Saturday, September 02, 2006

NYT: Gordo pants again

On the front page of the New York Times, War Pornographer Michael R. Gordon again proves It Takes a War Pornographer -- in both good ways and bad ways. The article's entitled "Iraqi Casualities Have Risen 51%, U.S. Study Finds." Take that Reuters, the article seems to scream, don't you tread on my territory.

And no one knows stats (the ones they care to know) like a war pornographer. Michael R. Gordon demonstrates that he has those down and possibly that he goes over them at night instead of counting sheep. He walks you through the Pentagon report (that he obviously had leaked -- not talking out of school here but the story runs in print today so you figure it out).

The Pentagon's crunched the numbers (calm down Gordo, or we'll ask you to take it to the bathroom) and found that violence is in on the rise: "Death squads and terrorists are locked in mutually reinforcing cycles of sectarian strife, with Sunni and Shia extremists each portraying themselves as the defenders of their respective sectarian groups." Gordon himself reports:

The reports notes that sectarian violence is gradually expanding north to Kirkuk and Diyala Province. Further, the confidence of Iraqis in the future has diminished, according to public opinion surveys cited in the Pentagon report.

All the raw data ("Raw," Gordo says licking his lips) tends to make his eyes goes milky, his brain go soft and other regions respond in the opposite. Which explains why he can pen: "In discussing daily casualty rates, the report did not distinguish between the number of dead and wounded" without ever grasping that, yes, Nancy A. Youssef, they do keep a body count.

(Nancy A. Youssef broke that story in June. It's remains one of the most unnoted scoops that should have been noted. The US military is keeping a body count. The American public should have that number. Not only has that not happened, most press outlets -- big and small -- haven't bothered to inform their readers, listeners, viewers, et al, that the US military admitted, in June, that they are keeping a body count.)

Gordo's in such a quick hurry to shuck his clothes and crawl onto the bed that he can't be bothered with exploring the meaning of the numbers or the fact that numbers are kept. (But think of all the 'raw' data, Gordo, think of all the 'raw' data.) It's a greater shame that the media, big and small, still can't be bothered it.

Gordo does a wonderful job summing up the report. It's a brilliant book report and makes his teachers look forward to his "What I Did This Summer" report. But it's not really reporting. It's a summary (not even a book review -- that would require evaluation skills). But when it's time to reduce the dead to numbers beyond the scope of many, you go to a war pornographer.

They do have their uses. Just remember (again) not to stand to close. And don't look over if they call your name when you pass them by. (Again, remember what happened to Jodie Foster's Clarice in Silence of the Lambs).

For those not in the mood for porn and needing more than a book report, Lloyd steers us to Ann Scott Tyson's "Pentagon Cites Spike In Violence in Iraq" (Washington Post):

Rising sectarian bloodshed has pushed violence in Iraq to its highest level in more than two years, and preventing civil war is now the most urgent mission of the growing contingent of 140,000 U.S. troops in the country, according to a new Pentagon report released yesterday.
Executions, kidnappings and other sectarian attacks targeting Iraqi civilians have soared over the past three months, contributing to a 51 percent rise in casualties among the population and Iraqi security forces, the report said. More than 3,000 Iraqis are killed or wounded each month, and by July, 2,000 of the casualties were the result of sectarian incidents, it showed.

The Pentagon report, though consistent with what news media have reported for months, is significant because it represents an official acknowledgment of trends that are widely believed to be driving the country toward full-scale civil war.

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