Friday, September 07, 2007

Beating a dead chestnut

I know this one has been addressed countless times, but it just won't go away. I received this classic in email again today:
Regardless of where you stand on the issue of the U.S. involvement in Iraq, here is a sobering statistic:

There has been a monthly average of 160,000 troops in the Iraq theater of operations during the last 22 months, and a total of 2,867 deaths. That gives a firearm death rate of 60 per 100,000 soldiers.

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.

It's usually enough to say that the DC figure of 80.6 deaths per 100,000 was for the year of 1991 (an aberrantly violent year), and the Iraq figure is per month, but I'm crabby tonight, so I decided to pick it apart.

The 2006 population of Washington, DC (US Census estimate) was 581,530. A rate of 80.6 over 22 months would be this:

80.6 (the asserted rate) x 5.83153 (per 100,000) x 22 (months) = 10311.68996

That's 10,312 firearm deaths in a 22 month period! That doesn't sound right. Let's see...

The FBI says that there were 364 murders in DC in 2005 and 2006 combined (the closest statistic I could find - at FBI.gov ).

364 (murders) / 5.83153 (per 100,000) / 24 (months) = 2.608

That's 2.6 murders (all kinds) per 100,000 per month in Washington, DC (That's BAD!)

By the way, 2,867 / 1.6 / 22 gives you 81.4 troop deaths per 100,000, per month, not 60 (but see update below),

So by these lights, Americans are about 3,000% more likely to be killed in Iraq than in Washington, DC,

To say nothing of Iraqis.

As I mentioned, that 80.6 figure for DC was in 1991. That year, at the height of the crack turf wars, DC averaged 6.7 murders per 100,000 per month.

As it happens, we were at war in Iraq in 1991, too. In the (what, maybe) 7 months of the Dad's Gulf War, I think the US had as many as 500,000 troops deployed, and there were 148 battle-related deaths.

148 / 5 / 7 = 4.2

So by this crude math, it really was safer to be deployed in Desert Storm than to live in DC that year. And Saddam Hussein really had provoked war. And the president at the time really had been a combat pilot.

Those were the days, eh?

The Iraq casualty figures didn't sound right either, so I looked up the figures for the 22 months from Nov '05 through Aug '07. They add up to 1,713, not 2867 (That would be about 48.7 deaths per 100,000 per month). I'm starting to suspect that somebody just made this whole thing up!

de Selby, eh?

I'd be obliged to blogroll you even if this weren't a great post.
Thanks, Phila.

No need to blogroll me, though. I just do this to blow off steam. I link to you because, as it says in the sidebar, you got better stuffs.

Oh, and yeah, I identify strongly with the original de Selby, of whom it has been said:

"The beauty of reading a page of de Selby is that it leads one inescapably to the happy conviction that one is not, of all nincompoops, the greatest."
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