people denying reality, but it's NOT HELPING. Whether it was wrong or right to go into Iraq, whether the Administration shagged it, or this was Plan A just a shitty Plan A, or things just went off the rails, denying reality Is. Not. Helping. We can't have a conversation about what to do next as long as a chunk of this country keeps clapping its hands and wishing hard. Hey, somebody wants to argue we need to stay for ten years, fine, lay it out. I'm open to the idea (I'm a Powell guy, what can I say). But how am I supposed to take this seriously when some people in the same breath try a bunch of statistical shell-games to show everything's just hunky-dory?
We're supposed to be tolerant, but the great Achilles Heel of this idea is that we're too tolerant of people who should just be, based on their track record of wrong-ness, laughed out of public discourse forever.
I call shenanigans!
... pant ... pant .. pant ...
Ahem. Sorry about that. Anyway, John over at Ezra's joint has an interesting point as well. Something similar to an argument I've made before: this country is crippled by the fact that a large percentage of the largest demographic group can't get its head out of its own ass and realize that It's Just. Not. 1968. Anymore. Let it go. How you felt about the hippies and Vietnam and whether we won or lost or were stabbed in the -- gaaaahhh, let it goooo.