US Wrestles With Defining Iraq Deaths

Wartime statistics challenge military analysts, methods
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 25, 2007 1:17 PM CDT
U.S. Commander in Iraq Gen. David Petraeus talks to The Associated Press during an interview at the Pentagon in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2007. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – For military analysts, a shooting victim in Iraq hasn’t necessarily fallen prey to sectarian violence. Instead, teams analyze each killing for signs it was ethnically motivated, compiling statistics the Bush administration has relied on to show progress in Iraq. Victims who were tortured, shot once in the head, or taken to body dumps are included; others are not.

As critics questioned statistics, the military sought greater transparency, releasing its methodology. It also began including victims of suicide and vehicle bombings, causing a big spike in the latest report, the Washington Post reports. The intelligence community and the Government Accountability Office both offer less optimistic statistics. “It’s not perfect,” one soldier says. “It’s an analyst making an analyst’s call.”