There has been a monthly average of 160,000 troops in the Iraq theatre of operations during the last 22 months, and a total of 2,112 deaths. That gives a firearm death rate of 60 per 100,000 soldiers.Maybe people think this is funny. Maybe they give a little laugh and say, "Gee. Sure is dangerous in the old chocolate city. Thank goodness I live in Baltimore." Or they shake their heads and say, "Wow, guns sure are dangerous. We should get rid of them."
The firearm death rate in Washington D.C. is 80.6 per 100,000 persons for the same period. That means that you are about 25% more likely to be shot and killed in the U.S. Capital than you are in Iraq.
Conclusion: The U.S. should pull out of Washington
More often, I get this email from some gun nut or other who uses it to buttress their argument that D.C.'s gun ban has actually caused an increase in violence (demonstrably untrue).
Most commonly, though, this comes from some chucklehead who's trying to make the point that the Iraq conflict is the least dangerous military engagement in US history (actually true in terms of death, less so in outright casualties), and we should therefore stop our fatuous whining about it, roll up our sleeves and get in there and finish the job (whatever job that might be--no one seems to have a coherent answer for that question).
Well, I finally got tired of it when I got the email from my Mom. Mom's a progressive, but she can be a little credulous about things that come in through her email.
This email isn't glib and funny. It's venal and factually wrong. It is a perfect case-in-point example of rightwing mendacity. A lie, I say. At some point, someone purposefully put this little turd into circulation to make a point (any one of several tired points the right likes to harp on). This is not "an important conclusion." It is a bunch of crap.
Fortunately, we have a very fine myth-busting tool available to us thanks to the Brookings Institution's Iraq Index (warning: .pdf). That Index, updated and released every week, can tell you almost everything you need to know about what it's possible to know about Iraq.
That Index, and a little internet research into DC crime statistics and population, give you everything you need to disprove this bullshit quote. But looking into it all is a pain in the butt (which is what the sender is counting on).
Well, I've taken all the work out of it for you. I've even done the math.
If you're guilty of passing along that nice little piece of garbage, you owe it to everyone you've sent it to to send them this (all page numbers refer to the Index):
First of all, the quote gives an overall death figure but then uses it to claim firearm deaths. You can't actually determine "firearm" deaths from anything the US military gives out. Plus, there are so many other sources of hostile death in Iraq that it seems silly to limit yourself. Is it any more vicious to be intentionally killed with an IED than it is with a Kalashnikov (or, for DC purposes, a Glock 9)? But that's fine: it's easier (and logical) to compare overall homicide statistics with overall hostile-action deaths. DC doesn't break out its firearm crime, either.
The information in the quote is also out of date (as people keep getting killed). The close-to-current death toll is well over 2,112. And the average troop strength over the last 22 months is a bit lower than 160,000.
Actual US troop strength per month is 145,000 for the last 22 months. (p.21) Over the past 22 months, there have been 1,562 total casualties for US forces in Iraq. Of those, 191 died from non-hostile causes, leaving 1,371 total deaths due to hostile action (p.8). This is off a little bit, because the report is only current through March 21. But it's more than half of what the email claims, while troop numbers remained proportionately higher. So that actually helps Mr. Free Republic.
At an average of 62.3 deaths per month, that's roughly 43 per 100 thousand -- less than the 60 per 100k Mr. Freep claims. Wow! It's even safer in Iraq than we thought!
In 2006, there were 196 homicides (of all kinds) in Washington, D.C.; 198 in 2005. That's according to the Metropolitan Police Department.
According to the US Census Bureau, DC's estimated 2005 population was 550, 521. They lost 3.8% of their population over the previous 5 years. Assuming that trend continued in 2006, the 2006 DC population was about 546,337. So the average population over 2005-6 should be about 548,429. That's roughly 40 homicides per 100,000 people per year, or 3.34 per month.
3.3 per 100k per month in Washington. 43 per 100k per month in Iraq. Well, I've never been very good at math, but I think 43 > 3.3. Right?
Comparing hostile-action deaths in Iraq to homicides in DC, Iraq is about 13 times more dangerous than DC. Or, in the language of the email, you're over a thousand percent more likely to be killed in Iraq.
But the comparison is even more full of bullshit than it seems at first blush. For the DC statistics, we looked at all homicides. Because DC isn't at war, that accounts for all wrongful deaths in the District of Colombia. But when we looked at Iraq, we only looked at US military deaths due to "hostile action." We didn't even consider that Iraqi military and police killed, by month for the last 22 months, averaged 189. Per month. (p. 11) So if you're an Iraqi policeman, Iraq is about 57 times more dangerous than Washington D.C.
Or the average of 2,871 Iraqi civilians killed per month during 2006 (p.13). That's almost as many as the death toll on September 11. Actually, it's more as if Saudi Arabians killed 2,871 Americans every month for at least one year. Or perhaps if they killed Canadians, instead. Since Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.
So I hope we can can sacrifice this stupid email to the recycle bin. It's flat-out wrong. But that hasn't kept it from popping up repeatedly. It's even made it on to the TeeVee (OK, Fox). And when you started sending it to my mother, you pissed me right off.
Anyway, the actual conclusion (the email-author's logic) is that we should invade DC. Don't think I haven't thought about it...