Thursday, December 07, 2006

ISG Finds Bush Administration Underreports Iraq Violence

The right is fond of claiming that the mass media in the U.S. overplays the violence in Iraq -- but the report just put out by the Iraq Study Group comes to the opposite conclusion:

The Bush administration routinely has underreported the level of violence in Iraq in order to disguise its policy failings, the Iraq Study Group report said Wednesday.

The bipartisan group called on the Pentagon and the director of the U.S. intelligence community to immediately institute a new reporting system that provides "a more accurate picture of events on the ground."

The finding bolsters allegations by Democratic lawmakers and other critics that the Bush administration has withheld or misconstrued intelligence that conflicted with its Iraq policy while promoting data and claims that supported its positions.

Those allegations date back to President Bush's contention before the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion that Saddam Hussein was hiding illegal nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs. His claim proved to be unfounded.

Bush and his top officials have denied the allegations and accused the news media of exaggerating the violence between Iraqi Shiite and Sunni Muslims, minority Kurds and other groups.
On page 94 of its report, the Iraq Study Group found that there had been "significant under-reporting of the violence in Iraq." The reason, the group said, was because the tracking system was designed in a way that minimized the deaths of Iraqis.

"The standard for recording attacks acts a filter to keep events out of reports and databases," the report said. "A murder of an Iraqi is not necessarily counted as an attack. If we cannot determine the source of a sectarian attack, that assault does not make it into the database. A roadside bomb or a rocket or mortar attack that doesn't hurt U.S. personnel doesn't count."

"Good policy is difficult to make when information is systematically collected in a way that minimizes its discrepancy with policy goals," the report continued.

The finding confirmed a Sept. 8 McClatchy Newspapers report that U.S. officials excluded scores of people killed in car bombings and mortar attacks from tabulations measuring the results of a drive to reduce violence in Baghdad.

By excluding that data, U.S. officials were able to boast that deaths from sectarian violence in the Iraqi capital had declined by more than 52 percent between July and August, McClatchy newspapers reported.

No comments: