Day By Day

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

Fareed Zakaria has a nice piece in Newsweek on terrorism. He notes that two U.S. government funded groups [the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), and the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terror (MIPT)] have both reported dramatic rises in the number of deaths due to terrorism since the US invasion of Iraq.

"Aha!" you say. Bush's war has raised, rather than lowered, the terrorist threat.

But Zakaria then goes on to note that both studies are fatally flawed because they count all civilian deaths taking place in the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan. These account for 80% of the total, and if we look only at deaths outside the war zone, there has in fact been a dramatic decrease in the number of terrorist incidents and deaths from them. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan have indeed decreased the threat from terrorism outside the war zones.

Read it here.

So, the numbers have been fudged to show the opposite of what has actually been taking place. The question is why? In the case of the MIPT, the answer is easy. The Institute exists to promote awareness of terrorism. If the terrorist threat is declining, then their reason for being is diminished as is their source of revenue. They have an entrepreneurial interest in hyping terrorism. But what about the NCTC? It is a government agency, part of the intelligence community. Why should it be interested in cooking figures in order to subvert the administration's policy? Could it just be ordinary bureaucratic imperatives [more terrorism means more funding, more staff, more of everything]? Or, as in the case of the VIPs [Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, a left-wing group of mostly CIA and State Department analysts who actively sought to undermine the war effort], was the duplicity driven by ideology? In either case the country is not being well served.

Just asking.