I guess no big anti-administration books are coming out this week, and no one has leaked any secret reports for the Washington Post to cherry pick. So this week’s obligatory Sunday front-page hit piece consists of the headline story “U.S. Casualties in Iraq Rise Sharply.” The piece, by Ann Scott Tyson, is about wound statistics for our troops, not deaths. This, I’m confident, is because the wound stats serve the Post’s purposes — they are near an all-time high for the conflict — while the death statistics don’t.
In every previous war, the focus has been on deaths. Most informed Americans of a certain age know roughly how many Americans died in the Vietnam war, few have any idea how many were wounded. But then, until the Bush administration, the media always focused on the unemployment rate as the “jobs” statistic of choice. It was only when that statistic turned favorable under President Bush before the job creation numbers did that the latter stat came into prominence.
Tyson justifies her focus on wound statistics by pointing out that “advances in armor and medical care today allow many service members to survive who would have perished in past wars.” One can’t help but wonder whether some administration critics think that this constitutes cheating on Bush’s part. Tyson’s point, though, is that wound stats represent the best way to measure the intensity of the fighting. But her article purports to describe a trend for the worse in this conflict. It’s doubtful that there have been major technological and medical breakthroughs in the past year. So deaths remain a fair measure of battle intensity in a given conflict and, of course, they constitute the best measure of the human cost of the war.
This is not to deny that the fighting has become more intense as the U.S. attempts to reduce the violence in Baghdad. The natural question that any fair and competent reporter would ask in this regard is whether (or to what extent) the U.S. has succeeded in this mission. It’s a question Tyson does not address.
Is the poor and one-sided reporting of this conflict down to the fact that a Republican president started it or is it due to non-partisan anti-war sentiment? Since the Dems are becoming a semi-pacificist party, the answer probably doesn’t matter.
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